Dell XPS 13 model 9360 (late 2016)
The worlds smallest 13.3 inch laptop
7th gen Intel Kaby Lake i5-7200 processor
8GB dual channel LPDDR3 1866MHz memory
256GB PCIe solid state drive
Intel HD Graphics
Windows vs Linux Version
Dell sells the XPS 13 laptop with either Windows or Ubuntu pre-installed. I wanted to support Dell’s Linux efforts and planned to purchase the Ubuntu version. However, when I bought my computer there was a sale. The discount was only for the Windows version.
The discounted Windows 10 model also came with 256GB PCIe Solid State Drive compared to a 128GB SATA drive. So I purchased the Windows model for the better price, and slightly better hardware.
Glossy Touch vs Matte Non-Touch
The Dell XPS 13 ships with 2 different 13.3 inch screen options:
- Matte FHD 1920 x 1080 non-touch screen
- Glossy QHD+ 3200 x 1800 touch screen
I can’t stand super reflective glossy screens. I am not interested in a touch screen on my laptop. And I’ve heard scaling a HiDPI screen in Linux isn’t ideal. So I went with the 1920×1080 matte screen. Unfortunately, if you want 16GB of RAM, the touch screen version is the only option.
WiFi: Goodbye Broadcom, Hello Killer
Previous XPS 13 models included a Broadcom wireless adapter which required proprietary drivers. I believe Dell included those drivers with their version of Ubuntu.
However, the Braodcom card was problematic for people who wanted to run a different Linux distribution. I read that many people would replace the adapter with a more Linux friendly Intel WiFi card.
Searching for proprietary drivers, manually updating the kernel, or replacing the WiFi card is no longer necessary. The late 2016 models ship with Killer WiFi adapters. The Killer cards use a free, open source driver.
There is nothing you need to do to get WiFi working.
Everything Just Works
The last time I bought a new laptop, it took a bit of work to get everything working. That’s not the case with the Dell XPS 13.
- All the function buttons work (volume, brightness, playback buttons, etc.)
- The backlit keyboard works
- Suspend on lid close, and resume when opened, work
- My Apple Bluetooth mouse works
- The webcam works
- USB-C appears to work (I don’t have any USB-C devices, but it worked with an USB-A adapter)
On a full charge, I got approximately 6.5 hours of use. 5.25 hours of regular use + 1.25 hours playing video games.
Not surprisingly, playing video games on Steam eats up the battery quickly. If you aren’t playing games, or streaming a lot of HD video, I think you can get a lot more use.
I couldn’t install Linux until I disabled UEFI and switched to Legacy Mode in the Bios. You can enter the bios by hitting F12 while the Dell logo is displayed during boot up.
I also swapped the function keys by pressing Fn+Esc. By default, when you press F1 – F12 you get the secondary function. I prefer it the other way around.
I didn’t expect to use Wayland. I thought I would just play around with it for a while, and then switch back to the X desktop session. However, Wayland has been running great. The only problems I have come across so far are:
- Occasionally, a thin black boarder will briefly appear around windows when they are drawn to the screen
- Gpick – the color picker and palette editor can’t see the screen and select colors
- GIMP – like Gpick, the eye dropper tool isn’t able to select colors from the screen
My Experience with the Dell XPS 13
After using the Dell XPS 13 with Fedora 25 for a couple of weeks, I’ve really fallen in love with this little laptop.
I was worried that after using the gorgeous, extremely well built Samsung Series 9 for the past 4 years, I wouldn’t find another laptop/ultrabook that was both Linux friendly and beautiful. I was also skeptical of Dell’s ability to make a laptop that felt premium, not mediocre. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. This is a great laptop.
It may not be as thin as my old Samsung Series 9 ultrabook, but it is smaller. Because the screen is almost borderless, Dell is able to fit a 13-inch laptop into a 11-inch body. This makes it super portable.
The computer is fast, super portable, has great battery life, feels robust and looks great. I am very happy with my purchase.
- All the hardware works out of the box in Fedora 25. No customization is needed.
- It is the smallest 13-inch laptop available.
- There is no glare/reflection on the beautiful matte screen.
- The 16 GB option isn’t available for matte screens.
- Oddly, it is the most difficult laptop to open that I’ve ever used.
- The webcam is located in the bottom left of the screen.
- The audio quality from the speakers isn’t great