It has been six years since Dell first launched its XPS Developer Version moniker, which refers particularly to the corporate’s XPS laptop computer fashions that ship with Ubuntu Linux (and never Home windows) pre-installed. Ever since, Dell has been producing among the finest Linux “ultrabooks” in current reminiscence.

Ars has already put the Home windows-boasting XPS 13 by means of its paces earlier this yr because the gadget acquired a critical overhaul in 2018. Dell bumped up the specs, revamped the thermal system, and launched a brand new rose and white model, as an illustration. However how is newest version of the premier “simply works” Linux laptop computer doing with the added muscle?

Not too long ago, Dell lastly despatched Ars the most recent mannequin of the XPS 13 DE for testing. And whereas Dell did put a number of work into this newest iteration, the largest improve with the most recent Developer Version is the inclusion of Ubuntu 18.04.

Specs at a look: Dell XPS 13 DE laptop computer

Worst
Finest

Display
13.Three-inch FHD (1920×1080) Infinity Edge non-touch show
13.Three-inch 4K UHD (3840×2160) Infinity Edge touchscreen

OS
Ubuntu 18.04

CPU
Intel Core i5-8250U (as much as Three.4GHz)
Intel Core i7-8550U (as much as four.0GHz)

RAM
4GB LPDDR3
16GB LPDDR3

HDD
128GB PCIe SSD
2TB PCIe SSD

GPU
Intel UHD Graphics 620

Networking
802.11ac [2×2], Bluetooth four.1

Ports
2 Thunderbolt Three ports (PowerShare DC-In, DisplayPort), 1 USB Kind C Three.1 port (PowerShare DC-In, DisplayPort), headset jack, Noble lock slot, microSD card slot

Dimension
11.9×7.eight×zero.46 in (302×199×11.6 mm)

Weight
2.68 kilos

Battery
52Whr

Value
$890
$1,680

It is true that Linux customers did should wait a bit longer than Home windows followers, however that delay got here extra from Ubuntu’s launch schedule than any of Dell’s adjustments. Since 2012, the XPS DE line has all the time tracked Canonical’s LTS releases. That meant even the XPS DE launched in February of this yr nonetheless shipped Ubuntu 16.04. And whereas I’ve by no means had an issue upgrading to the most recent Ubuntu launch on any of the three XPSes I’ve examined through the years, nothing past 16.04 has ever been supported by Dell.

The XPS 13 Developer Version mannequin 9370 adjustments that. The newest and best pre-built Linux now options full help for Ubuntu 18.04, the most recent (and presumably best) Linux OS. The change is not any small footnote: the transfer from Ubuntu 16.04 to 18.04 means a very new desktop, GNOME Three, a significant revamp of underlying applied sciences (extra trendy GTK libraries), and a brand new, very totally different person interface to cope with. And on the aspect, that newer tech within the XPS 13, together with USB-C and Thunderbolt, all now works below Ubuntu and not using a hitch.

After just a few weeks dwelling with the XPS 13, I am completely happy to say that, with just a few small exceptions, Dell has pulled off the transition to Ubuntu 18.04 with outstanding aplomb.

The Dell XPS 13 DE has all the time been an exceptionally well-built, great-looking piece of . The revamped model is not any exception, and the brand new white and rose-gold model seems to be fairly slick (even when it is not your model, precisely). On the rose-and-white mannequin, the palm relaxation space and area across the keyboard are lined with a really good fiberglass-like weave that offers it a little bit of texture and makes for somewhat bit softer edge. It is noticeably simpler on my wrists than the final mannequin I used.

Enlarge / The Dell XPS 13 Developer Version.

Scott Gilbertson

Because the neater crowd might perceive, I used to be hesitant to take a white laptop computer out and about for concern of sending Dell again a gray-brown laptop computer. However within the six weeks I have been utilizing it, it hasn’t picked up a single spot of filth or a mark that did not simply disappear with the fast swipe of a rag.

