Dell has finally delivered me a solid Linux laptop

3 min read

The perfect Linux laptop is something of a unicorn. Many provide a suitable rig for everyday use, but few offer a true top-notch package. I have tried many with mixed results. The Lenovo Yoga line and Thinkpads. The Dell Inspiron, Latitude,  XPS. Acer, Asus, and Toshiba have all called my counter home at some point with a Linux installation. Despite all these trials and tribulations, I had yet to find a laptop that hit all of my needs: 10 hrs of battery life, HD screen, and 13.3” form factor, until Dell released the XPS 9360.

First, a little backstory on the XPS line and my Linux experiences. My initial go with the XPS 13 was way back with the L321x. This one just didn’t cut it, but back in 2012, it was far from alone. Battery life was horrible with around four hours — it was a real dealbreaker. So I moved on from it fairly quickly to an Acer C720 and stuck with Chromebooks (Dell, Lenovo, and Pixel 2015) for over the last couple years as my laptop of choice, but as those years passed I wanted a full Linux laptop again.

The XPS 13 has seen two fails since then at my house: the 9333 and the 9343. Both offered everything I wanted with one exception… battery life. Oh, and the 9333 could cook an egg on the bottom cover when you’ve used it for more than 30 minutes. Both saw a far cry from the Dell estimations. The 9333 got me around sic hours, and the 9343 got me a respectable eight hours, but neither held a candle to many of the Chromebook alternatives that consistently pull 10 hours off a charger.

Enter the Dell XPS 13 9360. I was hesitant at first but soon purchased a well-priced refurb unit off eBay. The result? I couldn’t be happier. After a quick fire was set to the default Windows installation and replaced by Fedora 26, I have the Linux laptop I have been searching for this past year. I easily achieve 10 hours off the charger, have Dell’s superb build and keyboard, and a 13.3” HD screen. Not to mention that Dell has crammed this into a chassis that is about the same size as my old Acer C720 11.6” laptop.

How does Linux perform you may ask? Quite well. My WiFi was not working under the initial kernel found on the base Fedora 26 ISO, but a USB dongle and a quick update solved that issue. Since then, I have seen zero quirks. The laptop is fast and works great. Even the usual suspects of suspend/hibernate seem to function properly. It’s even survived two update cycles, which can sometimes be tricky with Linux, and I’m now running the latest Fedora 28 edition.

I can’t speak for all other distros, as Fedora is my default choice these days, but I would say most results should be similar. I can attest that Ubuntu derivatives seem to work much like Fedora with zero issues. I’ve used both Pop_OS! and Ubuntu proper and found them to be super solid on the XPS 13 9360.

In conclusion, Dell has made a quality laptop with above average Linux support. Of course, this should be expected from a company who actually sells a Linux variant, but it’s still awesome to see it play out in practice. Another nice feature worth mentioning is that Dell and Intel have recently worked closely with Red Hat and Ubuntu to provide BIOS update firmware inside Linux for certain hardware. And wouldn’t you know, the XPS 13 makes that list as well. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with my last 18 months with the Dell XPS 9360 running Linux. I’d highly recommend it and the newer models for anyone looking for a premium laptop with great Linux compatibility.