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Old February 18th, 2007, 03:34 AM   #1
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What to look for in a laptop/tablet PC?

Hi there,
I realise there are several "I need a laptop" threads already, though they all seem to be asking something more specific. The closest I found to a more general thread went back to 2005 and I'm sure things are different now. If this does belong somewhere else, I apologise and feel free to move it!

My problem is that there are so many laptops on the market and so many variations that I really don't know even where to start. I'm totally lost. Here's roughly what I think I'm going to need -

Decent screen (obviously!)
Good processing power - I will be using it for video editing and animation and will likely be going heavy on effects rendering.
Good graphics card - I guess for helping me work as close to real-time as possible with animation.
DVD burner.
Large hard drive.
Firewire port.
Built-in wireless thingy.
PC rather than Mac (only because I have bought loads of PC software over the years).
I will be travelling with this so weight would be a consideration (though just about everything else on this list is more important).

Now there may be other things I'll need that I'm not considering. I need it to be capable of rendering multiple layers of effects. Program-wise, I'll be starting with After Effects but I'm looking to buy Vegas soon so that's a consideration. I'll also need it to be good with Photoshop and Flash.

Money really isn't a massive consideration - getting a good laptop will ultimately save me more than squeezing the budget. Obviously I'd have to do a lot more weighing up for the $5000 end than I would around $1000-2000 but take it that there isn't a limit.

But my problem is that, while I know my programs, I'm not computer savvy. Not one bit. So I see cores and processors and cards and I'm having a really hard time telling good from bad. Advice on the net seems to be a bit all over the place because different people have different needs but I thought you guys, as DV experts, would have needs far closer to my own. So any recommendations or advice in terms of what I should be looking for in a laptop?

The screens on those high-end VAIOs look nice but that's about all I know about them. And the top-end Dell laptops have what seem (to my untechnical eye) to have impressive specs.

And how about Tablet PCs? These seem relatively new. Would these mean I could work on them like a Wacom tablet? That would be great (as it would save me lugging around a seperate graphics tablet) but I'm not sure they're at that stage yet. They certainly look good but I know very little about them.

Any advice or pointers would be hugely appreciated. I've been looking for a laptop for quite some time now and the more I find, the more baffled I get!

TIA,
Jason.
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Old February 24th, 2007, 08:42 PM   #2
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Core 2 Duo - as fast as you can get
2 GB or more of Ram
Nvidia or ATI graphics rather than embedded Intel chipset graphics.
7200 RPM Hard Drive

At this point, XP, not Vista.

I'm a fan of the Thinkpad T workstation - but that is personal pref, not specific to video
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Old February 25th, 2007, 04:05 AM   #3
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Thanks for the info. I'm not sure I've even seen a laptop with 7200 RPM hard drive so I must be looking at the wrong ones. I think the highest I've seen has been 5200 or something similar.
Cheers.
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Old February 25th, 2007, 11:00 AM   #4
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The best solution is to find a retailer that sells a laptop meeting all your hardware needs right out of the box.

One possible alternative is to go ahead and purchase the best laptop for your application, and then upgrade the hardrive yourself. I succesfully did this a couple of years ago with a Gateway laptop that came with a 5400rpm Hitachi drive. I did some online research, found an online retailer that carried the exact same Hitachi drive at 7200rpm (can't recall the exact business name) and also sold an external drive enclosure with software that could clone your old drive onto the new. I bought the package, ran the software to clone my old drive onto the new, shutdown the pc and physically swapped drives, turned it back on and it worked like a charm. I had to re-register some software and adjust some XP settings, but no problems otherwise.

Please note that this was the first and last time I opened up my pc, not a regular task for myself, but following directions it worked great. Also, my laptop was >1 year old and beyond the original purchase warranty. Some retailers will void any applicable warranty if an unauthorized person or dealer performs hardware modifications.

Good luck!
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Old February 25th, 2007, 04:28 PM   #5
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Newegg.com has 7200rpm laptop drives.
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Old February 25th, 2007, 06:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Tammemagi
PC rather than Mac (only because I have bought loads of PC software over the years).
When I started reading your post the first recommendation I was going to give you is to get a MacBook Pro until I read that. Apple does offer software that allows you to run Windows XP or Vista natively. This will give you the best of both worlds. Use Windows for all your office work and games while use Tiger for all your video editing and going online.

Last edited by Paulo Teixeira; February 26th, 2007 at 03:22 PM.
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Old February 26th, 2007, 02:13 PM   #7
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Ah! Now I didn't know that at all. Thanks for that nugget. That opens up a whole other set of options. I really appreciate the help and advice.
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Old February 26th, 2007, 03:37 PM   #8
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When Apple dumped IBM, and choose Intel for the processors they figured that they’ll be a lot of hackers porting Windows on their new computers, so they decided to release software that allow the average person to install Windows.

