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First off: yes there are many questions similar to this, but most of them are very outdated (Most recent I've seen is 2016).

I am looking for a laptop for general use, which for me is programming and light gaming (minecraft and similar). The features I'd like are listed here in order of importance (top = highest importance):

  • Must have decent amount of processing power, over graphics power.
  • Must have 8GB of RAM or more
  • Decent ish keyboard would be nice, as long as it's not actually bad then it's fine probably.
  • Must have decent screen, preferably 1080p, high refresh rate not required.
  • A dedicated GPU would be nice but I don't want something that will cause the battery life to be very little, GTX 1050 or equivalent would be more than enough. AMD integrated graphics is pretty good nowadays so a recent AMD APU would also probably be fine.
  • A battery life of 5+ hours would be nice but I can live with 2 hours minimum.
  • The thinner and lighter the better but it's not the most important feature.
  • I intend to replace the HDD/SSD with one I already have so I don't need any fancy storage.

I intend to run linux on the laptop but it's probably fine on most laptops, if there's an option with no operating system then that would be a bonus but it's not exactly common.

My budget is £1000/$1000 but I can go maybe £1-200 over if absolutely necessary.

Thanks in advance!

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In general, since the AMD "Zen 2" CPUs came out with great performance and decent prices, I would recommend any laptop with a Ryzen™ Mobile 4000 Series Processor and 16GB of RAM. Since these are new models that came out this year, peripherals are mostly up to date and not to worry about.

Let me explain based on every requirment you posted.

  • Must have decent amount of processing power, over graphics power.

The Ryzen™ Mobile 4000 Series Processors come at a much better price/performance ratio then the Intel counterparts when not for gaming, and they score greatly in various multi-core benchmarks. They are quite suitable for programming as they speed up multi-threaded compiling and program running.

  • Must have 8GB of RAM or more

16GB is highly recommended now since you do programming and therefore probably need at least both an IDE and a browser to stay open, added with memory taken by the OS 8GB is quite tight.

  • Decent ish keyboard would be nice, as long as it's not actually bad then it's fine probably.

Most laptops have decent keyboards. You should consider buying seperate mechanical keyboards if you are really picky about it. However, ThinkPad keyboards are admittedly better than others for working since they inherited all the ergonomics patents from IBM.

  • Must have decent screen, preferably 1080p, high refresh rate not required.

Almost all laptops in that price range have 1080P or superior screens so that's not to worry about.

  • A dedicated GPU would be nice but I don't want something that will cause the battery life to be very little, GTX 1050 or equivalent would be more than enough. AMD integrated graphics is pretty good nowadays so a recent AMD APU would also probably be fine.
  • A battery life of 5+ hours would be nice but I can live with 2 hours minimum.
  • The thinner and lighter the better but it's not the most important feature.

Since you mentioned light gaming like Minecraft, integrated graphics should be enough for you. Then you can go for one with the 4700U or 4800U processor, in which "U" stands for low power so that should give you 5+ hours of battery life and a light body. On the other hand, if you want slightly more CPU performance and a lot more GPU performance, you can go for one with the 4800H or 4900HS processor and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card or better, but in this case, 5+ hours of battery life can't be guaranteed and it can be slightly heavier but won't be a big problem for you to carry around.

  • I intend to replace the HDD/SSD with one I already have so I don't need any fancy storage.

The "U" models usually only come with one M.2 NVMe SSD and the "H" models usually come with both an M.2 NVMe SSD and a SATA HDD. So keep in mind what kind of drive you want to replace.

I intend to run linux on the laptop but it's probably fine on most laptops, if there's an option with no operating system then that would be a bonus but it's not exactly common.

You can install Linux on any of them. However, Ubuntu seems to have better driver support for ThinkPads because most software engineers working on Ubuntu use ThinkPads given by their companies.

So based on the explanations above, I'd recommend these 4 options:

  • Lenovo ThinkPad E14/E15 with AMD Ryzen™ 7 4700U
    This one perfectly suits your needs. it has the ergonomic keyboard and the TrackPoint which are perfect for programmers, and there is good driver support for ThinkPads on Ubuntu.
  • Lenovo Yoga/IdeaPad Slim 7 with AMD Ryzen™ 7 4800U
    If you want 8C16T of even greater CPU performance on a light book you can checkout these 2. However, you might also lose the ThinkPad benefits.
  • ASUS TUF Gaming A15/A17 with AMD Ryzen™ 7 4800H
    If you want slightly more CPU performance and a lot more GPU performance, at the sacrifice of less battery life and more weight, you can go for this one. This is a well sold ASUS model at a quite decent price. And another advantage of this model is that there is one extra empty SATA drive slot so you can just add your drive instead of replacing it (I have opened one so I know).
  • ROG Zephyrus G14
    If you want extreme performance are are willing to spend more money, go for the ROG. It starts at about $1100 and the 4900HS model starts at about $1600 so it's still within your price limit.

