2D Motherboard Card or 3D Accelerated Card for Photoshop CS2?
March 17, 2007 10:20 PM   Subscribe

We're buying a new laptop for my wife tomorrow to replace her aging desktop. The only thing she'll use it for is to digitally scrapbook. The only program she'll use really is Photoshop CS2. Is it worth it to pay the extra to get a laptop with a real graphics card or will things work just as well with an motherboard solution such as the Intel 950 that uses your RAM to fuel it? Right now we're leaning towards the HP dv9207us. We'd like to know if it's overkill or with one of the 700$ specials you always see with motherboard built-in graphics work just as well? Help?
posted by damiano99 to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Most graphics cards are meant for 3d rendering (games, mostly), and don't give a huge kick to 2d rendering -- that's what Photoshop is doing. There is a type of gfx card that helps out 2d processing, but it's mostly for pro's and would be hard to get installed in a laptop.

If you can, double the ram from 1gb to 2gb. RAM and processor speed will do you the most good. But even the listed 1gb 1.73 GHz Duo Core will have CS2 chugging along nicely. Better than I've got in work where I use CS2 all the time.
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:35 PM on March 17, 2007


Wasn't CS3 supossed to use the graphic card for rendering?
posted by Memo at 10:36 PM on March 17, 2007


Certain aspects of Photoshop CS2 performance are already tied to the graphics card, but in a way you may not expect:

1. The more memory available to the GPU, the better Photoshop's performance is going to be.
2. The faster the GPU can access the contents of its memory, the better performance will be.

Therefore, a "real" GPU—that is, one that isn't like the Intel GMA stuff, which uses shared system RAM instead of right-there-on-the-graphics-card RAM—will yield greater performance. A Radeon X1600 with 256 MB of on-board RAM will, in theory, be better than an Intel GMA 950 with 64 MB of shared system memory.

http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/knowledgebase/index.cfm?id=331412

"Solution 9: If your video card has less than 128 MB of RAM, consider updating it.

For optimum performance in Photoshop, use a video card with more than 128 MG of RAM. "

posted by Mikey-San at 11:12 PM on March 17, 2007


I had the same feeling, and so I bought a $800 laptop a while back. It was a mistake. The laptop was cheap, but it wasn't only the graphics card that was low-end. It was cheaply built, and it got dropped once and a pin broke off of the motherboad, making it impossible to re-charge it without paying $450 in repairs. So much for saving money. I haven't fixed it.

I went looking for laptops again, and had a really hard time finding a good, sturdy one that fit all of my requirements (lots of memory, nice screen, durable, large hard drive) that DIDN'T have a relatively powerful video card. I don't play games on it (I prefer to play on my desktop), but it's sturdy, is a great laptop and I don't feel at all like I wasted my money on a fancy-pants video card. BTW, I got a Dell Inspiron. I love it alot.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:46 PM on March 17, 2007


Well I don't know anything about graphics cards, but I can tell you that those deals are never as good as they seem. By the time you add a warantee, virus protection, etc., the price is much closer to what you'd expect.

On the same note, make sure you have a lot of RAM!!! Photoshop hogs ram like crazy - my computer at work is brand new and pretty fast but Photoshop causes it to hang up all the time. Ugh.
posted by radioamy at 12:31 AM on March 18, 2007


pazazygeek, what kind of laptop was the crappy one you bought?

I bought an Acer Aspire 5601 awlmi last Summer new for $599. It doesn't have a fancy video card, but it has held up pretty well. Works pretty great, too. I'm very proficient with computers, and it suits me just fine.

My chief complaint is the startup times. It also needs more RAM. I heard Toshiba laptops are good and you're likely to find one of those on sale.

Now, isn't the amount of RAM in the computer the most important thing for Photoshop? More so than the GPU?

Also, Techbargains and DaddyoDeals are good sites for finding deals on computer stuff.
posted by redteam at 5:01 AM on March 18, 2007


Photoshop is -heavily- dependant on RAM, particularly when editing large images. Both my Powerbook and my Windows XP desktop have over a gig of RAM (1.25 in the PB, 1 in the desktop) and I'd say they're both on the low-side for serious work in this day and age. The next system I build/purchase for imaging/video work is going to have 2gb, minimum.
posted by Alterscape at 6:23 AM on March 18, 2007


Mikey-San, can you say any more about how Photoshop will benefit from a fast GPU? As far as I know, it will only use the graphics card to display the image, not to perform any processing or calculations on the image. While a faster GPU will technically make it display faster, that is not a bottleneck. Applying filters, transforms, masks, etc. are the things a user will wait for, and all rely on the CPU and RAM, not the GPU (please correct me if I'm wrong). The page you linked just mentions the graphics card, with no explanation, as the second-to-last fix in a list of "maybe this will fix it" solutions to a vague problem.

The only time I can imagine the GPU making a noticeable difference is when dragging windows and palettes around. However, I don't believe that any modern integrated graphics would have any difficulty with this. Mine doesn't.

