6 Best Linux Distros for Laptops

Linux is gaining popularity among laptop users in the past few years, with some manufacturers even shipping laptops with Linux pre-installed.

Whether buying a Linux pre-installed laptop or selecting a Linux distro for your existing laptop, there are many things to consider.  These include such things as:

  • Comfort-level
  • Laptop age
  • Purpose of laptop
  • Battery life
  • Aesthetics

Let’s look at six best Linux distros that seem custom made for laptop users.

6 Best Linux Distros for Laptops

1. Manjaro

The Arch Linux-based distro is one of the most popular Linux distros and is famous for its outstanding hardware support.

Manjaro Screenshot
Manjaro Screenshot

Recommended System Requirements

  • 1GB RAM
  • 30GB HD
  • 1GHz processor
  • HD graphics card

Manjaro boots fast and has an aesthetically pleasing interface with the default customized lightweight XFCE desktop environment.

Manjaro’s speed, power, and efficiency combined with its easy installation, access to the Arch User Repository (AUR), and rolling-release development model makes it ideal for laptop users regardless of their experience level with Linux.

Other benefits of Manjaro are the ability to switch between kernels, the humongous Manjaro software repository maintained by the Manjaro team, and the friendly Manjaro community.

Many distro communities are less than noob-friendly.  It is not the case with the Manjaro community.

A significant drawback of running Manjaro on your laptop, unfortunately, is power management.  Many Manjaro users complain that their laptop battery life is often worse than when running Windows.

Manjaro users can resolve this issue by installing the Linux Advanced Power Management Tool, TLP.

Download Manjaro

2. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is one of the most popular Linux distros around.  Such has been the case almost immediately since its release in 2006.  With millions of users and over thirteen years of development, Linux Mint is stable, safe, and reliable.

Linux Mint Screenshot
Linux Mint Screenshot

Recommended System Requirements

  • 1GB RAM
  • 20GB HD
  • 1GHz processor
  • 1024×768 graphics card

Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop environment is not only fast and easy to use, but its design is sleek. Its icons and windows are crisp and clean.  For non-Cinnamon fanes, MATE and XCFE are options to explore.

Linux Mint is extremely fast, even more so with the release of Linux Mint 19 “Tara.”  Boot time is snappy as well.

A real positive of Linux Mint is the Timeshift software which allows you to create a system snapshot.  Should your system ‘break’ or become unstable, you can quickly restore it to the previous stable point.  Better yet, Timeshift integrates seamlessly with Linux Mint’s System Update Manager.

Among Linux Mint’s many benefits are its vast software repository, boasting over 30,000 selections. Its file manager ‘Nemo’ not only provides more than just basic file management but allows to connect to servers and mount locations using various protocols.

The vast and useful array of software installed automatically include GIMP, VLC, LibreOffice, Thunderbird, and Firefox.

The only real downside that I can see to Linux Mint is there is still no KDE version even after thirteen years.

Download Linux Mint

3. Ubuntu

Ubuntu, the Debian-based distro, is the ‘daddy’ of numerous distros released since its creation in 2004, including two in this article, Linux Mint, and MX-Linux. Ubuntu remains popular in the Linux community and still enjoys the number four ranking on distrowatch.org.

Ubuntu Screenshot
Ubuntu Screenshot

Recommended System Requirements

  • 1GB RAM
  • 30GB HD
  • 1GHz processor
  • HD graphics card

While many longtime Ubuntu users are happy with the default Gnome interface, unfortunately, not all Linux users think alike.  It is worth noting, however, that the latest Ubuntu 19.04 release’s, Disco Dingo, implementation of Gnome is much snappier than in previous versions.

Installation is fast, intuitive, and a snap.  Canonical’s Livepatch service is well worth it, enabling your Ubuntu laptop to receive security updates and install without rebooting. Standard users can get tokens for free and receive the Livepatch Service directly from Canonical.

Also, in Dingo, the familiar Nautilus file manager is much faster and includes improvements to its interface.  The overall interface of Ubuntu is nice and smooth.  You seldom, if ever, encounter glitches or lagging.

Ubuntu’s embrace of Snapcraft (for developers) and snaps also add to the distro’s attractiveness and ease-of-use.

Like many other distros mentioned, here, boot time is an issue with Ubuntu on some older laptops.  Unfortunately, while there are many tweaks to address this, the only sure-fire and best way is to replace with Lubuntu.

Download Ubuntu Desktop

4. MX Linux

Before reading this section, please know that I currently use MX Linux as my laptop distro, so there could be some bias.

