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It’s been 1.75 years since I last upgraded laptops. My previous upgrade was to the Dell XPS 13 from an older MacBook Pro. That machine was good great at the time; it’s still the smallest 13.3″ ultrabook available on the market. After upgrading the SSD and the WiFi, both of which were easy m.2 swaps, the machine had pretty good specs and Linux compatibility. However a few things kept annoying me:

Keyboard Backlight: The third and least annoying is the keyboard backlight. There are sort of three options you can set by pressing Fn + Space. These options are: always off, on for a few seconds after pressing a key, and on for many seconds after pressing a key. Really I only care about two options: always off, always on. The constant reminder that I haven’t pressed a key in exactly 30 seconds drives me nuts, especially when I’m writing a long document. This could be easily fixed in a BIOS update but Dell never bothered.

Screen Brightness: The screen brightness change is super annoying. This is how one triggers it in the most obvious manner: open a fullscreen light app, wait a few seconds, open a fullscreen dark app, wait a few seconds. Keep switching between the two apps. You’ll notice the display attempts to increase the brightness when it’s mostly displaying dark colors, and decrease the brightness when displaying light colors. When the colors change the display will wait a second then fade between colors. Again this should also be fixable via a non-existent BIOS update.

Keyboard: Finally, the biggest deal breaker with the XPS 13 is the keyboard. For some reason keypresses are constantly missed. This is much more common with modifiers like Ctrl, Shift, Alt, and Super, than with normal characters. I can literally hold the Shift key as hard as possible, tap letters, and get lowercase letters on screen. The only way to fix is to depress Shift and try again. In general, when typing documents, I usually get one mis-pressed key per sentence. When writing any document of notable length one needs to spend a lot of time backtracking and fixing mistakes made by the hardware.

Overall I’m pretty happy after switching back to the Carbon X1 5th Gen. Did I say back? I had a Thinkpad Carbon X1 1st Gen as a daily driver a few years ago. The keyboard is best-in-class. The Carbon has slightly better Linux compatibility than the already good XPS 13. The battery life on both machines is about 10 hours. The Carbon is a little bigger and I think a little heavier but it’s completely fine.

Thomas Hunter II

Thomas is the author of Advanced Microservices and a prolific public speaker with a passion for reducing complex problems into simple language and diagrams. His career includes working at Fortune 50's in the Midwest, co-founding a successful startup, and everything in between.