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Murmur: Dell XPS 13 7390

I got a great deal of Dell XPS 13 7390 on Black Friday this year. It’s a regular 7390, not the 2-in-1 model. Still, it’s really really a fantastic machine.

I never used any high-end laptop. I spend most of my time on local desktops, workstations, and remote clusters and rarely need my laptop, except when out of town. My to-go laptop had been a $180 Chromebook with Arch installed for couple years before this Black Friday. It has a great keyboard. That says, as long as internet access is good, I can work efficiently with my cheap Chromebook during trips.

But this year, since I’m really having a difficult time, so I decided to buy something luxury on Black Friday to cheer myself up. I had been watching XPS 13 for many years since Costco started to sell them in the stores. Every time in a Costco, I spent a lot of time just staring at the XPS. It’s just that I always convinced myself that there’s no need for a new laptop, especially a fancy & expensive one.

The deal I got is around $840 for 10th generation i7, 1080p display, 8G RAM, 256G NVMe SSD, and a less problematic WiFi card. This is the developer edition, so it doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor and Windows. It is a great deal for me. After all, I only use Arch and don’t need Windows, and fingerprint sensors do not work well in Linux (from what I heard). The only unsatisfying thing is the RAM. The RAM is soldered on the motherboard. It’s not that easy, if possible, to upgrade soldered RAM. Some people also complain that the RAM is DDR3 2133, which is kinda old in modern days. But I’m actually okay with that. It’s unlikely to feel a huge performance difference between DDR3 and DDR4 for daily-life usage, especially that I don’t need this laptop to do big jobs. I simply want a laptop that is fancy enough and can make me happy. As long as the keyboard is right, the display is good, and the internet is good, I can work with it.

This Dell XPS 13 is actually the first laptop I have ever had that is over $500. (I do have a Lenovo W540, but I don’t think it can be called a laptop. It’s basically a brick and not something I can put on my lap…) So I don’t really know how good it is compared to other laptops in the same class. I’m not a professional laptop reviewer or YouTuber and not able to come up with beautiful words to describe it. The only word I can think of is AMAZING

The keyboard is amazing. I don’t understand those keyboard jargon, such as actuation force or travel distance. But I am very used to the Adesso MKB-135B mechanical keyboard, and I rarely find a keyboard that can provide the same typing experience, not even close. The reason I love my previous $180 Chromebook so much is that the keyboard is not bad. And the keyboard of this XPS is even better. My fingers are like flying when I type on XPS keyboards. The keys do not feel like cheap plastic.

The second thing I love about the laptop is the display. It’s not a 4K display, not an OLED display, and not a touch screen. But I think it does have an excellent color capability and brightness. The thing I hate the most about my previous $180 Chromebook is the display. Again, I’m not a graphical guy, so I don’t know about colors at all. But compared to my $180 Chromebook and all $200 okay monitors I have, the XPS seems to give me a more vivid visualization. I don’t know the reason behind it, but I do believe it’s because of the color capability.

The last thing I love about XPS is the looking and the dimensions. It’s only about 0.3 to 0.4 inch in thickness and has a skinny bezel. The small footprint of XPS is famous, so there’s no need to address it.

As to the hardware performance, I don’t really have any feelings about it. I do all my heavy computations at remote machines. And I don’t play games on XPS either.

This laptop has only USB-C ports, which is somehow an annoying thing, as many gadgets are still using USB-A. And I also need a USB-C – HDMI converter when I need to use this laptop for presentations. But on the other hand, the XPS has a micro SD card reader. I’m kind of like it. I have many micro SD cards from old-day cameras and phones. I can put them into my XPS, though I don’t know when I’m going to really need them.

However, I can still say one bad thing about the XPS: the cooling system. Even though I don’t do heavy computations on the XPS, I sometimes compile code with it. And that’s when I immediately feel the heat at the bottom of the laptop. I think one day I’ll probably re-apply the thermal paste (with better paste) or even upgrade to a better heat pipe if there’s any.

Another issue is the Intel GPU. The X11 did not perform that well with the UHD GPU. So I had to migrate my graphical environment to Wayland-based system. I choose Sway WM, which is i3-compatible. I’ve been using i3 WM for a long time. So I thought it wouldn’t be a problem if Sway is truly i3-compatible. But it turned out there were a lot of things I have to change. This is another story. Maybe I’ll write it up the next time. But what I can say is, Wayland is also amazing when running on this XPS.

I really love this XPS 13. Now even I am at home, I still spend a lot of time using this laptop.

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