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Thread: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

  1. #1
    Dave Karp
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    Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    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.

  2. #2

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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    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.

  3. #3

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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    "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.

  4. #4
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    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.
    .

  5. #5

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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    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.

  6. #6

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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    .
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by jim10219 View Post

    ....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)
    I know just enough to be dangerous !

  7. #7
    Preston Birdwell
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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    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
    Preston-Columbia CA

    "If you want nice fresh oats, you have to pay a fair price. If you can be satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse; that comes a little cheaper."

  8. #8

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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    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.

  9. #9
    Dave Karp
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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    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.

  10. #10

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    Re: Laptop for digital photo editing, scanning, etc.

    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.

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