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Buyer's guide: How to choose a Linux laptop

Key features you need to consider

With the many choices and factors to consider, choosing a laptop of any kind can be a considerable challenge. Choosing one for use with Linux, however, brings its own special set of considerations, since it's not yet always a plug-and-play world for the open source operating system. Here are some guidelines for choosing the one that's right for you.

System memory
Since most laptops today come with at least 2GB of RAM - and since that's good for most purposes, especially if you're going the Linux-only route - this factor shouldn't be too big an issue. Of course, if you're planning to dual-boot or to go with a 64-bit distro, you'll want to get more.

Optical drive
This shouldn't be a big factor to think about unless you're planning to watch Blu-ray movies, in which case you'll need a Blu-ray optical drive that can read and write DVDs. You'll also have to get some extra software for decryption.

Weight, screen, hard drive, battery, keyboard, software
These are all factors you'll want to consider, of course, but they typically don't involve Linux-specific considerations. Keep in mind, too, that in the open source world, just about any software you want can be easily added later for free.

Shopping tips

Ready to start shopping? It's a good idea to begin by checking out some Linux-specific vendors first. They typically offer the easiest route for you, since they deal with compatibility issues ahead of time, and you'll get an idea of what their offerings and prices are like along the way. It's also a very good idea to check out some of the sites out there that collect Linux-focused user reviews and status reports on particular laptops and other hardware, often vendor by vendor. Examples include:

If you're able to get your hands on any of the laptops you're looking at before you buy one, it's a great idea to bring along a LiveCD of the Linux distro you're considering so as to try it out. That way, you can have more confidence that it will work the way you want.

NEXT PAGE: Ideal specifications

  1. Key features you need to consider
  2. Processors
  3. Sound and optical drives
  4. More Linux laptop specs explained
  5. Ideal specifications

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