Looking for a new PC

Published on

🤔 What's best for a new desktop computer with GNU/Linux nowadays? I'm looking for performances (CG arts/Krita), only Free/Libre drivers and around 1K€... Hard to find trusty info... If you have advice/recommendations, please let me know. 👍 (I also asked on social medias, I'll report later what options I found attractive.)

Previous post Next post
License: CC BY
David Revoy, www.davidrevoy.com, .
Unless otherwise mentioned in the article.

Tags:  #sketch  #news  

Corrections and improvements are welcome:

Download article source  


link Vinay   - Reply

Obviously my (graphic) demands are by no means as high as yours but then again my tech skills aren't on par either. I recently bought a PineBook Pro, actually from the first batch. It is a FOSS project so that might resonate with you. Obviously you're not looking for a laptop at this point, but they primarily make single board computers based on an ARM processor. Some eventually take the guise of a cellphone, a laptop or even a FOSS soldering iron so it may be doable to turn it into your perfect desktop computer!

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

True, I'm looking for a Desktop PC, a solid base I can upgrade on the next 10 years (so, I have to choose carefully and invest in priority into motherboard+case+CPU ; all other part are easier to upgrade/switch).
I'll need empty slot to upgrade RAM later; a discrete GPU with a PCI port that is modern enough to be still supported later, a motherboard that has not too many firmware for running audio/wifi chipset...etc...

link bunu   - Reply

A system with intel wifi/BT and amd graphics should work just fine out of the box since those drivers are in the kernel. Unless you mean RMS style of FLOSS, then I have no idea. The build below should easily be doable with your budget

I would suggest
- Ryzen 3600 or 3700x (if you want the cores)
- B450 or B550 motherboard with intel wifi/BT or intel ethernet
- 16 gb of 3200 mhz ram. Maybe you can make use of 32 GB or more because of your work
- You can get AMD Radeon 400 or 500 series card for extemely cheap now or wait until Big Navi to come out to get first gen Navi (RX 5500, 5600, or 5700 series) for cheap. AMD graphics are plug and play now.
- 650-750 watt power supply. It's prob overkill but it's better to get something with more power so you can upgrade parts without worry.

link auie   - Reply

I second that.
If you can wait two weeks, the new Ryzen 5000 series should come out with nice performance boost over the 3000 series. Expect guides to be updated to include the 5000s, or you can stick with a 3600/3700x that will hopefully be cheaper then.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Thank you @bunu for the very detailed specification; it helps!

Sure, I'll not be intolerant against non-free firmware; I don't have probably the budget for that. I'm looking for FOSS friendly install hardware and robust in priority. The only FSF certified hardware I had in my collect of link (from Mastodon thread) was https://store.vikings.net/libre-friendly-hardware/d8ryf ; and this one doesn't support a discrete GPU, use Opteron CPUs and still DDR3... That's a leap to the past. That's why the 100% pure free/libre is not an option if it is not something available or already setup by a vendor (Purism, unfortunately only have a "Mini" offer, with no discrete GPU)...
I think my main requirement about Free/Libre is to avoid Nvidia proprietary driver: I have on my (dying) setup this GeForce GTX 650Ti of 2014 (an upgrade of the original GPU in the Dell Vostro 430 from 2010) and it has been more and more problematic over the years with Nvidia proprietary driver; as if Nvidia were neglecting the support of older hardware in their driver. A contributor of Pepper&Carrot also have this issue on the chat with an old Nvidia card. Nouveau is not working well enought to make CG and Cannonical policy for Nvidia drivers is now to put a long driver selector with 5 or 6 choices of proprietary (from nvidia-340 to nvidia-450) and let user pick the one that does less bugs on their computer. Very sketchy and not serious situation for a workstation, imo.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

@auie: Sure I can wait a bit ; two weeks sounds now a bit long, I guess. I'm a bit like in last moment of life of my actual computer. It's been month I started to notice issue: I have mainly bad capacitor (a bit inflating) on motherboard next to the heat sink, and I guess also ones (hidden) in the Power block box. Both are from part from the original Vostro 430 I bought in 2010 and were used almost daily since that time; good hardware for that long usage (was renderfarm of 6years of Pepper&Carrot, hundreds page of comics, saw Tears of Steel, Cosmos Landromat, Spring) I can't blame this hardware to get a peaceful EOL soon. I bought it on DELL Pro configurator when they had a Ubuntu certified list of hardware for small enterprise, maybe around 1300€ for i7-870 8 x 2.93GHz (still awesome CPU) 4GB Ram (extend to 8GB then 16GB) and a small Nvidia GPU (upgraded later to the GTX650Ti). No regrets. I might have a look again on Dell PRO now I'm thinking but last time I visited the website was full on Win10 propaganda and Linux hardware were now reserved for super computers over 5000€, for science and math simulation...meh

