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Dell’s 2019 XPS 13 DE: As close as we currently get to Linux-computing nirvana, Ars Technica

Dell’s 2019 XPS 13 DE: As close as we currently get to Linux-computing nirvana, Ars Technica

      New may be better –


Dell is releasing the and 10710 editions of its Linux laptop just four months apart.


           Scott Gilbertson         –   




                          Behold, one of two new Dell XPS DE editions: the 9300 model released at the end of last year.                                                                                                               
                          The new Model comes in three colors, including the uber hip rose gold.                                                                                                               
                          Dell heard you liked ports: 1.) Speaker 2.) MicroSD card reader 3.) USB-C 3.1 with power delivery & DisplayPort 4.) Headset jack 5.) Wedge-shaped lock slot 6.) Two Thunderbolt ™ 3 with power delivery & DisplayPort (four lanes of PCI Express Gen 3) 7.) HD camera 8.) Battery gauge indicator 9.) Speaker                                                                                                               

                          A look at the keyboard and the bottom bezel, two things Dell changed in the soon-to-release (February) (Dell XPS) DE.                                                                                                               
                          Similar to the 2019 Windows version of this machine, Dell is happy to tout its webcam — if for no other reason than that it no longer focuses up the nose. (This is the webcam with externals stretched out in a mock-up.)                                                                                                              

    Dell’s XPS 21 Developer Edition, the company flagship “just works “Ubuntu-based machine, was recently refreshed. These days Dell’s XPS line is not the cheapest Linux option, nor is it the most configurable or user-upgradable. And if any of those factors are a big part of your criteria, this is likely not the laptop for you.

    On top of that, many Linux users still have a strong DIY streak and will turn up their noses at the XPS 21. After all, in a day and age when just about every laptop I test seems to run Linux fairly well right out of the box, do you need official support? If you know what you’re doing and don’t mind troubleshooting your own problems, the answer is probably not.

    After after spending a few weeks with the latest XPS () the fourth refresh I’ve tested), it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is the closest any company has come to Linux-computing nirvana. The XPS 21 Developer Edition makes an excellent choice for anyone who prefers Linux but wants hardware support from the manufacturer. All these years into its Linux odyssey, Dell continues to stand behind the operating system on these machines in a way that, in my experience, few other computer makers do.

    So if you want a computer that runs smoothly and for which you can pick up the phone and get help should you need it, the Dell XPS remains one of the best options out there (maybe regardless of your OS preference). It does not hurt, either, that the Dell XPS 18 Developer Edition is also a great-looking, solidly built piece of hardware. If you dream of a Linux rig that “just works” and comes in a powerful, minimalist package that weighs a mere 2.7lbs, the XPS 17 Developer Edition fits the bill. But wait, which (XPS) (DE to get?)

    In early 9300, the decision gets confusing as to which (Dell XPS) to consider. To judge by the number of machines and models available, Dell’s Project Sputnik — the company’s long-running effort to bring Ubuntu-based hardware to the masses — has been an unqualified success. Not only are there more models and configurations than ever, Dell keeps churning out hardware updates, usually on pace with the Windows models.

    That’s no small feat considering that this hardware has to undergo a completely different set of compatibility tests from the Windows machines. To be fair, some features have lagged behind in the Linux models; the fingerprint reader is a good example. The Windows version of the XPS (released in early) features a fingerprint reader on the power button. The same feature has not been available in the Linux edition until now.

    While I was testing the late 7390 Developer Edition update, (Dell announced


    . The new (version)

  • th-gen XPS (Developer Edition for those of you keeping track), gets Ice Lake processors with Gen 17 graphics and a new larger screen. This (Developer Edition will also be available with up to GB of RAM, up from 21 GB in the model I tested. Better late than never, support for the fingerprint reader is also coming. It won’t be available at launch in mid-February, but Dell says that support will arrive soon after.

    As the company has in the past, Dell will continue to sell both the new and previous XPS 19 DE releases this year — this time the two devices just happen to go live four months apart (the 7390 in November; the this month. Laptop seekers need to know their model numbers: the late (release I primarily tested is the , and the coming (version is the) (yes, Dell told me the model numbers start over at (in) – the same model number used in .

