Installing Xubuntu on a Dell notebook

Cost, Performance, and Usage

I was pleasantly surprised that everything worked right out of the box. Linux newbies are frequently intimidated by the mysterious Linux installation process. I didn't have any issues, other than getting the BIOS set up and installing the newfangled SSD board-styled disk. This was probably the easiest Linux installation ever.

Two years ago, the 7573 went for about $950 at Best Buy. The Dell's performance with Xubuntu is phenomenal and the thing boots in about 25 seconds. I'm able to not only jump instantly between desktop panels, but do it while simultaneously running any number of large programs like LibreOffice, FreeCAD, Thunderbird, and Chrome.

Using default power, CPU, and system settings, I get a solid four hours of battery operation on a full charge.

Only a Few Challenges

There are a few challenges. Getting the Dell notebook to boot from USB might be a little confusing. Remember to use F12 after the Dell logo to get to the BIOS setup/boot menu.

While editing documents in LibreOffice, the large Dell touchpad caused me some grief, with frequent errant characters and mouse jumps. I tried a variety of touchpad settings under Mouse and Touchpad in the Settings menu, but it just seemed way too sensitive while touch typing. The cursor would move to an odd spot, and I'd have to go back and correct out-of-place typing before proceeding. I simply turned the touchpad off and used an external mouse (I've used the M185 Logitech USB mouse for a long time and it works very well). To use the external mouse, I just disable the touchpad. The mouse, touchpad, and touchscreen can all be turned on and off independently.

Finally, you'll want to change the default ultra-high resolution, which makes the display difficult to read. You can hook up an HDMI big screen monitor, although at that resolution, it's still hard to read. Choosing the 1920x1080 resolution at 120Hz gives a crisp desktop look on the notebook screen.

Wrap Up

My new notebook setup has been a success. Xubuntu is easy to use and has a good desktop layout. FreeCAD and the Prusa slicer program have certainly streamlined my 3D-printed parts production process.

If you are in the market for this type of setup, teaming up Xubuntu with the Dell 7573 notebook and a M.2 SSD board is a winning combination for a reasonably priced, high-performance Linux notebook.

The Author

Rob "drtorq" Reilly is an independent consultant, writer, and speaker specializing in Linux/OSS, physical computing, hardware hacking, tech media, and the DIY/Maker movement. He provides a variety of engineering, business, and special project services to individual clients and companies. As a long-time veteran of the tech media, Dr. Torq has posted hundreds of feature-length articles for top-tier tech media and print outlets. He's also presented tech talks at OSCON and other industry venues. Contact him at mailto:doc@drtorq.com or 407-718-3274.

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