Best Ultrabook for Linux

Ultrabook running Ubuntu Linux - Illustration

I’m an experienced ‘Linux’ user and a RedHat Certified Engineer. Therefore, finding the best Ultrabook for Linux wasn’t that difficult compared to the challenges I usually face when researching for laptops for end users with other requirements.

But I still spent about 5-6 hours researching and reading various reviews until I felt confident that I’ve found the best Ultrabook that can run Linux comfortably. Because as you may well know, getting to run Linux comfortably, especially on a laptop or on an Ultrabook, can be difficult if you do not carefully consider the hardware devices prior to purchasing. Check my post best 14 inch gaming laptops for 2018

Asus Zenbook UX305FA-USM1 Ultrabook
Asus Zenbook UX305FA-USM1 Ultrabook

So after the research, at the top of the line, I have chosen the Asus Zenbook UX305FA-USM1 as the best Ultrabook for Linux. At a very affordable price, this Zenbook comes with a capable Intel Broadwell CPU (M-5Y10), Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, Intel Wireless AC (High speed) 7265 adapter, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 13.3 inch display screen with 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) resolution. It’s a matte IPS panel that’s bright and comes with excellent color accuracy & great viewing angles. You will also be paying for the operating system, because the Ultrabook comes with Windows 8.1 pre-installed. It weighs only 1.2 kg which makes it super lightweight (more lightweight than the Macbook Air 13″ edition), and it also comes with a strong all aluminium outer body as well.

ASUS Zenbook UX305LA Ultrabook
ASUS Zenbook UX305LA Ultrabook

If you have been using a high-end Intel Core i5 or an i7 CPU, then the Core M-5Y10 on the Zenbook UX305FA-USM1 might feel a little bit slow (it just might). In that case, you should instead buy the ASUS Zenbook UX305LA. You can buy this Ultrabook with either the Intel fifth generation Core i5-5200U (& HD Graphics 5500 GPU) or the sixth generation Core i5-6200U (& newer HD Graphics 520 GPU) Skylake processor and they’re both about 35-40% more capable compared to the Core M. If you buy the Skylake version make sure the Linux distribution that’ll be used includes the Kernel* 4.4 (or newer) which includes better support for the new Intel microprocessor architecture. Otherwise, you will run into issues. This Ultrabook weighs about 1.3 kg (about 100 grams more compared to the Core M version), but rest of the hardware is pretty much identical. It comes with Windows 10.

* The Kernel is the piece of software of an operating system that directly communicates and manages hardware devices of a computer.

What About the Dell’s XPS 13.3” Developer Edition?

Dell is in the middle of updating their Developer Edition Ultrabooks with the Intel Skylake CPUs. And at the time of writing this article, they were still selling the Intel fifth generation Ultrabooks. So that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t add one here. But as soon as they’re out, and once I’m satisfied with the user feedback from actual reviews (because even the Developer edition that’s especially designed to run Ubuntu 14.04 LTS doesn’t always work as expected!), then I will update this article, and add it if necessary.

So anyhow, before discussing these two products in more detail, let me first give you a good background information about the methodology that I used to pick these Ultrabooks. I actually used few simple & basic things that I learned as a ‘Linux’ user over the years, when doing this research. And to prove my point, to this day, I have a Dell Vostro V131 notebook (now discontinued) that I have been using for the past 4+ years under various Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, openSUSE, KaOS, LinuxLite, Manjaro … you name it!) without any major issues. And I used the same methodology that I’m about to show you, when choosing it (it’s no secret actually. Anyone with enough Linux experience gets to know these things anyway).

Choosing a Linux Ultrabook – Things That Matter

A Brief Introduction

Apple controls nearly all the aspects when designing a computer. From the hardware designing to the software coding, Apple is in charge of pretty much everything. This in effect tightly integrates their software with the hardware components of their computers. That’s why Apple computers just work (well, at least when Steve was in charge).

