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Ask Slashdot: Best Laptop With Decent Linux Graphics Support?

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the holy-grail-for-the-holidays dept.

Graphics 260

jcreus writes "After struggling for some years with Nvidia cards (the laptop from which I am writing this has two graphic cards, an Intel one and Nvidia one, and is a holy mess [I still haven't been able to use the Nvidia card]) and, encouraged by Torvalds' middle finger speech, I've decided to ditch Nvidia for something better. I am expecting to buy another laptop and, this time, I'd like to get it right from the start. It would be interesting if it had decent graphics support and, in general, were Linux friendly. While I know Dell has released a Ubuntu laptop, it's way off-budget. My plan is to install Ubuntu, Kubuntu (or even Debian), with dual boot unfortunately required." So: what's the state of the art for out-of-the-box support?

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It's a very sad thing to admit, but (5, Informative)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222781)

Intel.

Not sad at all (1)

fnj (64210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222847)

Not sad at all for me.

Re:Not sad at all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223037)

I think it's great. Intel has invested a lot in Linux drivers for graphics (and wifi). The "Sandy Bridge" and "Ivy Bridge" stuff is nice.

Re:Not sad at all (4, Interesting)

dmt0 (1295725) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223479)

The "Sandy Bridge" and "Ivy Bridge" stuff is nice.

I have an Ivy Bridge laptop. What's so nice about it? How much time has passed since the hardware release? I still have tearing artifacts around every title bar on KDE, all because of bugs in drivers - both with Ubuntu's default driver and the one from PPA.

It's all great that their drivers are open and free, but quality-wise they have always been a mess.

At this point, if you want a great out-of-the-box support, all you can do is wait. Either when Intel will improve their quality, or when nvidia fixes their optimus stuff. Don't know much about the AMD side of things.

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (4, Interesting)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222963)

Well, AMD is looking good too, with currently shipping Fusion parts for laptops all being Evergreen or Northern Islands, both supported by the open source xorg Radeon driver, with a few exceptions such as full screen antialiasing, which seems to be getting close but currently requires the Catalyst driver. See here [x.org] for the current xorg driver state. Notice that everything you need for 2D and 3D graphics is there, up to but not including Southern Islands. Just taking a quick look around, it looks like the latest budget AMD laptops are Trinity, which is Northern Islands, which should work fine with the current Xorg driver. But definitely google the specific chipset. Power management... good question. I'm getting solid results with Ivy Bridge, I haven't tried AMD's laptop parts recently.

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223123)

Older AMD cards are in general good for the BSDs as well...unfortunately we don't have TTM yet, and the newer cards need that for KMS. We're stuck at RV790 or so. It's too bad, because I think *BSD drivers could impact the embedded space, something which it appears AMD occasionally targets.

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (3, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223147)

I believed this jazz and bought an AMD/ATI laptop after being bitten by nVidia's optimus comment (my nvidia laptop got stolen). Now I miss my nvidia laptop. The Radeon driver is really lacking, has a very high battery consumption, doesn't work well with many applications. The fglrx (proprietary) driver won't work with several Xorg version without that considered a major bug by the dev team.

It is very possible that right now, if you want pure open source, Intel may be the one offering the most supported punch. I will really consider this option for my next one. I wonder if CUDA can be done with intel cards.

The alternative is to use bumblebee on nvidia proprietary driver, which drains battery but allows to enjoy a decent graphical acceleration.

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223547)

I wonder if CUDA can be done with intel cards.

No, never, CUDA is nVidia only. But Intel supports OpenCL. [intel.com]

Bear in mind that AMD leaves Intel way back in the dust in GPU performance, including embedded GPUs.

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (3, Interesting)

TeXMaster (593524) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223641)

OpenCL is supported by all major vendors, and it can be used both on CPU and on GPU. However, Intel's support for OpenCL on GPU is only available on Windows. Until the GalliumComute framework is ready, we won't be seeing any open source OpenCL support anywhere. (Also, Intel's GPUs support OpenCL only from HD4000 series).

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (4, Interesting)

marcansoft (727665) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223061)

Which means the Optimus solution isn't actually all that bad. I have the opposite viewpoint: I bought an Optimus laptop assuming the nvidia wouldn't work, simply for the other specs and the Intel video. When it turned out that bumblebee worked fairly painlessly and I was able to use the nvidia to accelerate 3D while the Intel drove my displays, I was pleasantly surprised. The solution is a bit of a hack, but honestly, I don't really have anything bad to say about it. It's the best of both worlds: open Intel drivers which are stable and support modern interfaces like XRandR 1.3 and KMS driving the displays, and the clunky proprietary but fast nvidia driver sandboxed in its own backgrond X server doing 3D acceleration only.

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (2)

ah42 (109096) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223387)

I honestly have to agree with the ease of setting up Bumblebee. When I bought my current laptop online, it was advertised as nVidia graphics, and nowhere did it mention intel... so I was disappointed (and quite confused) to find X using the intel driver. I had never heard of this Optimus thing, and 5 minutes later, I had bumblebee installed, and running.

https://launchpad.net/~bumblebee/+archive/stable [launchpad.net]

Re:It's a very sad thing to admit, but (2)

AncientPC (951874) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223465)

Intel graphics and wifi has a good Linux reputation. Atom was an exception because they used a 3rd party GPU (PowerVR).

