Help me buy the right computer for my specific needs

Hey guys, my trusty macbook pro just went kaput a few days ago and I am in immediate need of purchasing a replacement computer asap. Unfortunately, I am strapped for cash and cannot afford another macbook pro.

The programs I will be using are photoshop and illustrator. I need a computer that can smoothly handle both programs running at the same time with large files sizes at 300ppi. Additionally, I also have pandora or a similar music service playing while I work.

With my needs stated above, what aspects of the computer are most important? Ram, hdd, graphics card, processor speed, number of cores? Desktop or laptop is okay.


I’d say you want more ram, but shouldn’t be too worried about having a huge amount of cores or mega fast processor.

I do a lot of solidworks, modo and photoshop work. Modo uses the most processor real estate, while photoshop is really ram dependent.

I’d get the maximum amount of ram I could afford if I was in your situation. I have 64 gig of ram and can crank out modo renders while running solidworks and photoshop. Just have to “set affinity” on the modo process to all but two of my cores so there’s two cores left for photoshop or solidworks. Saying that, processor speed is always good to have.

And dual monitors. Makes life a lot easier.

Seriously, an iPad would be enough for your needs…
I can’t think of any contemporary laptop that couldn’t handle your described workflow. Avoid the obvious bottom-of-the-barrel stuff but otherwise just find yourself a well-regarded laptop or ultra-light thing and go for it. I’d even recommend the Macbook Air if it didn’t have such small available hard drives.

I can almost guarantee you’re not going to use more than 16GB of RAM. You could probably skate by with 8-12GB if strapped for cash.

If you’re only running 2D apps primarily you want fewer cores, higher clock speeds. A higher Ghz I5 or I7 CPU dual core (4 thread) or Quad Core (8 thread) should be fine. More CPU will always go a longer way.

Large files are RAM dependent, but ram is cheap and generally easy to upgrade in any PC. I’d say you can go with at least 16 gigs but don’t buy the machine out of the box, it’s much cheaper to upgrade.

A dedicated GPU will also help since Creative Suite has supported graphics acceleration for a while now.

Thanks for the replies!

Outside work, I use my 11" MacBook Air. The thing is featherweight and I run Photoshop / Illustrator and even a little Solidworks with no problem. Only caveat is that the screen is small so I usually hook it up to an external when I’m at home. I create 300DPI images for prints all the time. SSD makes things quite fast. Be sure to max out the RAM and upgrade the processor.

An SSD will also be very valuable in terms of launching programs and saving large files, but you will have to be more conscious of how much space you have.

I ended up purchasing a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga today. I originally wanted a iMac 27in but couldn’t swallow the $1699 pricetag.
Luckily there is a 30 day no restocking fee refund policy, so I will be trying this out for the next week to see if it can handle my usual workload.

I was most hesitant about the process. It’s a measily ultrabook 4200u processor at 1.6hz.
However, the model I got has 8gigs of ram and a 128gb ssd which is more than enough storage for me.
We shall see how this laptop performs.

What I like about it
The laptop looks and feels nice. Photoshop runs smoothly and the laptop is silent and hasn’t gotten warm at all.
The keyboard keys feels great, the screen is sharp and bright. The 4200u processor is surprisingly snappy for what I need it to do…although I haven’t tried illustrator yet.

What I don’t like
Whoever designed the keyboard was an idiot. The Ctrl key isn’t where it’s supposed to be so I keep mispressing which ultimate throws off my workflow. Also, accidentally hitting the start key is now a bigger issue in Windows 8 as it automatically launches the new Metro Start screen. Wihtin an hour I found myself jumping in and out of the desktop and start screen mode more than 7 times. Yes, I can learn to get used to it, but really, it shouldn’t be this inconvenient.

I didn’t know this before, but multitouch isn’t really supported in Photoshop CC for Windows 8. And if it is, I haven’t figured it out yet, so please let me know how to enable it! This is a big one as this laptop supports both multitouch and pen input. I was hoping this laptop could be my poor man’s cintiq. But as of now, it is no good. I got pinch to zoom to work, but it is clunky. Worse, two finger panning is not supported.

This becomes an issue because the Yoga can transform into tablet mode. In tablet mode, I was hoping to use multitouch gestures to zoom, pan, and use the pen to do everything I need it to do. That is not the case at the moment. Also the pen sucks. The pressure sensitivity is decent, but the side button is horrible. The button is flushed to the pen and makes it impossible to find the button without looking for the glossy button on the matte pen. You can’t even feel it unless you push on the pen as you rotate the pen in your hand hoping to find the button. In addition to the terrible side button, the right click doesn’t truly function as right click. For some odd reason, you still need to tap the screen with the pen to activate right click while holding down the pen button. Strange.

As of now, I am planning to get my money back.

I don’t exactly know your requirements of course, I just bought a computer and had lots of things it had to fulfill, so it’s just all very individual. I’m a product designer who uses CAD software, rendering software and some Adobe programs.

For me the most important requirements were:

  1. i7 quadcore processor
  2. 12Gb RAM

  3. SSD
  4. Silent fan (my current Vaio is terrible in this respect)
  5. Good design and build quality
  6. Under EUR 1500

Display size is also important since a 17-inch machine adds quite a bit of weight and you’ll learn the effects if you carry it on your back a lot, I hear.

I ended up getting a Toshiba Satellite P50 with 2.4GHz i7 quadcore processor, 16Gb RAM, a 256 SSD and 15.6" HD display.
I received it yesterday and haven’t had too much time to use it yet, but everything I’ve seen (and heard) so far I love, it almost feels like a Macbook (but maybe that’s heresy to say). Ideally I wanted a bright white laptop but they didn’t have them with these specs…

I was interested in the HP Envy LeapMotion because it seemed interesting if you could navigate around a CAD model just using gestures. But after some research I wondered if I would really use it. And the display and keyboard seem to suck.

The Acer Aspire V3-772G is also a very good machine for a very reasonable price. It also comes in champagne color, but that’s just not my thing.

I ended up using this as an opportunity to learn how to build a pc.
Haven’t installed Windows yet (need optical drive), but the computer does boot up :smiley:

CPU: Core i7 - 4790 (Haswell Refresh) 3.6ghz
Motherboard: Asus H97-M Plus
SSD: Samsung Evo 250gb
Ram: Corsair Vengeance (2x8gb) 16gb
Case: Corsair Vengeance c70 (Black)
Power Supply: Corsair CX500w
Cooling: Stock cpu fan and case fans
OS: Windows 8.1 64-bit

Building a pc wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. For the longest time, I was scared off by all the terminology, the marketing lingo on computer parts, and the number of cables inside, but once I learned what everything meant and did, it made complete sense. In reality, it’s as difficult as following instructions for IKEA furniture and custom to your wants and needs as LEGO.

Oh and I have no plans to take this computer online or install any games on it. It will be used purely for all things design.

Down the rabbit hole ya go! Looks like a solid build with good brand choices to boot. If youre not interested in an ODD (I dont have one these days either) you can always install Windows from a thumb drive. Its much quicker, too.