Microsoft too does this to a certain degree, although not as thoroughly as Apple does. Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, unlike Steve Jobs, thinks that both hardware and software are two different aspects and that one is not strictly bound to the other. Therefore, Microsoft is more than happy to code the operating system and other applications by itself, and let someone else design the hardware for them. But as far as the main software utilities that create an operating system are concerned, such as the Desktop environment, Kernel etc, they’re designed solely by Microsoft. It has total control over it.

But, there is one thing in common with Apple and Microsoft. That is, they both agree that you shouldn’t give away your secrets (hardware or software) to anyone else. They both agree that, other than their rightful owners, no one else should have access to them (under certain situations & requirements, they do provide exclusive access to their secrets. But even that, is provided with sworn to secrecy). And computer hardware manufactures also share this same belief system. Therefore, computer hardware manufacturers have a good close relationship with Apple and Microsoft.

Linux (it’s actually called GNU/Linux) on the other hand takes a very different approachAccording to its philosophy, software should be free. Free in the sense that anyone should be able to look into the programming codes and reveal all their secrets, and not necessarily in the sense that they should be given freely, a common misconception. This type of software are somewhat loosely known as open-source software. And also, unlike Microsoft or Apple, the various elements that compose the Linux operating system such as the Desktop, Kernel etc are not developed by a single authority. Instead, they are developed by individuals (most of whom work for free) who are scattered all over the globe. And most of these elements are developed independently, and they usually have more than one (for instance Linux has not one but a few desktop environments).

From the very beginning, hardware device manufactures didn’t like Linux’s approach into licensing. They were reluctant to release their device drivers as open-source software. Mainly because then anyone (such as a potential

Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU Project and the Free Software movement. Stallman is the philosophical godfather of the movement.
Photo by J.T.S. Moore

competitor) can have a look at the software coding of the device driver and extract certain key information about their secretly guarded hardware details. And their solution for this was to independently develop and release these device drivers as proprietary software (software applications that don’t reveal the original coding) for the Linux users. And interestingly, some of these proprietary drivers even outperform their MS Windows counterparts!. However, despite their supremacy, most Linux distributions don’t include these proprietary drivers by default. Mainly because they violate their license agreement and refuse to comply with their ideals. Some Linux distributions do ship with these drivers, although, they’re often heavily criticized for that by the original founders of the free software movement, such as Richard Stallman.

So Why the Poor Hardware Driver Support in Linux Then?

Despite the criticisms, if these proprietary device drivers work great in Linux, then what is the reason for the poor hardware support? The simple answer is that the computer consumer market of Linux is a fraction compared to the market share of Microsoft Windows. Therefore, until recently where Linux started to gain some popularity among desktop computer users and gaming enthusiasts, most computer hardware manufacturers didn’t take Linux seriously. They didn’t see much earning potential with Linux.

But luckily, nowadays not every manufacturer thinks this way. Because many major computer hardware manufacturers such as Intel, AMD, Toshiba, Panasonic, Samsung etc are now working together to improve their hardware device support in GNU/Linux, even though some are still proprietary in nature. So hopefully, these issues will be resolved in the future. But until then, especially when purchasing an Ultrabook or a laptop (because you can’t replace most individual hardware devices on these portable computers in a situation where you may’ve found out only after purchasing, that some devices don’t work at all in Linux), make sure to carefully consider the hardware devices so that you can run Linux on it comfortably afterwards.

What Are Those Hardware Devices You Should Consider?

When buying a Linux Ultrabook, you should consider three hardware devices mainly. That will be the Display Screen, the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and the Wireless Adapter. These are the ones that give you the most trouble. Let’s talk about each one briefly.

Display Screen

Laptops or Ultrabooks with very high pixel density display screens are very common nowadays. Some Ultrabooks screens (ranging from 13.3” to 15.6”) even come with resolutions as high as 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels). For instance, a 13.3” screen that has a 4K resolution has about 331 pixels per inch, diagonally. That’s a very high pixel density screen. While display screens with high pixel densities dramatically increase the details (sharpness) of what’s being displayed, to take the full advantage of it, the operating system and the software applications have to be updated first. Otherwise, software applications and their various elements (icons, fonts, buttons, menus etc) will look either too small and hard to read, or humongous and blurred (more or less).

