Recommend me a decent cheap laptop that runs Linux

Telekarster

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A new or refurbish first tier (business or pro series) HP or Dell generally has best Linux and any compatibility. That's an Elite or Pro in HP and Latitude for Dell.

FWIW I'm on a Latitude right now, and I've had this machine for 10 years LOL!!! I only bought it cause my company used them at the time, and I liked my company issued one so much that I bought the exact same one for myself. It is diehard and still has its original battery, that still holds a good charge believe it or not. It's not SSD of course but just saying that it's been a heck of a workhorse machine, and it's done plenty of traveling and knocked about too, but keeps on going. I don't know if the new ones are as good, but I hope they are cause I might be in the market some day soon... cause I can't believe this machine is going to last forever.
 

bobio

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I have had great luck with the Debian version of Linux Mint running Mate. I ran it on my Mother's old Dell Inspiron laptop.
If I recall, it had 2Gb Ram and I believe an old dual-core Intel Pentium processor, she used it for years. I would run the Mint updates on it from time to time for her. It struggled with Ubuntu. You definitely want one of the lighter-weight windowing systems on lower-end hardware.

I am a Red Hat man myself, been running it since the early 90s. My first exposure to it was on Raq servers when I had my own business and was collocated with a local ISP in Ft Lauderdale, FL. Went on to expand and moved to a larger facility where I was collocated with AT&T and ran Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Stronghold Web. I have run a flavor of Red Hat/CentOS/Fedora ever since. My current install is Fedora 36. For a more bleeding edge distro, it runs pretty well on low-end hardware.

This is a Virtualbox machine configured with a dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128Mb of VRAM. Been an IT dude for 35 years, these days I don't get much of a chance to work with Linux on the job. I do still run multiple distros in Virtualbox to keep my hand in it.

Fedora36.png
 
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Dave_11

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Thanks to everyone who replied. Regarding Dell and HP refurbs, does anyone know if these have new outer parts (case, keyboard, screen)? I've been buying Apple refurbs for many years, and the only refurb part is the guts. Everything on the outside is new.
 

sudogeek

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Agree with the Lenovo recommendations. But, really, almost any reasonably modern laptop wiil work. I have a number of superannuated Intel Macbook Airs so thats what I use; they run Mint and Xubuntu without problems .
 

imwjl

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Thanks to everyone who replied. Regarding Dell and HP refurbs, does anyone know if these have new outer parts (case, keyboard, screen)? I've been buying Apple refurbs for many years, and the only refurb part is the guts. Everything on the outside is new.
There are firms that resell typically 2-3 year old Dell and HP business models with a slight warranty. There have been times at work where the manufacturer outlets have those good models at a slight discount. Sum-total decent value and stuff now matter how you arrive at it.

If you like MacBooks some people seek the 12" model. The one I'll be parting with soon has a new keyboard and display since it was new but less than ideal battery life now. They are tablet size with great sound.
 

jays0n

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As many suggested, almost any Thinkpad will be supported very well. On my current one, I think every bit of the hardware (including the special buttons for controlling specific devices on the keyboard) worked out of the box, except the fingerprint reader which …. I never planned in using that. Get one with a lot of ram, and an ssd already installed, with an i7 and you’ll be good, and it should not be expensive at all.
 

telleutelleme

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I buy off-lease HP workbooks with USB3, SSD, up to 16GB memory, 15 inch screens, NVIDIA graphics and I7 processors. I've run all sorts of Linux distros without any issues. $300 and under. No issues. Most are very clean, few scuffs etc. Fleabay is a great place to identify the off-lease sellers. I use one in Austin Texas.
 

wrathfuldeity

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Vote for Lenovo, 10 years ago for a big work project...that never materialized...bought new a 530w laptop with 16gig and 256ssd. A few months ago started looking around for a replacement because it was getting sloow. My son just told me to take it in have everything wiped and ?flashed? with up grade of the OS. $100 and 2 hours later...frick'n great! Then found a few year old lenovo mini tower with 32g ram and a 1T ssd with updated os for the basement office...cheap SCORE because of it being a tower!
 

