Help me choose a new laptop

I’ve been doing all my development work on a late 2016 HP Spectre x360 for the past few years. Though a fantastic machine overall, it’s starting to fall apart: the screen backlight has partially burned out, the battery barely holds a charge anymore, and the trackpad sends a double or triple click when I press down on it. This thing has been worked hard and dragged all over the country and the world, so it feels like the time is coming for a replacement.

So I did what a typical OCD nerd does for a major purchase: I made a spreadsheet with all reasonable options and gave myself terrible analysis paralysis! ๐Ÿ™‚

Analysis paralysis in action

For my research, I found two resources in particular to be invaluable: notebookcheck.com for its exhaustive long-form technical reviews, and Lisa Gade’s MobileTechReview YouTube channel for focusing on each machine’s overall user experience.

After nearly a month, I made my decision: the late 2019 Dell XPS 13 with a 6-core CPU which I figured would really speed up my code compile times, and the rest of the laptop seemed super high quality. Unfortunately, after it arrived I found that I did not like the feel of the keyboard: the key activation force was quite mushy, and the travel was low. But even worse, the display suffered from unbelievably terrible ghosting–which I had been warned about in reviews, but foolishly ignored–and it emitted an awful coil whine when in use. I sent it back. What a nuisance!

So I moved on to the second laptop in my list: the early 2020 HP Envy 13. I ignored reviews complaining about the trackpad surface not having a glass coating, which again was stupid: I didn’t like the feel at all of the rough plastic texture. But the rest of the laptop was solid, and the trackpad surface wasn’t a fatal flaw as these tend to smooth out over time in my experience. I decided to keep it. Not having yet wiped the disk to install openSUSE Tumbleweed (my current OS of choice), I performed the initial set of Windows updates just in case there were any firmware updates. It completed and I rebooted… and then the laptop became a brick! It was stuck in a half-on-half-off state, with the power LED illuminated, but no activity. The laptop could neither be turned on, nor fully powered down. I returned that one too.

So now I’m kind of feeling stuck. Out of two well-researched laptops, I’ve gotten two lemons, and I’m feeling like it’s time to reach out to the wider KDE community for assistance.

I need your help to find a good laptop!

What I’d like

This will be my one and only computer, used for both work/KDE development and also my personal stuff, so like Mary Poppins, I need for it to be practically perfect in every way (that’s not too much to ask, is it!?):

First, it needs perfect or near-perfect Linux compatibility; there’s no point in buying great hardware if it doesn’t work with your software.

Next, the built-in input and output devices that I’m going to actually use the computer with must be perfect:

  • Perfect keyboard: durable; firm key activation force; at least 1.3mm of travel, preferably more; firm bottoming-out feel; not too noisy; black keycaps that are not too large, with white lettering and backlighting; dedicated Home, End, PageUp, and PageDown keys for faster text editing; ideally dedicated media play/pause, forwards, and backwards keys. The keyboard is very important as I’m typing all day.
  • Perfect screen: 400+ nits of brightness; good refresh rates/no visible ghosting; close to 100% sRGB coverage; good color reproduction; must have touch functionality (I need to be able to test for touch friendliness with my and other people’s patches); 16:10 or taller aspect ratio preferred; full HD resolution is preferred, but 4K is acceptable. Size-wise, I like 13.3″ – 14″ screen sizes, but would consider a 15-incher if the case isn’t so big that it impedes portability in a backpack (more on that later).
  • Perfect trackpad: smooth, ideally glass-covered surface; aspect ratio matches that of the screen; button is durable and will last a long time; uses Microsoft Precision drivers on Windows (sign of good-quality hardware).
  • Excellent speakers: Reasonably loud, forward/upward firing, preferably four, ideally with some woofers for at least a bit of base.

Next, it needs to be powerful. I want 16 GB of RAM with excellent multi-core CPU performance to improve my code compilation times. This means good thermal management too, so that that performance can be maintained and the machine doesn’t damage its battery or other internal components with excessive heat, which I suspect happened with my current machine.

Also, I need for it to not have an NVIDIA GPU. I have no graphical needs beyond what an integrated GPU can accomplish, and don’t want to deal with Plasma-on-NVIDIA drama. Sorry, NVIDIA.

