New laptop wanted to run linux and (just about run) darktable

I’m after a new laptop (due to my very old one falling apart). I mostly want it for watching youtube videos in bed, or reading PDFs, so nothing very high spec, nor anything of large dimension.
But a secondary usage is for backup storage when I am on holiday (I offload my card at the end of the day) - so about 1TB drive space. And able to run (or a little better than walk anyway) darktable on occaision (in case I want to post to Facebook before I get home). So not a high-budget photographers laptop (I use my desktop for serious photo development).
It should be able to run linux (but I guess that would exclude nothing) - I won’t be running dual-boot, so bonus if purchasable without windows installed. And purchase from the UK.

Any suggestions gratefully received.

Hi @Colin_Adams,

I mostly want it for watching youtube videos in bed, or reading PDFs,

How about a Tablet, like a Samsung Galaxy, an Ipad, or something of that ilk?
Sorry: just noticed that you would like to run dt on it as well…

Would I be able to upload/download raw files to it (I used to have a Samsung Galaxky tablet, and I don’t remember being able to do that)? Would I be able to install linux on it. I doubt it.

Thanks for that link. I’ll think about it.

I’m sure you have given thought to the CPU/GPU/memory considerations for running dt. Here are a couple of additional things to think about when getting a small laptop:

  • Are the keys the same size as on your desktop keyboard, and are they spaced the same? I had (technically, still have) a 11" laptop with smaller keys at smaller spacing, and when I was using it I found that my typo rate went way up on both the laptop and my desktop. Very frustrating.
  • Is the resolution sufficient to allow the side panels of dt to be displayed and still have enough real estate for the image?
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You could consider a chromebook. I think you can get them or many of them to run linux stuff and they have great battery life and would meet you use case for the most part…

This is an older link now the way things progress but you could explore it…sounds like you are not trying to make this an editing machine… price on these is usually good How to install Darktable 4.0 on a Chromebook

Quite a range of specs on them…

But some also flip over so could be tablet like as well… I saw some with Ryzen variant CPU’s

please dont

I’m not the OP and not about to get a Chromebook, but that sure begs some elaboration.

Most have terrible specs, slow CPUs, and little ram. The method for installing Linux apps is weird, the method for flatpak they use is not standard. None of the devs have them so when you hit some weird ChromeOS glitch, you’re essentially on your own.


Reading the post DT was a low priority…these are widely used and have great battery life. He wants to upload photos watch videos and do social media… I there are some version by hp lenovo and others and some have decent spec… if it is for travel the battery life would be appealing… I get your point its not a machine to do editing on but I didn’t gather that was the ask…I put chrome OS on a vm just to play around and it worked okay…

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This is not an easy question to answer, because there’s not even a mention of screen size. Nor weight, desired battery life, or other features.

I was very happy with my LG Gram (17) for its compactness and light weight; I graduated just recently to a Dell XPS 17 which I am also happy with for its performance, but it’s so much heavier than my Gram - an issue when I use it as an actual laptop.

In the UK, I suggest you try to find out if Dell has an outlet - for returned and or demonstrator machines. They’re often available shown at significant reductions on new, and come with a new-machine warranty. Inspirons usually don’t have the best screens, but that might be something for you to investigate.

For a good many years I ran Linux Mint on my Alienware 17 - now that was a real blunderbus! - and got greater-than-Windows battery life. However, my XPS didn’t play well with Mint (even with the battery-saving software installed) so I’m now on MX which again gives excellent battery life.

I have no recent experience with HP. I did have one once, but it was terrible; my younger daughter had an Acer which she replaced with another Acer when it was DOA on receipt, and the second one died after a couple of weeks. She got a Dell. Not one Dell that we’ve had has given any trouble, but that doesn’t mean they all have perfect reliability, but I’m now thinking that after close to a dozen machines in the family - including work-supplied machines - I’ve had access to a reasonable sampling.

There are some Linux-only machines for sale, and they’re not hard to find.

Metabox is a re-branding of the Clevo brand. There are many “name” macihnes that are also re-branded Clevo devices.

I wish you well with your quest, and if you have further questions of me, ask away.

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I have a small Lenovo Flex (12in I think) that turns inside-out so you can use it like a tablet. It’s at least a year old now. Win 10. I have dt installed but find it too slow for regular use, although RT seems to run a bit better. I haven’t really tested it though as I do almost all editing on my old desktop. The specs on the Lenovo are pretty much bargain basement, but for general browsing and so on it’s great. Build quality and battery life are good too.

I think a 13" screen is the best compromise for me. GPU not necessary for the occaisional use I’d make of darktable (I can avoid D&S for the purposes I have in mind).
But now I think about it, I’m not sure I need darktable at all. My prinicpal use case is to send JPEGs (and I only shoot in raw) to a friend for identification issues about red squirrels. But I now realize I can use the in-camera raw-processing facilities which would normally be sufficient for that purpose.
I need to think about this some more.

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I’ve got an old hp laptop which I bought second hand that I just use when going away etc… My only issue is the screen is not very good but for viewing photos and web browsing it’s good enough. I’ve had DT on it, it’s slow but would be fine if the screen was better.

You should be able to pick up something cheap as chips a lot better specs than what mine is which will be fine for what you need. My advice would be use a lightweight distro. I use Mabox on mine and it runs really well.

Data point:
I have a 2. hand Lenovo Thinkpad 420s for almost exactly the same use case.
I’ve maxed out the RAM - 4G, i believe, stuck a 500G SDD in it and its perfect for browsing and “emergency” DT editing.
Linux mint runs just fine one this computer.

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