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Author Topic: Is a laptop powerful enough to run Photoshop fast?  (Read 15259 times)
Tim H
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« on: October 15, 2006, 07:20:55 AM »
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Hi. I am looking to upgrade to a new computer for post production work and wanted to find out if a laptop would be powerful enough for my needs.

I shoot on a Canon 1ds mkii, process the Raw files to 16bit 96mb Tiffs in Capture one and do my colour correction in Photoshop CS.

At the moment I have a 3 and a half year old Sony Vaio GRT715M Laptop. It has a Pentium 4 2.8GHz processor, 1 gig of ram (it’s maximum) and a Nvidia Geoforce FX Go5600 video card. When I got it I was working with 36mb 16 bit files from a Canon 10d and with only 512mb of ram. It was fine for this. A year or so ago I brought my 1ds mkii and upgraded the laptop to a gig of ram. But the problem is, it is slow. For example, if in photoshop I opened an image (96mb), then made, say, a few curve adjustments in a row, the first couple would be fairly quick but by the third it would be hanging for about 10 seconds, then 15 seconds for the 4th adjustments etc. And the more complicated I make the images, if I start adding layers or making composites, it will hang for a lot longer. This can get pretty frustrating when making a lot of tweaks and adjustments, as I tend to do.

So, my thought is to upgrade but I have a few questions.

1. How realistic is it of me to expect photoshop to run a lot faster on files of this size? Ideally I would love to be able to have a much larger history or use multiple layers, without the machine starting to hang. Is this achievable?

2. I was looking at getting something along the lines of the HP Pavilion dv6174EA. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 1.66GHz processor, 2 gig of Ram, and a Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics card. I am not a computer expert so I am not clear on how big a jump this is in terms of processor and Ram from my current Sony laptop? Is it a far superior machine which would run photoshop a lot faster and leave me free of the frustrations of a constantly hanging computer? Or is it only a small jump and really I am not going to see any significant improvements. It would be great to hear any thoughts?

3. Am I being crazy expecting what I want from a laptop and should I get a desktop instead.? I really love having a laptop and it works perfectly with my workflow. I run it duel monitor with a Lacie 19” (if I got a desktop I would definitely get a second monitor so I could stay duel monitor). And I do often need to take it out on shoots, so if I upgraded to a desktop I would still need to keep the old laptop for location work, and then have the complication of having two different machines. So essentially, I would love to upgrade to a laptop but am I crazy for that, would all my problems be best solved going for a desktop? Also, just to mention, my budget can’t really go much above the cost of the Pavilion above, or a similar machine, £900 in the UK. Also all my software and knowledge is PC so I would rather stick with a PC for now.

It would be great to hear anyone’s thoughts. I know whatever I buy I will be relying on it for the next couple of years (but am not going to be upgrading my camera in this time), so I just want to make sure I get it right.

Many thanks.

Tim
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kaelaria
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2006, 11:17:47 AM »
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Here's the short answer:

The best laptop configuration will be equal to a mediocre desktop and cost 2-3x as much.

The best laptop monitor panel will be nowhere near good enough for final color correction.  Good enough for on-site work, for basic editing, yes.  All of the workflow?  No way.

This goes for both PC and MAC, although the performance gap between the best laptop and best desktop is even wider with a MAC due to the better possible config of a MAC desktop specifically for PS over a PC (You are talking $10k+ though).
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svein
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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2006, 01:46:42 PM »
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Since you already work with a laptop I assume you know the limitations of the most (all) laptop screens when it comes to accurate color and color shift when you change viewing angle even slightly. Sony seem to give priority to screen quality. So while screen technology generally improve you might actually find a new laptop for general business use with inferior screen to the one you got. Try to check out the screen before buying!

Agree with the previous poster that you get less performance for more money with a laptop, but I still think you'll be able to find a system that will perform at least significantly better than the one you got.

Here's what I'd look for:
Already mentioned the screen, your current model has a 16" one? Haven't seen that in a while, but 17" is slightly larger and fairly easy to find, and 15.?" is even more common. Just make sure you get high enough resolution - and of course good picture quality. There are even some models with 20" screens, but that's pretty big and expensive systems.

Processor: I'd reccommend going for something faster than the one you mention. Dual 1.66 cores would be faster than a 2.8 PIV on tasks that are easily split on two processors, but not that much faster even though a Core 2 Duo gets more done for each clock cycle than a PIV. If you want 3-4 years life from the new PC you might also do another camera (megapixel) upgrade in that timeframe.
The price difference for higher processor speed is quite high, but if you're looking for a really fast system I'd try to find something faster than 1.66. Preferably 2GHz or better, but that seem to be impossible with your budget.

