Good laptop for Photoshop and Lightroom


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Feb 17, 2012
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San Jose, Cali, The Heart of Silicon Valley
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I will be traveling, and I'm looking for a laptop that is small, lightweight, slim, and about 16 inch screen. A laptop that can handle photoshop and Lightroom, and has a USB port to connect a portable hard drive and a slot to read sd card. Would i3 or similar to AMD processor is powerful enough to run photoshop and Lightroom? I have no interest in getting the latest i7 and Nvidia graphic card. Any recommendation?
Whats your price range? Do you prefer windows or mac? My personal preference is that anything bigger then 15 inches starts being a little heavier just because of size.
I prefer Windows. The reason I want small, because I want fit in my backpack. I looked into the adobe's website, and they are clear about the system requirements for Lightroom and photoshop.
For any 'decent' response-time while editing photos, perhaps the biggest requirement is lots of big as the laptop will handle. I'd try to get one that can handle 8GB of RAM. Why? Because all those megapixels translated to bits and bytes takes up a lot of memory. Once you run out of memory, the computer is forced to swap sections of memory in and out of RAM to the hard drive. Throw in 'work areas' needed by LR & PS, and the RAM gets eaten up very quickly.

You'll also need to get the fastest processor you can afford, preferably a quad processor. Also, note that an external HD will be considerably slower than an internal one.

I don't think $300-400 will get a laptop that won't have you waiting and waiting for every operation to complete. I'd be thinking more in the higher-end laptops. You can also get a better bang for your buck by staying away from the 'premium name brand' vendors like Toshiba and HP. Also, buying a new laptop will immediately plunge you into Windows 10. If you're comfortable with Windows 8/8.1, it shouldn't be a problem. Coming from Windows 7, you are in for a BIG learning curve!

If you have the time, keep 'watch' on specific laptop prices at, say, Walmart and/or Amazon. A couple of months ago, I found a Windows 8.1, 2.2ghz dual processor ASUS laptop with 4GB RAM and 500GB HD for $199 at Walmart for a friend! Online, their computer said they had 5 at my local store. They were prior model closeouts, marked down from $299 or maybe higher when first launched. Online, they offered less capable refurbished older model laptops for higher than the $199 for the new one. Get to know your prices based on processor, RAM, HD, and screen size. Then you'll know what's a good bargain or not.

Edit: ALL laptops come with multiple USB ports. Look for one that has at least 1 USB3 port.
I prefer Windows. The reason I want small, because I want fit in my backpack. I looked into the adobe's website, and they are clear about the system requirements for Lightroom and photoshop.

The Acer Aspire E1-572-34014G50Mnkk looks like a good laptop, but I don't think it has a SD card slot, you could always get a USB connector for that.
The range would be about 300-400 dollars.
You are not going to get anything new, quality wise, at that price point. It will last you a year and a half if your lucky. You would be better served to go to arrow direct online and search their used "A grade" Lenovo Thinkpads. The T520 is a great laptop but it is on the big (15.6 display) and heavy side. They also have an X220 that is light, powerful but has 12.5" screen. Their A grades are wonderful. Both have second Generation i7 CPU. 8 gigs of ram. X220 has 160gb ssd drive for fast read and write speeds but you would need an external to store pics on.

New, thin and light Lenovo X1 Carbon but your looking +1000

You want Intel all the way for performance.

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I already have a laptop with i7 processer, it is powerful, but it is bulky. I don't feel like to carry around Starbucks and pp photos.
For $300 - $400 the laptop will have a TN display not an IPS display.
You will be hard pressed to meet Ps/LR minimum system requirements with a $300 - $400 laptop.
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I had a Dell with an i5 chip and 8gb ram that worked pretty good, but it was stolen. As I travel a lot I finally broke down and went with the MacBook Pro with the i5 chip and 8gb ram and the 250gb SSD. So far that has worked perfect for a travel computer, though the 13" screen is small compared to the 17" I had on the Dell.

