I do pretty much all of my development work on my desktop computer but I still need a laptop for those times I just want to work from the sofa or for when I am travelling. It doesn’t need to be massively powerful or have a great spec but I do need it to be small and light.
In April 2018, when I was still doing macOS development, I bought a 12” MacBook. It was very small and light and definitely powerful enough (I bought the top-of-the-line model which cost £2,000). The only real down-side to it was the terrible keyboard that Apple was making back then.
Two years later I had started using Linux but I was working for Sketch and still needed a Mac computer to occasionally run Sketch itself even though I was now a backend developer writing Elixir code. However I wanted to play around with Linux distributions and after some research came across StarLabs and their StarLite laptop.
Finding companies who sell laptops with Linux is not terribly easy and in a post-Brexit UK where import duties from Europe suddenly make imports noticeably more expensive it becomes even harder. StarLabs would have been a great discovery as just a UK-based supplier of Linux laptops but they are also very helpful and friendly which makes it a joy to buy from them and support them.
My StarLite cost me £360 which was an absolute bargain after 15 years of buying apple computers and worth it have a machine I could play around on and inevitably break things and need to do clean installs. The laptop I got was a second generation machine.
I fell in love with it and was astonished at the build quality for the price and it was a perfectly capable laptop for me. It ran all of the software I needed it to and any performance trade-offs were minimal. Rather than writing a detailed review I’ll point you to Gadgetoid’s review of the 3rd generation StarLite which I think sums it all up brilliantly (although I disagree with him about the keyboard which I really liked).
Fast forward another couple of years and this morning my 4th generation StarLite arrived and I couldn’t be happier. £400 for a perfectly capable, extremely well built laptop is extraordinary. For now I’ll be installing Fedora on it and continuing to use my 2nd generation StarLite to play around with NixOS (which is another story I will blog about at some point).
If you want to dip your toe into the world of Linux or are looking for an affordable, well built, capable laptop which is streets ahead of the low-end machines created by the usual computer manufacturers then I highly recommend StarLabs and the StarLite. And no, all this gushing about them is not sponsored or in return for a free machine… it’s just genuine praise from a very happy customer.