Author Topic: Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live System Laptop recommendation needed  (Read 756 times)


Offline FreeLancer

  • Global Moderator
  • Survival Veteran
  • ******
  • Posts: 6085
  • Karma: 771
Re: Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live System Laptop recommendation needed
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2019, 05:51:47 PM »
I've tried these models with Tails:  http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=57801.msg753064#msg753064

So, I tested some sub-$200 dollar "burner notebooks" for compatibility with Tails and a few different Linux distros.  It's kind of amazing just how much computing capability is available for so little these days, but even then these machines have to cut corners somewhere and some do a better job than others.

The first deficiency that was painfully obvious for all of these machines, right out of the box, was the typical 32Gb eMMC internal storage that comes installed at this price range.  None of my samples allow this 32Gb size to be upgraded by the user and only one had an open space that allowed the addition of a 2.5" SATA drive.  The painful part comes when performing the first update of the Windows 10 software these notebooks come with, because they don't have enough free space to complete the most recent 1804 feature upgrade.  Supposedly there are ways to offload some storage to the cloud or a USB drive, but I didn't have any luck and decided to experiment with Linux instead.  I did eventually go back and download the 1804 iso, burned it to DVD, and was able to do a clean reinstall that registered Win10 to my Microsoft account on all the machines.  Minus the OEM crapware these things come out of the box with, the reinstall left about 13Gb of free space remaining, which might be enough to do light duty web-centric tasks, kinda like a Chromebook.  All but one notebook used a version of Windows called 10S, which only allows you to install apps approved by Microsoft, although when I reinstalled from DVD they came up on my online account registered as Windows 10 Home, without any of the lockdown features of 10S.

These all came with 4Gb of RAM, which was not obviously user upgradeable.  And all but the HP had an HDMI port.


In order of my worst to best picks.....


HP Stream 11-y010nr  $179

  Intel Celeron N3060, 1.6GHz, dual-core processor,
  11.6" diagonal HD sva Anti-Glare wled-backlit (1366 x 768)

This was the second smallest of the five, but the most sluggish and loaded down with crapware.  It's WiFi isn't supported by Tails 3.8 or 3.9, and there's no ethernet jack, so getting online is problematic.  There's only two USB jacks, but Tails won't boot from the faster 3.0 one.  There's a mini SD slot, but none of the computers I've used lately are able to boot Tails from SD currently.  Battery life seems to be  no better than 5hrs.  Keyboard is cramped, but fairly useable, and there's a Caps Lock light that come in handy when trying to figure out why you suddenly forgot the password you just encrypted the disk with.  The camera is junky, but able to read QR codes within the Electrum Wallet app in dim light.  A lightweight Peppermint 9 Linux distro worked great, leaving 22Gb free after installation, had WiFi driver support, and was significantly quicker to use.  Linux Mint Mate didn't have WiFi support.

I also received the 14" iteration of this HP laptop, which was fortunately missing a couple of keys and gave me an excuse to send it back to Amazon for a refund.


ASUS L402WA-EH21  $199

  AMD E2-6110 1.5GHz Processor with integrated Radeon R2 graphics
  32GB eMMC Flash Storage and 4GB DDR3 RAM

This is the only AMD processor of the bunch.  It eventually boots Tails 3.9 and supports WiFi, but didn't with 3.8 or Linux Mint.  It runs Peppermint fine (everything seems to like Peppermint), but is kind of sluggish with Ubuntu.  There's ethernet, USB C, 3.0, 2.0, and regular SD jacks.  The keyboard is pretty close to normal size, but laid out such that I kept hitting Caps Lock without knowing it and couldn't figure out why I couldn't remember my password.  The camera is slightly better than the HP.  The battery life is the worst at <5hrs.  The only redeeming feature of this laptop is the accessible 2.5" bay for upgraded storage.  I put in an SSD and am in the process of downloading the bitcoin blockchain and will probably wind running this as full node in place of the old MacBook Pro I'm using now.


