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Laptop recommendations

KingBee Plus
12 529 2 Scotland
4 Feb 2011 10:47AM
Hope soon to be in the market for a laptop to take over from my existing (ageing) PC, so some recommendations from those in the know would be good. Id have another PC from choice but I dont have room for 2, and the present one works fine, albeit a little slowly. Still running XP.

Anyway, key specs are:

Budget 600 max
Requirements enough RAM etc to manage comfortably a number of photo applications, including CS4, and to a lesser extent, but desirable the ability to edit AVCHD footage created on my Canon G10 (a rare event).
A BluRay burner would be good, if such a thing exists on a laptop, and Id be prepared to pay a smidge extra to get it but not crucial if its a simple enough matter to connect a burner at a later stage.
Enough USB ports to take an external mouse (hate the little on-board pad thingies) and an external hard-drive, and have some to spare
Wireless connectivity for broadband (Windows 7 behaving OK these days?). Incidentally, I have been reading the odd horror story lately about rapidly diminishing Internet capacity, and the fact that getting on to the Net will soon be a thing of the past unless we ditch IPv4 and go to v6. Do all modern machines come so equipped?

What I dont need the laptop for is gaming in any shape or form. It really will be used only for photo applications and the occasional bit of browsing. Also, I absolutely do not want anything with touch-screen functionality, since I simply cannot abide a screen with greasy fingerprints all over it. Anal, I know, but there you are.

Im a total computer klutz, so please dont blind me with science when you reply.

FWIW, my existing PC is a Dell, and Ive never had a days bother with it, so am tempted to go Inspiron which seem to get good enough reviews.

Just to confuse, if I had the money, should I go for a Mac? I don't have much in the way of Windows software that would prevent me from getting a Mac - it's just the cost of them.

Thanks as always for members input.


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mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
4 Feb 2011 11:16AM
I bought a laptop for the same reasons as you, and like you I do not play games. I got the distinct impression that for a budget you mention, PCs generally offer more capability than Mac. Whether the (claimed) benefits of Mac such as stability and user interface is enough to offset that is a personal preference.
I decided to go with PC because of the wider availability of different programs for PC.

I bought a Dell Studio 15" (as opposed to the Studio 17") with i3-350 processor, 320GB dic, 3GB RAM and 512MB dedicated graphics card. I hold all my photos on a 500GB My Passport driev to avoid disc usage slowing things down.The laptop was 589 in early 2010.

I run Photoshop Elements 8 without any problem and use the laptop for sorting and rough editing (so I do not need 17" screen), and do any critical editing on my desktop. I tried to calibrate the laptop screen with Spyder3Pro but there are very few options on adjustment - if you want to fully calibrate it may be worthwhile seeing if any of their screen updgrades allow this or it may be cheaper to buy a separate monitor and plug that in when you need it.

I have never edited video so I do not know what the minimum erquirements would be - maybe go up to the i5 processor?

The beauty of the Dell website is that when you opt to buy a laptop, you can change any or all of the components to suit your needs so you can adapt to your budget.
KingBee Plus
12 529 2 Scotland
4 Feb 2011 12:04PM
Thanks Mike.

cameracat 14 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
4 Feb 2011 12:07PM
As " mikehit " has suggested, Check out the " DELL " range, Personally I hate laptops, But we had to have one for commercial reasons.

Dell ticked all the boxes technology wise, So thats where we spent our cash.....SmileBeen very suprised at how fast and smooth our choice is...!!!

You can buy a totally new item or something from thier " Outlet " options ( these are usually returned or over ordered stock, They come with the same warranty as new ones, But at a discounted price ).

4 Feb 2011 12:29PM
Not a lot of togs like laptops. The most important thing is the screen, and the screen needs to be IPS to get the best display. Not many laptops have IPS. I think the macs do, and possibly some Dells. I believe the iPad is as well.

I thought I had a good screen on my laptop but recently I had the chance to look at one of my favourite photos full size on my brother's iMac. I was horrified out how badly edited it was, yet this is invisible on either my laptop or the screens I use at work.