The machine needs to have a solid and durable metal case, as I will be traveling domestically and internationally with it multiple times a year (once the world beats COVID-19, that is). For similar reasons, it should be reasonably lightweight and get very good practical battery life. Extreme thinness is not required, but excessive thickness would be nice to avoid, as I like to travel to Europe for work events and conferences with only a backpack and no checked or hand luggage. An excessively thick laptop takes up space needed for socks and underwear (unless I’m going to Germany, in which case I wash them in my hotel room and dry them on the towel warmer! TMI… sorry-not-sorry!).

Finally, I want the laptop to not look stupid. No bling-bling effects, no gaudy blue and gold two-tone color effects, no flashing multicolored lights, no fake (or real) wood, no trying to look like an expensive watch or a traffic accident, no sharp chiseled edges–none of that attention-getting crap! Just a basic boring matte silver or gray metal case. Ideally it will not be a fingerprint magnet.

Within reason, price is not a practical consideration as this is a business expense for me and I am comfortable spending big bucks on something that provides my livelihood which I expect to keep for several years.

So given these conditions, what do people recommend? Help me, KDE community, you’re my only hope!

84 thoughts on “Help me choose a new laptop

    1. Thanks! It’s one of my current top options. However I read bad things about its current screen choices at notebookcheck. The bright ones seem to suffer from bad ghosting. The WQHD version does not, but it’s rather dim and I would have to use a fractional scale factor in Plasma to prevent everything form looking comically enormous.

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    2. I second this, but the speakers are awful. I have the 500 nits 1440p panel and yes you need to use fractional scaling on it. The screen quality is amazing, but mine has no touch support though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awful speakers, huh? Darn.

        Yeah that’s exactly the problem I keep running into when I spec out an X1 carbon: I can’t find a panel with an FHD or 4K resolution, good refresh rates, good brightness, and touch. There’s always something missing.

        Though fractional scaling maybe wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I’m current trying out my 13.3″ FHD laptop with 125% scaling and honestly I’m kind of amazed by how good everything looks.

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    1. I checked it out and it was a very compelling offering. However there were two deal-breakers. First: no touchscreen option. That’s a must-have for me–not so much because I find it actually useful, but because I need to make sure my work is touch-friendly, and to review other people’s touch-centric work. Second, the Clevo L141CU chassis that it’s based on seems to have really bad speakers, according to reviews on notebookcheck.com of other machines using that same chassis.

      The same issues applied to the KDE SlimBook II, unfortunately. But for those, I would have bought one of these machines to support the Linux hardware community, for sure.

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      1. Hi, what about laptops from Puri.sm? The Librem laptops now sport a 4k screen. The HDMI output isn’t 4k@60 capable though… Once it is, I think I’m getting one.

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    1. Unfortunately that machine is a bit too large and heavy for adequate mobility. I want to be able to stick it in a backpack for international travel without it taking too much space or weight. Also, there is no touchscreen option and it has an NVIDIA GPU.

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    1. My wife currently has an IdeaPad Flex and it started to fall apart after less than two years. … like, literally fall apart! The screws holding the display hinge fell out and the entire rear of the case opened up, and when we opened the case we discovered that they were screwed into plastic, which stripped. So it cannot be fixed with new screws; it’s just a defective design. The rear of the case is therefore currently held closed with packing tape. Also, by coincidence, her touchscreen broke not two days ago: there is a horizontal line in the center of the screen that no longer accept pen input, which is pretty problematic since she’s an artist and uses the pen functionality. So I’m not really keen on Lenovo’s consumer offerings based on recent experiences with their build quality.

      Also Lenovo consumer laptops don’t have dedicated Home, End, PageUp, and PageDown keys; you need to use an Fn key chord with the arrow keys. I strongly prefer dedicated keys for these.

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      1. The ThinkPad T-series (and maybe the X1 Carbon) are the only usable products from Lenovo, everything else is pretty much garbage build to fail. However, the T-series is indeed top notch! I lately started to eye on one of those new 14″ AMD laptops.

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      2. Damn, and I just bought a new Ideapad 3 weeks ago. Well, too late to return it now as it has been running smoothly so far.

