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Laptop for graphic design (relatively high end)

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February 1, 2012 4:11:48 PM

Hello, I've taken upon the job of finding a new laptop for my girlfriend. She currently have a 13" Macbook A1278 which is starting to lack in performance. She is educating her self to become a graphical designer and mostly works in Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. From next year on she will be using AfterEffects, Cinema 4D as well. This laptop will be her main workstation.

What I'm looking for:
- 15.6"/17.3", preferably the first.
- A GOOD screen, very important. This is the main reason I'm asking because it's almost impossible to find any good info on screens. I'm hoping for something matte.
- A decent CPU, preferably i7 2620QM
- The other big reason I'm asking: GPU - Is there any point in getting a Quadro CPU, or would any half decent GPU suffice for her usage (there will be no high end gaming).
- Lotsa lotsa RAM!

Preferably not more than ~2000 USD, and no special preference on brand, if a Macbook Pro is the best choice then be it. Design is no factor as well, no hating on Lenovo!

Any input is greatly appreciated, especially on screen and GPU.
a b D Laptop
February 1, 2012 5:35:28 PM

TBH most laptops have terrible screens (for graphic's professionals who require spot-on color). For a "proper" screen you might need something like an Apple Cinema Display, or one of the Dell Ultrasharp panels, or even the Dell U3011. However the Dell U3011 is very expensive.

Apparently the HP EliteBook 8760w is a very good notebook (good screen, good gpu, lots of ram). Although I believe it's quite expensive as well.

Edit: Since no gaming is involved, a quaddro GPU or even a FIREGL would be a good gpu choice - as they are geared towards rendering.
February 1, 2012 5:43:57 PM

Chainzsaw said:
TBH most laptops have terrible screens (for graphic's professionals who require spot-on color).


As she's not a professional yet a good display will suffice. And yes, you are correct, most are really bad. I'm just looking for a series of laptops that doesn't cost as much as a yacht and have a relatively decent screen. That HP looks good. Good CPU, GPU, big SSD, full-HD. But it's a tiny bit in the upper part of her budget. Thanks for the reply!
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a b D Laptop
February 1, 2012 6:54:46 PM

Check this out:

HP Elitebook

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1683...

HP EliteBook 8560w (XU084UT) Notebook Intel Core i7 2620M(2.70GHz) 15.6" 8GB Memory DDR3 1333 500GB HDD 7200rpm DVD+/-RW SuperMulti DL NVIDIA Quadro 1000M

Approx 1600.

I am unsure of the screen quality - but the specs are quite good. 8GB Ram, Core i7 and 15.6" screen 1080P. As well as a Quadro 1000M.

It may not be absolutely amazing compared to some other set ups - but should be quite fast otherwise.
February 1, 2012 7:04:33 PM

This is one of the few cases where I'd actually recommend a Macbook. She's already used to the OS and software, and anything Windows can do in graphics design, OS X does better. There's a reason it's the industry standard for editing.
February 1, 2012 7:11:23 PM

willard said:
This is one of the few cases where I'd actually recommend a Macbook. She's already used to the OS and software, and anything Windows can do in graphics design, OS X does better. There's a reason it's the industry standard for editing.


Yes, I actually agree. But, configuring a 15" Macbook Pro with a matte screen, 8GB RAM and SSD takes it way over the budget. These are things that are almost a given in any price equal Windows laptop.
February 1, 2012 7:35:49 PM

@Chainzsaw spot on...I do this for living, 3dimentional art, graphic design, compositing(Maya, Photoshop, After effects, illustrator, zbrush) having a good monitor is essential. I often have directors instruct me to brighten or saturate an image, as they are viewing the AR images from a laptop somewhere. 9 out of 10 times I'll get a call from the Visual Art director to change it back, as they are using excellent monitors. I never use laptop monitors in any of my workstations.

@Hermith: is it absolutely necessary to use a laptop? I mean is a desktop completely out of the question? just a thought.

@Willard: No offense, but your statement is way too much of a generalization. "...anything windows can do in graphics design, OS X does better." Hardware is a bigger factor... my fellow graphic artist get teary eyed when they bring their MACbooks over to my home office and see my computer handle 10 4k images open simultaneously without hesitation. The factor there: 3 X RAID 5 SSD, 16GB DDR3 2200... aside from the core i7-980. Obviously not everyone can afford this. It cost me an arm and a leg...but you get what you paid for. Most people think that they can buy a $350 E-Series processor PC and then buy a $1600 MacBook Air and compare the two. The only reason MAC has a good reputation is because they never make $350 computers to begin with... but don't come telling me a MacBook is going to beat my rig.
February 2, 2012 1:51:53 PM

DigitalWarlord said:

@Hermith: is it absolutely necessary to use a laptop? I mean is a desktop completely out of the question? just a thought.


Yes, it has to. Seeing as she's still in the education process she works a lot in different places and her main work station needs to be mobile. Otherwise she'll work on crappy iMacs at school and have a monster at home. The difference would be silly.

I've found it much easier to find reviews on stand alone screen (naturally) than there is to get a good description of a laptop screen. You don't know of any series that is more favored among your colleagues than others, preferably excluding Macbooks.
February 2, 2012 6:31:37 PM

Unfortunately, non that I could recommend. It's very difficult to identify good screens online, because we have to take other people's word for how they look visually. Everyone's eyes are a bit different so you will almost always get mixed reviews. I say take the girly out for a stroll... go check out some laptop monitors at different electronics stores. Women love to be out and about anyway. ha. Sorry for the poor amount of help on this. It's a tough one, and unless I actually had it in front of me, I couldn't answer without talking out of my behind and say "yes that one is great 'cause it's pricy". :T Good luck!
February 2, 2012 6:45:07 PM

Hmm. I see the problem all too well. One simple solution is to simply buy something half decent and powerful and have a good monitor at home. That way she can work on it wherever she is, but do more fine tuning at home. I'm assuming that's possible, I'm far from any graphical designer.

Anyway, thanks for the input!
February 2, 2012 6:48:01 PM

We have a Dell Precision 4600 for one of our graphic designers who travels and needs to be able to design on the fly. The thing definitely isn't light, but with a Quadro 2000M and a i7 2760 QM it can handle anything she throws at it. We opt'd not to splurge for the IPS panel but it has a SSD for the OS/applications and a separate smaller SSD dedicated as the scratch disk in CS5. Whole thing was close to 2K all said and done but she likes being able to work on the go. Hopefully someday they'll come out with a 14" option with the same quality of screen, but for the moment I think that's one of the best customizable options out there. Definitely don't want to use it on your actual lap though, it will probably melt your skin.
a b D Laptop
February 2, 2012 6:53:49 PM

^- Game Junky's reccomendation is pretty good. Dell's laptop-workstations are actually quite decent.

I would say either the Dell as Game Junky mentioned, or the HP elitebook would be good choices, the HP for a cheaper price, or the Dell for the better GPU for rendering.
February 2, 2012 7:08:07 PM

game junky said:
We opt'd not to splurge for the IPS panel...


Any particular reason?
February 2, 2012 9:06:46 PM

We were working on a 2K project budget and I couldn't get my Dell rep to wiggle below that threshhold with all the SSDs. We actually would have preferred the IPS, but we all live in a budget-driven world. :( 
!