Ubuntu on Skylake

A few days ago I had the opportunity to run an installation of Ubuntu 16.04 on a Dell E5570 with a 6th Generation i7 Intel Skylake processor and chipset for a couple of hours. This is pretty much the latest hardware that is available at the moment so I was curious how the current Ubuntu version would fare.

Before I go into the details here’s an abbreviated hardware description:

Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6600U CPU @ 2.60GHz

00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Sky Lake Host Bridge/DRAM Registers (rev 08)
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Sky Lake Integrated Graphics (rev 07)
00:04.0 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Skylake Processor Thermal Subsystem (rev 08)
00:1f.3 Audio device: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP HD Audio (rev 21)
00:1f.6 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation Ethernet Connection I219-LM (rev 21)
01:00.0 Display controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] Topaz XT [Radeon R7 M260/M265] (rev ff)
02:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless 8260 (rev 3a)

Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0a5c:5800 Broadcom Corp. BCM5880 Secure Applications Processor
Bus 001 Device 006: ID 04b4:0060 Cypress Semiconductor Corp. Wireless optical mouse
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0bda:5686 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. 

Memory: 16 GB
1 TB Samsung 850 Evo SSD
Display resolution was 1920x1080

And here is a list of things I successfully tested on the hardware:

  • Audio output on speakers and on the headset jack
  • Integrated camera
  • Integrated microphone
  • Youtube playback HD in full screen, watched for horizontal shear
  • Virtualbox with a Windows 7 client
  • Suspend/resume
  • VLC video playback
  • Integrated touchpad and two finger gestures
  • Wifi and large file downloads (I didn’t try the Ethernet port)
  • Keys to change screen brightness
  • USB 3 throughput with an external USB3 3.5″ hard disk.

As my Ubuntu 16.04 installation has a plain MBR the first thing I had to do was to disable UEFI in the BIOS settings to make it boot my system. No surprise here. It took me a few minutes to get things up and running as settings in several sub-menus had to be changed.

The second thing I had to tweak a bit was VLC video playback. In “auto” mode, VLC always displayed the video in its native resolution and wouldn’t resize it to full screen. Also, windows could not overlap the video. After changing the video output settings in VLC from “auto” to “x11” things worked well and I couldn’t observe any horizontal shear. Very nice. Later I discovered that the system actually has two graphics cards, a standard Intel graphics card that is part of the chipset and an AMD Radeon R7 M260/M265. As I wasn’t aware of this at the time I didn’t check which of the two was used.

I also had a quick look at power consumption and while I can’t report definite values things did not get warm and Ubuntu reported power consumption values I’m used to from other machines, i.e. autonomy for around 5h. But that’s just indicative.

One thing I could fail was suspend/resume. I tried a few dozen times because this is the one thing that has to work for me without a glitch as I often have to close and stow my notebook on very short notice and an overheating notebook in my backpack due to a failed suspend is not an option. While suspend / resume generally worked I could make it fail once and once again directly after rebooting from the previous fail with a blinking light in the TAB key. But before and after that, suspend / resume worked just fine. As I only had the notebook for a couple of hours I couldn’t find out what the problem was. Also suspend/resume issues sometimes only surface after a few days so that’s definitely an area to have a closer look at in the future should I get another Skylake based device in my hands again.

Overall I went way impressed. Despite most components being rather new I couldn’t find anything that didn’t work based on my usage scenarios and except for VLC there was nothing to configure.