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Laptop or desktop?

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware' started by Stacey K, Apr 20, 2020.

  1. Stacey K

    Stacey K Getting Back in the Game

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    Thinking of buying a laptop so I can do some design work from home. I also need a new desktop at home so can bring my work one home. I currently have a desktop at the shop and use LXI and Corel. Looking to bring the laptop home so I have all my fonts, and files at my fingertips. It's been a while since I bought a computer, much less a laptop. Are laptops as good as desktops these days? I really don't know much about RAM, etc so forgive me to being dumb LOL. In my past life I used Lenovo laptops and really like them.

    I have a Graphtec cutter, LXI desktop version which I will have to update soon, Corel Draw, Microsoft Office and a couple desktop printers. No vinyl printer yet. Thank you!
     
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  2. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    Laptops have greatly improved, but there are still going to be some drawbacks, ram not quite as fast, cooling may be an issue. HDs or rather SSDs may not be quite the same etc. Processors. A lot of people use laptops for work, even in 3D work.

    It is all going to depend on what is more important to your needs. A laptop can handle what you mentioned, I had an 11 yr old laptop that handled production for quite a while and compared to today's laptops, it's a slouch now.

    I've always been one that believes "Better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it". That can be an expensive motto to live by, but it has served me well.

    Laptops, one sacrifices certain abilities in order to be mobile. The more mobile that you want to be, the more sacrifices that occur. For instance, want to be able to have as much power as you can get in a small form factor, usually that means having a heavier brick, thicker heavier laptop etc. Which usually translates as not as much fun lugging it around. Multi monitor support, be able to multi task etc, all play a part in what to get.
     
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  3. Baz

    Baz Very Active Member

    I bought my laptop in 2015 and it is still working great.
    Be prepared to spend on the high end in order to get the bigger cpu, lots or ram and a decent video card.
    Dual hard drives are a great option also.
    I found gaming laptops to have the most of those specs.

    I have a production pc in my shop that i use for designing and outputting to a printer, a plotter and two laser machines.
    The laptop that i use is for main email, accounting and general online stuff.
    I have Adobe CC installed in both machines.
    When i go home i can design on the laptop and bring my work back at the shop.
    It's been a great workflow so far.

    Make sure to always back up your work!
    External hard drives are a must.
     
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  4. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    I should mention, I forgot to. My 11 yr old laptop was a gaming laptop, but bare in mind, gaming needs (particularly the GPU) are focused on different needs then say a designer would need. So while it is possible to "brute force" a gaming laptop to do what you need, a true workstation laptopt/desktop with the appropriate GPU would also work.
     
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  5. Notarealsignguy

    Notarealsignguy Very Active Member

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    A laptop is nice for convenience. You can take it home every night and not worry about someone breaking in the shop and losing a bunch of work.
    I got this one last year with a 17.3" screen, its big and a bit heavy but its really nice having a larger screen. The case is all aluminum
    Lenovo Y700 - 17.3 Inch Full HD Gaming Laptop with Extra Storage (Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1TB HDD + 256 GB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Windows 10)
     
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  6. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    I use a laptop for my work, which is email, accounting and designing, I really like it, at the shop I have it hooked up to an external monitor with a USB keyboard & mouse, so I get a dual monitor setup, but when I take it home all my setting in all my programs are exactly how they are at the shop. It's worked out really well for me and I don't think I could go back to a Desktop for my PC. All the production computers in the shop are Desktops though, I wouldn't want to use a laptop as a Rip Station, it would get very hot very quickly.
     
  7. jimbug72

    jimbug72 Member

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    I find laptops to be more challenging due to the smaller keyboard (big guy/big hands) and screen (I prefer to spend more time designing and less time scrolling.) These are easy fixes if you are willing to use an external keyboard and monitor. As already mentioned you should be able to get a laptop that will be able to meet your needs. You're just probably going to end up paying more for the same computing power to have the convenience of portability in a laptop.
     
  8. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    Desktop + Chromebook + Remote Desktop = best of both worlds.
    We have excellent local internet, and I can remote into my workstation at the office and use a stylus and actually draw from my house. The chromebooks are dirt cheap (granted the one with the stylus wasn't) and if you break one, you can be up and running on a new one faster than you can drive to the store and fork over $200.
     
  9. Stacey K

    Stacey K Getting Back in the Game

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    I like this! Do you need the software downloaded on both computers for this to work?
     