Thinkpad with a full Intel stack (CPU, graphics, wifi, SSD) is the preferred route. I prefer the T430 (14") or X230 (12"). The biggest draw back is low resolution (1600x900 or 1366x768). You may want to look into the X1 Carbon as well.

If cost is an issue, I would choose an X220 or T420. I actually prefer the older models as they have 7-row, traditional Thinkpad keyboard vs the newer 6-row chiclet style (Apple) keyboard. You can find them on Lenovo refurbished or off eBay / Craigslist. If the X220 had better resolution, I'd be stockpiling them in my closet. As it is, I'm pretty damn happy with my X220. I even have audio output through my Display Port working in Arch! (Is that awesome or kind of sad?)

If you're looking for a non-Thinkpad solution, the biggest headaches are usually graphics chipset, wifi. AMD / NVIDIA? Check chipset support. With wifi try to stick Intel once again, some Atheros chipsets are nasty and require a flaky ndiswrapper. Paying an extra $10 - 20 to upgrade to an Intel chipset is worth avoiding problems down the road. For touchpad, you usually want to make sure it's Synaptics for multi-touch support. I've had ACPI issues with desktops, but not with laptops thus far (Dell Inspirons / Latitudes, Asus EEE PCs, and Thinkpads).

A solution (2)

byolinux (535260) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222785)

I found its actually hard to get a machine that's decent these days, unless you're prepared to put up with a bit of crap.

The solution is to build your own custom laptop -- http://www.avadirect.com/gaming-laptop-configurator.asp?PRID=25095 [avadirect.com]

If you go for the "VISIONTEK Killer" wireless card, it has an Atheros chipset, so you can distro-hop to your hearts content. They also ship it with no OS if you like.

Re:A solution (2)

Kazymyr (190114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223467)

Or buy from a company that allows you to customize every aspect of the laptop. I have an Eurocom Racer http://web.eurocom.com/EC/ec_model_config1%281,219,0%29 with Radeon HD6970M graphics. You almost can't get better non-Nvidia mobile graphics than that. Got it with no OS installed, and it runs xubuntu like a champ.

Clevo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222787)

Buy a newerish Clevo

Need more information (3, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222793)

What do you mean by "decent linux graphics support"? I have a Thinkpad with NVidia NVS 3100M discrete graphics and 512mb vram. I'm perfectly content with it for what I do, which includes 3d molecular modelling. KDE looks great, too. On the other hand I don't play any 3d games so I can't tell you what Call of Duty 12 or any of those look like on here. I would sooner write code in CUDA for the GPU than do that.
R In other words, your sense of "decent linux graphics support" might not be the same as everyone else.

Re:Need more information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222983)

If I were in the laptop market I would want good graphics too. ThinkPad would be probably be my choice. Too bad they're not as stylish as the MBP.

Re:Need more information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223135)

It's like an AK...it's not supposed to be pretty. You can throw it off a ladder though.

Re:Need more information (1)

willy_me (212994) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222995)

Probably means "a machine that works". I use Linux at work and I started out with an older ATI card. What a mess, ended up putting in a cheap Nvidia card and that cleared up most, but not all, of my problems. Strange things still happen - like inverted colors in flash. Sure it can (and has) been fixed but I personally don't want to waste my time with such things.

Overall, I would say that Linux drivers generally suck when it comes to video cards. The one exception is Intel as the newer iSeries CPUs appear have good driver support. So my suggestion would be to pick up a laptop with a supported WiFi chipset, embedded Intel video, and a comfortable keyboard / screen / trackpad. It mostly depends on personal preference so it's not easy to recommend a specific laptop.

Re:Need more information (3, Insightful)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223023)

Your experience does seem a little out of date. Try a Radeon 6450 for example, it's solid as a rock under both the open source and Catalyst drivers and for $40 you can't complain about the performance.

Re:Need more information (1)

Nutria (679911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223115)

but I personally don't want to waste my time with such things.

Huh? The fix was trivial. And took no more than 15 minutes of research. Also, it was a solid fix that immediately worked so well that I don't now remember what I did to fix it...

Re:Need more information (1)

GoatCheez (1226876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223341)

The problem that jcreus had was that it was a dual-graphics option. The CPU had onboard graphics support that the laptop used by default, but also had an nVidia GPU that could be enabled. Getting the nVidia GPU to work was the issue. I have a Sandy Bridge laptop with a nVidia GPU - a similar position - but I haven't tried using linux only on it. Instead I have multiple linux VMs. So, the issue, is really getting both the intel graphics and the nVidia graphics to play nice together in linux.

I, for one (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222795)

welcome our new middle-finger-brandishing overlord.

Re:I, for one (2)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223401)

Hey, I've been around for quite some time...

ATI Or Intel (1)

ilikenwf (1139495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222799)

No specific model, but Intel and ATI both have excellent support under Linux. Go Intel if you aren't a gamer and don't need super heavy graphics support.

Wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222957)

both suck even on windows. On linux it's a joke. Even after you get the chipset from the list of supported cards for some feature, say, video acceleration, you find out that the card you bought based on that information have a rebagded chipset and you will not have video acceleration.

nvidia is the worse on rebadging chipsets. ATI is mostly retarted with the names, but still no excuse.

System76 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222803)

Have you looked at System76? They make laptops preloaded with Ubuntu. www.system76.com

Re:System76 (3, Interesting)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223051)

Have you looked at System76? They make laptops preloaded with Ubuntu. www.system76.com

I just ordered one from The Linuxlaptop [thelinuxlaptop.com] . It's basically a Dell Inspiron. I could have gotten it faster and paid a little less directly from Dell, but I'm getting lazy, I want to just turn it on and have it work. I think, from now on I will only order from companies that pre-install Linux. It says something about their commitment.

