• #797
    David Farkas

    So, with our New England Fall Foliage trip coming up in about six weeks, I am starting to get the itch for a new road warrior S2 DNG processing machine to run Lightroom with aplomb.

    I currently use a Dell Precision M6400 with a Quad Core 2 Extreme 2.93Ghz processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1GB Nvidia Quadro video card and twin 256GB SSDs in RAID 0. The Dell has a 17″ RGB-LED backlit LCD display with almost a 100% Adobe RGB color gamut.

    I also use a mid-2010 15″ MacBook Pro with Dual Core i7 2.66Ghz, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and hi-res antiglare LCD.

    So… why on earth am I considering a new laptop?

    Well, the Dell has the best monitor I've ever used on a laptop. It actually rivals many desktop LCDs for gamut and accuracy (after calibration). But, it's heavy and due to the very aggressive workstation-class video card, battery life stinks. I'm lucky to get an hour out of it when doing any image editing. Also, my earlier generation SSDs (Samsung) have really degraded performance-wise and need upgrading. I'd also really, really like more than 8GB of RAM.

    The MBP is sexy, but I've never really been happy with the monitor (it is only 6-bit color, after all). Battery life is excellent and the thinness, light weight and excellent build quality are unmatched.

    I considered just getting a 2011 MBP with quad i7 but I'm still left cold by the LCD and expandability isn't the greatest. They do have Thunderbolt, which I do think is awesome.

    On the flip side (Windows), I started researching what Dell's latest offering had. The Precision M6600 now has:

    • Up to a Quad Extreme i7 2.5GHz with 8MB cache (MBP is up to 2.2Ghz)
    • Up to 32GB of RAM 😎 (although 16GB is the max I'd go due to costs – 16GB upgrade is just $450 and MBP only goes to 8GB max)
    • Two SATA3 HDD bays with hardware RAID (0, 1 or 5) plus a mini card 128GB SSD for only $150 more
    • 2GB GDDR5 Nvidia 3000M graphics card (~20,000 3Dmark score!) with CUDA acceleration for Adobe CS5 and support for up to 4 displays
    • Ports galore – 3 – USB 2.0, 2 – USB 3.0 :D, 54mm ExpressCard slot, SD reader, FireWire 400 (too bad not 800), HDMI, DisplayPort, eSATA
    • BluRay drive (as opposed to DVD-only on MBP)
    • 17.3″ 16×9 display with a 256 pressure level mutli-touch touchscreen with 400dpi precision

    The hold-up for me is that the current offering only has a white LED LCD, which gives 100% sRGB gamut. Not too shabby, especially for a laptop, but Dell will be rolling out an RGB-LED lit 10-bit IPS panel with 100% AdobeRGB gamut “soon”. They currently offer it on the M4600 in a 15.6″ size.

    I, of course, know the usual “but it's not a Mac” arguments. Keep in mind I use both Windows 7 and OS X and still prefer Windows.

    The other option is the 15.6″ Precision M4600, which has everything the M6600 has, except for a slightly slower graphics card (2000M vs. 3000M). It would have the added advantage of weighing 6lbs vs. 8lbs and screen resolution is still 1920×1080. Fully loaded I'm looking at around $3K, which is where a similar MBP would be.

    With Sandy Bridge, Dell has made some real strides with battery life and cooling. For simple web browsing, users report 5-7 hrs of use or 2-4 with heavy processing. The battery charges to 80% in less than one hour. Good enough for me to edit a shoot on a plane and top off during a layover.

    Hmmm…. enough geeking out for tonight, but the 15.6″ M4600 seems to be a pretty solid choice: 100% Adobe RGB 1920×1080 res 10-bit IPS display, touchscreen with stylus (awesome for LR Adjustment Brush or PS masking), dual drives with hardware RAID and 128 SSD mini card, long battery life, not-too heavy, USB 3.0, easy to add FW800 with ExpressCard

    Am I overlooking anything, or is this the perfect Lightroom/Photoshop machine?

  • #800
    Mark Gowin

    The Dell M4600 you spec'd out sounds awesome. However, I would probably consider a 13″ Macbook Air (very small) for on the road image review and new loaded desktop with large display for image processing and editing. I see value in your thinking to get a fast laptop with 100% RGB display so you can process images while on the road and, frankly, I am not sure which way I would go given a $3,000 budget.

  • #805
    Jack MacD

    Mark,
    I think David wants to do weightlifting. Since he is both his own very good IT dept. and Dale has an IT dept. he can work very well with a PC. Apple is a good choice for those of us without those skills and departments.

    So if he was willing to give up 8 to 16 Gig RAM capabilities with all the rest that he needs to have with him at all times, David should get a Dell SSD lightweight over the Air, and that is fine and can be a great choice.