Based on the Debian stable, MX Linux has topped the distrowatch.org list for close to a year now, for a good reason.

MX Linux Screenshot
MX Linux Screenshot

Recommended System Requirements

  • 2GB of memory
  • 30GB HD
  • 2GHz processor
  • HD graphics card

The default customized lightweight XFCE desktop environment ensures fast booting although it admittedly makes for a simple looking desktop.

The core components carried over from the antiX Linux distro (Linux MX is a collaboration from the antiX and MEPIS developers) ensures support for older hardware but at a negligible performance cost.

Linux MX has, arguably, the assist to use desktop interface of all the distros included in this article.  Its single taskbar makes finding things quick and straightforward.  MX Tools (think Windows Control Panel) is a handy utility for users, allowing quick access to change settings and perform minor ‘tweaks.’

Installation is intuitive and easy, and the Synaptic Package Manager allows for access to an extensive amount of packages, although the base installation includes a well-rounded set of software.

Laptop battery use is not an issue with MX Linux, nor is performance.

Having used MX Linux on my laptop for over six months, I cannot report a single issue that I have run into.  Packages are easy to install, and updates run without issue.  It is easily the most functional distro that I’ve used on my laptop since I’ve owned it.

Download MX Linux

5. Fedora

Fedora is a Red Hat-backed Linux distro that holds its own with every distro included in this article.  The best description I’ve ever heard for Fedora is “Red Hat for the open-source community.”

Fedora Screenshot
Fedora Screenshot

Recommended System Requirements

  • 2GB of memory
  • 30GB HD
  • 2GHz processor
  • HD graphics card

Fedora’s embedded security feature via the Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) module makes the distro an attractive for security-minded Linux users.  Its implementation of the tried-and-true Gnome desktop environment gives long-time Linux users a sense of familiarity and security while providing new users an easy-to-use interface.

For Gnome-allergic Linux users, different spins are available, such as SOAS, Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, XFCE, and a few others.

Fedora’s hardware support is unmatched in the Linux FOSS community.  Add to that, the RPM package manager allows for more flexible built packages with more features (i.e., confirmation of installed packages, rollback, history, etc.).

Another selling point of Fedora is that it has arguably the most significant user community of any Linux distro.  Cases in point are the Fedora forum and the Fedora Reddit community.

Laptop battery usage is, like with other Linux distros, an issue in Fedora.  However, you can quickly increase the battery life of a Fedora laptop with several utilities.

Download Fedora Workstation

6. Deepin

Based on Debian’s stable branch, Deepin often receives praise for its aesthetics, as well it should.  Deepin uses its desktop environment, called Deepin DE (DDE) that TechRepublic describes as “the single most beautiful desktop on the market.”

Deepin Screenshot
Deepin Screenshot

Recommended System Requirements

  • 1GB of memory
  • 20GB HD
  • 2GHz processor
  • HD graphics card

Deepin reportedly boots faster than all the other distros we’ve covered thus far and ensured incredible laptop battery life longevity.

Deepin is an attractive choice for laptop users for several reasons including NVidia Prime support, power-saving mode and auto-mode switching (for laptops), rolling-release distribution, and comes with its powerful toolkit, Deepin Tool Kit.

Other benefits of Deepin are that it supports all the repositories and libraries from the Debian channel and Ubuntu repositories and libraries, installation (Deepin Installer) is easy and intuitive

I’ve not yet discovered a real drawback to Deepin.  A past complaint was that it used a statistical tracking service in its App Store, but that is no longer the case.

I’ll readily admit that I’m a distro-hopper.  In the space of two years, I’ve had every distro covered in this article on my laptop (except for Deepin, although I plan to try out the live ISO this week).  My current laptop distro is MX-Linux, which has lived on my laptop for the past six months.  It is the longest that I’ve ever had a distro on my laptop.

This is due much to my grandkids and my wife, all of whom often use my laptop.  The other distros seemed foreign to them, and I had to spend much of my time assisting them. From having to help install games and applications to such simple tasks as launching Chrome or gracefully rebooting the laptop.

Fortunately, the MX-Linux Windows-like interface does not confuse them, allowing them easy navigation of the interface.  MX-Linux is also powerful enough to satisfy the Linux-geek in me.

Download Deepin

Conclusion

For those users looking for a new distro for their laptop, I strongly suggest you download the live ISO of the six distros highlighted above.

Kick the tires and take them for a spin.  You’ll know soon enough when you’ve found the distro that best suits you.

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