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Best Notebooks For Ubuntu

Today Robert writes:

Matt, I’m trying to decide whether to buy a notebook with Ubuntu pre-installed or perhaps just buy a regular notebook known to be compatible…then install Ubuntu myself. Are either of these ideas any good? I don’t want to be stuck with a notebook that won’t work right. I just want to find the best notebooks for Ubuntu. Help!

Not to worry Robert, I can name off a number of great notebooks for Ubuntu that will more than meet your criteria. Rather than simply point you to the best notebooks for Ubuntu specifically, let’s instead consider the following. Are you a DIY kind of guy or someone who wants the notebook with Ubuntu pre-installed and supported? 

For Ubuntu pre-installed notebooks, I would comfortably recommend either System76 or ZaReason as viable options. While their prices tend to be a little higher than what you’ll find elsewhere, I think you’ll find that the support you receive more than makes up for it. You can find other vendors that offer preinstalled Ubuntu notebook offerings here, but I’ve only had personal experience with my previous two suggestions.

Getting your hands into your machine – installing Ubuntu yourself

Acer Aspire TimelineX AS3820T-6480 13.3-Inch HD Laptop

Acer Aspire TimelineX AS3820T 6480

If you’re anything like me and want to simply get the best deal possible, one notebook I’d highly suggest is the Acer Aspire TimelineX AS3820T-6480 13.3-Inch HD Laptop. This notebook is both versatile and powerful, plus it does pretty nicely with Ubuntu as well.

Critical specs include a 2.53 GHz Intel Core i3-380M dual-core processor, a 500 GB SATA hard drive, Mobile Intel HM55 Express Chipset (802.11b/g/n), Multi-Gesture Touchpad, Intel HD Graphics, Built-In HD 1.3MP Webcam and a solid 4 GBs of DDR3 RAM.

Ubuntu specific considerations include the following.

Wifi works with network manager. In addition to that, the webcam should work great with Cheese, WebcamStudio and online streaming services that rely on Flash. These would include Ustream and And lastly, the provided Intel graphics should support Compiz 3D effects should you wish to go this route. The provided monitor will offer plenty of screen real estate for any projects you might happen to have.

ASUS Eee PC T101MT-EU27-BK 10.1-Inch Convertible Tablet

ASUS Eee PC Convertible Tablet

Now if you’re going for more of a netbook for Ubuntu, then I’m going to suggest you consider one of the following computer. I suggest the reasonably priced ASUS Eee PC T101MT-EU27-BK 10.1-Inch Convertible Tablet.

Critical specs with this transforming ASUS netbook include an Intel ATOM N455 CPU, 1GB DDR2, 250GB HDD, Intel based 802.11 bgn wireless, and a 3M pixel camera. Oh, did I mention the multitouch surface? Yeah, this little netbook has this as well. Beats the heck out of a touch and tip over tablet running Android or iOS! It sports an adult friendly tool I like to call a keyboard. This tablet/netbook even comes with an operating system that can actually work like a real computer. This isn’t one of those “tablet toys” being sold elsewhere, this is a fully functional computer.

Ubuntu specific considerations include the following.

Like the previously discussed notebook option, you’ll find the Intel wifi chipset works with network manager on this Eee convertible tablet. The provided 3M pixel camera will work with the same software as listed above. I’d consider buying a good USB headset if you plan on using Skype. The internal microphone can be touchy to get working even with the benefit of using PulseAudio. And as with the above notebook, this convertible tablet should do fine with Ubuntu using Compiz 3D effects. Due to the slower resources as this is essentially a netbook, I generally recommend running in Ubuntu Classic mode and doing so without Compiz disabled. Your tablet will run faster this way.

In addition to everything above, I recommend giving the Ubuntu documentation for the T101MT a careful read over as it will give you extended details on getting the multitouch working correctly, how to handle camera errors and other simple to fix issues you might run into. This tablet / netbook is a fantastic buy and would be a strong recommendation for a versatile notebook alternative.

ASUS Eee PC 1015PX-PU17

ASUS Eee PC 1015PX-PU17

Now assuming you’re still with me, you can actually find a solid “in between” option by getting the simplicity of a notebook with the better power consumption and battery life of a netbook by simply  buying the ASUS Eee PC 1015PX-PU17. This fantastic little netbook offers you the following critical specs. An Intel Atom N570 Dual Core Processor 1.66Ghz, 1 GB DDR3 RAM, 250GB SATA Hard Drive, 0.3 megapixel and 802.11 b/g/n wifi.

This is the kind of netbook that is visibly smaller that most notebooks and because of this, it uses much less power. This can translate into fantastic battery life. We’re talking anywhere from 6 hours up to 10 hours. That’s enough for most people to use throughout the day, that’s for sure. Note that when you throttle things down enough to gain the most battery life, sometimes wifi connectivity can be affected. This is not Ubuntu specific, rather something I’ve noticed by design.

Ubuntu specific considerations include the following.

The first place I would start with is with the Ubuntu documentation for the EeePC1001P. Yes, I realize this isn’t the same as the 1015PX, but the issues addressed on that page are the same and so are the tweaks suggested to make a better experience. The only things on this page you’ll be addressing are the screen brightness issue, getting the wireless working and some help with multitouch. Everything else works great.

One more thing you’re going to want to install is a control applet that helps with maximizing your battery life. Like most things with the Eee, there’s an app for that. This application is called eee-control and it’s basically an applet for your upper panel. I haven’t tested it with Unity, but it works fantastic with Ubuntu Classic mode on Ubuntu 11.04.

Closing thoughts

Everything listed here has been heavily researched and/or tested first hand. It’s also worth noting that you’ll want to look into an external DVD/CD writer for Ubuntu or perhaps consider just installing Ubuntu with a USB flash drive. With the notebook, netbook and tablet-combo listed above, there is no optical drive provided. The easiest approach is to use the external optical drive, although installing with a flash drive is really easy as well.

Do you have questions about PC repair, Linux on the desktop, software or other tech related subjects? Don’t get frustrated, Just Ask Matt! Email me directly for help and perhaps I will be able to answer your questions right here at Matt Hartley Dot Com!


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This entry was posted on July 27, 2011 by in regular and tagged , , .
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