Buying a laptop: what kind of computer specs would I need to do this?

I’m interested in buying a laptop for doing some graphic design, simple vector animation (flash), raster image editing, sound recording, and some movie editing. I’d like to be able to run Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop simultaneously, and I’d expect to have some largish files open at times. I’m trying not to spend too much money here (less than $1000 if possible), but I also don’t want to be stuck with a computer that doesn’t adequately address my needs. A friend of mine claims that beyond a certain number of gigahertz (he estimates around 1.4 GHz), that any additional CPU isn’t really worth spending the money on because the speed difference will be negligible since I won’t be playing games, and what’s really important is that I have plenty of RAM available. I see his point, but I’m not sure he’s right. What’s the consensus on this argument, and what kind of specs would you expect I’d need to do the things I’d want to do?

Eh, sounds about right. A 1.4 Ghz pentium M(Aka pentium 3 of Centrino) and 1.4 ghz A64’s(actually I don’t think they make them that slow) are pretty damn fast.

I believe the p4’s are better at photoshop then the pentium 3’s but you need a high clocking p4 to match a Pentium M. I’d estimate 2.5 ghz + at least.

I’d recommend 512 ram minimum – and to buy it from a third party dealer. Buying ram from a laptop manufactorer is highway robbery. I recommend

I don’t own one myself, but most hardcore graphics/sound/other media people swear by Macs, so that might be a route you want to try. I work on one (desktop though) at…well, work, and they don’t seem to choke quite as hard on graphics files as Windows machines do…that’s just anecdotal though, I’ve not run any tests.

Macs cost an arm and a leg.

If you look for laptop deals you can find great ones for less then a 1000.

Dell had 750 off 1500 dollar coupons last month and a month or two before that.

There are many deal sites such as or (hot deals forums).

Oh, and the budget processors such as the celeron, celeron M and the Sempron while they are great processers their reduced L2 cache I believe kills their graphic processing performance.

What kind of sound recording are you going to do? Do you know what software you want to use?

I recently got setup with a Digidesign M-Box. It’ll do 2 tracks at once and 32 total tracks using Pro Tools. (I’m probably going to upgrade to a Digi-rack at some point. I am totally sold on Digidesigns stuff)

The required specs are:

AMD Athlon 64 or 64 FX Processor

VIA K8T800, VIA K8T800 PRO, or NVIDIA nForce3 chipset
Socket 754 or 939 motherboard
384 MB minimum of supported RAM*
512 MB or higher highly recommended
AMD Athlon XP Processor (2000+)

VIA KT266A or NVIDIA nForce chipset
384 MB minimum of supported RAM*
512 MB or higher highly recommended
Intel Pentium 4 or Xeon Processor (2.4GHz+)

Intel 865PE, 875P, 925XE, 915GV, or 915GL chipset with P4
Asus P4C800-E motherboard (P4 w/875P)
384 MB minimum of supported RAM*
512 MB or higher highly recommended

If you are going to use something like Protools, I’d suggest getting the required processor and putting any extra money into RAM. Also note, if you are going to get something like Protools there might be motherboard or other requirements you have to check out before buying.


Does it have to be laptop? You can get a desktop with all the required hardware and some extras for under $1000 if you build it yourself.

Just a suggestion, in case the laptop isn’t a necessity.

I would highly reccomend going with a Pentium M or a Turion (AMD’s low power version of the Athlon 64) in a laptop - Pentium 4’s draw lots of power, and get really hot. An Athlon 64 wouldn’t be bad either. Also, while the regular Pentium 4 based Celeron is a dog of a chip, the Celeron M is rather speedy (though it uses more power than the Pentium M it is based off of, due to Speed-step being disabled.) The socket 754 Sempron chips aren’t too shabby performance wise either.

I also second Harmonix suggestion of buying more RAM separtely - the link he gave to Crucial is a good place to buy RAM from.

This Turion laptop might be a good chioice - it has a 1.6ghz Turion, 512 MB of RAM, and one of the better integrated video chipsets, the Radeon xPress 200M. $790 after mail in rebates.

      • The slowest part of a typical desktop or laptop computer is BY FAR the hard drive. Normal laptop hard-drives spin at 5400 RPM, but there are now 7200-RPM hard drives for laptops. They are a hot item and a bit tough to get a hold of but they are out there. They cost about double or a bit more than that compared to what a regular 5400-RPM drive costs per-gig of space. Newegg lists none but MWave lists one, a 60-gig Apricorn for $201. People online who hae laptops set up with these drives simply RAVE about how much faster overall they work. And I know first-hand that a desktop with a (high-speed) 10,000-RPM hard-drive just “feels” faster than one that is using an older 7400-RPM hard drive.
  • I don’t know any regular retailer that has laptops with 7400’s alread installed for sale, but I haven’t really shopped. If it is anywhere it owuld be a higher-end brand like ALienware or whatever. What I would do if I needed to get a laptop would be get a lower-end model that had a gig of RAM, 802.11g wireless and a DVD-burner drive, and then take out the regular hard-drive and put a 7200-RPM one in. SInce changing out the hard-drive will probably void the warranty anyway, you might as well shop around for RAM as well.

Ditto that.

My current rig is a 1998-vintage PowerBook, accelerated to roughly 2001 speeds (G4/500) and crammed with all the RAM it will take (512) but what makes it still-useful in the modern world are the dual Hitachi 7200 RPM 60 gig drives I’ve got in it :slight_smile: Applications that use a scratch disk for temp files are set up to use the non-boot drive, and the OS uses (of course) the boot drive for its swapfile.

I gotta agree with this. IME, laptops sacrifice power for size and price. If you’re willing to spend a lot of money, you can get a fast laptop, but you can get a faster desktop for cheaper.

If you must go the laptop route, buying the 7200 RPM hard drive is essential. A 5400 RPM hard drive is noticeably slower.

Thanks for all the responses so far.

Yeah, I know I could easily build something awesome with $1000 if it were a desktop. In fact, I did that a couple years ago, and so I already have a reasonably fast desktop (2.4 gHz). The issue is that I don’t want to be confined to a certain setting. Changes of environment are nice. :slight_smile:

To answer the question above, the type of sound recording I’d do would involve multitracking on a Pro-tools-like interface (I use Cool Edit). I wouldn’t be doing much real-time effects processing.