Unfortunately, Linux support on these high pixel densities is not yet great. Newer versionsof popular desktop environments such as GNOME and Ubuntu’s Unity (it also uses GNOME applications and many of its technologies for rendering the desktop) and newer applications do work to some degree, though. But there still are some issues that need to be addressed. Until then, I recommend that you stick with an Ultrabook that has a Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) which is still a very sharp display screen. Most people can’t really tell the difference between a 4K laptop screen and a Full HD display screen anyway.

Although this may not be highly relevant to what we’re discussing, it’s worth noting that some people buy small screens with high pixel densities, hoping to get a bigger workspace. But that’s not the purpose of a high pixel density screen. More pixels are added to it to increase the sharpness, not to increase the workspace. If you want more workspace, then buy a large external monitor (21” or more) that has a high resolution (4K or 5K).

GPU

GPU or the Graphics Processing Unit is a special microprocessor (just like the CPU) that is especially designed to handle graphics related processing. There are three manufactures that produce GPUs for computers nowadays. AMD and Nvidia produce the high-end GPUs, the kind of which that’s used in Gaming and Professional Video Editing. And then we have Intel that started to produce GPUs somewhat recently, although, their GPUs lack the power the AMD and the Nvidia products have, they’re still more than enough for everyday computer use (decoding videos – HD, Blu-ray. Newer models can even decode 4K videos. Or for running some basic video games etc).

Both AMD and Nvidia GPU drivers are generally proprietary in nature. But interestingly enough, Intel on the other hand releases its drivers as open-source software. And unlike AMD and Nvidia GPUs, Intel GPUs work out of the box because Linux distributions ships them by default, and their compatibility is also high compared to AMD or Nvidia GPUs.

But here’s the point. It’s no secret that Ultrabooks are not designed for gaming. Therefore, most only include an Intel GPU. But there are some that come with what is called a Hybrid Graphics configuration. In a Hybrid Graphics configuration, basically there is a low-powered (also called the integrated GPU) Intel GPU, and also a high-end (also called the discreet GPU) AMD or Nvidia GPU. This is mostly done to to decrease the power consumption. So for instance, when doing light-duty tasks such as Web browsing or watching a video, the laptop will turn OFF the discreet GPU and use the Intel (integrated) GPU since it consumes the least amount of power. When doing things like Gaming or Video editing, the laptop switches OFF the integrated Intel GPU and turns ON the discreet GPU instead. And due to couple of reasons, Linux doesn’t handle this GPU ‘switching’ well. This sometimes results in shortened battery life because Linux fails to properly switch OFF the GPUs, or can even cause other problems when waking up the laptop (or the Ultrabook) from sleep etc as well.

Since you’re buying an Ultrabook, I recommend that you buy one that comes with a single GPU, preferably an Intel GPU (because again, they’re officially supported by Linux and have high compatibility). Take my old Dell laptop for instance. It came with an Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU, yes it’s outdated now, but back then, it was one of the latest models. And at first, many Linux distributions had a major bug which blocked the GPU from entering into a low-power mode that shortened the battery life quite significantly. Although it took about 2-3 months (because it was a rather complex issue), both the Linux community and Intel worked together and later released a fix that resolved it once and for all. And all these years, this was the only major issue I faced using my Intel GPU (or generally the whole laptop) on all those Linux distributions. So again, I highly recommend that you buy an Ultrabook that has a single Intel GPU on it (you will thank me for that later).

Wireless Adapter

Intel, Realtex, Broadcom and Qualcomm are among the many manufacturers that design and produce Wi-Fi wireless adapters. As far as my direct experience is concerned as a Linux user, I’ve only used Intel and Realtek Wi-Fi adapters. Realtek had some troubles in the past with Linux, but nowadays most their products work really well. And Intel Wi-Fi wireless adapters, just like their GPUs, have always worked extremely well in Linux. And although not directly, in my general experience, after seeing lots of user complains over the years, I can tell you that Broadcom has the worst Linux support. However, their newer models have adapted the open-source licensing, but I don’t have through knowledge as to how good they perform in Linux. Therefore, I advice you to avoid them.

