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Advice needed - I'm looking for the best Laptop for graphics application


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#1 wish2learn

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 07:32 AM

I am looking for a supa-dupa laptop to buy.
I do lots of painting and photo editing and so I need lots of space, a great graphics card and a powerful/fast processing chip.... and I am prepared to pay the price but am unsure what I should buy.
I need some well informed opinions please.

Ive been looking at the Mac book pro's but I am a PC user - and very happy with Windows XP. I upgraded my PC with extra hard drive and graphics card etc and it runs sweetly enough. Also, the Corel software I have does not get on with Mac OS.
I am very limited with Windows OS laptops because of Vista. I will not buy Vista, so that cuts out a lot of the options for me.

In an ideal world I would want the following:
Excellent sharp high definition screen (I prefer a big wide screen but am flexible on size as I can always hook up to another large LCD when needed.
As much RAM as possible
Lots of space for big files
The latest fast processing chips

Any other suggestions or tips are welcome.

P.S: I also do a fair bit of writing, using Word - which will be a problem with Mac. I am aware you can run Windows and Mac OS simultaneously on a Mac - but was told that this makes the machine run much more slowly as its much more cumbersome that way...so what the point?

Looking forward to hearing your opinions and experiences,
Thanks.

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#2 Vaerli

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 07:45 PM

So, you don't go further than large photo editing, such as say 5000x5000 pixel at 300 dpi? In that case you don't really require massive Video cards or anything, unless you'll also be doing video editing, or are going to use Photoshop CS4, which can actually use your graphics card for perfect resizing so when you're editing it shows almost exactly the real quality of the image.

Also, this would have probably been better off in another forum... i just can't place it. Maybe upgrading and building..

From what i've seen on newegg, there's not a single labtop with windows XP that has a dedicated graphics card, so its gonna be hard to find. You'll probably need to either work with Vista or OSX... in the end. If you're willing to cough up the cash with for XP and a macbook, you might like it. Boot camp should run Corel fine... but I've never worked with the program. I prefer the GIMP, which is free. Just because it runs a bit slower, doesn't mean its laggy and really terrible. You should try and find someone who runs boot camp on their macbook, and see how it runs.

Macs have a word program that should be fully compatible with the OS, and without running XP via boot camp. I know my school does, and it works perfectly fine.

My last question- how much are you willing to spend on this thing?

Edited by Vaerli, 15 December 2008 - 07:55 PM.

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#3 DJBPace07

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 02:33 AM

You're not going to get what you want with a laptop. If you're used to a Windows PC, don't bother with a Mac, they're more obscenely priced for this application than a Windows-based PC and do the exact same thing. Why spend the money if you don't have to? Almost all laptops use integrated graphics solutions that are far inferior to their desktop counterparts. Also, RAM is limited to 4GB whereas in a desktop you can get 12GB or higher if you're willing to spend the money. Hard drives are also smaller in a laptop, they top out at about 500GB. The fastest processors, such as the i7, are limited to desktops. I was able to build a good laptop at Maingear.com, my choice for high-end boutique PC's, and it came out to $3500. That money, if you purchased or built your own desktop will get you a top-of-the-line system that is far more upgradeable and powerful than a laptop.

If you do get a PC with 4GB of RAM or more, you will need a 64-bit operating system to use it all. Most graphical editing applications need as much RAM as possible. This is a problem since you won't do Vista. Both XP and Vista have 64-bit editions, however Vista 64-bit is much more refined in its 64-bit implementation than XP 64-bit. XP 64 suffers more than Vista 64 in terms of hardware and software compatibility. With 64-bit you will not only have access to more RAM but also 64-bit instruction sets which run faster if the application supports it. Video editing, graphic editing, and gaming are where 64-bit technology shines since those programs are working with huge files with lots of data. I know Photoshop CS4 has a native 64-bit version, as evidenced by this link. Photoshop CS4 does not have a 64-bit edition available for Mac, yet. In short, get a desktop PC running Vista 64-bit and a compatible editing program. You will be better off doing this than scouring the internet for a very expensive laptop that will be obsolete in about a year.

Edited by DJBPace07, 16 December 2008 - 02:59 AM.

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#4 wish2learn

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 04:00 AM

Thanks so much for both these helpful replies...

