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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Buying a new laptop...Ideas please
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11/30/2006 11:34:13 AM · #1
Well...it's that dreaded time again...upgrading hardware :-(

I need to add a quality laptop to my gear. I have been working on a thinkpad that is 4 years old (given to me by my last employer) and it just doesnt cut it anymore. I spend more time on the road needing a computer for Photoshop work than at home and adding memory to this old workhorse lappy only bought me time. My D2x files in raw + jpeg just take too much time when shooting products for customer review.

I have to use a PC so..even as nice a macs are..I cant use one. Just too much PC oriented software and emulating Windows on a Mac is not an option.

The software is the usual pile of stuff but I am most concerned with running Adobe products (Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, In-Design, etc). I use Photomechanic and Lightroom as well.

I guess my biggest question..Do I need a heavy duty graphics card in the laptop (Better than an integrated Intel 950 with a Nvidia go 7400 or ATI X1400 discrete card? I know I need 2 gigs of ram, a fast harddrive (100 gigs + 7200 rpm) a fast processor (Intel duo core 2 gig).

I also need portability. A desktop replacement Laptop is not an option. I often shoot on location without access to convenient electricity so battery life exceeding 3 hours is a major factor.

A large screen is not necessary but clarity and off angle viewing is. 13" is fine.

Wireless and bluetooth will be added.

I looked at Sony Vaio SZ series which look pretty good at about $1,900 and of course Dell 1201m 12".

I guess I am just looking for ideas from fellow photographers who may have gone through this same process.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!
11/30/2006 11:53:12 AM · #2
Since you already have a Thinkpad, take another look at the range. Thinkpad T60 is very nice, and offers a lot of the power you need.

//www.pc.ibm.com/ww/thinkpad/x-t.html

Regarding the video card, the X1400 is fine, for the main reason that integrated graphics like Intel 950 often steal some of the main memory.

You only need a heavy-duty graphics card if you're into gaming. 2D graphics applications mostly rely on memory (2Gb is good) and CPU (Core Duo or Core 2 Duo will be fine) for their performance.

Also, if you're going to be getting Vista, then you'll need the memory and a dedicated graphics card.
11/30/2006 12:52:35 PM · #3
Keep in mind hokie, that Macs are no longer "emulating" windows, they run it natively because they use the same state of the art intel chipset that PCs use. With any Macbook or Macbook Pro, you get full speed native Windows, plus the MacOS and all the security and design features it offers. Best of both worlds, zero compromise.
11/30/2006 01:13:00 PM · #4
Originally posted by strangeghost:

Keep in mind hokie, that Macs are no longer "emulating" windows, they run it natively because they use the same state of the art intel chipset that PCs use. With any Macbook or Macbook Pro, you get full speed native Windows, plus the MacOS and all the security and design features it offers. Best of both worlds, zero compromise.


rebooting all the time, paying for two operating systems, double installs of applications, lots of diskspace. Mucho hypolla.

I'm sure we had this discussion a week ago. All of the 'photoshop CS2 runs great in emulation mode' talk sort of died away in the face of actual benchmarks and reality.

Photoshop CS2 66%-50% slower under OSX than under winXP, on the same hardware.

Need to reboot to run photoshop to do any work.

No current license migration path from WinXP to Mac for photoshop, so you can't even run it slowly without spending an additional $600

Not exactly zero compromise.

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 13:15:57.
11/30/2006 01:17:48 PM · #5
Originally posted by jhonan:


You only need a heavy-duty graphics card if you're into gaming. 2D graphics applications mostly rely on memory (2Gb is good) and CPU (Core Duo or Core 2 Duo will be fine) for their performance.


This is the conventional wisdom, though seems to be slowly changing. 2D apps are starting to more heavily use graphics cards, now that more easily customisable pipelines are becoming the norm. Look at the minimum and recommended specs for apps like Aperture for example. Windows Vista for example is planning on using 3D acceleration for all of the 2D window rendering.

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 13:18:22.
11/30/2006 01:43:06 PM · #6
Originally posted by Gordon:

rebooting all the time, paying for two operating systems, double installs of applications, lots of diskspace. Mucho hypolla.

Photoshop CS2 66%-50% slower under OSX than under winXP, on the same hardware.

Need to reboot to run photoshop to do any work.


*cough*BS*cough* The OP was talking about running Windows, thus there would be no rebooting or double installs. You could just set it up for Windows period like any other PC. From 3rd party benchmark tests earlier this year: "The MacBook Pro is the fastest Core Duo laptop we've tested running the Photoshop scripts. It's faster than other laptops originally designed for Windows."