The Infinity Edge show on the XPS 13 is available in two flavors—3840×2160 touchscreen 4k or an FHD non-touch possibility. There is a roughly $200 distinction between the 2, however the huge catch, so far as I might inform on the Dell web site is that the 16GB RAM mannequin is simply out there with the HiDPI display screen. Since most builders are going to need the max RAM attainable, that just about means you are going to get the HiDPI show.

Enlarge / Ubuntu on the XPS 13’s HiDPI display screen.

Scott Gilbertson

There are two issues to notice concerning the 4K show (which is what got here with the mannequin I examined): First, it is splendidly shiny and sharp. Ubuntu’s GNOME interface works properly at this decision, however bear in mind there is not any half scaling—it is 2x or 1X. KDE helps arbitrary scaling, which could make Kubuntu a compelling possibility for some customers. The draw back to the HiDPI display screen is that battery life is not pretty much as good because the FHD non-touch model, and, when you’re shopping for it with the concept of operating another distro, properly, do your analysis. Not each desktop/distro combo goes to work properly with this show (I occur to actually like LXQT as of late, however even the Lubuntu model didn’t play properly with the HiDPI display screen out of the field).

The 16GB mannequin comes outfitted with an eighth Era Intel Core i7-8550U Processor (8M Cache, as much as four.zero GHz, four cores) and has the onboard Intel UHD Graphics 620. There are two Thunderbolt Three ports, and Dell has made it attainable to make use of four-lane PCI connections, which implies in principle you could possibly add an exterior graphics card for a greater gaming expertise. At the very least, that is attainable with the Home windows model. I didn’t check how properly this works below Ubuntu as a result of I’m not a gamer, and this can be a critical developer laptop computer (no taking part in video games right here, he says solely half-kidding). I did throw some video rendering duties at it utilizing Blender, nevertheless, and the XPS 13 cranked by means of them with spectacular ease.

Regardless of the brand new case shade, not the whole lot on XPS 13 comes up roses. There’s nonetheless that webcam—sure, it is nonetheless on the backside of the display screen aimed up your nostril. At this level, it appears protected to imagine Dell is not altering the placement. In its place, I discovered some good white electrical tape at my native ironmongery shop and caught it over the digital camera and had no additional issues with it. If you are going to do any teleconferencing or the like, the $20 you spend on an exterior USB webcam is not going to be wasted.

On the upside, among the earlier fashions of the XPS 13 I examined had an inclination to supply a high-pitched whine in some conditions. For those who learn customers’ complaints across the Net, you may get a mixture of theories, the almost certainly being coil whine. No matter it was, I’ve not seen it with this mannequin.

Except for the aforementioned Thunderbolt ports, you may discover that, like a sure different laptop computer maker, the most recent model of the XPS 13 ditches USB-A in favor of a USB Kind C port. Technically, the XPS 13 has three USB kind C ports, two of that are Thunderbolt Three enabled and the opposite which is USB Three.1.

I perceive this transfer considerably. USB-C is the longer term, and customers need a laptop computer to final just a few years, which implies needing at the very least one USB-C port. You additionally don’t get that 4mm edge with USB-A ports in there. However the USB-C future nonetheless feels a good distance off. I’ve loads of units which are USB-A, and I am not going to be changing completely succesful equipment simply because ports are disappearing. Dell does helpfully embrace a USB-C to A dongle, however I actually didn’t want one more dongle.

Different ports embrace a microSD card reader, headset jack, and Noble lock slot. The included energy provide stays sufficiently small that toting it round doesn’t considerably alter the load of your bag. Simply bear in mind to throw in that USB-C to A dongle as properly (plus the USB-A to Ethernet dongle when you’re hoping to make use of the Web from a resort room). That is not likely criticism of Dell a lot because the business at massive, however the potential daisy chain of dongles vital to attach trendy ultrabooks to any expertise older than six months is shortly approaching “ridiculous.”

Itemizing picture by Scott Gilbertson

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