What defines good laptop?

Currently I am using Dell D400 laptop. It has few years and battery holds just for about 40 minutes. But it works still and is fast enough even to make OpenEmbedded builds.

During LinuxTag I played with different machines to check which things bother me most. As a result of that I created some kind of list of things which good laptop needs to have (order do not define priority):

  • 1Gb ethernet card
  • wifi which works ok with mainline driver
  • hardware wifi switch handled by rfkill subsystem
  • wifi status indicator
  • bluetooth built-in
  • hardware bt on/off switch
  • bluetooth status indicator
  • touchpoint (touchpad can even not be installed)
  • comfortable keyboard layout (Fn not first key, cursors under right Shift key)
  • WXGA resolution
  • grapics chip with framebuffer in native resolution + working X11 driver
  • backlight supported by mainline driver
  • card reader (at least SD/MMC)
  • 3 USB ports
  • 4 hour on battery
  • battery used also in few other models
  • everything supported in mainline kernel

I can live without serial port because I have nicely working FTDI USB-serial dongle and most of time I do not use laptop to connect to developer boards. From the other side I do not like to waste precious port for Bluetooth dongle. FireWire, infrared, pcmcia, expresscard or smartcard are not required — I do not remember when last time I used any of those things. Integrated video camera and microphone are bonus but also do not required (but should work if present).

It can have any graphics as long it will provide me working framebuffer and X11 (at same time). But after fighting with my current one I would think twice before buying something with Intel chipset… I am afraid that they can forget about it existance like they did with 855GM which I use now (intelfb supports it but refuse to work with it). So it looks more like I need to check how situation looks like with ATI Radeon chipsets.

What to buy and when to buy is other thingy… Many people recommend Thinkpads, market will also be filled with ARM based netbooks soon which will rather do not cover most of requirements but should give much longer battery live. The choice will be hard but I have few months before my next conference trip.

5 thoughts on “What defines good laptop?

  1. booxter

    HP Elitebook 6930p. But you should really check that you buy “updated” version (with fixed construction problems found in the first-time versions).

  2. tz

    Over here we have system76.com, which is a company that insures everything works.

    One more criterion: working 3d graphics (OpenGL, etc)- for google earth and stellarium. The 2d can work fine, often the VESA driver will work, but that won’t do 3d.

    Another way to put hardware, is if it has the hardware, it ought to work under linux, e.g. if it has a webcam built-in, it should be supported for video input under linux.

    1. Marcin Juszkiewicz

      @tz: working OpenGL is basically present for all chipsets used in sane x86(-64) laptops. You can get ATI, Intel or NVidia chipsets inside and each of them should provide 3D acceleration.

      Machines which require VESA drivers to be used are not acceptable — my current laptop forces me to use uvesafb (due to intelfb which do not want to work on 855GM chip).

  3. Ross Burton

    Lenovo ThinkPad X200s. Potentially the most perfect laptop, especially when you get the high resolution screen.

  4. The WallAR

    If you don’t care much about free (as in speech) you could find laptop with nVidia. I strongly advice you to not buy machine with ATi or Intel.

    First :

    • ATi free dirvers are so poor and they work so slow
    • Properitary drivers are so unstable under linux (they can crash within Compiz)

    Second:

    Intel published some shity driver for linux and there’s no performance at all intel based VGAs. btw. the old drivers does not support new chiset (so intalling old one wont be solution unless it’s macbook air) for example i have hp 6730b with Intel graphics. I can play on vista Portal game(on mid settings). On Linux (ubuntu,arch,mandriva,fedora) i can’t even play nexuiz.

    If you want Real battery life you could buy some netbooks. But they suffer from low performance :)

    Best Regards Leo

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