    If however one lives in the Mac ecosystem, the Air is an perfect solution for travel as I discussed on another thread. I am now typing on it and I must say that David was the one who advised me to get the i7 over the i5. I am not using this for huge crunching of photos because when I am on the road, I don't want to be in my hotel all night crunching photos and then too tired to shoot photos the next day. BTW David, you are so right that the SD card reader is one quarter of the download speed of a firewire 800 reader of my CD card, so I look forward to a thunderbolt reader. I have yet to test how long it takes to work a big S2 file on my 4gig Air versus my 16gig iMac. I am hoping the SSD is a big help.

    If I go on the fall shoot with David, we will have a test of the best travel solution. But if he doesn't buy a true lightweight solution, either PC or Mac, we will see who checked their luggage and who did just carry-on.

  • #806
    David Farkas

    Jack MacD;543 wrote: Mark,
    I think David wants to do weightlifting. Since he is both his own very good IT dept. and Dale has an IT dept. he can work very well with a PC. Apple is a good choice for those of us without those skills and departments.

    So if he was willing to give up 8 to 16 Gig RAM capabilities with all the rest that he needs to have with him at all times, David should get a Dell SSD lightweight over the Air, and that is fine and can be a great choice.

    If however one lives in the Mac ecosystem, the Air is an perfect solution for travel as I discussed on another thread. I am now typing on it and I must say that David was the one who advised me to get the i7 over the i5. I am not using this for huge crunching of photos because when I am on the road, I don't want to be in my hotel all night crunching photos and then too tired to shoot photos the next day. BTW David, you are so right that the SD card reader is one quarter of the download speed of a firewire 800 reader of my CD card, so I look forward to a thunderbolt reader. I have yet to test how long it takes to work a big S2 file on my 4gig Air versus my 16gig iMac. I am hoping the SSD is a big help.

    If I go on the fall shoot with David, we will have a test of the best travel solution. But if he doesn't buy a true lightweight solution, either PC or Mac, we will see who checked their luggage and who did just carry-on.

    Jack,

    I think my issue is that I have a lot of different needs depending on my intended use. Sometimes, like on our Fall foliage trip, I need to have full editing capability with desktop speed and screen real estate. When I travel for demos, I also need speed, but portability is a bit more important as I take cabs and trains to visit multiple clients in a short amount of time. Personally, when I fly I like to have in-flight distractions so a super-lightweight iPad with enough battery life to watch a few movies is the most important factor. I only use my iPad for entertainment and web browsing 90% of the time (even though I have about 100 apps installed). My laptop stays in the overhead bin.

    In an ideal world, I'd have a MBA to possibly replace my iPad (flash content would be sweet as would a real keyboard), but there is no built-in 3G/4G. I could always just use my BlackBerry to tether over Bluetooth or USB (unlimited data and no extra charge for tethering – life isn't so bad in the non-iPhone world :p).

    Weightlifting? 🙂 C'mon… the M4600 is 6lbs. A 15″ MBP is 5.6lbs. My current machine is 8.5lbs and I carry it from home to work and back every day. In fact, I don't have a desktop at home or at work on my desk. My laptop is my movable desktop – I like to have access to all my files all the time.

    I don't think Windows is as bad as Steve Jobs would like everyone to believe. I've always used business-class Dell computers with 3yr next-day on-site service contracts (no waiting in line at the Genius Bar) and no installed bloatware. Drivers just work and the hassles of home-built computers is non-existent.

    We don't have an IT department besides me. I go several weeks between reboots on my computer and keep tons of stuff running all the time: 50-100 browser tabs spread between Firefox, IE and Chrome, a few Excel spreadsheets, a few Word documents, Outlook, a couple PDFs, our order management software and Lightroom. I like to have information quickly available and often work on multiple projects at once. I think in the last fifteen years of Windows use, I've gotten one virus and it was on Windows 98, never on Windows 7. Windows 7 is an amazing OS, which perosnally I find faster and more productive that OS X, which I also use on an almost daily basis.

    I'm not knocking Apple products. In fact, I own shares of AAPL and several Apple products and have a business account at our local store. But for serious image editing, content creation, web programming and getting work done every single day, I turn to my Windows machine. Not saying I know better than others or that you can't get work done on a Mac. I just prefer Windows for most things.

    And, you better believe I will be checking a lot of bags! I have a week's worth of hiking and cold weather clothes, a photo backback full of S2 gear and filters, a 3-series Gitzo tripod, and yes – a computer to bring. I would be astonished to see you manage carry-on only. 😀

    I look forward to you coming on the trip so we can compare notes and laptops. 😎

  • #809
    Jack MacD

    If you use your laptop as your desktop I give you a pass on my weightlifting crack.

    I think Dell is terrific, there are dell products that are as light as the Air, not as well promoted, but excellent choices. A Latitude E6320 is a nice choice.
    http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/laptops#!facets=117389~0~3792855,168074~0~11506627,51795~0~11401827,51795~0~11384531,55846~0~5930679&p=1

    I think you should consider an air-like dell as an alternative to your iPad. I got the iPad as an electronic portfolio. Turns out I sold more iPads to clients in the first months than photos. Then I just liked it for web browsing. But for typing, it was not fun. I needed a keyboard that would not print m instead of a space. See today's WSJ for Walt's keyboard solutions for the iPad. Rather than drag around such a keyboard, I asked myself why not just get a light laptop, as long as it had impressive battery life as the iPad does. I don't miss the iPad, so far a light laptop, be it Dell or Air is working for me.

