by Mike McNamee Published 01/08/2010
Two are often better than one so you can do disc-to-disc copies.
Choice of a monitor remains an issue. We think you need to spend at least £800, preferably about £1,200 to get a close screen-to-print match. For this reason we have called up a small, low (ish) cost screen with the computer with the assumption that you will add another calibrated screen as your main.
In order to specify and cost a couple of options we went to the Dell website, which allows you to take a basic-specification machine and then adjust the components to your own wishes and requirements. Our options varied in the processors, graphics cards, RAM type and hard drive arrangement - the most important parameters in fact. The two baseline costs came out at £2,374 and £1,381.
So what should you buy? Laptop machines
We have recently had the opportunity to test and benchmark a number of different Dell laptops. As with desk top machines it is possible to start with a basic Dell machine on their website and then adjust the components to your individual requirements. Laptops are more individual than desktops insofar as everybody has roughly the same image-crunching and storage requirements but things are more diverse for laptop use. Weight is the classic compromise that has to be balanced - do you put up with a tiny screen and small battery to save weight or do you need to show images to a client on your laptop? Heaven forbid, do you have to consider how stylish you are going to look, laptop in hand? Turning up with an iPad to a pitch for a commercial job (or even a wedding) might impress your clients enough to sway them to your side! If you regularly work on a train your fellow passengers might not welcome a 17" laptop encroaching on their space. If you decide to employ your laptop as a desktop replacement you have to ensure there are enough facilities when the thing is plugged in to your docking station, back at base, but you also have to consider that your files, stored on the laptop, are far more vulnerable to both catastrophic loss (dropping the laptop) or theft. The thinner, more stylish laptops such as the Dell Latitude Z have a limited number of USB ports and require connections for a DVD drive and CompactFlash card, as a minimum, leaving no ports for anything else, unless you use the docking station (at an additional cost of about £700 including the charger). Using this laptop in the studio might give you issues for want of ports unless you are prepared to have a bit of a mare's nest of wires to USB hubs. At the outset then you have to sit down and compile a list of what you really need from your laptop which may well be different from what the kids would like when they borrow it!
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