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David Karp
23-May-2017, 21:39
I could use some advice. I need to use a laptop for photo editing, driving my scanner, etc. Our house does not have room for a desktop setup. Luckily, we do have a decent monitor to attach to it but sometimes I find myself having to edit without it. My ASUS laptop has been OK, but it is becoming unreliable, so I am thinking about a new computer.

I have a pretty good idea about most of the specs I care about in this laptop. My big question is about the monitor. I know I want an IPS screen, but recently introduced laptops like the Dell XPS 15 have 4K UHD screens that allegedly reproduce 100% of the Adobe RGB colorspace. These are supposedly noticeably superior to the Apple laptop screens that everyone raves about. The XPS 15 has a glossy touchscreen. A touchscreen is not a requirement for me and the glossy screen seems like it would be a negative. Dell also makes an Alienware gaming laptop that can be built to similar specs and is similarly priced, has a few more ports, a somewhat better graphics card, and an anti-glare non-touch 4K UHD screen that is also claimed to reproduce 100% of the Adobe RGB colorspace. The gaming computer was suggested by my gamer son, who thinks that the graphics capability of the gaming machine will translate well to photo editing. Other laptops are supposed to be introduced soon with similarly capable monitors.

Have any of you experienced these 4k UHD laptops/monitors? Is the color reproduction as good as claimed? I would love to hear about your experience. If 4K UHD is not important, what specs would you recommend for the monitor? Any recommendations for suitable machines? I realize that most of my editing will be done using my larger and fairly capable screen. (It is a Dell that many forum members were recommending in various threads at the time I purchased it.) Going to a Full HD screen would significantly lower the price of the computer.

Jim Andrada
25-May-2017, 16:24
I can't see much advantage to 4k for photo editing. Editing 4K video maybe, but stills not so much. Whether the color fidelity is really better is a good question, but I sort of doubt that anything sort of a high end NEC/Eizo monitor would really be "ideal". I'm still using a couple of old 30" Apple Cinema monitors and the biggest issue I have is getting the brightness turned down far enough. A lot of newer monitors are way too bright IMHO.

Greg
25-May-2017, 16:41
"The gaming computer was suggested by my gamer son, who thinks that the graphics capability of the gaming machine will translate well to photo editing."

Back around 2005 I was working for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. I was put in charge of converting from film to digital. Budget was open-ended but had to be realistic and able to be justified. Biggest challenge was to "process" hundreds of digital images at the end of the day in a very timely matter. IT person's solution was to get a really high end gaming PC. In practice later on turned out to be too fast of a computer. You never got to see a window with the "in progress" bar. Always had to go back and double check that the files indeed did transfer to the correct case file.

Jac@stafford.net
25-May-2017, 17:07
Back around 2005 I was working for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. I was put in charge of converting from film to digital. Budget was open-ended but had to be realistic and able to be justified. Biggest challenge was to "process" hundreds of digital images at the end of the day in a very timely matter. IT person's solution was to get a really high end gaming PC. In practice later on turned out to be too fast of a computer. You never got to see a window with the "in progress" bar. Always had to go back and double check that the files indeed did transfer to the correct case file.

Been there. My application (in assembler) was to RIP DVDs and CDROMs to common media (of their choice.) It was very fast. So I had the program spawn another process which used the .log file to track progress as long as the operator could stand it.
.

jim10219
25-May-2017, 19:12
I'm a graphic designer and do a lot of video and photo editing for a living. A gaming laptop is a waste of money. Those fancy video cards are great for doing 3D, but don't offer any advantage for 2D stuff like what you'll likely be working in. Spend the money on fast hard drives and lots of RAM. Even that is overkill for photos. Most any halfway decent computer will run Photoshop well enough. But a solid state hard drive will boot the computer up lighting quick and open up your programs fast, which is nice when you just want to do a couple of quick edits.

I wouldn't worry too much about fancy monitors either. I've used high end monitors and middle of the pack monitors and both can allow you to do anything you need to do. The higher end models look nicer, but that doesn't necessarily translate to better photos. What matters isn't the outer range of colors, but the transitions between those colors. What's far more important is that you have a good monitor calibration system. Preferably one that also calibrates your printer and scanner. That way you can edit a photo, and know it'll look good on just about any device and it'll print exactly how you want it to on the first try. I recommend one of the i1 systems if you can swing it. Maybe an older used version if that's too pricey.

DennisD
25-May-2017, 20:07
.
Excerpts from above post - jim10219 has provided EXCELLENT advice.

In particular, SSD drives will provide very fast reads and writes.
Also observe Adobe's hardware setup recommendations for Photoshop.




....A gaming laptop is a waste of money. Those fancy video cards are great for doing 3D, but don't offer any advantage for 2D stuff like what you'll likely be working in. Spend the money on fast hard drives and lots of RAM.

....But a solid state hard drive will boot the computer up lighting quick and open up your programs fast, which is nice when you just want to do a couple of quick edits.

....What's far more important is that you have a good monitor calibration system.


Regarding monitors:

I can recommend the NEC monitors I've been using for several years now. They compare very favorably with some of the more expensive makes, Eizo, etc.

