Our Favorite Laptops for Photographers, Videographers and Creative Professionals

Gear & Apps December 5th 2012 7:22 PM 33 Comments

Our Favorite Laptops for Creative Professionals

A lot of you have asked the question, “What computers do you use and recommend for photography?” We felt like it was about time that we actually answered this question. In this article, we are going to walk through the laptops we use in the studio and what we use them for. However, don’t worry, we will be reviewing each of these laptops in complete detail in their own articles as well.

For now, let’s first check out the video below:

Watch the Video on Our Favorite Laptops for Creative Professionals

A History On Our Computer Purchasing Woes

Asus is our favorite Windows based computing platform. In case you are wondering why, let’s walk through our computer purchasing history since we started our studio 4 years back. Let me warn you upfront by saying that it isn’t a pretty history.

When we first started our studio, like any new business, we were completely cash starved. We had a lot of equipment to invest in, but not a lot of money to do the investing with. This was obviously a problem since we were starting a photography studio.

We decided to cut costs by purchasing less expensive computers, which enabled us to focus more on camera gear. Not exactly the best decision, but it was really the only decision we had. At that time, we heard the alluring call of HP (Hewlett Packard). Let me describe what this call sounds like:

“Hello world, we are Hewlett Packard. our computers look beautiful, yet they only cost a fraction of that of an Apple. Heck, they are even powerful too!”

We heard this call, and we fell head over heels for it. We purchased three 17″ HP laptops for each of the partners. Once we received our laptops, we knew exactly why they were so cheap. One of the laptops arrived DOA, another had display issues (tons of dead pixels), and the third was working properly. HP replaced the DOA machine and the dead pixel machine and within another week we were up and running.

By 6 months into ownership, all three machines had gone back for major repairs at least once. Within 1 year, simple mechanical components began to fail. For instance, one of the laptops display hinges completely broke off preventing the display from closing/opening. By 1 year, all three machines had gone back to HP at least twice for repair, some three times. After our 1 year warranty was up, they started dropping like flies and within 18 months, none of them were functional.

Had this been one computer, it would have been understandable. But, it was all three of our computers! We vowed never to purchase HP again.

We then made the move to Dell. Dell’s machines were vastly superior to HP, although they still weren’t as reliable as we would have hoped. They were a bit more expensive overall, and often times we ran into issues purchasing them with the hardware that we wanted or needed.

Our failing point here was dealing with Dell’s customer service. While they were nice over the phone, Dells’ customer service and techs seemed to be completely disjointed. We would send computers back for repair, only to receive them back in the same condition sent. It was something we couldn’t deal with as a growing studio.

So, we bit the bullet and moved to Apple. It wasn’t the most calculated decision, but by this point we were just tired of dealing with IT issues when we had a business to focus on. This also turned out not to be the best decision for the studio.

Apple’s machines were significantly more expensive, we are talking 2 to 3 times as much as their PC counterparts. However, we didn’t mind so much given that their hardware was top-notch. We have rarely if ever had hardware issues with Apple computers. That in and of itself was amazing.

The problem when we switched to Apple was that it was too sudden. We had established a workflow and switching to an operating system that none of us were comfortable using was like throwing a wrench into the cogs of a massive machine. Productivity came to a stand still as we were frequently trying to figure out the operating system itself. I know it sounds silly given that Apple is supposed to be incredibly simple, but it isn’t really that simple when you have used Windows/PC your entire life.

We sold 2 of our 3 Macbooks and kept the third one primarily for location shoots and client presentations.

At this point, I took a bit of a risk. Back in high school, I actually used to be a tech/system builder for Comp USA (who have long since closed all of their retail stores). I remember that we always used to use ASUS motherboards and components because they were reliable and high quality. The Asus G73SW was available at Costco with impressive specs, and I thought, “Why not give it a try? After all, I can always just return it if it doesn’t work well given that this is Costco.”

I got it back to the studio, set it up, and was out the gate at blazing fast speeds (for a laptop). It had a great screen which actually calibrated extremely well too! While it was large, the overall design did a great job in dispersing heat (which is important for long-term reliability.)

