Review of the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 series with Ubuntu
Ubuntu based Dell Inspiron 15 3000 series laptop: a first look
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Dell Laptop Running Ubuntu
I have been running linux on all of my personal desktops and laptops for many years now. I tried many of the bigger linux distributions out there, finally got hooked on debian and later moved to Ubuntu, because of it's predictable release cycle. The great thing with (gnu-) linux as an os is, that it can run on almost any hardware. The downside used to be that you would have to sometimes tinker around to get all the components working. Ubuntu has made a lot of effort to have hardware certified to run Ubuntu. You can check out the list of hardware by vendor here.
Budget linux laptop
So if you are looking for a budget laptop that runs Ubuntu out of the box with the assurance of the hardware vendor and you prefer to just buy a laptop of the shelve with Ubuntu pre-installed, you do not have to look long and hard. Dell is one of the first big hardware suppliers that delivers some of their laptops running Ubuntu linux out of the box. Just go over to the website of Dell and search for Ubuntu and you will find exactly what you are looking for:
The Dell inspiron 15 3000 with Ubuntu pre-installed
The laptop is low priced and has low specs, but the build quality is pretty good. Also performance wise the laptop is not bad at all. It is not for gamers, nor for people doing 3d-graphic design. But you can however edit video and audio on this laptop. The laptop handles these tasks fine. Occasionally, you will notice a small pause when multiple heavy video editing or rendering tasks are running, though.
Ubuntu operating system
As said this laptop is shipped with Ubuntu linux already installed on it. Dell has added some minor tweaks to the system. So the default browser is Chromium instead of Mozilla. There are some Dell Archives available in the apt-get repositories, but there are no proprietary drivers installed on the system. All active drivers are open source drivers. In the 'about this computer' window there is the logo of Dell next to the logo of Ubuntu. Check out the screenshots of the system info that are included.
The laptop has more or less 4GB of RAM an Intel Celeron CPU N3050 with two cores running at 1,6 GHz. The hard disk contains more or less 500 GB of space, which is partitioned as follows:
- Boot partition of 524 mb formated as FAT32
- Unmounted 3,2GB partition holding the Dell-Ubuntu restore image formated as FAT32
- File system partition of 488 GB formated as Ext4
- Swap partition of 8,4 GB
The on board graphics are handled by the Intel Cherryview chip which has open source Linux support by Intel.
There are two speakers at the front under at the bottom of the casing. The sound quality is good. It is loud enough for comfortably viewing of a movie or listening to internet radio. There is one mini-jack port for both audio in and audio out. You can plug in a microphone, headphones or a headset like the one you usually get with your mobile phone. There is also a build in microphone which is located in the center on top of the screen next to the webcam.
The build in webcam is nothing fancy. Like most laptop webcams it produces pixelated images in poor lighting condition. When there is enough licht, the camera is actually quit good. There is no slide to cover the webcam for when it is not in use. There is a light next to the webcam that shines while the cam is in use. This provides the minimum needed lighting and serves as an indicator that the cam is in operation.
The screen is 15 inch wide. The sides around the screen are maybe 1,5 cm wide on the top and to the left and the right. It looks well proportioned. The screen resolution is 1366 by 768 pixels, which is not a lot as you can also find this resolution on 12 inch screen laptops at about the same price range.
The laptop has a standard qwerty keyboard with a numpad. Feed back on the keyboard is OK. The keys are not back lid. Interestingly enough the Windows key is present and now functions for launching the Ubuntu dash.
Next to the already mentioned audio jack port there are three usb ports and a hdmi port. And of course there is the power charging port and a Kensington port to look down your laptop when needed.
The fan never sounds loud.
I have been able to get 5 to 6 hours of battery life surfing the web, writing code and doing image editing all while listening to music.
Overall look and feel
The laptop casing is made out of plastic, but never feels cheap. The build is solid and the casing does not squeak.
Working with video using VLC
Installing Atom Code editor
Software and applications
There is a lot of software available for getting stuff done on Ubuntu. Almost all of which is free and open sourced. So if you get used to working with the tools available on Ubuntu you will be less locked into specific vendors products. Applications can be easily installed using the Ubuntu Software Center.
The default browser in Ubuntu LTS 14.04
The default browser in Ubuntu LTS 14.04 Dell OEM version
- Google chrome
Browser based on the open source chromium browser but as it is published by Google it offers better / more advanced integration with Google services. This browser will allow to have the Google App Launcher running integrated with your Ubuntu system, so you system becomes like a Chromebook on steroids.
Some proprietary browsers that offer binary install files for Ubuntu:
Complete Office Suite compatible with MS Office. Writer let's you edit your documents. Calc is for all your spreadsheets and Impress let's you impress your friends and colleagues with stunning presentations.
Similar Office Suite as LibreOffice, but you now have a choice.
More light weight alternatives for text editing (Abiword) and Spreadsheets (Gnumeric)
- Evince PDF reader
Email and communication
The default email client on Ubuntu by the Mozilla Foundation
There are linux versions available for download from the Skype website.
Working with Images
The default image viewer / manager on Ubuntu. Let's you import, organize and view all your photos.
This is the open source equivalent of Photoshop.
This is the open source equivalent of Illustrator.
Working with Video
VLC or Videolan is a very versatile tool for playing, recording and transforming all kinds of audio and video files and streams.
A video editor
Working with code
The default text / code editor on Ubuntu. Many plugins are available that allow it to work with almost any code you like. Also available on windows and mac, but not actively maintained for these platforms. Actively maintained on Linux.
Cross platform open source text / code editor. Actively maintained by Github and the community. There are many plugins, or packages, as they are called, available to extend the functionality of the editor. Also see the video on how to install Atom on your Ubuntu laptop.
Ubuntu does have the ability to work with Flash and Java. You can easily install them from the Ubuntu software Center or by using the following commands to install all proprietary additional software you probably want, but that are not distributed within Ubuntu:
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-addons
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
Adobe air is no longer supported on Linux by Adobe. However you can install the latest window version using wine or PlayOnLinux. This way I have been able to work with some applications that were running on Adobe Air.
Staying up to date with the latest software is easy on Ubuntu. The system will prompt you for installing available updates.
A quick comparison of the most used MS Windows applications to their Ubuntu counter parts
If you are looking for a budget laptop that will allow you to surf around the web and let you do some light image and video editing then this could be the laptop you want. If you have never used Ubuntu before then this will be an easy introduction as you will not have to install it yourself. Ubuntu provides all you need to surf the web and be productive with text, images and videos. In that sense it is like a Chromebook, but with more flexibility and capabilities. However if you are a video editing guru or hard core gamer, then this laptop will just not give you enough resources. In that case you may wanna check out the XPS series of Dell which are also delivered running Ubuntu pre-installed, but of course with a higher price tag.
Rate this laptop
What do you think?
I think Ubuntu linux is great. And this Dell laptop makes it so easy to have a laptop with linux out of the box. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments.
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