Vaerli; at this stage I do not go much further than large size painting and image editing. I am prepared to spend as much as it takes to get the right thing for my needs - but don't want to waste money on a sports model if I really don't need it. I would however like something (and perhaps a sports model will do it?) that gives me a bit more scope in the long run - and some room to move so that I wont be wishing I had made a better choice in some years to come.
Second hand laptops seem to be a bit like 2nd hand cars...once you buy them they seem to their loose value - so its NB to make a wise buying choice and buy the best possible specs for my needs as it will be cheaper than keep having to buy a new model in a couple of years time I think.

DJBPace07; you make a good point and thanks for your spec advice too which I will save for future reference. You are not the first one to tell me that: so long as you hand pick your specifications very well... you can get the same performance you'd get with a Mac.
Funnily enough, I recently took some images on a stick to show a friend - we viewed them on his macbook (of which he is so totally in love its almost like having an affair). The first thing that amazed me was how poor the screen image was compared to my HP LCD! :thumbsup: - but mostly due to the fact that you had to wiggle the screen around before you got a nice image. My images looked a bit crappy compared to what I am used to seeing when I was expecting so much more...

When I pointed this out at the Mac store they assured me that the new Mac book Pro's have gone past that problem (I intend to see if it passes the stick test) - they have new technology now better able to cope with things like reflection or whatever it is.

I upgraded my own P.C to customize it for graphics applications and it runs sweetly enough, although I intend to one day make like you did and custom build one with even better specs. The only reason I am thinking laptop - is that I fantasize about having a portable studio. I hope to do bit of traveling in the future and would like to do my work on the hop. Thats the only reason I am a needing laptop.

I intend to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible before I take the plunge and remain open minded to anything except Vista (Vista is a memory hog and forums around the web show me that it doesn't get on with graphics applications I use - probably for the same reason.

One of the reasons I would like a Mac is because they are so sexy looking - and indeed I suspect this may be the greatest seduction for Mac's as a whole these days?... but I am going to play with a demo model in store on Thursday to see if the performance is as nice as they say - handsome is as handsome does in my book.

#5 hamluis

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 08:21 AM

FWIW: Depending on the software you will use...each will have its own user forum.

My guess is that those places would provide more useful feedback on what works/doesn't work for users with both amateur/novice and professional experience in the areas that you want to focus on.

My opinion is that strictly graphics is memory-intensive...because that's been my experience. The hardware is way ahead in just about any other area, but it's memory and storage space that seem to be the two areas I would focus on if all I wanted to do was graphics-editing.

Video is a different consideration, with the the CPU becoming more important in the rendering process.

Lots of info on these these things available by just Googling.

1TB hard drives now sell for less than $100, so storage should never be an area of concern again for any computer user who truly needs such.

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#6 DJBPace07

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 04:58 PM

For general mobile computing, a laptop is a good substitute. But for something as intensive as graphical editing, a desktop would blow it away. I just tried to configure a MacBook Pro at Apple at needless to say the laptop was far from remarkable. Even the Mac Pro desktop does not have the same level of hardware as a standard PC has. For instance, even the Mac Pro does not have GeForce 9-series of graphics cards, let alone the top-of-the-line GTX 2xx line. They also don't have the latest generation of processors. Vista is not much of a memory hog if you have enough memory to begin with, it uses memory differently than XP so it can sometimes give the impression it is. Typically, it will use Superfetch to pre-load your most frequently loaded apps into memory for faster access. The memory, when it is needed, is released. Which graphics applications do you use? Unless they are old or badly written, they should work with Vista without a huge amount of hassle. I'm going to use the price of about $3,000 to configure a PC, since that is about what you would spend getting a decent PC for your application. You can use the list below to build from or, if you don't want to build your own, you can use it as a guide.

Case: COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000 RC-1000-KSN1-GP - This is an elegant case. It is also a large case. The size is good since it will allow you to use all the huge graphics cards and have plenty of space to work in. $189

Motherboard: BIOSTAR TpowerX58 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - This motherboard can handle the latest Intel i7 processors. It also uses triple channel memory for performance and allows for either SLI or Crossfire. $269

Graphics Card: SAPPHIRE 100251SR Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB - This is ATI's top-of-the-line card, it rivals, in many applications, performance from NVidia's top card the GTX 280. Most graphics applications can use the card to boost performance. You motherboard allows for you to get two of these, but you only need one. $489

Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-1000HX 1000W - Corsair makes excellent power supplies. You don't need 1000W with the current configuration, but if you get a second graphics card or install several hard drives, the extra power would be needed. $259

CPU: Intel Core i7 940 Nehalem 2.93GHz - This is one of Intel's newest processors, it runs circles around their Core 2 line. Even if you were to overclock a Core 2 to the speed of this i7, the i7 would still beat it performance wise. All i7 processors are quad-core. $569

RAM: CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 - The design of the motherboard allows for kits of three sticks to be installed. Get two of these kits to max out your memory. You can go higher but that would cost more and you would probably have to special order the RAM. $233 each $466 for two kits

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB - A big drive, just what a high performance user needs. $129

Optical Drive: LG Blu-Ray Combo Drive - This drive will allow you to burn and read Blu-Ray discs, DVD's, and CD's. It's versatile. $249

Operating System: Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 64-bit - You need a 64-bit operating system to use more than 3.5GB of RAM. $179
However, if you insist of XP, you can get XP Professional 64-bit.

