Dell has been offering Ubuntu Linux as an alternative to Windows on some of its laptops for the past few years. Now Dell is adding two of its most interesting new laptops to its line of computers that are available with Linux.

The Dell Precision M3800 Mobile Workstation is now available with Ubuntu and there will soon be an Ubuntu-powered developer edition of the new Dell XPS 13 ultrabook as well.

Configuring the Dell Precision M3800 with Ubuntu instead of Windows will knock $101.50 off the price tag.

Dell Precision M3800
Dell Precision M3800

That brings the starting price down to $1533.50, which is still pretty expensive. But what you get for your money is a laptop with a 15.6 inch display which weighs just 4.2 pounds, measures 0.7 inches thick, and which features a full HD display, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive) an Intel Core i7 Haswell processor, and NVIDIA Quadro K1100M graphics.

There are also options for up to 16GB of RAM, a bigger battery, additional storage (and solid state storage) and a 3840 x 2160 pixel touchscreen display.

If you choose Ubuntu as your operting system, the computer will come with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS pre-loaded. At launch this means the operating system won’t support the notebook’s Thunderbolt port. But the upcoming Ubuntu 14.04.2 maintenance release will add initial support for that feature.

dell xps 13
Dell XPS 13


Looking for something a little smaller? The Dell XPS 13 is a notebook which weighs about 2.6 pounds and up, has an Intel Broadwell processor, and an 5.2mm thin bezel around the display which allows Dell to squeeze a 13.3 inch display into a notebook the size of a typical 11.6 inch model.

Del has been offering XPS 13 Developer Edition notebooks with Ubuntu for a few years, but this year’s model will be the first to feature a Broadwell processor and a choice of a high-resolution 3200 x 1800 pixel glossy touchscreen display or a 1920 x 1080 pixel matte non-touch screen.

via Barton GeorgeDell TechCenter and Slashdot

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36 replies on “Dell to offer Ubuntu Linux for XPS 13 and Precision M3800 laptops”

  1. Just had a chat with Dell sales rep: New XPS 13 is NOT available with Ubuntu installed and not planned for the future that he knew of. You will need to choose a different model for the linux OS factory installed.

  2. I just talked to the Chat and they told me that only the “old” version XPS13 will have Ubuntu support.

  3. I like it the 13 inch Dell Ubuntu laptop, but I think $799 is still too expensive to be competitive with a Macbook Air.


    The Precision M3800 is only available with an i7-4712HQ, which is a Haswell Part, launched in Q2 ’14, NOT a Broadwell CPU.

  5. How easy is it to download the Xubuntu ISO, install it and have all the hardware work? Last I heard, no one really has a good idea how to do it (not even Dell employees including Barton George).

    1. Easy:
      1) Download Ubuntu LTS (Xubuntu or Lubuntu).
      2) Install the ISO file to a USB memory using a program to make bootable USB sticks, there are a few around to choose from.
      3) Deactivate Secure Boot option in your Bios config menu if you have a new model.
      4) Boot Ubuntu from the USB memory and choose Install to Hard Disk.
      5) Optional WiFi config: some Laptops might need you to tweak the Hardware Config menu to use WiFi for the first time, Ethernet will always work.

      That’s it. Enjoy! 🙂

      1. Too bad there are a bunch of steps after step 5 with the XPS. For example, touchscreen, trackpad and other things where Dell installs non-mainlined drivers and applies non-default configurations that are not well documented.

        1. Dude why do yo need a touchscreen with Xubuntu? I don’t think you understand the difference between the purpose of a basic desktop versus the whole enchilada like Unity.

          Maybe you should stick with normal Ubuntu please.

          1. He didn’t say anything about Xubuntu. The XPS has the same problems with a default

            Ubuntu ISO.

  6. If the XPS 13 is smaller than a typical 13″ notebook (Brad says around the same size as a 11.6″ notebook) does that mean the keyboard is reduced-size or full size?

