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Linux on Dell XPS 15 2 in 1

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#1

I am creating this thread in the hopes that information can be shared about how Linux performs/runs on Dell XPS 15 2 in 1 laptops. I will share my experience and hopefully others will do the same. Just to clarify I am not a Linux expert whatsoever and I only really use it to have fun and see how far open source projects have gone and how viable they are as an option for everyday users. In short I will probably ask more questions then answer them but I hope we all can help each other out so we all can learn something new.

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#2

Here are the specs of the Dell XPS 15 2 in 1 laptop that I got

CPU: intel 8th gen core i7-8705G
GPU: Amd Radeon RX Vega M GL
RAM: 16Gb
Resolution: 1920X1080
Storage: 2tb intel 660p m.2 ssd
OS: dual boot of windows 10 and Pop!_OS 18.04 LTS

I partiined my drive to have 320GB for the windows install 500GB for the Pop!_OS and the rest as an NTFS cross operating system storage.

In order for me to dual boot windows and pop I had to change two bios settings. The first was to switch the storage from raid to achi, because pop doesn’t find the drive if it’s in raid, and second I had to turn off secure boot. Then I installed Windows 10 with all the necessary drivers and turned off fast boot. Finally I installed Pop!_Os by following the instructions on system76’s site on how to dual boot which can be found here

https://pop.system76.com/docs/dual-booting-windows/

There is only two slight annoyances that I ran into. First for some reason when ever I boot into Pop they keyboard is not resposive and I have to wait for about a minute until it starts working. If anyone knows a solution to this please let me know because it’s annoying that everytime I boot in or reboot I have to wait for the keyboard to respond. This is the first time I ever have experienced this and I can really find anything online about it either but I will keep looking and if I find a solution I will post it here. Second annoyance is that I had to install Windows and Pop in uefi mode because for some reason Windows doesn’t install on my laptop unless uefi is enabled. With uefi enable I don’t have access to grub which in turn the laptop boots into the is that is set as the primary os in the bios. So inorder for me to switch os’s I have to press F12 to load up the boot sequence and then choose the is I want to use. If anyone has a solution to this, for example getting grub to work in uefi or a grub alternative, as well it would be greatly appreciated.

Otherwise then that everything seems to work just fine out of the box. I will continue to test it and post updates here as much as I can.

I plan on using this laptop mainly for school and occasionally play games on it when I’m on the go. So I will be trying out how steam and the Amd graphics works on Pop. I also have the Dell active pen so I can use the touchscreen to take hand written notes which is one of the main reasons I got the 2 in 1 version, so if anyone has any suggestions for handwriting note taking apps for Linux that is similar to how OneNote works please let me know.

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#3

Good to hear this.

I have a 2017 XPS 15, tried Fedora on it but lost patience with the graphics and thunderbolt drivers.

I7-7700hq, 16gb, iGpu and gtx-1050, 1tb Dell nvme, 3840x2160 touchscreen

90% of my work tasks are in windows apps so Linux takes a back seat and runs fine under hyper-v.

That was a few years ago, maybe things are better now?

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#4

I had also tried installing Linux on the HP spectre 15 X360 2 in 1 that had a gtx 1050 max-q and a 4K display. I ran into a lot more problems with that one which I was able to narrow it down to the Gnome environment just not being fully optimized out of the box for the 4K display. Also I had other issues like the computer freezing due to the graphics drivers also not being fully optimized to run in Linux. I returned the HP laptop cause the fan controller broke within a week to the point where the fans were at max speed 24/7.
So far Pop!_OS just seems a bit more robust then Ubuntu and just more compatible with a variety of different hardware.

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#5

I have an old as dirt HP Envy with i7-2670q, iGPU + Radeon something in it, originally shipped with Vista (eww). Maybe I’ll give Pop! a go on it. It was a challenge getting Windows 10 to run, since the hardware is a bit too old and had to use Windows 8 drivers for some things.

