Darktable computer upgrade suggestions


Hey guys,

this seems like a topic that would come up often but I couldn’t find much in this forum.

I am currently editing my 16mp RAWs on a Laptop with an old Intel I7 3517U (dual core) and 4GB of RAM with an external 4k monitor and it is too slow for my taste. I also have an old desktop PC with a Phenom II X4 945 and 6GB of DDR2 RAM.

My first question is now: does Darktable use OpenCL so much, that the old desktop PC with a graphics card from the AMD RX line (570 or 580) would speed up considerably (I am looking for ~4x the speed), especially while editing (I don’t care so much how long exporting takes) or do I need to buy a new PC?

Second question: I feel like the RX580 with 8GB of VRAM has a bit of a “top of the line fee” on it’s price and therefore I am considering the RX470 with 8GB of VRAM and the R580 with 4GB of VRAM, which one is the better choice (price is about the same)?

The modules I use most are:

  • White balance
  • Demosaic
  • Several instances of the exposure module combined with masks
  • Base curve
  • Crop and rotate
  • Shadows and Highlights
  • Color curve
  • Color correction
  • Chromatic abberation
  • Equalizer
  • Denoise (profiled)
  • Lens correction
  • Vignette

I have found the Phoronix article, but it didn’t really answer my questions.
Thanks for your thoughts :slight_smile:


(David Vincent-Jones) #2

I run an older laptop with an older OpenCL chipset. Due to the setup it is not practical for me to try and maintain the OpenCL capability, I run simply using the capability of the i7 chipset and frankly I find that it is quite sufficient for my needs. If I was a professional with needs to process many hundreds of images at a single session, I would probably think otherwise … for me it runs just fine without the co-processor.

(Andreas Schneider) #3

I have the RX 470 which is sufficient for the job. With ROCm 1.9 the amdgpu kernel driver which is in the mainline kernel will be supported. I think it is time to start packaging rocm for my distro :slight_smile:


RX 470 with 4 or 8GB of VRAM? What processor are you using?

Thanks for your replys :slight_smile:

(Chris E) #6

Does anyone know which modules use openCL and which only use CPU? Might be a consideration when deciding whether to buy a GPU depending on which modules you use the most.

(Mica) #7

You can see some numbers using a very meager graphics card by today’s standards in this article: https://www.darktable.org/2012/03/darktable-and-opencl/

(Chris E) #8

Trying to decide what graphics card to get myself at the moment. Looks like an oldish (used) one will be fine for DT (probably better supported on Linux than a newer one too).

Most of the CPU/GPU performance comparisons I’ve seen seem to show a marked improvement, regardless of the card, though the detailed ones on Phoronix all seem to be on cards out of my price range.

(Mica) #9

It seems like a 4GB GPU should get you a nice speed bump. The Radeon RX 560 is about $120 USD.


Switching from rather old HD 7850 (2 GB) to much newer GTX 1050 Ti (4 GB) - for non-related reasons - did bring me a nice, but not dramatic improvement on Windows 7. (With both cards, darktable is fast as hell.)

With Ubuntu, running on the same computer, the difference is dramatic, since I wasn’t able to find working drivers for the old GPU (lately), while the new one runs openCL faster than on Windows. (With vanilla darktable from the PPA and proprietary drivers, offered by Ubuntu.)

So I do tend to believe that even an oldish card, with working drivers, should provide very significant speed-up.

(Mica) #11

I don’t think openCL is working on windows, is it?


It is working very nicely, and for old GPUs it might be easier to get the drivers. Exporting a group of raw photos to jpeg, with sharpening, colour NR and a touch of luminance NR, is a kind of 4 times faster with openCL enabled.

With my “workflow” - like 5 edited photos per week - it is not that important, but it is effective. (“Like hell.”)


(Mica) #13

Oh, lovely!

(/ar) #14

I upgraded my linux worstation for darktable earlier this year. I went with an rx560, mainly because muy build is totally silent and I needed to keep dissipation in the 70-90W range, using a special case that allows replacing GPU and CPU fans with heatpipes using the case for dissipation.

Kabylake i7 plus rx560, it’s a pleasure to use darktable in this system. RE openCL, it makes a huge difference for certain modules, e.g. denoise (profiled). Export operations are accelerated 500% vs no openCL, in my setup. In normal use, overall snappiness improves very noticeably as well.

I found it also makes a big difference to use fast storage while processing raw sets - nvme.

I used fedora for a while and now ubuntu. I went with amd because of the future promise of rocm. Still waiting for rocm to be usable with the default distro kernels and without having to switch to amdgpu-pro - not a reality yet, buy it’s easy to use opencl just extracting the opencl libraries from the amdgpu-pro package. This worked for me with both fedora and now ubuntu.



a follow up question:
As buying a desktop PC is postponed for now I consider buying a new laptop instead. The models I am currently looking at are the ones with the Intel I5 8250U (I’d prefer the Ryzen 5 2500U, but there are just no devices out that appeal to me). Some of them also have the nVidia MX150 GPU with 2GB of VRAM.

Looking at the Phoronix OpenCL benchmark (https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Darktable-27-Results) I am wondering if the GPU would make a difference. My thoughts after looking at some benchmarks:
The Xeon E3-1240 v5 seems to be roughly as fast as a GTX 970.
Using https://www.cpubenchmark.net/ and https://www.videocardbenchmark.net/ I’d say that
the Intel I5 8250U (7662 points) has roughly 74% of the power of the Xeon E3-1240 v5 (10398 points) and
the MX 150 (2128 points) has roughly 25% of the power of the GTX 970 (8597 points).

Therefore using the MX 150 would likely result in lower performance than letting the CPU do all the work. Can I conclude that the MX 150 does not make a difference for me and I can safely omit that requirement when choosing a laptop?

Thanks for your thoughts/measurements,

(Mica) #16

@qosch If I were going to buy a laptop, I’d probably skip nVidia-- it’ll eat your battery and if you’re running linux the driver is a bit of a pain in the ass. I’d spend some time looking at screen color cover instead, make sure you get good sRBG coverage, and if you’re spendy, then AdobeRBG.

My current laptop, a System 76 Galego Pro, runs without OpenCL. The performance is good in general with darktable. I usually save heavy operations like noise reduction for the end, to get the most out of it.


Does anyone use Darktable with a Geforce GT 1030 or with a Ryzen APU? Since both graphic units are much slower than the mentioned GTX 1050 Ti, I wonder if Darktable can make use of there OpenCL.

On my old desktop, OpenCL was supported by Darktable with a Geforce GTS 450 and only resulted in a very slight performance increase.