Here is a link that talks about the software. Its free but you still have to buy a full version of Windows XP.
http://www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 01:17 PM   #9
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One thing, 5400rpm IS fast enough to capture and 5400 is considered the sweet spot of laptops in regards to balancing battery life and performance.
You can always get an external 7200 rpm drive. that's what I did with my Dell laptop.
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Old March 10th, 2007, 10:26 AM   #10
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Internal VS External HD and 5400rpm vs 7200rpm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Luce View Post
One thing, 5400rpm IS fast enough to capture and 5400 is considered the sweet spot of laptops in regards to balancing battery life and performance.
You can always get an external 7200 rpm drive. that's what I did with my Dell laptop.
Hmm..this is interesting. I read in DV for Dummies 4th Edition that External HDs should only be used as a last resort for editing (not storing) DV and that 7200rpm HD was a minimum requirement. Not true?

I am new to DV. Recently purchased a used Mint Condition Panasonic DVC60. Seems to work fine, but now I need to transfer the hour of test footage I shot to my computer. I am planning to upgrade my Dell Inspiron 9300 (Pentium M 740 1.73GHz/533MHz FSB) from an 80 GB 5200rpm HD to a new 100 GB 7200rpm HD and install *only* XP SP2 and Adobe Premier Elements 3.0. Would also upgrade from 1 GB RAM to 2. I've got an 256MB NVIDIA 6800 video card and a 17" True Life Wide screen UXGA display. What do you think folks?
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Old March 10th, 2007, 11:19 AM   #11
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When I bought my latest laptop computer I shopped several major manufacturers and ended up buying a Dell Latitude D820 with a 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 160GB/5400 RPM internal hard drive. As far as the hard drive is concerned, I decided that maximum capacity was more important than maximum speed, and so far I'm satisfied with the results. I can edit two layers of 1080i HDV material directly from the boot drive with minimal dropped frames, or several layers of DV material with no dropped frames. Plus with an optional "media bay" battery my laptop will run about 6-7 hours continously on batteries, which is amazing compared to my last laptop.

I've been doing most of my editing for some time now using external USB2 hard drives, but am thinking of upgrading to something with a Firewire 800 interface for improved performance. Or you can use "eSATA" hard drives on a laptop to get performance essentially the same as that of internal drives on a desktop computer, so there are few limitations in that regard these days. Just note that Firewire 800 drives can be bus-powered for mobility while eSATA apparently can't, which is why I'm leaning toward the former.

Bottom line today is that the Core 2 Duo processors work great at a reasonable price, so any laptop based on those is worth a look. The Macbook Pros could be a good choice if you need to run both Mac and Windows software, but consider what that involves carefully before going that route.
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Old March 11th, 2007, 01:03 PM   #12
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Will My Proposed Upgrade be adequate?

Thanks for the info, but I was wondering if the proposed upgrade to my current laptop (as described in the post above yours) would be adequate. I'd lke to avoid the expense of a new laptop if possible. I posted a more detailed description of my gear and upgrade proposal to the DV Assistant forum. Thanks again.
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Old March 11th, 2007, 05:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merton Gaudette View Post
I am planning to upgrade my Dell Inspiron 9300 (Pentium M 740 1.73GHz/533MHz FSB) from an 80 GB 5200rpm HD to a new 100 GB 7200rpm HD and install *only* XP SP2 and Adobe Premier Elements 3.0. Would also upgrade from 1 GB RAM to 2. I've got an 256MB NVIDIA 6800 video card and a 17" True Life Wide screen UXGA display. What do you think folks?
For DV editing those sound like decent upgrades, but don't spend too much if you think you may eventually upgrade to a faster laptop for HD work. The hard drive swap in particular could make a noticeable difference in performance.
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Old March 12th, 2007, 05:34 PM   #14
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Thanks very much for all the very helpful info Kevin. I'll probably spend a year or so learning the DV basics w/ my DVC60, before I upgrade to a better, HD camera. The upgrade to my laptop will cost me about $600.00, which isn't bad at all for a newbie editing system. But now I'm wondering if 100 GB drive is big enough; perhaps I should consider a much larger USB 2.0 External Drive? If memory serves, you mentioned using such drives for editing in a previous post.
Thanks again! I really appreciate the way all you experienced pros share your knowledge.
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Old March 14th, 2007, 04:56 AM   #15
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desktop replacement vs portability

There is always a tradeoff between ultraportable laptops and Bigger, Beefier Desktop replacement's. The ultraportables (Tablet Pc's and anything under 4lbs) will give you great portability and on the go performance with batteries lasting up to 3hrs, but rudementary performance and lower voltage CPU's. On the other hand, Desktops replacements will give you bigger/ faster drives, larger screens, seperate video cards and memory, but low battery life (half hour or so) and way a ton.
I have a desktop replacement, but It seems to just stay on my desktop. It's just too much pain to pack up and lug that thing around.
I think a great trade off is the IBM Lenovo x60, light weight tablet PC that can come with an optional docking station. That way I can capture with the docking station hooked up to my external drives, an once I get an edit into the system, I can take the laptop anywhere I want to go with ease.
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