With Crossover software (currently free), you could even run a Windows version of Photoshop at full speed within Mac OS X- no rebooting (you don't even have to install Windows) and no speed penalty.
11/30/2006 01:52:47 PM · #7
Originally posted by scalvert:

Originally posted by Gordon:

rebooting all the time, paying for two operating systems, double installs of applications, lots of diskspace. Mucho hypolla.

Photoshop CS2 66%-50% slower under OSX than under winXP, on the same hardware.

Need to reboot to run photoshop to do any work.


*cough*BS*cough* The OP was talking about running Windows, thus there would be no rebooting or double installs. You could just set it up for Windows period like any other PC. From 3rd party benchmark tests earlier this year: "The MacBook Pro is the fastest Core Duo laptop we've tested running the Photoshop scripts. It's faster than other laptops originally designed for Windows."

With Crossover software (currently free), you could even run a Windows version of Photoshop at full speed within Mac OS X- no rebooting (you don't even have to install Windows) and no speed penalty.


Interesting..so you are saying..If I run the Mac as a Windows XP machine it will perform exactly like a Windows machine of equal spec with all Adobe products for windows?

And..I get a machine that will run OSX?
11/30/2006 02:00:11 PM · #8
hmm... I went through the same dilemma here just a few weeks ago, and got the same ambivalent advice here. I wavered, on the Macbook issue, and eventually decided to stick with the familiar, Windows. I also dont intend to install Vista.......XP works so well for me, and never fails.

So, I've ordered my Lenovo Thinkpad T60p 2007, with 256MB ATI FireGL V5200, 15in 1600x1200 LCD,100GB 7200rpm HD, 2GB Ram. Overkill, I know.

For me, the display was the most important thing, after tolerating a poor screen on my current Dell for too long.

Oh, and also ordered a Tokina 12-24, and Sigma 70-300 APO.

It must be Christmas!
11/30/2006 02:01:50 PM · #9
Just my two cents based on my past experience with the hardware:

If you have no qualms with your Thinkpad, stick with that line.

I've had Dell, Fujitsu, Apple, and IBM/Lenovo laptops, and the Thinkpad line has by far been the standout. Fujitsu had excellent turnaround time when the laptop needed to be shipped back, and were exceptionally polite, so I give their support top credit, but I had to send it back during the first year to have the hard drive replaced, and a month later (I wondered if they actually did anything the first time, it's been fine since). My Apple (first-gen Albook 15") had more problems than your average secondary school math final. Preceeding both of those was an IBM T20 which still works today (unlike the Albook) and following them was Lenovo X31 which has suffered more abuse than that spoiled Albook ever saw, having traveled the world with me as well as a series of unfortunate accidents. The only thing worse for wear is that it's missing the F11 key cap.

So stick with a Thinkpad if you've been happy with the one you have, and choose the line that fits what you're looking for. My X31 has a built-in CF reader which is nice; other lines have built-in SD readers. Built-in bt and wifi. (The only thing I miss from the Albook is the backlit keyboard, but the keyboard light serves well-enough, and the screen on the Thinkpads is infinitely more useable outdoors).
11/30/2006 02:04:27 PM · #10
Originally posted by scalvert:



With Crossover software (currently free), you could even run a Windows version of Photoshop at full speed within Mac OS X- no rebooting (you don't even have to install Windows) and no speed penalty.


This is the sort of nonsense I'm talking about.

Codeweavers even state they don't support Photoshop CS2. It doesn't work in WINE, unless you download a hacked version.
and if you can get it to run, it runs cripplingly slowly, because the WINE windows drivers are pretty shoddy. Using the keyboard shortcuts crash Photoshop and requires much of the installation to be deleted to get it to work again. This is not 'no penalty'

There's a reason why there is a pledge of almost $5000 for Crossover to get PhotoshopCS2 to work. It isn't because it's already fabulous.

You can certainly install WinXP on a macbook pro (assuming you've bought a license for WinXP) and install all of the same windows apps that you normally use, and run it on the macbook.

You can then reboot to run Mac OSX apps as well. That's pretty cool.

But the 'you can run everything in OSX without rebooting and without penalty' fiction is just laughable, about 10 seconds after you try it.
You can run PhotoshopCS2 in OSX, with the universal binary. Performance is about 50%-66% of the same app running under windows.

I wish the Apple fan-boi's would just be honest about this. Evaluating hardware options would be a lot easier with some truth instead of flag waving.

