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Best Laptop for FreeBSD

neel

Member

Thanks: 3
Messages: 38

#1
Hi,
I am about to go to college, and my parents say that I need a new laptop. My current laptop is a 2010 Dell Inspiron N5010 running FreeBSD 10.1, and this is rather old, but is so because I spend most of my computer time on a desktop than a laptop (I am a high school student right now), and never needed to really replace my laptop.

Although I'd rather use my current laptop than use Apple's new "MacBook" with only one port (which is a joke!), my parents still want me to get a new laptop, and I want a laptop which can run FreeBSD. Which recent laptop has good FreeBSD support?
Thanks,
Neel Chauhan
 

ma

New Member

Thanks: 2
Messages: 18

#2
Hello,
It depends a bit of the size you want to use, a real laptop or more a netbook (11inch) style. I run for many years (20) FreeBSD on laptops/netbooks and for a laptop I would recommend a Dell Latitude E6630, for netbook an Acer C720 Chromebook, converted into a real netbook for FreeBSD. The latter is the fastest I have ever used with FreeBSD, KDE4, Firefox, Libreoffice, Eclipse and all such stuff. And no, I'm not a shareholder of any of them :)
Matthias
 

diizzy

Active Member

Thanks: 47
Messages: 221

#3
Hi Neel,

As for now at least no recent laptop will actually work with FreeBSD as there's no video support for any kind of recent video chipsets (that is if you want to run X) except nVidia. This includes Intel, AMD (former ATi) while nVidia does provide a driver for their recent card it does however not support dual graphics switching which I believe nVidia calls Optimus. There's a workaround here but expect limited battery performance as the nVidia GPUs are much more inefficient than Intel's integrated graphics and doesn't really provide any better video performance for everyday usage (when you have working drivers).

Workaround is documented here:
https://wiki.freebsd.org/OptimusVideoSupport

Another issue would be Wi-Fi, as far as I'm aware this is pretty much a one man band story for now that includes adrian@ who does an incredibly good job given the manpower. That said there's pretty much non-existent support for 11ac chipsets irregardless of vendor (Atheros/QCA, Intel, Broadcom, Ralink, Mediatek, Realtek) so except it not to for quite some time. However there's support for some USB sticks with Realtek chipsets but they are single band 11n and perform poorly even with good driver support so I wouldn't really consider it as an option. You have however good support (for being FreeBSD and Wi-Fi) using Atheros 11n miniPCIe cards which would mean that you would need to replace the built-in one as no vendor ships recent hardware with 11n Wi-Fi nowadays. These cards (AR9382) goes for around 15$ off eBay or Amazon (US) and have great support in both Windows, Linux and as good as it gets in FreeBSD.

I have no idea but I guess you can forget about exotic things like Bluetooth or any recent 3G/WWAN card working in FreeBSD.

So if I'm not terribly inaccurately and you're hellbent on running FreeBSD (with X) on a laptop you need to either get a gaming laptop (which really are "plasticky", heavy and noisy) which are pretty much the only ones that packs an nVidia GPU and you'll most likely get a poor TN screen too or a used one. Actually, stay away from any kind of consumer model as they're inferior by far compared to a business model.

Since you were eyeballing the Macbook I'd suggest that you have a look at the Toshiba Protegé Z30 series as they've been getting solid reviews and it's a pretty good bang for the buck. http://www.toshiba.com/us/computers/laptops/portege/Z30/Z30-BSMBN22
The FHD screen in EU is an IPS panel (you want that) so be sure to confirm that with Toshiba in the US as models can have different hardware. RAM (upgrading) is available at half the price from Amazon (if you want more than 4Gb, nowadays 8Gbyte is considered a minimum) and you can get an mSATA SSD for about the same price as Toshiba offers (256Gb). Comes with Win 8.1 Pro and/or if you prefer Win 7 (at least I do) if you want to dual boot. But as I've mentioned, no X support at the moment and you'll need to replace the Wi-Fi but being a business oriented computer replacing parts is really easy. i3 vs i5 isn't worth it really, you get slightly faster base frequency but its still a dual core CPU and i3 will perform just as good in most cases. Keep in mind that Intel video support is being actively worked on so it'll come eventually.

I have now a 3 gen old version of this and it's very similar with its metal case and everything and it's a nice laptop. If anything I'd wish for a IPS panel instead of a TN one which wasn't available at the time though...
//Danne
 
Last edited:

jrm@

Daemon
Developer

Thanks: 438
Messages: 1,157

#4
I maintain one Haswell-based desktop and X works with the VESA driver, so (at least some) newer video cards work with FreeBSD and X. Of course it's not ideal, but the performance is adequate for desktop usage. IIRC, you can't use vt(4) and syscons(4) doesn't support kernel modesetting. This means if you log out of X the system locks up and you have to hard reboot.

