After a lot of research, I recently got a Dell XPS m1210 for my girl friend. It’s a cool 12.1″ WXGA laptop with pretty much cutting edge features. It has an Intel T2300 Core Duo processor and came with 1 GiB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM and a 80 GB SATA HDD. It also has the usual embellishments like DVD RW, Intel Pro Wireless, 9 cell battery etc. All this weighs just around 2 Kg and costs around 1500 USD. So it’ll neither break your back nor will it burn a hole in your kitty 🙂
It came with something called Dell Media Direct which is some kind of embedded DVD player and would run without an Operating System. I clean formatted the hard drive and tried to install Ubuntu 6.06 LTS “Dapper Drake” on it. But I was struck by a known bug in the Ubuntu installer which frustrated me a lot. I installed Ubuntu on it finally by avoiding the bug somehow and everything went just fine afterwards. I thought that I’d need to compile and install the Wireless drivers myself but I was pleased to see that Ubuntu included the binary firmware in its restricted modules package. So everything worked just “out of the box” 🙂 It was pretty amazing to see great support for relatively new hardware in GNU/Linux. The only thing that I had to fix by hand was the display resolution. X.org could detect only 1024×768 resolution which not only looked bad, but due to the different aspect ratio things looked a bit stretched horizontally. I fixed the problem by using 915resolution to over-write the display BIOS. I added an entry for 1280×800 in an unused slot and that fixed the problem just fine.
As far as the performance of the laptop is concerned, it’s just amazing. It’s very fast considering its size and I am sure it will beat any laptop in its class. It takes only around 25 secs for Ubuntu to boot, and < 30 mins to rip a DVD. What else can I say, I can’t really complain. At last, a really portable as well as usable laptop. I am really feeling like keeping it for myself and handing over my 3 year old Toshiba to her.
Though almost everything works fine by default I guess it’d be good to have a comaptibility matrix. So here it is —
|1.||Processor (Intel T2300 Core Duo)||Works||Needs SMP kernel|
|2.||DVD RW Drive (Sony)||Works||–|
|3||SATA Hard Disk (Hitachi)||Works||–|
|4.||Ethernet (Broadcom BCM4401-B0)||Works||Needs b44 module|
|5.||Wireless (Intel 3945abg)||Works||Needs ipw3945 module, firmware, etc.|
|6.||Display (Intel 950)||Works||Needs 915resolution to get high resolution|
|7.||Sound (Intel 82801G)||Works||Needs snd-hda-intel module|
|8.||Firewire (Ricoh)||Works||Needs ieee1394 module|
|9.||Modem (Intel)||Haven’t tested, but should work||Most probably will work with the snd-intel8x0m module|
|10.||Card Reader (Ricoh)||Somewhat works||Works with SD, doesn’t work with MMC|
|11.||ACPI||Somewhat works||Suspend to RAM doesn’t work yet|
The things that don’t work at the moment will start working soon as and when newer kernels are released. The hardware is very new, so small issues can be expected. Over all, it’s a very nice laptop to buy. I haven’t faced any quirks with it and seems to be very stable. Final verdict — great buy, very good hardware and very good value for money.