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 14:24:50.
11/30/2006 02:08:22 PM · #11
Originally posted by Gordon:

Originally posted by jhonan:


You only need a heavy-duty graphics card if you're into gaming. 2D graphics applications mostly rely on memory (2Gb is good) and CPU (Core Duo or Core 2 Duo will be fine) for their performance.


This is the conventional wisdom, though seems to be slowly changing. 2D apps are starting to more heavily use graphics cards, now that more easily customisable pipelines are becoming the norm. Look at the minimum and recommended specs for apps like Aperture for example. Windows Vista for example is planning on using 3D acceleration for all of the 2D window rendering.


It is not like the Intel 950 is a 2D only graphics chipset, it does do 3D just not at the gaming level. It will suffice for most anything that requires mild acceleration, programs like Aperture and Google Earth.

There is one other thing to consider when upgrading to a more powerful ATI or NVidia chipset in a laptop, the power consumption. I don't know the power consumption of the 3 different chipsets off the top of my head but I would be willing to bet that the Intel one uses the least power and maybe only 1/2, or less, as much as the ATI and NVidia chipsets.

That all said ... if it were me and I was buying a multipurpose laptop today, I would go with the next level above the Intel 950. In the T60 I believe it is an ATI X1300 with 64MB memory. You will have no use for more memory unless you are gaming and having to refresh 256MB of memory is a waste of power.

Sorry, more thoughts are coming ...

I have always liked the IBMs and the T60 seems like a nice machine.

A note about hard drives, most OEMs don't offer the really fast hard drives and if they do, they usually want a small fortune to upgrade to them. My suggestion to any competent computer user is to buy the laptop with the base hard drive and then buy a really fast one and install it in place of the stock hard drive. Though you will have to deal with either installing windows again or copying the stock hard drive over to the new one if you have the means. But I think it is worth it.

And yet another thought ... buying 2 gigs of memory from an OEM can be expensive. If it is, buy it with the base memory and then buy it after the fact. It can save you a bundle. Case in point: The T60 comes with 512MB DDR2 and they want $260 to upgrade to 2GB. You could get the T60 with the 512MB, buy (2) Corsair 1GB sticks for $104 each and then sell the 512MB on eBay. Could save you over $100.

Sorry this post got so long but this is what I do for a living and it is kind of a passion of mine. Hope thins helps.
11/30/2006 02:09:41 PM · #12
Acer Ferrari Series my god what a laptop. I tested the 5001wmi model and I could not believe it. Runs like a desktop system. Pricey but for sure can perform for a laptop.

120GB 7200rpm hard drive really changes everything on the laptop.

Anyone use the Alienware line. Supposed to be performance systems, well maybe more for gaming but I guess if you can run some of the hardware resourceful games out there it must do pretty well with photoshop.

And you apple guys what can you say Apple is the design, imaging, video pioneers so "An apple a day Sends the Doctor Away" or in our case "An Apple a day Sends the Hour Glass Away"
11/30/2006 02:11:39 PM · #13
I must admit...the Thinkpad has been a workhorse. It doesn't have all the sex appeal of the new models from other vendors but the keyboard is more solid than my desktop, its very quiet, and the screen is very readable.

I guess my weird way of thinking is....My old company gave me the Thinkpad to run as a business computer with limited graphics capabilty and I have always thought of Thinkpads as business models. Now I have a chance to buy my own and I was thinking in terms of creativity and speed.

This 15" thinkpad I have now must weigh 8 pounds and the power brick is another pound or more making a real pain to carry around. If I can get to 5 pounds or less that alone will make me happier :-)

I am intrigued by the idea of running a MacBook Pro with its very nice design and running OSX but I remember having to use an Ibook for a year and that thing (forgive me other Mac users) was a pile of crap.
11/30/2006 02:13:59 PM · #14
Originally posted by TJinGuy:



It is not like the Intel 950 is a 2D only graphics chipset, it does do 3D just not at the gaming level. It will suffice for most anything that requires mild acceleration, programs like Aperture and Google Earth.


I'm just pointing out that aperture, as an example, claim that it will make good use of a state of the art graphics card, over and above a bog standard card. Not a lot of point in getting a lot of memory in the gfx card, as that's mostly used for texture buffering for games, but the performance may be an advantage.

Aperture uses OpenGL to accelerate its operations, so the better the graphics card, the faster it would run. I wouldn't be surprised if this is also true for things like ACR/ Lightroom too, if not now then fairly soon. Windows Vista is going to be 3D only.

Like I said, the notion that GFX card performance is only for games is generally true, but not always correct for image heavy processing. A few seconds off the processing time for each RAW file might well be worth the upgrade.