If you can look past the whitelisting of wireless cards and the sleazy malware that was installed in some of their default Windows installations, Lenovo still makes some nice laptops. The Thinkpad line is nice and popular with FreeBSD developers. If portability is important, the X series is nice. I have an X220 and everything works, including wireless and suspend and resume. Stay away from the X230 and X240. They have bad reviews because Lenovo messed with the touchpad. They listened to user feedback though, and the X250 has the old touchapd. The T-series is also nice. My friend has a T530 with FreeBSD running on it with no problems.

As diizzy said, the video and wireless cards should be given special attention.
 

diizzy

Active Member

Thanks: 47
Messages: 221

#5
You wont find a new X220 or T530 and it only confirms my previous statement that 2-3+ year old laptops works fine ;-)
The Toshiba Z30 is pretty much a fresh version of the X220 and also features an IPS monitor although higher resolution (may depend on region) and a lower price tag. Toshiba doesn't blacklist/whatlist compared to Lenovo, Dell, HP unless they started to do so very recently. Lenovo consumer laptops (everything that isn't branded Thinkpad) are just as bad as anything else by Asus, Acer, Packard Bell, HP, Fujitsu that's a consumer model really.
//Danne
 

jrm@

Daemon
Developer

Thanks: 438
Messages: 1,157

#6
The Toshiba Z30 is pretty much a fresh version of the X220 and also features an IPS monitor although higher resolution (may depend on region) and a lower price tag.
I customized a purchase of a Z30 and an X250 as closely as possible, each on the U.S. site and the prices were both around $US 1000. One advantage of the Z30 is that it can accept 16 GiB or RAM, whereas Lenovo says the X250 will only take 8 GiB. FFIW, I've read that people are successfully using 16 GiB in the latest few X-series laptops, e.g., here. The other big difference is the screen size of the Z30 is a little larger than that of the X250 (13.3 versus 12.5 inches).
 

RichardET

Member


Messages: 31

#10
Hi Neel,

As for now at least no recent laptop will actually work with FreeBSD as there's no video support for any kind of recent video chipsets (that is if you want to run X) except nVidia. This includes Intel, AMD (former ATi) while nVidia does provide a driver for their recent card it does however not support dual graphics switching which I believe nVidia calls Optimus. There's a workaround here but except limited battery performance as the nVidia GPUs are much more inefficient than Intel's integrated graphics and doesn't really provide any better video performance for everyday usage (when you have working drivers).

Workaround is documented here:
https://wiki.freebsd.org/OptimusVideoSupport

Another issue would be Wi-Fi, as far as I'm aware this is pretty much a one man band story for now that includes adrian@ who does an incredibly good job given the manpower. That said there's pretty much non-existent support for 11ac chipsets irregardless of vendor (Atheros/QCA, Intel, Broadcom, Ralink, Mediatek, Realtek) so except it not to for quite some time. However there's support for some USB sticks with Realtek chipsets but they are single band 11n and perform poorly even with good driver support so I wouldn't really consider it as an option. You have however good support (for being FreeBSD and Wi-Fi) using Atheros 11n miniPCIe cards which would mean that you would need to replace the built-in one as no vendor ships recent hardware with 11n Wi-Fi nowadays. These cards (AR9382) goes for around 15$ off eBay or Amazon (US) and have great support in both Windows, Linux and as good as it gets in FreeBSD.

I have no idea but I guess you can forget about exotic things like Bluetooth or any recent 3G/WWAN card working in FreeBSD.

So if I'm not terribly inaccurately and you're hellbent on running FreeBSD (with X) on a laptop you need to either get a gaming laptop (which really are "plasticky", heavy and noisy) which are pretty much the only ones that packs an nVidia GPU and you'll most likely get a poor TN screen too or a used one. Actually, stay away from any kind of consumer model as they're inferior by far compared to a business model.

Since you were eyeballing the Macbook I'd suggest that you have a look at the Toshiba Protegé Z30 series as they've been getting solid reviews and it's a pretty good bang for the buck. http://www.toshiba.com/us/computers/laptops/portege/Z30/Z30-BSMBN22
The FHD screen in EU is an IPS panel (you want that) so be sure to confirm that with Toshiba in the US as models can have different hardware. RAM (upgrading) is available at half the price from Amazon (if you want more than 4Gb, nowadays 8Gbyte is considered a minimum) and you can get an mSATA SSD for about the same price as Toshiba offers (256Gb). Comes with Win 8.1 Pro and/or if you prefer Win 7 (at least I do) if you want to dual boot. But as I've mentioned, no X support at the moment and you'll need to replace the Wi-Fi but being a business oriented computer replacing parts is really easy. i3 vs i5 isn't worth it really, you get slightly faster base frequency but its still a dual core CPU and i3 will perform just as good in most cases. Keep in mind that Intel video support is being actively worked on so it'll come eventually.

