The State of the Market: a Laptop Buying Guide

A wide variety of vendors—now including Dell and Lenovo—sell preloaded Linux laptops. This buying guide should help you find the right laptop for your needs and budget.
R Cubed XW1580 (ASUS S96S)—Value-Oriented, All-Purpose Laptop

The R Cubed XW1580 is the Linux edition of the ASUS S96S platform, preloaded with Ubuntu Feisty Fawn. Sporting a 15.4" WXGA widescreen display, the overall impression of the XW1580 is cheap chic—that is, a little sportier than the very low-end but definitely not Sony-VAIO sexy either. The XW1580's construction is solid, utilitarian and, at nearly seven pounds, heavy for its size. However, if you want to get a feature-filled laptop at a decent price—and you're not a road warrior—this may be your machine.

R Cubed XW1580 (ASUS S96S)

Our test machine came loaded with Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 80GB 7,200rpm SATA hard drive, DVD-RW drive, and the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS with video card with 256MB of video RAM.

Like R Cubed's other machine reviewed here (the XW1760), you can expect an above-average, customized Linux experience with the XW1580. Unfortunately, although nearly all functionality exists under Linux, some of the same limitations as discussed with the XW1760 hold here—no Webcam or modem support under Linux.


  • Dual-boot is an option but only with Windows XP.

  • S-Video TV output.


  • Keyboard sags a bit when typing.

  • Left side has much unused real estate—why not stick in a USB port?

  • Touchpad buttons require a lot of pressure.

Support/warranty: one-year parts and labor included.

Price as tested: $1,447.

HPC Systems V1J-Linux (ASUS V1J)—Portable Desktop Replacement

At the time of this writing, HPC Systems, a company better known for its servers and high-end workstations, was preparing to market a line of laptops preloaded with Linux. The V1J-Linux is HPC's first batter to the plate, and we can confidently say that HPC has gotten on base with a stand-up double. The V1J-Linux, which is a Linux-loaded ASUS V1J, is a well-built, attractive, full-featured laptop that will work well for those who put functionality over portability, though it is not a beast. It has a sleeker, more appealing design and sufficiently large (in our view) 15.4" WXGA screen when compared with its larger, bulkier cousin, the ASUS Z84J platform, which is found elsewhere in this article. One thing that helps this machine over the ASUS Z84J is its carbon alloy casing, which makes it much lighter (around six pounds) and visually appealing. This also was the only machine we tested with a spill-proof keyboard.

HPC Systems V1J-Linux (ASUS V1J)

Another bonus feature is the V1J-Linux's RoHS compliance, meaning that it meets the strict European Union specifications for levels of hazardous substances, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and others (see Resources for more information).

Our Ubuntu/Windows Vista Business test machine arrived with an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2.0GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 120GB hard drive, a DVD-RW drive and the ATI RADEON X1700 video card with 256MB of video RAM.

Despite the fact that our review machine was preproduction, it is obvious that HPC Systems has the means and desire to offer a great Linux experience. Our V1J-Linux came dual-booted with Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and Windows Vista Business, with nearly every function working well, including fingerprint scanner, 3-D acceleration, FireWire, Fn keys and so on. Unfortunately, however, the built-in Webcam is not working, and we hope that someone someday will get these ASUS Webcams working once and for all.


  • Sensible, ergonomic layout and strong multimedia features for a business machine (for example, S-Video and HDMI outs).

  • Excellent 15.4" display.

  • Ships with optical scrolling USB mouse.

  • Dual-boot with Windows Vista is an option.

  • Will ship with machine-specific documentation.

  • SDCard/MMC card slot.


  • No Webcam support yet.

Support: three years of hardware support; three months of no-cost remote support; “best effort support” after three months.

Price as tested: $1,750.


James Gray is Products Editor for Linux Journal.


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I really like the Lenovo

Anonymous's picture

I really like the Lenovo products but they are too expensive.
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You can compare different

Anonymous's picture

You can compare different versions for any given brand over hear - laptop reviews archive and make your decision...this is much better way for a novice to laptop technologies..


Anonymous's picture

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Thanks for the review

John Meyers's picture

I really enjoyed reading this review. I have been dodging reviews left and right but yours is great. I'm looking to buy a notebook, I'm not yet decided but now I have some options. I really like the Lenovo products but they are too expensive.