Hard disk speed can be a problem on laptops. Many models come with 4200rpm disks, but lateley 5400rpm has become quite a bit more common (the Hp you mention has a 5400rpm drive). Still, a desktop will usually have a disk with 7200rpm which is quite a bit faster. You can find 7200rpm disk on some laptops too, but you have to read the specs to find them. With the large files you describe hard disk performance is an issue even before the system run out of memory and start swapping and then it becomes an even bigger factor. Another way to get better performance from the disk system is to use two disks. Some systems support that.

Last is memory. Obviously also important. Get 2GB, and see how that works. Going to 4B on a laptop is currently really expensive so might not be worthwhile. Note that many systems that support 4GB has only 2 slots and need to use 2x2GB modules to get to that amount. So you have to take out what you already got to upgrade.

Conclusion: I'd say that your budget is kind of low for what you're asking. The HP you mention will certainly be faster than the one you got. Maybe even fast enough for today, but not very futureproof. Given £900 I'd at least try for a 7200rpm drive, even if you have to go down from 120MB to 80/100GB. Dell offer configurable systems with 7200rpm drive option, but the problem with Dell is that you wont be able to see the screen quality before buying. I'd at least try another round searching for better specs than the HP.
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dobson
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« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2006, 01:49:26 AM »
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Just a quick comment on hard disks. A 7200 RPM disk is definitely the way to go; but the markup may be high for the upgrade. If you find a laptop that fit's what you want, but has a slow drive, you can just purchase a new disk for it and install it instead. Installing laptop hard drives is a piece of cake and 7200s aren't really too expensive.


Phillip
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Tim H
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« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2006, 04:05:14 AM »
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Svein, Kaelaria and Philip. Great, many thanks for your posts, that is really useful and makes a lot of sense.

In terms of a monitor and laptop-screen, I am not too concerned. I only use the laptop out in the field about 10% of the time and when I do it is more to check composition etc than anything critical. Back at base I use it dual screen with a Lacie 19” CRT (regularly profiled) and using the laptop screen for the tool palette only. And again with the size of the laptop/screen, it is not too much of a priority, as it will not be out and about that much and I would rather get the specs right.

Interesting what you say about hard drive speed. I didn’t realise it was that critical. Pretty much 100% of my photoshop work is done at base and at the moment I use external 7200 drives connected to the laptop by USB2. Is USB2 fast enough to keep up with the 7200 speed of the drives? Would continuing to work like this eliminate the concern about what speed the hard drive is?

I will have a dig around to see what else is out there and what else I can get for my budget. I would love to find a laptop that will work at the speed I would like. Any more advice greatly appreciated.

Thanks again.

Tim
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kaelaria
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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2006, 07:00:31 AM »
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Again, the best laptop config (7200) is only mediocre to a good desktop (10,000 or 14,000).

Can you get a better laptop then what you have?  Certainly.  Can you expect it to be a Photoshop powerhouse?  Never, in comparison to a desktop.  So what is you real goal if you know the limitations?
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svein
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2006, 01:26:38 PM »
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Using a 7200rpm drive in an external USB-enclosure slows down the drive considerable compared to using the same disk inside the PC. Comparing a fairly new external USB-disk to an old 40Gb (and maybe 4200rpm) notebookdisk might give a different result. I've never seen a test of this.

Using a firewire disk yields (slightly) better results in most tests, but if you want close to full speed from an external disk you need an external SATA-disk. There are of course other options like SCSI etc, but external SATA is the only realistic one on a limited budget.

If you want to work with external USB-disks then try to leave a lot of room on your internal disk. Copy the files you want to work on to the internal disk, work, then move them out again to make room for the next batch.

This article is worth reading as it compares performance of a several disc-enclosures with different interfaces:
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/storage/d...re-roundup.html

So in my opinion your best bet is still to find an internal 7200rpm drive. Note that the price difference isn't that big, the main difficulty is to find a laptop that will fit all your requirements and have this type of disk.