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    1. This is an option I am considering, yeah. It seems like the new 4000 series chipsets are perfect for my use case.

      Unfortunately my current laptop is worsening by the day. Maybe I can baby it and hold out for a Ryzen 4000 laptop.

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  1. Surface Book 2, or even more powerful (and up to twice the RAM), Surface Book 3, has all those things.
    Well, they’re pricey and not the most powerful, but for KDE multitasking I found them to be to be solid performers where everything else lagged.

    I prefer the 15″, though it has a weight but not too much so and it’s slim and nimble.

    What these models don’t have on your list:
    – Forward/Back media buttons (they have a play/pause)
    – White lettering on black keys (They have good multi-level backlighting, and the lettering is clear and not degradable)

    Also, the keys are fairly quiet and good action and spacing, dedicated home/end/pgup/pgdn; though the FN keys are secondary to the media/lighting keys (but that could be swapped around).

    I carry around a thin USB C to USB C cable with a folding Mui charger which works fine with the Surface Book – and that’s all I need (unless doing heavy video editing). That charger also charges my phone.

    Screen: 3240 x 2160 3:2 ratio (multitouch detachable screen as a tablet, stylus).

    Trackpad works great. Microsoft precision drivers obviously….

    For best use it needs Linux Surface kernels though (from linux-surface via Github).

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    1. The camera driver is in the works. That’s a current downside using a plugin one, but should be fixed very shortly.

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    2. I looked at that option, but perhaps not closely enough. The keyboard layout looks quite good, though the absence of a right ctrl key seems odd. I suppose you can re-map that to ctrl in the Plasma keyboard KCM or something else though, right?

      And I see what you mean about pricey! Unfortunately these machines have NVIDIA GPUs. Can you disable them in the BIOS?

      How are the performance and battery life?

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    1. Unfortunately the KDE SlimBook II suffers from the same issues that disqualified the System76 Lemur Pro: no touchscreen option and poor speakers. Also, unlike the Lemur Pro, it doesn’t have dedicated Home, End, PageUp, and PageDown keys on the keyboard.

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  2. All glossy displays are no go to me. For me i buy this one https://slimbook.es/en/prox15-en (it has NVIDIA but you don’t need to be primary choice) All your concerns are in “+” here, one except speakers are loud enough (2 not 4) but are place at bottom that can reflect depend on place you use it.

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    1. Now that looks like a very interesting option! Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check it out.

      Can you disable the NVIDIA GPU in the BIOS and use the integrated one exclusively?

      How is the keyboard? Is the activation force firm and crisp? Is the amount of travel good? Do the keys feel good when they touch the bottom? Is it loud to type on?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nvidia can be disabled in BIOS. Keyboard is perfect, no loud, keys are feels comfortable. It’s ~2kg, it’s advertised 1.5 kg but it’s feels like 2, it’s too heavy but it can feel like that if plan to travel frequently.

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  3. I’ve been using a Lenovo x1 carbon 1gen (I love it) for almost 7 years and I’m also looking around for a new laptop. I’m personally waiting for the new Lenovo T14 AMD Ryzen 4750u that is going to be released in about a month. I think it should also match all your requirements ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. That does sound like it could be a good option. I adore the Lenovo ThinkPad keyboards (I suppose everyone does, really; why it isn’t copied by literally everyone else is sort of a mystery to me). Reviews of the current Carbon offering aren’t big fans of its screen options. Maybe they’ll improve those in the update.

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  4. Maybe a ThinkPad X1 Carbon or any ThinkPad you’d like. In June there will be new offerings with Ryzen processors. I personally have a ThinkPad P72 and it is a beast, perfectly supported on openSUSE Tumbleweed.

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    1. My general problem with ThinkPads is that their screens and speakers usually seem like afterthoughts. In that respect, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga are a welcome change, but the screens are still not as good as I’d like, so far. Every review I read mentions a different problem: ghosting, poor brightness, weird resolution (WQHD, WTF?).

      If I could find a ThinkPad that I knew didn’t suffer from these issues, I would probably buy it yesterday.

