Dell XPS 13 FHD Developer Edition

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Well, I did something I never thought I would: I bought a brand-new, high-end Dell laptop. For full price. Me.  Hell will be freezing over shortly.

After reading the Ars review, and checking out a few other excellent reviews on the web, I just couldn’t resist. I mean, it’s a high-end laptop that SHIPS with the version of Linux I use, and is fully supported by Dell and Canonical. On top of that, it has a brilliant display, a great keyboard, and is about the size (though not the weight) of an 11″ MacBook Air. I just couldn’t resist. In fact, if it had been a Lenovo ThinkPad rather than a Dell XPS, I’d have bought it immediately.

After waiting almost two weeks, the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition arrived on Wednesday. Obviously, being Saturday morning, this will just be a quick initial review, but so far I really like what I see. This is a nice, nice laptop. There are a few minor things I’d change about it, but I see myself using this machine for a few years at least. (Yes, I said the same thing about the Lenovo ThinkPad X201s. Don’t worry, I plan to use it at work until the wheels fall off, as they say.)

Here’s the short version: The screen is gorgeous. I thought I preferred matte screens, but the XPS 13 sitting beside the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is no-contest. The Dell screen beats it hands-down. Both are IPS displays, but the colours really pop on the Dell.

So far, the Linux experience has been nothing short of stellar. I’ve made a career out of getting Linux running well on all kinds of computing devices. I know how to get things working. That said, it is a real treat to know that all hardware just works and will continue to. Everything is just perfect on that front. Plus, much to my surprise, Dell and Canonical have really done an outstanding job of getting all of the little things right out-of-the-box. My usual installation routine consists of installing the base system, figuring out what works and fixing the little things before installing my default packages. These include openssh-server, denyhosts, build-essential, dkms, and virtualbox. All of which came installed, configured and supported by Dell. Awesome. I have had to add a few things here and there, such as mc, sshfs, and a few other nice-to-haves, but this is by far the best package setup I’ve started with.

The only other tweaks I’ve made so far are to make the window borders a little thicker. One pixel isn’t much to work with on a 13″ 1920×1080 screen. I’m accurate, but not that accurate. I also had to add third button emulation support. I guess old habits really do die hard.

Coming from a world of ThinkPads, I do miss the track point, though not as much as I thought I would. I don’t care for the trackpad so much, but the keyboard is great. I’ve had no problem at all moving from the ThinkPad X201s keyboard to this one.

So, so far, two thumbs up. Way to go Dell. (There, I said it.)

Good:

  • Everything. Just. Works. No fiddling.
  • Amazing, amazing, amazing screen. Viewing angles, colour, readability are stellar
  • Capslock light!
  • Insert key!
  • Font sizes are great
  • Screen is very readable
  • Great speakers
  • Keyboard is quiet
  • Backlight is good
  • Silent under light load. Quieter than my X201s
  • Significantly smaller than the 13″ MBA, just a bit bigger than the 11″
  • Very thoughtful package additions. VirtualBox, SSH server, build essential, DKMS. I barely had to add anything and am still discovering nice additions.
  • The keyboard is different but is top-flight. It’s not a ThinkPad keyboard, but it is in the same league. (And lets face it: The latest ThinkPad keyboards are quite a departure too.)
  • Looks to be stellar battery life. 7 hours easy.

Neutral:

  • It is quite glossy. I’m picky, but with the brightness, so far I’m OK with it.

Bad:

  • Screen doesn’t lean back far enough for some viewing angles
  • Heavier than my 11″ MBA but still very light
  • I miss the trackpoint a bit
  • No pinch to zoom.
  • Touchpad buttons are loud
  • Middle-click to paste disabled by default. (Easy software fix)
  • High-res screen makes resize window hard to hit in the bottom right. (Easy software fix.)

GoSaBe Blog - May 18, 2013 | GoSaBe News, Hardware, Linux