New laptop

After 7 years heavy use, my old macbook is showing its age.  The battery has long been knackered: just about adequate to move the machine from one room to another and plug it in to the mains.  The backlight failed last year and needs nursing to keep it working.  And now the battery has reached a point where it powers down if I just accidentally knock the power lead out of place for half a second.

It’s been a good little machine and served its purpose: a laptop with a Unix-family OS and hardware that just worked.  Plus a fantastic display quality that made a desktop substitute of the 13″ screen.  It’s not been trouble-free: I had to replace the disc a while back, but on the whole it’s been great.  But now with two major expensive-to-repair faults, I guess it’s time to look around the market again, and take advantage of other advances, notably further reductions in size and weight since 2006.

I don’t think I’ll go for another Macbook.  My experiences with more recent macbooks have been rather less positive than the old one, while at the same time I’d expect there to be a much wider range of laptops where the more ‘challenging’ things of 2006 – like ACPI and builtin wifi – just work, without hassle.

So what’s a good laptop for Linux[1], or even with Linux preinstalled?  Another 13″ screen will suffice provided the display is of comparable quality to the old Mac, and I’d love it to be genuinely small and light with a good battery life.  That probably implies ‘ultrabook’.  And since I’ll be doing lots of work with the GNU toolchain – which can write hundreds of thousands of tempfiles in a typical build – I can’t alas go for an SSD-only machine.

A bit of preliminary poking around suggests cheapo ultrabooks from Asus or Acer as good candidates with positive experiences from Linux users, and Lenovo and Toshiba as labels to avoid in the ultrabook space.  Comments solicited from readers who know more than I: will a £500-ish ultrabook be a decent working machine, or is it likely to be as shoddy and useless as the Dell I had before the macbook?  Anything in particular to look out for?  Any further suggestions?

[1] Or I’d consider other-*X if someone convinced me it would be hassle-free on an appropriate piece of hardware.

Posted on June 10, 2013, in linux, mac. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. You might like to look into Lenovo Thinkpads.

    Admittedly my experience does not come in at £500 but the W520 has been a dream – still running the same (Arch) Linux installation as the day I bought it. Plenty of other folks use Linux on the other models in the range.

  2. A bit more poking around suggests you’re right about thinkpads, but they’re a bit more bulky than I had in mind. Also it seems the first places I looked may have been unduly negative about Lenovo.

    Thinking now of an HP pavilion 14″, 1.8kg. All the info I can find looks good, HP publishes a manual of sorts for Linux on it, and Canonical certifies it for Ubuntu. Though both of those look pretty generic, so one can only hope a particular variant doesn’t contain unsupported junk.

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