Monday, 5 March 2018

Which Laptop Should I Get for Photo Editing?

For a while now my trusty old Sony Vaio T-series 13” Ultrabook has just about got me by in terms of my editing needs. It’s a few years old but still has a great spec as it was top of the line when I originally bought it – Intel i7-3537U CPU @2.00GHz, 8GB RAM and a recent upgrade to a 500GB Samsung EVO 850 SSD. Despite this I find that clicking through images in my Lightroom library, processing and exporting final edits was becoming increasingly arduous mainly down to the older
My Sony Vaio T-series
model CPU and slower RAM. Alongside this the battery life of this laptop is simply appalling – I’m only able to get around 30 minutes Lightroom editing before the battery fully drains - DREADFUL!

In recent months I’ve found that I’ve been travelling around the UK a lot (and, briefly in New York) on various photography shoots so a small, powerful and portable editing station is essential to carry alongside my usual photography equipment that I cram inside my Lowepro Flipside 500AW backpack. The kit that I usually take to every shoot consists of two camera bodies – Sony A7R and Sony A77ii, several lenses - Samyang AF 50mm f1.4, Samyang AF 35mm f2.8, Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8, Sony LAE-A4 adapter (depending on assignment I may also include the following in my bag – Canon 16-35mm F4L USM, Samyang 24mm f3.5 Tiltshift, Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro) so the backpack immediately becomes pretty heavy with just those lenses and bodies and that’s without adding batteries, Speedlites, Lacie Rugged hard drives and other miscellaneous items. Once I add in my Sony Vaio which weighs 1.65KG then I’ve got a pretty backbreaking trip on my hands. With this in mind weight and size were at the forefront of my mind and would play a massive part in my final decision when purchasing the upgrade I desperately needed.

My Options

Dell XPS 13 (9360)

The Dell XPS 13 comes in quite a few configurations but I was immediately heading to the top spec option – the latest Intel i7-8500U 4 core CPU, 16GB RAM (double what’s in my Sony Vaio, also newer tech and faster memory), 512GB PCIE SSD (again newer tech to the SSD in my Vaio so faster read/write speeds should be achievable). There were two options with this spec – one with a 1920x1080 Full HD resolution non-touch screen, the other a QHD 3200x1800 touch screen, glossy and slightly brighter display. The QHD touch screen version weighs in at 1.29kg so a decent weight saving over my existing Vaio laptop. This laptop from my extensive research has an excellent battery life with a few different websites/reviewers claiming anywhere between 8-12 hours usage off a single charge which is a vast improvement to what I was used to. Another good thing about the XPS 13 is that it still has standard USB 3.0 ports along with 1 USB type-C (Thunderbolt 3 compatible) port. The standard USB 3.0/2.0 ports would allow me to have the dongle of my Logitech mouse plugged in at all times instead of having to get an additional USB type-C hub to plug my mouse dongle in to. It also has a built-in SD card reader (something which I use a lot when transferring my images). Colour accuracy when working with images that I supply for clients is always important to me so it's great to see that this Dell XPS has 93% sRGB colour accuracy.

2018 Dell XP 13 (9370)

This is pretty much spec-wise the same as the other Dell XPS 13 above. However, the 2018 model comes with a slight chassis redesign. It still looks very similar and pretty much performs much the same, however, it does have a new cooling system inside which allows for better sustained performance. This model now instead ditches the USB 3.0 ports and replaces all of these with Thunderbolt/USB Type-C connections which allow for faster data transfers and support for external displays. The newer model also foregoes the standard SD card slot with a micro SD card slot. All of these changes make for a 23.3% thinner laptop which is a significant improvement. It's also 4.7% lighter (1.21kg for the 4k touch screen version) which isn't a huge improvement but when it comes down to it I'm all for reducing the weight of the kit that I carry. At the cost of making it slimmer Dell have changed the battery in this new model which from what I've read doesn't last as long but you can still get a lot of work/web browsing/movie watching done with the still very decent battery. This newer model also betters the previous model in terms of colour accuracy by now offering 100% sRGB in a higher resolution true 4K (3840x2160) display. This laptop really is ticking all the boxes for my needs.

HP Spectre X360 13

The HP Spectre X360 13 from videos, pictures and seeing it in the ‘flesh’ is a stunningly designed
laptop with sleek lines, striking dark ash grey and rose gold styling in a very compact package. The top spec version of this 2-in-1 laptop has an Intel i7-8550U, 16GB RAM and a 1TB PCIE SSD. Weighing in at the same weight as the Dell XPS 13 (9360) 1.29kg it's pretty light also but not as light as the 2018 Dell XPS 13 above. Aside from the design there are a couple of things I really liked about this laptop are that it comes with it's own pen and the screen folds back to convert to a tablet. This could be a handy feature when editing but then again I've got a Wacom tablet for this sort of thing. Another thing that I liked is that it still has a USB 3.0 port alongside the newer (but less supported) USB Type-C connections so that I could leave my mouse dongle plugged in no problem on this laptop also.

ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe

The ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe out of all of the laptops that I considered was in my opinion the best looking – beautiful contrasting navy blue with gold accents in a super slim unit. The top spec version has the same Intel i7-8500U processor, 16GB RAM and a 512GB PCIE SSD which from the reviews/websites I did research on suggested had the fastest read/write speeds out of all the SSD contained in all the laptops I looked at. This laptop only has 3 USB type-C ports with no USB 3.0 ports (so I couldn’t plug my wireless mouse dongle in without using another dongle first). Why the hell are there no USB type-C mouse dongles on the market? Logitech sort it out!
ASUS did well with this ultrabook by fitting a 14” screen in to system the same size as a lot of laptops that have 13” screens. It's also the lightest laptop that I looked at weighing in at 1.1kg which is a big plus point for me. The major downside with the screen is that they only have a 1920x1080 full HD resolution display – a little bit of a shame considering that this laptop was released in a time where a lot of laptops of this size and spec offered 4K or a QHD display. However, I have read that due to scaling issues Lightroom is throttled a little when used on a 4K display. I don't know how true that is but I'm sure this will be something that Adobe will more than likely be looking to support as more and more photographers choose screens with higher resolutions. Let's not forget that even at 1080p this is still an improvement on my Vaio which only has a 1366x768 resolution screen. From reviews I’ve read the colour accuracy isn't as good as the Dell and the brightness of this screen wasn’t as bright as some of other laptops that I looked at in this article.


Ipad Pro

Another option for me is an iPad Pro whether it be the 10.5” version or the slightly larger 12.9” iteration. Both models come with differing storage capacities ranging from 64GB up to 512GB. The 512GB version would be more comparable to the other devices mentioned in this blog and with the 10.5” Wi-Fi only model available for £889, the 12.9” Wi-Fi only model at £1039 its quite an appealing editing solution in terms of overall cost. I could also add on the Apple Pencil for a further £99 and possibly the Smart Keyboard too. I love the interface of iPads, how sleek and portable they are. However, I already own an ageing iPad 2 and iPad Mini Retina and have tried Adobe Lightroom on them and on my iPhone and it still doesn’t have the full functionality I like from the full PC/Mac version so I couldn’t really rely on an iPad Pro. Furthermore, Photoshop is nowhere near as feature laden on iPads as what it is on a desktop.

Macbook Pro

A lot of you reading this will no doubt be screaming at me saying that the only way to go is Apple Macbook Pro! Well, let me explain my reasoning for not even entertaining Apple's flagship laptop. First of all I am not a Windows/Android fanboy or anti-Apple in any way. I own several Apple products - iPads, Apple TV and for the last 7 years have only used iPhones as my mobile phone of choice. I love all these products and they function great for me. I love the design of Apple products whether it be the Apple Watch, iPad or iMacs and I am totally sucked in by their marketing which makes me want every new product they come out with.
What I don't like is the operating system on Mac computers. Having only ever had experience with Windows based computers since I started using computers aside from gaming in the 90's I find that familiarising myself with Macs is going to take a long time (time which I don’t have or even want to dedicate). I have however had quite a bit of experience using Macs whilst in college and even owned a second hand Mac G5 at one point but just couldn’t get used to using them. This is all despite the fact that Macbook Pros, iMacs and Mac Pros are more often than not the standard in the creative industry. Added to my hate of the operating system is the expense of Apple Macbook Pros. Now I realise that some things just run better on Macs so I wouldn’t necessarily need a Macbook with the same spec that I’m looking for in a Windows based laptop to get similar performance or user experience but even an Intel i5 with 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD would set me back nearly £1900 (on Amazon) which is more expensive than any of the Windows laptops mentioned here. I know that these things are built to last, have incredible battery life and superb screen brightness along with colour gamut but for a similar spec 13" Macbook Pro to the Windows based laptops – i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD via the Apple website its nearly £2400! That’s just nuts. In addition, you can't at the moment get a 13" Macbook Pro with an 8th generation Intel i7. So basically Apple is a no-go for me.

Other noteworthy mentions 

The following laptops were also considered but quickly ruled out for one reason or another.

Dell XPS 15 - Available with a great spec but too big and heavy for my needs.
Microsoft Surface Laptop - Beautiful design and lightweight but expensive for the high spec I wanted.
HP Zbook X2 - Stunning design and features. Top spec is a very powerful computer but comes at a very high price. Also pretty bulky and heavy when used as a laptop.
Lenovo Yoga 720 - Not available in the spec I wanted. Couldn't get 16gb RAM
Razer Blade Stealth -  I read a lot of good things about this but I didn't like the design and it weighs a little more than most of the laptops above.

My Final Choice 

Dell XPS 13 9370
I weighed up my options for quite a long time. I did a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the Zenbook Deluxe 3 and the Dell XPS 13 (9360) but then at the start of 2018 Dell announced the slimmer and lighter 9370 model of the XPS 13 which then made my decision a lot easier. I finally went for the brand new Dell XPS 13 9370 with an Intel i7-8550U CPU, 16GB RAM and 512GB M.2 SSD spec. It's not as light as the Zenbook Deluxe 3 but in terms of battery and screen resolution the Dell outperforms the Asus hands down. I received delivery of the laptop a couple of days ago and early impressions are that I made a great decision. I'm loving the 4K InfinityEdge display and I'm blown away by the brightness. It makes both my Vaio and BenQ monitor look very dull at max brightness. The weight and compactness will certainly help when I'm carrying all of my gear to a shoot. Also there's a massive speed increase on my workflow with this new laptop over my old Vaio. I can't wait to use this laptop on my travels to and from different photoshoots. No matter which laptop I chose from the above I was always going to see a big improvement over my old Sony Vaio but I'm glad that I finally went with the Dell.

Dell XPS 13 9370

Thanks for reading. Take a look at my other articles from this blog.

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1 comment:

  1. Regarding your mouse dongle. The simplest solution is to use a bluetooth mouse.