Dell doubles down on high-end Ubuntu Linux laptops

Developers know Dell has a great Ubuntu Linux powered programmer's laptop, the XPS 13. Few people know that Dell also offers Ubuntu on its high-end Precision mobile workstation line.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

CEO and founder of Dell, Michael Dell, has long been a Linux supporter. By 2007, under his guidance, Dell became the first major OEM to offer a laptop with pre-installed Linux. His Linux of choice? Ubuntu Linux. Ten years later, Dell is still selling Ubuntu Linux-powered laptops.

Dell Precision 5720 AIO

With the option of Xeon processors, up to 64GBs of RAM, and TBs of storage, Dell Precision 5720 will be a Linux developer or engineer's dream come true.

The best known of these is the Dell XPS 13 developer edition, but it's not the only Linux laptop Dell offers.

In a blog post, Barton George, senior principal engineer at Dell's Office of the CTO, announced "the next generation of our Ubuntu-based Precision mobile workstation line." All of these systems boast Ubuntu 16.04 long-term support (LTS), 7th generation Intel Core or Intel Xeon processors, and Thunderbolt 3, AKA 40 Gigabit per second (Gbps) USB-C, ports. As the Xeon processor option shows, these are top-of-the-line laptops for professionals.

It took longer than expected for Dell to get this new set of five Ubuntu-powered Precision mobile workstations out the door. The Precision 5520 and 3520 are now available. To see their Ubuntu option, go to each laptop's page and click on customize and buy.

The 3520, the entry-level workstation, starts with an Intel Core 2.5GHz i5-7300HQ Quad Core processor with Intel HD Graphics 630. From there, you can upgrade it all the way to an Intel Core Xeon 3 GHz E3-1505M v6 processor with Nvidia Quadro M62 graphics.

For RAM, it starts with 4GBs and can be raised up to 16GBs of error correcting code (ECC) memory. ECC RAM is for when you absolutely can't afford any memory mistakes. For storage, the 3520 begins at a 500GB hard drive and zooms up from there to a 2TB hard drive or a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD). Its 15.6 display has a maximum resolution of 1,366 by 768.

This model's price is currently $897.50. That's $101.50 less than the same machine with Windows 10 Pro. Yes, that's right. At long, long last, you can get a Linux laptop from a mainline vendor without paying the "Windows tax".

The 5520 is Dell's lightest 15" mobile workstation. Its default configuration starts with an Intel Core 2.8GHz i5-7440HQ Quad Core processor with Intel HD Graphics 630. You can upgrade the graphics with Nvidia's new Quadro M1200 graphics and 4GBs of video RAM.

On the memory front, it begins at 8GBs of RAM and can go up to 32GBs. For storage, this workstation starts at a 500GB hard drive and can be ramped up to either a 2TB hard drive or several different 1TB SSDs. You have two display choices: A 15.6 1,920 x 780 or a 3,840 x 2,160 screen for an extra $299.

The price starts at $1,297.50. Again, this is just over $100 cheaper than the same model with Windows 10 Pro.

The other Dell Ubuntu workstations on their way are the Precision 7520 and 7720. These should be out within the next few weeks.

The full specifications for these aren't out yet. It's believed the 7720 will offer an Intel Kaby Lake processor. George called it the "world's most powerful mobile workstation". Both machines also offer Xeon processors.

The 7520 will come with a 15.6" display, while the heftier 7720 will offer a 17.3" display. Both offer NVIDIA Quadro and AMD Radeon Pro graphics options. Each system can have up to 64GBs of RAM. Yes, I said, 64. The 7520 maxes out at 3TBs of storage, while the 7720 can hold up to 4TBs of storage.

Prices will be high, but you're also getting more power than you can get from any other current standard laptop.

Finally, the all-in-one desktop, the Precision 5720, will be out in April. This model comes with a 4K 27" display, powered by the 7th Generation Intel Core or a Xeon E3-1200 v6 series processor. It can also handle up to 64GBs of RAM. For storage, the sky's the limit with slots for a M.2 PCIe SSD and a pair of 2.5" SATA drives. Last but not least, it also comes with the option of AMD Radeon Pro graphics. Its price tag is also unknown, but it's safe to assume it won't be cheap.

None of these are machines for casual users, but if you're a pro and your work demands the best possible hardware, it will be hard to beat them. Let me just add that my birthday isn't that far away (OK, so it's six months out, sue me), and I'd be happy to have any of these in my office.

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