Be My Techie: Windows Laptop for Amateur Photographer Advice
June 12, 2013 6:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm in need of tech advice. I'm a windows user who currently has an HP Pavilion Entertainment PC. It's in BSOD land, and probably only has a few weeks left. I'm somewhat tech-savvy, but am feeling truly lost right now. I don't want to move to apple computers, and ideally want to spend around 1k for something that will last. Snowflakes abound inside:

For the past five years, I've had to listen to my current laptop's loud fan, and deal with it's inability to properly run Adobe Photoshop. I'm an amateur photobug, and would like to move into a laptop that won't run into heating issues, and will last me for several years. I've previously had a Dell and it was AWFUL. I had several issues with the motherboard on that laptop. Currently my laptop has a Duo CPU T5250 @1.50 Ghz, 32 bit OS, and 2.0GB RAM. Please recommend to me some good options, especially ones that won't run into heating concerns. I probably won't add upgrades to it, so it will need to be built from the start to last. Talk to me like I'm six years old.

Help me Obi Metafiter, you are my only hope.
posted by Draccy to Technology (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Try Lenovo. I've had a T430s as a work laptop for almost a year now and I've been very happy with it. If you're doing photo work and don't have an external monitor, I'd go with a 15" display. You want at least a Core i5, maybe a Core i7 if you can spring the money, 8 GB RAM and a real graphics card (e.g. not the Intel HD 4000 graphics). I put together a configure-your-own T530 with all of that, including the i5, the highest-resolution screen (FHD, 1920 x 1080), a 500 GB HD, and an NVIDIA 5400m graphics card for about $1200.

If you do have a big external monitor, you can save money on the laptop display and size down to a 13- or 14-inch, lower resolution model and just do your real photo work when pushing to the big screen.

Or, maybe just look at the W530, their workstation-class computer (scroll to the bottom and it reads "Our systems are built to lessen heat in critical areas, and our fans are specially designed to run quietly with the least amount of power. That means less strain on the system's components, lower power consumption, and more comfort for the user handling the system.") Marketing speak to be sure, but worth consideration.

That said, if you can wait—and it sounds like you can't—now's a terrible time to buy a laptop. New models with Intel's new super-power-saving Haswell chipset are just being announced and won't be available for a few months. Anything you buy later in the year will either have much better battery life or will be lighter than this generation.
posted by The Michael The at 7:04 PM on June 12, 2013

Best answer: Ditto Lenovo - they're really the only laptop worth buying any more. The T430s (mentioned above) is great, but proably out of your price range. I'm on my second Edge (E410s and E420s) and they're both going strong, and well in your range. I would recommend maxing out the memory from the factory - upgrading these after the fact is a major pain in the ass.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:11 PM on June 12, 2013

Best answer: I'm seconding the idea that waiting a few months will give you a much better computer for the same price. All of the models with the older chips will be discounted, and the newer ones should have significant advantages in battery life.

I think the number one thing you should worry about is the screen. I've found that the macs seem to all have fantastic screens, and the rest of the laptops I looked at were hit and miss. My current laptop just doesn't show colors correctly enough for a pro photographer.

Pretty much anything that is middle of the road these days will work just fine for photoshop, so I'd say make sure you get something with a good screen, 4+ gigs of ram (more is better, but I don't know if it would be worth the cost to go over 8 if you're just doing photo work), and USB3 plugs (at least one for an external drive). With a USB3 plug and an external drive you will get high speeds and the capability to use very large hard drives. This will also allow you to use an SSD for your internal drive if you want, which won't give you as much space but will perform faster.
posted by markblasco at 7:15 PM on June 12, 2013

Lenovo is great, but also check out refurb dell precisions. Especially the smaller ones. The build quality is great, and the cooling is quiet and top notch just like the lenovos(on both fronts).

If you want specific model recommendations let me know.
posted by emptythought at 8:00 PM on June 12, 2013

Whatever you do decide read reviews about the model you are getting. If reviewers say the model you are looking at tends to run hot I'd look for something else. Heat might not be an immediate problem but machines that tend towards running hot tend to have shorter life spans.

Dead pixel policies and warranties are something you'll want to look at as well. Out of merchant sites where the buyers of the product provide reviews New Egg tends to have the most thorough and useful reviews ime.

This may not be in your price range but a solid state drive might cut down on noise quite a bit. The problem then might be not enough storage for your pics but usb hard drives have been coming back down in price.
posted by logonym at 10:05 PM on June 12, 2013

Lenovo is great, but also check out refurb dell precisions. Especially the smaller ones. The build quality is great, and the cooling is quiet and top notch just like the lenovos(on both fronts).

This is true. I hesitated to recommend a Dell in my above comment given your experience. Despite that, the consumer Dells give the whole company a bad rap but their enterprise models (the Latitudes and especially the Precisions) are actually pretty great. There are tens of thousands of Dells deployed at my workplace, so we get a pretty good overview of quality; the tricks are 1) stay away from the consumer-range machines and 2) (and this goes for any laptop) make sure you buy the 3- or 4-year all-inclusive warranty. Laptops have issues, regardless of brand, so cover yourself.
posted by The Michael The at 4:43 AM on June 13, 2013

Most laptops don't have the issues you're talking about and all laptop brands are generally built by the same companies anyway. I wouldn't buy on brand. Business laptops tend to be a little more expensive, less crapware, better built.

I like the Wirecutter for questions like this. They've got a couple recommendations that jibe with what's been said above. Don't overlook touchscreens, as Windows 8 is a pain without one. (In fact, I wouldn't buy a Windows 8 laptop without a touchscreen).

Edit - most touchscreens tend to be IPS, which is infinitely better than the old TN film screens we used to have on all laptops.
posted by cnc at 10:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Virtual Doulas Always Have Clean Hands   |   Bob Lassiter links from WFMU or other? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.