# Dell Precision 5540 Linux Developer Laptop Review

08 Jun 2020

I’ve been a Linux user for a very long time now, more than 10 years. Six years ago, in 2012, Dell launched what they call “Project Sputnik”, an initiative to create a line of PCs sold with Linux pre-installed, catering towards developers. In early 2017, I purchased a Dell Precision 5510, with my own money, and I must say, I’ve been very impressed with Dell’s commitment to make a very high quality Linux device that just works out of the box and doesn’t have the Windows licensing cost attached to it. At the time I purchased it, I paid quite handsomely for the 5 year ProSupport Plus warranty, which includes accidental damage coverage and the ability to keep your hard drive when the system or drive is replaced. It also has US-based customer service that is a tier above what you get with the normal consumer warranty on most of Dell’s products. At the time, I opted for the configuration with Ubuntu 14.04, an Intel Xeon CPU, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1 TB NVMe, the Nvidia Quadro M1000M, a 6-cell 87 Wh battery, and a 1080P FHD display. The computer served me very, very well up until around April of 2020, when I had to have some service done on it. Unfortunately, one of the parts they needed to service my system was on back-order until the middle June due to COVID-19 related delays. This ended up being very lucky for me indeed. The representative asked me if I wanted a system exchange instead of waiting for repair, and I was promised a system with at least all the capabilities. I said I’d consider it when they offered me a new configuration, so they went ahead and put in a system exchange request. When I got an email offering me a (as far as I know) brand new Dell Precision 5540 to replace my aging 5510, I was ecstatic to say the least. I confirmed my interest and they sent the new system.

Fast forward to May, I received my 5540, and I made a short unboxing video of the event. This system is everything I hoped for and more. I’ve used a lot of different laptops in the past, like an HP ProBook, a Lenovo IdeaPad, a couple different Thinkpad devices, the 2011, 2015 and 2019 models of Macbook Pros (provided by my employers for work use), and a cheap Lenovo Chromebook. I’ve got to say, hands down, the Dell Precision 5540 is my favorite laptop of all time so far. The specifications on my replacement unit are also very generous of Dell, and honestly, I might be a loyal customer for life after this experience.

Dell Precision 5540 CTO Base
Intel Xeon E-2276M (6 Core Xeon, 12M Cache, 2.80GHz up to 4.70GHz Turbo, 45W, vPro)
Ubuntu Linux 18.04
Nvidia Quadro T1000 w/4GB GDDR5
15.6" UltraSharp FHD IGZO4, 1920x1080, AG, NT, w/Prem Panel Guar, 100% sRGB, Titan Gray w/ HD Camera
32GB,2x16GB, 2666MHz DDR4 Non-Ecc Memory
M.2 1TB PCIe NVMe Class 40 Solid State Drive
Internal US English Backlit Keyboard
Palmrest, 80 KYBD layout, without fingerprint reader
Intel Dual Band Wireless AX200 2x2 + Bluetooth 5.1 vPro
6-cell 97 Whr Lithium Ion battery with ExpressCharge
130w Power Adapter

Having a powerful laptop is definitely a huge plus for any on-the-go development work, and I absolutely love the battery life on these Dells. I get between 5 - 10 hours of battery life depending on my workload, although when idle, I’ve seen GNOME’s power indicator say as high as 15 hours. The keyboard and trackpad are some of the best I’ve used, and even though I always replace the pre-installed operating system (I’m using Arch Linux nowadays), I love the fact that the system is not only certified against Ubuntu 18.04, it comes pre-installed with it. I did play around with the default installation, and I assume that they tuned it for optimal power management, and ensured that every single piece of hardware on the system will work to it’s fullest for people who aren’t tinkers like myself who like more of a DIY approach. Since it’s certified against Ubuntu, I also had no worries about it working with alternative distributions. This system just oozes quality, and I’d say it’s in the same class as a high-end Macbook Pro.

I really hope to see Dell offer Linux on more devices, such as the XPS, Inspiron, and Latitude lines, and make it easier to choose Linux on the devices that have SKUs with Linux supported. Ordering a system with Linux from their website is definitely an area they could improve in. If you’re a developer or just love using Linux, and are considering buying one of these, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a pricey machine but there’s very little the fully-loaded configuration I have can’t handle. I’m going to stick with this device for as long as I can, as I think it’s the best laptop I’ve ever used and the IO on the newer models seems to have been reduced to USB-C and an SD card reader only, which is problematic if you don’t want to carry dongles.

Dylan Taylor
Software Engineer