    I did a test of speed of the Air vs iMac today using LR and photoshop. LR is faster with the Air than the iMac because of the SSD which I do not have in the iMac. LR is not ram intensive either. Doing a test merge of three S2 images into a panorama , something I do fairly ofter, the iMac with 16 gig of Ram was 40 seconds faster. A delay I can live with on the road.

    Your demo needs may always require you to carry the 6 pound solution. I am agnostic on Mac vs PC. I agree with you on the genius lines at the Apple store. My solution is that I buy from a local brick based third party store where I can walk in any time and get instant solutions. And now they are a customer of mine. Fortunately I haven't needed instant help but once every two years. If one of our forum readers wants a Mac, I do suggest they search out the independent resellers who are in business to work with large design businesses but are more than willing to sell and service an individual. The one I use in Wisconsin is Techwise, in case Kurt wants to know.

  • #811
    Jack MacD

  • #1800
    Mark Gowin

    Mark Gowin;538 wrote: The Dell M4600 you spec'd out sounds awesome. However, I would probably consider a 13″ Macbook Air (very small) for on the road image review and new loaded desktop with large display for image processing and editing. I see value in your thinking to get a fast laptop with 100% RGB display so you can process images while on the road and, frankly, I am not sure which way I would go given a $3,000 budget.

    Well, I didn't listen to my own advice. I recently bought a loaded Lenovo W520 which has a 95% RGB high res screen with an X-Rite color calibrator built into the palm rest.

    In all honesty, I tried to follow my own advice. I actually bought a MacBook Air, but then returned it when I couldn't come up with a suitable reasonably priced Mac OS i7 quad core desktop computer. The Mac Mini would have been acceptable except it isn't configurable in an i7 quad core with a dedicated graphics card. I looked hard at the iMac line, but ultimately decided it wasn't work the >$2k for me to get into the i7 quad core since I already have 2 – 24″ screens and a 27″ NEC wide gamut screen. In addition, I didn't want to wait for the new Ivy Bridge processor Macs to come out next year.

    Finally, I didn't want to continue with the mixed OS approach (Mac OS laptop / Windows desktop) that I had been using the last several years. Those considerations lead me to a Windows OS laptop. I can add a 3.4 ghz quad core i7 desktop for under $800 later if I find the need for more processing power.

    I hoping the transition to a Windows laptop goes well.

  • #3738
    TutorIndia

    My personal choice is the Dell and the main reason is that it has a much bigger hard drive.

  • #4159
    Jason Holiday

    I have been using Dell for years. One of the better brand out there in the market…

  • #4194
    dalethorn

    I've had a lot of laptops since 1984, but all of them had lousy screens. Now I have a Macbook, but I see that some of the PC vendors like Dell are making stylish laptops that are slim with good screens, and I wonder if any of those have screens that are good enough to use for casual editing and viewing without the need for color calibration.

  • #4196
    David Farkas

    dalethorn;5127 wrote: I've had a lot of laptops since 1984, but all of them had lousy screens. Now I have a Macbook, but I see that some of the PC vendors like Dell are making stylish laptops that are slim with good screens, and I wonder if any of those have screens that are good enough to use for casual editing and viewing without the need for color calibration.

    Dale,

    I've been using the Dell Precision M6700, which has a 17″ IPS screen. It is a 10-bit/channel screen capable of displaying ~100% AdobeRGB gamut and calibrates a dead neutral D6500. It looks awesome out of the box, but does come with included PremierColor calibration software which toggles gamuts based on application. This way, you can look at web pages in sRGB and use LR in AdobeRGB. Makes a lot of sense, otherwise websites look nuclear with all the extra gamut. Also, I like that I have an actual screen real estate of 1920×1080. Retina scaling just didn't work for my needs – I much prefer 1:1 pixel scaling.

    Besides the screen, I like that I have 32GB of RAM, three SSD drives with hardware RAID, a 4GB graphics card and ports galore. The drawback is that my machine weighs in at about 8 lbs. I don't view it as a laptop for casual editing. For me, this is a portable desktop which goes where I go and enables me to do color-critical editing anywhere I am.

    Nothing against Mac. They are much more svelt and sexy, but I really need the power and flexibility of my system.

  • #4198
    dalethorn

    Thanks David. There are so many factors …. but the scaling thing may very well account for why some of my images look great and others that should look as good don't have the same impact on the same screen. In any case I have a lot of automation tools for the PC that don't run native on the Mac, so a good PC laptop will come in handy on road trips.

    But, it would be nice to have embedded data bits in each image file that a computer could read and perform automatically perfect displays based on how each file is configured. For playback I've been using Irfanview on PCs and with the Mac just open a series of highlighted lists – one list to each window. I love that crude but effective simplicity.

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