Need help choosing laptop that can handle occasional CS5

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Paco, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. Paco macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #1
    I'm a freelance graphic designer, but have just accepted a job that 95% of the time will have nothing to do with design. But because of my skill set, I'll be asked to design the occasional project.

    I've been told I have a $2000 budget to buy a laptop, software, and external monitor. (Obviously, buying CS5 blows a huge hole in the budget, so I'm treating that expense separately for the moment.)

    Before I realized I needed to accommodate running CS5, I'd been leaning toward one of the new 2011 MBA's -- I've got two hours of commute time each day and thought the MBA would make it more feasible to get some work done on the commuter bus (though I'll also have a work smartphone available for email and other tasks).

    The other option is a 13" MBP, which is what most of the other staff have. It's slightly less commute-friendly and has a lower res screen, but is somewhat more powerful and more upgradeable (RAM and harddrive).

    But with the CS5 curve ball thrown in, I'm back on the fence. Is it insane to think the MBA can handle light Photoshop, InDesign (small documents), and a little Illustrator? Is max 4GB RAM just too low? Is it future proof enough if I'm going to be stuck with it for 3+ years? Is the 13" MBP much better on any of those points?

    I'm actually not all that picky about blazing fast performance in CS5 (though I am for productivity things like Office, Firefox, email, etc). I successfully freelanced for 3 years using CS3 on a Core2Duo 15" MBP with 2GB of RAM (a painful six months of that without an external monitor). I'm thankful those days are over, but for the occasional work project, I expect I can put up with some less than optimal performance.

    Also, does anybody have suggestions for a low cost 24" external monitor that isn't awful (even if it's TN)? I have a Dell IPS display at home connected to my 27" iMac and I'm happy with both screens, but I don't think it's worth $399 of my budget for a refurbished Dell 2408WFP, given the small amount of design work I'll be doing. I can start a new thread for that somewhere else if I need to.

    Another caveat -- I know some people here don't like the integrated graphics on the MBA and 13" MBP, but I don't expect my usage will really get me into much trouble with that. And anyway, I'd have to bump up to the 15" to avoid it, which puts me over budget pretty quickly.

    Any feedback would be appreciated!! Thanks!
     
  2. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    Location:
    A World of my Own; UK
    #2
    To be honest, if my five-year-old black MacBook with 2Gb of RAM could handle CS5, I honestly can't see why you'd have issues with a MacBook Air. The benchmarks on these new ones are pretty impressive, so I think you'll be fine.

    Cheers!

    Jim
     
  3. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Location:
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    #3
    This. Photoshop isn't near as intensive as people are led to believe it is, even with huge files.

    At work we had Photoshop CS4 running easily on some seriously crappy outdated hardware.

    My air handles ZBrush just fine as well as CS5, Maya (which is a miserable experience due to screen size), and Unity.
     
  4. ktbubster macrumors 6502a

    ktbubster

    Joined:
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    US
    #4
    My 2.2 white macbook (pre-unibody) handles CS5 just fine most of the time, while running a bunch of other stuff, and the new macbook air (heck even the one before this) is a hop skip and a jump more powerful than that, so you won't have any problem at all. I think the new macbook air is more powerful (says the latest geekbench scores i believe) than the 2009 macbook pro even.... so you'll have a better machine.

    If you're concerned, you can get a refurbished 13inch macbook pro which is still, i'd say, pretty darn commuter friendly, and have a nice portion of the budget left over, but i think the new macbooks airs are still pretty close in power. Also if you want to bump up to a 15 for some reason (although the graphics wont' really do much to help cs5 even) again their are great deals in the refurb store that will keep you well under budget.

    as for the monitor, check dells direct sales site http://www.dfsdirectsales.com/dell/ctl641/cp57131/cl2/monitors as they update. The 2208s aren't bad even though they are just 22

    Also - LG and Viewsonic make some decent IPS monitors now, widescreen 23 inches 1080p, which I find rather pleasant for the price... under 250 you can't go wrong.
     
  5. cdcastillo macrumors 6502a

    cdcastillo

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    #5
    +1
     
  6. AlanShutko macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2008
    #6
    My Mid-2009 can't do Airdrop, but it does fine with Illustrator, PS, InDesign and Flash. You're stuck with a small screen, but it works fine (and some apps like Flash have predefined workspaces for small screens). I have the SSD which helps a lot when I swap, but I was able to use CS4 and CS5 with the original Rev A MBA as long as I was occasionally patient.

    Sure, it's GREAT to have a quad-core i7 with a 27" screen, but I don't often need to go upstairs to use it.
     
  7. THX1139 macrumors 68000

    THX1139

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2006
    #7
    The problem isn't running the software, it's the file sizes you need to worry about. Something you haven't talked about so giving you advice without that information is a waste of time.
     
