Laptop Recommendation

Smylers Smylers at
Thu Feb 2 17:51:53 GMT 2012

Mallory van Achterberg writes:

> Hi, Whenever you find what you like, let us know. When looking for a
> 13" laptop last fall things sucked... if you wanted Linux.

The ThinkPad X220 is what I went with.

Here's some notes on the candidates -- all lightweight laptops, about
12" screens, with 128 Gb SSD, 4 Gb ram, and similar processor options:

* Macbook Air:  Ruled out early on because maximum ram is 4 Gb.

  I'm buying something with 4 Gb now and hoping to use it for 4 years,
  so I'd like the possibility of sticking more ram in it later if 4 Gb
  turns out not to be enough or software continues to get hungrier.

* Asus something-or-other:  Ditto.

* Dell Lattitude E6220:
  12.5", 1.44 kg, has good reviews and is available with Ubuntu rather
  than Windows (if ordered by e-mail).

  I liked the idea of that, not because installing Ubuntu is hard but
  because I treat buying things as political activity, so I'd like my
  purchase to be counted somewhere in a tally of customers who want
  Linux laptops, and to support a supplier that offers them.

  Also, from previous laptops I already have a small collection of Dell
  power supplies, so everything else being equal I'd buy Dell again then
  leave a spare power supply in my bag and have the advantage of less
  scrabbling under desks.

  However, there's a report from an E6220 owner of full touchpad
  functionality not working under Linux:

  The E6620 is certified to work with Ubuntu, but the touchpad isn't one
  of the components covered by the certification:

  When I asked the Dell salesperson about this he said that they don't
  support Ubuntu, and he couldn't tell me whether the touchpad would
  work on it. He didn't seem to grasp the point that I wasn't interested
  in spending £1200 on something without knowing whether it worked.

  So I tried again, with a Dell live chat on their website; same answer
  (but in worse English, from somebody even less well informed). Neither
  of them seemed in the slightest bit bothered that another customer had
  publicly posted a claim that their product doesn't work, nor did they
  make any attempt to contradict that claim, nor seem bothered they were
  losing a sale over it. Overall I don't think their sales staff told me
  anything that I hadn't read for myself on their website ... but
  discovering that was excruciating.

  On another question the salesperson told me a week ago he'd get back
  to me with an answer, and hasn't yet done so. Basically this sale was
  Dell's for them to lose, and they managed to lose it.

* Lenovo ThinkPad X220:

  12.5", 1.3 kg. Was about £130 more than the same spec of Dell E6220.
  Not available with Linux in the UK, and obviously won't work with my
  Dell power supplies.

  But in general ThinkPads have good Linux support. Lenovo UK don't have
  any sales staff or any way you can ask questions before purchase; this
  turns out to work in their favour, because it avoids the possibility
  their staff will be put me off the sale. What they do have is Cory
  Doctorow writing about running Ubuntu on his X220, in an article which
  is more informative than any salesperson I've encountered:

  Last night it was starting to look like this might be the favourite
  anyway when I saw Lenovo had just started a sale on X-series laptops,
  offering 10% off till February 9th. This brought it down to the same
  price as the Dell, which made it an easy choice to buy one.

  So I'm grateful to Dell staff for drawing out this process so long
  that Lenovo's prices dropped!

  Unfortunately the actual sales process wasn't smooth. Taking payment
  is outsourced to Digital River, whose website timed out several times
  -- including one occasion when I couldn't be completely sure whether
  it had made the purchase; I guessed it hadn't because no confirmation
  e-mail had arrived.

  Trying again this morning I got through, but had to phone my credit
  card provider to authorize the transaction; it had initially been
  declined because my card provider thought it looked fraudulent.

  And then about an hour later Lenovo phoned me to confirm my contact
  details before they sent me the confirmation e-mail!
  Ordering from a website shouldn't involve 3 attempts and 2 phone
  calls, surely?

* Samsung 900X3A:

  1.31 kg, 13.3". It looks like Samsung have a terrible reputation for
  Linux support; a couple of separate people reported they'd bought this
  laptop when it was released last year and had found getting Linux to
  work so frustrating they'd given up and sold the laptop on. (More
  recent blog posts suggest workarounds for the issues have been
  discovered, but deploying them seems like effort and I'd rather my
  money went to a company that makes effort to support Linux.)

  However, in its favour the Samsung does have a bigger screen than the
  Dell or the ThinkPad, for no extra weight. It's also a Best Buy in the
  current edition of 'Which?' magazine, and is available in-stock for
  delivery in 2 days; the Dell and the ThinkPad both take a couple of
  weeks to arrive.

  So while it isn't suitable for me, a Windows user looking for a
  similar spec laptop may be interested in this one. One small downside:
  it only has 2 USB ports (compared with 3 on both the Dell and the

I now know far more about laptops than I ever wanted to. I hope that
somebody finds the above useful so that they don't have to repeat my
pain, and that it'll be many years before I have to go through this
process again.



More information about the mailing list