We purchased another Asus, then another. Now in the studio we have two G73SWs, we have four G74SXs and now we have our 7th computer in the series, the G75VW. We haven’t had any major issues with any of these machines for nearly 2 years! Hence, for Windows computing, we will always use Asus machines. That is, so long as they keep up the great work in creating powerful and reliable machines!

Now let’s talk about each of these laptops and what we use them for.

13″ Asus Zenbook UX32VD-DS73


Class: Ultrabook (Ultra-portable notebook)
Why we love it : This new Asus Zenbook is our third in the studio. When it comes to ultra-portable notebooks, this is truly the best-in-class as it is the only Ultrabook that has a dedicated graphics card. It is also upgradeable in terms of RAM and the Hard Drive. It has a 1920x1080p full HD screen on an 13″ IPS display which is second only to the new MacBook Air Retina. Either way, the display is wonderful and is perfectly suitable for color correction/grading once calibrated.

What we use it for : These three notebooks are generally taken out of the studio when we are doing extensive travelling. They are perfect on-the-go, and the key feature here is that they are powerful enough for more than just basic computing (we can’t say the same thing for the MacBook Air). It is wonderful to have a ultra-portable laptop that when needed can also be used for post processing photos. (Doesn’t hurt that the dedicated graphics are also good for gamers… hint hint)

15″ Apple MacBook Pro Retina


Class: Laptop
Why we love it : For presentational purposes, nothing beats the MacBook Pro. Apple’s designs are simply beautiful and the Retina display is brilliant for displaying and reviewing photos. The components are powerful, and it actually boasts the quickest processor of all the laptops we use in the studio. However, its steep price and lack of upgradeability make it a tough pill to swallow.
What we use it for : We frequently use our MacBooks when we need to shoot tethered and display our images to clients for review. Some might wonder if the Retina display was made exclusively for this use.

Because of the lack of options/upgradeability when it comes to hardware, it isn’t our go to choice as a workstation machine. Without a doubt, it is a quick machine. But, it particularly suffers in comparison to the G74SX/G75VW when it comes to editing video in Premiere with GPU enabled acceleration. However, we do have staff that prefer OSX over Windows. Hence despite the drawbacks, they use our MacBooks for that reason. This is really more of a preferential decision that you would have to make for yourself.

17″ ASUS G75VW-DS73


Class: Mobile Workstation
Why we love it : The Asus G75VW is all about raw processing power and upgradeability. The main key feature is that it boasts a 3GB dedicated NVidia GeForce 670M video card. After a simple hack, this video card is wonderful for running Adobe Premiere w/ GPU Acceleration which is absolutely crucial for extensive editing/color grading.

We run these laptops with 16GB ram and dual (that’s right, 2x) 512GB Crucial M4 SSDs. So they are blazing fast machines that are perfect for post processing, video editing, design, etc.

What we use it for : This new G75VW makes our 7th G7 series laptop in the studio. These machines are our in-studio still editing production work horses. Each member of our production team has their own G7 series laptop, which is great since often times they prefer or have to work off-site.

They also do a great job editing video on location when we don’t have our full editing workstation available. In fact, our studio along with two of our friend’s studios (who all use Adobe Premiere), have switched from MacBook Pros to the G7 series laptops for same-day-edit wedding shoots.

Unfortunately, Asus really isn’t mentioned much in the world of creative professionals, but they definitely should be! Hopefully this article will bring a little light to these great machines.

Advertisement
Pye

About

Pye (AKA Post Production Pye) is a founder and the Managing Editor for SLR Lounge. Pye is also a Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, an Orange County based wedding, engagement and portrait photography studio. Connect with him on Google Plus

33 Comments

  1. Brandon Cormier

    I have also had a bad experience with HP, would never buy another one. My dad has an Asus and it works great. Will probably be my next computer brand.

  2. Ryan Cooper

    The specs on that big Asus are damn impressive for $1800. If only I could get over my undying hatred for the windows OS hahaha.

    • Pye
      Pye

      It’s true, Windows does require a bit more “maintenance” than OSX, but for us, it is worth the trade off. We simply can’t get the processing power we need in Apple machines since they have gone more “consumer oriented” in their direction.

