Linux laptop for gaming with minimum fuss

Discussion in 'Linux Compatibility and Software' started by imrazor, Aug 30, 2018.

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  1. imrazor

    imrazor Notebook Geek

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    Since Valve released Steam Play, Linux looks a lot more viable as a gaming platform. I've had pretty good luck with my desktop (Ryzen 7 1700 + RX 580 8GB), but have been having a miserable time getting Vulkan+WINE+DXVK working on any of my laptops. One is a Dell Inspiron 7567 with an NVidia 1050 Ti (Optimus, blech, not switchable in BIOS) and a Dell Precision M6600 with an AMD FirePro M6100. I had much more luck with the Precision than the Inspiron thanks to non-existent Vulkan support on Optimus GPUs. I had a bit more luck with the AMD GPU, but amdgpu/vulkan support was highly experimental and buggy thanks to the video card's age.

    Does anyone know of a gaming laptop with decent specs, but without frigging Optimus that I can use DXVK and WINE with? I'd also like one that doesn't require that I spin on my head three times widdershins to get Vulkan working. I realize that's part of the joy of Linux, but I'd like to get gaming support without losing my mind. I realize that brand spanking new hardware can have compatibility issues with Linux, so I'm willing to explore the second hand market.
     
  2. kingofswag187

    kingofswag187 Notebook Deity

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    hAhA juSt uSe WinDows lol xD

    No, but in all seriousness, check out System76, any laptop they sell is guarnteed to run a Distro, but at the cost of being inflated pricewise, you'll likely be able to find the same laptop cheaper but have to go the through the hassle of installing a distro.
    Steam Play does look interesting, but I have no interest in using Linux personally
     
  3. Dennismungai

    Dennismungai Notebook Deity

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    Now that you've mentioned the need for a gaming laptop with Linux, and preferably without Optimus onboard, take a look at the following options:

    1. MSI 16L3, the same chassis that Eurocom uses for the Tornado F5.

    2. For BGA (based on Skylake, no Optimus): Take a look at the MSI GT62VR 6RE Dominator Pro.

    Both systems are strikingly familiar in terms of I/O options and looks, but as for the internals, the first will net you an LGA1151 socketed processor (up to 7700k, Kabylake) whereas the latter will net you the older 6700HQ.

    Also, take a look at this thread for what to expect.

    Why I recommend them:

    Personal experience. I've used the F5 (before I switched over to the P751DM2-G) and configured the latter (the GT62VR 6RE) for a client, and both systems run Linux flawlessly. They're also a bit aged, and as such, modern Linux distros support them well.
    Heat management is also excellent, in my opinion (as tested on the F5 with a delidded 7700k).
    The performance of both systems for general purpose tasks is also adequate, and are also easy to maintain over time. Their assembly is quite straight-forward.

    The only hitch you may run into is getting surround sound to work with the in-built sound card and an external 5.1/7.1 system, such as the Logitech Z506, an issue that's readily solved with tools such as hdajackretask.
    You can use this as a starting point.

    For other tweaks you may find useful, give this a try. You can also refer to this (almost identical, should merge them anyways).

    Brands I would not recommend for Linux gaming:

    There are some specific brands I would NEVER recommend for linux gaming, even when they meet current generation requirements for gaming.
    Key among them: Lenovo Thinkpads with or without discrete GPUs (due to poor thermal management and imminent throttling) and the current line of Lenovo Y-series gaming laptops (due to iffy BIOSes that misbehave under Linux, making for a frustrating experience).
    Lenovo, for one, seems to have given up on proper Linux support as far as their consumer lines are concerned.

    Other viable alternatives:

    Recent Dell G-series laptops are very well supported on Linux, primarily due to Dell's commitments to mainlining functions such as firmware updates via fwupd , decent peripheral support (for things such as Thunderbolt, etc), due to them benefiting from the results of project sputnik.
    It's a welcome side-effect.

    I'd want to clarify at this point that despite endorsing Dell here, I cannot, in good faith, recommend the Alienware line (Azor's turdbooks) for multiple issues such as declining quality control over time and blatant price-gouging. Search around these forums and you'll see why.

    General rules of thumb for minimal pain when gaming on Linux:

    Look out for the following features to avoid, primarily:

    1. NVIDIA Optimus and AMD's Enduro. Switchable graphics on Linux has come a long way, and this progress is appreciated. However, it can be too much of a hassle to get everything working properly, primarily on offload rendering via PRIME.

    2. A fully locked BIOS will also not do you much good, especially if you need tuning for functions such as undervolting, etc. However, this can be overlooked IF the system of choice offers somewhat sufficient cooling and sane fan control defaults.

    3. Broadcom wireless cards: Though this isn't common anymore (as they're being phased out by cheaper Intel and Qualcomm Atheros parts), its' good to highlight Broadcom's open hostility towards FOSS drivers for their adapters.

    Good luck.
     
  4. imrazor

    imrazor Notebook Geek

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    @Grant B Gibson I'm aware of System 76, but their prices seem kind of high. E.g., Their base model GTX 1060 laptop is US$1500. Might be worth it for the Linux support, though.

    @Dennismungai Thanks for the detailed rundown. Are either of the MSI laptops still available at retail outlets?

    My Inspiron 7567 is the predecessor to the Dell G3/5/7 line. I like it except for the Optimus part. Do those laptops not have Optimus?

    I'm not worried about surround sound, my setup is 2.0. Stereo only here.

    I know the pain of Broadcom WiFi. Unfortunately most OEMs just put 802.11ac on the spec sheet and swap out whatever module is cheapest at assembly time.
     
  5. kingofswag187

    kingofswag187 Notebook Deity

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    I was saying check them out and see what they have to offer, then order the same laptop cheaper from somwhere else
     
  6. Dennismungai

    Dennismungai Notebook Deity

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    You're welcome.

    Let me confirm and I'll get back to you. @Eurocom Support likely has the chassis still in stock.

    Optimus seems likely. Assuming they've recycled this chassis, like its' predecessor, this feature is most likely present.

    And this is why I encourage people to do a bit of research before splashing money on new hardware. Laptop vendors are notorious for cutting corners here, so a bit of due diligence on our part is needed.
     
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  7. imrazor

    imrazor Notebook Geek

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    I "solved" the Optimus problem under Linux. Instead of screwing around with bumblebee or primus, I used Nvidia's PRIME solution outlined here: https://devtalk.nvidia.com/default/topic/957814/linux/prime-and-prime-synchronization/

    For whatever reason, neither Ubuntu nor Fedora would install on my Inspiron 7567. Debian Buster installed easily enough though. I then followed this guide with a couple of important additions. I added "DRI_PRIME=1" to /etc/environment and "nvidia-drm.modeset=1" to my kernel options. My desktop environment is now pure Nvidia, with the Intel iGPU shoved to the side. Bad for battery life, I know, but 99% of the time I'm tethered to a power outlet anyway.

    So far I've gotten Skyrim SE running at 45 - 55 fps with DX11 to Vulkan translation, but have so far struck out with Divinity Original Sin 2.

    For now I'll skip a new laptop, though a System76 notebook is tempting to just have support and someone to yell at. ;)
     
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