Affordable 13" laptop for travel

I’ll perhaps have the occasion to do a two-weeks trip to Japan next year. I intend to fill a few SD cards in the process. I’m not going to bring by main PC (too heavy/bulky), so I’m looking for a lightweight replacement, typically:

  • 13-14" screen, good enough to check pictures
  • SD card slot with decent speed
  • Enough RAM for Kubuntu (too addicted to my current tools), and of course a bit of RT and Gimp.
  • Cheap (willing to find a 2nd hand machine)

Any suggestions? Can I highjack a ChromeBook for this?

I bought a Lonovo Yoga (I don’t remember the model) and I think it’s pretty good. It has a pretty good touch-enabled display (14" I think), SSD, and it’s compact.
I’m sure you can find find some of these on the second hand market.

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You had to throw in that word “affordable”, didn’t ya? :wink:

Another reason to keep the size down is the ability to fit the laptop into hotel safes (if you are staying in hotels). We went on a trip this summer, and the little 11" laptop I took fit in with room to spare, but my son’s 15" didn’t even come close to fitting. Judging by eyeball, I’d expect a 13" to fit, and probably some but not all 14" (the ones that boast about small bezels would stand the best chance).

Something like this might be worth a look:

How about a Linux first vendor:



If an integrated SD card slot limits choices, a USB card reader works as well. That’s what I use with all my computers to read cards from my cameras. Quite “Affordable” :smile:

There is also the Little Backup Box project, which can use a raspberry pi :slight_smile:

Right. But one more thing to think about. Of course I prefer an external one working at USB3 speeds than an internal one at USB2 ones.

It’s not just to save images. It’s also to check mail and forums…

I would search for used laptops in your area within the price range you are comfortable with and see what the list looks like. In the end you will naturally lean towards a laptop you are comfortable with. When I did that few years ago it was either Dell Latitude e…something-something or Dell Latitude e…something-else just 'cause I have been using them for ages.

I would not really recommend a Chromebook although I have a old Acer C720 chromebook running linux - Bodhi linux based on 'buntu Trusty. 2 GB memory and 32 GB eMMC storage. Surprising amount left over for applications, plenty for intended use. Built in battery is looking a bit weary after 5 years of use every night. Chrome keyboard layout not exactly the same as a regular keyboard - is that still true?

looks like this:

That one was refurbished. I do think it had ever been used. I think a returned Christmas present.

Looking for one today? Amazon and a refurbished 14" laptop search. Get more choice with 14". Some decent Lenovos out there that should replace Windows with kubuntu easily.

Last year I bought an ASUS laptop for my evening classes for adults on digitizing slides. I used DisplayCal to calibrate its monitor. The result showed that the display does not even cover sRGB but considerably less. So image processing on this laptop would mean I am flying in the dark. Thus the colour space of the potential laptop’s screen should be a consideration.


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Got myself a refurbished 14" Lenovo Thinkpad T440 (8GB RAM 2Gzh 500GB HDD) for $460 a month ago from Canada Computers, including a 2 year in store warranty. Not sure where you find those in other countries but if you can find a refurbished Lenovo I’d say it’s usually safe to go for it :smiley:


Don’t confuse gamut coverage with a calibrated screen. Even though the screen doesn’t cover the sRGB gamut, calibrating it means the colors it can show are accurate.

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Good find. Electronics can be much more expensive here.

PS Looks like a processor from 2013. How much have things changed since then?

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but there are colours in the image, which the monitor cannot display …


Actually there is quite the story behind all of this. And I’ll actually check out the specs of the T440 once home.

I’ll try and summarise. Back in 2015 I purchased a Lenovo Carbon X 2nd generation (probably 2014) with an i5 processor I believe, 8GB ram, 250GB solid state HDD and touch screen. It was thin and light and just about awesome; a 14" lovely little thing just powerful enough to do what I need to do, slightly slower than on my desktop, when on the road. I began to experience issues with the screen though. Colours would revert to a mix of green/magenta at times, which I could fix when moving the screen a bit. It got worse as time went by and about 2 months ago I decided to finally get it fixed.

Try 1: I took it to this old fella’ who fixes electronics and seems pretty knowledgeable, but he admitted he doesn’t dare open up the all-in-one Lenovo Carbon laptops - he did however say he believes it is either the screen itself that is at fault, or the cable that links it to the mother board.

Try 2: I called this other fella’ who was advertising laptop repairs in my town …but he didn’t even need to take a look at the laptop and emailed right back saying he doesn’t touch Lenovos.

Try 3: I went to STAPLES, an office supplies store around here (come to think of it I should have probably gone to Canada Computers :frowning: ), which repairs computers as well. I told them about the issue, and they sent it out to their repair place in Toronto. Each week that passed I had to call there and inquire about the status of the repair, because apparently just when I was calling the technician was just about to call me and update me …every single time I called.

First they ordered a new display cable; which took a week to arrive, and proved to not fix the issue. Secondly they ordered a new screen, which also took a week or so to arrive, and another few days to install, which also I was told did not fix the issue.
As a solution to the problem, I was offered to have the motherboard exchanged - which has an all-in-one design which doesn’t allow you to replace parts one by one (figures). I of course said no, and told them to just the laptop back, thinking I can deal with the colours being off sometimes…
Once returned, the laptop’s screen was no longer working at all. When they said that no amount of replacing things fixed the issue, they meant the screen no longer functioning, but they did not mention that. I was upset and requested the matter to be looked into …which it was, and I was informed that the management’s verdict is that there was an pre-existing issue with the mother board which eventually caused the screen to no longer respond at all, and that it was only a matter of time until this would happen, and that it is a coincidence that it happened while the laptop was with them. All they offered was a $100 in-store gift card. :frowning:

I went and vented to a whole bunch of people, and eventually my one friend recommended I go to Canada Computers and look at their refurbished laptops, which are generally both good in quality and rather appealing in price. He is a lawyer and definitely not short on cash, but also one who won’t spend money if not necessary. I trusted him and got the T440 and I am happy with it. The processor is slightly slower than what I had in the old laptop, and the thickness is greater, though not by much, but otherwise I am very happy with it, and with a calibrated screen, it works like a charm.

If you’ve read this far, I wasn’t to thank you for letting me vent haha :slight_smile:
Also I totally agree with the premise of this post; travel computing is a must for people who like to tinker (and I mean photographers who want to post photos from on the go and can not go without their RawTherapee edits), and in this case, the 13/14 inch models tend to be a good compromise between power and size/weight. Not to mention they can be plugged into an external screen if the need for more desktop real estate arises.

Hey, at least you got an $100 gift card. I dealt with a company that charged me $120 for no repairs when I already bought a warranty of $400. It was long ago; I never bought warranty on or serviced any of my electronics again. I get burnt every time.

Tangentially, regarding the car rental story I told in My father got me into photography, they unfairly charged me $300 for damages that I didn’t make. I just get bad luck with dishonest people and am too exhausted with the hard life to fight it all of the way. Need to stay sane.

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Better to have a small gamut with accurate colors than a small gamut with inaccurate colors.


A couple of years ago, I got my son a laptop from Staples as he was entering university. It malfunctioned before too long, and I took it back to Staples on warranty. Like you, I had to hound them for an unreasonable amount of time to get it back. When I got it back, there were about 20 wireless networks added to the machine, plus some nice malware. As you can imagine, I have not bought a computer from Staples since.

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