by Mike McNamee Published 01/08/2010
Both dual-core and quad-core CPUs are available for Dell laptops and also decisions have to be made in regard to solid-state hard drives or normal, spinning ones. There are even options for solid-state RAID arrays which have a reputation for blistering speed but apparently deteriorate slowly with use and require formatting and re-installation at periodic intervals.
In terms of performance there might be little to choose between the various options. If you take the data in the table, for example, it seems that 64-bit operation is having a greater influence than say processor core numbers. The work station, with eight processors (2x quad-core) and 16GB of RAM, applies the blur in Photoshop in 15.8 seconds but the laptop does the same operation in 13.3 seconds using a Core i5 540M dual core processor and just 4GB of DDR3 1066MHz RAM. The data is riddled with anomalies though, with the 32-bit Photoshop dealing with the 'apply blur' task at the same speed in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Photoshop.
A more realistic test is to process an entire shoot of images and to time that operation. This is something we almost all have to do as part of our daily routines. Accordingly we took 147 Nikon D200 RAW files (2.27GB) and scaled them to 2,000 pixels, then saved them as sRGB, JPEG files back to the same folder. We did this using Vista 64 on the Dell T7400 and it took 8m 22s in 32-bit Photoshop, but 7m 11s in 64-bit Photoshop. The difference is measurable but of little significance in the overall scheme of things, it is certainly not the halving that the uninitiated would expect moving from 32-bit to 64-bit - that is not the way it works out! On the Dell Latitude Z and using 32-bit Windows 7 and 32-bit Photoshop, the same job took 15min 11s, such is the cost of looking stylish!Such tests only seem to tell half the story. The T7400 workstation, for all its problems with Vista, remains a stable machine on which we are able to open and use as many as eight substantial applications all at once without experiencing any significant slowdown. A task such as that above may be allowed to work in the background while we can check emails; such niceties make for a better working life. With 16GB of RAM we have yet to see Photoshop utilise the scratch disc even under the most intense use.
Would you like a bag for that, sir?
Having made your investment in a shiny, new laptop, the last thing you want to do is damage it. There are two basic options, a laptop bag and a combination bag that carries both your laptop and other things. These other things can be camera gear, stuff for meetings, or even overnight essentials. For the simple protection of just the laptop, Colour Confidence have now started to offer bags made by booq and the simplest have a plain, reinforced shell with an all-round, zipped opening. The one we tried is intended for the MacBook Pro 17" but our Dell Latitude Z600 fitted very snugly and securely. The case is made from ballistic nylon lined with soft foam and is intended to slip inside another bag when appropriate. There is no space for any peripherals such as spare batteries, power supplies, USB ports, etc. If you need that also, read the next page.
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