How to maximize compatibility when buying a notebook for Linux

I am looking into buying a notebook for productivity/workstation use with Fedora. It should have most modern features like USB 3.x (maybe a type-C connector somewhere too) and a nice screen with a high resolution that is also glare-free (matte) and IPS. I don't need any of those useless features like a touchscreen or convertible screen that turns the machine into a tablet.. :wink: Oh and it needs to have no Thunderbolt port.
Apart from that what is in a way important to me is a solid battery life. I do know that Linux isn't amazing in terms of energy efficiency so I am trying to get the best starting point possible.

Now, since I heard that compatibility with Linux can be tricky sometimes when it comes to notebooks I am wondering what the things to look out for are?

So far I figured out that I should avoid notebooks with a dedicated GPU and also watch out for the WiFi chips. Apparently the Broadcom chips are known to be tricky to get working.

Is there something else that I should be aware of when picking a notebook for Linux?

It is precisely "the most modern features" that take a while to be fully supported in Linux. And since all distros have different priorities, the level of support for say HighDPI screens, or Optimus GPU configurations will vary.

If you want the most modern hardware and you aren't a Linux wiz, get your laptop from System 76, Dell, or others, who will sell it with Linux pre-installed and most importantly, all of the features will work out of the box.

1 Like

Get a Dell.

XPS13 or one of their Linux business laptops. heres a few of the ones they offer. They're essentially fully supported on Fedora.

If you want Type-C you'll almost certainly be getting thunderbolt. not sure why you'd need one explicitly without?

system76 may be another choice if your in the US, but ive no experience.

Do it if your a "linux wiz" as well. They offer Linux based laptops, get a linux based laptop. the more people do the more they'll sell, its in fact one of the reasons Dell are selling more Linux based laptops, because they're selling.


That's true, but I am not looking for the really modern features, just simple USB 3.0 would already be enough for me, just not USB 2.0. From what I have heard HiDPI-scaling works fine for 2x so far and at least the Fedora team is already working hard on creating DPI-scaling for steps between 1x and 2x.

Actually most of the notebooks I have seen so far are only USB on the C-port, just one had Thunderbolt 3, but that is my result using search filters, so it might vary.

For security reasons:

System76 isn't really an option for me, since I am living in Europe and taxes plus shipping are probably insane.

This sounds promising, I will check them out and see what I like. :wink:

1 Like

As you'll want coreboot/libreboot then. In which case your option is a Lenovo X201 (or some close variation of)

1 Like

Is it just me or is their website really that horrible? :smiley:

Hmm.. I don't know what I should think of the fact that they ship it with 3-5 year old Ubuntu versions. :thinking: And only the "Developer Edition" comes with an SSD?

On closer inspection, it seems like these models are outdated notebooks that they don't even sell anymore.

Yeah, dell canned the "Developer Edition" which was their Linux offering when it comes to the XPS 13.

You're best off getting something from either Purism or System76. Personally, I've heard nothing but praise from System76, so I'd go with one of their laptops. I've got a friend with the Lemur and he likes it a lot. I've played with it a bit and it feels solid and is well designed. Just feels a couple years old when it comes to aesthetic design.

EDIT: And yes, their website is pretty terrible. I think that's an old page tbh.

The link was just the best place i could find a list. Go to their site and find the right category and there there.

XPS 13 for example, its the latest model with Ubuntu.

I couldn't find the latest model 13 with Ubuntu.

Yeah, just found it myself. Their website is frustrating to navigate.

There appear to be multiple different product pages for the xps 13.

Its not the best site in the world

I'm about to order the Gazelle with a true core i5 and 8 gb of RAM and an m2 ssd for 850 to the door from system 76. I did a fair amount of searching and for the processor and specs I feel like I'm getting my money worth. Also getting a fhd ips display while alot of the dells in that price range are tn hd panels.

From experience Dell. Compatibility is basically a 9/10. Why not 10/10 cause their Wi-Fi cards tend to be from Broadcom which is the most cancerous Wi-Fi card ever for Linux Period. thankfully you can switch one out for an Intel one for $20. But other than that hurdle. Dell all the way..

I bought an Inspiron 11 with a Haswell i3 and it came with a broadcom WiFi card. After testing multiple distros it was broken for Ubuntu, Fedora, and AntergOS but it worked fine in Manjaro. I switched it out for an Intel card and now my laptop has been running Arch Linux for 2 years with no issue.

I've heard that only their desktop replacements are really good, but that's just something I read when searching for information online a while ago.

All of Dell's computers are outdated when they sell, because they spend a lot of time testing hardware to ensure it meets their standards. If you want cutting edge, Dell doesn't do it, but certain tasks don't need cutting edge, so OP may be OK with a Dell. Your mileage may vary.

I've heard otherwise. I remember a couple years back, they weren't all that great, but apparently they've improved quite a bit.

It seems like all of their XPS models have a Thunderbolt 3 port though. I would need to fill them with glue if I picked one of those :wink:

What about "Killer"?

USB 3.x and AC-WiFi is as cutting edge as it needs to be for me. :smiley:
The biggest concern is probably the HD-screen with IPS.

What about Lenovo? Are their ThinkPads/IdeaPads also outdated hardware?

Killer is terrible.

You would want to consider either Intel or Atheros cards. though I have a preference for Intel since all their drivers are built into the Kernel.

1 Like

What are you trying to mitigate?

As your checklist suggests you should be able to disable it. However it depends on what your trying to protect yourself from, as if you need to protect yourself from thunderbolt attacks your almost definitely going to have to protect from USB, and Ethernet IME attacks as well. Because the only people known to be using those methods of attack are state actors.

They use the same "outdated" hardware as Dell.

You need to find the exact model. Some killer cards are actually atheros chips which are fully supported on modern Linux kernels

1 Like

Don't know anything about them, but I have no interest in Thinkpads since IBM sold the line to Lenovo, which is a mainland Chinese company. (Yes, I know most tech is made in mainland China or Southeast Asia.) Remember, Lenovo brought consumers great things such as Superfish.

You could always buy an old, pre-Lenovo Thinkpad. They'll run just about anything. You'll be out of luck when it comes to inputs though. You'd have to use adapters. WiFi isn't a problem though, as dongles are common.