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We need to buy a couple of engineering laptops. Our 1st choice would be Dell Latitude.

Unfortunately, in the past, my colleague had many problems installing the Ubuntu on his E6510. The main issue was that the screen remained blank after boot. The solution was to connect to an external monitor - but this is not an acceptable solution for a mobile configuration. He ended up recovering the Windows installation and he has been using Windows on that machine since then.

However, all our engineering environment is Linux based, so other laptops do have Ubuntu installed successfully - Inspirons and HP Pavilions.

The Latitude E6520 configuration we are looking for is i7 CPU, 15.6" FullHD discrete graphics, 8GB memory, 7200RPM disk and whatever extra hardware that is standard out there.

Before purchasing, I'd like to know if anyone experienced problems with such configuration with the plain Canonical Ubuntu ISO discs (i.e., non Dell specific kernel or the like)?

Additionally, should I expect problems running Ubuntu as a guest VM on top of Win7 on this laptop (it works just fine on my HP Pavilion)?

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Each E6520 can have different hardware, therefore this question is not fully answerable... –  Thomas W. Jul 6 '12 at 15:47
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Have you looked into buying Ubuntu certified laptops? System76 has a similar laptop at a similar price point that also has full Ubuntu support out of the box. system76.com/laptops/model/panp9 –  reverendj1 Jul 6 '12 at 15:50
    
@reverendj1 - I had a look and I think they don't offer a FullHD w/ discrete graphics model. –  ysap Jul 6 '12 at 16:09
    
@LordofTime - which is why I did not mention the model number on the title (was edited later) but rather used it as an guidance to what I'm looking for. –  ysap Jul 6 '12 at 16:10
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2 Answers 2

The solution to the "main issue" of the screen remaining blank after boot is simple: boot with nomodeset the first time, install the appropriate proprietary display drivers for your discrete graphics (nVidia® NVS™ 4200M), and that's usually it.

The only two other issues I'm aware of with this laptop are:

  1. Make sure (upgrade if necessary) to one of the Intel 6205/6300 wifi adapters; the cheap Dell ones sometimes cause problems.
  2. The fingerprint reader, if you choose to get it, may not fully work.

If you have a choice, I recommend the Lenovo T520/T530 Thinkpad which can be similarly configured and is known to work flawlessly with Ubuntu 12.04.

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Thanks. This is very helpful. I noticed that you changed the title - but I did not want to make it a E6520 specific question, but rather a more general Dell question. I mentioned that model just b/c it seems to have the hardware options I like. –  ysap Jul 6 '12 at 16:07
    
@ysap: Sorry, I assumed you were interested in that from the body and changed it so you would get more accurate responses from E65xx owners. I changed the title to be more general. –  izx Jul 6 '12 at 16:09
    
Anyway, are you aware of any issues with the 14" Latitudes or Inspirons? –  ysap Jul 6 '12 at 16:10
    
izx, yes this is generally what I am looking for, but I'm a little bit flexible so I did not want to restrict the discussion. –  ysap Jul 6 '12 at 16:12
    
Plenty of problems on Inspirons and Vostros, stay away (low battery life, high heat, fans failing, etc. -- probably because of cheaper proprietary hardware that has no good Linux drivers). 14" Latitudes are broadly similar to the 15", haven't heard of any issues there. –  izx Jul 6 '12 at 16:13
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I'm not sure what the status of this is right now, but Dell announced Project Sputnik a few months ago. The goal is to release an Ubuntu-powered laptop aimed at developers. The first laptop they're focusing on is the new-ish XPS 13 ultrabook, and they've already released an Ubuntu 12.04 ISO with the necessary drivers. I don't know if it'll be powerful enough to run professional engineering applications, but it's worth looking into (especially if the primary use will be programming/software engineering).

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Thanks. 13" Laptop, although a dream in terms of mobility (esp. for someone who really want to get rid of years of 15.6" latitude weight), is unusable due to low screen resolution. –  ysap Jul 6 '12 at 16:39
    
Only 4GB RAM? No thanks. –  erturne Jul 12 '12 at 11:00
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