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Old Aug 14, 2007, 5:19 PM   #1
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I currently use a laptop computer that's not quite 3 years old as my only computer. The built-in card reader has died and I could take it into Best Buy for warranty service (which will be up in a couple of months) but I've noticed that it bogs down when Lightroom gets something like 70-80 pictures in the collection. So now I'm thinking of replacing the computer completely.

I figure that any new PC I buy will have Vista and that I'd have to upgrade to Photoshop CS3, which is the most expensive software I have. So now I'm thinking that maybe I should get a Mac instead of another PC, but I'm not sure what I should be looking for as far as RAM with a Mac. Years ago it seemed like Mac was more efficient and you could do the same things using less RAM than with a PC, but I have no idea if that's still true or not.

Could some Mac people give me an idea of what I would need - the computer would be used primarily for photography, with some general use thrown in, too (Microsoft Office, which I would have to replace, I know). I havea 10 mp camera and shoot mostly raw so file size is large (I'll continue to use an external hard drive). I use Lightroom and Photoshop (I have Creative Suite CS2, but never use anything but Acrobat and Photoshop).

Criteria - as light as I can get away with. Ability to add an external monitor (currently use a separate 19" one when I'm home).

How much memory would I need? I currently have 2 GB in my PC laptop but wonder if I need more (is that why LR bogs down so much when I have about 70 pictures in the collection?). If I get a PC I'll definitely get 4 GB. What should I get if I decide on a Mac?

Processor - can I compromise a bit on the processer speedto save money, or is this false economy? I'm clueless when it comes to current mac processors.

Is there anything else I should consider when making a decision of this type? I don't have all that much software invested (a few solitare games) other than Photoshop and Office (LR comes with both Mac and PC versions).
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Old Aug 14, 2007, 5:38 PM   #2
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Actually, the system requirements for a Macintosh are the same as for Vista. (And if you hurry, you can still get XP.)

When the Macintosh used a different microprocessor, things used to be more complicated, but Apple switched over the Intel microprocessors some time ago. Now, the system requirements for applications that run on both are usually the same for both.

But for the same money, a desktop (Mac or PC) will get you a faster processor, more RAM, a bigger hard disk, more expansionpossibilities,more upgrade possibilities, and will last longer. Do you need to carry your entire computer around with you, or just your data? Do you need to compute while on the move, or just in different locations?
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Old Aug 14, 2007, 10:10 PM   #3
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In addition to TCav's advantages of going PC, you can get a lot more competent free software for a PC. Unless you are in the professional graphics community I think a PC is the better buy. It would also be the better buy in the professional graphics community if anyone would talk to you.

I've taken part in Mac versus PC Photoshop comparisons and the one thing I've learned is that until you run out of RAM the main thing that determines the speed of running filters and such is your processor speed. Photoshop and I assume Lightroom can take full advantage of dual core processors and dual processors. And I assume quad core.

There is a point of diminishing returns on processor speed though. Your best bang for the buck is something less than the very latest and greatest processor. This is a very good article with attention to pricing versus overall speed: http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/07/...007/index.html Pay attention to their motherboard chipset recommendations as well. If you must have a laptop I doubt it will be of much use though.

You do better in Photoshop with two hard drives. If you absolutely need a laptop that might be a problem. Putting the scratch disk on a second partition doesn't help much. You want fast HDs with a good buffer. I'm not a big fan of striped RAID even though it does give a performance advantage.

Something is going on in your machine that doesn't seem right. 2 Gigs should be plenty enough to run Lightroom.

I would go with Vista. Going from Win95 to Win98 to SE to XP were all great improvements. At each stage people were not recommending the upgrade after release saying the older system was more reliable. Unless M$ has become a stumbling bureaucracy I anticipate Vista will also prove to be the better OS once the learning curve has kicked in and M$ has sorted out any glitches.