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#6

The biggest headache with dual booting, is that Windows likes to periodically overwrite grub. If reliability is one of your objectives, I wouldn’t spend too much time fixing your UEFI boot menu “problem.”

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#7

Thanks for the tip I guess I will just stick with pressing F12 and then selecting what OS I want to boot into since it’s not really a big deal.

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#8

Ok so I ran into another slight issue and it could just be from my lack of understanding. I wanted to start testing how gaming with Steam Proton and Lutris performs so I decided to try and manually switch to the discreet AMD graphics card by following the instructions from Ubuntu

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/HybridGraphics

But I just can’t get it to switch no matter what I tried and I also updated to the latest kernal but still no luck. When I try to search online all I get is how to switch between Nvidia or the same Ubuntu link I posted. If anyone has any ideas on how to get this to work I would appreciate the help.

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#9

Arch Linux works on everything :slight_smile:

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#10

I would suggest you start with Fedora or ooenSuse or Debian and avoid Ubuntu as it will be losing steam support and definitely avoid arch, manjaro, its derivatives etc. You are not of the Linux level yet to be understanding things to the level that you need to in order to diagnose most issues.

OpenSUSE is easiest to fix when it breaks. Fedora is rock solid

And whatever you do and no matter how many people troll you to do it. Don’t install gentoo unless you really are that morbidly curious

At the end of the day no matter the desktop environment or the distribution LINUX IS A TOOL … To help you accomplish whatever you need to accomplish and its silly and pointless to engage in saying things like x distro is the best and yz DE is the best… Don’t even bother googling best in your terms. I suggest looking up your needs and seeing what fit’s the most

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#11

I appreciate the suggestions I will probably have to try different distros in that case. The reason why I had gone with Pop!_OS was because System76 will continue to support 32 bit and steam. Another reason is because I wanted to use a distro that also supports 2 in 1 laptops which most distro seem like you have to jump many hoops to get them to work well while Ubuntu/Gnome based distros have that built in. There are a couple other things that I will try to see if I can get the graphics card to switch to the Amd and if I can’t get that to work I will start looking for a different distro.

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#12

Ok so after scouring the internet for hours and trying out different things I found out what the problem was for the GPU switching. In short I really didn’t have to do anything because the GPU is kinda like a hybrid one where it will automatically switch by itself depending on what needs to be used. This might be baked into to the bios or it just how the hardware works which was why I couldn’t manually/force it to switch to the AMD you it just does it on its own. So far it’s been performing better then the HP that had the 1050 max-q which makes sense since the AMD Vega m sits between a 1050 max-q and a 1050ti max-q. I also got overwatch to work using lutris which on the HP laptop I couldn’t get it to work at all which is just amazing for me. I will probably post another update later with links on what steps I followed to get things set up. I also found a program called Xournal which allows for handwritten note taking. It’s not as well polished and feature packed as OneNote but it’s still use able. All in all I am really enjoying Pop!_OS there are something I still want to change just to make it a bit more user friendly but if everything else goes well this just might become my main OS and Windows will be my secondary.

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#13

Hi,

great thread.
I’ve just bought a Dell XPS 15 9575 (2018 version) with an Intel Core i5-8305G. I read about serious BIOS issues on notebookcheck (“Latest Dell XPS 15 9575 BIOS updates result in unresponsive input devices when logging in to Linux” from 2019/05/02). Have you experienced similar problems (what BIOS do you have)? Do you have any instructions for me before I begin with the installation?

Thanks in advance.

