Sputnik 3 — Great Reviews from the Blog-o-sphere

At the end of last year we launched the third generation of the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition, aka Sputnik 3, which features the 4th generation Intel processors.  This Ubuntu-based laptop is the third in a line of developer focused systems which began life as the internal skunk works effort, “Project Sputnik.”  Thanks to strong community input and support the project became a product a little over a year ago.

Over this past month there have been three great reviews that have come out that I wanted to share.

1) Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition review (Haswell, late 2013 model)

This first review, from J’s blog, is quite detailed and comprehensive.   It has great photos and got nice traction on Hacker News.  Here is the opening paragraph

The XPS 13 Developer Edition, aka “Project Sputnik”, is a laptop with a FullHD 13-inch screen, backlit keyboard, SSD, 4th gen intel CPU and comes pre-installed with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

What makes this machine so interesting is not so much that Ubuntu comes pre-installed on it (it would be easy for anybody to install it him/herself, after all), but rather that Dell put some extra-work in making sure everything works right out of the box and supports running Ubuntu on it. WiFi, keyboard backlight, screen brightness control, sleepmode, etc. are guaranteed to work. [read more]

2) Guide to Leaving Your Mac Laptop

Carin Meier not only reviewed the XPS 13 developer edition but walks folks who may be interested in leaving their Macs behind how she set up her programs that she uses on a daily basis.  This blog too has great pics.  Carin’s blog starts,

I felt like I was in a controlling relationship headed downhill. After two custom laptops returned for defective hardware, I wanted to leave. But leaving didn’t seem so easy after living in the walled garden of Apple all those years.

This blog post is about how to leave your Mac and return to OSS.

There are quite a few nice alternatives to the Mac Air out there. I decided to go with the new Sputnik 3. Some of my reasons:

  • Powerful – New Haswell processor
  • 13.3 inch touch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • Ships with Ubuntu 12.04 (64 bit)
  • Nice design (yes looks are important) [Read more]

3) Got me a Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

The third review, by David Pollack, is actually a twofer in that he posted a follow on entry,  Still Liking the XPS 13 Developer Edition, two weeks after the first.  David’s posts are succinct and well laid out and I love his concluding paragraph 🙂

Just buy one

If you’re doing development like Clojure and Java, then the XPS 13 Developer Edition is a better choice than the MacBook Pro. It’s less expensive and just as impressive hardware-wise. And I like Linux a lot more than OS X. [Read more]

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

14 Responses to Sputnik 3 — Great Reviews from the Blog-o-sphere

  1. floemuc says:

    Thanks for the post, Barton – one question: I’m curious if Dell has any future plans to offer other devices with Ubuntu preloaded, too? In particular, I’d be interested in the tablets with keyboard dock. Thanks! Florian


  2. sungam2025 says:

    I think you will find these guys do better high end Ubuntu laptops for developers at a nice price https://www.system76.com


  3. Barry Sampson says:

    Some great reviews, and as the owner of one of these laptops I can say it’s a pretty great machine. Like Carin I too have just moved across to it from a Macbook.

    Unfortunately there are also quite a few of us owners who are having problems with the XPS13. There’s an active thread in the Dell support forums:


    Some of us are prepared to wait for a resolution, but others are losing patience. Are you aware of a solution for this issue?


    • Hi Barry,

      I know they are actively working on this. Since we havent been able to replicate the issue in house, support is setting up system exchanges with customers reporting the problem, to get these systems to the labs and test them and work on a solution.

      I realize this isnt ideal but since we havent be able to recreate the whine this is how we have to proceed. I apologize for huge inconvenience and appreciate your patience!



      • Barry Sampson says:

        Hi Barton,

        It’s great that this is being worked on. I returned one this morning, so that’s a prime candidate to go to the labs.



  4. Thanks Barry! are you in the US?


  5. Great laptop. It has been honestly a joy to use for the past month. Thank you for supporting Linux.

    Unfortunately, I am going to have to dual boot this machine. 😦 My master’s program requires ProctorU.


    Do you know if I can get dell’s version of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS? The version that came installed with Sputnik 3.


  6. lasso says:

    If I want to install Xubuntu 12.04.4 LTS on this do I just use the default Xubuntu ISO? Are there PPAs available to download Dell specific things?

    I found a Dell support page called “Ubuntu Driver Support Pack for Dell XPS 13 Haswell” (not sure if I’m allowed to post links) with a file called “xps13_ult_x03.fish.tar.gz”. Will that work on Xubuntu? Does it add PPAs to make sure my system is kept up to date or do I have to periodically check if there’s a newer version that would replace/overwite the previous driver package?

    I’ve never bought a notebook that officially supports Linux before so I’m really sure what to do. Before, I just use the default ISOs and just hope everything works (usually something doesn’t work or work well).

    Thank you.


  7. Al says:

    Hi Barton,

    Will the Developer Edition be available in Australia?

    I can’t find any information on the Dell website about a release

    date in Australia.

    I was tempted to buy a standard Dell XPS 13 model but I’m not

    sure if its compatible with Ubuntu Linux. Are you aware of anyone

    trying this? I would be interested to know if it works.

    Would love to hear from you. Thank you for encouraging Dell

    to supporting Linux on their devices.

    Kind regards,



  8. Edward says:

    Hi Barton,

    I’m have been a happy owner of a Project Sputnik laptop for a year now. And, with the next due release cycle of Ubuntu due out very soon, i’m wondering if it is a worth me installing…
    I was thinking of doing a fresh install — to clear some logs and program files I no longer use, and can’t be bothered to search for.

    Is there any reason why I shouldn’t?
    I have experienced driver and other issues running Ubuntu on a Acer a few years ago and dont want a repeat.

    Thanks in advance for your help…

    Kind Regards
    Edward Lee


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