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New to Digital-- need specs for a laptop

Lauren Butero , Nov 08, 2011; 02:17 a.m.

Hello everyone--
I am a longtime 35mm film photographer who is looking to go digital this year. Unfortunately, my laptop has decided to die on me and now I am looking to replace it. I will be using the laptop for lightroom and/or photoshop (at least until/if I stop playing around and get serious with digital). I want to make sure that I am going to get something that will function well.

What should I be looking for in a PC?

Thanks for helping out the newb~


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Mike Earussi , Nov 08, 2011; 05:59 a.m.

What's your price range? With PS the more ram and faster cpu the better, but that costs $.

Kerry Grim , Nov 08, 2011; 06:35 a.m.

Are you planning an additional monitor and calibration software. If you do get serious you would likely want an additional monitor and calibration software. If there is a chance of that happening, make sure the laptop has adequate hardware to support a large monitor. With a Mac, that is not a problem, but buying a cheap PC laptop just may be underpowered to run a large monitor. Configuring a PC laptop, sucks.

Kerry Grim , Nov 08, 2011; 06:52 a.m.

There seems to be two different camps here. Buy a cheap laptop because it will be outdated in a few years, or pay a lot more up front and expect it to last twice as long.

My son bought a Macbook Pro a few years ago and he expects it will last him until he graduates college. If so that will be 7 years. No doubt a good PC laptop would also last a lot longer if well equipped. On the other hand, if I were to drop the laptop or someone steals it, I would prefer it to be a cheap one.

Patrick Lavoie , Nov 08, 2011; 09:18 a.m.

whatever laptop flavor you will get, you need 4gig ram minimum, a good size HD.. 160-250 is good, speed have no effect for Photoshop, so keep the normal 5400rpm on ethat come normally with your laptop.

DON'T split it (creating 2 or more partition) for Photoshop.. many people suggest that solution so Photoshop can use one of them as a scratch disk.. it doesn't do anything in real life. If you want to define a scratch disk for Photoshop it have do be a real second HD (witch you cant have in a laptop (i think some make it possible via a adapter .. but in general you cant).

A good video card also as someone else suggest, that can support another bigger monitor.. if you go the mac route.. forget to check that as all the basic card support already a monitor up to 30inch.

Other than that, whatever your money can buy will be good. Dont forget a external monitor, even the cheapest one should be better than your laptop monitor, and put at eye level it will be even better. With that you also want a calibrator to calibrate the whole system.. spider3 elite or the new i1display pro is what you want.

JDM von Weinberg , Nov 08, 2011; 12:27 p.m.

If you are a full-time or even much-time professional photographer, the idea of a separate monitor being necessary is good. Otherwise, not needed for starters. I don't think that the $400 laptops are going to be much use to you, either.

Photoshop and its kin need RAM, 4GB is good, more is better, probably can't run the latest versions on less than 2GB. Older versions of PS like CS3 may do OK with less memory and processor speed.

Take a memory stick with some images that you know, and look at the big box store at how the images look on the monitors of different machines.

I personally think that Mac laptops that are mid-level or above will have a longer use-span than some other machines. Apple takes their dominance in graphics fields very seriously and produce useful products in that line. If you prefer Windows, get something hot enough (speed not former ownership status) to take you a few years into the future. Cheapies can work if you are an expert and know what to do to update it, but for the rest of us, the miser always pays the most.

Portable, some very portable in the sense of "in your pocket", external hard drives are available now for commodity prices. Even USB 2 is fast enough for back up. They're cheap enough to get two, one for use in the field, and one for backup at home.

Zach Ritter , Nov 08, 2011; 01:06 p.m.

If you want to define a scratch disk for Photoshop it have do be a real second HD (witch you cant have in a laptop (i think some make it possible via a adapter .. but in general you cant).

Some manufacturers (I know HP for sure) do make larger 17 inch laptops with two harddrive bays.

Also, hard drive speed does make a difference. It may not be hugely noticeable at first, but it is there. If you work on huge files (like scans of 4x5 or RAW of 20MP+) it might make a noticeable difference. Solid state is faster, but has some issues, and is extremely expensive for it's capacity. 5400 RPM is typically fine, but 7200 RPM is not a bad choice if you aren't worried about battery life all that much.

Zach Ritter , Nov 08, 2011; 01:10 p.m.

Oh, and if I was going to give a basic specs to look for it would be as follows:

Core i5 or greater CPU, 6GB+ of RAM, Mac OSX or Windows 7 Home Premium, 500GB+ HD, better if you can find one with a "hybrid" technology such as the Seagates, 802.11N wireless, and a dedicated video card or discrete, not Intel Integrated. After that, it's all your own preference.

Patrick Lavoie , Nov 08, 2011; 01:16 p.m.

Zach, i have call Adobe about the HD speed (from 5400 to 7200rpm i mean) and they told me it wont make any difference .. So i test it myself, when i order my macbook install CS5, 4gig ram, and my regular work image around 65meg or so (also try it on my P45 image that i work on many time, a file that is around 125meg in 8bit.. without layers) .. didtn make any difference when opening or saving the file, didtn make a difference when i copied the file from / to a external HD .. i still have the 7200HD install as it was a bigger HD vs the included 5400rpm..

SSD drive are something else, and yes you will gain speed if all of your system, software and file are on this drive.. but now whe are not talking about the same price of laptop either.

And as you say also, a 7200 is hard on the battery and on the temperature of your laptop.. its can quickly became hot like a a hot pan on your lap ; )

Zach Ritter , Nov 08, 2011; 01:27 p.m.

Interesting. I would have thought the speed of the HD might come into play more or less while working. But then again, I work with video also, so I need big beefy hard drives.

Might I also add that I am completely jealous that you get to work with P45 and other MF backs. Man I wish I could afford that gear.....

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