  7. It’s cool that I get a discount for using Linux. I don’t have to pay for a Windows license, because I’ve got a viable Windows machine.

    1. I like that it comes with Ubuntu wich is good, but they should consider making a model with a lower price, maybe in the $200 range.

      It doesn’t have to be “superfast” to run Ubuntu, it just have to be good enough, let’s keep it simple (and inexpensive) please.

      1. Their chromebook isn’t too far off this range, and will work with ubuntu.

      2. That would be a Chromebook. You can replace ChromeOS with Ubuntu.

  8. I’m curious what the GUI will be like on a 3200×1800 screen, especially a 13″. Compared to Windows and OSX, Linux-GNU operating systems are generally bad at DPI-scaling.

    I used Ubuntu and Xubuntu on a 27″ 2460×1440 screen, and I thought it was terrible. GUI features were tiny, and the GUI isn’t unified enough to be able to correct this properly. Ubuntu offers a DPI scaling option, but so far as I can tell, it only changes the size of the window panels, and menus. Xubuntu offers no DPI scaling options (that I can find) in the GUI, but there are ways to individually scale certain things. But I couldn’t make it work properly.

    GUI features (such as GTK-supported window elements) don’t scale. So a program like GIMP has really tiny buttons and tools.

    1. For high DPI support you’ll need to use Gnome or Unity. Xfce doesn’t support high DPI very well. Not sure about KDE but I don’t use it (too kiddy looking).

      1. In Unity the only things I could find to change was in the Display menu, you can scale Menus and Title bars. You can manually change a few other things like Fonts, but some parts of the GUI are not adjustable, and alot of software doesn’t obey these settings.

  9. I’m still figuring out how Dell supports Ubuntu installs. Dell’s forums and documentation are vague or outdated. If you want to install a fresh copy of Ubuntu, what do you do? Some parts of Dell’s website say to install some old ISO of Ubuntu from Dell’s site. There are some instructions to add a PPA. Then there’s also some driver package where you don’t know which Ubuntu version it’s for.

    I was hoping Dell officially supporting Ubuntu would make installing it easier than on other notebooks but it doesn’t seem so. A fresh install using Ubuntu’s default ISO still results in some hardware not working and you’re left on you’re own.

    1. I’m wondering this too. I’ve been looking through Dell’s website and it’s not at all clear what you’re supposed to do if you want to install a default install of Ubuntu or any of its other flavors. The people on Dell’s forum always get different (or no answer at all) from official Dell employees.

    2. Dell “supports” Ubuntu installs in the way that it’s not having to pay License fees to Microsoft, while offering to ship with something that looks more apealing than FreeDOS.

  10. I wonder how good is Ubuntu ar other modern(ie, being kept alive wiht regular updates and development) distros with battery life on laptops and tablets, is it still way behind Windows/Android/iOS or is it basically on par?

    1. I’ve used Ubuntu and (and more recently, Xubuntu) on a few laptops over the years. I’ve always noticed slightly lower battery life.

      There have been several threads on Reddit over the years about this, and the general opinion seems to be that everyone experiences worse battery life on Linux-GNU operating systems.

      1. Thats odd, how come MS can do it while Linux crowd cant?
        Is this because aside from Ubuntu for tablets/mobile nobody else in the industry builds their distros with mobile use and market in mind as a main target audience?
        I mean, if they havent to this day, they should be starting tomorrow, because one day it will be too late for them.
        Touch screens and mobile is all the rage today and I dont see it fading away ever.

        1. Mainly we should blame the hardware drivers. The drivers are just not as optimized for linux as they are for Windows. And why would anyone spend all that money it would cost to properly optimize the drivers for an OS that very few use on laptops?

