Increasingly there appear questions about which laptop to get for CS5/6.
First, the question is why a laptop and why not a desktop?
Laptops are always at least 2 to 3 times slower than a desktop, they are significantly more expensive than a desktop with the same or better performance and they need a wall outlet to use. Batteries don't last long enough for editing and you need a wall outlet for external components (disks, monitor, BD-R etc.) that are required. All that makes a laptop more like an expensive, underpowered luggable machine.
For video editing machines it is always best to use a machine for video editing only and use a second system for other applications and this is especially true for much weaker laptops than desktops.
So, let me repeat the question: What are the considerations to use a laptop over a desktop? You have to be very clear about it to sell the idea to the one responsible for the budget. You also have to be clear about the performance penalty, if you decide to go forward with a laptop.
OK, we got this out of the way. You have good arguments to get a laptop and you have succesfully sold the idea to the one responsible for the available budget.
So what are your choices and what do you need to look for in terms of specs?
First, let me remind you of the article Adobe Forums: What PC to build? An update... because it contains a number of relevant issues that influence your choice. Basically there are three approaches possible:
- Get a laptop from a brand company like Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba and the like.
- Get a customizable laptop from specialist companies like Sager or Clevo.
- Get a custom builder like ADK Video Editing build you a system tuned to your needs.
All these solutions have a number of common components, under the assumption you want to edit HD material:
- CPU: at least a quad core i7 processor, preferably with hyper-threading. The faster the better.
- GPU: at least a nVidia GTX 660M or better with 1+ GB DDR5 memory.
- Disks: at least 2 internal 7200 RPM disks.
- Connections: minimum is eSATA plus USB3 ports.
- Monitor: at least 1920 x 1080 resolution and 15.4" screen size or bigger.
- Memory: bare minimum is 8 GB but workable is only 16 or 32 GB.
Looking at brand names one may come up with a short-list like:
Now, in their standard configurations they are all lacking on some aspects. Insufficient memory, only single disk, or lacking connections. If these can not be configured to meet the above practical minimum requirements, where at least 2 disks is the most crucial, there is only companies like Sager and Clevo to look at. Something like this is about bare minimum, because of the underspecced video card:
Despite the price this will still be around 3 times slower than an equally priced desktop. If that performance penalty is too big, then one can consider a system like this:
Again, despite the price, this system will still be more than 2 times slower than a far less expensive desktop, but hey, you knew that when you decided on a laptop and got approval for the budget, right?
The last option is to go to a custom builder to get a laptop that is exactly tuned to your needs and budget. It will not be less expensive than the Sager route, but it will get you the best balance between performance and price for your needs. Additionally, you get great service if ever needed.
To sum this up, a laptop is a compromise. A compromise in performance and price. It is not for the faint of heart, faint of wallet. It is not a laptop, it is a luggable system on a wall outlet. An alternative is coasters under a desktop system and you can use other wall outlets as well, but with a better price and far better performance.
I hope this will help people to decide if they really need a laptop and if affirmative, to get the right system for their needs.