    • Dave

      Have you tried using BootCamp on the MBP so you can have the quality of the Apple hardware coupled with the OS of your preference?  As far as processing power, the 15″ Retina MBP has a better top processor option of the i7-3820QM over the Asus G75VW’s i7-3630QM – their processor specs side-by-side: (http://ark.intel.com/compare/64889,71459).  It seems like the only advantages to the Asus is the discrete graphics chip and VRAM size.  The MBP wins speed, weight, screen resolution, factory storage options (768 GB SSD), battery life, etc.

    • Pye
      Pye

      Dave, I did mention in the written portion of the article that our MBP does boast the fastest processor. However, when editing video, the graphics card is actually a huge factor. In addition, the Asus boasts 2 expandable hard drive bays, so you can essentially keep upgrading to better/larger SSDs as they become available. Now that we have the latest edition of both machines, it will be really interesting to see how they perform head to head, which we will put into a review as well. So stay tuned! I may even BC my MBP and test Windows to Windows. We will see ;) 

  3. Trevor Howard

    I gotta agree whole heartedly, I get your Dell complaints, and my limited experience with an HP is exactly what you said “They’re cheap for a reason”  I recommend ASUS to everyone I know because, knock on wood, I have not had one single problem with any ASUS product I’ve ever owned….

  4. Tamashi84

    Any thoughts on Windows 8?

    • Joe Gunawan

      I have it and it’s great. I actually like the new Metro Apps. Only problem I have is that I can’t install my older Canon Ip4500. Canon says Win8 should have the driver, but Win8 doesn’t detect it.

      Lightroom and Photoshop CS6 seems to be faster, too.

      - Joe

  5. Ashton Dodd

    Hey Pye! great post! this has come at a good time because I was considering switching to the MacBook pro. I do alot of photography and video work and I need a machine that can do both. I too made the mistake of purchasing an HP a few years back and since then I have converted it to my own Franken-Machine. I gutted the inside and replaced it with a 128gig ssd and 8 gigs of ram + win7 because it shipped with Vista (yuck!) Since then though it has started to slow and its time for an upgrade. I am really liking those specs on the Asus, just wish they shipped a 15″ with those specs and something close to the retina display, or even a lower end IPS. Now it seems I have to decide between the Asus and the MacBook..decisions, decisions..

    • Az Johnson

      Did you make a decision? Because I’m in that boat right now and I need something just can’t figure out which one to go with. Doesn’t help I can’t go into a store and look at the Asus laptops. They seem to only have the touchscreen one in stores. Love to hear what you tried and if it’s working for you. 

  6. confused shutter

    It sucks that the only laptop right now with a wacom pad is X230T… and their IPS screen isn’t quite up to par with Apple’s Retina.

  7. Jp Transient

    Just to clarify. The MacBook Pros ARE upgradable in terms of HD and RAM… You just have to be willing to use a screw-driver. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIASLd-PUP0

    • Joe Gunawan

      The Mac Book Pro Retina is not upgradable, actually:

      “The RAM is soldered down, the CPU is soldered down. The GPU is on-board. The SSD features a proprietary shape and port (though at least it isn’t soldered down, too). Even the battery, which lost easy swappability with the advent of the unibody MacBook construction, is glued directly to the chassis.”

      - NotebookReview.com (http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=6495&Review=Apple+MacBook+Pro+2012+Retina+Display)

    • Clarkjamesdigital

      but none of that matters when you max it out with 16gb ram and the biggest SSD they do
      as far as I know no laptop can take 32gb ram and no laptop will be able to take 32gb until next generation- so option A is buy maxed out laptop (16gb and SSD) and sell when outdated, option B is buy laptop for cheaper price (8gb ram, HDD not SSD), upgrade components to 16gb and SSD, then sell when outdated

  8. Photo DeLux

    Thank you for this insightful feedback… I have been in the exact same search myself as a Windows user for so long (and GNU/Linux – but the OS X interface is confusing, so is Win 8 for that matter). I presume Win 8 is so new and will improve over time, so I’ll just wait for the kinks to be worked out and have thus stuck with Win 7 on the Asus 13″ Zenbook prime UX32VD-DB71 laptop. While the touchpad is a bit finicky at times, I’m really happy with this much cheaper and upgradable Mac Air alternative with a gorgeous 1080p IPS display!