So here too my suggestion is simple. Choose an Intel Wi-Fi wireless adapter when can. But the thing is, it’s very difficult to know the manufacturer of the Wi-Fi adapter because unlike when it comes to most other hardware devices, nearly on all the official product pages of Ultrabooks or laptops in general, this information is not present. And they only present the generic technical terms such as 802.11ac, 802.11b/g/n that says nothing about the manufacturer.

In such cases, your best option is to read throughly written actual reviews of that exact Ultrabook model (because similar models that are subsidiary of a main product line can contain different Wi-Fi adapters) that you’re about to buy. And most these reviewers will tell you about the manufacturer of the Wi-Fi adapter. If not, you can ask them. If that’s not possible, then the next best thing to do is to go over to the manufacturer’s website and ask from them directly.

When choosing these two Ultrabooks I used the first method, because I couldn’t find it in the official manufacturer’s (Asus) product page.

So, in summary this is my advice to you. First, choose a Full HD display screen – 1920 x 1080p (or lower), and avoid displays with ultra high pixel densities. Secondly, choose an Intel GPU. And thirdly, also choose an Intel Wi-Fi wireless adapter.

So an Ultrabook That Has All These Hardware Features is Going to Work Flawlessly in Linux?

Well, in my experience nothing is going to be flawless. But this will give the Ultrabook the best chance of being able to run Linux without any major issues. So for instance, maybe the screen brightness control keys might not work properly on some Linux distributions, although, you should be able to control the brightness through a GUI configuration window. Or maybe the previously set brightness level may get reset every time you log into the desktop (a pretty common issue). Or maybe the Bluetooth adapter gets turned ON automatically when you log into the desktop, even though you had turned it OFF previously. These are just a few examples.

But the point is, these types of issues are easily fixable most of the time by simply changing a setting or two in a configuration file. But issues caused by the display screen, GPU or the Wireless adapter, cannot be so easily resolved. They’re mostly resolved by updating device drivers and the core of the operating system.

Update: It’s also worth noting that some fingerprint readers may not work in Linux. Mine for instance, never worked in Linux after all these years. Recently Linux developers released a reverse engineered driver, but it still has many unresolved issues.

Are There Any Websites That I can Ask for Help?

That’s the great thing about Linux. Community is its greatest strength. And yes there are many websites that you can post the issues that you’re having and there is a high probability that someone might be able to help you fix it quickly. You can post these questions in the official forum of the Linux distribution that you use. This is the best approach, if one is available. Or you can also read through the official Wiki pages and they may contain the answer to your problem, although, not all Linux distributions have Wiki pages. Major Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, LinuxMint, OpenSUSE etc have both their own user forms and Wiki pages. And thus when doing your research, Google is your friend. But I have added some of these web pages for your convenience.

*. AskUbuntu.com – Official Ubuntu Questions and Answers website. A highly active website. This is the best place to start resolving hardware of software issues.

*. UbuntuForums.org – This is the place most people used back then when AskUbuntu.com didn’t exist. It’s still pretty much active.

*. AskFedora.org – Official Fedora Questions and Answers website. This is also a very highly active website.

*. LinuxMintForums.com – Official Forum for the Linux Mint users.

*. openSUSEForums.org – This is the official user forum for openSUSE and it’s also a very active and a friendly website where you can ask for help.

*. LinuxQuestions.org – This is a non generic Linux user forum that you can use to ask questions, despite what Linux distribution you use.

*. ArchWiki.org – ArchWiki has the best up-to-date Wiki pages with solutions to many hardware related issues. It’s an excellent resource and well documented. Even if you don’t use Arch, you can still use most of these suggestions because Linux distributions in general use the same core underneath. Other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu also has Wiki pages, but they’re mostly outdated and don’t include lots of great content.

What Are the Other Hardware Features to Look for?

CPU (Central Processing Unit)

An Intel Penryn CPU - Illustration
CPU is the ‘brain’ of a computer. That’s where most of the processing takes place. Basically, you should choose an Ultrabook that has a high-end Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU if you’ll be mostly doing CPU intensive tasks such as video encoding, compressing large files etc, for long durations. However, high end CPUs consume more power and output more heat. So putting something like that inside a very thin body (because Ultrabooks are very thin) means the Ultrabook has to include a fan to cool things down, and a capacity-wise large thus more heavier, battery, for improving the battery life.

