Crowdsourcing input for a new computer

by DaniGirl on July 19, 2012 · 10 comments

in Consumer culture

So, my three year old laptop is circling the drain and I’m thinking about upgrading. I’m crowdsourcing random opinions.

I thought the debate was laptop versus desktop. From what I understand, most pro photographers would be horrified to find out I do all my photo editing on a laptop. Desktops are cheaper and better for photo editing, but are not really portable.

But my existing laptop isn’t even portable any more – the battery has been dead for more than a year, so can’t even unplug it long enough to move it across the room. I can still pack it up and take it on vacation, as long as I can find a power source.

Now, though, Macs are in the mix. We have access to software that I thought we could only get the PC version, but we can apparently get Mac. But my Lightroom and everything else are PC, too, and I’ve never so much as used a Mac. Of course, they’re the king daddy of photo-friendly computers, but are also very expensive.

Ugh, I am conflicted and confused. What do you think? This will be mostly my computer, but probably the family computer at one point in its lifetime. I need an excellent monitor, a big hard drive and a whack of RAM. I don’t take it on the road often, but hate the idea of traveling without Lightroom.

I am clueless. I’m only >this< far above choosing a shiny one in blue because it matches my shoes. Any recommendations or things to watch for? I don't even know what criteria to use to evaluate a potential computer. Help!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leanne July 19, 2012 at 10:35 am

Well, first off, go buy yourself a battery. They’re pretty reasonable and easy to get.

Second, if a desktop is cheaper, have your business buy a desktop.

Third, take the few hundred you save on the desktop and get your laptop spruced up by a computer tech.

Portability AND editing power.

2 Karen Humphrey July 19, 2012 at 11:02 am

I’ll ask my teen, who is the computer geek of the family and really knows his stuff. We have a PC desktop (which I love) that I do all my serious work on, and an old Macbook for the basics. I find the Macbook slow and frustrating. If it were upgraded, then it would likely be much better. Kev has always said that Macs are way overpriced, but they are user friendly.

He’ll be up around noon, I think. Will come back and tell you!

3 kev July 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

I’ll pimp Macs, and am happy to go over why with you (we can meet at chilly chiles!!!). ๐Ÿ™‚ We have six at home, and the lack of problems they give us makes them well worth the premium they charge (which, for the hardware included, is actually not that much). Adobe will also (usually) allow you to do a cross-platform upgrade for people who switch. It costs a few bucks, but it’s not full price.

4 Anonymous July 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I’m pretty sure when I switched to a Mac, I just downloaded a new version of Lightroom. I didn’t need to pay again; my license covered both versions.

5 Kate Wilhelm July 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Oops, that last comment was me. Not sure why it came through as anonymous.

6 Jen July 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I feel compelled to tell you to try out a Mac if you haven’t before. My husband switched over last year after a lifetime of being pro-PC, and I hate that thing with the fire of a thousand suns. Really, really hate it. I use Office a lot, and the Mac programs are a sad, sad imitation. I also use keyboard shortcuts almost exclusively over the mouse, and none of my shortcuts work on the Mac. Plus, I think it’s an old wives tail that they crash less…his Mac has more problems than my PC (Windows 7 is very stable). Every time I see someone contemplating the switch I feel I need to offer a contrary opinion to all the rabid Mac fans!

7 kev July 20, 2012 at 9:57 am

* foams at mouth *
MS Office for Mac is a terrible, terrible, terrible piece of trash. Agreed. The programs crash, but the Mac very rarely does. If you’ll be using Word a lot, especially if you have redlines, I would agree it needs to die in a fire. I use Parallels to run Word, but Excel and Powerpoint on OSX I find are pretty decent.

I have no issue with Windows, and we have a couple for gaming and work, I just prefer the Mac for a bunch of reasons, and totally agree that if you are a serious PC user the transition is hard. It’s really a personal preference, and you are bang on with the “try before you buy” comment.

8 DaniGirl July 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Hmmmm, all so interesting.

While my heart wants to be a rabid Mac fangirl, just like I’ll rave to anyone who listens about my iPhone, I am seriously leaning toward a PC, not least of which because I can get one that will eat my current one for breakfast, for less than $600 and it seems double the cost for anything similar in a Mac.

And they have one in blue! ๐Ÿ˜‰

9 Anonymous July 23, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I am a photographer and it’s MAC all the way. I went to an IMac a couple of years ago and have not regretted it one second. I have Office for Mac and have never had a problem. I also have Pages which I purchased from the App store for $19.99. With pages I can open doc files and save as a doc file to be opened in Word. I use both programs all the time. 99.9% of all documents I receive are Word files and I have never had a problem opening and viewing them in Pages which I also have installed on my Ipad which I take to meetings with me.

Lightroom is great. I have never had a problem with Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver. My photography partner has 2 IMacs and 4 Macbook Pros and would never go back to PC.

Yes, the cost is substantially more for Mac than PC but I am so happy with my IMac and it’s 21″ screen which is so incredibly crisp and clear.

Best of luck which ever way you decide to go

10 Dave August 8, 2012 at 8:11 am

I’ve driven my brother’s BMW, and it’s fun to drive, but for me there’s just no justifying the price over my Mazda (which is a peppy ride and has all the trimmings his Bimmer does). It’s similar with Mac and PC. Mac is a premium brand, and charges a premium over PCs. If you go the PC route, though, don’t just get any old PC at FutureShop… not all PCs are created equal. In fact, cheaper ones tend to be less reliable. I’ve been in IT for 14 years, and I’ve worked with a lot of different machines: Asus, Gateway, Toshiba, Samsung seem to be great machines. Business-class Dells are great, consumer-class are not so great. Steer clear of HP and Acer. And shop around… don’t be afraid to wait for a sale.

If the only problem with your laptop is battery life, then getting a new battery will help for sure… but they are $100-$200… which is a lot to drop if you’re going to upgrade in 6 months or a year anyhow. You can also upgrade the memory (if it’s not already at 4GB, which is likely the max on your laptop), and that’s not too pricey, but will only improve a certain aspect of your performance (like if you find it really slow switching between applications, especially if you often have many open at a time or are working with large files). Upgrading your Hard Drive to an SSD is probably the single biggest performance boost you can get for your laptop, and they have come down in price so far lately, you can get one for about $100 (You won’t have as much space on your laptop as before, but being a photographer, you probably store everything on external drives anyhow).

These are all things that will extend the life of your current laptop, but add them up and they may very well come close to the price of a new desktop anyhow. If you don’t travel with your laptop, don’t bother with one… get a desktop for all the serious work, and an iPad for having around the living room and stuff. We got an iPad for Christmas, and the laptop almost never comes out any more.

If you decide to go Mac, look into their refurbished products. You can get a good-as-new (with a full warranty, no less) for a couple of hundred dollars less sometimes. A Mac Mini is actually a great machine (if you’re willing to go DVD-free!) and can be had, decked out, for $1000.

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