It’s a small but symbolic boost but the Linux section of the UK online website eBuyer is suddenly looking more populated with the announcement last week by HP of three laptops pre-loaded with last year’s Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr) LTS.

They’re not the first Linux or Ubuntu laptops to be sold on the site by a long chalk – an entry-level HP appeared on the site over a year ago and that’s before factoring in the Thinkpads already on offer from Lenovo. But while pre-loaded Ubuntu has been around for ages these machines appear to be aimed at a more mainstream buyer than the well-established developer niche.

Anyone can in principle load Ubuntu on the similar hardware but buying pre-configured hardware has important advantages. Everything is guaranteed to work without issue and then there’s the issue of support which is essential for smaller organisations not inclined to tend their own systems should something go wrong. This is the grown-up way to do things.

All three of HP’s efforts are based on AMDs under-rated quad-core A4/8/10 processors coupled to 4GB and 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drives, on a traditional 15.4 inch laptop platform. They are cheap by PC standards starting at £199, £249 and even the £300 asking price for the top-of-the-range HP455 represents outstanding value for money.

One noteworthy feature of the latter model is that it is from HP’s ProBook range, the firm’s professional and office platform and should therefore be more robust than the hardware offered to consumers. The A10 is also features excellent graphics compared to what comes inside rival Intel Core i3 chips at this price range.

The real intrigue is who these machines are for. Despite Canonical’s hopes, Ubuntu is never going to be anything other than a desktop niche for consumers who seem either to be buying cheaper Chromebooks these days or sticking with Windows in the hope that Windows 10 will fix what went wrong with Windows 8.

But there is a place for a powerful laptop running Linux and that doesn’t cost the earth. It might be the low end of development, technology-oriented students, or the small but growing band of refugees from the Windows 8 debacle, but eBuyer’s line-up shows just how much computer can be bought for the money.

Pre-loaded Ubuntu is nothing new but being offered three models from a vendor such as HP at less than bank-breaking prices is a welcome step forward.

The eBuyer range of pre-loaded Ubuntu laptops will be available from 29 May.

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