Alex_C

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Good advice on the list. Pretty much all current laptops work (M1 Mac is in alpha stage) with Linux based distros The most annoying thing I've found is resuming from hibernation. I've encountered random issues, some show stoppers, others mere annoyances. I have a converted HP Chromebook that stays in my car, that is my on-site laptop. The issue with that device is audio. It works but I can't adjust volume without it becoming distorted. I need to restart the service to clear it up. I can't remember offhand the Linux distro that is on it. I had to open up the chromebook and remove a screw in order to flash the bios. It works really well and has great battery life. It isn't very fast, but is fast enough for surfing, using the terminal, writing scripts, etc. My main laptop is a Dell that a client was throwing away. The only issue is hibernation. It sometimes freezes when it wakes up. I've disabled hibernation and all is well. It is running buster and xfce4.
 

edvard

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the realtek drivers are a pain. main repos don't support many of them. and unless you've hunted down the one for your kernel version and stick to that kernel (like in deb stable), an upgrade will eventually break the re-compilation of the driver. worse yet, ubuntu now has HWE stack on by default. so it's a potential cat and mouse game for a casual user with drivers.

an older thinkpad with an intel card would be cheap, safe with iwlwifi and generally well supported in deb or ubuntu. i believe iwlwifi is bundled with the ubuntu install by default. i don't know about mint. with deb you can download a "non-free" iso that includes it with the install.
Yep, I've had my own pains with RealTek drivers in the past, so when I saw this one had RT stuff, I kinda paused. But because of my own inquisitive nature, I kept digging and found that while past versions had twitchy drivers, the latest iterations have been quite stable, and the drivers for that particular chipset have been mainlined into the latest kernels since sometime in 2021. One post I found said that Ubuntu 20.04 did not have the stable drivers, but 21.04 did, and they worked as expected (and here's hoping they get back-ported because 20.04 is LTS). Sure, a little more research will probably find laptops with tried-and-true Intel hardware, I just went with the cheapest thing on the website that wasn't a Chromebook.
 

edvard

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Thanks to everyone who replied. Regarding Dell and HP refurbs, does anyone know if these have new outer parts (case, keyboard, screen)? I've been buying Apple refurbs for many years, and the only refurb part is the guts. Everything on the outside is new.

When I want to upgrade the towers for home use, I troll through Wal-Mart's Refurb deals to get best bang for my buck and it's worked well. That means I don't get the latest and greatest hardware, but I'm not a gear junkie, and as long as it works, I don't care much more.

In my experience, it's obvious they've simply replaced whatever made them a return case in the first place; bad optical or hard drives, lights/fans that don't work, broken wiring, bent pins on connectors, fried motherboard/CPU, broken case bits, etc. It was obvious a couple of times that the case hadn't been replaced, but was definitely cleaned up. I don't remember what made it obvious, probably evidence of screws holding the CD-ROM leaving their mark from the previous installation.

So far, I've only had to return one once for having a bad hard drive (30-Day Warranty FTW!). Seeing that returning that one and buying another refurb was cheaper than simply buying a new hard drive at the time, I still won...
 

edvard

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I buy off-lease HP workbooks with USB3, SSD, up to 16GB memory, 15 inch screens, NVIDIA graphics and I7 processors. I've run all sorts of Linux distros without any issues. $300 and under. No issues. Most are very clean, few scuffs etc. Fleabay is a great place to identify the off-lease sellers. I use one in Austin Texas.

Hey, that's actually a great idea for my next 'refresh' (probably sometime in the next two years). Thanks!
 

oregomike

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Thanks guys - good to hear that hardware compatibility is not so much of an issue these days. The thing that gave me pause was that I tried to switch to Linux on my 2017 Macbook Air a while back and every time it would do an update it would lose the wifi driver.

Computer: sorry, but I seem to have lost my wifi driver
Me: so, just reinstall the wifi driver
Computer: sorry, the driver is on the internet and i can't connect to the internet because I seem to have lost my wifi driver...

This happened with two different distributions.I suppose I should have just downloaded the driver and kept it on the hard drive.

Anyway I'll keep my eye out for something cheap.
I haven’t been following since my last reply, but another option would be to dual boot Linux into a chrome book. Not sure what your skill set is wrt OS or kernel stuff, but for “just surfing the web and TDPRI”, chrome will handle that, obviously. If you need linux for other things like terminal cli stuff, dual booting with Crouton might be an option.

Of course, this is kind of like a mechanic trying to diagnose a car issue over the phone. : )
 




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