  10. Notarealsignguy

    Notarealsignguy Very Active Member

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    I was told to be very careful with remote access on a computer.
     
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  11. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    I'm of the firm believer (which is one of the many reasons why I truly despise SaaS) of keeping rigs offline, especially those at the the office. 2 of the biggest disruptions in the production room floor stem from online connectivity (and one isn't malignant in nature). With remoting in, especially using the common GUI methods does lend itself to further issues with regard to security. Couple that with how some OSs handle permissions of software, no bueno.
     
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  12. Mary Gotcher

    Mary Gotcher New Member

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    I used to own a computer store (back in the day when you purchased custom built--before Dell came out with the cheap ones--really tells my age).. ALWAYS buy more power than you think you'll need. It will last you for many years and you will not be sorry. I know it's hard to let go of the $$, but you will be happier in the long run. Most of my laptops give me at least 5 years of use and at the end of use they are still marketable if you want to sell them. I've used both laptops and desktops for about 15 years now (always buying the "best" I could afford)... "Fast forward to today". I do have a high end "Alienware" gaming computer for my desktop. I never have issues. I never liked Dell, but they bought out Alien Ware and it is a very decent computer. However, I wanted something really portable also. The Alien Ware laptop version is very nice (my husband has one), but it is bulky and very heavy. Up until last year i purchased regular sized laptops but they were a bit too bulky. I always buy computers with high end processors and lots of memory (like Intel 7 processor and lots of ram memory---I think there are even faster ones out now.) The phrase "you get what you pay for" is certainly true with laptops. But i was willing to sacrifice a bit of speed for portability. I wanted very SMALL--- like IPAD size small. So, i opted for a Microsoft Surface Pro with an Intel 5 processor and solid state hard drive. I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop ALOT. I LOVE IT. I didn't buy the cheapest, but i didn't buy the most expensive. I think i spent $1000ish on it (keyboard is separate). Now you'll spend around $1100. It doesn't have a large hard drive but certainly buy one with a Solid State hard drive (SSD). They may not even make them with anything else anymore. it does have a USB port so i can plug in my portable hard drive to it. I like to do that because if i'm working on something i can just take the portable hard drive and copy it back to my desktop (or transfer it through my network). I also purchased the keyboard AND bluetooth mouse. The bluetooth mouse frees up the USB port. I use both Illy and Photoshop everyday and they run fine on most files. Right now i am working on a new website for our company and have used it extensively for all the graphics and it hasn't even had a hiccup. I highly recommend the Surface Pro. We also have (in our shop) Flexi and Corel. I'm sure both would run just fine on the Surface Pro. I will tell you that just before purchasing the Surface Pro i was using a HP Envy X360 and it ran perfectly! It was just too big. I also paid quite a bit for it also. So, just think about how portable you want to be.

    Just arm yourself when you go shopping. Be educated about what you need before you step into a store to buy. So they don't sell you something that won't work for you. In summary: I would buy at least Intel 7 processor, (NEVER NEVER NEVER buy the I3--it won't work for what you are doing) the most memory you can afford and ABSOLUTELY something with a solid state drive. Also, look for at least 1-2 USB ports. (You'll need the USB ports for your printer if it doesn't work via WIFI). I don't know a lot about the video cards any more, but i think most of the mid to high range laptops will have decent video cards. Please note I do not have any affiliation to Microsoft. Just love my Surface Pro. Also make sure that your software is compatible with the operating system. Some do not have "full" versions of Windows and your software may not work. Additionally you cannot use something with "flash memory"--you will need something with an actual hard drive to install the programs to---- Once again, just make sure that your software is compatible with the operating system. If you are using an OLD LXI program, you may have to update it. I will tell you that you can most probably install the LXI on two computers but if you have a "hard key" just take it from machine to machine... you just can't use it on two computers at once. Also before you buy make sure that your cutter will work with it (is it a USB connection or Serial connection?)... You may can buy a Serial to USB adapter for it, but I don't know what's out there and if it will work for you.
    Good Luck!
     
  13. Notarealsignguy

    Notarealsignguy Very Active Member

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    There was a debate on solid state drives on here before. I don't know or care about computers one bit but read that SSDs have a finite amount of writing capability. When they crap out, they give no warning where as an HDD you know when it starts to get buggy and have a better chance of recovering data. I know you are supposed to back up all the time but reality is that most people don't. Isn't the ideal setup an SSD for the operating system and regularly used programs an an HDD for saving files?
     
