Initial thoughts from the Project Sputnik Beta Cosmonauts

The Project Sputnik Beta program has been going for several weeks now.  We have an intrepid group of cosmonauts and there have been a bunch of blogs posted, tweets tweeted and a flurry of activity on the forum.

In general the feedback has been very positive with some folks having issues around wifi and the touch pad.

So far four of the cosmonauts have posted detailed entries around their Sputnik experiences.   Here are excerpts from the postings.

The Sputnik Out of Box Experience

For a good look at the OOBE, complete with photos, check out Theron’s “#ProjectSputnik – first impressions“.  Here’s the summary at the end:

After initial load and getting my standard working environment up and running, I’ve got to say this little beast is pretty amazing. From the tight OS integration to the feel of the laptop, it looks and feels like a solid build. I’m going to be busy working with OpenStack over the coming months and I’m excited to see how closely integrated I can get my build envionment on this laptop to the ubuntu server I’m using for testing. After watching Mark Shuttleworth talk this year at Oscon about JuJu and #ProjectSputnik, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be amazing. More blog posts to follow.

One man’s journey back to Linux

This next blog kicked off a huge discussion on hacker news around developer laptops, OS’s and the merits of their various incarnations.  Geoffrey Papillion wrote about his odyssey through time and across various OS’s which has led him to the present and Linux once again.

Here is how he concludes his post “Thanks Mr. Jobs, But it seems I can use a linux laptop now

Two days ago I got my Dell XPS 13 as part of a Dell beta progam called project Sputnik. I got a special version of Ubuntu, with some kernel patches, and some patched packages for sleep and hibernation. After an hour of struggling with making a bootable USB drive from my Mac for my Dell(turns out it was an issue with the USB drive), I had a working computer. By 8pm I had my development enviroment setup, I had chef up and running, and even my VPN was working. I was amazed.

So, far its been good; most apps I use are web apps. I spend 70% of my time in a terminal, and 30% of my time in a web browser. Honestly its the perfect computer for me right now. So, I’m waving goodbye to the ecosystem Mr. Jobs built, and moving to the world of linux full time.

On Beyond ThinkPad

Matt Urbanski who is coming from a linux mint based Lenovo ThinkPad x220 that he has been really happy with, gives his initial thoughts in Project Sputnik Beta Day one. He concludes his post with:

I sound much like a crochety old man who dislikes change. I’m going to give this a go and see what happens. I’m now embarking on the always annoying task of getting my homedir and configurations from one machine to the other. I’ll report back after some real usage.

The Woodward Trilogy

The most prolific cosmonaut award goes to Matt Woodward who has been putting his project Sputnik laptop through its paces and written three entries about it.

Dell Sputnik: Initial impressions

Conclusion: The Dell XPS 13 is a huge winner in my book. It’s exceedingly well built, light, quiet, and has all the bells and whistles you need in an ultrabook — particularly one aimed at developers — and Dell made intelligent omissions across the board with the possible exception of the amount of RAM pre-installed.

If like me you’ve had Dells in the past and hadn’t thought about Dell in a while, this machine may well change your mind about Dell. After only a few hours of using it it’s certainly starting to change mine, and I can already see myself gravitating to the Sputnik as my go-to machine.

Dell Sputnik: Battery life test

Results: The results are quite impressive, with a run time of about 8 hours 20 minutes in my usage

A week at a conference with Dell Sputnik

Summary: After living with the Sputnik as my only machine for a week I continue to be extremely impressed. Particularly in a developer conference situation where power isn’t available at every seat and you have to fight for the few outlets that are available, the Sputnik’s fantastic battery life let me focus on the conference instead of worrying about whether or not my laptop was going to conk out.Other than the occasional issues with the trackpad I thoroughly enjoyed using the Sputnik at DjangoCon — it makes a great conference companion!

So that’s the initial round up.  Stay tuned for more!

Extra-credit reading/Resource links

Pau for now…

30 Responses to Initial thoughts from the Project Sputnik Beta Cosmonauts

  1. Andre P. says:

    I can’t believe that battery life. That’s pretty amazing. However, I wish it had a better screen: 900 vertical pixels (1440 or 1600 horizontal?) and matte. That’s a show-stopper for me, unless the price falls to half 🙂


    • Yep, the battery life is one of my favorite features of the XPS13. Re the screen, there has been a group of folks who definitely want more pixels before they would consider it, for others its fine. thanks for the feedback!


  2. paolo muratore-ginanneschi says:

    Is there any correlation between the commercial release of the linux based xps 13 and, I assume, the xps 13 refresh after Win 8
    release? As a non-US based linux user, I would appreciate a lot to have at least at faint glimpse on the future timeline of the project.
    Furtheremore is there any ground to envisage/hope for the extension of the project to recently announced models such as the xps 12?


    • Paolo,

      When Sputnik debuts it will debut on the most recent system, sorry i cant be more specific than that at this point. Re other models, we are starting with the XPS13 but based on customer demand will evaluate offering this on other platforms. So far i have gotten requests for the XPS14 & 15, this is the first request for the XPS12. Thanks for the input!


