Notes on XPS 15 9550 Linux Support

Tired of waiting for a 3D XPoint based SSD to become available, I decided to grab a 512GB Intel SSD 600p for my XPS 15 9550. The intent was to switch over from Windows 10 to Linux on the 9550 while preserving the original SSD should I want to go back.

The actual SSD swap was not too difficult. A Torx T5 and small Phillips screwdriver are needed to remove the back of the 9550 and the m.2 SSD. This being my first NVMe system, I ran into a few gotchas while getting Linux installed. Though, the bulk of the issues are related to Broadcom’s poor Linux support.

Storage (NVMe)

In the UEFI bios, the storage controller mode must be set to “AHCI” instead of “RAID”. Otherwise, Linux will never see the device (even though we’re using NVMe rather than AHCI). Also note that rather than the familiar /dev/sd* the device will show up as /dev/nvme*n*. Speaking of which, you may see a /dev/nvme0 and /dev/nvme0n1, treat the latter just like you treated /dev/sda.

Wireless

The latest System Rescue CD (4.8.1) does not have a new enough kernel/firmware set to support 802.11ac on the Broadcom BCM43602. So while both kernels it ships with will allow you to see the wireless card, and 2.4GHz networks, AC networks will not work. This was very annoying since, at this point, my 2.4GHz network is less than reliable. I have never had issues like this with Intel wireless products.

Once my system was booting, I was able to connect to my AC network with a 4.5 and a 4.7 kernel. On the first go, I accidentally compiled the Debian sources that ship with Funtoo stage 3, hence the 4.5 kernel. Besides the initial driver/firmware fits, I have not had connectivity issues

Bluetooth

To get the Broadcom Bluetooth to connect to devices, you will need the brcm/BCM-0a5c-6410.hcd binary blob. Unfortunately, this is not shipped in the linux-firmware package. You will need to extract it from Broadcom’s Windows drivers (or just get an Intel WiFi+Bluetooth card to replace the Broadcom). I had to include it into my kernel for it to get loaded in time for the driver (if you have an initramfs, you probably do not have this issue).

Other Thoughts

Out of the box, many things just worked. Starting with the kernel config I use for my 9350 helped quite a bit. The SD card reader, touchscreen, Intel graphics, HD audio, screen brightness control, and touchpad “just work”. I have not tried the TB15 yet, though I have read some people are having problems with it—especially with hot-plugging.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

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