When you start shopping for a new computer or laptop, chances are that most of the models available to you will come readily equipped with the latest version of Windows or macOS. With the latter being limited to Apple’s own pre-built machines, the choice typically comes down to Windows and Linux. Most gaming enthusiasts recognize Linux as the operating system (OS) found in cars, home appliances, smartphones, and other devices. Unless you use your gaming PC for nothing else aside from gaming, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind when choosing an operating system for your laptop. In this guide, we explore the strengths and weaknesses of Linux to help you decide whether it should be used on a gaming laptop.

What is Linux?

Linux might be a lesser-known operating system in the gaming world, but it actually represents a family of free and open-source software operating systems that have been around since 1991. While studying computer science at the University of Helsinki, Finnish student Linus Torvalds sought to create a free OS kernel so that he could reap all the functions of his PC with the Intel’s 386 microprocessor. In 1992, the kernel was released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Linux manages the communication between the software and the hardware in your laptop, but it is also widely used outside of the PC arena. All versions of Linux are known as different distributions or “distros” that are designed to suit every type of user. Some examples include Ubuntu, Fedora, and Debian, just to name a few.

Should Linux Be on a Gaming Laptop?

Despite what might have held true 10 years ago, Linux has proved to be a viable gaming platform. There are several reasons why you might decide to use Linux as your operating system of choice. To start, the Linux interface is highly customizable. Thanks to its open-source nature, you can configure all desktop display settings, tweak distro kits to match your PC hardware, reduce boot time, and so much more. With a steeper learning curve than Windows, this advanced OS may be ideally suited for someone who is particularly tech-savvy or has a basic understanding of computer software. Like Windows, Linux is also suited to everyday tasks such as browsing the web.

With less than 2% of the market share, most game developers have been wary of working with Linux or producing Linux-compatible games. As a result, you may still find it difficult to play some of the most talked-about games of the year on your Linux-based laptop. As of 2018, there are over 5,000 Linux games available just on Steam. 5,000 may pale in comparison to the 20,000 Windows games that are available, but Linux-compatible games continue to rise. Soon, PC gamers will have to decide what matters most to them: the ease of use and fewer game compatibility issues or the more advanced features that Linux has to offer over Windows.

Another important factor in your decision is the price. Windows is a commercial piece of software, so you will have to pay between $100 – $200 no matter what when you buy a new gaming laptop or run out of free upgrades. Linux, on the other hand, is completely free across the vast majority of distributions. If you do decide that Linux is the best OS for your playing style and preferences, there are plenty of places to find officially supported games. Most game clients of Linux can be easily installed. Alternatively, you can download games from Steam or another digital distribution platform that supports Linux. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. We hope that this article highlights most of the strengths and weaknesses you have heard about Linux.