Updated: How to choose the best Linux distro for laptops

Introduction and gaming

Note: Our best Linux distro for laptops feature has been fully updated. This article was first published in January 2011.

The smart notebook user shouldn’t overlook Linux. The question is, which distro should you pick?

You’ll get a different answer depending who you ask. You’ll probably be pointed in the direction of Arch for performance, Debian for stability and Ubuntu if you want easy access to the biggest collection of apps.

If that’s not enough choice to make your head spin, Slackware has its fans too – particularly among people who use older laptops.

In this article, we’ll look at a range of different scenarios that should be familiar to portable users, and explore Linux distros that will help you survive and flourish in these situations.

To make everybody’s life easier, we’ll limit ourselves to pre-packaged live Linux distros. We’ll also stick to live installations as much as possible throughout this tour. This is important if you’re working on a corporate laptop and can’t install software.

With our advice, you’ll be able to work in Windows, and when you’re done, transform the machine into a bespoke system, laser-targeted for your needs and wants.

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Office work

Linux is ideal for working on the go, when you need a distro that’s stable, secure and works well with the apps you want to use.

With this in mind, there isn’t much choice beyond Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSUSE. Of these, the first two are fantastic desktop distros.

OpenSUSE looks professional, and is well integrated with the LibreOffice suite and Kontact personal information manager, which includes the KMail email client. It’s available in two installable live CD flavours, depending on your choice of desktop environment, as well as a 4.7GB DVD image with lots of software.

You also have access to a large collection of proprietary software on the mirrors or via the non-OSS add-on CD.

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