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Cheap Laptop suggestions? (Or warnings?)

Last response: in Linux/Free BSD
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March 13, 2011 3:46:34 AM

It looks like I am in the market for 2 cheap laptops. Pretty much just for email, web and general office tasks while we're traveling. Because they'll collect dust otherwise we're not looking to spend much on the pair. A few hundred each at most. Plan is to replace whatever OS they might have with something like Bodhi. No intent to dual boot.

I know next to nothing about laptops but have heard some stories about getting Linux installed onto them. My only laptop Linux install has been painlessly installing Debian 5 onto a Dell Inspiron.

Any general advice on what laptops/hardware series to avoid or which ones might be a good choice? Just looking for anything that might standout in your collective minds. I'm thinking used Dell Latitudes might be good choices?

Sidebar: My husband readily accepted the idea of a Linux machine for traveling. :sol:  This is something of a victory. :lol: 
March 14, 2011 2:06:52 PM

I would think that most newer laptops would be compatible with most Distros by now.

Ubuntu is said to have very good hardware compatibility off the bat so you can try that or a lighter Ubuntu variant (Lubuntu, Xubuntu, CruchBang)



Hardware/price wise, Atom netbooks are usually cheaper than full size laptops. They're also small and great for travelling. I know some Dell Minis even ship with an Ubuntu netbook edition or something

As for full size laptops on the cheap, I've been able to run Ubuntu on Celerons, older Athlons, and Turions so I'm guessing you won't have too much problems here.



Only problem I usually have with laptops is the wireless drivers. You might wanna look at the chipset more closely and check on Ubuntu forums or something for compatibility.

I know back then Broadcom was kinda hard to get to work while Realteks are easier although I'm not sure if this is still true today.


Lastly, if you're planning on buying straight from the laptop manufacturer, try looking for ones that have the option to be installed with Linux rather than Windows by default. Like I said before, some Dells do ship with Ubuntu rather than windows. Manufacturers sometimes give out like $60 discount or something for choosing Linux. You can also have a better chance of knowing your hardware is supported
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March 14, 2011 4:05:54 PM

You will prob have a hard time finding a preinstalled linux computer, but some manufactures will come without windows and that makes them cheaper.

Look for Nvidia Cards as there is better supported drivers then Radeon.

Stay away from ACER there a bad brand notorious for freezing issues.

I would suggest the following in this order
ASUS Fantastic Stock warranties include accidential for a year free.
Toshiba Most reliable machines i've ever seen.
Dell easy & good customer service. decently priced.
Gateway better price, slightly lower quality parts. Still better then those not mentioned here.







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a b 5 Linux
March 15, 2011 9:29:40 AM

Once I receive my x120e, I'll tell you how compatible it is with Linux.
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a b 5 Linux
March 19, 2011 2:21:41 PM

I'm just back from a couple of months travelling in SE Asia and was having a look at netbooks myself. Some of the deals offered to me in the Technology Mall in KL were very tempting, until I realised that the machines were all Malay only models with 12 months local warranty and not a global one :(  I also wanted to be 100% confident in what I was getting for Linux support but being away from home with limited net access (I deliberately took no technology other than an MP3 player - I was escaping computing for a while) I couldn't work out what I wanted before I left for home. Having returned to the high prices of the west I'm starting to think maybe I missed a chance but I've already got my desktop and it would really have been a treat.

Having done my first trip my priority for a travelling laptop would be as follows:

1. Bombproof! Your kit will get dropped, thrown kicked and otherwise abused. Seriously look at something like an Otterbox or Peli hard case for it. Seems like overkill but you can chain the case to the bed for a bit of protection when you leave you kit.

2. Size/Weight - I took 40l of kit for two months and wished on a number of occasions that I had taken less. I checked in 9.3Kg of luggage and brought back 10.2kg after a shopping spree in KL (I'm now sorted for t-shirts!) I'd seriously look towards the smallest and lightest you can find if you have any thoughts of carrying it further than the airport.

3. Battery - I was luck in that I had electricity and access to sockets the whole trip, that having been said a number of the places that I stayed which had free wi-fi had flakey coverage in the rooms. People were frequently sitting in corridors to get a decent signal, with no power socket. An external aerial with better gain might be helpful. Don't count on having power though and make sure the PSU will run on 120 and 230v, also sort travel adaptors before you fly.

4. Encrypt all of it! Also consider what might be restricted in countries you are visiting. It might be that they share your love of pron or it could be the death of you... they do sometimes check.

5. We might have abandoned CD/DVD, the pirates have not. If you want to pick up movies while on the road then VCD will be how it comes to you. A budget USB powered one to share could be the solution and a way to win friends.

6. Do you REALLY need it? For most of what I needed I could have made do with my Android phone. Lots of folks had iPod Touch or iPad which seemed to do them OK. Blackberrys seemed to be the king for mobile mail solutions and some of the SIM deals were amazing for data. Depends where you are travelling but most countries have Internet Cafe all over the place for reasonable prices. I used them in Thailand, found none in Laos (not sure I looked really) but did not use in Malaysia as there was just more of a dodgy vibe in the ones I went to.

In terms of models if you want old and second hand then have a look on the bay for reconditioned think pads. My landlord picked up a split mint one (I think it was stock that was never issued as the key tops are still as new) for a song. Bit big and heavy but for the price he paid I'd consider it almost a disposable item on a long trip.



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a b 5 Linux
March 19, 2011 2:31:28 PM

c911darkwolf said:

Look for Nvidia Cards as there is better supported drivers then Radeon.


Not much in it now and most of the netbooks are running on Intel IGP chips. Faster graphics are all well and good but they eat power.

c911darkwolf said:

Stay away from ACER there a bad brand notorious for freezing issues.


Strangely enough the most common model of netbook I saw people using was the Acer Aspire One. I did fix somebodys Sony when it froze up but not one Acer. For large laptops there was a good showing from Toshiba and Dell but also lots of Acer kit, again nobody I met was bitching about them. YMMV and as I say was just my observations from the last couple of months.
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a b 5 Linux
March 20, 2011 1:01:25 AM

My netbook will be AMD Fusion :) 

(Don't ask about why I intend to use it to ray-trace.)
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