I have now a 3 gen old version of this and it's very similar with its metal case and everything and it's a nice laptop. If anything I'd wish for a IPS panel instead of a TN one which wasn't available at the time though...
//Danne
I have been wondering the same thing - I have a Lenovo B590 which runs beautifully with Xubuntu; I then run FreeBSD in a VMware session, 64bit. This configuration is excellent. I guess I will keep it that way! Xubuntu as host, FreeBSD as guest.
 

vermaden

Son of Beastie

Thanks: 900
Messages: 2,575

#11
Hi,
I am about to go to college, and my parents say that I need a new laptop. My current laptop is a 2010 Dell Inspiron N5010 running FreeBSD 10.1, and this is rather old, but is so because I spend most of my computer time on a desktop than a laptop (I am a high school student right now), and never needed to really replace my laptop.

Although I'd rather use my current laptop than use Apple's new "MacBook" with only one port (which is a joke!), my parents still want me to get a new laptop, and I want a laptop which can run FreeBSD. Which recent laptop has good FreeBSD support?
Thanks,
Neel Chauhan
Thinkpad T420 W520 (any *20).
Latitude E6410 E5410 (and *10).
 

Juanitou

Well-Known Member

Thanks: 123
Messages: 453

#12
ThinkPad S440 Ultrabook is working quite well for me with FreeBSD-CURRENT: SSD, plenty of battery time and wireless support added recently with iwm(4). Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for Intel Haswell support and ACPI features are lacking, i.e. screen brightness and suspend/resume, though I’ve not tried very hard for the latter. Also, the keyboard layout is simply badly thought, albeit typing on it is still a pleasure. In conclusion: not the better choice at the moment but could become quite easily a nice light (1.65 kg!) FreeBSD laptop.
 

gofer_touch

Active Member

Thanks: 113
Messages: 243

#16
I just tried it and no, it does not work. The install goes fine, but the system does not recognize it on reboot. I think this was an issue from the Lenovo side. I don't recall exactly what it was. There is apparently a work around, but it seems to be easier to just avoid those laptops rather than trying to rig something together that could break.
 

jrm@

Daemon
Developer

Thanks: 438
Messages: 1,157

#20
It's possible that a flag just needs to be set for this model, so that the installer knows to apply this hack to account for the broken Lenovo BIOS.
 

jfrey

New Member

Thanks: 1
Messages: 6

#21
I have a Dell M6800 that I've tested FreeBSD on. Everything seems to work.

There's enough space for 4x drives. I don't have the money to do so but I'd love to create a raidz boot array.

That 'one port' is a USB-C port. Which in addition to be reversible is more or less DisplayPort, PCIe and Thunderbolt in a single cable. Get a hub and when you sit down at your 'desktop' you can plug everything in. It's much better than my current Dell dock.

http://www.nonda.co/products/usb-c-hub-for-apple-new-macbook-12-plus
 

gunetel

New Member


Messages: 1

#22
Hi Neel,

As for now at least no recent laptop will actually work with FreeBSD as there's no video support for any kind of recent video chipsets (that is if you want to run X) except nVidia. This includes Intel, AMD (former ATi) while nVidia does provide a driver for their recent card it does however not support dual graphics switching which I believe nVidia calls Optimus. There's a workaround here but expect limited battery performance as the nVidia GPUs are much more inefficient than Intel's integrated graphics and doesn't really provide any better video performance for everyday usage (when you have working drivers).

I have no idea but I guess you can forget about exotic things like Bluetooth or any recent 3G/WWAN card working in FreeBSD.

So if I'm not terribly inaccurately and you're hellbent on running FreeBSD (with X) on a laptop you need to either get a gaming laptop (which really are "plasticky", heavy and noisy) which are pretty much the only ones that packs an nVidia GPU and you'll most likely get a poor TN screen too or a used one. Erasephone is hosted with FreeBSD but it's really hard to manage. Actually, stay away from any kind of consumer model as they're inferior by far compared to a business model.I have now a 3 gen old version of this and it's very similar with its metal case and everything and it's a nice laptop. If anything I'd wish for a IPS panel instead of a TN one which wasn't available at the time though...
//Danne
Thanks for the useful suggestion. How about install freebsdFreeBSD as a virtual machine on latest laptop. I am new to uUnix, so iI need sometime learning.
 
Last edited:

gofer_touch

Active Member

Thanks: 113
Messages: 243

#24
I just wanted to come back to report the ZFS on root now definitely does work for the t420s with the GPT + LenovoFix option selected in the ZFS install menu. The T420s is a very nice laptop, can support up to 3 disk drives (2 HDDs and 1 mSATA). It also has a USB 3 port and is pretty lightweight given its size. Thanks goes out to Alan Jude and others who worked on getting around Lenovo's bugs.