When the CPU is under heavy stress, the fan will kick in and this will make some noises that can be annoying (more or less, depending on the workload). And having a heavy battery increases the overall weight of the Ultrabook. These are both two undesirable outcomes.

Intel Core M Die map
Intel Core M (die shot).

To address these issues, Intel recently introduced a new lines of CPUs called the Core M. These CPUs have a thermal output of 4.5 Watts which is about 3.4 times lower than the thermal output (correct term is Thermal design power) of Intel’s 5th generation Core i5 or the i3 CPUs. But despite outputting 3.4 times less heat (thus energy efficient), the Core M series is still quite powerful that it can deliver the same amount (or sometimes even more) of processing power compared to some of the 5th generation Core i3 CPUs!. And because they have such low thermal output, most Ultrabooks that include the Core M processors don’t even include a fanThey’re dead silent under any situation, and still stay cool.

When Intel first launched the Core M series, many reviewers complained that it was slow. But most of these reviewers were Core i5 and i7 users and were comparing the performance of those CPUs with Core M. And in that sense their logic is sound. However, when you crank up the numbers and the facts of Core M, one thing that makes clear is that the new Core M processors, when equipped with enough RAM and a faster main storage (which I’ll explain next), can handle pretty much any heavy multitasking situations that it confronts with (for instance: having opened 10-15 tabs of your web browser and one preferably even streaming a 4K video, running an office application, an e-mail client, a virtual machine and a code editor, all at the same time), without slowing down at all. On some workloads, it can even outperform some of the Core i5 CPUs!.

That said, if you’ll be doing CPU intensive tasks such as video encoding and compressing large files etc a lot as mentioned earlier, then it’s advisable to recommend an Ultrabook with a high-end Core i5 or i7 microprocessor.

RAM (Random Access Memory – Very fast storage medium. It’s a memory chip that can hold data temporarily & it’s directly associated with the performance. The more the better).

Computer RAM illustration
Due to their thin factor, most Ultrabooks won’t let you upgrade the RAM module(s). Therefore, making sure there’s enough RAM capacity to meed your requirements is a must. My recommendation is to buy an Ultrabook with at least 8 GB of RAM. This’ll enable you to multitask comfortably (browsing the web with 10-15 opened tabs, run a VirtualMachine, watch a video, edit a word document etc all at the same time).

SSDs and Hybrid-Drives

Hard disk vs SSD (features), illustration
The most easiest way to improve the overall performance of your computer, performance in the sense of faster operating system loading and application opening times, is to buy a faster storage unit. The traditional main storage unit of a computer was a storage unit with a rotational disk platter(s) inside it. They were fast in their era, but not anymore. Technology has advanced.

These rotational hard disk drives (HDDs) are now being replaced by the more faster, reliable and power efficient drives known as SSDs. SSD stands for Solid State Disk. It’s basically a non-rotational, memory chip(s) that can read and write data, many times faster compared to a rotational hard disk drive. They also don’t make any noises or don’t get too hot unlike HDDs. SSDs are not cheap compared HDDs, although, the gap is closing fast.

Most Ultrabooks include either a SSD or a price-wise more affordable drive known as the hybrid drive. A hybrid drive is basically a storage medium that has a capacity-wise large rotational hard disk drive (1 TB or more) for storing your data permanently, but also a capacity-wise smaller (8 GB is the standard nowadays) and a faster SSD for storing your most frequently used data, all in a single unit. Seagate came up with this idea first, and according to their research, a hybrid drive can be nearly as fast as a SSD and is significantly faster than a conventional rotational HDD, under most circumstances. If you’re buying an Ultrabook with a dedicated SSD, make sure it has a storage capacity of at least 256 GB. For a hybrid drive, 1 TB or more is recommended. But the good thing is, unlike RAM, nearly all Ultrabooks let you easily replace the existing drive.

