Life with the Dell Inspiron 1420n

Soon after it was unveiled, I ordered the 5.5 pound Dell Inspiron 1420n pre-installed with Ubuntu. It took almost three weeks to get here, probably owing to Dell’s recent supply chain problems, but luckily there were no further delays. I had heard some real horror stories about waiting much longer, and that would have really soured me on Dell, despite their new partnership with Ubuntu.

This is my fourth laptop that runs Linux, and as you’d expect, it was by far the best experience. There were some hiccups here and there, but in general things just work. That’s a very nice change from what I’ve become used to (especially with my previous HP laptop). Although I’ve enjoyed messing around to get things to work in the past, it’s not as much fun as it used to be, and my time for tinkering is much more limited these days.

Here is what I’ve noticed so far:

  • Compared to the behemoth HP, this thing is pretty darn light. Not as light as those dainty PowerBooks, but I believe that taking this laptop through an airport will be a much nicer experience.
  • Five hours of battery life. No, really.
  • The wireless would have worked out of the box had I remembered to add the new laptop to my wireless access point’s MAC filter list. Once I fixed that, it was smooth sailing. NetworkManager is really sweet when it works.
  • It took some coaxing to get the touchpad scrolling to work properly. Fortunately, it was well-documented.
  • During the first week, I had a few problems coming out of suspend where I had to forcibly power down. But I haven’t had any since, and I haven’t had any crashes with Hibernation.
  • The volume control buttons just work. As do the stop/play/forward/backward buttons, at least with Rhythmbox and Totem.
  • After resuming, the volume panel applet will crash. Fortunately, a little popup asks if you’d like to restart it when this happens. A bit annoying, but definitely manageable.
  • If you have multiple users’ sessions running at once and you suspend/hibernate, the touchpad may not work for particular users, or for any users. I haven’t figured out the exact behavior yet.

So far, so good. I’m very happy with this laptop.  Update: Starry Hope Productions  looked at the 1420n here; they’ve exercised a lot more things than I have (3D video, for example), but the review is mostly positive.  Fortunately, I have had a different experience with hibernate and suspend.


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