Re:System76 (1)

nschubach (922175) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223339)

Nothing says professional like slow load times and a blurred out stock photo in the banner... I mean, it literally took me 3 minutes to load the page. And now it's down.

Re:System76 (3, Informative)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223457)

Nothing says professional like slow load times and a blurred out stock photo in the banner... I mean, it literally took me 3 minutes to load the page. And now it's down.

Slashdotted I'd say. And that's a good thing. I wish these guys the best.

My MacBook Pro runs linux (0)

mozumder (178398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222811)

as well as OS X and Windows.

VMWare is pretty nice :)

Re:My MacBook Pro runs linux (3, Insightful)

Pope Raymond Lama (57277) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223011)

And can a VMWare hosted Linux desktop do 3D? And about decent 3D?

Re:My MacBook Pro runs linux (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223105)

Yep. VMware can virtuallize opengl and pass it through to the accelerated host driver. Will even run advanced 3D games.

Re:My MacBook Pro runs linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223173)

VMWare is proprietary trash...I think Xen can pass through an entire GPU to a VM if you swing that way. VirtualBox also has 3D acceleration.

Re:My MacBook Pro runs linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223255)

VirtualBox's 3D accel never worked properly for Linux guests.

Re:My MacBook Pro runs linux (1)

mozumder (178398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223211)

yes sir! it won't be as fast as native boot camp, but it does work and is decent enough.

Re:My MacBook Pro runs linux (1)

mozumder (178398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223215)

and probably the most useful thing is that I never have to worry about driver support in Linux!

something better? what kind of joke is this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222817)

Wtf do you mean "something better"? You have Nvidia or AMD/Ati, or Intel if you just don't care, which is what your already on - there is no other choice for graphics, at least not any other choice that you would want.

Re:something better? what kind of joke is this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222993)

Intel is something better -- they may not have much capability, but 100% of that capability is exposed through open drivers that don't crash. (vs. nvidia, where 10% is in open drivers, and the other 80% is in closed, crash-inducing binary lumps... oh yeah, the last 10% doesn't work at all in Linux. Or ATI, where the open drivers are a little better, but the closed ones needed for most stuff don't even provide all functionalities of the open ones, and yeah, they crash a lot too.)

Re:something better? what kind of joke is this (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223133)

ATI, where the open drivers are a little better, but the closed ones needed for most stuff don't even provide all functionalities of the open ones, and yeah, they crash a lot too.

Smells like FUD, it must be FUD. Catalyst has never crashed on me, even once, in a few years of using it. The main annoyance is, you need to reinstall on every kernel update, which is why I now use the Xorg Radeon driver. Less than half the 3D performance, but that's still more performance than I need. 3D cards are ridiculously powerful these days.

Re:something better? what kind of joke is this (5, Informative)

Nutria (679911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223159)

nvidia, ... 80% is in closed, crash-inducing binary lumps.

What universe is this where the nvidia blobs induces crashes on even a semi-regular basis? I can't remember the last time video caused my system to hang/crash and I've been using the nvidia blob for at least 6 years.

Re:something better? what kind of joke is this (1)

GoatCheez (1226876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223369)

I was using nVidia blobs prior to that on a 3 year "fuck windows" hiatus. Don't recall any crashes from video then either. If I had any it was from me or something else. Still, I wish they would fix this issue sooner rather than later (although it may require some changes out of their scope for the moment).

Re:something better? what kind of joke is this (1)

Arker (91948) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223649)

Unfortunately this is exactly what you can expect with blobware support. Some people get lucky with the correct combination of software and hardware and it will seem to work perfectly. So you wonder why others complain. Well, they arent using the exact same software and hardware you are, and binaries are brittle. They break. One machine may work fine with blob drivers for a long time. A slightly different system may experience regular crashes. A more radically different system may not be able to run the blob at all. The only way to properly support Linux is with a Free driver which can be cleaned, fixed, and maintained by the kernel team.

silly question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222821)

why dual boot?
and I hope you do a google about "Linux Laptop" to look at laptop that come with Linux preloaded.

System76: Good support (4, Informative)

CajunArson (465943) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222823)

System76 gives good support. They aren't the cheapest option out there though.

If your goal is not to play 3D games, then Intel HD graphics have by far the best open-source support and HD 4000 graphics are actually pretty good overall. If your goal is to play games, then Nvidia or AMD with proprietary drivers will be your best bet, with the edge in driver quality going to Nvidia.

AMD does have some open source support *BUT* the 7000 series cards (meaning everything released in the last year) are extremely poorly supported with AMD only having released part of the necessary documentation so far (and it took them 10 months to release the part that is out there....).

System76's crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223125)

They hide behind non-free software and claim freedom... not that this is any different than any other company advertising linux laptops (except for thinkpneguin). The point is if your going to do nothing to fix the problem and push non-free stuff don't claim your a free software supporter.

I have abought systems from System76, Dell, Lenovo, HP, LinuxCertified, EmperorLinux, and a number of others. None of them understand the need for free software drivers/firmware. They all ship with shit that stops working on you because somebody who controls the driver they depend on decides to discontinue support.

