Lightweight freedom-friendly laptops

14 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/19/2012

Hi all,

I'm looking around for lightweight laptops that are freedom-friendly,
and I wondered if anyone here has already explored this (which is why
I'm posting here).

I'm have considered a ThinkPenguin laptop, but besides the Royal
Penguin, these are a little too heavy for me, as I will be carrying it
around a lot. The Royal Penguin is still on my list, as it is reasonably
lightweight, has relatively good specs and I trust it will work with
Trisquel 100%.

I was looking at the Chromebook computers, and this computer caught my

The specs aren't fantastic, but should be okay for what I need.

- It's 1.4kg
- it has 2GB RAM (which is slightly limiting, but I can work with that)
- ~4 hrs battery life
- a Celeron 1.1GHz processor (I don't know how slow this will be...)
- 320GB 5400rpm HDD
- It apparently uses HDCP :-(
- Supports coreboot
- No treacherous computing or vPro according to :-)
- Not sure what Wifi card it has. I already have a free software
friendly Atheros PCIe chip, which I'm *hoping* I would be able to use in
this computer (I haven't looked into this yet)

There are also the Lemote Yeeloong laptops, but according to mtjm's
review the 8101B only works for ~2hrs on battery. I'm unsure of what the
availability of the Yeeloong is like, software compatibility might be a
problem (I can't run Trisquel), there is no 3D support, no 802.11n,
noisy fan, and it has only 1GB RAM.

Has anyone else had any success in finding a good lightweight laptop
before? Any insight would be appreciated. :-)



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Joined: 07/27/2010

The Yeeloongs would be kind of cool if not for all the downsides you mentioned.

I think the Royal Penguin would be a really good choice. But if you are looking for something really lightweight, similar to the Leemote machines, there are also Acer netbooks. On H-Node there is a list of Acer note/netbooks that have been reported to have full compatibility with a distribution like Trisquel. Several of those have a screen size similar to the Yeeloongs.

However, a lot of netbooks listed on h-node can only be found in used condition (eBay, etc.). If you want to buy a new laptop, your best chance is checking compatibility on the machine before buying it. Boot it up with a live USB-stick and check for following things: 3D acceleration, Wireless LAN.

If wireless doesn't work, you can use a USB dongle for that (ThinkPenguin has them).


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Joined: 04/23/2011

If you avoid HP, Dell, Lenovo, Apple, IBM/Lenovo, and possibly Sony you can probably avoid the USB dongle. It's just these companies which are using proprietary connectors and/or digital restrictions to make replacing the wifi card difficult.

And... other rules of thumb:

If you want 3d acceleration and decent battery life Intel is the way to go. NVIDIA/ATI graphics are going to be an issue on any systems of the last several generations.


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Joined: 01/11/2011

I'm using an ASUS netbook (1001PX) and it's reasonably fast. It has a nice Matte screen. You can probably find a cheap refurbished version of this netbook.

I mostly disable JavaScript (via NoScript) and Gnash/Lighstspark (I usually use workarounds such as Viewtube, Linterna Magica, youtube-dl, youtube-viewer, Minitube and quvi). For my use the netbook is more than adequate.

Playing 480P and 720P YouTube videos works great via ViewTube or by downloading videos via youtube-dl unless Google changes the API (in which case it doesn't work for a few hours). Gnash does work, but videos are choppy (it looks like a slideshow). The video works with Lightspark but sadly audio does not (it sounds really bad). Lightspark can be useful to find the media URL (via Wireshark) and then view it using SMPlayer.

As for battery life with a 6 cell battery I can get 4-5 hours (or more when connected to external monitor) when using powertop and turning off display when inactive. With a 3 cell battery it is between 2 and 2 and a half hours (but it is much lighter). Apparently there is also a 9 cell battery which might provide longer battery life.

There are a few downsides to the netbook:

It has a b/g wireless card (AR2427) so its reception range is poor. It does work with the Linux-libre kernel.

It has a shared mic/headset port. Not a big deal really as the internal microphone works.

There is no bluetooth. Other ASUS models have bluetooth. I don't use bluetooth these days so it doesn't really matter to me.

