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Best non-Mac laptop for pro photographers

by kdenley / November 22, 2010 5:46 PM PST

I'm relatively new to the photography profession and need to replace my old laptop. Though I'm a fan, I've decided that a Mac is not the route for me at this point. Any suggestions for a laptop? I would like a relatively large screen, at least 4GB (8GB is better) of RAM, and a 500GB 7200RPM (or larger/faster) hard drive. There are lots of deals out there right now, especially with Black Friday approaching and I need some advice. Thanks!

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Go with Sager or Compal
by gdegas001 / November 22, 2010 8:49 PM PST

hands down best bang for your buck online is Sager NP5125. Sager and compal are the companies not very well known by most people but are responsible for making the parts for all the big pc companies (hp, dell, sony, etc). they sell their own versions of their computers for a fraction of the price of the big companies as well without the big names on it, and without all the bloteware! for ~$1000 configuration you can get a pc that will take your photo editing or anything requiring high graphics performance to the next level

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No to Sager
by BillSooner1 / November 24, 2010 9:24 AM PST

Don't ever buy a Sager. I had the 4880, and it broke within two years. In fact, many 4880 owners had the same problem. However, Sager did not issue a product recall, and in order to get it fixed I was told to pay $400. They may have hot specs, but they are so poorly designed and made with cheap materials.

I don't know anything about Compal, though.

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For PHOTO WORK. Do not buy sight unseen.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 23, 2010 2:45 AM PST

You won't be able to judge the screen quality. And the call for a relatively large screen is YOUR CHOICE but unless you've lived with a 17 inch or big laptop you know what a pain these are to travel with.

As to the RAM. I tried that at the office on a 4GB and 8GB Photoshop and it didn't make any big difference. Have you tried this? Are you sure what I saw (the 0.05 seconds) as the difference worth that much bucks? I'm finding many go to 8 and 12GB and wonder if some are going for bragging rights.

Black Friday deals have yet to offer anything of interest to those that want quality laptops.

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Laptop for photographers
by hjfok / November 23, 2010 5:36 AM PST

I use Photoshop regularly and occasionally do some HD video editing. For Photoshop, the i5 processor, 4 GB and a good graphics GPU (1GB preferrably) should be adequate. Hard drive size is up to your personal preference. I store my old files in external drives and desktop at home, so I don't need much hard drive space on the laptop. I have a remote link that I can use to access my external drive files at home via the internet if there is some reason I need those old files on the road.

The main thing in a laptop for me is the weight. I carry my own equipment when traveling, which is quite heavy, 1-2 D-SLR bodies with the 70-200mm and other large aperture lenses. So I want the laptop to be as light as possible to avoid herniating my spine. I got the Sony Z series which weighs only 3 lbs and has good specs, and it does not get hot even with the i7 processor. The downside is a smaller screen and less than stellar battery life. But the screen has good resolution and good quality, more than adequate for on-the-go photo editing and to show off your photos to the clients. The screen is big enough for you to do tether shooting and check your shots/focus on the spot, and it has enough resolution to show the details. But if you are using it to show and sell photos to your clients, then a larger screen (17 in) may have the effect of enticing your client to buy bigger prints. So that is something you may want to consider.

Dell has good deals for Black friday. If you like large screen, the Macbook pro does have a very nice screen. My Sony laptop screen is also very nice, it's matte without the glossy reflective look.

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I like this.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 23, 2010 5:49 AM PST

(wish we had a "like" button)

You echoed my advice about the i5, 4GB ram and how nice many Sony displays are.

Hope they listen to you!

Thanks for sharing,

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Sony or Dell
by BillSooner1 / November 24, 2010 9:26 AM PST

Stick to the well-known brands. If I were you, I'd get a Sony VAIO (or a Dell Studio XPS).

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by action03 / November 28, 2010 1:59 AM PST

I have many friends who are happy with their Dells, HPs, and Asus PCs, but in my opinion there is no choice other than a Sony VAIO. My family has had 7 VAIOs over the last decade and have had very few issues (my last VAIO's HDD went up but that was due to me dropping it off a 5' table). Sony's Full HD screens are unbeatable and for your profession in photography, clarity is key. I now have the EB series which is a 15.5" screen, but they also have the F series which is a 16.4" and the massive EC series which has a 17.3" screen. Yes, Sony does tend to be on the pricey side, but do your research and you may be able to get a deal. The old saying is true, you get what you pay for.