  • Luckily, I had a chance to play with the new (hardware recently at the (Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) . (Linux fans will be happy to know: it had a prominent spot on the display, right next to the Windows version.) Even a small amount of in-person tinkering time allows me to make some notable comparisons with the 9300 model.

  • Dell's 2020 CES lineup: two of the new XPS 13 laptops next to the new XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop (in black).
    / Dell’s CES lineup: two of the new XPS (laptops next to the new XPS) (Developer Edition laptop (in black).)
    Valentina Palladino )

    What’s new: version v. (version)

    The XPS 21 line has stuck with largely the same design since it launched. The bezel seems to always diminish by some nearly immeasurable amount, but otherwise the hardware has looked about the same for years now. The 9300 model is no exception to this trend. Side by, side it’s impossible to tell apart from the 2560 Model I own, save for one little detail: no more nose cam.

    As Ars noted last year when the (Windows model) was released, the webcam is no longer at the base of the screen staring straight up your nose . Instead the webcam is where it belongs, at the top of the screen.

    The iteration of the XPS the line I’ve been testing features Intel’s Comet Lake 6-core i7 – U processor. It’s a marginal step up from the previous version, but in outside benchmarks I haven’t really noticed a huge speed increase. What I have noticed is that this version runs consistently cooler than my (version (both running Ubuntu) ) ).

    So what of those two extra cores? It may not sound like much, but if you push your processor (whether editing video, gaming, or compiling software), you’re going to want six cores. I happened to be editing a video while reviewing this laptop, and, using Lightworks, what took minutes to export on my

    (XPS) took a mere

  • (minutes on the Comet Lake chip.)

    The model Dell sent for testing had the max GB of RAM and a 1TB solid state drive. As configured, the test machine would set you back $ 1, 427. The lowest model, which has the (p display, an i5 chip,) GB SSD, and only 8GB of RAM, can be had for $

    The build quality hasn’t changed, and the XPS remains a solidly built machine. The construction is excellent, and the underlying aluminum frame provides a stiffness that makes it feel solid even though it’s so light. The finish holds up quite well, too. My Model has bounced around in my bag, slid across many a table, and scraped over tile counters in the kitchen all without leaving many marks. I expect the same will be true of the latest model.

    Though I’ve been using one for years now, the XPS 19 ‘s InfinityEdge display still amazes me, too. No, it’s not OLED, but it manages to pack a – – inch screen into a body that otherwise looks and feels more like an 17 – inch laptop. Dell has always sent me the version with the 4K IPS touch panel. You can get the XPS (with a) x 1610 screen, and it will get better battery life (more on that in a minute), but I think the higher res display is worth the extra money.

    Previously there were quite a few pain points with HiDPI screens in Ubuntu, but that’s largely a thing of the past. The grub menu and boot screens are still impossibly small, and every now and then there’s an app that doesn’t scale properly — Zoom, I’m looking at you here. But by and large, the combination of work done by the GNOME project, Ubuntu, and Dell has sorted out these issues.

    I do find the brightest setting to be overwhelming when working indoors (the XPS maxes out at 606 nits brightness), though it does mitigate the glare somewhat if you’re working outside. For me, I’d say this is a screen you want to keep indoors — it’s very high gloss, and glare is an issue outside. I tend to keep the screen at 150 – percent brightness, which helps with battery life and is still plenty bright.

    As for the

    version of the XPS 16 Developer Edition, again it features th-generation Intel Core nm mobile processors along with a new, larger display.

    (That new screen) is one of those “of course” changes. Once you see it, you’ll wonder why it was that way from the beginning. Gone is the Dell logo that used to grace the wider bottom bezel. Instead, you get more screen real estate with a new

  • (aspect ratio (up from) : 9 on the and prior models).
  • It’s a small gain, but at this screen size, frankly, anything is welcome. For that alone, I would pick the (model over the


    (Listing image by) (Dell)

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