The webcamera is really poor (0.3 Megapixel) and the screen resolution is very low (only 1024x600). If you can access an external monitor then the resolution is much higher (e.g. it works with monitors with 1280x1024 resolution). You can always get a much better external webcamera anyway.


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Joined: 09/19/2011

+1 re the Asus netbooks and Trisquel. I've been running this 1015 PE
for years. Too bad I bought it new, and paid the Windows tax; Oh
well... LOL. I get about 5 hours of battery life, even with the wifi
on. It has 1 GB ram, a dual-core Atom CPU w/integrated graphics, 250
SATA hd, analog audio in and out, internal mic/web-cam, and enough USB
for my needs. When participating in audio conferences, I use an
external mic; the internal picks up too much of the computer's internal
noises. Consider looking for a pre-owned one of these machines.


Joined: 05/13/2010

Is this light enough for you?

I've been considering getting one as a calendar. In that context not having network connectivity (out-of-box) would be a plus.

(OK, OK not a laptop exactly)

LibreWRT is the new free distro btw.

Joined: 04/19/2012

On 03/07/13 01:13, Lembas wrote:
> Is this light enough for you?

Wow, that's neat! But perhaps a little too small for my needs. ;-)


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Joined: 04/23/2011

I've got a few. They are neat. I believe there the only devices like it which would really qualify as containing 100% free software.


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Joined: 04/25/2013

I use an Acer Aspire One AO722-BZ454 netbook. It is 11.6" has 4 GBs of RAM and has a dual core AMD C-50 processor. It also weighs only 3.2 pounds (1.45 kg). It works perfectly with Trisquel. The only thing I had to do was swap out the PCIe wireless card with an Atheros one, which is simple as can be. The entire bottom panel comes off and you have access to pretty much all of the components you would want to upgrade. I couldn't be happier with this netbook and it's performance with Trisquel.

Joined: 04/19/2012

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'm going to spend some more time
looking at recent models on h-node to see if any of those models are
still available in my country. But the availability of models seems to
be the biggest problem.

If I can, I will try and get a laptop without Windows on it. But if the
computer comes with Windows, I'll see if I can get my money back
on it this way:



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Joined: 01/11/2011

The netbook I'm using (1001PX) could be purchased with FreeDOS.

Joined: 04/19/2012

On 03/07/13 11:41, alonivtsan wrote:
> The netbook I'm using (1001PX) could be purchased with FreeDOS.

Thanks for the suggestion! That computer specs looks pretty good. It
doesn't have TCPM and doesn't appear to have vPro, according to Unfortunately it looks like it was discontinued two years
ago, so availability won't be so great. eBay might be an option.


Joined: 06/16/2013

What about Acer TravelMate B113-M?

- Intel Core i3-2377M 1.5 GHz
- 4 GB RAM
- Intel HD Graphics 3000
- 11.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768, matte screen
- 500 GB HDD (5400 rpm)
- 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock
- 2-in-1 audio in/out - might be an issue, but hopefully has an integrated mic
- 1.38 kg

It probably does not have Atheros wifi card OOTB, but according to some YouTube videos (i probably cannot post the link to review, nor to YT here), it looks like you can easily access the insides of the laptop and change the battery (read people complaining it's weak) and the wifi card, too. I've seen this model being sold without an OS.

It has Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 wireless card - which Atheros model has the same interface like this card?

Will Broadcom NetLink Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000MBit) work, or does it have to be replaced by an Atheros ethernet, too?


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Joined: 04/23/2011

I didn't look into the broadcom ethernet chipset although it is probably not something you can simply replace. If it was a problem you could buy a USB ethernet adapter though. There are USB 10/100 and 10/100/1000 chipsets that are free software friendly. We sell both..

The batteries are not usually something you can change. That is they are specific to the chesses/motherboard/system. There might be a larger battery though for the model.


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Joined: 07/03/2013

Still rocking the ol' EEE 1000H myself. =P Lovely little machine, and unlike most later netbooks it's just a single large panel to get at the disk, ram and wifi card.
So if you can find one of them used, more power to you.
Although as has been mentioned, lots of netbooks run well with free software, the no-fan X101CH in still avaliable I think. Although it sure isn't upgrade-friendly..