What is worse is that HP, Lenovo, and Dell (and by that EmperorLinux) all ship systems which are infected with digital restrictions that won't even let you replace these components when they stop working. Or don't work right in the first place. Both in the CPU and on the wifi card. The CPU is less an issue although it does exist.

Re:System76's crap (1)

jampola (1994582) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223585)

RMS? Is that you?

Re:System76's crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223635)

You think RMS would buy a system dependent on digital restrictions or other proprietary crap?

Obviously not. However much fun you make of free software supporters there are a lot of people majorly impacted by non-free software. Its the primarily thing stifling Linux adoption.

System-76 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222833)

Wide variety of customizable laptops and desktop that all ship with Ubuntu

Straight Intel (0, Troll)

fnj (64210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222837)

Intel HD2000/3000/4000. The only graphics worth a bucket of warm spit. If you need more than that you're doing it wrong.

Re:Straight Intel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223217)

Yeap, you are doing it wrong if you are trying to use Linux for meaningful gaming. Steam may fix this eventually but for the moment, use Windows or don't game seriously.

www.system76.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222857)

system76 laptop comes with ubuntu preinstalled. they have good support for linux. If I were you, I would definitely look their website. I think the Dell ubuntu laptop is expensive. https://www.system76.com/laptops/

Not enough information + binary blobs (4, Insightful)

storkus (179708) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222871)

There are two problems here:

1a. You haven't specified exactly what you'll be doing: if it's just office crap, anything will do; but if you'll be running the GIMP, games, etc, you'll need higher-end hardware (both CPU and GPU).

1b. Do you need x86/x64? If not, a Chromebook or tablet with USB-OTG and hub may be an answer; unfortunately, the below blob problem still applies.

2. For GPUs there are two kinds of drivers: reverse-engineered and proprietary blobs; you almost certainly know this. NVIDIA is the king of the blob department, AMD/ATI is middle of the road, and Intel (along with older stuff like SiS) is mostly completely reverse-engineered or even released open. Bear in mind, the open drivers are messy: based on the state of the art, graphics is by far the most difficult thing to reverse engineer a driver for, and I really feel for the guys working on them! (Edit: AMD/ATI's blobs are well known for being a mess, too!)

Bottom line: if RMS can barely get a machine to his liking, you'll have only a marginally less difficult time. Sorry.

GIMP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223381)

GIMP? Depends what you're doing I suppose, but I edit photos fine on GIMP on a 2005 Dell D610 laptop. Google Earth isn't bad either. 3D games like UT2K4, hell no. But GIMP ought to run decently on any new laptop if this does.

Intel(R) Pentium(R) M processor 1.73GHz
Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller
1GiB DDR
Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Audacity isn't bad either, but that's 10.04; 12.04 Audacity can't stumble out of it's own way on 2005-era hardware for some reason I haven't tracked down yet.

Re:Not enough information + binary blobs (1)

jgrahn (181062) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223565)

1a. You haven't specified exactly what you'll be doing: if it's just office crap, anything will do

Except for that which doesn't work reliably, e.g. locks up or has graphics bugs. Or that which needs bizarre, non-free or bleeding-edge drivers.

but if you'll be running the GIMP, games, etc, you'll need higher-end hardware (both CPU and GPU).

I don't know how you use the GIMP, but I use it for plain 2D image editing, and used that way it just needs to render bitmaps. Nothing your web browser doesn't want to do already.

To anyone reading from nvidia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222891)

I experienced a situation a little like the OP in as much as I had a terrible experience with a dual Intel/nVidia system from Asus. It worked when I bought it, but Asus didn't provide new driver updates, and new drivers from nVidia either wouldn't install, or when hacked to install wouldn't work properly with the Asus software, leaving the community to fend for themselves - you could either install drivers that somewhat worked hacked together by some random guru on the internet, or stick with an old driver that didn't work properly with certain games etc. I will never, ever buy another hybrid graphics laptop. You can blane yourselves and Asus for that. Intel drivers on the other hand just install and work.

What sort of specs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222895)

Do you need OpenGL support? Accelerated video decompression? ...

Re:What sort of specs? (1)

ShoulderOfOrion (646118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223499)

Agreed. Not enough information here.

This has been my experience:

- if you're into hardcore gaming, nothing is going to beat the nvidia blob at this time for raw 3D frame rate. Power consumption and stability may suffer, and Linus will still be ranting.

- if you're doing 3D primarily for desktop compositing and OpenGL CAD-type stuff, I have found the radeon FOSS driver to be very stable and fast enough on non-bleeding-edge chipsets. It is much improved from years past. The only reason to use the fglrx binary blob is for faster gaming 3D, and for that the Nvidia blob blows it out of the water.

- if you're into 2D applications and video, or if power consumption is important, the Intel FOSS drivers are your best bet. The Intel 3D hardware is getting better with each new chipset, but it still hasn't caught up to Nvidia and ATI, and the software is still too buggy IMO. Power management is typically best with the Intel software though.

Some day Intel will eventually pull ahead when it gets tired of putting more cores on every die-shrink and starts adding GPUPUs instead.

ThinkPenguin's got the best free software support (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222901)

Unlike system76, ZaReason, and every other f'ing company there trying to fix the mess. ThinkPenguin's been working with Atheros for instance on getting the complete source for a USB wifi chipset. That'll bring us the first truly Linux friendly USB adapter which is fully supported. There are two other older USB chipsets which are also not dependent on non-free software. The older N chipset has issues with some routers (then again it's really pre-N so that is to be expected) and the G chipset is well supported provided you stick to browsing the web and don't venture off to setup your own access point.

