Is the Dell M3800 Linux workstation worth buying?

In today's open source roundup: Ars reviews the Dell M3800 Developer Edition laptop. Plus: DistroWatch reviews Ubuntu MATE 14.10, and Recombu reviews the Samsung Galaxy S6 phone

Ars reviews the Dell M3800 Developer Edition laptop

Dell has released a new version of its Linux workstation. The Dell M3800 Developer Edition laptop is geared toward...you guessed it...developers. Ars Technica has a full review of the Dell M3800, and notes that the specs of the Linux version match those of the Windows version.

Lee Hutchinson reports for Ars Technica:

For $1,533 out of the gate or about $2,080 as tested, is the M3800 Developer Edition worth it?

Sure—if you want a fast, well-built, well-equipped 4K laptop preloaded with Ubuntu, with most of the potential edge-case configuration issues already taken care of, with an active set of developers working to ensure that the necessary repos are kept current, and with an actual, for-real OEM warranty and support. The M3800 Developer Edition is what an OEM-loaded Linux laptop should be...

The value proposition is pretty clear there, but the question is whether or not that value proposition is worth the extra money versus buying a less-expensive base laptop and loading the Linux distro of your choice. There’s going to be a lot of overlap between the M3800 Developer Edition’s target market and the segment of potential customers who have no problem with just rolling their own Linux installation on a Thinkpad or even on a MacBook.

The M3800 Developer Edition is a solid piece of hardware with some very smart folks at Dell committed to keeping it working well. If you want something that’s like a MacBook Pro but with more expandability and with an OEM-supported Ubuntu install, then this is definitely your bag.

The Good:

Ubuntu 14.04, factory-preconfigured to just work

Barton George and the other Dell engineers worry about packages and drivers so you don't have to

High-quality build: no squeaks, no rattles, no shimmies

16GB of RAM, the potential for a large SSD, and a Haswell i7 CPU mean it's got plenty of guts as a developer's workstation

Reasonable amount of upgradeability

Display is bright, beautiful, and works with Ubuntu 14.04 (including the multitouch functionality)

The Bad:

Thunderbolt port doesn't really work in Ubuntu

Application-level 4k scaling issues are pretty much all over the place

If all you're after is Linux on a laptop, you can do it for cheaper than the M3800's starting price

I kind of hoped the Dell logo on the back would light up, but sadly it doesn't

The Ugly:

Battery life with the Nvidia GPU enabled is far too short for a day's worth of working

More at Ars Technica

Ars' readers had their own thoughts to share about the Dell M3800 Developer Edition:

Dandenoth: "I've had a couple of laptops I've put various distros on, and I think at those price points, I'll continue to do so. An Asus Zenbook UX303LN can be had for under 1200, and it's got great specs at that price..."

Tayhimself: "- 4K is a silly resolution for this screen size

- Linux kernel devs or Dell need to work on battery life improvements. I haven't been keeping track of kernel changes but OS X and even Windows 8 are far better at energy management.

- For what's on offer, a rMBPro seems like a better Unix laptop. These days with VMs and Docker, running Linux on a laptop seems like a fun but unnecessary thing."

BrentK: "In my experience, getting Linux to work on most machines is almost trivial, and has been for a few years now (unless the manufacturer tries to lock-down the boot sequence). The installers for Ubuntu and Fedora are quite slick."

Josh A.K.A CLF: "I prefer Linux as a desktop over Windows, but if it came down to it I'd rather have Windows than Ubuntu. I would never buy something like this because I friggin HATE Unity..."

Gunversation: "...most developers are more than capable of a trivial distro install on a laptop that will meet their hardware needs without the inflated price tag. I think this is more or less targeting people that have an entry level interest in Linux but do not have knowledge or means to separate them selves from their current off the shelf OS."

More at Ars Technica

Ubuntu MATE 14.10 review

Ubuntu MATE is the latest official spin of Ubuntu, and it should hold great appeal for Ubuntu users who prefer a more traditional desktop environment. DistroWatch has a full review of Ubuntu MATE 14.10.

Jesse Smith reports for DistroWatch:

I enjoyed my time with Ubuntu MATE and I ran into only a few minor problems with the distribution. For instance, the installer locked up when I attempted to install third-party software. Otherwise the distribution functioned beautifully. Ubuntu MATE runs quickly, the distribution was stable during my time with it and the desktop environment was always responsive. The applications that shipped with the distribution worked well for me and I appreciated the small, but capable collection of software offered.

Ubuntu MATE is quite straight forward in that the distribution is exactly what the developers claim. The distribution is a MATE spin of Ubuntu. It ships with a classic desktop environment, the distribution performed well and everything worked as expected. The project has a clear goal and the developers have achieved it. That might sound dull, but it is nice for me, as a reviewer, to run a distribution that does not over-promise or under-perform; it just does what it sets out to do.

I believe I understand why so many people have been e-mailing to ask me about the Ubuntu MATE project. Running the distribution this past week felt a lot like running Ubuntu back before the Unity desktop was introduced. Whether you like Unity or not, I think it is fair to say a lot of people enjoyed using Ubuntu with the classic GNOME 2 desktop. Ubuntu MATE recreates the pre-Unity Ubuntu experience with up to date applications and great desktop performance.

Personally, I am happy the Ubuntu MATE distribution has become an official Ubuntu community project. The distribution certainly carries on the spirit of older Ubuntu releases and I think this re-spin will provide a welcome solution for people running hardware with limited resources.

More at DistroWatch

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