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Don't use a laptop display
by plnelsonc1 / November 29, 2010 7:54 AM PST

I'm also a photographer ( and I can't even imagine doing professional work on a laptop display. They don't have the size, viewing angle, fine control over color temperature, brightness and contrast ratio of a dedicated monitor. I keep two monitors in my studio and they're as much a part of my workflow as my lights, stands, umbrellas and other gear.

Anyway, for professional work you want <b>reliability</b>. The last thing you need is a crash during a shoot or while preparing work for a client. Squaretrade published a report showing that Asus and Toshiba were the most reliable brands. Consumer Reports found it was Toshiba. Dell is "eh" and HP and Gateway should be avoided.

Also you want lots of RAM - 8G should be enough plus dedicated graphics and a quad-core processors (current versions of Photoshop are efficiently multithreaded). And consider getting USB3 - current tethering options using USB2 are s-l-o-w, especially for cameras with large sensors with 25+ MP.

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This is one odd view.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 29, 2010 8:41 AM PST

How did you arrive at needing 8 GB to work with a 25 megabyte file?

Something seems out of whack here.

PS. Yes I've loaded such on 4 and 8 GB on photoshop and only could tell the diff with a stop watch.

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25 MPixels
by plnelsonc1 / November 30, 2010 11:29 AM PST
In reply to: This is one odd view.

25 MP = 25 megaPIXELS.

The images that pro's work with are typically 16 bits / channel times 3 channels (R,G,B). So that's 6 bytes per pixel. So a 25 MP file is 150 megabytes. (the files I use are actually 168 MB for one layer).

Furthermore, most pro's work in layers in Photoshop and it's not unusual to have a dozen or more layers in play at one time. So you're easily over a gig just on that basis. Throw in lots of un-do or "step-back" depth and Photoshop can consume many gigs after an hour of work.

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That explains it.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 30, 2010 3:31 PM PST
In reply to: 25 MPixels

I rarely go for an hour without saving along the way or exiting. You may need more ram than 8GB. The rest of us can get along fine with a little less.

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Photoshop and computer need
by hjfok / November 30, 2010 9:06 AM PST

I agree that editing on larger monitor display is more optimal. I do my routine Photoshop editing on the 27 in desktop monitor and my quad core desktop computer. But for on-the-location editing or tether shooting, a laptop is more than adequate for the job. Laptop screens vary with different manufacturers. I find the Macbook pro and Sony laptop screens better than others, and can be adequate for Photoshop editing (you can always zoom in for detail works and use a Wacom tablet for finer controls). To get the best and accurate results, the monitor should be calibrated. This can be done easily using commercial softwares and products. If you do very large prints or use multiple monitors for editing with more complex requirements, then you may want to spend some extra cash for the professional GretagMacbeth products. But if you are more in the amateur/semipro category and do not have very specific requirements, then ColorVision's Spyder3 pro or Pantone's Huey pro will be okay. But the bottomline is that you need to calibrate the monitors whether it is for the large desktop display or the smaller laptop display. Once you do the calibration, the color, temperature, brightness etc will be more accurate. If you don't, then the prints will have variable results no matter which monitor you use.

As for RAM requirement, I really don't find a need to go beyond 4GB with any of my Photoshop applications, even when using the plug-ins. I usually try to get the settings right when taking the shot, so I usually don't do much postprocessing editing, other than doing some minor cropping and adjustments. Portrait touchups plug-ins, HDR and the chroma-key softwares all work quite well on my laptop with only 4 GB RAM. Batch processing is also not a problem.

But if you do intense HD video work, then 8 GB may speed up the process a bit. My Sony laptop with i7 processor, 4GB RAM and 1GB GPU works okay with routine consumer grade HD video editing. For 3D video, animation and gaming, you may benefit from 8 GB or more.

So for cost-effectiveness, you can consider getting 4GB with option to expand to 8 GB if you do find a need for it later on.

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Forgot to mention
by hjfok / November 30, 2010 9:17 AM PST

My Canon has 21 MP, and I have not noticed problem processing these files in Photoshop with 4GB RAM. I don't have medium format digital cameras, so cannot tell whether there will be problem processing 40+ MP files. But if you can afford a $36,000 camera, then by all means get 8 GB RAM (this extra cost will probably not mean anything to you).

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