Editor’s note: After this essay posted, Dell told us a section we perceived did not have a scold prolongation chronicle of Linux installed. The association is shipping us a new section for testing. We’ll refurbish this essay as shortly as possible.
Lots of laptops can run Linux, yet it’s tough to come by laptops that offer Linux as a pre-installed handling system. Dell has been a biggest name to offer penguin-friendly portables, privately with a XPS 13 Developer Edition. While a XPS 13 offers good energy in a compress size, some people competence wish something a small some-more powerful. Enter a Precision 5520.
The Precision 5520 (which starts during $1,399 but is $2,765.50 as configured here) offers a smashing volume of energy for those looking to do some workstation tasks on a Linux desktop. However, there were a few vital hangups that unequivocally hold a Precision behind from realizing a full potential.
The Precision 5520 is a opposite category of laptop than a XPS 13, and it shows. The device is physically bigger, looking some-more like an XPS 15, with Dell’s aluminum and well-spoken matte-black touches all around.
Of course, many of your time with a PC will be spent looking during a screen, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a splendid 3840×2160 (4K) touchscreen that keeps things pointy in a 15 erratic inches of genuine estate.The screen’s bezel is slim, definition that some-more of that area is taken adult with tangible pixels. To that end, Dell has placed a webcam nearby a hinge, permitting a shade to extend serve adult top.
The palm-rest area facilities something many users won’t be accustomed to: an Intel Xeon trademark (in place of a some-more common Core i5 or Core i7 branding), that indicates right divided that this appurtenance is all about a cores—of that there are eight—and not indispensably a clocks (although a 2.9GHz time speed isn’t shabby). In fact, a Precision’s Xeon demolished a Core-grade CPU in a 2015 XPS 13 Developer Edition we used for comparison. The additional cores and aloft clocks unequivocally paid off in CPU-intensive tasks like heart gathering and record compression.
The PC also comes with a large assisting of RAM, to a balance of 32GB. That’s a lot some-more than a normal user will need, yet for workstation loads, users will see a large advantage from not carrying to strike a barter space (virtual memory) on their storage drives.
For connectivity, a laptop comes with 3 USB ports: one USB-C and dual USB 3.0. You also get an HDMI out, an SD label reader, and a Kensington lock. For those who cite regulating a mouse, you’ll substantially wish to go with a Bluetooth choice in sequence to save a dual USB 3.0 ports for other stuff.
There’s a lot to adore about this PC’s hardware, for sure. But when it comes to software, a laptop falls prosaic on a face. There are a series of issues with a Precision 5520 that directly branch from a fact that it ships with Ubuntu 16.04, that in itself is a ideally excellent OS.
First, a Intel Wi-Fi label in a laptop is upheld by Linux heart 4.6 and later, while Ubuntu 16.04 comes with kernal 4.4. That means that in sequence to get a Wi-Fi to work on a PC, we have to ascent Ubuntu to 16.10 (or a arriving 17.04) or implement a 4.6 heart from Ubuntu’s heart mainline repository.
To refurbish a program and implement Phoronix Test Suite for benchmarking, we finished adult tethering a laptop to my Android phone to use my home Wi-Fi. we did this after perplexing an Asus 802.11ac USB dongle (which indeed claims Linux harmony on a box), yet a 4.4. heart didn’t collect adult that either.
It was usually after this that we satisfied a laptop comes with an ethernet-to-USB-C dongle. While that would have been distant easier to use, it still doesn’t solve a vivid problem that Wi-Fi doesn’t work out of a box. Wireless harmony has been a regulating fun among both Linux users and Linux detractors, and this laptop supports a stereotype.
Another emanate we beheld was a miss of hardware controls, privately for shade brightness. For a battery outline test, we like to keep a shade during about half brightness, or around 200 nits. When we attempted dire a shade liughtness keys, there was no response, even while regulating heart 4.6. Nor did a energy and shade options in Ubuntu underline a slider for brightness. Many of a other hardware control keys, besides a audio controls, also seemed to have no effect.
Once we ran a tests, a Precision 5520 valid that it has a muscle to behind adult a extraneous beauty. In scarcely each exam in a Phoronix Test Suite, a Precision stood conduct and shoulders above a XPS 13.
Thanks to a faster SSD, review opening regulating a 1MB record distance showed an alleviation of scarcely 18 percent. Write opening was about a same as a XPS 13 for all a storage I/O tests in a IOZone proviso of a exam suite.
