Review – Sputnik2

Disclaimer: Before we get into this, please know that Dell provided a unit for review. That said, while they have seen this post before hand, I am still posting it with the good bad and ugly.

Unboxing

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That’s a lot of pics. Sorry. What you’re looking at in the first bunch of shots, is the packaging. The unit shipped in great packaging. The last 4 shots are various size comparisons to the 13” Retina MacBook Pro. Overall it’s slightly smaller and slightly thinker, but not to where it’s annoying.

Review Setup

Upon receiving the review unit and unboxing it, the idea was to close my MacBook pickup the Sputnik, and keep rolling. This was about two weeks before the OpenStack summit, and I’d need to create three presentations, one hands on lab, and continue work on the OpenStack Cookbook. What follows is how well the Sputnik handled this:

The Good

The Sputnik2, like the 13” mbp, is a small, all “Flash”/SSD box with 8GB ram. Meaning it’s pretty snappy. Additionally, the screen resolution is decently high (however, not quite high enough for me).

The first day, while plugged in, I was able to pull down various bits of my tool chain that weren’t yet installed (vagrant), and work for a solid 8-10 hours.

When needed, boot/reboot times were blazingly fast.

Load: My hand-on-lab setup for the OpenStack summit was 4 to 5 virtual machines running various OpenStack services. In turn we would also run nested VMs on it. All-in-all the Sputnik handled this (and the transition between building this on the Mac to the Dell was seamless). It did however have some heat issues (under the bad). The running time to build/rebuild the OpenStack lab as on average 13 minutes, not bad considering it built under Fusion in 9.

Weight – Did I mention this box is light? I was able to carry both the Sputnik and the rMBP in the same bag at the same time, all with less pain in my back than carrying one 15” laptop.

The Bad

Desktop publishing. The “Office” analogue tools under Linux are passable for basic tasks. However, when collaborating on a presentation, one can’t have formatting and coloring go nuts. Also, the “word” analogue needs some help in the tracked changes portion.

Screen resolution, it’s only HD (1920×1080). Honestly, it’s not bad, however, I’m used to running at WQXGA (2560×1600) and the extra real estate that brings.

Linux as a desktop. This one only gets listed because while the state of Linux as a primary desktop is much MUCH better than it was years ago, it still feels like death by a thousand paper cuts, even after spending some time adjusting to it.

Heat… I do love that they moved the fans near the back and it vents quite well, it still has a tendency to get hot. Hotter in fact than the same workload on the rMBP.

The Ugly

In Ubuntu 12.04 (what the unit ships with), there are some power management issues surrounding the wireless. This issue is a Linux Kernel setting, rather than a failing of the Sputnik itself. That said, it caused me to put the laptop away for about a week as deadlines approached and work needed to get done. The issue was fixed in 12.10 and 13.04, however, so once the upgrade was processed I was back up and rolling.

Now on 13.04, it’s nearly a daily driver, however I’m porting one of my Windows VMs to handle some of “the bad”.

TL;DR – Sputnik2 is a great, 13” no moving parts power-house of a laptop.

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