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The Dell Precision 5520 is hobbled by Linux kernel 4.4

Editor’s note: After this article posted, Dell told us the unit we received did not have the correct production version of Linux installed. The company is shipping us a new unit for testing. We’ll update this article as soon as possible. 

Lots of laptops can run Linux, but it’s hard to come by laptops that offer Linux as a pre-installed operating system. Dell has been the biggest name to offer penguin-friendly portables, specifically with its XPS 13 Developer Edition. While the XPS 13 offers great power in a compact size, some people might want something a little more powerful. Enter the Precision 5520.

The Precision 5520 (which starts at $1,399 but is $2,765.50 as configured here) offers a wonderful amount of power for those looking to do some workstation tasks on the Linux desktop. However, there were a few major hangups that really held the Precision back from realizing its full potential.

The good

The Precision 5520 is a different class of laptop than the XPS 13, and it shows. The device is physically bigger, looking more like an XPS 15, with Dell’s aluminum and smooth matte-black touches all around.

precision 5520Alex Campbell

The Dell Precision 5520 running Ubuntu 16.04.

Of course, most of your time with the PC will be spent looking at the screen, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a bright 3840×2160 (4K) touchscreen that keeps things sharp in its 15 diagonal inches of real estate.The screen’s bezel is slim, meaning that more of that expanse is taken up with actual pixels. To that end, Dell has placed the webcam near the hinge, allowing the screen to extend further up top. 

precision 5520 pts hardware

The Precision 5520’s hardware compared to the 2015 XPS 13’s hardware.

The palm-rest area features something many users won’t be accustomed to: an Intel Xeon logo (in place of the more common Core i5 or Core i7 branding), which indicates right away that this machine is all about the cores—of which there are eight—and not necessarily the clocks (although the 2.9GHz clock speed isn’t shabby). In fact, the Precision’s Xeon demolished the Core-grade CPU in the 2015 XPS 13 Developer Edition I used for comparison. The extra cores and higher clocks really paid off in CPU-intensive tasks like kernel compilation and file compression.

The PC also comes with a hefty helping of RAM, to the tune of 32GB. That’s a lot more than the average user will need, but for workstation loads, users will see a big advantage from not having to hit the swap space (virtual memory) on their storage drives.

precision 5520 portsAlex Campbell

The Dell Precision 5520’s USB 3.0, USB-C and HDMI ports.

For connectivity, the laptop comes with three USB ports: one USB-C and two USB 3.0. You also get an HDMI out, an SD card reader, and a Kensington lock. For those who prefer using a mouse, you’ll probably want to go with a Bluetooth option in order to save the two USB 3.0 ports for other stuff.

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