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      1. About the spakers, why not get some decent headphones, those would definitely beat any built-in notebook speaker and you won’t bother your surroundings.
        Otherwise, just get a Bluetooth coupeable external mobile speaker. ๐Ÿ™‚

        One less compromise. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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        1. I do have a bluetooth speaker and a nice pair of headphones which I especially like for plane travel. However when possible, I prefer for the sound to fill the room, rather than get pumped right into my ear. I would never call myself an audiophile but I feel like sound in the whole room feels nicer than sound just in my ear.

          Also, if I want to use my laptop to watch a movie with my wife or kids, the headphone approach doesn’t work. The bluetooth speaker does, but, I dunno, I kind of think a laptop’s built-in input and output devices should be high quality. The whole point of a laptop is portability. If I need to carry around a mouse, a bluetooth speaker, a pair of headphones, an external keyboard, etc, it defeats the point and you would be better off with a desktop machine for half the price, double the performance, and five times the longevity and upgradability.

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          1. You watch movies with your family on your laptop? Nate, there’s Plasma Bigscreen, you should check it out! ๐Ÿ˜€

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          2. Haha! We do in fact have a large screen in the living room, though it’s shamefully hooked up to a Windows 10 PC (for games). But there are times when you just kind of want to cuddle up in bed and watch a movie or some YouTube videos with your spouse or kids.

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      2. I think you are overthinking your laptop choice a bit. I seems that you will be displeased by any model because it has not this or that. That’s a recipe for never being satisfied.

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        1. Yeah, though I think my time in the Apple world spoiled me. There was a period of time when the MacBook pro was just the ultimate laptop for this use case: it had a perfect screen, a perfect keyboard (for Mac use cases, that is), a perfect trackpad, excellent speakers, a durable and attractive case, and good performance. I had kind of assumed that there would be a PC equivalent, and four years ago, I thought I’d found it in the HP Spectre x360. Honestly, if it hadn’t started to fall apart, I’d say that was true. However it did, and then HP botched the follow-up models, removing the quad speakers, making it ugly and sharp, and using a screen with lots of ghosting problems.

          How is it so hard to stop changing things once you have the perfect design? Why do the manufacturers insist on regressing X at the same time that they fix Y? It’s so weird.

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  5. Galaxy Book Ion, Aura Silver, 512GB, 13.3″, Intelยฎ Coreโ„ข i7-10510Uย 
    This may be an option, good screen, battery and keyboard.

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    1. Hmm, that one doesn’t have dedicated Home, End, PageUp, and PageDown keys, and the right shift key is bizarre and tiny. What a very strange place to put the fingerprint reader.

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  6. I’m quite happy about my Dell XPS 13 (from 2017, 9370). I was happy with my previous ThinkPad too, I only changed because I wanted High DPI and not to buy a Windows license.

    I had to change a couple of my Dell’s components recently and it was fairly easy. Both the battery and the display. I find it quite important, had a similar problem with a Surface Go and it was a disaster. I’d recommend looking at the iFixit reviews to decide on a laptop to pick and refrain from hard to repair ones.

    I did a similar blog post over 10 years ago, quite sad how things haven’t changed that much…
    https://www.proli.net/2010/05/12/being-a-hacker/

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    1. Very good point. In that respect, probably the ThinkPads are a good bet, or just popular machines in general as there are bound to be lots of spare parts available.

      My first choice was a 4K XPS 13 like yours. That screen always looks so nice whenever I see it in person! And I would have kept it if not for the ghosting and coil whine issues. Quite sad that they still haven’t fixed the coil whine! I remember reading complaints about that years and years ago.

      I’m thinking about trying the latest 2020 XPS 13. Maybe I’ll have better luck with that one.

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      1. I haven’t seen that coil whine with my device. I did have a noise issue and they fixed it properly when I complained (under warranty) so I have 0 complaints about that.

        I think that the 2020 XPS 13 with the full display and the camera on top are good improvements over mine already.

