Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Linux on XPS 13 9310 (Late 2020)

 I was able to get the 9310 non-Developer Edition at a pretty good discount, but I couldn't find anything online about installing Ubuntu on it vs the pre-installed image on the Developer Edition.

BLUF: Ubuntu Linux works fine on the non-Developer Edition of the XPS 13 9310.

- When booting from the Live USB, the Intel wireless device did not work.  This may have just been a glitch because the next time I booted from a Live USB, the wireless worked just fine.  In both cases it worked after installation.

- When installing, you'll probably want to choose to install non-free drivers to ensure that the Iris graphics work.  It will prompt you to create a Secure Boot password.  This is different than the disk encryption key or login password.  When booting for the first time, you'll get a prompt asking you to enrol a new key.  I'm unsure if it's always the British spelling, or if my location somehow influenced that.  You do need to enrol the key by entering the password you created, otherwise a kernel without the proprietary drivers will boot and you will be sad.

- Other than needing to ensure that the proprietary drivers are added, Xubuntu 20.04.1 worked great out of the box.  I suspect there are some improvements to be made in the kernel (I'm currently on 5.6.0) for the 11th gen CPU / Iris graphics because the battery life is terrible.  It's drawing more than 10W at idle with an expected runtime of only 5 hours.  I expect this to be the same on other Ubuntu flavours, but I can't speak for other distros.

- Unlike some others, I found the backlight plenty bright, even on low settings.  The keyboard backlight is also quite strong and I rarely want more than the "low" option there.

Correction: I stated above that baseline power draw was around 10W with only 5 hours of expected battery life.  As of a few days later, I'm seeing closer to 9.5 hours of expected runtime with typical discharge rates closer to 6W at idle/light load.

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