As others have said, the RAM and secondarily the CPU are the important components for Photoshop. More RAM will let you keep more images and layers in memory (which I would guess would be important for scrapbooking especially), and a faster CPU will make all of the various filters, transformations, etc. that much faster. I would put my money into RAM, until it reaches 2GB, then the processor, then the hard drive, and then if I still had cash leftover I'd get a fancy printer. Or a kitten.
posted by whatnotever at 6:37 AM on March 18, 2007


A good GPU can sometimes make a difference in terms of color accuracy. But I have a feeling that is less an issue on laptops.

At the risk of sounding totally clueless...What, exactly, does "digitally scrapbook" entail, anyway? Is she actually doing any sort of serious photo manipulation/retouching that would actually need a 100-lb sledgehammer like Photoshop?

The answer to that question would lead me to answer whether she needs a "real" GPU or not.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:52 AM on March 18, 2007


pazazygeek, what kind of laptop was the crappy one you bought?

I bought one of the Acer Aspire series, I believe. One of the other things that made me crazy about it was the horrible battery life. I think it also had one USB slot, I remember being frustrated by that. Of course I now can't remember if I paid $600 or $800. It certainly was very cheap for a laptop and probably would have sufficed ok if I hadn't dropped it (not far -- it fell maybe 2.5 feet).

I should also note that I did install photoshop on it and it ran just fine.

Also, another note, I really liked the CNET laptop video reviews. I used them to pick my current laptop and was happy. It was nice to get a look at them in action.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:24 AM on March 18, 2007


Response by poster: Thanks for the input guys. Digital scrapbooking is the same as paper scrapbooking except for doing all the layout, graphics, doodads, etc on the laptop. Her files are generally about 500 megs each when finished. Based on the advice I saw here, I went ahead and got an HP dv9207us. It's a 1.73 Duo with 2 gigs of ram in one stick. I guess later I can upgrade it to 4 gigs by throwing in another stick. Is anyone familiar with this machine? Should it handle the load. I was torn between the Inspirons that dell makes or this. In the end, price won out as it was 400 cheaper with the same warranty.
posted by damiano99 at 8:33 AM on March 18, 2007


Response by poster: As for the other question about using a "sledgehammer like Photoshop" (best phrase I've read all week) it does seem like overkill at first when you think DS is just layout, but it's not. Some of the stuff they do is out of sight. By the time my wife is done with one layout, she's got about 120 layers and the files range from 1/3 to 3/4 of a gig. The use every ounce of power in PS.
posted by damiano99 at 8:36 AM on March 18, 2007


I haven't actually done this yet but I mean to do it when I get more money:

The drives that laptops typically come out of the box with are very slow. I think mine spins at 5400rpm, I've seen 4200rpm ones. I hear that if you still want to squeeze more speed out of your machine after you've added RAM, you can replace the hard drive in your laptop with a 7200rpm one. I'm sure it would make a significant difference. I imagine that it would shorten your battery life, though.

Has anyone done this?
posted by redteam at 8:45 AM on March 18, 2007


Please don't spend money on virus protection. There are a million free options. They are just selling snake oil. Extended warranties are also questionable, but I think the arguments for and against are pretty common knowledge so I want belabor the point.

damiano99, it sounds like you might be better off mixing in page layout software, like InDesign, along with PhotoShop. It will probably result in smaller finished files, and wherever you (or your wife) use geometric shapes or text you will get scalable results (and hence much clearer results). If you are buying software, I think you'll find the price for Adobe's Creative Suite as a whole isn't too much more than Photoshop alone, although I'm not sure (and it doesn't matter anyway, if you've already bought Photoshop).

Make sure you check fatwallet and/or bensbargains (redflagdeals and pricenetwork in Canada). Normally the best way to buy is to watch for Dell one day only specials. They come up periodically, and you have to watch the forums carefully to know if the deal is really hot or not. When it comes, you really have to jump, but you can save quite a bit of money.
posted by Chuckles at 8:57 AM on March 19, 2007


By the time my wife is done with one layout, she's got about 120 layers and the files range from 1/3 to 3/4 of a gig.


Cripes. Might it be worth saving your graphics card money and picking up a copy of InDesign?

Answer:Yes. I used to do similar projects in Photoshop, and InDesign is 200% better for the actual layout.
posted by niles at 1:59 PM on March 19, 2007


I haven't actually done this yet but I mean to do it when I get more money:

The drives that laptops typically come out of the box with are very slow. I think mine spins at 5400rpm, I've seen 4200rpm ones. I hear that if you still want to squeeze more speed out of your machine after you've added RAM, you can replace the hard drive in your laptop with a 7200rpm one. I'm sure it would make a significant difference. I imagine that it would shorten your battery life, though.

Has anyone done this?


I replaced the 4200 in my Acer Aspire with a 7200-rpm drive. It really didn't make that much of a difference in battery life, and it did make a bit of difference when starting stuff like Photoshop.
posted by dwbrant at 4:47 AM on March 20, 2007


« Older Is it possible I ruined my record player by...   |   All in one Comms hub? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.