I’m looking for a new laptop, but I don’t support Microsoft Windows. I recently met Novatech, which sells computers with no operating system, so that I can easily install Debian. But I’m not sure if the price difference due to the cost of Windows is noticeable, or if I would be wrong myself.
I am a physicist and I need the machine mainly to demonstrate the simulations that I develop to potential collaborators. Specific requirements are a 15-inch display that supports 720p or higher and at least 6GB of RAM. Everything else can be as cheap and slow as possible.
It’s usually more expensive to make Linux laptops than it is to make Windows laptops, and if you’re not picky about the exact brand or specs, you can always find cheap Windows machines at great discounts on Amazon. and sites like Laptopsdirect and Save to laptops.
Laptop manufacturing is a high volume business driven by economies of scale, and apart from Apple’s Macintoshes, Windows has almost everything. Large manufacturers can buy parts and make machines cheaper than small ones, and the cost of Windows licenses is improved by other factors. These include payments to include puppies (potentially unwanted programs, or “crapware”), advertising discounts, and participation in various promotions sponsored by Intel and Microsoft.
All mass market OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) make Windows machines. They don’t create laptops and then decide which operating system to install. You can see this process working when, for example, hundreds of PC manufacturers start producing Ultrabooks (according to an Intel specification) or upgrade to UEFI instead of BIOS chips (as specified by Microsoft for Windows 8).
If an OEM wants to ship Linux laptops, they must find all the drivers and test all the parts for one or more distributions. It costs money. Linux laptops also add an extra load in terms of inventory management, tracking, bookkeeping, advertising, end user support, and more. These overheads are relatively expensive due to the small number of machines involved. Finally, there is the issue of which Linux distribution should be shipped. There are over a hundred, but the choice usually comes down to Ubuntu or Red Hat. This sparks complaints from people who would prefer Mint or SuSE or, like you, Debian.
So my general advice is to buy a Windows laptop – because you will usually get a better quality product for less money – and then duplicate the distribution of your choice. Even if you might not like Windows, that’s not the point. Windows runs millions of useful programs (including the vast majority of open source programs) and games, and it supports most printers and other peripherals. Someday you might need Windows, so why not keep it?
Novatech or not?
Novatech is a small UK supplier, and they offer various laptops with Windows 7 or 8 or no operating system at all. Its price for Windows 8 is £ 79.99, which is more than what it costs on Amazon.co.uk (£ 74.77). It’s also more than what Taiwanese OEMs would pay for Windows 8 and Microsoft Office combined.
Novatech’s basic laptop is the nSpire N1556 with a 15.6-inch screen, a 2.3 GHz Intel Pentium 3550M processor, 4 GB of memory and 500 GB of hard drive. This costs £ 384.98 without an OS or £ 464.97 with Windows 8. The memory upgrade to 8GB adds £ 66, taking the price to £ 450.98 without an OS or 530, £ 97 with Windows 8. It’s not cheap but the 3550M, while only Pentium-branded, is a pretty fast processor.
The most professional nPro N1512 with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-3230 costs £ 513.60 without an OS or £ 593.59 with Windows 8, and might be worth a look.
I have not tested a Novatech laptop and do not see any reviews for the nSpire N1556. however, there is a little the Novatech nFinity 2367 Plus, a cheap Ultrabook. I guess Novatech loaned out a few for advertising, but not with particularly good results. It has been criticized for its “very bad screen” (PC Pro) and to be plastic: ComputerActive said “the build quality was eccentric at best”. Expert advice concluded: “It sounds like great value for money, but it’s a false economy; big brands are better for the money. “
Other Novatech laptops might be better, but these reviews don’t give me confidence in buying an invisible view.
A branded alternative that also eschews Windows is the umiPC 15.6 inch Acer Ubuntu E1-204 with a 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M, 4GB of memory, 500GB of hard drive and 64-bit Ubuntu 12.04 LTS for £ 562.04 on Amazon (was £ 699.99).
The E stands for Essentials: this is Acer’s “value” line, which has the standard Windows screen resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. That’s enough for your 720p needs, although higher-end laptops often have higher resolution screens.
The Acer Ubuntu E1 gives us the opportunity to compare prices with the Acer Aspire E1 laptops that came with Windows. For example, for a little less money, you could get a Acer Aspire E1-571 with a 2.6GHz Core i5-3230M, 8GB of memory, 750GB of hard drive and Windows 8 for £ 539. It’s a newer version with a slightly faster processor, twice the RAM, and a bigger hard drive for £ 17.33 less (including delivery), despite the added cost of Windows 8.
If you want something cheaper there is the Acer Aspire E1-572 with a 1.6GHz fourth-generation Core i5-4200U (Haswell), 6GB of memory, 750GB of hard drive and Windows 8 for £ 399.99. If you don’t mind a slow processor, you can get this machine with an Intel Celeron 2955U for £ 279.99 (E1-532), a Pentium 2117U for £ 299.99 (E1-530), or a Core i3-3217U for £ 349.99 (E1-570).
Note that the E1-572’s Core i5-4200U is fast but not as fast as the Core i5-3230M. The 4200U is a 15W processor designed to operate in lower temperatures and provide long battery life, while the 3230M is a 35W chip designed for mainstream laptops rather than ultraportables. . However, the Core i5-4200U is much faster than the Pentium 2117U, which is faster than the Celeron 2955U.
At the time of writing, the Acer Ubuntu E1-204 was in 61,733rd place on Amazon’s bestseller list for computers and accessories without user reviews, while the Acer Aspire E1- 572 was 173rd with 13 reviews and a 4.4 out of 5 star rating. Indeed, the Acer E-1 had three of the top five spots in the notebook list, with the E1-570 second, the E1-572 third, and the E1-530 fifth.
Think of the ThinkPad?
All other things being equal, I generally recommend Linux users to go with a ThinkPad, as historically these have generally had the best Linux support. IBM’s ThinkPads were the corporate standard for two decades and tend to be expensive, but Lenovo (the Chinese company that bought IBM’s PC division) has an affordable ThinkPad Edge line.
You could, for example, get a 15.6 inch Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530C with a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i3-3120M processor, 4 GB of memory, 500 GB of hard drive and a 64-bit Windows 7 Pro / Windows 8 Pro DVD for £ 398.83. This would allow you to wipe the hard drive and install Debian while still retaining the option of loading Windows 7 Pro (which includes an XP mode) or Windows 8 Pro if you need to. The downside is its 4 GB of memory, but it has two memory slots and is very easy to upgrade. (You can also change the hard drive and battery.)
There is also the new one based at Haswell ThinkPad E540 range that replaces the E530.
Technically you might be happy with a Novatech, but the ThinkPad brand still has a lot of cachet, and if you market yourself to other people – which, in essence, you are – then I think it’s worth it. to have. Or you could buy an Acer for less, thanks to the economies of scale generated by Microsoft Windows.