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If I googled best Linux laptops in 2017 I came up with a list like:

  • Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
  • System76 Galago Pro
  • Purism Librem 13
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

What use cases (except video editing, virtualbox, gaming) will break performance of a cheep alternative laptop like Acer Chromebook 15 CB5-571-C1DZ? What are your experience, when you need a upper class laptop in your daily life? Or can we say everything becomes faster on a laptop in the list above against Acer Chromebook 15, regardless which Applications you will run.

  • Usually you'd tell us what your use case is, and we'll recommend what to get. This is the first time I've seen a question that says what you want to get and asks us what the use case is. – timuzhti May 11 '17 at 8:49
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According to the product page the Chromebook has a Celeron 3205U Dual Core clocked at 1.5 GHz. The other machines in your list (1, 2, 3, 4) start with Intel Core i5 processors of the 6th or 7th generation usually clocked about one GHz higher featuring Hyper Threading.

Cnet says the Chromebook has M.2 storage, which is better than the typical non-upgradeable and typically slower eMMC found in many other Chromebooks. It would be nice if the RAM was upgradeable too, 4 GB are not shabby but not plenty either. I'd rate the slow processor as a deal breaker though because I had a similar Celeron stutter at 1080p video playback (on a smaller screen so scaling was also involved). So the comparably big screen may not be useful at all. You may argue that you are not the kind of person watching 1080p videos on such a device and I'd mostly agree, but if the processor is already under high load in this scenario and most of the time struggling to keep up with running a non-ChromeOS OS (like just opening XFCE's or Gnome's resource monitor) then I wouldn't want to wait for it to get its work done when I actually need to be productive. Also these are usually passive cooled devices, which may overheat and crash or just throttle down even more (to get no work done at all!?). Core m processors (soon to be rebranded as Core i3) are a bit better, but they also have unusual CPU spikes when just scrolling through a website in Chromium, which I haven't noticed on mobile or desktop Core i5 processors. For a device of this size a 3270 mAh battery is a disappointment and I wouldn't recommend buying a non-USB-PD charging Chromebook, all the newer ones come with USB Type-C as per Google's new requirements (it's said to be a huge advantage in educational institutions to only have one charging connector).

N.B.: CB5-571/AURON_YUNA supports Coreboot UEFI payloads (not dual-booting ChromeOS this way though), but not all Chromebooks do, you'd have to use the legacy boot slot to boot an after market Linux distro.

Regarding my experience, I have:

  • A Lenovo N22 with a very similar Celeron, 2 GB of RAM and slow 32 GB of eMMC mass storage. It has very good battery life due to the low power processor that can get about 20 hours out the 4500 mAh battery on the lowest brightness setting. But I don't use it very much due to its underpowered processor, rather clunky, non-convertible form factor and because of …
  • A ASUS C302 with touchscreen and backlit keyboard, Core m3 processor, 4 GB of RAM, comparably fast 64 GB of eMMC. Battery life is a bit worse due to the beefier processor and only 3900 mAh which results in 8 to 12 hours on lower brightness settings, which is okay because of the good screen. It also has USB Type-C charging, so I just need to pack one (bigger) charger for phone and laptop if I decide I'm going to need it. It's a very slim and sturdy convertible device for media consumption.
  • A Thinkpad T560 with touchscreen and backlit keyboard, Core i5 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 1 TB midrange SSD, built in battery plus a small and a large replaceable battery, but no USB Type-C charging. I pull this one out of the bag whenever I decided that it's worth to carry around so much weight (it is most of the time). It's not as clunky as older devices like a T530 (which recently received Coreboot support if I didn't get it wrong) but in some crowded situations I left the 15" in the bag and used the smaller ASUS instead, which has – hard to deny – become my daily driver, even though I prefer additional performance of the beefier machine.

