Dell Latitude E6400 – The Perfect Linux Notebook? Or is Ubuntu The Perfect Linux?

GraphHopper – A Java routing engine

karussell ads

Some weeks ago I got a Dell Latitude E6400 with Quadro NVS 160M from nvidia. It has vista and a xp downgrade included, but I went the linux way. So I installed ubuntu 9.04 and … installed it ;-) Nothing more. What can I say? Even a newbie could have been done this installation.

Nice! All things worked like expected.

Update: Upgrading to 9.10 works like a charm.

Update 2011: Upgrading to 10.04 worked again really great.

Update 2012: Upgrading failed. Fresh install of 11.10 was horrible. Major problems with the graphic card [Quadro NVS 160M] and my Logitech USB Headset.

Update 2013: Installation of 12.04 xubuntu worked like a charm again (using nouveau or the nvidia driver) – except the easy to fix pulse audio problem

  • dsl Internet without setup and WLAN worked out of the box
    • btw: you can easily select through which network device you want to connect (more intuitive then any other OS I know …)
  • bluetooth works with my mobile (samsung b2100): sending + receiving files … but only with kbluetooth4
  • External Nec Monitor
  • External Fujitsu Siemens USB keyboard
  • Logitech USB Headset (skype)
  • Trackpad (with scrolling!) and trackpoint
  • webcam (tested with cheese)
  • … all the rest hardware simply worked like my Canon printer and my Epson scanner
  • After 1 hour + 1 hour for the windows installation within VirtualBox I could use WinXp under linux – very cool!
  • all the time ‘sudo apt-get install xy’ was my friend.
  • Some days after the initial installation I tried my bamboo tablet. And… you can guess it – it was strange – it works :-) !
  • video, sound worked too out of the box with the help of medibuntu and gstreamer-plugins

I never did a smoother linux installation and this even on a laptop. I have now sound, videos, mp3s, … with less effort even compared to any windows installation I did so far. Before the external monitor can be used I installed the nvidia driver. This was a ‘one clicker’ – I do not even remember what I exactly did. After this I disabled the laptop screen and enabled the external. I can post my xorg.conf if someone is interested. Even going to hibernate and standby are working fine. I tried to work with kde, but it looks like the plasma stuff is crashing regularly on this laptop (or because of my hardware config). So, I will have to stay with ubuntu as long as I can make WindowMaker, Enlightenment or the future of WindowMaker (Azalea) useable.

Okay, so far, so good.

But I would’nt post this stuff if things haven’t at least one drawback. The most annoying thing about this Dell Latitude E6400 is that the fan is always on. It is okay (not loud), but not as quiet as I read in some reviews :-(. It would be okay if the fan goes on on load – but it is always on. If you are in “battery mode” the fan sometimes switches off (Wow! This is silence!) I think this is a BIOS settings. Hopefully dell will turn this on in a later BIOS version for “network mode” too .

And then there is a very high cheeping, uhm! (of the harddisc ?) For other (more silent?) notebooks you should take a look at Lenovo T400 (or the recently published T400s) first or the previous version of E6400: the Dell Latitude D640.

The good thing is that the fan volume stays the same even on heavy load. Only if the heavy load remains for several minutes or it is relative hot in your room then the pc will increase the fan speed.

So, what I did with this ‘loud’ box? Dell don’t offer a 14-days-ship-back guarantee for business customers (this has nothing to do with Dell – it is normal here in Germany). So, I will use this ‘loud’ box and maybe I will tune here or there with some linux utilities.

But it seems to me a very good laptop for linux. Or maybe ubuntu is the true king here!!?