          1. It’s a combinations of factors, lack of mainstream drivers support is one factor… another is the lack of general support for a wide range of hardware…

            Mind, most distros are very light weight but much of Windows so called bloat is actually for support for a very wide range of hardware out of the box…

            You can actually make a distro optimized to have even better battery life than Windows, it’s just there’s no actual out of box support for this optimization… So it’s usually hit or miss unless you really know how to optimize the distro yourself…

            Depending on the distro, you may have to do things like make sure the camera is turned off, that power saving states actually get enabled by default, etc. and the lighter the distro, the more likely you’ll have to get into most of the power settings before tracking down what is causing the most drain… there are tools to help available but not every user is knowledgeable enough… and developers can only really help with systems they actually own themselves…

            While yet another factor depends on what device you’re using as most GNU/Linux are not made to support mobile devices… So no support for power sipping states like Connected Standby, etc. are supported…

            Ubuntu Touch is pretty much the only real exemption right now, but that’s a version made for mobile use and it’s not exactly fully compatible with the desktop version yet… though, at least they are finally enabling Windowed states instead of being full screen all the time…

            And there’s the lack of devices you can generally even try installing a GNU/Linux distro without working around closed drivers, etc… especially on mobile devices…

            Even Intel SoC’s have had issues, everything from Cedar Trail (Last Netbook release) to Clover Trail (First Mobile SoC for W8 tablets release) used Imagination PowerVR GPU’s for example… Bay Trail was the first ATOM in years to return to the Intel GMA for Linux support…

            But Intel is still using Imagination PowerVR GPU’s for their Phone SoCs and Imagination’s IPs are used by over 80% of the mobile ARM market… So, it hasn’t been easy to develop any universal support for Linux up till now but it’s starting to get better now that Intel is finally offering SoCs with their own GPU… and there’s at least some efforts to develop more open hardware based devices in the market…

        2. I think that it might have to do with the lack of automatic power-saving options. For instance, the brightness does not automatically go down on my laptop when I unplug the power adapter and there’s no option within the power settings to change this.

        3. It’s a matter of investment. When you have a billions of dollars to invest in the most profitable software platform in history (i.e. Windows), you tend to have the full attention of hardware manufacturers and driver developers.

        4. Its because Microsoft and Apple develop a set of APIs for developers to have their software match DPI settings that are defined in the OS, or by the user.

          I’m not extremely knowledgeable with Linux (I’ve used it for years, but very poorly). It seems in Linux-GNU operating systems, there is a few different software libraries that devs can use. Because there is not one standardized desktop environment, or set of software libraries for devs to use as a standard, it is really fragmented.

          This is an age-old problem with Linux-GNU. There are too many projects, and forked projects. Too many groups of people are working in too many different directions.

          To my knowledge, the only Linux-based project that has laid down proper standards, and successfully encourage developers to follow them, is Android.

          1. But even Android falls victim to the predation of GPU vendors, who keep so much closed source yet won’t offer viable binaries. That’s the main thing that has kept projects like Android-x86 crippled and it probably applies to Linux distros as well.

          2. That’s why Dell doesn’t offer “Linux” but “Ubuntu”. There you have your standardization. Of course Canonical (Ubuntu’s developer) can have all the information on Dell’s hardware and optimize for it. If they’re doing it or not, I don’t know. But this is not about “Linux” working well on Dell systems. It’s just Ubuntu that matters here.

        5. The problem is, who is “they”? Linux developers? Who is responsible for setting a standard for Linux/GNU operating systems? And more importantly, why should anyone follow it?

      2. If you know what you’re doing this isn’t the case. The issue is that drivers are usually configured for maximum performance/reliability/compatibility rather than maximum power saving.

        If you set all the proper kernel flags etc for the drivers then you will typically get as good or better from linux. The intel utility “powertop” will tell you all the areas that could be optimised further for power savings. Get this all set up right and you’ll be laughing. Shame it’s not an out-the-box experience though.

    2. I think part of it has to do with optimizing the software. That hardware is designed for max battery life with Windows, so Linux is a bit different because it’s probably just installed so that everything works, but not enough. It’s like how iPhones had far better battery life in the earlier years compared to most Android phones, because the OS wasn’t optimized to run at its best.

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