Summary: I'd stay away from Celeron powered Chromebooks if you cannot live inside tmux or other specific, very trimmed down setups (GalliumOS is already very nice). A cheap small Chromebook as a non-primary device may be okay, but consider saving the money and buying a better equipped device for double the price. Such premium convertible Chromebooks with touchscreens and backlit keyboards are rare, hard to get and even more pricier at the moment here in Germany, but honestly save your money or go for the pricier Ultrabooks/Laptops while we wait for more competitive devices. I found Chrome Unboxed to be an interesting read on this topic.

Edit: Some usually bring up video editing and make it sound like something unusual, resource heavy thing that you don't usually do unless you are an artist or trying to make money off of Youtube but just set the playback speed of video above 1x and look at how that changes resource consumption or just quickly seek to the right timestamp in a video. It's also not completely absurd to watch video this way see PAL speed-up.


Comparing features and numbers

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition (9360)

  • Battery: 60Wh
  • Display/size: 13,3" up to 3200×1800px, up to 400nits on some models (source)
  • Storage: M.2
  • Weight: 1,2kg
  • Pros: USB-PD, Thunderbolt

Librem 13

  • Battery: -, claimed 7 to 9 hours
  • Display/size: 13.3", 1920×1080px
  • Storage: M.2 + SATA 3
  • Weight: 1,4kg
  • Cons: no USB-PD, small touchpad with buttons

Galago Pro

  • Battery: 35,3Wh
  • Display/size: 13", 3200×1800px
  • Storage: M.2 + SATA 3
  • Weight: 1,3kg
  • Cons: no USB-PD

ThinkPad X1 Carbon 4th Gen

  • Battery: 52Wh, claimed 11 hours
  • Display/size: 14", up to 2560×1440px, up to 300nits on some (source)
  • Storage: M.2 + SATA 3
  • Weight: 1,11kg
  • Pros: USB-PD, (Thunderbolt?)

ThinkPad X1 Carbon 5th Gen

  • Battery: 57Wh, claimed 15,5 hours
  • Display/size: 14", up to 2560×1440px, 300nits
  • Storage: M.2 (only?)
  • Weight: 1,39kg
  • Pros: USB-PD, Thunderbolt
  • Also available in Silver
| improve this answer | |
  • If you would have around 1000 (+/- 500) bucks, and assume you want to buy a new Laptop (touchscreen unnecessary), which is fast and a compromise in Battery Life, Display Size, Weight, Processor, Memory and Storage. If you had the choice, how would you decide which Laptop to buy, if you want to run a Linux like Arch or Ubuntu on it? – Hölderlin May 7 '17 at 16:11
  • I would decide by features, numbers and build quality. Comparing all 4 or 5 devices the Librem 13 and Galago Pro do not appear to be very competitive against Dell's and Lenovo's offers. Since I have used Thinkpads a lot I would try the Dell for a change, regarding the Carbon you have to option of waiting for a good deal on the old Skylake model or the newer Kabylake model that's on par with Dell's… which should be refreshed a few weeks/months after Carbon 5th Gen. Getting the older for cheap could be the wiser choice (I bought my T560 on the first day :( ). – LiveWireBT May 7 '17 at 19:30
  • And you should check for signing coils ("Spulenfiepen") in these ultra portable devices. I noticed this problem on my C302 during charging and sometimes under heavy load, it's okay for me but YMMV. The choice of display resolution is up to you, better pick the brighter panel and avoid HiDPI if your desktop environment still has problems with it. – LiveWireBT May 7 '17 at 19:33
  • What is the advantage of Thinkpad X1 Carbon against Lenovo Thinkpad E470 besides the weight (1,87 kg) and does the lower max resolution 1920x1080 really matter? – Hölderlin May 8 '17 at 0:07
  • E470 is bigger (339×242×23,7 vs 323,5×217,1×15,95mm), only has SATA storage, 45Wh battery, no USB-C ports/charging, worse display, no backlit keyboard, less pleasant haptics. Resolution doesn't matter on typical laptops regarding resources. It depends on how your DE can handle HiDPI, your preference and eye sight. You may find different components in E470 that don't work as well with Linux as the ones in Carbon. 5th gen is already sold in Germany, I clearly browse to many similar sites. – LiveWireBT May 8 '17 at 1:04

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