For the issue of my old machine: two weeks ago I had to disconnect 2 or 3 USB to power up the machine, now it is all USB (5 or 6) and it sounds like next week it will require me to unplug more until the thing will not be able to boot at all. Recording my desktop or going live now always lead to instant reboot (eg. the black out I had during the FSF Bday livestream) and finishing the books with this type of machine (and all the mini video for release) was a pain. Nvidia-driver stack up on this pile with crashes and issues (choosing between a stable Kwin or a Blender with AA on the viewport and brush outline for Grease Pencil). So yep, changing Motherboard, GPU, Power block... That's why I'm really looking to change the whole thing. :-)

link Bohdan   - Reply

Just wanted to tell that you can replace all the electrolytic capacitors on your motherboard and power supply unit by yourself. That's really cheap and easy. Or nearest PC repair shop can do the same for you for slightly higher price (but you'll miss the fun of doing it yourself). 90% or so probability that your old PC will feel well again after that. So you can use it as a second PC after you buy a new one (which will be 2-3x faster then older one I assume, 10 years is quite a lot for a PC).

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

That's a good idea with the old one; I have nothing to loose and if I succeed it will be a second life for a machine for my family or transforming it in a Nextcloud/NAS home server with a economic Power supply unit. That will be DIY project for 2021 :) Thanks for the idea.

link Nicolas Mirkovic   - Reply



Premier lien (tuxedo) : plus de choix et plus accessible ! Les deux proposent des systèmes ouverts et uniquement Linux, un bios

link Andreas   - Reply

If you want to be sure of the driver support, i can recommend Tuxedo and System76 also. Tuxedo has a little plus here: More possibilities in configuration and the gurantee can be sized up to five years. Its also a german company and mabye more accessible from french, but this is just a guess. Also very important: Tuxedo is a huge supporter/sponsor on many open source projects and events (see: https://www.tuxedocomputers.com/en/Sponsoring.tuxedo#) with a history of more than 15 years.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Yes, I know Tuxedo pretty well. Long story: I had email discussion with the team maybe two years ago. We tried to work together in the past for sponsoring Pepper&Carrot episodes (very nice) but I received a hardware that wasn't good for computer graphic at the end (I tried hard to adapt, but no; I couldn't paint with it) and instead of posting a negative review and story on my blog, I prefered to send back the unit. I know it wasn't their fault; just a hardware not adapted to my need. Probably a good laptop to compile software, or play games. I also love what they do, it was more like a unfortunate situation of hardware/software stack incompatibility for my very intense needing of realtime graphic perf... Then they changed employee in relation with me while I sent back, then I tried to propose to continue and visit their office in Germany to setup a PC customised with them, then COVID and situation was a bit lost in the blue since many month now... I'll look at their website and try to recontact them. This idea to visit office in Germany was great; so I could try the config and tweak for best Krita performance; but it was also hard to organize: trip, how to bring back the unit, how to find time, should it be filmed?... And now with pandemie, it is super complicated. I lost hope but on the photos of my workstation in my Kubuntu articles, you can still see a little plushy of a penguion on my lamp: it comes from a gift of them and I really like it. I'll defintely try to look at their configurator.

About System76 see what I replied under to yaomtc, too bad!

Thanks for the idea and recommendation!

link yaomtc   - Reply

If you're looking for something pre-built with Linux, System76 are the best: https://system76.com/

If you're looking for a slightly lower price, Dell offers their line of Precision tower workstations with Ubuntu pre-installed: https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/overview/cp/linuxsystems

Judging by the illustration perhaps you're looking to build something yourself. In that case, maybe take a look at reddit.com/r/LinuxHardware, some good resources there.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Thank you for the link. I just replied above my awesome experience with the Dell I bought ten years ago and I still type on it.
Unfortunately, the Precision Tower / Linux systems is only a U.S. offer; as soon as I put the language to France; only Windows 10 is proposed now and Dell shows big parternship with Intel CPU (I might want to avoid Intel CPU, just tired off all I read about Intel that I would prefer if my money don't feed this monster).
About System76: expensive for my budget, a quick setup as I want goes immediately to $1600/1300€. They have lovely case, a good FLOSS reputation and the service worth it certainly. But anyway: "Thelio is currently only available to ship in North America." (src: https://system76.com/shipping ) that directly ease not looking at their catalog if I need something for the south of France.

link zan   - Reply

There are a couple milestones in the degree of "free/libre" you want:

The last blob-free wifi cards were the ath9k Qualcomm chips which support 802.11n.

