Selecting a Used Laptop on Amazon to run Linux

28/12/2020
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The second-hand market for Linux-friendly laptops is full of hidden treasures. Instead of paying a small fortune for a brand-new laptop that performs only marginally better compared to one or two generations old laptops, it makes a lot more financial sense to buy a used laptop on Amazon and potentially live with a few small scratches from the previous owner.The only problem is knowing which used laptops on Amazon are actually Linux-friendly. In this article, we explain the steps you should go through to select a used laptop with flawless Linux compatibility and hardware specifications that fit your needs.

Narrow Down Your Search

The good news is that there are so many used laptops on Amazon that everyone is guaranteed to find exactly what they are looking for. The bad news is that having so much choice can be a bit overwhelming. As such, you should start by narrowing down your search results as much as possible.

Try to come up with a list of things you would like to do on your new laptop.  Is playing Linux games one of your priorities? If so, you need a dedicated graphics card. Are you a developer who hates long compilation times? A high-end CPU can help you reduce them considerably. Are you worried about security? Then you should look for a laptop that can support a Linux or Ubuntu VPN. Maybe you’re a writer or student, and you spend your days typing on the keyboard. In that case, you should definitely go with a laptop that has a comfortable keyboard with a sane layout.

You might be tempted to buy what once was a flagship laptop with many bells and whistles, but we recommend you get a middle-of-the-road laptop instead. Flagship laptops often come with exotic hardware with limited Linux compatibility. What’s even worse, the Linux user base of a typical flagship laptop is tiny, which means that you often find yourself on your own when troubleshooting problems. Brands such as Dell, Lenovo, and HP stick with tried and tested hardware components, and they have huge followings of dedicated Linux users.

Of course, we should mention that there are also laptop brands that specialize in selling Linux-friendly laptops. They include System76, Station X, and Alpha, among many others. Unfortunately, these brands are not nearly as popular as mainstream laptop brands, which means they are quite hard to find used and in good condition.

See What Other Users Are Saying

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of used laptops, try searching online to see what others are saying about them. Read as many reviews and user reports as you can to get an idea of which laptops are the most Linux-friendly and which should be avoided.

You might discover that your favorite Linux distribution contains a bug that affects one laptop that caught your eye but not the others. At that point, you should visit the bug tracking system of the distribution to find out if the bug is on its way to being resolved. If you find out that the bug isn’t anyone’s priority, you might be better off buying a laptop that isn’t affected by it.

Consult Compatibility Databases

Before you click on the buy button and order a used laptop from Amazon, you should consult Linux hardware compatibility databases. We recommend you start with Linux on Laptops, which features comprehensive reports on running Linux on laptop computers. TuxMobil is another great compatibility database with installation guides on almost any laptop or notebook model.

From there, we recommend you also check the hardware support list of your favorite Linux distribution. Ubuntu has a great one, and so does Linux Mint, and Debian. Some laptop manufacturers who sell laptops with Linux pre-installed have their own compatibility lists, such as Lenovo and Dell.

When you finally receive your new laptop, you should test everything you can to ensure that all buttons, components, connectors, and features work as they are supposed to. Don’t forget to test the function keys as they often misbehave in Linux. If you find something that doesn’t work, Google it. Unless you’ve picked an unpopular laptop, the chances that someone has already solved the same problem before you are high.

Top 3 Best Used Laptops on Amazon to run Linux in 2018

Dell XPS 13 9360

The Dell XPS 13 9360 is one of the most popular Linux-friendly laptops on the market. As such, you can easily find it fully specced and in mint condition for a great price. It features the Intel Core i7-7500u processor, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD storage, and Dell’s stunning 13-inch InfinityEdge display with touch support and 3200 x 1800 resolution. The XPS 13 also has the Killer 1535 wireless adapter, which promises the strongest and most reliable Wi-Fi connection. The adapter is supported in all recent Linux kernel versions. The only feature that isn’t working is the integrated fingerprint sensor, but a group of Linux enthusiasts is attempting to reverse engineer the sensor’s driver.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s

The Lenovo ThinkPad T470s is a business-ready laptop with excellent Linux compatibility and the toughness of a hardened nail. We recommend the version with the Intel Core i7-6600U processor, 256 GB PCIe-NVMe SSD, 8 GB of RAM, and a non-touch IPS display with the Full HD resolution. Used, this version should cost you around $900. There’s also a version with the Intel Core i7-7600U processor and a touch-enabled IPS display. Regardless of which version you choose, the T470s always offers excellent connectivity options, an exceptionally comfortable keyboard, and build quality that has passed 12 stringent military tests and over 200 quality checks.

MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-230

Finding a great gaming laptop with excellent Linux compatibility isn’t easy, but the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-230 is here to save the day. Featuring the Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and Nvidia’s GTX 1060 with 6 GB of dedicated video memory, it can run all the latest AAA games on medium to high details. The laptop comes with a gaming-ready Full HD display with wide viewing angles, and you can also get it with a 4K display with a refresh rate of 60 Hz. But considering that the GTX 1060 isn’t really meant for 4K gaming, we think the version with the Full HD display is the best deal.

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