Best Linux laptop for developers?



IMO: The rMBP 2015 is probably the best laptop released by Apple.

Next up would probably be a Dell XPS or a Razor Blade GTX 1060, but I’ve never tested these Windows laptops out fully.


Chromebooks are good in that regard. But if the battery is left to completely deplete, the “developer lock” resets. This is less of an issue if using crouton/chroot than a clean chromeOS wiped GNU/Linux install.

update @mods,

sorry I don’t know how to comment on 2 replies in 1 post.


I’ve recently bought a refurbished Lenovo ThinkPad T420.

I’ve paid €200 for it and it’s working amazingly well on a Arch Linux distro.
In comparison to the laptops you can buy for under €400 the T420 is 100x better.

Here are some of it’s specs:

  • Intel® Core™ i5 processor i5-2410M with dual-core
  • 4GB of RAM (which I plan to upgrade to 8GB)
  • 320 GB HD (it does support one additional HD)
  • 14.0-inch HD (1366 x 768) LED backlight Anti-Glare Display

And it also has a fingerprint reader, which is so cool!

I’m quite proud of my purchase.
Although I missed a really good offer from Lenovo, there was a T440 for about €250 but I didn’t had time to buy, and now it seems that Lenovo have removed the T440’s from all of it’s websites… which is a shame.


Technology is hell expensive in my country, that T420 costs €550 :pensive:


That’s indeed very expensive…


You may also want to keep an eye open for a good deal on a SSD. I was able to get cdn$ 50 off a Samsung 850 EVO 500GB 520MB/s on a Black Friday online sale - it gave a W510 (4318CTO 2010-Sep) a new lease on life - it was wheezing a bit after upgrading it in July 2016 from Windows 7 to 10 - its performance is quite livable now even though the W510 only has SATA II/3 Gbps support. As far as I can tell the T420 has SATA III/6 Gbps support (as per actual hardware rather than spec-sheet).


I am indeed doing that!

Here is my shopping list for the next months:


  • Samsung 830 128GB SSD
  • Samsung 850 EVO 500 GB mSata
  • Sandisk Z400s 128GB SSD
  • Plextor M5M 256GB mSATA SSD
    Planning to get one SSD and the mSATA from the above list.


  • Corsair Vengeance 16GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
  • Crucial 16GB DDR3 1600MHz 1.35v RAM

Both Crucial and Corsair are over €100 so I will have to see if I can get a better deal.
I might as well just stick to 8GB instead of 16.


mSATA is limited to SATA II/3 Gbps so I’d stay away from that. Better get a bigger single SATA III/ 6Gbps SSD. One option is to give the optical drive the boot and a get an HD caddy for the existing 320GB - there are also kits so that you can keep using the optical drive externally via USB.

According to spec T420 only supports max of 8GB RAM anyway.


Officially it supports only 8.
Unofficially it goes up to 16, most of my co-workers had/have them with 16.


Dell accidentally published the page for the next XPS 15. Details (in German) here.


Been researching this for a while and I keep coming back to wanting a 17" laptop that can be my second monitor. The System76 Kudu looks like a solid option for a low end 17, but I’m looking more at the Oryx Pro with minimum specs lately because it provides a clear long term upgrade path.

It’s not cheap, but being able to do monthly payments and being so well equipped in terms of ports (HDMI, mini display, USB-C, USB-3, SD, Gigabit ethernet) with a durable aluminum body as well as handling up to 64GB of RAM and space for 4 up to 4 hard drives (1 M.2/NVMe, 1 M.2, and 2 2.5" slots). I have a really hard time imagining outgrowing this thing via RAM/HD upgrades for many, many years.

Probably just a matter of pulling the trigger at this point. I also like knowing they provide lifetime Ubuntu support in case I did ever run into issues.

EDIT: After researching this a lot I ended up not going with System76. There were too many really bad support stories out there. After looking at it, I ended up getting a 17" Dell Precision via Dell Developer Edition laptops. I’ll be the first person I know with this particular version, but the folks I know who have their XPS 13 Developer Edition absolutely love it.