Regards,
s1m0n

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#14

To be honest I haven’t had any issues as of yet that I noticed. I did recently just update the bios on the laptop to 1059. When starting from a fresh boot up into Pop_OS the keyboard is unresponsive for a couple seconds which that already was happening before I did the bios update. I found that if I just leave it alone for maybe 15-20 seconds when it first boots up the keyboard and trackpad work just fine. But if I try typing it takes a lot longer for it to respond. I’m not sure what causes this but it really isn’t a big deal.
Now I don’t know if the regular XPS 15 will work differently then my 2 in 1so I don’t know if you will have trouble logging in on yours. I also am dual booting in my laptop so I am not sure if that will also make a difference or not on how the laptop will respond. I am currently running 19.04 rather then 18.04 which I found there aren’t any compatibility improvements or disadvantages except that when I go to settings and open up the details it’s now reporting that I have a hybrid/switchable graphics card, what I mean is tha rather then just reporting that I have one graphics card it show that I have two.

*** Before you do anything first back up all your data from your laptop to an external drive ***

If you want to install Linux on it you first have to go into the bios by pressing F12 when you boot up the laptop and then select “Bios Setup”. Then go to where it says “System Configuration” then “Data Operation” and make sure “ACHI” is checked on, *please note that changing this setting can make it so that your previous OS will become unbootable or may even corupt it and will have to earse the disk entirely. Then go to “Secure boot” and make sure “Secure boot enabled” is off. Otherwise you won’t be able to boot from a USB to install Linux.

If your planning on dual booting then I just recommend following the steps found on Pop_OS’s website found here


But I would highly recommend you back up all your data before you do anything because most likely you will have to earse your drive to get everything to work. Now the difference I found when preparing for dual boot is that the EFI partion was to small and I couldn’t use it which I then had to create my own. Secondly Pop_OS will install as the first OS to boot into and if you want to boot into a different OS you will have to shut down the laptop completely and boot it up while pressing F12 then you can select a different OS since grub is not available. You can also change the boot order by going into the BIOS if you don’t want to boot into Linux first but rather into windows.

I’m sorry if I’m not much help but I’m a completely noob when it comes to Linux and I just installed it to have fun with it on my laptop and to see how easy it is to use for an average person that doesn’t know much about how OS’s work and also to see how far open source software can go as a replacement for closed software that we use on a day to day bases.
I still do plan on making another post with a bit more detail on what steps I followed to get mine working but my job, school, and life in general has been keeping me really busy so I haven’t been able to post that yet. But I hope I can do that soon.

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#15

I think your freezing is due to that intel AMD combo chip? I assume you have integrated radeon graphics with an intel chip on the 15 inch?

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#16

You may be right at first I thought it was because it was a 2 in 1 laptop and when you flip the keyboard to the back it disables it and when you flip it back it enables it. So I thought maybe it was loading some drives because windows also has a slight delay thats almost unnoticeable since it’s literally a 1 sec delay before it starts working. But now that you mentioned the gpu it makes more sense since on the HP Spectre with the 1050 max-q I did have to set it to nomodeset, or something like that, with an external keyboard attached so I could initially log in and download some drives then after that it was fine. Then again for me it’s not a big deal since it only happens with a reboot and I usually put it to sleep when I’m not using it and rarely reboot it. If there is a fix for this though I would gladly like to try it out.

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#17

Ubuntu 18.04 might be your best OS to use since it has AMD GPU PRO drivers?System 76 is awesome though if you got the 18.04 image that works fine

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#18

Thanks for your quick reply. I will give it a go (Fedora 30) and report here what happens. :wink:

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#19

Hi,
Sorry for my late response.
Fedora 30 is running perfectly with BIOS v 1.2.0 (a BIOS downgrade avoides the annoying bug) which has not yet been fixed by DELL as they think it’s a LINUX issue and they don’t bother)
Gnome 3 works well with the touch display and I have not encountered any issues so far.
I have not tried running the AMD Vega M yet.

Regards,
s1m0n

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#20

That’s great to hear and from my experience the graphics should automatically switch to the AMD Vega m graphics card when ever you are doing graphic intensive tasks. I personally haven’t found a way to force the laptop to always use one or the other in Ubuntu or POP OS but you might have better luck then me. I personally just left it alone since it works when I need it and the reason I probably couldn’t force it to switch Is probably just the way the hybrid graphics chip is designed. But if you have better luck please post an update to let us know.

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