Acer Aspire 1, A114-31-C4HH  $176

  Intel Celeron N3450 Quad-Core Processor (Up to 2.2GHz)
  14" Full HD 1920 x 1080 Widescreen Display. 300 Kilopixel (Front camera)
  4GB Onboard Memory, 32GB Internal Storage
  2-cell Li-Ion (4810 mAh) Battery, Up to 9 Hours Battery Life

This is the same size as the above ASUS, but performs better in every area except internal storage expansion.  It runs Tails great, as well as everything else I tried, and there were no issues with WiFi.  The screen and camera seem to be the best of this bunch, as is the keyboard and trackpad.  The battery life really is 9 hours, easily 2-3 times of the similarly sized ASUS.  Besides lacking USB C, it has the same jacks as the ASUS, too. 


ASUS VivoBook E203MA  $169

  Intel Dual-Core Celeron N4000 processor with 64GB eMMC Storage and 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
  11.6 inch HD display

This little ASUS is definitely the ideal "burner laptop" in terms of size, performance, and cost.  This was the only unit that came with 64Gb, which allowed it function the best in Windows.  Tails and Linux run great, without any WiFi or camera issues.  Battery life is 10 hours and the screen and keyboard are surprisingly functional despite being the smallest of the bunch.  It has two USB 3.0 and one USB C jacks, as well as a micro SD slot, significantly better than the slightly larger HP.  This BIOS was also the easiest to navigate and change.  This one also automatically updated me to Windows 10 Pro when I did a clean install from DVD.


In looking back at Amazon while writing this up I noticed that several of these are now listed above $200, but the prices I listed are what I paid for them within the last two weeks.


The only one that I'm still using is the ASUS VivoBook.  I'd definitely steer clear of HP.



Offline fritz_monroe

  • The Defenestrator
  • Administrator
  • Survival Veteran
  • *******
  • Posts: 8351
  • Karma: 150
    • The Homestead Fritz
Re: Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live System Laptop recommendation needed
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2019, 06:19:23 PM »
I wouldn't go with any of the models listed.  I'd look at a used Lenova T-series laptop.  These laptops are fantastic with Linux. My current laptop is a T420, but I'm ready to upgrade to a T-430 or T-440.  Slap in an SSD drive and your laptop will boot to Linux in 10-20 seconds.

Offline TuNoMeteCabra

  • Fledgling Prepper
  • *
  • Posts: 3
  • Karma: 0
  • New TSP Forum member
Re: Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live System Laptop recommendation needed
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2019, 06:30:33 PM »
I wouldn't go with any of the models listed.  I'd look at a used Lenova T-series laptop.  These laptops are fantastic with Linux. My current laptop is a T420, but I'm ready to upgrade to a T-430 or T-440.  Slap in an SSD drive and your laptop will boot to Linux in 10-20 seconds.

Do you know if a ThinkPad T520 will work just as good?

Offline TuNoMeteCabra

  • Fledgling Prepper
  • *
  • Posts: 3
  • Karma: 0
  • New TSP Forum member
Re: Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live System Laptop recommendation needed
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2019, 06:32:17 PM »
I've tried these models with Tails:  http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=57801.msg753064#msg753064


The only one that I'm still using is the ASUS VivoBook.  I'd definitely steer clear of HP.
Thanks for the heads up. I found the Asus Vivobook for a nice price too!

Offline fritz_monroe

  • The Defenestrator
  • Administrator
  • Survival Veteran
  • *******
  • Posts: 8351
  • Karma: 150
    • The Homestead Fritz
Re: Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live System Laptop recommendation needed
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2019, 08:34:34 PM »
Do you know if a ThinkPad T520 will work just as good?
Yep, the T-series is all VERY stable with Linux.

I'm going to replace my current T-420, the T-520 may be my replacement

Offline FreeLancer

  • Global Moderator
  • Survival Veteran
  • ******
  • Posts: 6085
  • Karma: 771
Re: Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live System Laptop recommendation needed
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2019, 12:09:54 AM »
I wouldn't go with any of the models listed.  I'd look at a used Lenova T-series laptop.  These laptops are fantastic with Linux.

I guess it depends on what you use it for, but Tails is painfully slow and tedious on any machine.  The only hardware issues that matter are whether Tails actually boots (not all USB sticks will work) and recognizes the Wifi (or can connect via ethernet).  I never use Tails on a machine that's used for anything else, so old used machines or new cheap burners work just fine for me.