Anyway. Back to ThinkPenguin. The company has a number of laptops at a variety of prices points that anybody can afford. They are starting at $500 and you can throw any distribution on them just about because the company doesn't depend on pieces that are outside the mainline kernel and/or other major projects nor proprietary. And to make you feel better they are HUGE contributors to free software. 25% of there profits go to Trisquel and other projects as well. They are also working on numerous initiatives to better support people around the world. For instance there manufacturing keyboards for a dozen languages/regions and have brought support for lots of other hardware to the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe (as well as elsewhere).

Re:ThinkPenguin's got the best free software suppo (0)

kernelpanicked (882802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223225)

Eh you're mostly right on. The downside to ThinkPenguin, and I just recently did some PC shopping so I know for a fact, is that unless you want some POS Celeron with no memory to speak of, you're gonna be forking over Apple-like prices. No thanks.

Re:ThinkPenguin's got the best free software suppo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223259)

The difference though between what you get for $400 from walmart and what you get from ThinkPenguin is night and day even at the low end. Your also not going to get the support or full functionalit and more than likely your going to run into problems with digital restrictions as all the major companies (Dell, HP, Toshiba, Lenovo, etc) are shipping wifi slots with BIOS based whitelists. Unless your going to risk ruining your new system it is well worth the price. You might have the time to screw around trying out different laptops although most people don't.By the time you actually get the right one you'll have spent either the time or money or both which could have one to a good cause.

Re:ThinkPenguin's got the best free software suppo (1)

kernelpanicked (882802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223263)

Yep. Replying to mahself. I just want to add that I would go out of my way to avoid any project that contributed to projects such as Trisquel. I'll happily contribute to Debian or Canonical before handing over good money to a project that exists only to repackage another distro, minus any actual useful bits, just to appease RMS.

Re:ThinkPenguin's got the best free software suppo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223385)

It's not about that though. It is a bit short sighted to be against the company just because they see the value in freedom. That said though the company also contributes substantially more to Linux Mint and they include non-free bits. Linux Mint though despite being the arch enemy of RMS and the FSF is not developing non-free bits. The reason you should care about Trisquel is because they are taking a stand against the non-free bits which are causing all sorts of havic. If nobody stands up and says no more more we are going to continue to suffer with hardware and software that doesn't work. Supporting Trisquel has nothing to do with RMS. Trisquel is a perfect distribution to discover just what hardware your going to have a problem with later. You don't have to agree with RMS to understand that there are all sorts of issues created by these non-free bits. From losing support for java (recent oracle debacle) to adobe flash (firefox). And then you have issues with things like digital restrictions from manufacturers and printers, wifi cards, video cards, and all sorts of other devices which stop working.

I don't understand the fuss (5, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222907)

I can use emacs at any resolution, irrespective of X11, pointing device, or keyboard.

Re:I don't understand the fuss (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223185)

Ch
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There's no simple "good" answer. (4, Informative)

wangmaster (760932) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222915)

Yes, Linus gave Nvidia the middle finger, and from a certain perspective it was for a good reason, but from another perspective, it's just "ranting".

Nvidia has insisted on closed source proprietary drivers. Does this mean the drivers are crap? Nope, it just makes it very difficult for the open source community to troubleshoot/support them.

ATI/AMD is in the same boat. They have proprietary drivers. Arguably, Nvidia drivers are better. In my experience the ATI/AMD drivers tend to have more bugs. They also have a tendency to release support for a new xorg-server well after the server has been released, thus forcing those of us on the bleeding edge to wait. On the otherhand, they help support the open source drivers, which is great. But, the open source drivers lag behind, so if you're a gamer and dual boot to Windows and have a great ATI/AMD card, it may not work properly under the Linux open source drivers or with a bleeding edge distro with the latest and greatest xorg-server.

Otherwise, if you want "gamer-grade" graphics, you basically have a choice between Nvidia and ATI/AMD. Both have their tradeoffs.

If you don't care about gamer-grade graphics cards, Intel drivers are open source, well maintained, and the new sandy bridge and ivy bridge graphics are more than good enough for almost anything but gaming (they're okay for low to mid-low end gaming but that's about it).

My solution is a thinkpad w520 with optimus graphics. I use optimus graphics under windows when I want to game (quadro 2000m) and use the integrated intel graphics for linux with bbswitch to disable the nvidia gpu so my battery life doesn't suck. But it really does boil down to, do you want to game? If so, you have no choice but a proprietary driver or not-up-to-snuff open source driver. If not, stick with onboard Intel. Decent graphics performance and much better battery life than most discrete solutions.

Re:There's no simple "good" answer. (3, Informative)

chmod a+x mojo (965286) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223075)

Don't forget, NVidia are great for supporting older hardware... at least a LOT better than ATI/AMD.
ATI/AMD has dropped the HD4200 series cards as of something like 6+ months ago from the newer drivers. NVidia on the other hand still supports a huge range of older cards, and supports VDPAU on pretty much anything from the last few years at the very least.

For non-gaming needs the radeon driver works out well for most cards though, so it's a trade off. And the X.org boys are ( or at least have been, I haven't been following too close lately ) working on getting VDPAU working on the HD4XXX+ hardware with the radeon driver.

