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Travel Laptop for Photo Editing

Sergio Minero , Aug 04, 2010; 07:41 p.m.

What are the best laptops for photo editing while travelling?
The laptop will mainly be for my trips (mostly outside the U.S.). I often travel for a couple weeks or longer, so waiting until I get home to edit photos is not practical. Will review/edit mostly in a hotel, but also on a plane or train as need be.

Price: under $2500
Display: I already have a 27" iMac, so no need for the suggestion to get any kind laptop and then buy a quality external display. I prefer displays in the following order (unless someone can give some evidence for a different order): IPS, RGB LED, WLED, regular LCD. I have read about the Lenovo Thinkpad T60P but it's too expensive, plus, I would rather have a current model laptop. Also, prefer matte over glossy, but priority goes to panel type.
OS: Irrelevant. I use GIMP for editing photos and am not partial to any other software for video, music, etc. If I get a Windows laptop, I'll mostly likely wipe it and install Ubuntu 10.04, or at least dual boot.
Optical drive: At least CD/DVD burner, Blu-Ray would be nice. Would settle for external optical drive if the display was of high quality.
Size/Weight: 13" - 17". Weight is not an issue.
Memory: 500GB+ would be nice, but not important. Will have an external drive as backup anyway.
Processor: Prefer Core i5, but not a necessity. Will mostly be converting RAW to JPG, editing in GIMP, surfing the net, and watching DVDs.

Responses

Steve Wagner , Aug 04, 2010; 07:59 p.m.

HP 8470 seems to be a top choice

Plenty of configurations that meet all your specs for IPS panel, i5, and price. Also has USB 3 and is vibration, dust, humidity, altitude, and temperature resistant

Shopping link

Edward Ingold , Aug 04, 2010; 09:27 p.m.

I have a Lenovo T60 (15") and T61 (14") Core-Duo laptop, which I can recommend without reservations. Lenovo Thinkpad laptops are thin, rugged and have the best tactile keyboard of any laptop I've used. I purchased each at CDW near Chicago for between $1200 and $1300. Both calibrate fairly well, but suffer the usual laptop limitations of variable screen brightness and viewing angle. I use Windows 7(64), which has been very reliable. The extended battery is less than $200, and gives over 6 hours of use.

Besides photo editing (Photoshop and Lightroom), I use these computers for multitrack audio recording (Nuendo 5) with a Firewire AD/DA converter, and for both audio and video editing, generally with an external USB or eSATA drive.

I recommend a clean install of the O/S, starting with a blank disk. The standard disk is only 160G, so this is a splendid opportunity to upgrade to 320G or more. With a clean install, you eliminate the worthless software most laptops have from the factory. Actually, Lenovo is light on junk software, but comes with utilities which tend to nag you when you would rather do something else. All gone now.

Edward Ingold , Aug 04, 2010; 09:27 p.m.

I have a Lenovo T60 (15") and T61 (14") Core-Duo laptop, which I can recommend without reservations. Lenovo Thinkpad laptops are thin, rugged and have the best tactile keyboard of any laptop I've used. I purchased each at CDW near Chicago for between $1200 and $1300. Both calibrate fairly well, but suffer the usual laptop limitations of variable screen brightness and viewing angle. I use Windows 7(64), which has been very reliable. The extended battery is less than $200, and gives over 6 hours of use.

Besides photo editing (Photoshop and Lightroom), I use these computers for multitrack audio recording (Nuendo 5) with a Firewire AD/DA converter, and for both audio and video editing, generally with an external USB or eSATA drive.

I recommend a clean install of the O/S, starting with a blank disk. The standard disk is only 160G, so this is a splendid opportunity to upgrade to 320G or more. With a clean install, you eliminate the worthless software most laptops have from the factory. Actually, Lenovo is light on junk software, but comes with utilities which tend to nag you when you would rather do something else. All gone now.

Steve Wagner , Aug 04, 2010; 09:40 p.m.

The Core Duo T2500 in the Lenovo T60 is four years old and is very weak by today's standards, something like 1/5th as fast as a typical i5. This would be a notable consideration for me.

Edward Ingold , Aug 05, 2010; 01:55 a.m.

I would like to see documentation regarding the speed of the processor - a practical comparison that uses a benchmark computation test.

Image processing is not particularly processor dependent, and my T60 is no slouch. Video rendering is highly processing intensive, and my HP dual quad-core Xeon work station is only about 3x as fast. Both use high speed SATA drives, which is probably more important than clock speed with Photoshop.

Laptops are intended for travel and field use, so I'm more concerned with ergonomics, structural soundness, size and battery life than computational speed. MacBook and Lenovo are at the top of the heap in these considerations.

Andy L , Aug 05, 2010; 01:15 p.m.

I've done a fair bit of testing for my site, using Cinebench 11.5 (a good multithreaded CPU stress test). Here are some results, for Macbook Pro models:
2.16GHz Core Duo: 1.0
2.4GHz Core 2 Duo: 1.4
2.4GHz i5: 2.1
2.53GHz i5: 2.3
2.66GHz i7: 2.5

Those are all dual-core CPUs. The numbers come out the same whether you run the test on Windows or OSX. Some numbers from Windows laptops:
2.16GHz i5 dual-core: 2.0
1.6GHz i7 quad-core: 2.8-2.9 (I tested a few of these)

All the i5 and i7 CPUs here have Hyperthreading. Because of TurboBoost, single threaded performance gets complicated. For example, the 1.6GHz quad core can hit 2.8GHz in single threaded tasks, the 2.66GHz dual can hit 3.33GHz, the 2.4GHz i5 goes to 2.93GHz (it's a 0.9 in Cinebench in single-threaded mode, same as the 1.6GHz quad i7, same as a 3GHz Xeon E5420 - the lowest end 15" Mac is actually a great Photoshop machine because so many Photoshop tasks are single threaded).

For reference, a 2.8GHz desktop quad core i7-860 gets a 5.0, an i7-920 is a 4.8, and a 2.7GHz desktop Core 2 Quad is a 3.0.

Curt Wiler , Aug 05, 2010; 01:40 p.m.

For travel use, I find that other considerations besides raw computing power are important. First is ruggedness and reliability. Second is the ability to back up to an external HD simultaneously while downloading images AND NOT SLOW THE PROCESS DOWN. I find the later to be a significant problem when using a USB 2 port for an external drive. Third is boot-up time. Together, these caused me to replace my Lenovo T60 Thinkpad. Either the Macbook Pro 13 (with FW800) or several newer Thinkpad models would do, but I chose the 14" Thinkpad 410S and could not be more pleased. With a solid state drive, boot-up is about 45 seconds; the Thinkpads allow you to swap the optical drive for a second internal hard drive, and I used a 500GB 7200RPM model which holds my images but also is a bootable mirror image of the solid state boot drive in case of a failure there; and the eSATA port is used by an external backup device which keeps up with the download process. My only complaint is the short battery run time, but I am always on mains power when downloading because it often takes hours (I download multiple cards simultaneously, and the total can easily be 15GB for a good day in the field). This model can be found on sale, making it quite reasonable, and you don't need to pay Lenovo's price for the second internal HD, although you do need to buy their adapter.

Steve Wagner , Aug 05, 2010; 03:27 p.m.

The OP is placing great importance on the panel - IPS

Passmark is the biggest source of benchmarking scores online, so that's an additional resource, they have hundreds of cpus with very precise scores - i.e. 3,249 vs. 930

Jay Hector , Aug 05, 2010; 11:32 p.m.

You might try the wide-gamut Thinkpad W510 with built-in Huey Pro calibration . . .

(link)

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