Color calibration is most important for good screen to print results. Look for the NEC models that package a Spectraview color calibration device and software with the monitor. Their system works flawlessly.

I'm very satisfied with the monitors we have at my home and business. (BTW- I have no connection with NEC other than owning and using the products)

Preston
26-May-2017, 07:52
David mentioned that he has a capable external monitor. His concern is the laptop screen. The newer 4K screens are indeed very bright, pushing 400 cd/m^2. They also have extremely high contrast ratios, so it is important that the video subsystem be capable of reducing brightness and contrast ratio to levels needed for photo editing. A decent colorimeter and calibration software that will work with both the laptop and the external monitor is a good idea.

Be sure to check that the external monitor 'out' port on the laptop is compatible with a port on your external monitor.

I agree that a gaming computer is not a good bet for photo editing. You are paying a premium for a high end graphics card that is not needed. Gaming machines also tend to run hotter than non-gaming machines, so heat may be a concern.

While most of the latest generation laptops do come with SSD's, some do not, so be sure to check the specs carefully. I suggest an SSD with at least a 500GB capacity.

For Photo Shop, an Intel i7 quad core CPU will get the job done. An i5 quad core will also work, and will save you some money. I suggest at least 16GB of RAM. Note: Some laptops have the RAM modules soldered to the motherboard, the result being that you cannot upgrade after the fact.

One last note: You will need external hard drives for archive storage and for system image backup, so the laptop should have USB ports to support this.

Second last note: Have fun shopping, and let us know what you end up with.
--P

Jim Andrada
27-May-2017, 13:44
Full Disclosure

I've been a consultant to NEC/Japan for decades. No connection to the display business, though. It's been the most engineering and manufacturing quality oriented company I ever had the pleasure to work with, And considering that I did my first software development work in 1959 that covers a bunch of companies.

David Karp
27-May-2017, 15:56
Thanks for the input. I appreciate it.

I decided not to get a super duper gaming computer. It just seemed overbuilt and overpriced for what I need. For as long as I tend to use things like this, it might end up being what I need years down the line, but that is another story.

My choice was an Acer 15.6" laptop. It has an I7-6700 processor, 16GB RAM (upgradable to 32GB), 512GB SSD, 1TB HDD. The graphics processor is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M with 4 GB memory. I decided to go for a machine with the 4K UHD screen. Again, not for the 4K, but for the color space. They claim 100% Adobe RGB. I found a review that puts it at 80+% of Adobe RGB. There will be many times when I will not be able to access my other monitor. I have a Colormunki calibration setup and will run that on the monitor. It has one HDMI port, two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0, and one Thunderbolt. Reviews say it has a nice keyboard and that the display is excellent.

I will let you know what I think after I have it. It is on the way.

locutus
28-May-2017, 01:26
Couple of thoughts on several items in this thread:

4k? Definite a yes, i use a Dell 5k (5120x2880 resolution, 218 DPI) screen and i find that its immensely useful for visualising how a final print will look in terms of sharpness and apparent grain, on a 1080 screen its never possible to assess in full view if for example a distant patch of grass is in focus etc, sure you can zoom in but always seeing everything at a level of sharpness close to a print is amazing.

Colour space coverage and Dell screens? The highend Dell screens are all factory calibrated and they guarantee a average DeltaE <=2 (very good), mine came with a sheet detailing the exact measurements and its spot on perfect. The big difference with NEC screens which in reality production samples bench at the same levels is that Dell doesn't explicitly certify the screen. This is mostly a thing that matters for acquisition and maybe the last 0.5%. (Note: I used to have a older Eizo ColourEdge 1080 screen and the Dell i have now has better colour accuracy and reproduction) Colour accuracy has come a long way and is by far not only the realm of Eizo screens any more.

Gaming Laptops? The screens on those are TN panels, people want those specifically because they are optimized for speed (no ghosting, faster refresh, etc) but they have terrible image quality. Stay Away....

As for graphics cards mattering for 2D editing, they actually do. Software like Lightroom and Photoshop use GPU Acceleration nowadays, but double check if the software you use does!

You could take a look at the Thinkpad W or P series, 4k screen, loads of performance and they even can have a colour calibrator builtin (close lid, calibrates, open lid, magical), these do get expensive quick however.

Preston
29-May-2017, 08:25
My choice was an Acer 15.6" laptop. It has an I7-6700 processor, 16GB RAM (upgradable to 32GB), 512GB SSD, 1TB HDD. The graphics processor is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M with 4 GB memory. I decided to go for a machine with the 4K UHD screen....It has one HDMI port, two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0, and one Thunderbolt.

David, this sounds like a nice machine, and should serve you well. The nVidia video card will give nice performance in Photo Shop. If, at some point you work with really large files, upgrading to 32 GB will enhance performance. Have fun!
--P

David Karp
29-May-2017, 10:08
Locutus. I agree about the Dell monitors. Mine is very nice at a fraction of the price of the high end screens many photographers use. It may not be all the way there, but for me, it was the ideal combination of features/quality/price. I learned about it here on the forum too!

Thanks for the info on 4K. Looking forward to seeing what that is like.