Heat & Build Quality

Heat

Ultrabooks are very thin (and lightweight) compared laptops. But as far as the performance is concerned, there is no trade off. Therefore, to put powerful hardware devices inside a thin body introduces many challenges for the laptop Heat levels (factor 3)designers. For instance, some of these hardware devices such as the CPU or the GPU, can get very hot under heavy loads. But cooling them down inside a very thin body (some Ultrabooks are only about half an inch thick at most) is no easy task. If such issues are not carefully addressed, although as stunning as they may look, an Ultrabook can be quite difficult to use for the user.

As a general rule, make sure the temperatures of the outer body stay within 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) or below when carrying out everyday tasks (web browsing, playing a video, creating a word document etc), otherwise, it’ll be uncomfortable to use.

Build Quality

Build Quality is equally important. Why? Because Ultrabooks are quite thin compared to laptops, and a

Dell XPS 13.3 Ultrabook, side view
Dell XPS 13.3 Ultrabook, side view

cheaply made outer body can break the hardware inside it easily. High quality Ultrabooks usually come with an outer frame that’s made out of aluminum, fiberglass or toughened plastic, or with a combination of all these materials. Avoid those that flex too much, although a certain degree of flex is acceptable. The outer shell should also be hard and durable so that it won’t easily get scratched and can protect the hardware inside, when bumped against hard objects.

Recap

I believe that I was able to give you a good understanding of the methodology I used for finding the best Ultrabook for Linux, some background information about the current ‘crisis’ with Linux & the hardware support, some general buying advices, and some places that you can ask for help, should the Ultrabook give you troubles while running Linux (they shouldn’t give you any major troubles if you followed my advice). So let’s move into the actual review of the two Ultrabooks I’ve chosen, and talk a little about their performance and some other features, before wrapping this up.

Asus Zenbook UX305FA-USM1

Linux Compatibility

I chose the Asus Zenbooks because they have a very good track record Linux lectureof being able to run Linux quite comfortably. And that’s mainly because of the hardware it ships with. And this one is no exception. According to one user (his feedback is from December, 2015) who installed LinuxMint 17.3, it runs the OS great. And the only two issues the Ultrabook had was that the screen brightness control keys refused to work, and the Wi-Fi lost its connectivity sometimes. Luckily he has been able to fix both of these issues.

In the case of the screen brightness control, you just have to assign keyboard shortcuts manually (that’s pretty much it). If you use GNOME or any desktop that’s based on it, then go to: System Settings -> Keyboard, and then click on the Shortcuts tab.

The issues with the Wi-Fi adapter (Intel 7265) can simply be resolved by issuing a single command which basically disables the power management of the Wi-Fi adapter. Now I advice you to do this only if you come across this issue, because you may not face this if you choose to run a different Linux distribution or, since it’s been a couple of months, maybe it’s already resolved. In any case, the command is the below one:

sudo iwconfig wlan0 power off

Other Features

Asus Zenbook UX305FA-USM1 Ultrabook
Asus Zenbook UX305FA-USM1 Ultrabook

The 13.3 inch matte display screen (it’s an IPS) of this Zenbook is excellent, both according to actual reviewers and users. It’s sharp (1920 x 1080 resolution) and has excellent color accuracy with a color profile of 99% sRGB, 73% NTSC, 77% AdobeRGB. This actually is not something that the Zenbooks are famous for.

Because even though they include high quality display screens, Asus for some reason doesn’t calibrate them well. Being an IPS panel, the viewing angles also excellent, and brightness level is also high (330:1). Being a matte screen it doesn’t reflect the surroundings at all, therefore, you should be able to comfortably use it outside as well.

