Searching for the Ultimate PC Laptop For Photoshop Users

A photographer buddy of mine dropped me a line asking which PC laptop should he get for his Photoshop and photography work (he’s a working pro, and shoots in studio and on location). I use both Mac and PC laptops, since I train on both platforms, but when it comes to PCs; I’m strictly a Dell guy (I’m snobby that way). I emailed him back a link to the same laptop I use, the Dell Precision M65 (here’s the link), but I chose that one for a specific set of reasons: (1) I like the way it looks, and how it looks really matters to me. (2) I really like that it’s light, and it’s got a smaller form factor (3) I like the crisp sharp screen (I use a Dell 30″ display in my office at NAPP’s HQ), and (4) for running Photoshop, it hauls butt.

But it may not be “the ultimate” Photoshop PC of all the laptops Dell makes, so I have a contact over at Dell, and I’m going to shoot him a line this morning, and find out which he thinks would be “it,” the ultimate no-hold-barred, screaming Photoshop machine. In the meantime, if you’ve got any suggestions or experience with a PC laptop you love, post it here in the comments section, and I’ll let you know what I find out later today.

UPDATE: Greg Lutke posted a comment calling Dell’s XPS M1710 the “Ultimate Photoshop Laptop.” I just checked it out and he may well be right. Here’s the link to it. More info later. :)

UPDATE 2: Renown wildlife photographer Moose Peterson (of Moose’s New Blog), has weighted in via email, saying “Dell’s Latitude D620 blows away the M65.” OK, I’m starting to feel like I might need to upgrade my laptop. Thanks for the advice Moose.

  1. I have actually posted and in depth and detailed article on my own blog about the best Laptop for the new Adobe CS6 programs, primarily photoshop and even include a video showing how fast it launches with 8GB of Ram. 

  2. My new $3200 USD Ultimate Photoshop Laptop.

    Origin PC EON17-S Laptop

    Intel Core i7 3720QM Quad-Core (2.60-3.60 GHz)

    AMD Radeon HD 7970m (2GB)

    32GB G.SKILL DDR3 1333MHz RAM

    Windows 7 Ultimate x64

    Mushkin Enhanced Atlas 240GB mSATA SSD (OS drive)

    2x OCZ Vertex 4 256GB SSD (raid 0 scratch drive/game drive)

    WD Green 2TB Intellipower 2.5″ HDD (storage)

    Primary Uses

    Secondary Uses
    3DS Max

    My Reasoning

    Origin PC EON17-S Laptop
    The guys from Origin are some of the founders of Alienware and they left when Dell started cramping their style.  The tech support is reportedly second to none.  The case comes stock with finger print recognition.  Plus it has a brushed aluminum lid and palm rest.  With CPU and GPU configured as I have them, this costs under $1900 USD.

    Intel Core i7 3720QM Quad-Core (2.60-3.60 GHz):
    The price point on
    the Core i7 3720QM is solid.  The next step up is a $200 jump that will
    net relatively small gains compared to other investments.  This
    processor won’t bottleneck my system.  If there is one thing I could upgrade, it would be the processor, but the currently available options for mobile i7’s aren’t much of an improvement over the 3720QM anyway. 

    AMD Radeon HD 7970m (2GB)
    The 7970m is a GPU upgrade from Origin PC.  It costs around $200 more but with all of the money I am saving by not buying a Mac, I can afford it.  The default 675m is good enough but the 7970 has the same (benchmark) performance as a good current gen desktop GPU.  For $200 you just can’t beat that.

    32GB G.SKILL DDR3 1333MHz RAM
    I chose more RAM over faster RAM.  As everybody here probably already knows, Photoshop can eat up RAM really quick.  The price-to-benefit value of an increased RAM clock speed isn’t worth it.  RAM is already so fast that virtually everything else is a bottleneck compared to it. The biggest issue is that the motherboard and chipset on a mobile platform isn’t going to get the full benefit of faster RAM anyway.  So it just isn’t worth the cost.

    Windows 7 Ultimate x64
    You need Windows Pro 64bit or Windows Ultimate 64bit to be able to get a full 32GB of RAM.  Microsoft capped the home versions at 16 so they could up-sell us (and it worked).  I prefer Ultimate to Pro. If you aren’t that much of a PC user, you can get Pro and you’ll be perfectly happy with it.  Plus, you’ll save yourself $50.

    2x OCZ Vertex 4 256GB SSD (raid 0 scratch drive/game drive):
    These are really important.  You could drop one SSD from this rig, or even buy a less expensive one, but two Vertex 4’s get around 900mb/s sequential read and write speeds (which is most important for big Photoshop files) in raid 0.  A standard hard disk (HDD) gets 50-150mb/s and a cheaper SSD will get about 200-300mb/s. These SSD’s are going to cost you around $400 but it’s worth it.  Next to your RAM, the SSD will give you the biggest boost to Photoshop performance (much more than upgrading the GPU from a 675m to a 7970m).

    Mushkin Enhanced Atlas 240GB mSATA SSD (OS drive)
    I chose to add in an mSATA OS drive because I could.  It’s around 500mb/s so it will boot Windows fast and launch all of the basic programs I use regularly with ease.  Typically, either your RAM or your HDD will be the major limiting factors of windows.  Now my OS can at least keep up with the rest of my system.  I chose the biggest, fastest mSATA I could get my hands on at a reasonable price.  You can go smaller but I wouldn’t recommend getting anything smaller than 60GB because you will run out of storage fast.

    WD Green 2TB Intellipower 2.5″ HDD (storage)
    I figure the bigger my storage drive the better.  So I picked up the slowest biggest 2.5 drive I could find.  It isn’t something most people will need so you can cut another $250 out of the budget by not getting it and just using the default 320GB HDD that will come with your laptop.  Make sure that you get the drive bay hard drive mounting option for the third hard drive though.

    I purchased these parts and, once my laptop gets here from Origin PC, I will install the Hard Drives and RAM myself. Origin PC can install anything anybody wants them to though (as long as they can get the part).  It will probably cost you a bit more than doing it yourself though.

    If you can install your own RAM, firmware and reinstall an OS, you can get this same set up for $3200.  Drop the mSATA and 2TB HDD and then downgrade your OS and video card and you will still have a mobile machine that can tear through Photoshop at breakneck speeds. 

    1.  I forgot to say a couple of things.

      If you are including the third hard drive, this will replace your optical drive so you’ll have to get an external DVD/Bluray whatever. 

      Origin PC will charge you more if you have them build everything for you.  That’s how they make their money.  Plus it will take longer to get.  Upgrading firmware, installing an OS, installing RAM, installing hard drives and setting up raid 0 sounds like a lot of hard work.  But if you can use a screwdriver, Photoshop and Google you are smart enough and have all the tools you need to do it.

      If you don’t want to mess with the software end of things or you decide you want them to overclock your processor and/or GPU, make sure to have them install an mSATA as your OS drive.  This way you will have the fastest OS you can get and then just install any hardware add-ons for yourself.

Leave a Reply
Previous Post

Tuesday News Update

Next Post

Progress on finding the Ultimate PC Laptop for Photoshop