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 14:25:54.
11/30/2006 02:31:11 PM · #15
Originally posted by Gordon:

This is the sort of nonsense I'm talking about.


Nonsense? I didn't say you can run EVERY app without penalty, and clearly it isn't fiction for all versions of Photoshop. From the Crossover forums: "Using Crossover with Photoshop for my everyday use, I can say that it really seems faster than in Windows..." "Photoshop 7.01 ran much faster under Crossover/Linux than natively under Windows."

It looks like there may indeed be an issue with PS CS2, but I can't make sense of it. Codeweavers says CS2 won't install at all, yet in other areas they talk about slow saving or other aspects of the application (which wouldn't be possible unless it was running). In any event, they're actively working on it for the next release, and that DOESN'T negate the fact that you can run your existing version of PS using Windows on a Mac as fast or faster than a PC laptop (and you would have to own or buy Windows for either).
11/30/2006 02:32:49 PM · #16
Originally posted by hokie:


Interesting..so you are saying..If I run the Mac as a Windows XP machine it will perform exactly like a Windows machine of equal spec with all Adobe products for windows?

And..I get a machine that will run OSX?


Yup, you just have to buy & install the additional operating system. It's quite attractive as long as your comfortable with partitioning the harddrive & doing the OS install yourself.
11/30/2006 02:35:40 PM · #17
Originally posted by scalvert:


It looks like there may indeed be an issue with PS CS2, but I can't make sense of it. Codeweavers says CS2 won't install at all, yet in other areas they talk about slow saving or other aspects of the application (which wouldn't be possible unless it was running). In any event, they're actively working on it for the next release, and that DOESN'T negate the fact that you can run your existing version of PS using Windows on a Mac as fast or faster than a PC laptop (and you would have to own or buy Windows for either).


CS2 doesn't work, because activation doesn't work.
If you get a pirated version, you can install it and it works badly, or you can copy over a version installed in a windows partition and it runs badly and fails later when activation checks.

You can certainly use a version of photoshop from several years ago, but I doubt that'll work well with D2X RAW files.

Or you can reboot into windows and run it there & pay for two operating systems. The difference is if you didn't buy a mac, you'd only buy one operating system. Just pointing out the additional costs involved.

If you want to run photoshop CS2 with the best performance, you have to run it under WinXP. This is just a fact. Adobe will no doubt sort that out some time next year when CS3 comes out. At which point you have to repurchase it at full price if you want to run under OS X, as they've pulled the OS license switching deal.

How you get there and how much you want to pay to get there is the rest of the question.

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 14:41:04.
11/30/2006 02:36:40 PM · #18
Well if you have some cash to spend, take a look at the HP business series. I use an HP NW8440 business notebook and it works great for everything from photoshop to video games. It has a 1.8GHz Core Duo CPU, 80gb 7200rpm hard drive (upgradable to 100gb), 1gb of RAM (also upgradable), 256mb ATi Fire GL V5200 graphics card, DVD-R/RW drive, bluetooth, 1920x1200 15.4in widescreen monitor, magnesium top cover, 3+ hour battery life, built in wireless, and everything else you could want. Of course this is the setup I chose, and the current options are much better, it's a great laptop. The only downside...$2500 minimum for this thing. As for graphics cards, yes it's true that PS won't use them now but they also free up your system memory to do other things. And hey, lets face it, being on the road can get boring and who knows when you'll want to start up some video game. :)
11/30/2006 02:40:03 PM · #19
Originally posted by Gordon:

Originally posted by hokie:


Interesting..so you are saying..If I run the Mac as a Windows XP machine it will perform exactly like a Windows machine of equal spec with all Adobe products for windows?

And..I get a machine that will run OSX?


Yup, you just have to buy & install the additional operating system. It's quite attractive as long as your comfortable with partitioning the harddrive & doing the OS install yourself.


Hmmmm...that is interesting. I have yet to upgrade to CS2 and I had thought about adding that to my "Buy" list along with the new Laptop.

I am not opposed to buying my next Adobe Creative Suite as a mac product. My only concern is I have my client database in ACT! and they dont support Mac anymore BUT...If I buy Windows XP and partition a part of teh hardrive for just Database and Windows Office products I could actually improve my efficiency as when I am handling creative work I rarely use ACT! or Office apps and vice versa.

Wow....now I have to spend even more time processing this info :-/

This information is great by the way ..thanks everyone.

Any ideas now based on my above scenario of buying the new creative sutie in Mac?
11/30/2006 02:44:30 PM · #20
Originally posted by hokie:


Any ideas now based on my above scenario of buying the new creative sutie in Mac?


