You will often hear or read about how great a new release of KDE Plasma or MATE is on a new piece of hardware but rarely will you read about how it is on older hardware. I have had this Dell Latitude 2120, a 7 year old Netbook that I continue to use for a specific purpose. I have chosen to run openSUSE Tumbleweed because I like the new shiny it offers, the upgrades just don’t break my machines, I won’t have to bother with reinstalling, it is not a “heavy weight” distribution and is extremely easy to manage from the terminal.
This is my experience using KDE Plasma 5.12 on a Dell Latitude 2120. It has an Intel Atom N455 Processor, 2 GB of RAM, screen is an impressive 1024×600 resolution and the built in Intel GPU (Renderer: Mesa DRI Intel Pineview M). I don’t expect much from it, but I don’t need much from it.
What do you do with a 7 year old Netbook running an Atom Processor?
This computer isn’t used for much, actually. I have a few specific purposes of which it does a fine job. All of which don’t require much of the machine as the majority of it are native Linux applications. Desktop, VLC with the needed Multimedia Codecs to watch local media, and Syncthing-gtk. I use this computer primarily for the assistance of educating my kids through locally stored multimedia files, audio, video or images. Due to the semi-rugged nature of this machine, I can toss this machine in my kids bag and not worry about it much.
Should I need to do some browsing, I have just left this system with its openSUSE default of Firefox. I can watch YouTube with it fairly well. To test this, I went to the 8-Bit Guy’s YouTube channel and watched his latest video on The C64 Mini, a modern remake of the Commodore 64. There is no annoying jittering or lagging. The sound is loud and clear enough on this machine as well.
The other web pages I visit loaded fast enough but I didn’t test this against any pages that are advertising heavy. It was all very usable and trouble free. CubicleNate.com loaded fast enough as well as software.opensuse.org. I also didn’t open too many tabs as after 4 or 5 tabs it started to use some Swap space.
I also tested a Classic Linux Game, Extreme Tux Racer. I find that my kids enjoy this game from time to time and it keeps them engaged for a bit. This Latitude 2120 played it smooth as butter. No complaints, whatsoever! I was actually quite impressed but as I thought about it. It ran great, 14-ish years ago on Pentium 4 hardware so I should have expected it to run well.
I often think that many statistics are kind of dumb. Sure, I do enjoy reading them but often, I could care less about a fraction of a second difference. The real question is going to be: Is it so slow that I am annoyed using it. And, for the specified tasks of which I am asking this “long in the tooth” machine to perform, it does well enough.
At the time of this writing, this machine is running Kernel 4.15.13, the latest from Tumbleweed. Also note, Syncthing-gtk launches at startup, which requires more libraries to be loaded.
Cold boot to usable desktop time
Starting from the GRUB menu to the settled desktop: 2:24.9
I realize this seems rather slow, especially compared to my Dell Latitude E6440. Perhaps replacing the traditional Hard Drive to an SSD might be worth it just to run these tests once again and see how much of a difference it makes.
Measured after the settled desktop with no applications running (except Syncthing-gtk): 1.2GB out of 1.9GB available
Taken from terminal by running: free -h
Started from the menu to settled: 4.48 sec
Started from menu to settled: 2.94 sec
Playing the media on VLC
Settled to ready for VLC: 3.2 sec
Starting VLC from Dolphin by selecting 12 small media files I use for “memory work” with my kids’ education: 7.9 sec
From click to settled: 24.2 sec
To test the video card, and I realize this is NOT the best test but it is just a test for fun: 60.235 frames per second
Resume from Suspend
From the time I hit the power button to when I can input the password: 6.1 sec
Is this machine at end of life? Yes, but more accurately, past end of life which makes it perfectly suited for how I am using it. Overall, it performs satisfactory. I can’t complain much for something for which I only paid $40. Unless this machines completely dies or there is some unforeseen change in architecture support, I will continue to employ this machine. It does everything I need it to do. I am grateful for all the work of the developers, packagers and the related organizations like openSUSE and KDE for allowing this old technology to continue to be useful. It is great to see that just because something is old, doesn’t make it obsolete.
openSUSE Tumbleweed – The operating system running on this machine
KDE Plasma – The chosen desktop environment
One thought on “KDE Plasma 5.12 on a Dell Latitude 2120”
“…screen is an impressive 1024×600 resolution…”
I’ve got the same box but want a bit more desktop than that. I chose 32-bit Mint 17.3 (Rosa) way back when I got mine ($25 on eBay!). I kick system font-size settings a bit higher* and use the following startup script to give a desktop that will provide at least an 800 pixel resolution height-wise.
– – – – – – – –
xrandr –output LVDS1 –mode 1024×600 –panning 1536×900 –scale 1.5×1.5
– – – – – – – –
Don’t know that Tumbleweed will report your screen as LVDS1, but you can run xrandr in a terminal without arguments to query the current settings, including the screen’s name.
* Using KDE’s
System Settings -> Application Appearance -> Fonts -> Adjust All Fonts,
there’s a size checkbox that unlocks the font-size column. Noto Sans (monotype) was my default (again, this is KDE on 32 bit Rosa), and I increased the size to 14.