Update, 3/29/23: This article has been expanded and updated with current models for 2023.
What to Look for in a Linux Laptop
Although Linux laptops are still far more niche to purchase than Windows or Mac laptops, they’re slowly becoming more mainstream. If you want to purchase a laptop that runs a Linux distro, here’s what you need to consider:
- Whether Linux OS is Preinstalled: Most laptops that are available through large retailers either come with Windows OS or macOS. Although Linux operating systems are becoming more popular, it’s still fairly niche to purchase a laptop with a Linux OS already installed on it. Unless you feel comfortable purchasing a laptop and installing a Linux OS on it yourself, it’s best to buy a laptop with Linux OS preinstalled.
- Chrome OS vs. Other Linux OS: Chrome OS is based on Linux, so all modern Chromebooks will be able to run Linux apps, but they’re still different than traditional Linux computers. If you mainly just want to be able to run Linux apps but not spend a ton of money, consider purchasing a Chromebook.
- General Laptop Parameters: Just like with any other laptop purchase, you’ll also want to consider what you want the internals to look like. How much storage do you want? Do you want the graphics card to be a priority? Do you intend to use the laptop for work, school, gaming, or something else? Make sure you think about what your laptop needs internally to be able to use it how you want to.
Best Overall: Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
- ✓ Great ascetics
- ✓ Top-of-the-line core specs
- ✓ Comes with Thunderbolt 4
- ✗ Higher-processor model requires you to self-install Linux
Although this laptop from Dell has a version with Windows, the XPS 13 Developer Edition comes with the Ubuntu 20.04 Linux OS installed. If you mainly just want a great laptop for everyday use with a Linux OS, this is the best option for most people.
It’s super lightweight and looks really sleek. It’s pretty great internally as well. If you purchase this laptop from Dell with the default options, you’ll get an Intel Core i5 CPU, a 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD, and 8GB of RAM. If you want to spend a little more on your laptop to beef up the internals, you have some customization options. You can bump up the CPU to an Intel Core i7, increase the size of your SSD and memory, and even customize your display, too.
Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
If you mainly just want a great laptop for everyday use with a Linux OS, this is the best option for most people.
Best Budget: Star Labs StarLite 11
- ✓ Inexpensive
- ✓ Let's you choose from 16 different Linux distros
- ✓ Open warranty
- ✗ Less impressive specs than higher-priced Linux laptops
The StarLite 11-inch laptop from Star Labs differs from several Linux laptops in our lineup because you can’t get this model with a non-Linux operating system. Most of the other Linux laptops have Windows versions available. But that’s not the only thing. You actually get to select which Linux distros you want to install. There are 16 iterations of Linux to choose from, rather than the mainstream Ubuntu that comes installed on most Linux machines.
Additionally, Star Labs lets you choose between two BIOS: the proprietary American Megatrends or an Open Source Coreboot. This level of customization is rare, even in the Linux world. Plus, the company sells a one-year “open warranty,” meaning you can modify your computer and its components without voiding the warranty.
As a budget model, StarLite’s specifications are expectedly less impressive than the rest of the Linux laptops in this article. The least expensive configuration comes with 8GP of ram and a 240GB SSD, although you can upgrade the hard drive to 960GB if you want. But that’s enough to do basic daily computer tasks like typing, browsing, and watching videos.
Star Lab StarLite Laptop 11-inch
If you don't have much to spend but still want the open-source goodness of Linux, the StarLite 11-inch could be for you.
Best Midrange: System76 Galago Pro
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Lightweight
- ✓ Offers Thunderbolt 4
- ✗ Relatively short battery life
If the XPS is way too far out of your price range and the StarLite doesn’t have enough oompf for you, consider the Galago Pro. It falls right in that sweet spot between impressive specs and a rock-bottom price. This Linux laptop comes with a 14-inch display, 12th Gen Intel Core i5 (or i7) processor, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, and up to 64GB of memory.
Additionally, the Galago Pro comes equipped with PCIe 4.0 NVMe that speeds up load times and file transfers. Plus, you can configure it to have up to 4TB of fast storage. And you won’t have to buy any adapters to transfer your files as this laptop has both Thunderbolt 4 and Ethernet ports.
The Galago Pro is another great Linux laptop sold by System76.