I'm going for a desk top this year and getting the biggest Dell or NEC ips screen I can afford
4 Feb 2011 12:37PM
I'm well pleased with my Toshiba L500 1XD, 4 GB RAM, 350GB HDD, 2 USB ports, 1 ESATA port.
Doesn't have Firewire so my MiniDV can't be downloaded from my camcorder, but it's plenty fast enough for editing video when I transfer it by another route. It also has a shiny screen, but I'm getting used to that. A couple of my colleagues on the Creative Imaging course I'm doing as a (very) mature student have recently bought Mac Books and swear by them. They have Graphic Imaging backgrounds, my background is purely photographic and I'm perfectly happy with what I bought! I personally don't mind which I use, Mac or PC. Having done a course in iMedia which included a weeks intensive tuition on video editing using FinalCut, I've often thought I'd like a Mac, but I can survive with my Toshiba laptop and Windows 7.
KingBee Plus
12 529 2 Scotland
5 Feb 2011 9:17AM
Thanks Helen and Alex. Not sure I know what IPS means! Anyway, I know what you mean about the screen - I was looking at some laptops yesterday, and jeez, are those screens ever so small when compared to the big monitor on my desktop (and that isn't even widescreen). I could always hook a monitor up to the laptop, i suppose, but that kind of defeats the purpose, as any new monitor would be sitting permanently in place in front of the old one. I don't think I could be faffed hooking up the laptop to the existing monitor, then diconnecting it again when I wanted to used the desktop.

Alex, I like the Toshibas - they seem to be well-made. I looked at one in my local John Lewis yesterday and it had a fairly impressive spec, without being OTT about it.

This is going slightly off-topic, but would there be any merit in simply having my existing Desktop - a Dell Dimension 5150 - upgraded? It's only 4 years old. I know that technology's moved on considerably since then but surely there must be something about it that's salvageable?

mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
5 Feb 2011 4:57PM
I know what you mean about laptop screenn sizes these days. I started out using my wife's old laptop which was a 13" 4:3 ratio. When I was looking at a new laptop I quickly realised that a 15" widescreen has a significantly shorter vertical length than 13" 4:3. This greatly reduces the viewing size of a photo when looking at the whole picture.
Add to that, the 'top margin' when using Windows 7 takes a further inch off the vertical height and the menu bars on Photoshop reduces it still more. If I intended to use the laptop as my main editing station then I would have wanted to go to 17" or even 19" to be really comfortable.

My desktop is in the attic office. With my laptop I can sort, catalogue, and do basic editing sat in the lounge without becoming a hermit to my wife or with junk TV in the background. All my photos are on the offboard hard disc and plug that into the desktop when I need to edit photos. Or I can hoik the laptop to friends' house to go through photos or use the laptop for shooting tethered indoors. In other words, the laptop gives me flexibility.

With regards the desktop, the only technology you need to think of is the amount of RAM, and the speed of the graphics card and of the processor. It is so cheap to add/change these that I would use this as a first option and decide which you need to do to edit video effectively. I don't see why 4 years old is 'getting old' - my Dell 5000 series is 6 years old and still going strong and my photos are backed up the case of hard disc failure. I would consider buying a new one if I thought I had to change RAM, graphics card and processor at the same time.
My next purchase will be a fancy new screen for better colour rendition etc and try it with the laptop.
BigRick 12 2.1k 3 United Kingdom
5 Feb 2011 6:14PM
if you are bothered about the monitor on a laptop, then get the best of both, and get the laptop with good specs, and get a large external monitor for the home editing side of things. Smile
Coast 10 1.6k 292 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2011 4:11PM
I previously ran CS3 and Lightroom on a HP PC and an Acer laptop. The laptop was purely for use when away from home (holiday). All was fine until one day I had a play with a friends iMac and 27" screen. It was so intuitive and much quicker than my Windows equipment. Granted the iMac has the i5 processor and 4GB Ram v the 2GB on the dual core PC. That aside it was such a difference in use I succumbed and have bought my own. Which leads me to the laptop....

