A few months back, I was in the market for a new laptop. My last laptop, a Dell Studio 14, served me well for over 5 years. But I was feeling very limited due to RAM limitation (only 4GB), Screen resolution, and slow CPU (i3). Since my main software’s for post processing are Lightroom and Photoshop, which are known to be resource hogs, I was looking for best in class configuration. My requirement was get faster processing power to expedite my photo processing workflow and a high-resolution bigger screen.
After days of searching and reading countless reviews on the internet, I could see a lot of options but the main fight was between MAC vs PC. I posted a “poll” on Facebook in a Nikon D750 users group and MAC came out to be a clear winner between the two. 70% of 80 respondents believed MAC was a better option over PC. No doubts we see a lot of famous photographers using MAC as the main laptop for post processing.
But there was a problem. I have been a windows user all my life. More so, as a professional, I work as a Microsoft technologies expert. I borrowed my wife’s MACBOOK AIR for a week to see how well I cope up with a new (and different) Operating System. I was able to use the MAC without any problems and tiny MACBOOK was able to impress me. Retina screen was crisp and Lightroom usage was smooth. I decided to **consider** MACBOOK also for my upgrade choice. At this moment my two choices were two top of the line models –
MacBook PRO 15″ retina vs DELL XPS 15″ 4K
I started comparing specs offered by these two models. MAC disappointed me terribly due to old hardware components. I ended up going for the later. I have listed down reasons for my decision.
Top of the line MACBOOK PRO 15″ still features the 4th gen Intel i7 Haswell processor launched in 2013. While DELL features a latest 6th gen i7 Skylake processor (Launched in 2015). Since I am into computer industry I know, CPU hungry software’s are not friendly with old CPUs. Apple has no announcements still for any upgrades. I would not be buying a three years old technology in the name of MAC. Though folks at MAC rumours speculate it to be announced every “next quarter” 😉
Both models feature a IPS panel, which is very important for photo editing.
MAC boasts of its retina display. Retina display is nothing but a marketing term. Let come to technical specifications. Retina display is 2880×1800 native resolution at 220 ppi. Source
In contrast, DELL featured a newest 4K resolution screen with 3840 x 2160 native resolution at 282 ppi. This is a massive improvement in screen resolution.
With my high megapixel camera (24 MP) and GoPro 4 silver (which shoots 4K), I needed something which can show me true potential of my gears. DELL XPS also features a touch screen, which really doesn’t matter to me.
Ease of use
I mentioned this before, I am Microsoft technology expert by profession, so obviously more comfortable with Windows operating system , but I am equally open to learning new MAC operating systems if it is more efficient for photo processing. I think OS preference is more of personal choice. I am not really an Apply fanboy. Though I will not exchange my iPhone 6 with any android phone any day.
Portability and Design
I know MAC are superbly designed and this point was never on my checklist. But after looking at DELL XPS I can say, see it, to believe it. The laptop is truly sleek and aesthetically designed.
This is one thing where MAC seems to score better. It is no secret that Windows need occasional updates and restarts to keep going.
Suggested Hardware Configuration for a Laptop
- Processor(CPU) – Newer the better. Currently, Intel 6th gen i7 processor is latest and fastest in the consumer market. I got myself a 6th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6700HQ Quad Core (6M Cache, up to 3.5 GHz)
- RAM – Larger the better. I got myself a 16GB DDR4. A 32GB RAM would be even better as LR and PS both tend to use more RAM. I easily clock 12 GB RAM when using LR and PS simultaneously.
- Screen – 4K (UHD) or a Full HD IPS panel. IPS panel ensures you have no viewing angle dependency. A bigger screen is better for post processing.
- Storage – Definitely a Solid State Device(SSD). Nothing beats a fast read and write speed. Especially when we are dealing with 30MB – 50MB of single RAW files these days. I got myself at 512 GB SSD. I wanted my OS, software, LR catalogue, and RAW files to be on SSD. It will be great if you can get an additional 1TB of HDD along with SSD, for archiving. I have two external 2TB drives for archiving and backup.
- Graphics card – if gaming is not a primary requirement, we do not need the best in the class card. I opted for a NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 card and I feel this is sufficient for generic needs.
Personal thoughts and Real Life Experience
After using my new DELL XPS 15″ for around two months I am really happy with the performance. I have stress tested it by throwing in huge files for processing to Lightroom and Photoshop simultaneously but still laptop had some juice left. Now this was not a professional stress test but as a generic user, I tested it for end user scenarios. Laptop remains responsive even at high load. RAM usage hasn’t crossed over 80% for me. Motherboard gets heated but nothing out of ordinary. Heat dissipation is also good but one has to be careful to keep bottom/vents unobscured.
In the MAC vs PC debate, I think everything boils down to individual preference. MAC users praise their machines highly and it is more of a cult. Windows is a proven market leader. None is a bad choice.