And check out multi-core scores on Processor Benchmarks - Geekbench Browser if you want to see how much these CPUs differ in performance.

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    Wow! That was incredibly comprehensive. From what you've said a ThinkPad sounds pretty good tbh, I'll explore the options – Jachdich Jul 27 at 20:38
  • OK so I'm back after doing a lot of research, especially on the subject of Linux. The ThinkPad seems the best option definitely (even if I do want a dedicated GPU), but unfortunately it's not available in the UK (at least not with the new 4xxx processors). Perhaps it will become available soon, I hope so. – Jachdich Jul 30 at 19:38
  • @Jachdich Yeah. These 4000 series laptops were just launched so you may have to wait a bit. – Shreck Ye Jul 31 at 11:21
  • alright, I'm in no hurry, just as long as they will become available then that's good – Jachdich Jul 31 at 15:07
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I'll second the recommendation for the Thinkpads—you might even be able to grab a T or X series within your budget depending on launch offers—but since you mentioned Linux, I thought it would be remiss not to mention there are a couple of 4800H laptops with options for Linux preinstalled, no OS or even no storage, including the Schenker VIA Pro, the Tuxedo Pulse 15 and the new Slimbook, KDE or otherwise, all roughly at that £/$/€1000 price point. Some of them plan to offer 4K OLED displays as upgrades, but that would probably take things outside your price range. They're also a good deal cheaper if you can import from a Chinese reseller, say through a friend travelling through or living there.

As I understand it from a couple of reddit threads (1) (2), the chassis is from the same ODM, TongFeng. Some benchmarks are available here and a comprehensive english review on youtube. The battery life seems to be quite good thanks to the large 91 Wh battery, and you should see well over 5 hours of battery life, closer to 8 to 12 hours. Gaming laptops with the new Ryzen and a larger ~90 Wh battery option should honestly achieve similar run times under light to idle loads, and even a smaller batter should meet your 5-hour target, though obviously if you wanted to use the GPU heavily for video editing or something that would take a toll.

The performance may different significantly due to cooling, so looking at the specific models you plan on buying would be better, but there are quite a few comparison benchmarks of the Ryzen APUs from, e.g. Notebookcheck. Notably, the 4800U seems to trade blows in single core performance especially, though the increased power limits shows in multi-core workloads. They are likely essentially the same chip with different binning and enabled cores. The Vega 7 iGP is honestly comparable with the MX250 performance-wise, and I doubt you will have any problems with lighter games like Minecraft. Heavier games may require lowered settings, resolution or both to run at 60 FPS.

The display covers 100% sRGB, which is not bad, though at the price range of a euro reseller you can probably get the better panels on, e.g. the TUF A15 which would have similar gamuts and a high refresh rate. Unfortunately, it does not have a second M.2 slot or a 2.5" drive bay, which limits expandability, and the keyboard backlight is poor. Overall, I would recommend it over laptops from larger OEMs if the combination of the H-series CPU and 1.5 kg weight interests you, if you want the convenience of the SSD-less configuration option or preinstalled Linux, or if you can get it from China yourself for a lower price. Otherwise, the Thinkpad will likely a good deal cheaper, and at your full budget you might be looking at laptops with the RTX 2060 instead. If you do end up going with a laptop from a more well known company, consider mentioning it to their sales that you don't need a Windows or a drive included. It's possible that they'll be willing to bump up some other hardware, include free accessories or even give you a discount, and the worst that could happen is they'll say no.

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  • Very interesting, especially about the preinstalled Linux laptops since then they'll definitely work well with Linux. I think I'll have to do some more research, and compare the options – Jachdich Aug 1 at 8:29
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From the criteria you posted, I think laptop with minimum MX250 graphic card would be sufficient for you. MX250 is not as good as GTX1050 but still better than AMD APU. Since you want to replace the SSD\HDD, I assumed that you need a laptop with expandable storage also. You can try to look for DELL inspiron 14 5000 series. I think it will meet your criteria well enough.

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  • I'll look at that, thanks! – Jachdich Jul 27 at 16:23

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