Last week I have received the new Dell XPS 13 from the Sputnik program, the one with Ubuntu pre-installed. I wanted to vote with my wallet since I believe Ubuntu is a pretty solid desktop environment, on par with Mac OS X and various Windows.

Design-wise  Dell has produced a very good looking machine, nothing to say about that. Kudos to Dell’s team on designing something much prettier than a Macbook Air. The screen with no border is fantastic with almost no frame and it’s great to look at it.

The only complaint I have towards Dell are the options they picked for the Sputnix program: the only way not to get a touchscreen is to buy a severely limited machine with only 128MB disk. No way. All the other options force you to spend money and sacrifice battery power on a useless feature.

I think touchscreens are uncomfortable to use on desktops and I said so a long time ago. Unless the desktop OS is radically re-designed for touch and hand gestures on the monitor, it makes no sense. I would have never bought the touchscreen if Dell had offered a 256MB option with the regular monitor.

On the Ubuntu side there are quite a few glitches like this issue with the cursor becoming sticky on some applications even if the touch-to-click on the touchpad is disabled and some difficulty to adapt to the ultradense display. By the way, that’s another reason not to get the touchscreen: lower resolution is good enough on such a small laptop anyway. Installing Ubuntu Vivid also was a bit more painful than I thought.

All in all, I didn’t return the laptop as I thought I would, mainly because I needed to upgrade to a machine with 8GB rapidly.

I started chatting with my brother about corporate laptops and how ugly they generally are. He works for a large corporation that doesn’t offer any choice: he can get any computer he wants provided it’s black and runs Windows. Poor thing. I am lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to use Apple products:  I could have had a Mac if I wanted to but  I chose not to use Apple hardware because I would not have used its operating system (I tried some time ago and gave up).

The conversation made me sad to realize that on one hand Apple offers beautiful designs, great machines shown at art museums, noble materials. On the other companies like Dell and Lenovo offer only ugly plastic, basic components assembled together in heavy chassis, awful chargers and the same basic design since the 90s. The abyss between Apple products and its competitors justifies its +$500 per share.