Device / Parts

  • The whole (Regatta Blue) case of the Latitude looks stable and at the moment nothing is bouncing or looks cheaply processed. I choosed a blue color (matt) and this surface looks robust, too.
  • The 14” display is very good (matt) and the resolution of 1440×900 is nice. There is an auto dimming function enable, but you can disable this as well. It can be used in bright outside even if you dimm the display a bit.
  • The black keyboard is stable and for a notebook keyboard useable.
  • An external button can enable/disable the WLAN+bluetooth to save energy.
  • some other devices/connectors: 3 USB, 1 SD card, 1 audio in + 1 out, sata, dvd burner, webcam, …

I know that a picture is sometimes more worth than 1000 words (hopefully not in this post):

latitude-e6400-frontlatitude-e6400-rear

32 thoughts on “Dell Latitude E6400 – The Perfect Linux Notebook? Or is Ubuntu The Perfect Linux?

  1. Thanks for the info. I’m currently having a hard time deciding between this one and the T400. But there are overheating issues with this laptop (http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=348221) from what I understand. Have you run any tests to see if those problems happen to you? Also, that may be why the fan is running all the time. Sounds pretty annoying.

    Of course, the annoying thing about the T400 is that the CTRL / FN keys are swapped, such that the FN key is at lower left corner instead of CTRL. If it wasn’t for that, I would have little hesitation going with the T400. But that’s a pretty big deal.

    What do you think?

    • By the way, the regatta blue really looks beautiful on this laptop! I also like the regal red. Of course, I’d probably buy it from the dell outlet, and you can rarely find anything but black there.

  2. I cannot confirm the overheating problem. I asked nearly the same question to a dell seller before I decided me for this laptop; he said that this problem has been solved by the engineers (and I trust his words ;-))
    If you want a dead silent laptop you should NOT choose the e6400, but it is not loud.
    The fan is only ‘loud’ in my private room.

    For the keys of the T400: in linux (and probably under windows) you can assign and swap any key you want … and I am using an external keyboard …

    If you want, I can send you a German article by email where T400 and e6400 were compared (there is a table with measurements which can be read even by english peoples :-))

    • Unfortunately, you can’t (currently) swap FN and CTRL on the T400. Levono has to make modification to BIOS for that to happen, and so far, no luck. It’s a pretty big issue:

      http://www.ashbaughonline.com/2006/08/12/thinkpad-fn-ctrl-key/

      I type on an external keyboard most of the time as well, and use my laptop mainly as a desktop replacement. For for those occasions where I want to use the laptop keyboard though, I think the CTRL key placement on the T400 will just really cause problems (I’m a programmer and pretty nitpicky about such things :) ).

      I wouldn’t mind seeing the article, but I don’t read or speak German :).

  3. # External Nec Monitor (latitude has no digital interface!)

    DisplayPort is not digital enough for you? ;)

  4. Pingback: Lasst uns unseren Kindern Linux beibringen, anstatt sie von Microsoft-Produkten abhängig zu machen « Find Time for Java and more!

  5. Thanks for the review… nice to hear that it all just works out of the box. Makes you wonder why aren’t Dell selling it with Ubuntu preinstalled?

    What battery life are you getting out of this under Ubuntu? One of the big selling points of the E6400 is the battery which can be “extended” to go up to 19 hours… I’d be interested to hear how Ubuntu compares to Windows in this respect.

  6. > Makes you wonder why aren’t Dell selling it with Ubuntu preinstalled?

    Hmmh, then my company would have to sell it. It would work, but is not easy. And I do not know if the Lenovo T400 is really better (noise + Linux!) … only a T400-user could proof this.

    > What battery life are you getting out of this under Ubuntu?

    I nearly get all the times at least 3h with one 56Wh battery (so, not much, but okay). The 19 hours are for two high capacity accus I guess where each one costs >100 EUR and does not fit correctly in the case.

    > I’d be interested to hear how Ubuntu compares to Windows in this respect.

    To be honest: I never tried windows :-)
    I am comfortable with the virtualbox solution. But I can try … hope I’ll have some time.

