With transistors already approaching their physical limits, many agree that ARM-based CPUs will soon replace x86-based CPUs. For this reason, experienced laptop manufacturers and startup companies have started the race to develop and produce high-quality ARM laptops for the new market.
And since efficiency is the main advantage of an ARM-based laptop, pairing such an efficient CPU with an efficient operating system, such as Linux, is a dream come true for many tech enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for the best Linux laptop that uses a highly efficient SoC (System on Chip), keep reading below for a list of the best ARM Linux laptops you can buy today.
The first on the list is a laptop from PINE64, a company that specializes in ARM-based computers. The Pinebook is a single-board computer aimed at developers and tinkerers looking for an inexpensive ARM laptop they can hack into.
At just under a hundred dollars, the Pinebook comes with all the bells and whistles of a modern laptop. What you get is a 1080p IPS display, two USB ports, a 16GB eMMC storage with bootable microSD, stereo speakers, a keyboard and a single board computer powered by an Allwinner A64 processor and 2GB RAM.
Equipped with energy-efficient components, PINE64 has achieved a sleek, lightweight and quiet machine with its Pinebook. Users will also be pleased with the laptop’s eight to 10 hours of playtime, which you can charge via the dedicated charger or a 5V power bank.
With performance comparable to that of a Raspberry Pi, the Pinebook is not something you would want to drive on a daily basis. That said, the Pinebook is an excellent machine for a variety of uses, such as configuring a server over SSH, testing and development, scripting, and as an educational tool for learning Linux and BSD.
The Pinebook currently supports many flavors of Linux, including Manjaro, Armbian, Kali, DietPi, Slackware, RISC OS, Android 6.x, and ASoC.
- Processor: Quad-core Allwinner A64 @ 1.152GHz
- RAM: 2GB DDR3 RAM
- Storage: microSD and 16GB eMMC
- Display: 1080p IPS panel
- Ports: 2x USB 2, barrel jack (charging), 3.5 headphone jack
Since many gaming and productivity software only get Windows support, many people simply can’t use Linux as their primary operating system. Fortunately, PINE64 again comes with a budget option for an ARM laptop that you can use as a dedicated Linux machine: the Pinebook Pro.
Powered by a Rockchip RK99 SoC, the Pinebook Pro offers enough performance for everyday Linux tasks while keeping the price low. Inside the SoC is a Hexa-core processor consisting of a 4-core Cortex-A53 and a 2-core Cortex-A72. The ARM processor comes with a Mali T860 for its GPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, and an M.2 NVMe SSD slot.
The Pinebook Pro has a magnesium alloy body, a 1080p IPS display, a 1080p front camera, three USB ports (USB-2, USB-3, USB-C), a large trackpad and a 10,000 mAh battery.
If you plan to use the Pinebook Pro to watch movies, the USB Type-C equipped in this machine can output video at 4K resolution at 60Hz for a better viewing experience. To ensure complete privacy, Pinebook Pro also comes with security switches for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, webcam and microphone.
With all the features packed into this device and full community and manufacturer support, the Pinebook Pro is an attractive alternative for those looking for mid-tier laptops as their Linux machine.
- Processor: Hexa-core Rockchip RK3399 (4-core Cortex-A53 and 2-core Cortex-A72)
- GPU: Mali T860
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 64 GB eMMC, optional M.2 NVMe expansion
- Display: 1080p IPS panel
- Ports: 1x USB 2, 1x USB 3, 1x USB-C, Ethernet, HDMI, barrel jack (charging), 3.5 headphone jack
Offering a different kind of laptop experience, MNT Reform is a unique ARM-based laptop made especially for those who value their right to repair and privacy.
MNT Reform does not follow the conventional ideas of a modern laptop. This machine is thick, uses a trackball system, runs on 18650 batteries and comes without a microphone and camera. It runs on a Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, a Vivante GC70000Lite GPU, 4 GB RAM and 16 GB eMMC storage.
MNT Reform has a 12.5-inch IPS 1080p display, Khail Choc Brown mechanical keyboard switches, a trackball system, a black anodized aluminum housing, and a programmable system controller with an OLED display.
What makes MNT Reform such a fun machine is its emphasis on recoverability and full ownership of your device. This laptop is built to last!
With an aluminum housing, replaceable batteries, a modular and purposefully simple design and complete documentation, you can easily upgrade, repair, modify and program MNT Reform.
MNT Reform comes with the latest Debian version and comes pre-installed with all the basics like Mozilla Firefox or Chromium (web browser), Evolution (email client), Libre Office (document, spreadsheet and presentations), GIMP and Inkscape (image editor) and Ardor (audio and music production).
- Processor: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53
- GPU: Vivante GC7000Lite GPU
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 16GB eMMC, M.2 SSD expansion slot, 32GB microSD
- Ports: 3x USB 3.0 type-A SuperSpeed ports, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, barrel jack, 3.5 headphone jack
- Display: Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) 12.5″ IPS eDP display
Huawei has finally made its first ARM-based laptop running Linux natively! The Qingyun L410 is a modern laptop with the same form factor as a MateBook 14. This laptop is a business model designed as a secure machine for performing various office-related tasks.
The Qingyun L410 is powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 990 SoC, the same SoC used in Huawei’s flagship smartphones. This SoC features an impressive Octa-core Cortex processor and a Mali-G76 GPU. The base model is configured with 8 GB LPDDR4 RAM, 256 GB SSD and comes standard with Huawei’s Unity OS.
Designed for use in corporate and certain government institutions, the Qingyun L410 is secured with its ARM-based SoC, pop-up 720p front camera and fingerprint reader. Users will also have no problem keeping an eye on their screen for extended periods of time, as the laptop is equipped with a 14-inch 2K display with a 3:2 aspect ratio.
While you might consider Huawei’s Qingyun L410 to be the most powerful ARM laptop on this list, it might be harder to find one outside of China.
Another disadvantage of this laptop is that you will have a hard time with repairs. Unlike the others on this list, the manufacturer doesn’t provide you with any documentation on how the machine was designed, plus additional parts and even donor boards will likely be in short supply.
- Processor: Octa-core Cortex (2x Cortex-A76, 2x Cortex-A76, 4x Cortex-A55)
- GPU: 16-core Mali-G76
- RAM: 8GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 256 to 512 GB SSD
- Display: 14-inch 2K 3:2 aspect ratio
Is an ARM laptop for everyone?
An ARM-based laptop has several advantages over x86-based laptops. Some of the key benefits include excellent battery life, lighter weight, slimmer form factor, and better future-proofing, as software optimizations can unlock many of the RISC (Reduced Instruction Set) benefits.
While ARM processors will inevitably outpace x86 processors in the future, ARM-based laptops won’t surpass the raw performance capabilities of x86-based laptops for now.
This means that an ARM-based laptop is currently not suitable for performance-intensive tasks such as video editing, gaming and CAD (Computer-Aided Design). So for gamers, designers and video editors, an ARM based laptop will not be suitable.
However, ARM-based laptops are great for an on-the-go lifestyle. So if you’re a writer, accountant, cybersecurity personnel or developer, the long battery life, slim form factor and lighter weight will suit your lifestyle.