The last chipset you can ME-clean reliably is Kabylake from 2016. Anything since then has the Intel ME or AMD PSP as a proprietary backdoor in firmware and on die.

There hasn't been a desktop board made in 5+ years that works on Coreboot or if you want to go no blobs Libreboot. So performance is kind of right out.

On graphics you are stuck on Intel if you want no blobs, otherwise AMD is a (good) option.

I don't think there are any SSDs or modern HDDs without proprietary firmware.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Thank you for pointing the references and type of firmware they contains.
As I just answered on a comment above; I'll not go pure 100%FLOSS for that type of firmware that easy installs.
I mainly want to avoid Nvidia-proprietary-drivers. So, yep: probably a AMD workstation with discrete AMD GPU.

link InfoLibre   - Reply

Vous pouvez regarder sur https://doc.ubuntu-fr.org/ordinateur_compatible_ubuntu

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Ha, merci. Je ne savais pas que c'était à jour et l'historique est formel; c'est maintenu.
Ca va m'aider à trouver des petits vendeurs locaux et certifié ou au moins compatible; j'aime le principe. 👍

link InfoLibre   - Reply

Pour a puissance, il y a plusieurs indicateurs, par exemple https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php
Sinon, écran mat/brillant, clavier avec/sans pavé numérique, bruit, autonomie, facilité d'accès aux composants internes pour la maintenance (changement de pâte thermique, nettoyage ventilateur).

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Oui, précieux ce genre de site pour CPU et aussi GPU. Je suis content de voir que ça existe toujours car j'utilisais beaucoup de 2005 à 2010;
Ca me permet de comparer les performances entre des numéros de série parfois très cryptique.

link PO   - Reply

I am using open software more and more (mainly Krita and Blender) and thinking of the real benefits of making a switch from osx (my mac is 10 years old now) to Linux. I never thought the hardware could have such an impact on the performance. From what I've been reading so far, it's all a bit confusing (Nvidia vs Radeon, AMD vs Intel, ...) and I feel we need to be careful with what is more Linux friendly and which combination gives best performance.

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

PO: Yes, it is confusing and complex. A truth I experienced over the years: hardware compatibility can really transform your experience of using a Linux based system. I have here the Librem15 laptop from Purism (you'll find on my blog the review) and this one was built to be 100% compatible and driver were fine tuned by Purism team and all backported to Debian (the root of Mint/Ubuntu, and what reaches Debian often spread in all other distro too). Result: a no problem experience; everything just work, I can install any distro on it, it will always offer a good experience. But that's not unfortunately the case with all hardware: firmware, proprietary drivers, bad FLOSS driver too can transform a cool hardware into a big problem to maintain, workaround and use. That's why finding a perfect setup is important to me; because I know if I study it well, I'll have hopefully peacefull ten years ahead of using my computer. :-)
I'll publish my results (if it is valid and not a too big temporary compromise, I never know).

link PO   - Reply

Will be following this thread for sure!

link Jo   - Reply

Il y a aussi les PC LDLC. Il faut monter l'ordinateur soit même mais ça permet d'avoir de bon tarif et d'acheter sans OS.


link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Ha, exact. C'est un de chez eux que j'ai monté un PC pour ma mère en 2016 et qu'elle utilise toujours avec Mint.
J'ai fait un tour; je suis ancien client depuis des lustres; les kit upgrades sont assez cool, et le configurateur est bien pensé.
Une option solide. Merci de m'y faire penser.

link luke   - Reply

I have just experience with nvidia graphic cards. the
Nouveau driver works fine but is in my case painfully slow. ( i have a 5 year old laptop with an average dedicated graphic card. if dont have a minimal linux setup and the propietary nvidia drivers, i would have to replace replace my laptop) But with the Nouveau you could use mesa for opengl support(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesa_(computer_graphics). maybe with accelerated hardware rendering, its fast enough for krita and blender.
here is a list of the supported mesa drivers:

I'm very curious how your FOSS journey continues. And it would be great, if you figuring out a way without the propetary graphic card drivers.

