Can laptops really linux?

Hey y’all. most posts I’ve made here in the past couple years have been me trying to get a cursed T495 to work.

It’s been touch and go with this thing. here’s a recap:

  • It won’t undock without losing all of its USB functionality until a reboot.
  • it would lose it’s USB function intermittently (seemingly unrelated, occasionally fixed with power settings)
  • it will crash 75% of the time it’s suspended
  • the screen has ghosting
  • the audio just crashes until reboot occasionally

I have done all of the recommended fixes I could find everywhere and this goddamn thing just won’t seem to stay working. I fear I bought a lemon.

I like to do all of my non-gaming, non-music production in linux, but these couple years with this cursed laptop have really slowed all of that down. I miss it dearly, and I want to feel like I can be productive again like I used to be. Linux is my favorite way to get things done.

Now I’m dreaming of a system76 or a framework, but I’m also kinda just worrying that a better world isn’t possible. I’m so confused by the amount of people who say that they use linux on a T495 seamlessly. Or that they say “I love my linux laptop. everything works except (insert absolutely vital functionality)”

Is linux running reliably on some laptops? Is it a crapshoot? am I catastrophizing? Can I really just get a freaking working laptop and expect it to work reliably between occasional update hiccups?

I just wish this T495 would do what it’s supposed to. It should be much simpler than this!

I’m not using it much at the moment, and I haven’t configured all the “laptop” functions (power management etc,.), but works on Asus Rog Strix AMD Advantage. Does seem to generally work…Can’t comment directly on your cursed machine…

I mean it depends heavily on the specific laptop, but even now I’m typing to your from what many would consider a not so linux friendly laptop (acer predator) and everything, even the turbo button (with an out of tree module at least), works nearly perfectly.

There are some quircks from time to time. My microphone just recently stopped working all together inside qutebrowser (but it still works in chrome), but mostly things are pretty darn stable.

I also feel like NixOS helps a lot with this, since once you have figured out exactly how to fix a problem, its stays fixed, which is definitely not my experience with other distros.


I’ve been using linux on my work laptop (and desktop for that matter) for over 10 years on different makes and models.

The fingerprint reader doesn’t work on my current device, but otherwise all good.


As others have said, it really depends on the specific laptop. But the answer is yes, definitely.

I’m using a Surface Laptop 4 with NixOS. Admittedly, I am running out-of-tree patches and a handful of lines of Nix overlay for setting up a newer version of iptsd that hasn’t cut a release yet. That having been said, the experience is generally fantastic. Newer kernels seem to have netted me much better battery life when idling, and S0ix seems to work just fine as normal suspend for me, which is what I want. The Intel GPU works well with SwayWM/Wayland with the open source drivers. I do not have any issues, at all, with kernel panics or the machine hanging.

I’d argue Surface Laptop 4 is actually a pretty bad choice of laptop, and yet it wasn’t really that hard to get a usable setup going with it. There are some much worse options, but there’s also much better options.

Honestly, most laptop hardware is designed and tested only with Windows all the way down the stack, and all of the Linux fixes and testing are a community effort. Sometimes the community effort is very good and thus support is solid, and sometimes it is not. If you really want to be more sure, you’d be best off going with a laptop that is at least known to have excellent Linux support, if not a vendor that explicitly tries to support Linux. The latter will cost more (stuff like System76) but the former is probably good enough (I’ve heard Framework works pretty well for example.)

As far as the specifics go, things have even improved in some regards since the “old days” of Linux on laptops. In the past, it used to be really hit or miss whether you could get WiFi working reliably on any given laptop. This is a very different story today; if you are running the latest Linux kernel with all of the firmware packages installed, the vast majority of popular WiFi chipsets seem to work well, and I can’t remember the last time I was given serious grief by a WiFi chipset under Linux. Of course, YMMV…

Audio can be a problem here and there. I don’t really know what the audio hardware situation looks like in detail these days, but some modern Intel systems have some kind of DSP that you have to use to get full audio support and the open source firmware can be buggy (I especially had issues with audio hanging on a, IIRC, Comet Lake based machine… I was able to mostly work around it by disabling suspend-on-idle in PulseAudio, but that’s far from ideal. My Tiger Lake Surface Laptop hasn’t had any issues like that.)

