In short, it doesn’t run Linux very well. (sigh)
When and if Eric reads this he’s just going to shake his head. For two years in a row now I’ve been lured by the wonders of new laptops announced at CES, and in both years I’ve been disappointed. He tells me I’m stupid for ordering the “new shiny” and expecting it to work, but I refuse to give up my dream.
Luckily this isn’t a huge issue for me since my main machines are desktops, but my second generation Dell XPS 13 “sputnik” is getting a little old. I am really looking forward to a slightly larger screen. The pixel density isn’t great on my laptop, especially compared to what is out now, and I am finding myself a little cramped for screen real estate.
The new XPS 13 is an amazingly beautiful device. I spent over three days trying to get it to work just because it was gorgeous. It had become precious to me.
But it was not to be. I first started out with my default desktop, Linux Mint. It installed easily and I was very happy to see that code had been added to deal with the insane size of the screen (3600×1800 pixels). While a few icons were still small (like the reload arrow at the end of the Firefox search bar) most adjusted well, including the icons in the settings window. Great job Cinnamon team.
No, the issue I fought long and hard to fix was the touchpad. Every minute or so it would just freeze:
Feb 1 13:15:48 sting kernel: [ 1746.787178] psmouse serio1: resync failed, issuing reconnect request Feb 1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.722621] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1 Feb 1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.723734] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1 Feb 1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.724642] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1 Feb 1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.725717] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1 Feb 1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.737756] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 - driver resynced. Feb 1 13:15:55 sting kernel: [ 1753.855093] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost synchronization, throwing 2 bytes away. Feb 1 13:15:55 sting kernel: [ 1754.361293] psmouse serio1: resync failed, issuing reconnect request
I found a post that discussed changing out the driver which seemed to help, some but I could never get the problem to go completely away. The amazingly helpful Arch Linux folks suggested some workarounds, but nothing helped. I found it ironic that the touch screen worked fine.
I then switched to Ubuntu, thinking that might help. It didn’t, and along the way I lost audio. It seemed the audio device would just disappear. I tried 14.04, 14.10 and the alpha of 15.04. Also, Ubuntu did not handle the resolution well. While I could adjust the settings, it wasn’t done automatically for me like with Cinnamon, and certain things like the settings window remained tiny and somewhat “clipped”.
I went back to Mint and discovered that now I had wonky audio issues there. Sometimes it would be there and other times not. I stayed on 17.1 but updated the kernel to the 3.19 release candidate, but that didn’t help.
The scariest issue was that on occasion the screen would just go blank. It didn’t kill the system, if I was playing a movie file you could still hear the audio (assuming that was working), but no combination of key strokes would bring it back. I did find that closing the screen (to suspend) and reopening it would fix it for awhile, but I don’t necessarily want to have to do that in the middle of an important presentation.
Note: while the system seemed to suspend and resume okay, the power light didn’t blink to let you know it was still on like on the older XPS 13 model.
Now I’m certain that most of this will be corrected in the next few months. The Broadwell chipset is still pretty new, and rumor has it that Dell plans to support Ubuntu 14.04 on this laptop, but they will have a lot of work to do since it seems to require the 3.18+ kernel for most of the new shiny.
In the meantime I returned it and bought an M3800 preloaded with Ubuntu. While it is a bigger laptop than I’m used to, I like supporting Linux-native products and I will at least have the ability to contact Dell with issues should they arise.
I should point out that, while not quite to Apple standards, Dell has been pretty amazing throughout the process of ordering and returning this laptop. While not ready for prime time, if you are in the market in a couple of months for a small, awesome Linux laptop, be sure to check out the XPS 13. But unless you are a masochist like me, you definitely should wait.
Oh, and if any Dell folks should join the ranks of my three readers, I’m more than happy to test any unit you might send my way (grin).