In a Unigine Heaven test, a graphics opening showed scarcely 40 percent alleviation over a XPS 13. However, that alleviation comes with a caveat: The FPS measure for a graphics exam surfaced out during 9.07 frames per second, distant next any threshold you’d need for a decent gaming experience. Keep in mind though, this is regulating a default Intel arrangement drivers accessible in heart 4.4. Kernel 4.10 includes some improvements for some-more new Intel CPUs and graphics.
As for a CPU tasks, a Xeon unequivocally smacked around a Core i7 in a XPS 13. For H.264 playback, CPU duty was around 2.6 percent, compared to a Core i7’s 7.9 percent.
In number-crunching tasks, a Xeon shined as well. When encoding H.264 video, a Precision managed a whopping 202 frames percent, compared to a XPS 13’s 93 frames.
Kernel gathering time also showed an extraordinary improvement. The XPS 13 took 255 seconds to accumulate a Linux kernel. The Precision took usually 101 seconds. That’s an alleviation of over 60 percent, that is zero to snarl at.
Similarly, a time to encode FLAC audio from a WAV source record took usually 5.06 seconds compared to a XPS 13’s 7.65 seconds. That’s and alleviation of over 33 percent.
Less considerable was a battery life: While personification an H.264 film on loop regulating VLC during full-screen, a Precision lasted a meagre 2 hours, 2 minutes. we didn’t design fanciful battery life from a mobile workstation, yet we would have favourite to see some-more than dual hours. Of course, given a miss of control over shade liughtness and singular energy management, a Precision was radically set adult to destroy in this area.
I should note here that while we ran a complement tests with heart 4.4, we ran a battery outline on heart 4.6. we indispensable heart 4.6 in sequence to ping a network label from another PC as a exam was run—as shortly as a pings destroy to strech a host, a timer stops and earnings a time.
Again, a lot of these shortfalls aren’t a error of Ubuntu 16.04. Dell chose to go with a latest and biggest Intel Wi-Fi components, that perform utterly good in a pristine hardware sense. Unfortunately, Dell shipped a laptop with a heart that doesn’t support a hardware.
What does this mean? If we use a laptop as-is out of a box, we don’t get some vicious features: Wi-Fi, shade liughtness control, modernized ACPI (power) management, hardware control around duty keys, or a desktop UI that’s reasonably scaled for a resolution. It’s these shortfalls that ravage differently superb hardware, and for no other reason than a miss of contrast on Dell and Canonical’s part.
Had Dell or Canonical tested Ubuntu 16.04 on a Precision 5520, a fix would have been comparatively simple. Dell could have shipped with a after chronicle of Ubuntu, like 16.10, that comes with heart 4.8 (though this would not have the long-term support of a LTS version). Or Dell could have shipped a laptop with Ubuntu 16.04 yet with an suitable heart preloaded. The 4.10 heart combined support for Kaby Lake features that a Precision 5520 could have taken advantage of.
Alternatively, Dell could have shipped a laptop with another Linux OS that creates it easier to ascent a kernel, or has a newer kernel. Both Fedora and openSUSE have fast offerings that could have solved some of these issues.
Indeed, a opposite Linux distro would have also done some-more clarity given a Precision’s 4K display. While a 4K shade is beautiful, it unequivocally doesn’t play good with Ubuntu’s Unity desktop regulating a X.org server. Fedora 25, for instance, shipped with Wayland. Wayland plays most nicer with HiDPI displays than X.org, that had to be disfigured and forced into correspondence in sequence to feel right.
Instead, it feels like Dell penguin-washed a Precision 5520, that is plain adequate to see on opening a box: The quick-start beam includes instructions for Windows 10, and a underside of a laptop sports a Windows Pro sticker.
Ultimately, a Linux user competence get a improved knowledge from a 5520 by wiping it and installing a some-more new Linux distribution, that creates it hardly any opposite from a Windows chronicle of a same laptop.
Long story short, this is a excellent laptop—and a hardware creates it a distant improved choice than a Dell XPS 13 for video encoding, compiling code, or other complicated computing tasks. But a OS it comes with is not optimized for a hardware. Hell, it’s not a widen to contend that a OS keeps this PC from being a workstation it’s ostensible to be. If anything, this PC is a box investigate in because PC makers who wish to boat desktop Linux should compensate courtesy to what they are doing before they pull a product to market. The whole thought of shopping a Linux laptop is to equivocate these forms of troubles, after all. In that respect, a Precision 5520 feels like a step behind from a great height we saw in a 2016 XPS 13.
If we implement your possess updated Linux placement on a Precision 5520, it will be a excellent unstable workstation. But out of a box, a Precision 5520 provides a unpleasant knowledge that takes a satisfactory volume of technical expertise only to get a basis to work.