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        1. Coil whine on xps13 is caused by the CPU switching between different power saving states (it is even possible to play songs via coil whine). In my experience, the coil whine can be eliminated by switching to a different cpu governor (i guess eg the “performance” governor does less power state switching)

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  7. I like the ROG laptops from ASUS. Unfortunately, they are mfg in PRC, but at least ASUS is a Taiwanese firm.
    I have a GL552VW, a GL703GE-IS74, and most recently a GL10DH-PH762 desktop. The 552 screen got glitchy just before the CostCo 2 year warranty expired, and I did not move fast enough. It still works though as a multi boot machine with W10, KDE Neon, and Linux Mint 18.3 KDE. The 703 is my main laptop, running dual boot with W10/KDE Neon. After a year it runs hot when running on a flat surface. I use a BT mouse Logi M720 instead of a track pad. It can switch between 3 O/S machine combinations. All 3 have hybrid disks and Nvidia cards.

    I tried the XPS13 and 15 and returned them to CostCo right away b/c I could not type on the keyboards. The Asus laptop keyboards work well. I use a Logi MX Keys bt keyboard on the desktop.

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  8. Hi, I feel you. been there exactly. had my old laptop since high school and it just fall apart in all aspects. I chose desktop though as I dont need to travel with pc, so cant specifically advice on laptop but do chose anf filter only ryzen APU. 4000 is really your best bet. it has privacy/security advantages even considering PSP. And its worth the money unlike intel.

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  9. Hey, I dont have it personall, but check maybe the HP Dragonfly. Also has great Linux Support according to some reviews.

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  10. The laptop of my dreams would be a Thinkpad X1 8th gen with AMD Ryzen 4000 and Fedora preinstalled.
    I own a Lenovo Yoga C940.. Solid machine overall.. But speakers (4.1), as for now, are not fully working under Linux.
    The latest Dell XPS is a premiere choice. Not everyone is a fan of the keyboard tough..
    And, off course, the Macbook Pro.
    Watch out for Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, but it has Nvidia inside..
    Samsung Galaxy Book Flex looks very interesting, but I don’t know much about it..
    All elite products..

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    1. I’ll admit I hadn’t even looked at them because the MSI machines I’m familiar with look so tacky IMO, with all the flashing colored lights and dragon logos and the like. But I see they have some non-gaming laptops which don’t look like traffic accidents. I’ll check them out!

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  11. The Lenovo L390 is an affordable machine which matches all your requirements except probably the amount of speakers. I’ve been using a second-hand one for 8 months now. It’s very solid. Plasma runs great on it. I upgraded the memory and storage: servicing the machine is easy.

    I did replace the fan. It was broken which made the machine very silent. I fixed the fan to speed up compile times.

    A very nice feature is that you can get the exact same keyboard layout (including trackpoint which I like) as an external keyboard.

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    1. Additional comment: the screen of the L390 is not very bright, only 258 nits. It’s not an issue for me: when I’m outside under the parasol it’s still perfectly readable. Probably because it is not glossy.

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  12. Is x86 a requirement? If not, the Pinebook Pro might be worth considering. At least you could test KDE software on ARM…
    Other than that, the Microsoft Surface Book or Surface Pro devices look very promising.
    Also the Asus Zenbooks.
    What you described is basically a Macbook Pro with touch support and a bit better cooling, even if it means a few millimeters of width compromise.
    Another thing: Have you looked at LG’s offering?

    I also kinda agree with others who say if you can manage to postpone it, wait for Ryzen 4000 series laptops to hit the market. Ryzen 4000 performance and energy efficiency is simply unprecedented.
    Also, don’t think of the pesence of some subtle RGB lighting hardware as a deal breaker. You can always turn it off and in most cases it will not be visible when it is off. If you find a laptop that is otherwise a very compelling option, but it has some RGB (like a logo on the back or a few accents), I would say buy it and turn off the lighting effects in the BIOS.

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    1. What you described is basically a Macbook Pro with touch support and a bit better cooling,

      Yes.

      I left the Apple world four years ago and I’m still disappointed that none of the PC manufacturers want to make a computer that is essentially a MacBook Pro, but with none of its flaws. It would sell like hotcakes.

      I looked at the LG laptops but nothing really convinced me. I may end up waiting for a Ryzen 4000 machine, yeah.

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  13. At the moment, at my office, we’re waiting for the new Lenovo ThinkPad T14 with the Ryzen 4000 series CPUs to become available. The reviews of the CPUs make it look amazing, far an above the Intel offerings with a lower TDP. Lenovo are also going to be including them in the exact same models are the Intel versions, which is a nice change.