Best Premium: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (10th Gen)
- ✓ Outstanding building materials
- ✓ Excellent battery life
- ✓ More than enough processing power for most tasks
- ✗ No touchscreen
If the XPS 13 doesn’t suit your needs for work, this Lenovo ThinkPad is another great option and maybe more familiar for some people. Lenovo is a well-known and reputable brand. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is probably being used by many with Windows, but you can custom order it to come with a Linux OS. Most of the builds on Lenovo’s website come with Windows OS, but under the “Build Your Own” tab, you’ll see an option for Linux OS.
Because the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is already such a great work laptop with Windows, swapping it to Linux just adds privacy and security to whatever you’re working on. This laptop comes with a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and a 256GB PCle SSD.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (10th Gen)
If you want all the great things that Linux has to offer on a high-performing machine, you can't go wrong with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Best for Gaming: System76 Oryx Pro
- ✓ Highly customizable
- ✓ Open source BIOS
- ✓ Enough power to play even the most intensive games.
- ✗ Tops out at 1080p resolution
The System76 Oryx Pro is the best Linux laptop for you if you want to play all the latest games. It’s highly customizable so you can get exactly what you need out of your build. And it comes with System76 Open Firmware with coreboot, giving you super short boot times.
You can choose between three different versions of Linux OS: Pop!_OS 20.10, Pop!_OS 20.04 LTS, or Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. You can get up to 64GB of memory or choose a lower option for a lower price. Then, you can also customize the size of your M.2 SSD and add an additional custom M.2 SSD for even more storage space.
You can also customize your graphics card, too. You can choose between an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, 3070, or 3080. The Oryx Pro is also a hybrid graphics laptop, meaning it switches between Intel and NVIDIA graphics, depending on when you want the best graphics and when you want to save battery life.
Pretty much the only thing you can’t customize in this laptop is the 10th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU. All this power is packed into an impressively thin body and presented on a glare-resistant matte display.
System76 Oryx Pro
The System76 Oryx Pro is the best Linux laptop for you if you want all the works. It's highly customizable so you can get exactly what you need out of your build.
Best for Privacy: Purism Librem 14
- ✓ Uses PureBoot and the Librem Key to prevent tampering
- ✓ Includes hardware kill switches
- ✓ Great customization options
- ✗ Less than stellar microphone, mic, and speaker
If privacy is your main reason for investing in a laptop with a Linux OS, go for the Purism Librem 14. It uses GNU/Linux PureOS, and the company detects software and hardware tampering with PureBoot and the Librem Key.
With this laptop, the Intel Management Engine has been disabled to reduce risk and bloat in the system. Purism uses BIOS and EC chips that are protected through hardware kill switches. If you’re one who’s always worried about someone seeing through your camera or listening through your microphone, Purism takes that fear away with their security promise. Their hardware kill switches will physically disconnect the camera and mic if your laptop detects anything suspicious.
Plus, like many of the other laptops on this list, you have some great customization options. You can customize the battery, memory, storage, and installed firmware. With the default options, you’ll get 8GB of DDR4, a 250GB M.2 SSD, and coreboot + SeaBIOS firmware.
Purism Librem 14
If privacy is your main reason for investing in a laptop with a Linux OS, go for the Purism Librem 14.
Best for Work: System76 Lemur Pro
- ✓ 14-hour battery life
- ✓ 180-degree tilt hinge
- ✓ Customize memory and storage
- ✗ Webcam only 720p
The System76 Lemur laptop is another great option from System76 that’s a bit more affordable than the Onyx Pro and better for the everyday worker. You can get a whopping 14 hours of battery life out of this laptop, making it a great option if you frequently work outside of your home.
The Lemur model still uses System76’s Open Firmware with Coreboot for security and fast boot times. For your CPU, you can choose between an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7. For your Linux OS, you can choose between Pop!_OS 20.10, Pop!_OS 20.04 LTS, or Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. Then, just like the Oryx Pro, you can also customize your amount of memory, SSD size, and whether you want an additional SSD.
Plus, this laptop has a nifty 180-degree hinge that’s great if you want to adjust your workspace throughout your hours worked. And at only 2.4lbs, it’s incredibly lightweight.
System76 Lemur Pro
The System76 Lemur laptop is another great option from System76 that's a bit more affordable than the Onyx Pro and better for the everyday worker.