Re:There's no simple "good" answer. (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223377)

Nvidia has insisted on closed source proprietary drivers. Does this mean the drivers are crap? Nope, it just makes it very difficult for the open source community to troubleshoot/support them.

Nvidia Optimus cards aren't even usable in Linux until the Bumblebee project reinvented support for the Optimus stuff on their own. If that's not complete *crap* on Nvidia's part, then I don't even know what we can call crap.

Re:There's no simple "good" answer. (3, Informative)

mallan (37663) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223591)

No, not true - you can certainly use Optimus cards on Linux, you just have to choose between the integrated chipset or the dedicated chipset at boot time. What you don't get is the power savings from being able to dynamically switch between the low-power integrated Intel gfx and the high performance NVidia gfx. It's really not that big of a deal - the battery life on my thinkpad is just fine using the NVidia gfx 100% of the time.

Re:There's no simple "good" answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223629)

ATI/AMD is in the same boat. They have proprietary drivers. Arguably, Nvidia drivers are better. In my experience the ATI/AMD drivers tend to have more bugs.

You're in epic understatement of the century mode here. nVIDIA closed-source drivers blow everyone else away. Problem is, those are closed source (very high quality, fast, etc, but closed-source). The open-source Intel and ATi drivers may be better than the nVIDIA open-source driver, but if you want real performance and quality the nVIDIA closed-source drivers are still second to none.

easy 3 steps. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222921)

1. download kinoppix or other live cd distro. ideally without binary blobs.
2. go to a store like fry's or bestbuy
4. reboot machine, disable safe boot, boot from usb, check hardware support.

Re:easy 3 steps. (2)

hazem (472289) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223213)

And check the "little things" and not just main support. For example, I have this little Acer Aspire One (AO756) that I like a lot. It has a celeron processor and linux runs on it well. EXCEPT: I've tried everything I can and there seems to be no way to get an external microphone to work (it has a combo jack, like a cellphone). Also, the SD card slot does not work in Linux either. Both of these things work fine in the Windows 7 that the machine came installed with.

I have hopes that future kernel updates will fix these problems, especially since the newest Chrome-books are Acer computers with nearly the same specs as my netbook.

But what I'm trying to say is to check all the smaller details. It may not be enough to just make sure it boots and the video works.

ATI's even worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222923)

Haven't used the machine with the ATI card in it for about 4 months, but last I was on there, it couldn't run minecraft with the open source ati drivers. I mean like, min settings, 11fps if I was lucky. This is on an admittedly older laptop, with a Core 2 duo 2.0ghz+2MB L2 cache and a Radeon HD 4500M.

Basically, ATI is fine if you don't need 3d acceleration. The open source drivers are great with 2d, compositing, etc. The second you need 3d though, they're pretty much worthless (at least since I last used them), and you'll end up having to deal with the proprietary drivers instead. In my experience, they're pretty friggin sluggish in comparison. Lots of latency when starting X11 and switching between vterms and desktops, lag in some compositing/moving around windows/opening them, and a SHIT TON of bugs.

Not to mention Arch hasn't supported the binaries outside of the AUR for a few years now. Check out the ATI bar and Grill [archlinux.org] thread if you're interested.

For me, due to a bunch of random issues, I had to go the route of using third party repositories that kept me on older versions of X server in order to keep playing games. I eventually just said fuck it and haven't dealt with that machine since. Now, I actually stick to windows on it since it's mainly my work laptop anyway. Keep in mind, I'm an arch linux user, so ymmv if you go the ubuntu, mint, fedora, etc route.

So, yeah. Nvidia is a lot better from my experience. I know that's saying I'd rather get fucked with a stick than a knife, but it's true nonetheless.

As everyone else is saying, Intel is really the only company around that is worth its weight on the drivers side. Honestly, my Core i7 3770 can run Assassins Creed revelations pretty much fine on medium settings, 1080p (windows comparison, I know), so it's not the end of the world. Integrated is getting better. AMD's offerings on integrated are even better as far as power is concerned, but I'm fairly certain they have the same drivers as the discrete cards, so that's kind of a moot point anyway.

My advice? Buy a good intel chip from ivy bridge, and you won't really miss the discrete card unless you play a lot of resource intensive games. Wait around and pray to god Nvidia or AMD gets their act together soon.

Re:ATI's even worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222953)

Sorry, to clarify: The proprietary ATI drivers wouldn't work with the latest version of X server, so I did the work around using third party repositories that would automatically get the newest stable ATI proprietary driver and the version of X server compatible with it. This would sometimes be two generations out of date, ex 1.8 versus 1.10 was one of those cases if I remember correctly. And as far as the bugs were concerned? Frame buffer not being updated, leaving windows half loaded, only drawing the broder of windows, and worst of all, there was some bug that was a pain-in-the-ass to fix where, upon closing my laptop lid, the system would freeze up, unresponsive to any commands. Even if I didn't start X. Basically, if the fglrx module was loaded (kept the old name), the thing would freeze on me whenever I closed the lid, and not just the display, but the entire system. sudo halt wouldn't do anything.

Eh? (1)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222925)

What do you mean I can't get a laptop with a Hercules mono graphics card in it?

And who said CGA was "so last century".

Hell, maybe it's time I upgraded.

I noticed that I became much better at playing minesweeper after switching to an NVIDIA card.

Hmmm... I think this morning's earthquakes [nzherald.co.nz] may have rattled something loose in my head ;-)

Intel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42222933)

There are 3 GFX card chip vendors (forget the rest): NVIDIA, ATI, Intel ... have you ever read in the last 100 years anything good about NVIDIA or ATI on Linux (or even Windows) regarding driver support?