(IMHO I would just buy my needed nvidia graphic card and test if the free drivers are fast enough, if not i would switch back to the propietary ones - not desired but at least a well working linux system)

link Metallicow   - Reply

There really isn't anyone that can give you an answer to your question. Seriously.
Tho as a volunteer at a non for profit refurbisher, I can say that at least those folks know what they are talking about when it comes to benchmarking and different hardwares.
Going to a local refurbisher will be your best bet for advice. Don't listen to a salesman at the store(they only want to make sales)
But ultimately in the end the folks at the refurbisher will give you the same answer most anyone will, and that is that you need to make the choices yourself as to what kind of build you want and what you are going to use it for. There are no fanboy recommendations there, tho many of them will tell you about the various problems the different types of hardware run into.
And lastly the final deciding factor is always the same. Money/Cost and whether or not you are going to build it yourself.
Also plan on when you make your decision and go out and buy whatever it is you decide upon, to expect shortly after the competition will come out with the next best thing maybe a month or so later. :/ It always seems to happen this way with builds. lol
Good luck. Thanks for the awesome arts :)

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hey, after a couple of night thinking on the topic, I'm now convinced I'll build it myself: and more about the flexibility than the cost. I started to write down a list with column for "I'll not go under" / "acceptable" / "good above" : type of choices for performances of CPU/GPU and robustess of Motherboard; for power supply etc... to get in the end a better overview of what I need/want. Thank you for your comment, it validates what I had in mind and the method I'm taking ;)

link Maria R   - Reply

If you want to build yourself a custom pc, the components ultimately depend on your specific needs.

After setting a budget, you can made tables for the cpu and graphics card, with the specifications that are most important to you so that you can easily compare them. After picking the cpu, you know what type of motherboard you need, then ram memory and so on; it’s also a good idea to verify the ram’s compatibility with the motherboard on pages like https://pcpartpicker.com/

For example, I made a pc last year that I wanted to be good for programing, data processing and graphics and in the end I remained with AMD 2700x cpu, on an X470 motherboard and nvidia 1070 gpu(works with open source driver) and reused some other components. It all works pretty good on manjaro.

After a quick glance now, I’d look at AMD Ryzen 7 3700X cpu, nvidia gtx 2060 or radeon rx 5600 xt gpu, B450 motherboard with 16GB of 3200mhz in a well ventilated case.

Hope it helps and good luck!

link David REVOY Author, - Reply

Hey Maria R!
Thank you for your method; that's exactly what I did: I made a big table (with the app Treesheets , my fav brainstorming/organisor/manager app) and I set three column:
1. What is not acceptable for my need
2. What is necessary
3. What would be exciting
Then, I learnt a lot about components, and filled for each of them the three column. I also attributed a budget to them; to fit my 1000euros budget. On another table I listed many CPUs, GPUs and compared their prices over various shops and benchmark and Linux compatibility (CPUmark/GPUmark data for benchmark; for GNU/Linux compatibility, it's tricky to find but Reddit, Youtube, Ubuntu Ask, a look also of config done by Linux vendors did help). The goal was to not buy "that motherboard with the Realteak audio chipset that never works" or this type of issue that waste a good PC on GNU/Linux. I don't share your enthusiasm for the Nvidia Nouveau Floss driver; all the benchmark of it on Phoronix often shows it peforms at 30% performance of the proprietary driver. Maybe the source is biased; but meanwhile finding no other sources it feels this results match the experience I had with the FLOSS driver. So, sure, it works; but that's a waste to invest in card with so many processor and use only a little percent because of software.
Here is the list I have (I purchased it last night to a local French computer hardware; LDLC ):
+ 1 x AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Wraith Prism LED RGB (3.6 GHz / 4.4 GHz)
+ 1 x ASRock B450M-Pro 4
+ 1 x G.Skill RipJaws 5 Series Noir 16 Go (2x 8 Go) DDR4 3200 MHz CL16
+ 1 x Sapphire PULSE RADEON RX 5500 XT 8G
+ 1 x be quiet! Pure Base 500 (Noir)
+ 1 x be quiet! Pure Rock 2 Black + Fox Spirit Cryo 15
+ 1 x be quiet! Pure Power 11 600W CM 80PLUS Gold
And total budget exceeded a bit ; 1100€ , for extra check, warranty, delivery and fans.
It will take 10 to 15 days to receive now; and because France will go back to confinement again, I guess it might be longer.
In any case I'll publish a blog post review (not sponsored) about the experience and what I learned from all the feedback I received; the good info, the propaganda, the 10 years old ideas, the obsolete links.
Thank you very much for sharing your comment because on your last sentences, you adviced really; bu really well what I took in my basket! Even the chipset of the motherboard (WOW) the RAM frequency and the CPU and almost the GPU. I took a 600W 80+Gold power supply unit that will probably not be really needed; but I prefer this one to not be over working to get it working on the long term. Again thanks!

link Maria R   - Reply

Thanks. I'm still pretty new to linux, so I mostly recommended based on technical specifications - I knew the nvidia floss driver wasn't as good, but I had no idea it was that low comparing to the proprietary one.
Looking forward to learning from your experience blog post.

Leave a reply

Comments will be moderated according the Citizens of Hereva Code of Conduct.


Enter image code