Help Me, LAPTOP: I need a Photoshop-Friendly Notebook With Long Battery Life

When you write to helpme@laptopmag.com asking for advice, we’re there for you. Today, we have a note from Jerome, whose aging notebook can’t run the latest version of Photoshop. While many graphic artists won’t part with their Macs, he explicitly asked for a Windows 7 notebook.

He writes:

I am currently in the market for a new laptop that I will be using for the next 4-5 years. I’m a big fan of Adobe Photoshop (currently using CS3 Extended) and unfortunately I’m not able to upgrade to Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended due to my aging laptop, but that’s not the main reason. I am replacing my 4-year-old HP Pavilion dv1000 SE with a 14in screen, due to several reasons: it’s not Windows 7 compatible, no dedicated graphics card, no built-in webcam, no wi-fi N-receiver (just b/g), no built-in bluetooth, and the battery last for about three hours max from web browsing through wi-fi, playing music, watching 480p video, and/or downloading music contents.

I was very interested in the HP Envy 14, but I thought for the starting price of $999, it was too much. Especially when the battery life lasted only 4 hours and 25 minutes in your full review. I’m specifically looking for a light, slim laptop with 13in – 15in screen display (preferebly a flush screen like the HP Envy 14 or the Samsung Q430-11 or the latest Macbook Pro’s screen, but it’s not a must-have feature for me). On top of the feature list that the laptop must have: Windows 7 (home premium or pro), Intel Core i5 with turboboost, weighs no more than 6 lbs., 5 hours battery life, multi-touch pad, bluetooth, wireless b/g/n, backlit keyboard, optical drive (dvd is fine), media card reader (SD card support), webcam, and most importantly for under $999. Could you guys possibly help me. Thanks in

We think  you’ve hit on some of the best choices in this category in your search already. A 13-inch MacBook may actually be the best choice for you, even if you want to run Windows 7, because it lasts more than 7 hours on a charge and has discrete graphics. As you probably know, you can run Windows 7 on a Mac using bootcamp. However, the 13-inch MacBook only has a Core 2 Duo CPU. If you want Core i5 power, you’ll have to step up to the $1199 MacBook Pro, one of our favorite systems of the year.

After the Macs, the HP Envy 14 is a really strong choice too. As you know, it has a nice high-res screen, discrete graphics, and a powerful CPU. If you want the extra endurance, you can splurge for its optional battery slice (a $200 option on HP.com).

Beyond the Envy 14 and the MacBooks, we strongly recommend you take a look at some solid business systems that can be configured with discrete graphics. Though not thought-of as a graphics system, the ThinkPad T410 is available with Nvidia Optimus switchable graphics and an optional 1440×900 resolution screen that will fit a lot more of your content on it. With the extended battery, it should last around 6 hours.

The problem with all the systems we’ve recommended above is that, while they usually start below $999, you may have to pay a bit more to get the extra options you want. However, if you’re planning to keep your notebook for 4 or 5 years, we recommend you splurge a little to get all the features you need. Also, if you’re patient, it’s possible you’ll see some significant deals over the next few weeks as we enter holiday shopping season.

AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Ray Says:

    There is one mistake in your recommendation. The MacBook Pro 13″ that starts at $1,199 does not even offer the Intel Core i5 processor. It still uses the Core2Duo. In order to get a Core i5 processor, you have to get the 15″ MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,799. Maybe that will all change at next week’s Back to Mac event that Apple is hosting. But to be honest, I have a a MacBook Pro 13 with the 2.4 ghz Core2Duo and am running Adobe Create Suite CS5 without any problems.

    If Jerome is adamant on purchasing a Windows 7 machine, I think a better recommendation maybe HP’s DM4 series laptops which start at about $730 or so and have a Core i5 processor and offer a claimed 6 hour battery life and be customized with dedicated graphics cards with 512MB or 1GB of video RAM for under $999.

  2. appleboi Says:

    Wow this article is so wrong. First of all, the Macbook (white) and Macbook Pro (13″) both do NOT have discrete graphics. They are both integrated. And the $1199 Macbook Pro does not have a Core i5 processor or even i3. It is still Core 2 Duo.

  3. jdc Says:

    @Ray

    the dm4 doesnt have backlit keyboard

  4. Dave Says:

    I love Macs and frequently run Windows Xp on MacBook Pros for work. One major shortcoming running Windows on them is poor battery life either with virtualization (e.g., Parallels) or Boot Camp. I typically get less than half the run time under Windows that I get with OS X. It appears that little has been done to optimize the Apple Windows drivers with respect to power management.

  5. Ray Says:

    @jdc – Good call, I forgot the DM4 doesn’t have a backlit keyboard. But is that a necessity? Perhaps if you work on planes a lot or in dimmed environments. If not, the value of the DM4 is definitely there and offers what I think are more important features on a computer.

  6. AM Says:

    @ Ray and @ jdc: Yes, all the things you have stated above are true. The DM4 is a great choice. However, when I bought my new laptop (July 2010), my top two choices were the Samsung Q430 and the HP Pavilion Dm4t. I ended up going with the Samsung Q430. Here are my reasons why:
    - they both have a Core i5 2.40 Ghz processor — with TurboBoost. Great speed.
    - the Samsung has a DISCRETE graphics card, not built in. Nvidia 320 M, 512 MB VRAM. Great for PhotoShop and games.
    - the Samsung has a better display. Samsung definitely makes better laptop displays than HP. Some of the best on the market.
    - Samsung’s touchpad was MUCH better. The Dm4t had a really funny habit of jumping around when I went to click the integrated mouse buttons.
    - they both have island (chiclet) keyboards, but I liked the Samsung’s better, because it was more clicky than the HP’s
    - And finally, they both were priced $799. However, I felt (obviously) the Samsung had WAY more features for the money. However, the samsung only gets me 4-4.5 hours of battery life.
    SAMSUNG Q430 IS THE WAY TO GO.

  7. jdc Says:

    @AM

    If you visit the Samsung website, you’ll notice that they have an upcoming laptop qx410-11. It’s very similar to the qx430 but with 7 hours of battery life. Main difference in design is that the qx410-11 has a similar touchpad design as HP’s latest integrated left/right buttons, while the qx430 has separate “physical” buttons for left/right clicks.

  8. Rich Says:

    Im sorry but battery life and power/speed don’t belong in the same sentence.

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