This Zenbook comes with the Intel Core M-5Y10 and as mentioned earlier, it’s a pretty capable CPU. And the GPU is Intel HD 5300 which can handle non intensive graphics related tasks comfortably, and according to actual reviewers it can decode (play) streaming (or otherwise) videos such as HD, Blu-ray and even 4K on online streaming services such as on YouTube, all on its own, quite comfortably. And even though there isn’t a fan (thus its virtually dead silent all the time), the palm rest area and the keyboard don’t get uncomfortably warm even under heavy load. When coupled wit the 8 GB RAM and the 256 SSD, it handles multitasking situations (virtualization included) really well too. Below is a direct quote of an actual user on Amazon:

“I didn’t experience any noticeable slowdowns during the entirety of my usage. I’m a web developer so the first thing I did was setup one of my development environments. I’m currently running WAMP/mysql and a node.js server with ATOM text editor. Along with those two local servers running I was running Chrome (with varying # of tabs from 7-15) and MySQL Workbench. Everything seemed to be lightning fast with everything opened and moving. The laptop to my surprise also stayed very cool. It warmed slightly in the center towards the bottom of the screen but everywhere my hands were felt cool to the touch.”

So there you go.

The keyboard is comfortable to type on, however it’s not backlit. The track-pad is also not great. Quite a few users have complained that it makes somewhat a loud ‘click’ when tapping. But it registers the gestures well. The speakers are decent. On a single charge, the battery can last anywhere from 6 hours to 8 (in Windows 8.1), depending on your usage. The outer body is a durable, all aluminium shell, and the overall weight is 1.2 kg.

ASUS Zenbook UX305LA

Linux Compatibility

Linux lectureYou can purchase this Ultrabook with either the Intel fifth generation or the Intel sixth generation CPU. Skylake support wasn’t great in Linux, but the recent Kernel 4.4 officially added the support, although there could still be issues. And, not all Linux distributions yet include the Kernel 4.4 by default either. But you might be able to manually upgrade to it, once installed. The upcoming Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Long Term Support) that’s scheduled for April 2016, should include this Kernel.

But if you buy the Ultrabook with the 5th generation Intel Core i5 (5200U), then it seems to work really well in Linux according to few users on Amazon. One says Ubuntu 15.04 works out of the box, and gives a battery life about 6 hours (he doesn’t reveal the conditions though). Another says it works ‘great’. According to a third user, who hasn’t installed Ubuntu on it, says the LiveCD recognized all the hardware devices. Another (his feedback is from January, 2016) mentions that the ‘Sleep’ function doesn’t work correctly sometimes, and that the Intel Wi-Fi adapter also loses its connection every now and then. He fixes it by rebooting, but I think this too one might be able fix by disabling the Wi-Fi power management. Otherwise, it works great in Linux.

Other Features

ASUS Zenbook UX305LA Ultrabook
ASUS Zenbook UX305LA Ultrabook

This Ultrabook also comes with a 13.3 inch (matte) IPS panel that has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s sharp, has good angles, but the color calibration is not as good as compared to the previously discussed Core M Ultrabook. According to a user and an actual reviewer, if you have access to display screen color calibrators such as the Spyder5Express, then you should re-calibrate it using it and the screen will look really good afterwards. The brightness is not as high as the Core M model, but it’s still bright enough even when using outside.

And, when coupled with the 8 GB of RAM and the faster SSD (256 GB), whether you end up with the fifth or the sixth generation of Intel Core i5, this Ultrabook can handle pretty much any heavy multitasking situation comfortably. It does get a little warm when doing CPU & GPU intensive tasks, but under normal situations it stays cool.

The keyboard is nice and comfortable to use, and the keys have a decent travel as well. The downside is that it’s too not backlit, but the newer Skylake models seem to include backlit keyboards. Just like in the Core M model, here too the track-pad seem to be making a loud ‘click’. On a single charge, this one can last anywhere between 7-10 hours under Windows 10 (or sometimes even longer, depending on the workload). This is one of the main characteristics of this Ultrabook. It actually includes a larger battery which is also why it weighs a bit more (100 grams) compared to the Core M model. The overall weight is 1.3 kg and this too has an all aluminium, strong outer body.

Final Words

Even though the article got a bit longer, I hope that I was able to give not just product recommendations, but a good understanding that you can utilize for choosing the best Ultrabook for Linux (laptops included).

And again remember, the greatest strength of Linux is its open community. Therefore, should you run into issues, post your questions in the user forums and someone should be able to point you towards the right direction.

So then, thank you for reading, and I wish you luck with your purchase.

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