    The ThinkPad T460, T470, T480 and T495 that we have been using over the past few years have all been great, so don’t see why the T14 should be different this year. It just means waiting a month or so (they were mean to be released Q2 2020).

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  14. Just wanted to wish you luck! I have no idea which one might be the best choice, but I’d say it’s better NOT to opt for an Intel machine. It’s just plain silly to buy an Intel machine… under so many aspects… Probably known already: linuxpreloaded.com has a long list of vendors if it’s about Linux machines. May the force with you when choosing the new family member… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  15. As mentioned already above, the Lenovo ThinkPad T-series (and X1 Carbon) laptops are top notch in general. I got my first T500 in 2008, and that one still works rather well after 12 years (with only minor upgrades of RAM and a SSD) – unbelievable I know. I am really looking forward to see the T14 with AMD processors hit the market.

    I haven’t had the best experience with HP laptops (both consumer and high-end business models), so wouldn’t really recommend those.

    My current laptop is a Dell Latitude 7480 and I am rather happy with that one.

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  16. If you want a overview of the available Ryzen 4000 Laptops take a look here:

    Especially at the list.

    The Asus Zenbook UM433IQ could be interesting for you.
    Metal Body
    Glas Touchpad
    Ryzen 4000 Power
    16GB Ram
    The predecessor (Ryzen 3000) had speakers I have not yet seen in laptops, like a good bluetooth loudspeaker.
    https://www.notebooksbilliger.de/asus+zenbook+14+um431da+am011+643115
    Compromises:
    Only about 350 nits
    You will need a new kernel to support the Ryzen adequately.
    I have no Idea how the touchpad display will be visible to Linux and if it will create issues.
    The speakers seem to have changed a bit, there are no visible grills. They may have degraded.
    Maybe other things, wait for a few more reviews, especially by the excellent Notebookcheck.

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  17. hard to go wrong with a Dell XPS imo. Well made, excellent design, nice specs, excellent screen, runs linux awesomely. I’ve been on my XPS for over a year, no complaints except I do have a model with Intel & nVidia graphics. Only nag is if doing any heavy gaming with the nVida GPU, the thermals were not designed as a “gaming laptop” – but if you’re going with an integrated Intel only model or not doing heavy gaming that’ll be no issue.

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  18. My experience is quite limited, but anyway I can advice trying Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro (15 inch) with i7 10-gen CPU and Nvidia MX250. Yes, Nvidia, but no drama since it can be disabled easily and that’s it. Just make sure it’s not an older model with MX150 or GT1050 – they were having some issues with build quality.
    PS: I find it reasonable to have Nvidia chip onboard for Plasma devs because that would make testing all upcoming Wayland transition steps, which are upon us anyway, more comprehensive.
    But, in any case, it is possible to shut dGPU down and use iGPU (Intel) only. That’s my use-case on Manjaro. Optimus-manager + bbswitch + tlp and soon you forget that you have Nvidia there if you’re stubborn enough to refuse using / testing Plasma on it. Not user-friendly, but you laptop – your rules ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  19. Very interesting idea!

    Your point is not a bad one. Were I a KWin or graphics developer, I would surely do that. However my ability to fix Plasma-on-NVIDIA issues is non-existent, so I wouldn’t actually be able to make things any better for other people, just irritate myself. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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  20. One more vote for the Lenovo Txx ot Pxx series. I think you can find model that covers most of your requirements, the linux support is decent and the speakers can be solved with a decent bluetooth speaker.

    As a recent convert to Ryzen on the desktop I would be hesitant for jumping on the Ryzen train for laptop. The CPUs might be great but you should consider the platform as a whole especially on Linux. For example on the desktop I am missing temperature readings (fixable may be with latest 5.7/5.8 kernels and unofficial drivers from github). For laptop those are critical issues. Not every issue is strictly AMD fault but overall Ryzen ecosystem on Linux seems a bit rough. At least I wouldn’t by it on day one.

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  21. Hmm, after reading your requirements and your reply to comments, it is appears like you are looking for an impossible device. I can understand your desire for a perfect device, but if it is not there? Maybe you could consider having (perspectively) two devices which fulfil different aspects of your needs, e.g. private & work, home & travelling or normal use & testing equipment. I know double devices could mean double money, but may since it is for work there is a sponsoring option. Good luck!