Buy a fsckn Lenovo Laptop WITHOUT hybrid GFX, just plain Intel. Is it fast? No, it's fsckn Intel! Will it work out of the Box? Yes, it's fsckn Intel!

It's 2012 but i would have said the same 8 years ago when i got a private NVIDIA and for work a Intel Laptop ... nothing changed. Closed source driver = problems. I'm sick of dealing with it ...

Chromebook (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42222967)

I would be tempted to buy a cheap chromebook [yes the ARM one] for $200, which allegedly run ubuntu very nicely. I would probably be tempted to either they drop in price to get rid of the old stock, or buy one of the new versions that come with a touchscreen next year.

...Oh you want dualboot. I assume you can still run chrome ;)

Re:Chromebook (1)

hazem (472289) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223235)

As far as I can tell, the newest Acer Chrome-book is nearly the same computer as their celeron-based Aspire-One computers. I have one of those and as far as I can tell, the computers are nearly identical. So I'm suspecting it should be easy to put any flavor of Linux on it, since it doesn't appear to be an ARM computer.

ThinkPenguin hardware (it's all freedom friendly) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223007)

ThinkPenguin is the only company supporting free software. They're handing over 25% of the profits to support free software development and working with companies up the chain who actually do the manufacturing. They ship only free software supported chipsets so everything works really really well.

lets look at your 3 choices in laptops (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223021)

Intel
AMD/ATI
Nvidia

now choose which pile of shit you want to fight linux to use

Wait for Haswell (4, Informative)

Wyzard (110714) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223025)

If you can wait awhile longer before buying, Intel's upcoming Haswell processor is reported to have significantly improvied graphics performance [myce.com] , and Intel GPUs are well-supported with free drivers in Linux and Xorg. They're less-powerful than NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, but should be fine unless you need to play high-end games on high quality settings.

Re:Wait for Haswell (1)

dmt0 (1295725) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223515)

If you can wait awhile longer before buying, Intel's upcoming Haswell processor is reported to have significantly improvied graphics performance [myce.com] , and Intel GPUs are well-supported with free drivers in Linux and Xorg. They're less-powerful than NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, but should be fine unless you need to play high-end games on high quality settings.

Yes, and than wait another year or so until they get the drivers to work properly, which they still didn't with Sandy Bridge.

No such thing. (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223039)

Decent Linux Graphics Support?

There's no such thing. Wait until Valve/Steam get going and maybe... just maybe... But right now? Fuck no.

Re:No such thing. (1)

Arker (91948) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223609)

You really expect a company that requires you to install a rootkit just to buy their products is going to somehow improve the situation for Free drivers? Are you out of your blooming mind?

what? Intel dont make graphics cards? (0)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223049)

wait what kinda acrap is this article about

best out-of-the-box Linux graphics support (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223063)

Intel graphics is the best choice but performs just so-so, though most non-gamer users won't notice.

Intel drivers are free open source and included in major distros, ready out of the box.

I have nothing but trouble with Intel graphics (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223065)

My latest experience:

1. I built an Ivy Bridge machine with the latest Intel onboard graphics. I installed Mint 13 KDE, and I got crashes like crazy.

2. I put in an nVidia card, installed the nVidia proprietary driver, and everything has been smooth since.

I've had this exact kind of thing happen on several previous builds. In every case, the solution that worked for me was to ditch the Intel onboard graphics and get nVidia.

I know nVidia's proprietary binary blob sucks, but it's the only thing I've found so far that allows me to stay on Linux.

Maybe other solutions work too, but my recommendation is (1) stay away from Intel graphics, (2) try nVidia first.

AMD...Not so much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223103)

Not really an answer to your question, but still relevant. I have an AMD Radeon HD 3870. It came out maybe a little over 5 years ago. I had a lot of issues with it when I first got it about a year ago simply getting dual monitors working, and after that, getting WoW to run in Wine in a reasonable way. It's since been updated and seems to have largely tackled these problems, though I still have silly bugs like losing sound and the occasional artifacts while playing. I recently got into the Steam on Linux beta, At least at the moment, games will only run with the very latest beta release of the AMD graphics card. The problem being, they stopped updating the Radeon HD 4000 and earlier series a few versions ago.

So, contrary to what a few others are saying, AMD graphics support is really not very good, at least in the case of chips a couple years old, which could be your chip before you know it. Keep in mind that this is DESKTOP graphics, I seriously doubt you will have any better experiences with a mobile chipset.

IIRC, Torvald's anger had to do with NVIDIA's unwillingness to cooperate in the mobile phone sector. They certainly appear to have the best outlook for PC Linux gaming.

All in all though, it's a truly sad situation on all sides. Valve's actions certainly seem to indicate a brighter future, but it might be a ways off yet. Unless of course you aren't concerned about any modern gaming, in which case Intel's open source graphics drivers really are your best bet.

Re:AMD...Not so much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223117)

Oh boy, so many typing mistakes. Don't try to explain things while sleep deprived. My apologies. Hope everyone gets the idea though.

