Review: Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

Dell has long been one of the most Linux-friendly PC manufacturers. But with its project Sputnik, Dell has really embraced open source software in a way unique to all PC makers. Sputnik is the nickname for Dell’s newest Linux laptop — the XPS 13 Developer Edition, a sleek ultrabook that runs Ubuntu out of the box.

If the idea of running Linux full-time is foreign or novel to you, this is not the laptop for you. Likewise, if you’re of the opinion that Linux on the desktop just isn’t ready for everyday use, then this is not the laptop for you. It’s also not the laptop for the Linux geek who scoffs at everything but Arch and loves to search out obscure hardware drivers.

The XPS 13 Developer Edition is aimed squarely at people already working in Linux and already comfortable with the platform, but who’d rather do without all the fiddling. Dell is trying to create a computer where everything just works — Linux without the tedious process of getting all your hardware humming perfectly.

And I’m happy to say that Dell has pulled it off. Out of the box, Ubuntu 12.04 does indeed just work. In fact, everything just works — trackpad, keyboard backlight, function keys and all the other little bits that sometimes require extra tweaks, even in Ubuntu.

That said, there are some hardware shortcomings that may give you pause. The ultrabook features hardware from the higher end of the XPS line — 8GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 4000 and a Intel i7-3537U CPU that clocks in at 2.00Gz. Following Apple’s lead, none of that hardware is upgradeable. And while the specs are respectable, many developers may want more RAM and perhaps a larger storage drive, neither of which are currently available in the developer edition. The screen is also glossy Gorilla Glass which makes it strong, but prone to glare. There is no matte option.

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