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Old Aug 14, 2007, 10:42 PM   #4
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I'd get a refurb macbook pro. The refurbs have the same warranty but you will want the better graphics from the macbooks. If you plan on using any virtual computers more memory is a big plus. If you want the memory covered in apple care later you can always have an apple store add more memory. The macbook is lighter than a 15" macbookpro but the big hit in graphics isn't worth it IMO. You can get a pretty good refurb for around $2k. I wouldn't say it's more efficient at memory usage though. You could just reformat the PC with XP and just reload the programs you use and see if that speeds things up unless the pc is fairly old. I can say I prefer OSX FAR more than Vista.
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Old Aug 14, 2007, 11:38 PM   #5
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Thanks for the responses and the link (interesting reading). For some additional information: I do travel quite a bit and have gotten used to being able to do an initial "cut" on my pictures wherever I happen to be. I often have time in the evenings to do quite a bit of processing so whatever I get has to run Photoshop and Lightroom. While I know that can get more for my money with a desktop, it just seems like an unnecessary expense to have two computers (am I wrong here?). Plus it's just easier for me to stay organized with only one computer.

As far as my current computer - it's almost 3 years old now so it isn't a dual processor (Pentium M). I don't think erasing the hard drive and re-installing everything is the answer - the hard drive itself (along with the optical drive and one of the USB ports) were replaced a couple of months ago under Best Buy's extended warranty, so the software is relatively fresh installs (with lots of time spent downloading updates - glad I'm no longer on dial-up!).

The internal card reader died a couple of days ago and I'm not too sure that Best Buy is going to be willing to repair it - they may just do their "replacement" thing. As I understand it, they essentially give you a voucher toward whatever new computer you want in their store. I'll probably do that but wanted to see what others had to say about the Mac - my other half thinks that the iMacs are really cool, and if we are going to change operating systems, now would be a good time since I'd have to buy upgrades for what I have anyway.

I'm also starting to think that getting a newer, faster computer would be a better idea than just getting mine fixed. Lightroom works fine as long as I have fewer than about 50 photos loaded in it, then it suddenly starts to bog down. To be fair, I tried using the Pentax browser and raw converter software and found that they were really slow, too, when I was looking at a folder with about 70 pictures in it. I've done the "start in safe mode, scan for viruses and spyware" thing and it comes up clean (that was my first thought). I thought it might have to do with my external hard drive, so for several days I ran using just the laptop's HD and it as long as I didn't add too many pictures, it worked fine, but bogged down when Igot too many(and the scan of the external HD was clean). There was a definite correlation between how many pictures there were active in Lightroom and how fast it operated (like it was working fine until it reached a certain point and then it slowed to a crawl).

Sorry to go on so long - as you can tell, I'm frustrated with computers in general at the moment. I have fond memories of using a Mac at work in the early - mid 1990s and they seemed so easy to get along with. Perhaps I'm chasing a by-gone fantasy, rather than something that's realistic now.
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Old Aug 15, 2007, 2:20 AM   #6
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Ctrl+Alt+Del takes you to Task Manager. Go to the Processes tab and add some columns. View > Select Columns.

Check: CPU Usage, CPU Time, Memory Usage, Peak Memory Usage, Image Name, User Name and Virtual Memory Size.

Now fill up Lightroom until it slows and see what kind of memory it is using. Also check the Performance tab and see what it is showing.

If you have Photoshop open when you are using Lightroom it might be holding over half of your RAM in reserve for its own use. I think it defaults to 60% but most people with that much RAM set it a little higher. Try shutting down Photoshop when you are using Lightroom except when you are actually editing an image.


