Dell XPS 13 Hardware Notes

September 03, 2016

The particular model I have is the Dell XPS 13 9350, with 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and QHD touch display. Purchased from Amazon in August 2016. I didn't buy the "developer edition", but the hardware seems to be exactly the same, and the developer edition does not seem to be loaded with any unique software, because Dell contributes patches back to Ubuntu (currently 16.04).

SSD

The logic board supports a M.2 2280 PCIe SSD. Stock SSD on the 1TB version is a Toshiba XG3, reported as follows by nvme list:

Node             Model                Version  Namepace Usage                      Format           FW Rev  
---------------- -------------------- -------- -------- -------------------------- ---------------- --------
/dev/nvme0n1     THNSN51T02DU7 NVMe T 1.1      1          1.02  TB /   1.02  TB    512   B +  0 B   57DA4103

This drive has exceptionally good performance, and is faster than any 1TB SSD that is available "retail" at the time of this writing. Other 1TB OEM drives can offer comparable performance (such as the Samsung SM961), but none are particularly "better" yet.

Also used with:

  • Samsung 950 Pro
  • Samsung PM951

No idea if M.2 SATA drives work or not.

USB

  • 2x USB-A ports, 1x USB-C
  • USB performance seems very good: continuous data rates of 160 MB/sec from USB 3.0 SDR devices (e.g. Ettus B200) are achievable.
  • USB power output when the laptop is asleep can be enabled in BIOS.

Power

  • Can charge via USB-C or the stock Dell "small" barrel jack.
  • Wants a 45W AC adapter for either.
  • Most USB-C chargers aren't high enough power, but the Innergie PowerGear USB-C 45 45W Laptop Adapter works. $37 from Amazon as of Sept 2016.
  • Barrel jack is at 19.5V.

Dell's "Power Companion" external battery is great. There are three versions:

  • 4-cell barrel jack
  • 4-cell USB-C
  • 6-cell barrel jack

All versions have two USB ports in addition to the laptop charger, and all work with the XPS 13. The USB-C version will also charge other USB-C devices, including a Razer Blade Stealth, Pixel C, or Nexus 5X. Haven't tested with a 12" Macbook.

Stock AC adapter is the Dell X9RG3, which is nice and small, seems to have good strain relief, and has a good cable wrapping design. It includes a long and obnoxious AC-side cable, but it uses a standard IEC320 C5 connector, so you can replace it with either a short cable or a direct adapter.

External PCIe

Works with an Akitio Thunder2 PCIe box via a Startech Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter. Thunderbolt security settings in BIOS have to be disabled (most permissive). Also works well under Linux with GPUs, 10GbE cards, etc.

Touchpad

The standard install will default to using xserver-xorg-input-synaptics for the touchpad. This supports of synclient touchpad tweaks, but you can also switch to xserver-xorg-input-libinput and it seems to be better.

WiFi

Stock WiFi card is BCM4350-based and supports 802.11ac. It is miniPCIe and uses two u.FL antenna connectors, so can be easily replaced.

The WiFi antennas seem to have quite good performance (at least as good as a 2013 Retina Macbook Pro, and better than the Razer Blade Stealth).

Linux Notes

Everything works out of the box on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, including:

  • WiFi
  • Touchpad
  • Touchscreen
  • Media keys
  • Sleep
  • Thunderbolt
  • Audio

You can use OpenCL with the internal GPU via the beignet project, with an apt package of the same name.

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