  7. What wireless card do you have? i have a 1397 and am having problems getting it working, of course i have 8.10 installed. I am downloading 9.04 right now as it seems to fix alot of the e6400 issues. Nvidia drivers installed correctly? have you tried using compiz at all?

  8. > What wireless card do you have?

    Intel WiFi Link 5100 (802.11 a/b/g/n 1X2) 1/2 MiniCard with Centrino label

    > Nvidia drivers installed correctly?

    yes

    > have you tried using compiz at all?

    yes, you need to install the native nvidia driver (go to display settings and then hopefully a dialog will pop up for you too)

  9. Pingback: Dell Latitude E6400: The Ubuntu fan and noise problem : Yet another web log

  10. I have DELL E6400 too. I have trouble with trackpad and trackpoint. I must use external mouse. It’s a pity. Problem don’t resolve upgrade to Ubuntu 9.10

  11. PC Card slot has some problems!. The registers from peripheral device were not getting accessed properly. I tried with pci_read_config_word/byte. :(
    Other PCMCIA devices (like cisco aironet wireless card) also do not work.
    I am using 2.6.24 kernel on fc8. If anyone has any clue.. Please share..

  12. This laptop is not working well for me. Sometimes, when I type letter “o” on the laptop keyboard, it will bring up the “Open Document” dialogue box. When I type letter “p” it goes to print dialogue box. When I hit the Enter key, it says “Do you mean to type CTRL+ENTER?”. It seems that it goes to CTRL mode on its own. I have to use external keyboard to create a good document without being frustrated.

    Has anyone encountered this issue? How did you fix it?

    Thanks in advance!

  13. I have just tried Ubuntu on a brand new Latitude E6400. Everything seems ok – monitor,kybd,mouse,sound,wifi,eth EXCEPT the built in modem. Can some one lead me in the right direction please. I am a novice at best but eager!

    • oh, yes. thats the only hardware I missed and didn’t try (I don’t need it at the moment). For linux I made good experiences some years ago with an external modem. (if I only know the manufacturer …)

  14. I’m trying to set up my e6400 to work with Ubuntu, and I am still having issues with the camera. You stated that it worked out of the box, but I’m not having that kind of luck. Would you be able to tell me what modules are loaded for you for your machine?

  15. E6400 and Ubuntu 10.10 x86_64 install from scratch went perfect – it was the easiest install I’ve ever done with a Linux distro. It discovered everything and including the Bluetooth adaptor. The wireless card, max resolution on the monitor – all good.

    After all of this good-ness – one major disaster:
    When I attach a 2nd monitor to the displayport, the Xorg process starts using more and more CPU – until the system becomes unusable.
    Before I reformatted, I first tried 10.10 i386_32 – same problem.

    Without the 2nd monitor, I can’t use this to replace my old MacBook Pro – and it needs to be replaced.

    Anyone have any suggestions?
    I’ve loaded the Nvidia drivers, and it is running compiz. I’ve tried all settings for “Visual Effects” from none to extra – always the same results.
    The system never crashes – just get so slow I have to hold the power button down to restart.

    • The same happened to me and my experience is that this will worsen gradually over time. Solution? Open up your chassis, clean the fan and the vent, thoroughly. My whole system is just so much snappier after doing this. No more clogged up system.

    • Slow system – it could be the cpu throtling problem associated with DELL E6400 laptops (bios problem). Cleaning of cpu fan – it helps for limited time. I am not sure when this problem occurs exactly, I think I read somewhere that mainly in case of some temperature diffference between parts of laptop like part is hot and part is not hot, or part is cold and part is normal etc.

      In Windows, I am using RMClock utility to disable automatic cpu throttling and use just cpu p-states power management. It works like a charm! I think that have to be similar utility for linux.

    • I’m at work now and can’t confirm this, but if I remember it correctly, you do this in the BIOS.

  16. you are right dell latitude e6400 has been made for linux, at this time i am using fedora 16 about 1 year and it is solid rock.

Comments are closed.