I wouldn't buy it for OS-X until CS3 appears, with native support.

The various permutations of running photoshop CS2 under OSX have much reduced performance, due to either the rosetta universal binary performance, or running in a VM with parallels or other virtualisation options. With big files, you'll notice the performance hit (33%-50% hit on various benchmarks)

Until Adobe come out with a Intel native binary in OSX, the best way to not spend most of your time in photoshop waiting, is to run it under winXP.

The main outstanding issue is the upgrade path from WinXP CS2 to Mac OSX CS3. Adobe used to allow you to migrate a license between the same product on different operating systems. They've stopped that. So the upgrade path is now a complete repurchase (unless you manage to sweet talk a phone representative I suppose)

Apple caught a lot of third-party vendors out with the speed of their transition to Intel. Adobe seem to have got the worst of it, given that they used to be such a flagship Mac product.

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 14:46:00.
11/30/2006 02:48:39 PM · #21
I think you will have a very hard time getting any laptop to do 3 hours+ on battery if you are doing Photoshop a lot. PS is CPU intensive enough it'll really kill your battery.

Anyway, I really like my Asus laptop, I got mine here:
//www.avadirect.com/Notebooks
but I don't mind supporting the hardware myself. If you may need more help from technical support, that route may not be the best route for you.
11/30/2006 02:52:20 PM · #22
FWIW

Photoshop in crossover, from the developers website and known issues pages (i.e., what they are actually saying about it, not what is claimed in forums)

Photoshop CS : Known not to work
Photoshop CS2: Known not to work
Photoshop 7 : Sort of works/ silver. Scrollbars don't work on high res images. Brushes don't work. Save for Web partially broken
Photoshop 6 : Sort of works/ silver. Can't open anything larger than 1024x768 without hanging the computer for several minutes

Photoshop 5 seems pretty good though. The reality is WINE/ Crossover isn't really an option for photoshop in any meaningful way.

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 14:55:12.
11/30/2006 02:54:40 PM · #23
after being a pretty loyal windows user (and dabbling with Linux under VMWare) i finally made the switch and got one of the macbook pro 2uos. and i have to say, i basically have no complaints. i've been on it for about a month, and while CS2 is quite a bit slower than it would run on a windows machine, i also haven't had a fast machine, period.

i am so glad i shelled out two grand for this machine...i've never been a fan of macs, but after a month of getting used to this, with all the sweet tools, it's probably the most amazing machine i've ever used. i haven't used a mac since mid-high school, when i was using a crappy little imac, and this is a huge step up.

there really are very few reasons not to use one or the other anymore, i don't think, and as far as graphic and media work, the odds are in favor of macs.
11/30/2006 02:58:17 PM · #24
Thanks Gordon..you are really giving great advice.

Yeah colema19..I did look at the Asus products on the advice of another and their price to performance ratio is great. I was a little concerned about buying something out of the mainstream (IBM, APPLE, DELL, SONY , HP ETC) but Asus really offers one if not the only package where I can get a 15" screen, 100 gig 7200rpm harddrive, AND a nice next gen video card for around $2,000 ..give or take. Plus...service issues do not seem to be a problem.

I had really been drawn to the Sony SZ portable form factor (perfect size and weight, really nice screen and great features) but some issues with electrical grounding, cheap parts and the premium for the Sony name seems to have nixed that idea :-/

Too bad about the Mac, OS X and Adobe...I know a lot of friends in graphics jobs waiting for the Intel hardware and not being able to switch right away is a drag.

Hmmm....So it seems it is still smarter to stay with a PC laptop for now versus a Mac if you are a big CS2 creative user. (that is a weird statement ..how the world has changed)

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 15:01:06.
11/30/2006 02:59:42 PM · #25
Originally posted by modgethanc:

after being a pretty loyal windows user (and dabbling with Linux under VMWare) i finally made the switch and got one of the macbook pro 2uos. and i have to say, i basically have no complaints. i've been on it for about a month, and while CS2 is quite a bit slower than it would run on a windows machine, i also haven't had a fast machine, period.

i am so glad i shelled out two grand for this machine...i've never been a fan of macs, but after a month of getting used to this, with all the sweet tools, it's probably the most amazing machine i've ever used. i haven't used a mac since mid-high school, when i was using a crappy little imac, and this is a huge step up.

there really are very few reasons not to use one or the other anymore, i don't think, and as far as graphic and media work, the odds are in favor of macs.


What are some of the tools that have you liking your mac lappy? Could you be specific? Thanks :-)

Message edited by author 2006-11-30 15:01:28.
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