Dell XPS 13 9350 (2016)

These are my notes about what I’ve done to my new laptop. It’s the non-touch i5 8GB/128GB model, whose SSD is SATA and not PCIe.

  • Threw out the Broadcom WiFi adapter and replaced it with an Intel 7265.
  • Installed BIOS 1.1.7, which today is available only on the UK site.
  • Installed Ubuntu 15.10. I shrank the Windows partition to about 45GB and otherwise went with the installation defaults.
  • Installed the latest 4.4 kernel release candidate.
  • sudo apt-get install powertop and then added its recommendations to /etc/rc.local.

The rest of the customizations weren’t specific to this hardware.

I think there might be some tearing in the video, but I don’t do much of anything besides code editing on this machine, so it hasn’t bothered me enough to try to fix it. I also am not happy with palm detection on the trackpad; I’ll occasionally be typing and then realize it’s decided to move the cursor somewhere else and insert my text way over there. I hope there’ll be a firmware or software update for this.

My quick review of the 9350 is that it’s a spectacular computer. The keyboard is comfortable with a good amount of travel. The trackpad is huge (see above for disadvantage). The matte screen is sharp and bright, though the 1920x1080 resolution leads to small default text that can be hard on my eyes. The machine runs cool and is plenty quick. With the powertop tweaks, the battery claims life in the mid-teens (hours), ranging from 3-6 watts, but those metrics are highly variable according to small things like whether Chrome’s running a stupid animated ad on a tab, and I haven’t done (and won’t do) any formal battery-life testing. My previous non-Chromebook computer was a 2009 MacBook Pro, which lasted for 6+ years and was always reliable. The XPS 13 is a very worthy replacement.