From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Friday, January 5, 2018

Dell XPS 13 with Ubuntu -- The Ultimate Developer Laptop of 2018!

I'm the proud owner of a new Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition (9630) laptop, pre-loaded from the Dell factory with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop.

Kudos to the Dell and the Canonical teams that have engineered a truly remarkable developer desktop experience.  You should also check out the post from Dell's senior architect behind the XPS 13, Barton George.

As it happens, I'm also the proud owner of a long loved, heavily used, 1st Generation Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop :-)  See this post from May 7, 2012.  You'll be happy to know that machine is still going strong.  It's now my wife's daily driver.  And I use it almost every day, for any and all hacking that I do from the couch, after hours, after I leave the office ;-)

Now, this latest XPS edition is a real dream of a machine!

From a hardware perspective, this newer XPS 13 sports an Intel i7-7660U 2.5GHz processor and 16GB of memory.  While that's mildly exciting to me (as I've long used i7's and 16GB), here's what I am excited about...

The 500GB NVME storage and a whopping 1239 MB/sec I/O throughput!

kirkland@xps13:~$ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/nvme0n1
 Timing cached reads:   25230 MB in  2.00 seconds = 12627.16 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 3718 MB in  3.00 seconds = 1239.08 MB/sec

And on top of that, this is my first QHD+ touch screen laptop display, sporting a magnificent 3200x1800 resolution.  The graphics are nothing short of spectacular.  Here's nearly 4K of Hollywood hard "at work" :-)

The keyboard is super comfortable.  I like it a bit better than the 1st generation.  Unlike your Apple friends, we still have our F-keys, which is important to me as a Byobu user :-)  The placement of the PgUp, PgDn, Home, and End keys (as Fn + Up/Down/Left/Right) takes a while to get used to.

The speakers are decent for a laptop, and the microphone is excellent.  The webcam is placed in an odd location (lower left of the screen), but it has quite nice resolution and focus quality.

And Bluetooth and WiFi, well, they "just work".  I got 98.2 Mbits/sec of throughput over WiFi.

kirkland@xps:~$ iperf -c
Client connecting to, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
[  3] local port 40568 connected with port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  3]  0.0-10.1 sec   118 MBytes  98.2 Mbits/sec

There's no external display port, so you'll need something like this USB-C-to-HDMI adapter to project to a TV or monitor.

There's 1x USB-C port, 2x USB-3 ports, and an SD-Card reader.

One of the USB-3 ports can be used to charge your phone or other devices, even while your laptop is suspended.  I use this all the time, to keep my phone topped up while I'm aboard planes, trains, and cars.  To do so, you'll need to enable "USB PowerShare" in the BIOS.  Here's an article from Dell's KnowledgeBase explaining how.

Honestly, I have only one complaint...  And that's that there is no Trackstick mouse (which is available on some Dell models).  I'm not a huge fan of the Touchpad.  It's too sensitive, and my palms are always touching it inadvertently.  So I need to use an external mouse to be effective.  I'll continue to provide this feedback to the Dell team, in the hopes that one day I'll have my perfect developer laptop!  Otherwise, this machine is a beauty.  I'm sure you'll love it too.