I continued with the Acer for a while but in a moment of madness went and bought a Macbook to compliment the desktop. I run Aperture and CS5 on both systems and am delighted with my choice. The Macbook albeit only a 13" screen is ideal for on the road. Light to carry yet does what I need photographically and is so quick. The other plus is the 2 hours I got from the Acer when running lightroom versus the 8 hours I get from Aperture on one battery charge is a great plus.

I transfer to a network hard drive and both laptop and desktop then have access to my image library.

I asked for lots of advice before making the switch but ultimately it comes down to what suits you - getting a couple of hours on an iMac was the clincher. Whatever your views about Mr Jobs and his Apple empire he certainly knows how to make some great kit and it all fits together so well. If you can stretch to a Macbook or even a Macbook pro I am sure you would not be disappointed.
User_Removed 9 1.4k England
8 Feb 2011 5:15PM
8 Feb 2011 7:55PM
I have been getting used to a laptop, which I bought for my grandaughter almost 2 years ago. A Dell laptop which has given me, and her, only one problem, ie virus downloaded after the 13 months. Now I am feeling more confident I am looking to buy a desktop PC, yet looking at this post, it seems as though many are ditching their PCs for a laptop.
What is the best GENUINE advice going to be ? Buy a PC; stick to lap top; buy a PC with touch screen ? What is the answer, and what are your recommendations ?
User_Removed 9 1.4k England
8 Feb 2011 8:03PM
It totally depends on what you would use it for.

Desktops have a greater lifespan simply because they are hardly ever moved, parts are interchangeable etc. If you require a larger screen, want to upgrade in the future nor need to move your computer around then a desktop is for you. Its the most cost effective option as you can buy directly for your needs.

However, if you would like to move your computer around and make a small compromise on cost then a laptop is for you. - You cna still be specific in what you want to buy but a little less so than with a desktop system.

Touch screen desktops arn't really practical outside of EPOS / display use.

You also have to consider the ATOM based pc's now too, these micro desktops are about the size of an A5 book but are a full desktop system in themselves.

The same goesfor laptops, as size is everything. You don't want to buy a laptop that is too big.

The fact that you can use an external mouse, keyboard and screen with a laptop and turn it into a pesudo-desktop only adds to their attractiveness. (But obviously using it like that isnt the best option, as a dekstop would have been cheaper.)

Notice how I have no need to use "granted" "delighted with my" "great kit " "fits together" or those other apple crapagains. We take stuff like that for granted. lol.
Coast 10 1.6k 292 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2011 10:14PM
I am delighted to have amused Swwils and pleased an effort was made to give some advice rather than sit back smugly although it took 3 hours to come up with something more interesting than "lol" Grin. My point with Apple is that if you compare specs to PC or Windows laptop you will not find much difference and on paper the windows based stuff seems to offer better value for money. I've used windows computers for years and found them to be perfectly suited to use - it's hard to quantify the apple experience until you try it and again I am sure it won't be for everyone.

The apple "crapagains" are probably often rolled out as it is the experience more than anything else you can describe - after all the gap between the operating systems is much narrower these days and the machines share much of the same kit - i5 processor from Intel powers the iMac and Macbook Pro and can be found in Windows machines.

Try it and see.

I would also take issue with advising Atom based netbooks for photographic use. Not impossible and the netbooks are great for internet browsing, social networking and cope with word processing, spreadsheet applications etc. Pushing images through even Elements is slow work on an atom powered machine however. Also anything more than basic editing is difficult.

If you want the portability and to take your computing out the house then it has to be a laptop - if not then stick with the PC and look to upgrade some of the internals.

User_Removed 9 1.4k England
8 Feb 2011 11:51PM
Are you kidding? An atom 330 w/ ION support is well suited. The small cache size is easily made up by its cost. Although not "blazing fast" by todays standard. For a low-use, low-power utilization cost effective system for light photowork and daily tasks what more could you want? - that may well be the case here so it should be considered, and why I mentioned the form factor.

I was not suggesting a netbook, but any micro/mini ITX system. (i.e. any AMU or CPU.) - they are no longer specialist products.

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