As far as gaming laptops go, just to set the record straight, you are right that most of them have TN screens. However, you are wrong in that many of the gaming laptop manufacturers are introducing machines with 4K UHD screens. There is chatter about this on the various sites I found while researching. Some of the gamers think it is a great idea, others think that the TN screens are better for gaming. Alienware, for example, sells a 15.6 laptop with a 4K UHD non glare screen. Most of the gaming laptops I saw did not have built in card readers. Not a deal breaker, but an inconvenience.

From what I read, it appears that there are a flood of laptops coming with the 4K UHD screens. The problem seems to be that the manufacturer(s) do not yet have the capacity to feed the demand.

I was leaning strongly toward a Lenovo P51. (Love the name.) It had everything I wanted, and more. However, they were sold out of the 4K screen models, with no idea when more would be in stock. When I purchased, it appeared that my current machine was dead (that is another story), so I kept looking. The P71 (17 inch screen) was still available with the 4K screen, but we decided that it would be too big in case we used it on the move. Plus, the P51 (like the Alienware) was at the outside edge of my budget (and it was on sale for 20% off until May 31).

The extra looking paid off. The Acer I found was significantly less expensive than the Lenovo, Dell, or Alienware machines. On top of that, it was on sale for 15% off. It also comes in one size fits all. No upgrading the graphics card, etc. You get what you get. The Dell, Lenovo, and Alienware computers are all nice machines. They are following in the steps of Apple, with aluminum bodies and high end materials. The XPS, for example has an aluminum case and a Kevlar top deck. The Acer has the high quality internals in a plastic case. One of the reviewers, who actually takes the machine apart and measures color accuracy, commented on how impressed he was with the engineering that made it so stiff. Like the Lenovo, the keyboard is supposed to be excellent. I should have it tomorrow, so I will have to break out a photo I have not yet edited and take it for a whirl!

David Karp
29-May-2017, 10:46
I thought it might be helpful to relate what happened with my other laptop. After multiple phone discussions with techs at ASUS and Costco (when you purchase a computer there you get "Concierge" service, which gives you tech support and an extra year of warranty identical to the manufacturer's warranty), they determined that the computer needed to be reset, with a fresh install of Windows. There were real problems. I could see files in the explorer, but could not copy. I needed to save some files that had not been backed up. None of the Microsoft Office applications would load. We tried to do the reset by working in Windows, where we could see, but not access, the required features. They told me I had to purchase recovery media from ASUS for about $50. This was to reset the computer to its original state - Windows 8.1. No, they would not sell you one with Windows 10. Of course, you can purchase Windows 10 elsewhere and download all of the necessary drivers from the Internet, so I decided I would probably do that instead. I was worried about the drivers issue - I am not a computer expert. I was starting to think about taking the computer to the Geek Squad to have them fix it, even though I had that free Costco extra year on the warranty.

I decided to poke around the computer for a while to see what I could see before purchasing Windows 10. In the meantime, I stopped by Best Buy and talked to a Geek Squad guy. He showed me a SATA to USB cable that I could use to copy the files from my laptop using another computer. I removed the hard drive, and copied what I needed to copy from the sick laptop. Then I reinstalled it. Eventually, I found an alternate way to trigger the reset. It took a while, and I wish I wrote down what I did, but it worked. The computer reset itself to its original state with 8.1. Then I went to Microsoft's site and upgraded the machine to Windows 10 for free. In the meantime, Amazon delivered a Samsung 850 EVO SSD and I used the SATA to USB cable and the software to clone the hard drive. I swapped the old drive and the SSD and now I have a nice ASUS with an SSD that works great!

All my repairs happened after I purchased the Acer! Deep down, I believed that my computer was a lemon. Once I ordered the Acer, I felt compelled to keep digging because it just seemed like there had to be something else to try. Lesson learned - Push the techs a little harder and dig on your own. The worst I could have done after saving my data was require a trip to the Geek Squad. If I could find an answer in my ignorant lay person's way, the techs should have been able to do so too.

In the end, all is OK because we needed to get a laptop for my 16 year old to use for school. He is going to get the ASUS, which is now a really speedy machine.

All this to say that a little perseverance and exploration may save you lots of money if the tech support people don't prove very helpful.

David Karp
30-May-2017, 21:07
Hi all,

I received the Acer today. I have to say it appears to be a really nice machine. The keyboard is nice. The materials, although plastic, seem top notch.

The screen. The screen. Yes. The screen. It is beautiful. It really is.

It was beautiful, but bright, right out of the box. You can select the colorspace. I elected Adobe RGB. Then I ran my Colormunki display on it. After calibration, the before and after option showed very, very little change from the out-of-the-box Adobe RGB selection. To my eye, the only real change was to tone down the brightness. The colors and the definition are delicious.

The time I have had with the computer has been to set it up, download my Adobe software, load printer and scanner drivers, etc. No chance to play with Photoshop, but I did start the program. It loads FAST. What a nice change. I think I am going to be very happy with this computer, assuming that it is durable and reliable. I have high hopes. It seems quite well made.

In case anyone is interested, it is an Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro with the UHD 4K display (there are other versions).

Thanks again for your input.