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    1. I don’t understand why this should be an unreasonable wishlist.

      The screen, keyboard, trackpad, and speakers define your basic interaction with the device. If any of those is notably lacking, it makes the device a pain in the neck to use, or unsuitable for various use cases (e.g. dim screen -> can’t use it outdoors; uncomfortable keyboard -> can’t use it for writing, office work, or software development; quiet tinny speakers -> can’t use for playing music or movies for more than one person; etc).

      From roughly 2008-2017, the MacBook pro offered this killer combination: every model had a fantastic screen, a great keyboard, a world-class trackpad, and excellent speakers. All of this was housed in a durable, rigid, attractive case. Apple eventually messed up the keyboard, but for almost decade, it was a perfect machine in terms of the basic interactivity.

      My current HP Spectre x360 has basically the same: great screen, great keyboard, pretty good trackpad, and excellent speakers. Unfortunately it hasn’t held up like the average MacBook pro does, which is a shame and that’s why I need to replace it. But the point is that it’s clearly possible to have all this stuff. Bafflingly enough, HP ruined the latest model of the same machine! They removed the excellent quad speakers and outfitted it with a screen that has bad ghosting. Next year’s model also ruins the keyboard by inexplicably moving the fingerprint reader to the spot where the right ctrl key is supposed to live.

      Why does it seem to be so hard to avoid messing up your product when you have a good thing going?

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        1. I’m afraid that’s a liiiiitle bit out of my budget. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also it’s way too thick and heavy for easy travel. The new 5550s seem interesting.

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  22. I say it is unreasonable. I was just saying it might be hard to have all your criteria met in one device and that having two might be a plan b. To me it appears the market for good laptops is not stable enough. Many users compromise or do not have influence on what device they will use at their job, so the pressure is not high enough. Price pressure is there also, so manufacturers often choose to save many at some part of the device.

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  23. Why not an hp envy x360 with the new ryzen APUs?
    HP ENVY x360 Laptop 13-ay0009na 2020 Edition Convertible Laptop Ryzen 7

    It’s a very decent option.

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    1. Yeah I just learned about it recently and it rocketed to the shortlist! I’m a little upset about the loss of the lovely quad speakers on the older model though. Also replacing the right ctrl key with a fingerprint reader is just bizarre.

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  24. Nate, have you looked at any of the models from System76 or other Linux-specific suppliers? It seems like their Galago Pro or the new Lemur might fit the bill. Also, you must have seen the KDE Focus, no? Just a thought.

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    1. Yes, unfortunately none of those laptops have touchscreens or good speakers, and most have dim displays (300 nits or darker). Otherwise I totally would have gone with one! I really liked the look of the Slimbook Pro X 15 in particular. Unfortunately, it had a dim display, two small down-firing speakers, and no touchscreen.

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      1. Perhaps a bit late now. But for me the best laptop is the Lenovo IdeaPad S540 13 inch. It’s the closest to my old Macbook I’ve manged to find.

        13 inch QHD screen, exactly the same resolution as the Macbook 13. High quality aluminium chassis (better than some of the cheaper Ideapads). Great touchpad and backlit keyboard. 56Wh battery with 60% charge limit plugged in mode that works under Linux. It’s only 330 nits but it’s bright enough for me. On the Ryzen models the STAPM limit can be set to 12W, 20W or the full 35W in the Bios. Even includes 1 USB A port.

        The only downside for me is that in my market the 16GB model wasn’t available, but I think it is in the US.

        Obviously working very smoothly on KDE.

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        1. Looks like a very nice machine overall. For the 14″ model, it looks like you’re limited to an Intel i5 and 265GB SSD, which won’t cut it for me. And the Ryzen version of the 15″ model taps out at 8 GB of RAM.

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          1. Actually the 14″ and 15″ models are nothing special, although with all the models you could upgrade the NVME drive very easily (Lenovo have excellent documentation for taking apart these Laptops – all normal screws, and no glue!).

            The 13.3″ inch model is perhaps unique as it has a 16:10 screen, just like the Macbooks. I haven’t seen a single other 16:10 laptop out there except for the very expensive XPS.

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