Category Archives: Dell Precision M3800

The Downsides of a 4k Screen

Having spent time using my shiny new Dell in a professional setting, I am now discovering the downsides of the fabulous 4k screen when running Ubuntu.

  • Ubuntu 15.04 is sort of ready for HiDpi, but there are some glaring problems that require attention, from the incredible shrinking popups to minuscule mouse pointers in some contexts.
  • Worth a special mention are the scroll bars and some of the LibreOffice controls, both of which are tiny by default. The former is fixable by reverting to “classic” mode but I have not been able to solve the latter yet.
  • Checkboxes are no fun either. They remain tiny, despite my best efforts.
  • Most Java apps have issues with UI scaling. The toolbars in particular are a pain.
  • Hooking up a projector for a presentation will mess things up after disconnecting it. See any of the above, plus some additional problems having to do with drastically resized app windows.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret buying the Dell. I just wish Linux would catch up more quickly.

New Laptop, New Linux Distro

Having returned to running my own company, I decided it was time to retire my 5-yo MacBook Pro and get something modern to run Linux in. After careful consideration I decided on a Dell Precision M3800 since it’s actually being sold by Dell with Ubuntu 14.04 pre-installed. The M3800 is thin and light, in spite of the 15.6″ screen, robustly built and includes a 4k screen. Simply put, it is gorgeous.

I didn’t order the Ubuntu version, though, partly since I actually need Windows every now and then, but mostly because there’s the “free” Windows 10 upgrade once it becomes available, and I’m curious. Instead, I added a second hard disk for the Linux install. The extra disk can be fitted if opting for a smaller battery, and the installation didn’t void the warranty, since Dell actually accepts that people will want to tinker with their machines (beat that, Apple!).

After careful consideration, a few live USB sticks and one test install of Ubuntu, I have now set up Linux Mint 17.2 as my primary OS. It handles the HiDPI 4k screen beautifully, except for some older apps with hard-coded font sizes and such (shame on you, Skype!) and most Java-based programmes I have tried so far. oXygen is pretty much the only Java app I really need, so for now I’ve doubled every font size in the preferences, which makes oXygen usable. The toolbars are still tiny, but I am now able to work.

All in all, I’m really pleased.