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New Laptop, after some help

I thought I'd ask on here as it appears some of you have brains in your head that may be attuned to help.

I'm after a new computer, it's not urgent but I've given in and decided I need one.

A bit of background, my last computer was bought in 2006, a Macbook, my third personal Mac computer and I loved it. I had been using a Mac since '96, at college and at home, obviously my last home computer is now 11 years old, still (just about) works but doesn't get used as it can't really run anything relevant (and has a dodgy power cable), it can't even run a new enough version of iTunes to sync with my phone.

This hasn't really been a problem as my various incarnations of iPhone have picked up the slack at home and my day job is a 3D illustrator/animator/VR builder/web stuff etc, therefore my work computer (Windows) is the "dogs dangly bits" and I have used that for things at lunch/after work when required.

But now it's got to the point where I want to do stuff at home, I want to edit video/photo's better, I want to possibly create my own 3D work, I may want to play (or even make) some games that aren't on the XboxOne (indy stuff or strategy games that require a mouse). I've been exclusively using a Windows machine at work for over a decade and I've gotten used to them now and they don't bring me out in hives anymore Smile

I would go the custom build PC route but I simply don't have anywhere to put a computer and a monitor and then actually be able to use it so I'm looking at laptops.

TL;DR -  I'm looking at getting a new Windows laptop.

I'm not a hardware guy, never have been, so I'm quite out of the loop with what's what now a days. It was a lot easier back in the day when you simply went with the one with the higher megahertz.

So a few questions,

- I'm guessing that the major manufacturers have release dates they like to stick to like Apple does, I can't find any reference to this though and I don't want to purchase something towards the end of its cycle only to have it replaced by the new shiny a week later. Does anyone have any information about this?

- I'm going to require a bit of grunt, and I believe the following are the machines in the right ballpark, do you think I'm looking at the right kind of machines or is there a particular brand that you would recommend?

* Dell XPS 15 (possibly 13 but it doesn't seem to have the graphics horsepower)
* Dell Inspiron 15 7000
* HP Spectre 13
* Alienware 13/15
* Razor Blade

- There's currently an Inspiron Gaming machine on the Dell site for £1,099.00 which appears to have very very similar specs to the XPS 15 at £1,599. Am I being dumb because I can't see what the difference is to justify that price difference‽‽‽ (- edit - Apparently it's the screen, that gaming screen is atrocious)

How GPU-intensive are the sort of things you'll be wanting to do? I know you said photo/video editing but a lot of people over-estimate what they actually need. Photo editing is pretty low-intensive and even integrated graphics processors can handle light video editing nowadays, although if you'll be doing 4k and/or 60fps video rendering/transcoding you will likely need something more powerful. Even 3D modelling isn't *that* intensive and even my 8 year old Pentium laptop has been able to design and render fairly complicated models - it only became an issue with very complicated models with multiple sub-assemblies. I'm not sure how intensive illustration/animation will be though.

The main difference between the XPS 15 and the Inspiron (if you get the higher priced version the screen is actually a quite good 4k IPS display rather than 1080p TN) is portability and build quality. The middle-of-the-road Inspiron has a slightly faster GPU but the XPS is almost a kilo lighter, is physically smaller for the same screen size (mostly due to the very thin bezel) and also features nicities like like an aluminium body and thunderbolt 3 which would allow you to plug in an external desktop GPU if you find the onboard dedicated graphics a bit limiting down the road (current external thunderbolt 3 enclosures do cost a bit though - there is a proprietary Alienware enclosure aswell which is a little cheaper but obviously won't work with non-Alienware laptops). The Blade is in much the same vein as the XPS 15 in terms of weight and connectivity but features a GTX 1060 rather than a 1050 (or 1050Ti in the case of the Inspiron).

I suppose it really comes down to whether you want a "desktop replacement" laptop that sits at home most of the time but *can* be taken with you if needed, or a more portable machine that you will end up taking with you quite often - if it doesn't need to be portable you can go with a bulkier but potentially more powerful machine (or just as powerful for cheaper). Whilst it is very portable I'm not sure the Spectre 13 is a good fit if you will be using the GPU heavily (it's a thin-and-light laptop with a low-power CPU and no dedicated graphics) but most of the others should be able to handle what you want them to. One thing to look out for is processor specs. An i7 isn't always better than an i5 - if the processor code ends in a "U" (e.g. 7500U rather than 7300HQ) it's a lower-power part optimised for battery life rather than performance. Other than that higher numbers is still generally better. If you're doing graphical work look for an IPS (In Plane Switching) display rather than a TN (Twisted Nematic). TN panels generally have a faster response time (arguably better for online first-person shooter gaming) but have poor colour reproduction, viewing angles and pretty much everything else. Depending on the type of production work you do a 4K (aka UHD - either way 3840x2160 rather than 1920x1080 resolution) display will also probably be a good option if you can afford it - you won't be able to play most games at that resolution (you might not be into that sort of thing anyway) but because 4K is effectively like 4x1080p displays you can set the resolution in-game to 1080p and not get any scaling issues.

If you want a decent laptop that you can use for gaming I would recommend a MSI gaming laptop like the one I am using right now!

I was never sold on gaming laptops but MSI swayed me.

There are pretty awesome bits of kit, they look great are compact for a gaming rig!

New ones are eye wateringly expensive (MSI GT83VR Titan).

I got a second hand MSI GT70 for a few hundred and I am still able to run most decent games on it (witcher 3 arma3) in HD (but not 4K obviously!). It is a great laptop too with the i7 core power!

Main issues with it are noise (when using full GPU)  battery life and weight.  

My full time job is 3D modelling/gaming environment/simulation/VR on windows platform using 3D Max, photoshop, Unity, Stingray etc

more than happy to help if you want a chat

PM for me an email addy/phone no.


Thank you guys for the above posts, they have clarified some of my thinking and pointed out some things to me.

I think I'm leaning towards the XPS 15 simply down to the build quality and portability, I know I'm going to be wanting to lug this around all over the place so I think I should try and get something as portable as I can.

Sitting down and actually thinking about use case's made me realise that for example if I wanted to do some major rendering, I would probably set it up on my laptop and do the actual grunt work on our render farm at the office (if I do that at home at all). Same thing if I put together a complex motion graphics piece in After Effects or whatever. As often as I deal with multi-gigabyte Photoshop files at work, am I really going to be dealing with the same kind of thing at home? probably not.

That got me thinking again about the XPS13, but the U designation of the processor and the lack of discrete graphics made me stop thinking about that quite quickly.

My last issue is trying to decide if I can justify to myself the additional cost of the sexy 4K screen as that's going to bring the cost up to around £1800...

(been writing this reply for a while)

Just had a chat at work and it looks like I'll be able to get it through work thereby saving myself the VAT so that knocks the price of the 4K version to less than the none 4K version, seriously tempting now.

Thanks guys for your advice, I'm not rushing out to grab one just yet, but I think I now know what I'm going to get.

It sounds like you have made your mind up since our last chat about this, but personally for me if I had an option to be able to afford the 4k then that's the avenue I would go down because although there may not be a hugh amount of 4k content about at the moment, it will only ever increase. So I would future proof as much as I could/afford to do now because it doesn't take long for things to become outdated in the computer world.

But hay what do I know lol it doesn't contain pistons or conrods etc so my knowledge is limited in this area !!!

Dazzle740 wrote:
may not be a hugh amount of 4k content about at the moment

Apart from mine...

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