Laptop recommendation

David Christensen dpchrist at
Sat Feb 18 21:10:00 UTC 2017

On 02/18/17 06:08, Peter Harrison via freebsd-questions wrote:
> I'm looking for a laptop recommendation. I'm current running 10.3-RELEASE
> on a Thinkpad x200s which is fine but I'm looking for something lighter
> with a better screen and longer battery life, in other words something a
> bit more modern. Doesn't have to be brand new (ebay is my friend).
> Can anyone recommend something? I've been quite loyal to Thinkpads over the
> years, but happy to move on if there's a better option. Working wireless is
> a must, suspend/resume would be nice but isn't a dealbreaker.

The challenge is determining a priori if a computer (including a laptop) 
contains components/ chips that are supported under your FOSS of choice 
-- processor, graphics, sound, networking (wired and wireless), etc.. 
This means identifying the components/ chips contained in the computer 
and then trying to figure out if your FOSS of choice supports those 
components/ chips.  Both are difficult questions to answer.  There are a 
few web sites that try to gather this information:

I have found that Intel components often work under FOSS, because Intel 
provides FOSS example drivers for many of their products.  But, beware 
of products and technologies that are joint ventures between Intel and 
other companies.  For example Atom chips with PowerVR GPU graphics, 
systems with Intel/ NVIDIA Optimus graphics, etc..

For DIY desktop/ workstation machines, in the past I bought Intel 
desktop boards.  They work well with FOSS and I've yet to see one fail. 
Unfortunately, Intel no longer makes such (superseded by NUC).  But, 
Intel still makes server boards.

For laptops, I prefer Dell:

1.  The spec sheet, user manual, and/or service manual usually lists 
what choices are/ were available for various components.  For example, 
my laptop:

2.  Given the Service Tag for a specific unit, the Dell Support web site 
lists what components the computer shipped with.  For example, my laptop:

But, such often leaves me wanting.  For example, in addition to the CPU, 
what are components -- notably the motherboard -- are in this assembly?


And, is this the WiFi card?  If so, what chip is on it?


E.g. Dell's BOM breakdown is for assembly/ servicing, and often lacks 
details needed for FOSS compatibility checking.

3.  There are vendors that provide information, service, refurbish, 
sell, etc.,  Dell products and components:

4.  The Dell service manuals provide step-by-step instructions for 
disassembling products, replacing components, and re-assembling 
products.  This is especially helpful for laptops, which can be 
challenging finger puzzles.

Once you have component and/or chip part numbers, then you have to 
determine if your FOSS of choice supports that hardware.  This boils 
down to STFW, RTFM, using forums, using mailing lists, grepping release 
notes and source code, etc..

When I bought my laptop back in 2007, I blew it -- it has a wireless 
networking card with a Broadcom chipset that is not FOSS-friendly. 
Debian has a work-around using proprietary firmware, but I would prefer 
a laptop with 100% FOSS-supported hardware.

Lenovo seems to be well-regarded for FOSS.  They seem to use a single 
top-level part number.  This may be a benefit, if you can make contact 
with someone with the exact same part number running your FOSS of choice.

Probably the best strategy is to boot a live CD of your FOSS of choice 
on whatever computer you are considering buying, and then take a look at 
dmesg, etc.. Typically, this limits your purchasing options to the local 
geographic market.  But, you might be able to find a savvy eBay seller 
who will send you dmesg output.

This is not a new question.  Over the years, people have tried starting 
businesses dealing in hardware for FOSS and/or existing businesses have 
offered products with FOSS.  They never seem to last.  STFW and see what 
you can find currently.

Let us know if/ what you buy and how well it supports FreeBSD.


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