Dell has been working on a beta program for an Ubuntu-powered Ultrabook for months, and now it is reportedly preparing to launch the resulting product.
Dell's project Sputnik aims to create a Linux-based, developer-focused device that would run on specific hardware. Over the last seven months, Dell has been working to build a final product with developers and component suppliers. The company used the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook during the testing period, and developer edition models went out in July.
The Dell XPS 13 is a three-pound notebook with a 13.3-inch screen sporting a resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels, and Intel Sandy Bridge processor, a solid state disk (SSD), and a $950+ price tag when running on Windows.
Project Sputnik meant loading up the Ultrabook with Ubuntu 12.4 LTE instead of Windows, targeting developers working with Linux software.
When it comes to specs, the Ultrabook sports a 13.3-inch HD TrueLife WLED Lit Display, a 2.0GHz i7 Intel core Duo processor (E4400), a 256GB Intel SSD, Intel HD Graphics 3000, a battery life of roughly four or five hours, and a 2.99 lbs. weight.
In terms of design, the Ubuntu version of the XPS 13 comes with a clean aluminum finish wrapping the display, while a mix of brushed aluminum and carbon-fiber material covers the bottom of the laptop. The laptop still features a panel at the bottom with an engraved Windows logo, but since it is not a production device yet. When it starts shipping with Ubuntu it will most likely ditch the Windows panel.
The black glossy frame of the display embodies a 1.3-megapixel camera for video chats. Meanwhile, the keyboard seems to feature larger keys than previous Dell laptops, and the backlighting comes in handy. The trackpad, however, lacks individual buttons. Overall, the design appears to fall in line with new Ultrabook designs.
The display features Gorilla Glass, which is considered one of the strongest glass displays available, providing extra scratch-resistance and durability. Altering the position of the display, however, will show some washout and degradation of colors. It's a high-quality display nonetheless, especially considering the dimensions.
The speakers, located near the front of the device, are just about average laptop speakers - not too shabby, but not too impressive either. On the upside, Dell has purposely used hardware that works well with Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA), which Ubuntu uses. Input audio devices can be easily used as well.
When it comes to network and ports, Dell's Ubuntu Ultrabook packs an integrated wireless a/b/g/n card as default, working out of the box with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, Bluetooth support, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one Mini DisplayPort, and one Audio Jack.
The laptop's performance is expected to be in the top tier of laptops that ship with Ubuntu. After seven months of testing, Dell will likely continue to use the XPS 13 as its flagship Ubuntu Ultrabook.
The Ubuntu Ultrabook is expected to be initially available only in the U.S. It remains uncertain at this point, however, just when the Sputnik laptop will launch, or how much it will cost.