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(Ars Technica) It just works: Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition Linux Ultrabook review

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I’ve been on the lookout for a new Laptop, and while i can’t afford to buy one in the near future, if i do it will be a device which works with Linux, specifically the Linux distro which just works, Ubuntu. Have a read of how Dell finally after all these years might have just about got it right..

by  – Apr 20 2013, 1:33pm BST

I’ve been terribly curious about the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition since we first covered it back inNovember. This is a different beast from the flippy-touchscreen-equipped XPS 12—this Ultrabook contains zero touchscreens. However, it comes preloaded with Ubuntu Linux, and Dell has spent a substantial amount of time and effort in ensuring that it works—and works well.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: XPS 13 DEVELOPER EDITION
SCREEN 1920×1080 13.3-inch IPS, 165 PPI
OS Linux – Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
CPU 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-3537U (Turbo Boost 3.1GHz)
RAM 8GB 1600MHz DDR3L (non-upgradeable)
GPU Intel HD Graphics 4000 (integrated)
STORAGE 256GB SATA III SSD
NETWORKING Intel Centrino 802.11n, Bluetooth 3.0
PORTS 1x DisplayPort, 2x USB 3.0 (one PowerShare), stereo headphone/line out
BATTERY 6-cell 47Whr Li-Polymer (non-replaceable)
SIZE 0.24 (at front)/0.71 (at rear) x 12.4 x 8.1 inches, 6 mm (at front)/18 mm (at rear) x 316 mm x 205 mm
WEIGHT 2.99 lb/1.36 kg
STARTING PRICE $1549
PRICE AS CONFIGURED $1549 (no options available except addtional warranty)

In an effort originally known as Project Sputnik, Dell dedicated resources into doing Linux on an Ultrabook “right”—writing code where necessary (and contributing that code back upstream like a good FOSS citizen) and paying attention to the entire user experience rather than merely working on components in a vacuum. The result is a perfectly functional Ultrabook with a few extra tools—that “Developer Edition” moniker isn’t just for show, and Dell has added some devops spices into the mix with this laptop that should quicken any developer’s heartbeat.

Damning Linux with praise

Linux is not yet “ready for the desktop,” and I’m doubtful it will ever be—at least not in the sense that an average person could use it full-time without any assistance. I’ve struggled before with using Linux as my full-time operating environment both at work and at home. I did it for years at work, but it was never quite as easy as I wanted it to be—on an older Dell laptop, keeping dual monitor support working correctly across updates required endless fiddling with xorg.conf, and whether or not it was Nvidia’s fault was totally irrelevant to swearing, cursing Past Lee, trying desperately to get his monitors to display images so he could make his 10am conference call without having to resort to running the meeting on the small laptop screen.

Enlarge / The aluminum clamshell lid of the XPS 13 Developer Edition.
Lee Hutchinson

The remarkable thing about the XPS 13 Developer Edition is that it’s so unremarkable—it has Ubuntu 12.04 LTS installed out of the box, and it simply works. The trackpad does two-finger scrolling (with inertia!) without having to add some random crazy guy’s PPA and install extra packages. It picked up my Wi-Fi network and joined it without requiring me to do anything other than supply the passkey. It just worked.

It’s an impressive achievement, and it’s also a sad comment on the overall viability of Linux as a consumer-facing operating system for normal people. I don’t think anyone is arguing that Linux hasn’t earned its place in the data center—it most certainly has—but there’s no way I’d feel comfy installing even newbie-friendly Ubuntu or Mint on my parents’ computers. The XPS 13 DE shows the level of functionality and polish possible with extra effort, and that effort and polish together means this kind of Linux integration is something we won’t see very often outside of boutique OEMs.

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