I actually have no idea how things are for hybrid GPU setups. I’d guess it’s still a mess. In general I have issues getting suspend to work at all on machines with NVIDIA graphics using the proprietary driver. Not really sure why, debugging suspend issues is frustrating. AMD and Intel graphics have worked exceedingly well for me, but I do not have any laptops with AMD graphics, so I’m not sure how those fare. Yet again: YMMV.

It’s pretty unsatisfying, but the answer is 100% “it depends.”

A good quality Thunderbolt 3/4 dock has always been fairly reliable for me, with fewer quirks than USB docks or the old Lenovo proprietary ones.

As for the other issues, I think you may indeed have bought a lemon. It is not usually this hard, and I’ve never had a rough experience like that with a Linux laptop/desktop vendor. (I’ve used Dell and System76, and my understanding is that HP’s new Linux laptop is basically the same hardware as their a EliteBooks, which I use at work and seem quite reliable.

As sad as it is, I wouldn’t go with a ThinkPad these days, in favor of vendors that actually support Linux. That way you don’t have to ask yourself all this about whether it’s really a hardware issue or a Linux one.

After using it on a lot of laptops, my answer to this is “depends on model and time”, so in a way stars needs to align in order to have a reliable system. You won’t know what will next kernel upgrade bring.

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I have had a lot of success on my X1 Carbon Gen7, across multiple distributions and now NixOS. I’ve never had any issues with USB like you’re mentioning, and for years have worked with a thunderbolt dock. Maybe this experience is improved over yours by it being an Intel system, or maybe as mentioned above you have a lemon.

My only real complaint is battery life, which is made worse by multiple factors. In this respect Windows is better than Linux, and other distributions are better than NixOS. This model doesn’t have stellar battery life to begin with.

That said, I think if you want to run Linux on a laptop you are going to inevitably run into some pain. The question is, are the pains too great for your tolerance? Only you can make this decision, but not all laptops have the problems you are mentioning.

T480 user here.

No problems with Linux on this machine. (Never tried the fingerprint reader.) Never specifically configured anything on it besides a basic Gnome or i3 wm install.

However, it has a replaceable wifi card and when I bought the laptop I upgraded to the latest intel wifi I could find. (Also popped in a 64gb ram kit, aha)

I’m really digging this ThinkPad. It wasn’t a bad deal (bought new in box for a couple hundred) and unfortunately I’m thinking of getting another one. I have a bit of a cheap panel, which can be upgraded to IPS, but I would like to get a model with OLED. Another reason is this is only a quad core machine; the 6 core Xeons go for cheap sometimes on the fleabay, and they take up to 128gb ECC ram as I understand it.

If you would like to visit my church (here:, you may ask the greeters what models they would recommend for your use case. I like Linux compatibility and serviceability.

Just be careful, you will be evangelised! :computer::latin_cross:

I have found this tutorial for getting my fingerprint sensor working and have made it my goal to share it with t480 users GitHub - ahbnr/nixos-06cb-009a-fingerprint-sensor: Nix flake for driving the 06cb:009a fingerprint sensor on NixOS

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“Random crashes” are very typically hardware issues. You could try to dual boot windows for some time to see if the same problems arise with it.

my one year pc-shop + a few years internal IT experience would be: You probably have a cursed (broken) notebook :frowning_face:
It’s definitively not “normal” to have crashes every now and then! The problem is that figuring out the problem for “crashes every now and then” can take somewhere from a few hours to days (the reason I call them cursed). These kinds of bugs are not related to linux, such problems happen with windows/mac aswell.
If you already tried debugging the problem where you unplug your docking station (the one reproducable thing!) I’d go for a new device…

There might be problems now and then with linux (e.g. the newest kernel looses a dock-connected display after hibernate on my amd laptop), but the issues you describe happen on windows and mac aswell (mac has even started to introduce a lot of software related issues in the last few years!).

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