$2,805 with Vista
$2,765 with XP

Edited by DJBPace07, 16 December 2008 - 05:00 PM.

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#7 Vaerli

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 07:34 PM

I'm pretty sure wish isn't looking for a desktop though right now.

I'd say that almost anything should suit your needs that has-

250gb of hard drive space. (or more, depending how much you think you're going to store on there)

3-4 GB of RAM

Intel Core 2 Duo processor, or an AMD x2 processor

Dedicated video card

17inch screen -? (or whatever you want)

Any other little things you want.


3-4 GB of RAM should take anything for graphical editing. Although... i suppose extremely large photos could mess with it, but its about the standard right now. Thats my main concern for you, because images at really really large resolutions with tens of layers can get really intensive on your RAM, and your CPU. You can't help your CPU much, because its gonna be dual core no matter what you get, and i don't think they really make a quad core for labtops yet. Of course, the Hard drive is dependent on how much you want to stick on it. I can only fill half of my 465GB HD with stuff, and thats quite a few videos.

Here's probably what i would go for if those all suit your needs, but of course i might want to buy XP and install it on their to dual boot or something if you really didn't want to go vista-

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx...N82E16834147749

Of course the screen resolution is lame, so you might want to go with this and buy XP and install it-

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx...N82E16834220412


In the end, i'm sure you're going to have to buy XP and install it, because no one makes the nicest computers with XP pre-installed.... unless you go really custom.

As you're looking at macbook pros, i'm guessing your pricetag is from 1000-2000 USD. I've been tempted by macbook pros too, and i'm thinking about it for next summer. for college. :D I have my own computer that i built for ~1300 USD, with 19inch widescreen monitor.

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#8 DJBPace07

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 09:16 PM

I proposed that system since most graphic artists generally prefer desktops due to their power. A laptop will not have much power and will be obsolete very quickly, you'll end up needing to purchase a new one very soon. As for the OS, go with the one you are most comfortable with. If you're willing to accept a performance hit and learn a new system, go with Mac. If you want the newest hardware and software, go for Windows. If you don't like either one, go for Linux with Wine installed. One final thing, if you use CAD, run modeling calculations, or are a 3D artist, you might need a workstation graphics card, like a Quadro since they feature better memory buffers and more memory. As Vaerli mentioned earlier, most laptops do not have dedicated graphics. 3-4GB of RAM will handle light photo editing, but more serious images or video editing should use more RAM.

Edited by DJBPace07, 16 December 2008 - 09:21 PM.

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#9 Vaerli

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 09:57 PM

As Vaerli mentioned earlier, most laptops do not have dedicated graphics. 3-4GB of RAM will handle light photo editing, but more serious images or video editing should use more RAM.


Actually, a good number of higher end labtops have graphics cards, its just that on newegg, you can't get a labtop with a dedicated graphics card WITH winXP. Once you start getting up around 800 USD you can get a labtop with a dedicated card. I don't get too picky there though, because just having it should be enough as long as you're not a hardcore gamer that demands really good settings on your games.

If you want a really nice screen along with it, go for the asus i mentioned in the earlier post, or something like it.

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#10 DJBPace07

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 10:49 PM

Actually, a good number of higher end labtops have graphics cards, its just that on newegg, you can't get a labtop with a dedicated graphics card WITH winXP. Once you start getting up around 800 USD you can get a labtop with a dedicated card. I don't get too picky there though, because just having it should be enough as long as you're not a hardcore gamer that demands really good settings on your games.

If you want a really nice screen along with it, go for the asus i mentioned in the earlier post, or something like it.


Remember, most higher-end editing solutions are using the graphics card more heavily. Thus, having a powerful one is best. The dedicated cards found in laptops are nowhere near as good as the ones found in their desktop counterparts. With newer OSes and graphical applications, they are using the graphics system more and more, not just games. You can certainly get a laptop that will handle basic editing, you'll just pay more for less and it will be obsolete sooner. You can get one with dedicated graphics at Dell for $1000, but you should do some serious upgrading before you purchase it. Alternatively, you can get more customization options by going through a boutique builder.

