Some years ago, while working with a whole crew of great people at CDK in Portland, Oregon I picked up a new Dell XPS 13. I even wrote a review about it titled “The Latest 5th Generation Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition“. I had been inspired at the time to pick up this laptop after checking out my friend’s XPS 13. Joe (@joeinglish) provided a good sell of the thing to me, and I purchased the laptop less than 24 hours after checking his laptop out!
I bought the laptop, and if you’ve read the original review you know I had a few complaints about the laptop. Namely the damned keyboard – out of the box – had a messed up keyboard. After a few BIOS updates and some other tweaks it got marginally better. Even today as I type, it’s vastly better but I’m also still banging away on the keys to make sure each key actually types the stupid letter! But alas I’ve gotten used to it and it isn’t a productivity issue anymore. In addition, Apple released their new Mac Book Pro a year or so ago with the crappy keyboard and this one – through lowering their standards I suppose – now seems super great! Not the best way for things to seem better, but it definitely makes this keyboard the better of the two laptops!
Anyway, amid that there’s still one other complaint. At least, it’s sort of a complaint, is that the trackpad isn’t as nice as Apple’s. Especially the latest trackpad, which is even a slight bit better than the older trackpad. But really, that’s as much Apple’s hardware and software support with their trackpad as it is Dell’s trackpad specifically. Whatever software plus hardware combo exists basically is inferior to Apple’s trackpad in some way or another. Even with the Ubuntu 18.04 OS loaded that I’m on now, the trackpad works perfectly in the way it is supposed to work, but that’s unfortunately still not as capable or useful as Apple’s.
My solution has been to either use a trackball, a wireless trackball or the silent mouse I picked up. The wireless trackball is this sweet m570 from Logitech. The silent mouse I picked up is the m331 Silent Mouse also from Logitech. Between the both of them I really am not bothered by the lack of the Apple trackpad at all.
Sleep Issues Gone
There were a few other complaints, such as the sleeping issue, which appears to be at this point in my use of the laptop entirely gone. This is good, since the sleep issue was originally kind of a production killer when one is going from coffee shop to coffee shop. Sleeping and needing to forcefully reset the laptop just kills things, regardless of operating system.
The Current Situational Report
Alright, got the yucky bits out of the way. Right now, I’ve picked up the laptop for regular use again. Generally I use it as a home laptop and around the city laptop. I use it for coding, with lots of IntelliJ, Goland, Visual Studio Code, and related IDE use. I also just type a lot, such as this blog entry you’re reading now, on this laptop. It makes it easy to prop up in a hammock and just get super productive while being absurdly comfortable.
The key thing that has enabled me to use this laptop like this is my shift to Linux. Largely Ubuntu but sometimes other distros on this laptop and paired with my main System 76 Leopard Workstation. Having both of these machines running Linux makes it dramatically easier for the coding and back and forth between machines. This however doesn’t mean I’ve left MacOS or that I don’t use Windows anymore, err, well, ok I don’t use Windows anymore because I simply have no reason to do so. But MacOS is still pretty prominent in my daily work almost solely based on presentations.
Which is kind of hilarious that this is the thing that keeps me using a Mac, the ability to use presentation software and have a singular and easy to connect with presentation laptop. The thought of this being the only reason I’m still using a Mac gives me this expression… which I’ll just describe as my “seriously WTF” expression.
But enough about that, on to the other pluses of the laptop.
Hell Yeah Battery Life
The battery life easily clocks into the 6-8 hour range for the work I’m doing on the laptop. Browser open, internet surfing, IDE open (sometimes on power save), or what not and it still goes for a solid 6-8 hours. This is simply not something that the Mac Book Pro (MBP) can hang with. That includes the latest MBP, or the previous two (three?) generations. It simply outlasts them for similar coding work.
The screen, the HiDpi one that I chose for this laptop is still hands down the most beautiful screen on a laptop. The other Mac screens just don’t measure up. Including the fact that it basically goes clean out to the bevel the screen sits in makes for an excellent user experience. I absolutely love the screen!
This thing is light. I probably mentioned that before. But seriously, I routinely don’t notice if it is or isn’t in my backpack. Which of course has the downside of needing to check if it is actually in my backpack numerous times before leaving just to make sure it is in fact there.
The Power Bricks
I’m not sure we should even call the thing for this a power brick as there isn’t anything heavy, hard, or cumbersome about it. It’s small, elegant, and easy to neatly and cleanly wrap the cord around! It’s easily and vastly superior to the now craptastic Apple USB-C based power supplies. It is also noticeably lighter than any other brick I’ve used with a laptop.
Matter of fact it’s so light I accidentally brought an extra one with my regular one I carry in my pack and didn’t even realize the weight difference, something that is however noticeable with a Mac brick. This also brings up another point…
Oh jeez, this thing is cheap. I don’t mean in a “it’s gonna fall apart cuz it’s crap” type of way but in a purely monetary sense. It’s a decent and overall quality build. I’ve beat up the laptop and tossed it around (4-12 feet) before. It’s held up absolutely fine!
Here I am, typing up this post just after some Cassandra research and coding experiments and though “I should write up a re-review of this laptop, it’s absolutely paid for itself about 10x over!” So here’s the post, the laptop is worth it, so if you’re going to go in on one of the new ones I’d say it most likely will be a superb purchase decision. My only complaint is they don’t really offer, as far as I can see, a Linux version which seems extraordinarily silly for Dell not to do.
With that, cheers, happy hacking on your 4th!