Looking for a good (cheap) laptop for photo and video editing
March 5, 2016 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Going to be doing some freelance photo/video work for an event and it looks like I will need a new laptop.

I will not be getting paid for this and I don't do a lot of this kind of work on my laptop already, so I don't want to spend too much. If I can get away with just enough to get the job done and still have a decent laptop for email and Netflix when out of the home, that'd be perfect. I'll be using a DSLR and HD camera to post photos and video on the group's website using basic editing software like Photoshop and Sony Movie Studio, so it doesn't have to be a high-end movie-quality editing machine. I'm not super up to speed on the specs, so I'm open to any recommendations that will get my search started. Thanks.
posted by princeoftheair to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I recently bought a laptop and $400 seemed to be a common price point, so I'd anchor my search there for starters, depending on the nature of the actual work you want to do. It may be more, but possibly less. How fast do you need to be able to turn these posts around? The biggest issue is probably going to be loading and saving speed, so maybe another anchor could be, "the cheapest laptop with a Solid State Drive," which is 100x faster than a normal HDD type laptop hard drive..
posted by rhizome at 3:41 PM on March 5, 2016

I'm not sure about recent models but some thinkpads have a removable DVD player that can be replaced with a HD. Replace the HD with an SSD and add a slower multi TB HD in the DVD slot should give a good balance of affordable volume/performance.
posted by sammyo at 4:22 PM on March 5, 2016

Refurbished Dell and Lenovos tend to have the best bang for the buck. You want something with at least an i5 and preferably an i7. 8GB of RAM is the minimum.

That said, are you sure you need to upgrade for this project? If it's just a small amount of work, an older computer will do that sort of editing just fine, albeit slower.
posted by Candleman at 11:19 PM on March 5, 2016

If you're looking for recommendations in general, I've found Wirecutter to be good. To quote:
After more than 90 hours of researching budget laptops, surveying hundreds of Wirecutter readers, going hands-on with 12 laptops, and testing five of them in depth, we still don’t have a firm recommendation for a laptop under $500. Laptop makers introduce and discontinue new budget models without notice, the spec lists remain hard for non-techies to decipher, and prices change overnight. We’ve found a few sub-$500 laptops we really like, and we know what you should look for, but we can’t guarantee that these particular models will always be cheap.
posted by blob at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2016

Best answer: Most cheap laptops have possibly even a good CPU and a decent amount of ram, but a GARBAGE 720p/1366x768 display.

You want something with a 1080p screen, possibly even 1920x1200 depending on the brand.

I think your best bang for the buck would be a used or refurbished thinkpad, in the T or W series. I would also look in to used/refurb deals on the dell XPS13 or 15.

I would seriously focus on a good display for this type of work though. It's very easy to get hosed on that one. $400 is a realistic pricepoint to get something decent here.

Anything like for example a thinkpad w530 would be a GREAT buy here if it had the 1080p screen. If you have left over money, buy the biggest SSD you can find on slickdeals and pop it in.

Looking around, i saw lots of w530s in that price range. The XPS13 has hit that range or a bit above on refurbs and such if you were fast.

When i was doing stuff like this and audio work, i bought the cheapest machine i could find that had maxed out specs a couple years back and a nice display. A quad i7 from 2012 is still FAST. New ones are maybe 25% faster or less. I'm using a 2012 machine with those specs right now and it absolutely crushes HD editing and lightroom/aperture type stuff.

Your goal shouldn't be to get a cheap new(or new-er) machine with a decent display, but a close to top of the line one that's a bit older. Trust me, it's a MUCH nicer experience and you're also not dealing with a flimsy plasticy hunk of crap.
posted by emptythought at 9:34 PM on March 6, 2016

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