I've survived without a personal laptop for almost two years now (I have a 2014 15" MacBook Pro work laptop), and it seemed like a good time to change that. I just don't feel comfortable working on personal things on my work computer, and only doing personal work on my desktop was very limiting. I recently decided on the Dell XPS 13 (2015 Developer Edition) after much research. Here are my thoughts after using it for one week.

Some caveats before you continue reading:

  1. I'm running Ubuntu 14.04, which is known to have some compatibility issues with this laptop and was even discontinued briefly (I stalked one of the guys on Dell's Project Sputnik).
  2. I am a huge fan of the MacBook Pro line.

First Impressions

It's beautiful. The "infinity display," which is Dell's marketing term for an insanely small bezel around the screen, is simply stunning. It's a 13" display in an 11-inch laptop form factor, and it makes the XPS 13 ultra portable without sacrificing too much screen real estate.



Display (10/10)

The display is great, as I previously mentioned. I got the non-touch version that has an HD 1920x1080 display. It's got a crisp matte display that is really easy to look at.

Unfortunately, the laptop I received has one tiny dead pixel on the left side of the screen, so I am currently waiting for a replacement to be shipped to me...

Keyboard (9/10)

The keyboard feels a lot shallower when compared to Macbook Pro laptops. The size of the keys is excellent, and it doesn't have a strange layout like many other small laptops that mess around with the key positioning in order to get a smaller form factor. Nothing to complain about here. Media keys work fine. It's also backlit!

Unfortunately, the laptop I received also had a few "sticky" keys. The ".", "shift", and "enter" keys would not come back up to the original positions easily when pressed down all of the way. I filed a support ticket with Dell, and they sent a technician to replace my keyboard the next day. The whole process took about 30 minutes.

Touchpad (3/10 - 7/10 after fix)

Now the touchpad looks and feels fine, but it has been an absolute nightmare on Ubuntu 14.04. It was absolutely unusable when I first received the machine. The palm-detection did not work at all. What this meant is that if you have "tap-to-click" enabled, the mouse would move around and click on random things while you were typing if your palm hovered close to the touchpad.

I spent about two days searching for a resolution to the problem. After a ton of research and posting on forums, I finally received a response with a good solution that basically "disable" portions of the trackpad via the drivers.

If you are running into similar problems, try creating the following file:


# Create this file at /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf

Section "InputClass"
      Identifier "touchpad catchall"
      Driver "synaptics"
      MatchIsTouchpad "on"
# This option is recommend on all Linux systems using evdev, but cannot be
# enabled by default. See the following link for details:
# http://who-t.blogspot.com/2010/11/how-to-ignore-configuration-errors.html
#      MatchDevicePath "/dev/input/event*"
      Option "AccelFactor" "0.2"
      Option "RTCornerButton" "3"
      Option "RBCornerButton" "0"
      Option "LTCornerButton" "2"
      Option "LBCornerButton" "0"
      Option "AreaTopEdge" "5%"
      Option "AreaRightEdge" "85%"
      Option "AreaLeftEdge" "5%"
EndSection

Section "InputClass"
      Identifier "touchpad ignore duplicates"
      MatchIsTouchpad "on"
      MatchOS "Linux"
      MatchDevicePath "/dev/input/mouse*"
      Option "Ignore" "on"
EndSection

# This option enables the bottom right corner to be a right button on
# non-synaptics clickpads.
# This option is only interpreted by clickpads.
Section "InputClass"
      Identifier "Default clickpad buttons"
      MatchDriver "synaptics"
      Option "SoftButtonAreas" "50% 0 82% 0 0 0 0 0"
#       To disable the bottom edge area so the buttons only work as buttons,
#       not for movement, set the AreaBottomEdge
#       Option "AreaBottomEdge" "82%"
EndSection

# This option disables software buttons on Apple touchpads.
# This option is only interpreted by clickpads.
Section "InputClass"
      Identifier "Disable clickpad buttons on Apple touchpads"
      MatchProduct "Apple|bcm5974"
      MatchDriver "synaptics"
      Option "SoftButtonAreas" "0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0"
EndSection

Speakers (5/10)

Speakers are super average. Nothing to write home about.

Webcam (5/10)

The webcam looks a bit silly since it's placed in the lower-left hand corner. However, I'm not much of a video chat person to begin with so it doesn't matter much for me. The main problem is that if you are typing your hands will take up half the screen!

Battery Life (10/10)

The battery life is really amazing. I can use the laptop for about 6 hours straight. Maybe it's because everything is still brand new, but I haven't even been able to do this on any other laptop before.

Conclusion

Overall it's a good laptop. Would I recommend it over the MacBook Pro? Probably not. It's a good change of pace and more of a "fun" purchase. I'll probably use it until the new MacBook Pro lines ship with the new Intel Skylark processors.

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