  3. Andrew Underwood says:

    Any word on an ETA? My current laptop has been dead for a fortnight and I’m contemplating this or the MBA11″… Hoping for some good news 🙂


  4. Any news on an ETA? My current laptop died a fortnight ago and I would really like to stick with Dell and Ubuntu, although I am eyeing off the MBA11″… Hoping for some good news 🙂


    • Andrew,

      The Project Sputnik product will be coming out in the US in the fall, so sometime soon. We are pushing for global availabilty but unfortunately dont have timing for that yet.

      thx, Barton


      • Andrew Underwood says:

        Thanks for the reply. One thing that is never mentioned is if you’re aiming for the current xps 13 hardware, or the 2nd generation with ivy bridge…


      • Andrew,

        I cant talk futures but project Sputnik will utilize whatever is the most current platform at the time 🙂


  5. Laurence says:

    This is looking to be the perfect laptop for my line of work in the academia. The protability and the Linux support is a rare, if not unique, combination in this space. In my experience you can either purchase highly portable laptops not configured for Linux (thus resulting in major hardware problems when Linux is forced upon it) or Linux certified laptops (of which there are only a handful) that are massive, clunky and plain.

    Hopefully this will be released soon as my current laptop has decided to call it a day. I’d like to think it is making way for the XPS 13.


    • Hi Laurence,

      thanks for the feedback, glad to hear that project sputnik is a fit for you and sorry to hear your laptop gave ut the ghost. The official product will be coming out this fall in the US.



  6. […] of that heavy brick I used to carry around and now I have a slick, top of the line Dell XPS 13, the Project Sputnik one, powered by Ubuntu. Oh, what a great machine. I love it already. It gets noisy some time but I […]


  7. Oliver says:


    first: Thank you and Dell for all the linux-/dev-support! It`s really the only alternative option for academic and work for me. I stick with my old MacBook so far… but would like to switch to the ubuntu-xps.

    I read in comments that there is no timeline for global availability, but if sputnik can be purchased in 2013 globally, is there any chance to update the xps for options of more RAM or better screen resolution? I think 4GB are enough, but in case of studying and work I often have to use some applications from the windows world, so I would need a virtual machine for that. Installing windows besides ubuntu is not the good option for me. So 8GB of RAM, as I got today in my 4 year old MacBook should be possible!
    The Screen Resolution was often critized as long as I follow the sputnik project – so this could be updated, right?

    Thank you so far and keep up your amazing work! 🙂


    • Oliver,

      thanks for the support! The two concerns you mention: more RAM and screen resolution have come up a fair amount with a number of people. We are looking at ways to address these. Stay tuned! 🙂



  8. Chris says:

    Do yourself a favor and don’t go this route. When a component fails, customer support will leave you absolutely hanging. After an hour of speaking with customer support/technical support/refund team, I was told:

    – I would have to reinstall the factory OS to receive any kind of support
    – Followed by: having installed Ubuntu voided my warranty and I wouldn’t receive *any* support
    – That the keyboard failing and the track pad being worthless after 5 weeks was outside of the 3 week return window, so I have a very nice looking paperweight

    My full review is on my personal blog.


    • Chris,

      Im sorry to hear about your experience. let me talk with the team and see what we can do.

      Barton Project Sputnik lead


      • Chris says:

        I really appreciate your help in getting things resolved. My initial experience with Dell support was obviously not great, but things are going much smoother now. It’s amazing how having a functioning keyboard can change the entire development experience!

        Thanks again for your help!


  9. @Chris, Glad it worked out, sorry for the hassle 🙂


  10. renato corbetta says:

    I have been contacted and agreed to be part of Wave II on August 31. Have not heard a word since. Do you have any idea when we will receive the coupon code?


    • Renato,

      We sent out the coupon code the same day (aug 31). I wonder if it got caught in your spam filter?

      I will resend now.



      • Renato Corbetta says:

        Hi Barton,

        Still nothing in my UAB inbox. It’s very possible it got caught by the university’s spam filter. Could you please resend to my gmail account ( Thanks so much for your help!


  11. Renato,

    Just sent to you gmail account. Let me know if you get it 🙂


  12. I am also desperately waiting for the sputnik to be released in germany. My M1330 is getting a bit rusty…


    • Marcus, after we roll out project Sputnik in the States this fall we will works on a plan to make it available in other countries.


      • That’s good to hear. These 1500€ are really burning a hole in my pocket since the release of the XPS 13. And since I bought my M1330 back then with Ubuntu preinstalled and the XPS 13 beeing the lovely device it is I am really at the edge of my seat since almost a year now…. ;-D


  13. Lepri13 says:

    Will the new version of XPS 13 with Intel hd 4000 graphics be supported in the project? I am looking to get one myself, outside the project. As I currently live in Europe there is no chance to participate in the program (

    Your advice on the best one to get would be great help.

    Thank you


  14. line says:

    Fall is soon to be winter… Any hints on release dates? You guys are so quitet 😦


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