While the Mac unit is above the budget mentioned, I think the i5 chip and 8gb are a minimum requirement, and the SSD is a big help.
A "good" laptop for editing is not going to be in the 3-400 dollar range. I know it's not what you want to hear, but the MacBook Air has been my travel companion. Love it for editing and the Wacom tablet fits in the slot with it.
The HP Spectre X360 is a great ultrabook that can be used as a heavy tablet. i7, 8GB, 256GB SSD and very thin. But add $1000 to you budget. I went back and forth between the HP and a Macbook Air and finally chose the HP because I'm a windows guy.
I'm not really going to recommend any specific brands or models as personally I do NOT like to try and edit on a laptop...I'm rather spoiled to my 24" monitor and personally find laptops to only be useful for storage and previews. -If- I had to pick a brand, I'd probably go with Dell as they seem to be a bit more reliable than some of the other brands like HP and Toshiba...I've seen A LOT of comments regarding problems with Toshiba laptops and early failure and HP has a bad tendancy to pre-load their computers with a ton of otherwise useless crap.

That said, for the price range we're talking, my suggestion would be to worry less about "brand" and simply consider features...and for the money, I'd look at refurbished. If you watch companies like MicroCenter, occasionally they have reburbs and "off lease" computers for a substantial discount compared with new...and while it's not usually as good as with new, you usually get some warranty as well (typically 90 days as I recall). I've also gotten used computers off Craigslist. For example I have a Dell Optiplex sitting next to me with 16 gigs of RAM and a 4 gig video card that I use as a secondary rendering system for my animation work. I got the system for a whole $140...for the money, it's really very decent system for how I use it. Used has the disadvantage that you don't get any kind of warranty, however if you know a bit about computers and know what to look for (such as knowing how to scan the drive for bad clusters and such), you can often find some really smokin' deals if you look around a bit.

As far as running Photoshop, my experience is that it does depend a great deal on your camera and how you process your images. For example, my old Intel quad Q6600 system w/4 gigs RAM (which my wife now uses for her programming stuff) worked fine when I was still using my old 5 mp Sony H1 and my 8 mp Rebel XT. When I stepped up to a Canon 40D and later my Nikon D90 however, because I often do some rather extensive work with layers and comps and such and because I shoot exclusively in RAW, the Q6600 no longer had enough horsepower...I'm now using a home built i5 system with 16 gigs of RAM, around 4 and a half terabytes across 5 hard drives, running Windows XP64 (I -HATE- the newer versions of Windows...too much like a freakin' Mac) . For most of my still, video and animation work, it does the job very well (although it does bog down a bit for heavy video/animation rendering). On the other hand, if I were using one of these newer generation Nikon's in the 20+ mp range...yea, I suspect that I'd probably need to upgrade my motherboard again.

Likewise, I would point out that it also depends a good deal on HOW you use your computer. As a person who went back to college in his late 40's for art and graphics design, I was truly amazed at just how stupid some people can be with computers. I'd sit there up at the college and watch some of these kids "working"...they'd have several browser windows open, be yackin' back and forth on Facebook and Twitter, watching Youtube vids, had programs like Skype (or other IM's) going, had their desktops and backgrounds just loaded with all kinds of crap...ALL AT THE SAME TIME...and then wondered why their computers ran so damn slow! OYE! In other words, the more garbage you choose to keep running on your computer, the more your performance will suffer. I won't speak for others, but personally I use a computer as a "tool". I do NOT use anything like "desktop themes" (my background is just plain ol' blue), no screen savers and I keep as little as I possibly can running in memory while I'm working....mostly just my AV software, monitor calibration and print drivers. If I'm working in Photoshop (or Premiere or Sonar or Maya), then I'm working...I'm NOT sitting here trying to IM or Tweet my buds to see what they had for lunch! I do enjoy the occasional Youtube a musician, I do certainly enjoy the number of tutorials and such that are available, however NOT while I'm working. Also, as I do a fair amount of video, audio and animation work, I do very much try to keep my system running at peak performance too...I'm not as vigilant as I probably should be, but I try to defrag my hard drives on a fairly regular basis, I run CCleaner occasionally to clean out unnecessary temp files and clean up my get the idea.

Now I will say that if you're used to an i7, I strongly suspect you'd be disappointed with the performance of an i3, but again it really depends on what you shoot with and how you process.....if you just take a bunch of jpg snapshots with an older compact digital, you might be fine with an i3. On the other hand, f you're doing more extensive/heavy duty processing work with a better/newer camera, you'll need something with more "oomph". I would however strongly recommend that you get something with a decent sized, fast hard drive. USB drives are fine for storage, however with the exception of the newer USB 3 SSD drives, they can be rather tedious to try and process your images with. As others have already said, I'd also get as much RAM is you can jam in the sucker...these days I wouldn't go with anything less than 8 gigs.

Just some things to consider...good luck!
Dell's quality has dropped off, but their service has fallen off a cliff.
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