  9. rankle

    Apple’s new Lightning connector for the iPhone 5 is great, but it’s just so darn expensive. If you’re looking to save a few bucks.http://www.just4laptops.co.uk 

  10. rankle

    This accidental discovery was made by Microsoft’s digital crimes unit during an investigation into Chinese computer manufacturers, many of whom are illegally installing its Windows operating system onto their hardware. http://www.just4laptops.co.uk 

  11. Johnny Adams Jr.

    Wondering if you could elaborate on how well 3D works and how often you use it Pye, thanks…I’m taking your word for it and getting the Asus 17.”

  12. Scoopingitup

    Thank you so much for this, as a girl with a workflow I do not have time to totally rehash, I don’t want to go frmo PC to Mac. Gonna look at Asus right away!

  13. Natalia

    Thanks for your helpful review. I checked out the UX32VD on Amazon and there have been a few comments around about keyboard problems, software problems, backlight leaking, etc. Have you had any of these problems yourself?

    • Pye
      Pye

      No problems with the keyboard or backlight leaking, at least none that we have noticed. The touchpad is the only disappointment, while it is better than most Windows laptops, it still doesn’t compare to the Apple touchpads. But, this is something we have come to expect with non-Apple laptops. So, I recommend using an external mouse. But, everything else is pretty awesome. 

  14. Fernando

    So the UX32VD is good enough to run Premiere CS6? Thanks a lot.

  15. Rogerlen

    Hi, I have the 17.3″ Asus G74sx 3d 12G ram and 3G video with 1.5TB HDD with WIndows 7 64 bit. and it runs great I have Adobe CS6 installed and all work great with no performance issues.. I do play a lot of game especially online and this is the best I have ever used. I also use a Nikon D5200 for business and ministry use. a great starter camera for the price. and a lot of fun. my last camera was a Nikon F2ASpb I purchased in Okinawa Japan in the late 70`s. I really miss that camera.

  16. Rogerlen

    Remember the g74/ g75 are heavy.. my G74 comes in at 9.4 pounds and the brick ( power supply) i am guessing weights at least 2 lbs. ) so this is no light weight laptop. battery last about 3 to 4 hours.. my rig has 3d 120hz monitor so i guess that uses up a lot of juice. but all in all a great rig for gaming, work and play..

  17. LunaG

    Hello, does the ASUS G75VW-DS73 works well with 3d rendering software like 3dmax or Maya even without any hacks at all with default system settings?

    Hearing from you soon, thanks

  18. seguro barato para auto

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  19. zara kids

    This website was… how do you say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks!

  20. Looking For a New Photography Laptop

    […] This was an interesting clip.  I've been eyeing some of the Asus machines our there and this clip included some comments about  their G75 series.  Most of the machines out there that have enough power for heavy duty photoshop and video work seem to come in around 10 pounds so I am not sure how practical that would be for carrying around.  But for certain, I like the appeal of being able to move from room to room in the house so I can keep an eye on little Miss M, while I am processing away.http://www.slrlounge.com/our-favorite-laptops-for-photographers-videographers-and-creative-professio… […]

  21. Jenni

    I am leaning towards the Asus, I want fast for photography. No need for video. So I would like to not over spend….. what would you suggest I look into getting?

  22. Apple vs ASUS - Lightroom 4 Benchmark and Hardware Tests

    […] machines that we use within the studio. We showed them all off within our previous article titled Our Favorite Laptops for Creative Professionals. On the Windows side of things, we have the ASUS G75VW-DS73, a gaming laptop that we have turned […]

  23. Nicole

    I am looking to buy a laptop for myself.. I found this Asus G750 16GB 17.3″ 4th Gen i7-4700HQ FHD nVIDIA LAPTOP

    would this run well with Photoshop… it has NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M Graphics Feature 2GB GDDR5 dedicated video memory.. is this too slow???
    Thank

  24. Dawn Maxemow

    How is the screen on the Asus G75VW? I looked at one in a store, and the images on the screen were blurry. I’m not sure if it was the stock photo loaded on the machine, the settings at the time (which I didn’t have time to check), or the laptop screen itself. Are the colors and resolution good? I’m looking to buy a laptop as my primary machine for photo editing.

Leave a reply

Advertisement