Btw, you wont find many off the shelf desktop systems with a 10000rpm (or more) drive for £800-900, particlury if you need another screen for a desktop.
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ericstaud
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2006, 09:52:01 PM »
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I have a friend using a 15" Mac book pro with the Duo 2.16 processor.  It easily powers his 30" cinema display with 256mb of video RAM.  The files and the scatch disk are on an eSATA dual enclosure with two 400GB Seagate 7200.10 hard drives connected to an express card 34.  The one glaring ommision is that it only has 2 gb of RAM (oh, and glaring ommision two is that CS2 is not Intel native on OSX).  I have used this as a capture station with C1 pro tethered to a P25, and LC10 tethered to an Aptus 75 and it works really great.  I know you are discusing a PC laptop, but maybe this gives some perspective.  I would not want to make a living retouching with only 2 GB of RAM though.

-Eric
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Tim H
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2006, 09:45:37 AM »
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Hi everyone. Thanks so much for all your advice. I think I am going to go for a desktop. It sounds like any laptop I could afford is still going to leave me frustrated with the speed. So desktop it is. Have learnt a lot on the decision making process though!

Many thanks again, greatly appreciated.
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mahleu
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2006, 09:53:29 AM »
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If you get a second small hard drive you can use this as a pagefile drive which helps to speed everything up.
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kaelaria
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2006, 09:59:20 AM »
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Not going through a USB2 or FW connection it won't.  External drives are ONLY good for storage, not as a working drive like with a swap file.

I use an external 500 for storage and backup, and an external 250 for transport.  Neither are anywhere CLOSE to internal speeds, not even the same ballpark.  I would want to throw it against the wall if I had to use an external swap disc, working with large files.
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bob mccarthy
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2006, 02:07:46 PM »
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Quote
Hi everyone. Thanks so much for all your advice. I think I am going to go for a desktop. It sounds like any laptop I could afford is still going to leave me frustrated with the speed. So desktop it is. Have learnt a lot on the decision making process though!

Many thanks again, greatly appreciated.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=80991\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'm late to this thread. I'm using a MacBook (2.0) with a 300gig external drive (maxtor),processing very large files (scans from 4x5) and its very workable. It is correct that the weakness with the latest lower cost computers is having only 2 memory slots. Its not only laptops that are limited to 2 slots, most desktops are now also. Of course, heavy duty desktops are not so limited but then the price goes up. The best machine on the planet is a Mac Pro. But even the cheap macbook is pretty good. Large batches and "some" PS edits are slow, but certainly usable. If you need portability it's an effective solution. BTW, don't believe the Apple story regarding memory on the core duo's. Got 2 gigs (non apple) at Fry's for $140. Only the dual xeon Mac Pro requires special heatsinked memory.

Now I'm scanning 200+ meg files (8bit) to 400+ meg files (16bit), so I'm putting lots of stress on this laptop. Those tiny files you're playing with can't nearly be as much of a challenge.

Add a 23 inch Apple display. Mine is very sweet, significantly better than the Sansung 213T I run at work. No laptop screen is comparable to a good external monitor.

For a cheap way out, why not upgrade the memory in the current laptop. That 2nd gig makes a huge difference. 1 gig is not enough to open some editing programs. If it was "near" workable with 1, you'll be "happy" with 2.

bob
« Last Edit: October 18, 2006, 02:19:35 PM by bob mccarthy » Logged
kaelaria
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2006, 02:16:12 PM »
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Its not only laptops that are limited to 2 slots, most desktops are now also.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=81048\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Not true whatsoever.  Only the extreme low end motherboards are limited to 2 slots such as small form factor systems like Shuttle, or the super el-cheap-o POS systems from Walmart, Best Buy, etc. that use baby boards to save $10.  The VAST majority of motherboards have been and are 4 slot designs with 2 slots per bank in dual bank (channel) configurations.  All the mainstream northbridge chipsets have been using this configurations for years, along with all the AMD Athlon/XP/X2 chips (memory controller on-die).
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bob mccarthy
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2006, 02:36:13 PM »
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Not true whatsoever.  Only the extreme low end motherboards are limited to 2 slots such as small form factor systems like Shuttle, or the super el-cheap-o POS systems from Walmart, Best Buy, etc. that use baby boards to save $10.  The VAST majority of motherboards have been and are 4 slot designs with 2 slots per bank in dual bank (channel) configurations.  All the mainstream northbridge chipsets have been using this configurations for years, along with all the AMD Athlon/XP/X2 chips (memory controller on-die).
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=81051\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

My guess is you build your own boxes. Most just ring up dell. I haven't looked today but the core duo desktops were all two slots, only the XPS offered more at a higher price. I would hope with the core 2 duo, they would fix this, as vista is just around the corner. We have ton's of HP's in the office with P4 processors with 2 slots.