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Old Aug 15, 2007, 4:06 AM   #7
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mtngal wrote:
Quote:
While I know that can get more for my money with a desktop, it just seems like an unnecessary expense to have two computers (am I wrong here?).
Actually, yes. Two desktop computers, each of which is equivalent in all resepects to a laptop, will cost less than the laptop. The laptop would be bleeding-edge technology, but the desktops would be two year old technology.

mtngal wrote:
Quote:
Plus it's just easier for me to stay organized with only one computer.
There is that.

mtngal wrote:
Quote:
As far as my current computer - it's almost 3 years old now so it isn't a dual processor (Pentium M).
Three years old is really old for a laptop. Remember that state-of-the-art laptopsuse technology that, asside from the power saving features, has been available for 2 to 3 years on desktops.

mtngal wrote:
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The internal card reader died a couple of days ago and I'm not too sure that Best Buy is going to be willing to repair it - they may just do their "replacement" thing. As I understand it, they essentially give you a voucher toward whatever new computer you want in their store.
Something that makes me shy away from Best Buy, et al., is that all the computers they stock are loaded with the Vista Home edition. If all you want to do is Social Studies homework, play games, IM, and surf the web, that's fine. But if you've got work to do, the Home edition has a bunch of stuff that gets in the way, and doesn't have stuff that will make your work easier.

mtngal wrote:
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my other half thinks that the iMacs are really cool, and if we are going to change operating systems, now would be a good time since I'd have to buy upgrades for what I have anyway.
There is that.

But that coolness comes at a price. For laptop computers that are hardware equivalent, a Mac will cost about $500 more than a Dell Latitude (for instance).

I had hoped that, when Apple switched over to Intel processors, the cost of their computers would come down. Silly me.

Another hidden cost is unlearning everything you know about Windows, so you can start learning about how to keep your Mac running. One important thing you have to do on a Mac is ocassionally repair the disk permissions. The Mac operating system runs on top of BSD Unix, which is a direct decendant of AT&T's Unix. A knownbug in that original Unix has never been fixed, so the disk permissions get currupted routinely, and if left too long, will cause strange, and seemingly unrelated problems. The original AT&T Unix manual recommends that the disk permissions be repaired about every two weeks, but that was for a minicomputer that was running 24/7.

One final note: To be sure, anything that is heavily graphics related will run faster on a Mac than on an equivalentPC. That is less true since the introduction of Vista, but it's still true.
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Old Aug 15, 2007, 9:15 AM   #8
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Thanks again for all this information - I hadn't thought about Photoshop retaining so much memory. I did check the task manager, and the graph shows 100% CPU usage when LR slows down so much. I went into the process list and promptly got overwhelmed with my ignorance. There's lots of stuff showing that I'm totally clueless about and when I started googling some of them, found out that a number of them are rather generic names for things that various programs use and I sure couldn't figure out that tangle! Tonight I'll shut down PS when I'm not actually using it and see if that makes a difference.

As far as Best Buy's computers go - my first laptop died after 18 months, so when I bought this one, I made sure I got the extended warranty. It's been well worth the extra money considering what I've had to have replaced this year, but it's not my first choice of places to go this time. Having two deskto computers isn't really an option - I go to too many different places and travel enough that there's no way I can work around not having a laptop (and I enjoy having one, too - makes long drives easier when someone else is driving).

Thanks for the information about Vista Homehaving stuff that gets in the way (always drives me nuts).I'll most likely order from Dell and now know to get the otherversion of the system.
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Old Aug 15, 2007, 9:20 AM   #9
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You may want to try tuning your Lightroom settings some first. It's probably the building of the thumbnail previews causing the slowdown with you have a lot of images in a folder. This article may help:

Five Ways to Speed Up Lightroom - O'Reilly Digital Media Blog

As for the Mac, I have seen some comments that Lightroom runs much better on an equivalent Intel Mac with OSX 10.4 versus a similar machine with Windows. But, I haven't seen any controlled conditions tests.

Here are some comments on speed in the Adobe Forums:

http://www.adobeforums.com/cgi-bin/webx/.3bc36bf8/14

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Old Aug 15, 2007, 11:10 AM   #10
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Thanks very much for these links, too- they are very interesting and now I can't wait to get home tonight and try their suggestions. What they say sounds pretty logical (about doing the different previews) and it is the previews that suddenly slow down to a crawl that's been driving me crazy. I should have asked about this here a while ago, I would have saved myself quite a bit of frustration!
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