  8. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

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    A World of my Own; UK
    #8
    Oh, for goodness' sake, the OP has already said:

    …Which means that the advice I've offered is really not a waste of time.

    Cheers

    Jim
     
  9. Apple OC macrumors 68040

    Apple OC

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  10. TheGenerous macrumors 6502a

    TheGenerous

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    #10
    My 2003 Dell inspiron handles occasional CS5 just fine
     
  11. Liquinn Suspended

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2011
    #11
    My 27 month Windows laptop can run it fine and it only has 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hdd lolz, and that's saying something :D
     
  12. Paco thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #12
    Thanks for the helpful replies!

    Thanks for all of the helpful replies, everyone. You've given me a lot to think about. It's nice to know the MBA could handle the load. I'll have to stop by the apple store this week and do a real hands on evaluation for weight/size and commuting. If the 13" MBP feels small enough to lug around, it sounds like it might be the better value, even though the MBA is definitely exerting a strong pull.

    @Apple OC: I've loved my old 2007 15" MBP, but I think a 15" is too big to cart with me everyday.

    @ktbubster: Thanks for the monitor suggestions. I'll keep an eye out for the 22" on the Dell site. That's what I currently have as my second monitor at home and I've been quite happy with it. And I'll definitely check out the LG and Viewsonic, too.

    Not sure what THX is on about. I tried to be as detailed as I could in my original post, and I'd be glad to provide additional info if asked. If he's referring to the size of individual files -- I don't expect to be working on many 2gb photoshop files. If he's talking about overall harddrive space -- yeah, that's a small concern with the MBA. I don't want to be tethered to an external harddrive too soon.

    Thanks again, everybody!!
     
  13. klinic macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2011
    #13
    I commonly (as in 4 days a week) commute with my 17" MBP. :/ It doesn't really bother me. Admittedly it did back when I had to do a fair bit more walking, but taking the bus or train is fine.

    I can't imagine the 13" being a problem, really.

    EDIT: The only issue is the occasional flight, that's where the 17" becomes infuriating. It's impossible to get the screen at a nice angle and even watch a movie, let alone get any work done.
     
  14. Rlnplehshalo macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    #14
    I picked up a Hp dv7 notebook for roughly $2000 not too long ago, I noticed they also sold 13" and 15.6" models as well that have quad core i7, radeon amd 1GB graphics and 4gb+ RAM. I'd suggest looking into one of those.
     
  15. autacraft Guest

    #15
    Howdy!

    They expect you to get hardware AND CS5 for $2k?????

    First question, why CS5?...If for light use, I'd just try get a second hand MBP 13" with CS3 or CS4 preinstalled. That, plus a 20" monitor for around $250/$300, you should be able to get the whole shebang on budget.

    Second question, if this is just 'light use' for design work, what are your daily 2 hour commute tasks involving? if business related, but not design driven, I'm really not sure why you would be paying such a premium just 'to have a mac'?....I mean I know macs are the bees knees, but if this is just a system to whip out on the commute and do emailing, reports, and watch vids, why not just get a *shriek* windows machine at 13"....pound for pound youll get something that will do exactly what you need on the commute side of things, and (for the same cash as a mac) youll get a WAY more capable machine in terms of speed/memory when it comes to running design software.

    Im just sayin!

    It seems like a priority is your usage on your commute (whatever that usage may be, but designing is not a factor) and the actual 'occasional' necessity of design - basic stuff, light files, doesnt really warrant CS5 in all honesty.

    (I'm a graph designer and CS even is still perfectly adept for basic stuff!)

    Whatever the case, if your company is saying you MUST use CS5, tell them $2k will just about get you that, and that alone.

    Good luck
     
  16. cdcastillo macrumors 6502a

    cdcastillo

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  17. chrfr macrumors 603

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    #17
  18. jbyun04 macrumors 6502a

    jbyun04

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2008
    Location:
    Canada
    #18
    If you're doing lots of design work that's light (i'm talking PSDs that are less than 700MB) then an Air would do you fine. Last gen's Air handled CS5 perfectly fine.
     
  19. Zoreke macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    #19
    MBP 15" and lots of RAM, I've just got mine last week with 8GB RAM, 500 (7200RMP)HD and the lower end graphic card (256), and the thing flyes with CS4 and 5.... the 13" was too small and the integrated graphic card looked too weak for my illustrations...

    You need a lot of RAM and HD space for design files on CS, Photoshop and illustrator both need a big scratch disk to perform well. All the machines can do the job but you really need a good machine to do some serious work, trust me files get really complicated and big.

    And the bigger screen really helps with all those menus and tools...

    Get a used CS4 it's cheaper and it really does the same...

    Good luck

    :D
     
  20. Zoreke macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    #20
    True a good not so expensive windows laptop will do! illsutrator and photoshop are the same on win and mac... windows 7 is fine, I really like mac better but I work with both everyday yusing the same software and is the same pretty much...

    good luck

    :D
     

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