Thoughts on the Dell Sputnik (XPS 13 with Linux)

I just bought a Dell XPS 13 9333. This is noteworthy as being one of the only laptops you can buy preinstalled with linux. That being said, I picked mine up from eBay as a refurb, and it came with Windows.

If you're doing the same, I'd suggest the following:

  • Disable UEFI in Bios. To do this, hold down F2 when the Dell logo appears at boot.
  • Install 14.10 or newer (reasons below)
  • Run scripts at fixubuntu.com (restore privacy)
  • Remove Amazon from dock. Yech.

Installing Linux was easy enough; the UEFI crap can be disabled in the BIOS. One thing to note is that Dell ships theirs with Ubuntu 12.04. Thinking that surely touch screen support has improved in the last few years I installed 14.04 LTS.

Touch screen support has indeed improved, but the default Synaptics drivers in 14.04 are terrible, and you'll constantly see the cursor jumping around as your palm brushes the touchpad. Checking "disable touchpad while typing" doesn't address this. Fortunately, Synaptics improved their drivers considerably recently and the ones included in 14.10 are perfect. Shame it's not an LTS release, though.

As far as the famed coil whine issue - it's there, but it hasn't been too annoying. I only hear it in a quiet room, and in that situation I'm usually using headphones. I had read that turning the keyboard backlight off addresses this but that hasn't been my experience. It comes and goes whether the backlight's on or off, but changing the backlight seems to help get rid of it.