I heard that new Intel processors Kaby Lake are not so much faster compare than Sky Lake but NVIDIA GTX 1060 is huge boost.
Maybe previous edition prices will go down :slight_smile:


OMFG I should have mentioned this actually. I bought a cheap chromebook as a devtop and had this happen to me after I had spent months customizing (ricing) some ‘exotic’ linux distro (void linux). I had a long flight and the battery must have been low already, anyway when I arrive (in Iran) it tells me that my custom bios has been rejected and I need to go into chromeOS to allow it again. I had already deleted it of the hard drive so the only option available was to wipe the drive… At the beginning of a 5 month backpacking trip which I was planning to pay for by working remotely.

I still use the chromebook but I refuse to put any work into customizing it so I just have a crouton chroot with debian on it. There are just too many gotchas, the spacebar screen on every startup is bad enough but all of these little things really get on my nerves (I did my research but no one had mentioned this battery draining seabios thing).

The best advice I can give to future chromebook owners is to never actually delete the chromeOS partition, just shrink it and “dual boot”.

Edit: I do think despite all this that if you want a new cheap productive laptop it’s impossible to beat a chromebook. However in the future I’m getting gnu approved stuff only.


Or better.
Do not buy a Chromebook and instead get a refurbished laptop. Most ThinkPad’s are used by industry professionals, especially since they are very pricey as brand new models, thus you can be sure that your refurbished laptop will be in a good condition.


Yes. Get a normal laptop for work if on a tight budget. It’s far safer than a Chromebook.


I would second (or third) that. I just bought a refurbished ThinkPad X220 a few days ago and it’s worth the very low amount of money I spent on it, easily. It’s a fairly competent setup without actually being all that much of an investment. It’s also truly portable, so it covers one of the areas where you might want a chromebook.


Predictably Lenovo doesn’t agree: Is it safe to buy a used laptop or computer? :icon_biggrin:

Other than the reputation of the seller, the model of the laptop is at issue too. I’ve now owned an IBM Thinkpad 770x, A31p, T61p, W510 and W540 over the years. The first one was built like a tank but the build quality has been declining with each iteration. On the A31p the display panel backlight failed shortly after the 3 year warranty period expired - and the authorized service depot would only replace the entire display panel for $750 rather than replacing the backlight for ~$150. On the W540 I had to replace the keyboard after only 2 years of daily use (one key after another was giving up the ghost) and I have to wonder how long the replacement keyboard will last. YMMV.

Of course Linux support is usually at it’s worst when a laptop iteration enters the market - so with a used laptop Linux support will be as good as it will ever be.


Hmm, I’d not experienced that issue as the developer lock on mine is a physical switch underneath the battery? O.o
Maybe it is device-specific or so… I’ll be sure to check it should I get another. :slight_smile:

But yes, I do dual-boot, I have a shortcut on the linux that alters the boot back to ChromeOS, and one on ChromeOS that alters it back to Linux. It is not grub but it works well for me. :slight_smile:


With the fact that Windows has been slightly annoying me lately, my need to reinstall anyways to put in a new SSD, and the fact that I can do most of my .Net development for work cross platform (theoretically) I decided to wipe my Dell Precision M4800 I use for work and install Ubuntu on it.

I’m surprised at how well it seems to be working (granted it’s probably been a decade since I last tried to use Linux on a laptop). I haven’t encountered any issues, including being able to selectively use the dedicated GPU when I want.

It will be interesting on Monday when I take it into the office and see how well (or poorly) the dock works.


The Dell XPS 13 has been a great work horse. Since most patches are also merged upstream in the kernel you can use almost any Linux distro without problems.

For me the biggest sellings points where the ultra thin bezels which allowed a much smaller form factor, the good battery-life and the build quality.

But those points might not reflect your points of interest.