Friday, December 19, 2014

A 2-in-1 laptop that just works under Linux: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Series i7347

For quite some time, I've felt the need for an x86 tablet computer that I could carry with me when I was away from my main workstation. This need became a necessity when I started travelling for business, and while my trusty Bonobo Extreme, from System76, was everything I ever needed for a computer to be, it was also a little too bulky and heavy, which made it almost impractical to operate in tight spaces like in a car - while not driving, of course - and in planes. I knew that I needed something that was modern with a tight form factor like that of a Tablet, yet full featured, unlike many Tablets. 

The ideal tablet computer needed to be cost effective and with known compatibility under Linux 32bit and 64bit. I had considered buying the Surface or the Transformer earlier, but since this was going to be a companion computer and not the primary one, and I needed offline storage to install all my software for when I was on the go, the Surface didn't have enough storage or compatibility to just justify the cost, and in addition to the lack of sufficient storage, the Transformer wasn't powerful enough for my needs.

I discovered Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Series i7347 while researching 2-in-1 laptops on Amazon. After spending time researching it, it seemed like it was created with my needs in mind. The additional $100 off the sticker price of the Dell's original $599 made it an even more attractive purchase I could not afford to miss. I was a purchase I did not regret making.
The laptop is very slick and professional looking, which works great, since I intend to take it with me on my business and family trips instead of my more powerful, yet bulky, 17 inch Bonobo Extreme Laptop/Workstation. The hinges on the Inspiron are very sturdy and the laptop easily folds into a tablet. The touchscreen is very responsive. With a 500 GB hard disk at my disposal, I am able to use all my office productivity applications, as well as, software development tools and related services, without any difficulty. Now granted that this model is not an i7 or even an i5, but neither is it an Atom or ARM based. It provides a full computing experience with enough horsepower for smoother operation and functioning.

Installing Linux on it was a breeze. Almost everything worked right out of the box, and the only hiccup under Linux was, the not-so-well supported Wireless/Bluetooth module with Broadcom chipset. However, with little research, I was able to find Intel's Dual Band AC 7260 module, with the proper form factor, that was compatible and well supported under Linux. A version of that module, 7265, is also listed in Dell's specifications document for this laptop as an option. I suppose, if I had bought this directly from Dell, I might have been able to choose the Intel over the Dell Wifi module.

I also made the right call, when I decided to upgrade the WLAN module myself. The laptop is very easy to upgrade manually. The HDD, the RAM, the battery, and the WLAN module, among other things, are easily accessible, once you unscrew the base lid. On their website, Dell provides a Service Repair guide for this model, which provided all the necessary steps needed to help with the hardware upgrade, and that has only boosted my confidence in this machine and it's quality.

I am very happy with the purchase and would recommend it to anyone who intends to run Linux on it.

The 2-in-1 can be purchased from Amazon using the link below.


Note: there are two form factors the Wifi module is available under. You are looking for the smaller of the two.

7260NGW Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 802.11ac, Dual Band, 2x2 Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0

The Wifi Module can be purchased from Amazon using the link below. 



Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the article.

1 comment:

  1. Can the memory modules be upgraded to anything higher then 8GB?

    ReplyDelete