OpenGL (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223111)

If you want OpenGL support, you want nVidia.

asus g53 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223183)

I've got an Asus g53 running centos 6.3 - everything works, including the nvidia geforce

Nvidia Optimus workaround (1)

EightBits (61345) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223193)

I recently had this issue with my Slackware install on a brand new Thinkpad. I can't vouch for all systems, but on mine I was able to tell the BIOS to disable Optimus and use ONLY the Nvidia chip. It was a really simple work around. Although, I did have to use the Intel graphics during installation. But once I rebooted from the installer, I was able to switch the BIOS to the Nvidia chip and have been using it ever since with Nvidia's drivers. I'd like the power savings of the Optimus feature, but that will have to wait until the appropriate dev teams can work up the support. Nvidia has an absolutely top tier driver team. I think if the support were already there in both X and the kernel Nvidia would have simply used it. I imagine it's not all there yet.

And don't worry about Linus and his middle finger. He always acts like a whiny little bitch when things don't go his way. If we followed his example, we'd never know if we're going to use Gnome or KDE on any given day.

Nvidia will work out for you. But you have to be a little patient for the OS support. You could also try looking for a laptop with Nvidia graphics that does not use Optimus. I would imagine they're getting to get difficult to find new these days, but you can probably still get them.

To my surprise... (3, Interesting)

erp_consultant (2614861) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223221)

my MacBook Pro does an outstanding job of running Linux. You can dual boot it or run Linux in VMware or Virtual Box. No graphics card issues at all. Everything worked right out of the gate - sound, graphics, wireless, everything. If you can, try and find one a few years old. The new ones have those soldered on chips that make it impossible to upgrade. Get an SSD, take out the DVD, put in a second HD and you're off to the races.

Re:To my surprise... (3, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223497)

my MacBook Pro does an outstanding job of running Linux. You can dual boot it or run Linux in VMware or Virtual Box. No graphics card issues at all. Everything worked right out of the gate - sound, graphics, wireless, everything. If you can, try and find one a few years old. The new ones have those soldered on chips that make it impossible to upgrade. Get an SSD, take out the DVD, put in a second HD and you're off to the races.

Actually, all you need are the ones that lack the "Retina" display. Apple still makes regular plain old Macbook Pros (13" and 15") with fully upgradable everything. Just avoid the MacBook Pro with Retina display and you're fine. You don't want it anyhow - running at native resolution is a good way to strain your eyes. And running non-native looks ugly on any OS other than OS X (Try running 1920x1200 on it - it'll look practically native on OS X, and ugly as heck on any other OS).

So stick with the traditional line and you'll be fine. Easiest way to tell is because they still come with optical drives.

No reason to not get the latest tech, especially as Apple is still manufacturing them.

I'd be more worried about wireless support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223331)

My B570 Lenovo laptop has Intel graphics. I use Kubuntu, and haven't had any issues for graphics, but then I don't do games, so maybe that would show some issue I'm not aware of. GIMP, Office, email, web browsers, VLC for movies -- just fine.

The issue is wireless support. Broadcom or Atheros chipset can be supplied with this "same model." I was unlucky enough to get the Broadcom. The stock Kubuntu wireless widget/daemon is useless, especially to setup any WiFi security. So I installed Wicd instead. Then a standard distro channel update to the kernel killed the broadcom driver functionality, so I've stuck my kernel version at 3.0.0.17 since.

Beware EFI (1)

ah42 (109096) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223403)

I just bought a laptop myself (MSI-GT70), and the hardware (as far as I can tell) worked flawlessly with linux (even Optimus, see my above comment about bumblebee).

However, the major stumbling block was EFI and Windows Dual-Boot (I have my reasons):
No matter how I tried, I could not get any EFI bootloader to boot linux. I could get grub-efi, efi-shell, elilo, to all boot themselves, but none of them are able to boot the kernel. So I must use linux in Legacy (BIOS) mode.

Since windows is pre-installed, and the new recovery system isn't actually a proper installer (as far as I can tell. I haven't wanted to risk wiping the installation to test...), I must continue to boot windows in EFI mode.

So now my dual boot menu is actually chenging between BIOS and EFI, instead of choosing an option from the grub menu.

Re:Beware EFI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223529)

Just bought a Toshiba Satillite C850D and a second HD. Lappy was still in the box, slipped the old harddrive with windows 8 on it out of the unit, slid the new hard drive in, flashed it up, set bios to legacy mode and installed xubuntu. Only problem was a very unstable acpi option. acpi=off in the boot options and I'm totally happy with my new lappy.

do77 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223407)

all kn0w 3e want. for a living got

What trouble have you had with Nvidia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42223427)

Seriously their closed drivers work great on x86-64 Linux. Never had an issue. If you're a rabid open source proponent, fine, i can understand you might have trouble. But Nvidias binary blob drivers are fantastic.

Depends on your needs (2)

slacka (713188) | about a year and a half ago | (#42223657)

I've worked extensively with ATI, Nvida, and Intel Linux laptops and unfortunately there is no ideal solution. First, you need to decide whether you need open source or proprietary drivers. Proprietary drivers give vastly superior performance and expose the most OpenGL features. If you want support for the life of your laptop, be aware that manufactures will drop support after a few years as was done with my ATI X1800.

The open source drivers tend to give the solid 2D experience and have great support for wayland and compiz. You also don’t have to worry about kernel updates breaking your drivers. With open drivers forget about and serious gaming. OpenGL performance is still terrible compared to proprietary drivers. Intel has the best open source drivers. If you need more performance than an integrated GPU can deliver, ATI has the 2nd best open drivers.
TL:DR Propriatary -> Nvidia, Open -> Intel or ATI

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