Oh well, doesn't matter. As long as Tim is happy.

BTW, Tim I have the same Vaio (preceeded the Mac). Had two slots, was able to put two 1 gig dimms in. Passed on the 512's to the less fortunate, but memory is cheap!!.

bob
« Last Edit: October 18, 2006, 03:43:44 PM by bob mccarthy » Logged
Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2006, 02:40:25 PM »
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I'm looking at the higher end HP notebooks to parallel my desktop, you can get a 2ghz with 2 gig ram (upgradeable to 4) at a relatively price (£8-900 on ebuyer) these days, you can get an even better processor as well. As my desktop is a dual 2ghz with 2 gig ram I doubt that I will be too bothered by any comparison in processing speed.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2006, 02:42:36 PM by pom » Logged

John.Murray
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2006, 06:24:38 PM »
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Hi All!

Also, sorry for the late response to this post.  This site and discussion area are true gems!

Most salient issues regarding performance have been well addressed here - memory being most important.  One often overlooked optimization used by database admins (i'm one) is "short stroking" the hard drive subsystem.  Essentially, this is using only part of the available storage on the drive (via partitioning), effectively reducing the average head seek and data transfer rates.

In an excellent article ZDnet's George Ou discusses this:

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=322

I tend to distrust articles that don't "do the math"; George does,  with links to back  it up.  I can only attest that many DB admins have been doing this for years.  My approach, of course, is to go ahead and pay the premium price,  using the highest RPM drive available (10K rpm) and then short stroke it in my Dell laptop.  I'm not worried about large capacity as everything gets archived off to a server with multiple 300gb drives at home . . .

If you have the patience to suffer through a re-partition then complete O/S + Application re-install, I *strongly* recommend this - you *won't* look back!

Regards - John
« Last Edit: October 18, 2006, 06:28:29 PM by Joh.Murray » Logged

kaelaria
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2006, 07:43:52 PM »
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I think one of the comments made to that blog sums up my feelings exactly - fuzzy math.  If I get the time at the office tomorrow I will actually test his theory on a couple of my drives and do back to back sandra tests.  My guy feeling is the results will be nowhere near as incredible as that suggests they should be.  Frankly, if that kind of free speed was available by such simple setups - the gaming community would have been using it for YEARS.  The facts is - they are not, not at all.
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tived
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2006, 09:41:08 PM »
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Quote
Here's the short answer:

The best laptop configuration will be equal to a mediocre desktop and cost 2-3x as much.

The best laptop monitor panel will be nowhere near good enough for final color correction.  Good enough for on-site work, for basic editing, yes.  All of the workflow?  No way.

This goes for both PC and MAC, although the performance gap between the best laptop and best desktop is even wider with a MAC due to the better possible config of a MAC desktop specifically for PS over a PC (You are talking $10k+ though).
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=80508\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Hi Kaelaira,

the better configurations with the Mac desktops, is that due to the millions of new configuration options you now have with the new Intel Macs?

Tim,

Laptops are compromises, they are for the quick and dirty on the road. For some they can act as a substitute for a desktop but not for workstation style computers be it mac or PC

Henrik
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kaelaria
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« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2006, 09:46:25 PM »
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There are actually exponentially more options for a PC, but some that are still only MAC.  Primarily those involving the use of larger amounts of addressable RAM, which is still very limited on MS Windows and the majority of PC hardware.  

For example to get 8GB on a MAC you simply plug it in, and OSX will use it.

If you want 8GB on a PC, it requires very expensive server class hardware, and server operating systems to address it.  Then there's the fact that PS won't use it all on a PC yet regardless (3GB max seen by PS on a PC).

RAM size is the biggest contributor to PS performance followed by CPU number and speed.  That, however is more than matched on the PC side, so it's neither pro nor con for either platform.

Other than that, the current MACs are so much a standard PC that it's a draw performance wise except for the handful of apps that can take advantage of the greater potential ram on a MAC.
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kaelaria
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« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2006, 09:49:48 PM »
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And yes, I build many, many PCs - both for cutting edge performance (my personal units), 50+ workstations at the office, 3 windows based and one linux based servers, and one lone MAC, used primarily by my wife (she's a 2nd grade teacher).

Along with 40+ I build and sell every year via word of mouth.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2006, 09:50:17 PM by kaelaria » Logged

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