This is yet another "is the computer I want good enough for CS5.5" question. Before I begin I'll ask you to please forgive my ignorance and the length of this post. I'm new to having to care about computer hardware. In the past any decent PC has met my needs, but I'm no longer finding that to be the case as I now have a need to edit video.
So I'll start with my particular needs. I need portability. I'm a student and direct a summer camp. In my role at camp I have identified the need to improve our camp promotional material, and that's where the video editing comes in. I'll be shooting and editing several promotional shorts and a couple of documentary style shorts using DSLR footage and perhaps a little camcorder or two. After much research, and playing around with some free trial software, I've settled on CS5.5, but there's only one problem, my computer just isn't up to the task. Conveniently enough, my current computer has seen better days and it's time to upgrade anyways, so I've been researching and shopping around trying to find an appropriate computer. As portability is a must, and I can't afford a decent desktop and a laptop (and even if I could always transferring data back and forth would be annoying), I've been looking at laptops. It seems like any off-the shelf laptop that is well suited to run adobe isn't really all that portable. Sure you can transport it a lot easier than a desktop, but you can't expect to get a full day of battery life out of it, nor is it a reasonable weight to carry all over creation (my point is that a 17" laptop is out). So I did a little digging, and after reading a lot of posts on this forum and a lot of information from other sources I think I've come up with a solution. I'm looking for input into potential problems any tech-savvy people see with my idea, and sales reps for dell aren't tech savvy, so I figured this was a good place to find out how well adobe would run on my proposed set-up (I'm not a pro, and won't be editing feature length films, so I don't think I need the same performance as a tricked out desktop, I just need it to perform well with as few hold ups as possible).
Here's what I've come up with:
Dell XPS 14z:
- Intel core i-7 2640M (2.8GHz, with "turbo boost" up to 3.50GHz)
- 8 GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM
- 750 GB SATA, 7200rpm hard drive
- Nvidia Geforce 520M 1GB graphics card
- The only information on screen resolution I could find on the Dell web-site was "true 720p HD display" after reading a few reviews, I found the specs were lower than the minimum recommended by Adobe, I forget exactly what they are though.
So this computer is more than I would ever need for my non-video editing needs. On paper it's a nice little laptop, a little pricey ($1300!), but they can be had at a very reasonable price ($700 - $800) refurbished from the Dell online outlet. None-the-less I can see several problems with this set-up.
First is the Display: it's inadequate. That's easily solved by using an external monitor, and you can get a pretty decent monitor off of tiger direct for less than $200. I can tolerate video editing at a desk, I need portability for other applications.
Second is the hard drive. From reading this forum I understand that editing with only one hard drive can slow things down quite a bit. I was wondering how big a deal this really is for the casual editor? There are adaptors that allow you to place a second hard drive where the optical drive is in this laptop. If it's necessary, I plan on putting a second 750GB 7200 rpm HDD where the optical drive is. Problem solved, right? Does anyone see any problems with this idea? My next question about the hard drive topic is: how much would a third hard drive really benefit me? And would data transfer using an external HDD with a USB 3.0 connection be fast enough to be a viable option for a third drive? Either way I could pick up an appropriate hard drive and caddy for a little under $175 and around $100 for an external HDD with USB 3.0 to be used as a third drive if necessary.
The third potential problem is the RAM. It seems there are a lot of opinions out there about how much is enough. Is 8 GB adequate? According to intel's web site this particular processor is compatible with up to 16GB of RAM, and after searching various forums I found a couple instances of people expanding their RAM on this computer to 16GB with no issues. I understand that I can replace the current 2x4GB set up with either 1x4GB + 1X8GB or 2x8GB to give either a total of 12 or 16GB of RAM. Is this necessary or even beneficial? 8GB would be more than enough for anything else I do, and since I have little experience with video editing I thought I'd ask those who know. Is a RAM upgrade necessary? Using this configuration I could update the RAM to 12 GB for around $100 and to 16 GB for around $200.
Finally, the graphics card that comes with this computer isn't on the list of cards recommended by Adobe. I understand that this is because it doesn't support CUDA, how much of an issue is this? Will I be able to efficiently edit video without a recommended card?
The point of all the numbers is this: 800+200+175+100=1,275. For $1275ish it seems to me I could get a very reasonable video editing set up that's still portable. That's less than the sticker price on these laptops, and a lot less than a mac book pro, which is everyone's first recommendation when I mention I want to use the computer for video editing. This seems like a very reasonable price for a laptop with an intel i7 2.8GHz, two 750GB 7200rpm HDD's, 12GB of RAM, and an external monitor for when I want to sit down and edit. Am I delusional in thinking this would run well using CS5.5?
So I guess the point is this. Life is about trade offs, and since I primarily need portability and I'm not a professional (just an anal consumer with high standards :), I'm willing to trade a little bit of video editing performance for the improved portability. I want the opinion of those who have experience using CS5.5 with various set-ups, does my proposed set-up seem like a reasonable trade-off? Are the upgrades even neccessary? Would they be enough to provide a reasonable editing experience? Any other advice (besides buying a desktop or a wicked expensive 17" laptop that weighs two to three times as much and chews through battery life)?
Thanks for sticking with this and giving me any feedback. It's appreciated!