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#11 Vaerli

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 09:30 PM

True, but basic 2D photo editing doesn't weigh heavy on graphics cards, its more for gaming and video editing apps. As far as i know, PS CS4 is the only 2D photo app that even uses the graphics card, and thats only for resizing the image at all sizes of photos. Corel, as far as i know, is not a hardcore intensive app. Its something that should be had for a 900$+ labtop, but not something that must be had for what the main usage will be.

Everything is absolete sooner if you don't get top of the line. I think its better to get something you can live with for half/three fourths the price, then to spend so much for the highest stuff that will be way cheaper in a few months. I built my computer with things that had just dropped in price, so sure i still paid 1350$ for my computer, but its got enough to last me at very very least until probably the Core i7s become about as cheap as core 2 duos.


Anyways, wish2learn isn't looking for a desktop powerhouse computer. They want more of a portable nice computer that works well enough to handle a 2d photo editing application smoothly. Most computers past 700$ can do this easy, but for larger photo editing, it would be nicer to have a bit more stuff. A dedicated card isn't worth it if its another 100-200$ on a labtop that will only be used for large 2D photo editing and no 3d games or anything like that. Its why they make cheap 700$ labtops that people buy, because someone will use them only for basic things that it can easily handle.

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#12 DJBPace07

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 10:38 PM

If you're willing to wait until early to mid January, processors might drop in price with the release of the Phenom II from AMD. Almost all computer components go obsolete rather quickly, thanks to Moore's Law. Graphics software is becoming more advanced, they will eventually need a good GPU to perform adequately. If would be helpful which graphics software wish2learn is wanting to use with a new PC. Obviously, simple 2D graphics shouldn't take very much power whereas 3D modeling or video encoding will take a powerhouse.

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#13 wish2learn

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 01:10 PM

This is all extremely helpful - thank you!

I am looking for a portable laptop 'studio' ATM - but the input and links which DJBPace07 posted are great and I have saved the info for when my existing PC expires...then this will be the best route to take I am sure of it.
Just one thing puzzles me about what you observed about the Macbook pro... these are the specs I found on the Web and in store:

MacBook Pro 15-inch: 2.53GHz (NEW)
Intel Core 2 Duo
15-inch widescreen
4GB Memory
320GB hard drive1
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 512MB

These seemed pretty high specs to me... am I being a bit naive here? Expensive - but they seemed like the highest end specs I could find in a laptop when I surfed the Web. I dont want to make the mistake of buying a laptop - then being disappointed with performance in a short time, so thats why I am looking at the higher end. I want it to last me some time so I figure... buy the best you can or don't buy anything, just wait.
I don't do any 3D work...just 2D stuff. I use Gimp, Corel PainterX, Twisted Brush Pro and ArtRage for illustration. And as Louis pointed out I will need plenty of Ram and space. In a very short time I managed to fill my PC hard drive, and I don't want this problem occurring with a mobile computer.

Its a bit disconcerting the way things become obsolete so quickly, but the guy at the apple shop seemed positive that I didn't even require what this model had to offer. He seemed convinced that 2GB RAM was more than sufficient, but I am not convinced as this is what I have ATM, and it only just gets by comfortably - so I'm thinking maybe I should give myself more room to move...as I would plan to run two OS simultaneously.

P.S: the reason I am a bit anti Vista is because of the problems I encounter across the Web in the artists forums. I had assumed that some of these may be due to the competition for RAM - since all these need quite a bit. Its just that Vista seems to give so many artists so many headaches... way more than Ive encountered with XP for example.

Anyway I value all your input and experience here, Oh - and I'd love to hear your opinions on the macbookpro spec I listed above...

Thanks a bunch to all! :D

Edited by wish2learn, 18 December 2008 - 01:10 PM.


#14 wish2learn

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 02:48 PM

Hey Vaerli, I see what you mean about the Asus M70...glad you pointed that one out. Its specs are the same as the Macbook I was looking at today - only much much cheaper and with a bigger screen!
I wonder how much of a differance the LED screen that the new Macbook's have makes in comparison to the Asus M70 for example? - I viewed the LED screen on the Macbook 15" today and it was a whole lot better than any previous Macbook pro I've seen and way better than anything (other than maybe the HP Pavillion's) that Ive seen.

Definitely good to look around and consider all the options...
Thanks.




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