RAM vs CPU specs for a photo editing Linux laptop


I’m looking to upgrade my old laptop, with 8GB soldered RAM, to something more capable for image processing.

My workflow at the moment is digikam for sorting images and light editing of JPG files, and rawtherapee for more involved processing. I started with GIMP, but I find I use it less as I get more comfortable with RT.

The hardware bottleneck for me is digikam, which can take a while to render thumbnails for a large folder of files, and often ‘freezes’ for 10s of seconds while updating the database, adding a large number of tags, etc. It’s barely usable on my 8GB laptop, but ok on my work laptop with 16GB.

The computer I’m looking at has 16GB of RAM, upgradable to 48GB.

  • My question is, is RAM the primary bottleneck, or are other specs important too?

The laptop in question is a refurbished Thinkpad T14, AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U (6 cores), 256GB SSD. Based on my experience editing images on my work laptop, which is very similar in specs, I’m thinking this machine, with an additional 16GB of ram (32GB total) should be a reasonable upgrade, but I’m not sure how important the CPU specs are.

I’ll run Debian Linux on it, and use an external monitor for any serious editing so the screen isn’t that critical to me (it is 1920 x 1080). My images are on an external USB 3.0 HD with USB-B micro superspeed connector.

I think that CPU is fast enough, and I’d guess that the 8GB of ram was your bottle neck, or the disk of none t was a slow ssd or HDD.

Can you run didigkam on your current laptop and monitor the ram/CPU/disk usage? That should tell you a lot.

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Is would focus on this first.


My computer is an older generation Core i5 (don’t remember which exactly, but 2 cores/4 threads) with 8GB RAM, and I don’t have any issues with digiKam or darktable. My guess is that your main issue is the external drive. Consider putting the digiKam database on the internal SSD, as that will likely solve most of the freezing.


One really huge bottleneck I notice is the graphics card for photo editing with darktable. My university supplied computer has decent RAM and CPU but no graphics card. It is terrible for photo editing because of that. I have a 2010 module desktop that I upgraded the graphics card and it is pretty good for darktable editing running on linux. My main computer is windows 11 laptop with an AMD processor. 16 GB ram and most importantly a dedicated graphics card. I can’t comment how important graphics cards are to the programs you have listed but for DT it is critical.

Thanks, that (putting the DB on the internal SSD) made a huge difference! I’m reassured the new/refurbished machine will have more than enough storage and processing power for the foreseeable future.

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