hardware, linux

Ubuntu 16.04 Release + Dell XPS 13 9350

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UPDATE 5/11/2016 – The flicker is apparently Chrome only and has a report to Google. If you use firefox you won’t see this screen flickering. You can also run Chrome via “google-chrome –disable-gpu-driver-bug-workarounds –enable-native-gpu-memory-buffers” and the flickering will stop. You can also edit the desktop file which will allow you to launch the app as you would normally through the launchers – it lives at “/usr/share/applications/google-chrome.desktop”.


I’ve blogged before about my experiences with the new skylake XPS 13. I’ve been VERY happy with the laptop and wanted to give a status now that 16.04 is released.

Fn Key Behavior

All Fn keys work as expected. Notable (?) exceptions seem to be FFWD/RWND and the ‘search’ button (F9). The most important ones for me are display brightness and volume … those work perfectly as well as mute/keyboard brightness and wifi on/off. Interesting wifi on/off (which shares space with the PrtScr (print screen) key seems to favor printing the screen FIRST even though I have the Fn keys turned on. I’m actually not upset about this since I rarely need to disconnect wifi and would maybe use the PrtScr function now and again (normally I just use the Screenshot app so I don’t see myself doing either one honestly).

Suspend/Resume

Everything is working perfectly here. Plugged in or not it does what I have specified which is when the lid is closed it suspends.

Battery Life

I haven’t run any specific battery test with details, based on my experience this things is a champ. I get plenty of battery life on it no matter what I’m doing. On my System76 Galago UltraPro when I have it unplugged I can watch the percent indicator tick down on regular intervals. On this thing each tick is given up begrudgingly. I’d estimate easily 7hrs and maybe as high as 9-10. The ‘pro’ reviews peg the battery life in that range I’m definitely inclined to agree.

My usage is web browsing and programming with web editors/languages such as Visual Studio Code/Sublime/Angular2/gulp builds/etc. Not super battery hungry applications but the web includes youtube things now and again – which doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

External Monitor

Saving the best for last… I’ve blogged before about the external monitor via USB-C. I bought a USB-C to Display Port adapter from amazon and when I last tried on a 16.04 Beta1 it didn’t work at all. This time as soon as I plugged it in it worked like a champ! Wanted to see how reliable it was so unplugged and plugged in … didn’t work. Again, didn’t work. Unplugged the power from the laptop and tried again .. WORKED!

So summary here is that it seems to give you an external connection just fine ONCE per power setting. 🙂 This is a completely weird issue … but if plug in your USBC plug and it didn’t work, unplug the laptop (or plug it in depending) and then try again and it should work. This makes me hopeful that it will be resolved in future updates but at least for now there’s a workaround – as goofy as it is.

Monitor ‘Flicker’

It was noted in a previous blog by Luis:

NOTE 4/7/2016: Read the comments for good feedback from others trying. Luis noted: “..before attempting to install one needs to boot and in the BIOS configure SATA-controller to AHCI (or Off).”. He also noted there’s a bug for the screen flicker issue.

The screen flicker issue still seems to be here occasionally. For now it doesn’t really bother me. It’s not constant and during the entirety of typing this blog in I haven’t seen any flicker – I even went to CNN and scrolled around and played a video and didn’t see it. I think it tends to happen when browsing the web and there’s lots of ads on a page or video going on or when scrolling quickly through the browser. I can’t really establish a pattern because it doesn’t happen frequently enough – just putting it in here so that it’s a known issue albeit an infrequent one.

Summary

It’s a shame the laptop isn’t 100% given the external monitor issues but I’m still absolutely thrilled with it. If I’m not sitting at my desk using my System76 Galago UltraPro, I’m using this thing because I don’t have to sweat battery life and the form factor and performance are killer. The trackpad works perfectly (remember to install libinput!), keyboard is great to type on … it’s a dream to have honestly.

Enjoy!