  14. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    A long time ago I was an avowed desktop user; I thought notebooks were a ripoff for what they cost versus desktop machines with similar CPU, RAM and video card capabilities. But then I developed a hatred for having to sit at a computer desk at home. After 8-plus hours sitting at a computer desk at work I didn't want to come home and chain my leg to another desk.

    By the mid 2000's notebooks started getting pretty decent. Screen resolutions finally improved to respectable levels as well as adopting wide aspect ratios. Other features improved too. So that's when I made the jump.

    Now I'm kind of shopping around for a new notebook to replace my nearly 9-year old Dell XPS system. I'm hoping Dell re-introduces a 17" XPS model. I also hope they improve the thermals on these systems over the 2019 models.

    Yes, an ideal setup in a notebook would be a SSD for the OS and applications and a traditional HDD for storing files. Larger/thicker "gaming" notebooks, like those made by Alienware, can be configured with multiple hard discs. But this capability is kind of disappearing as notebooks get thinner and more portable. Everything seems to be trending in the direction of solid state drives and no more optical disc drives either.

    Like all flash memory Solid state drives indeed have a finite number of write cycles before they go bad. On the bright side SSDs made in recent years are more durable and should last longer. Traditional HDDs may make odd noises when they're starting fail; SSDs make no noises at all. Software, such as Hard Disk Sentinel, is available to monitor SSDs for things like bad blocks. Good quality, newer SSDs may provide more clues they're starting to fail, such as file open or file write failures rather than the whole thing quitting all of a sudden.

    Generally I try to store as little as possible on a computer's internal hard drive. It makes doing something like a factory restore procedure a lot faster and easier. There is a very wide variety of external HDD and SSD units available. USB-C connections on a new notebook should make them run very fast.
     
  15. rjssigns

    rjssigns Major Contributor

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    Take a look at the Microsoft Surface laptops. Former student has one and he crushed Photoshop and Illustrator with it. Can't remember the model number but it had a stylus and he could use it like a Wacom tablet.
     
  16. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    I thought they were on the outs in your mind (laptops in general) due to the lack of options that laptops have in recent years?

    I've always thought of a 7740. No 17" though, so that probably won't work for you. The other brand that I have been looking at, System 76, does have a 17", but I know that won't work for you, at least not out of the gate. I don't see why it wouldn't if you didn't mind loading your own OS on it, but otherwise, no, it wouldn't work.

    Close, but as was already mentioned, ideally you would want your OS and your programs installed on the SSD and your files written elsewhere (I use a NAS).

    Now, backups more then ever need to be done. So while I do agree, that most people don't tend to do them, it for sure doesn't mean that they shouldn't do them. Even taking off the possibility of an SSD total on the spot unpredictable failure (and those finite writes have gotten way better, I just hope people aren't defragging those drives), backups (in more then one location (imagine if people have a problem with doing backups even once)) are just something that people should be doing.

    Backups not only would save from the hassle of drive failure in general (SSD or mechanical, I had a mechanical just going bad that I had to use the terminal to get in and get my stuff off because it would overheat too much using GUI and having Explorer index everything for thumbnail preview), but it would also save on other issues (bad updates, malware getting in their system etc).
     
  17. binki

    binki Premium Subscriber

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    We have been purchasing consumer grade mini towers and I can say the HAL's have gone down in quality and only last a few years. I have 4 dead ones and 1 live one right now. I purchased my first HP. These runn between $400 and $600 and we use one of them as a server/workstation.

    As mentioned, anything that is going to connect to equipment and run it will need good cooling.

    We are looking into a server for our data files but the real PITA is when a box dies all the software that needs to be reinstalled and configured. Make sure you keep all of your configurations handy and backed up. We use Carbonite but there are a lot of good solutions out there.

    If you need to work remotely, you can VPN into your desktop machine from anywhere using something like GoToMyPC or any other VPN service. Just keep in mind when you do VPN you cut your bandwidth in half so as long as your internet connection is high powered and always connected (we tether off of our phones often) you only need to have the software in one place.
     
  18. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    For the chromebooks it's incredibly simple, it's built into the chromeos for the most part, and the PC side is just a small download that runs in the background. For me, call me naive, but I feel a bit more secure knowing it's google doing the security on the remote connection. (No offense to others, but I hate GoToMyPC because it sounds like malware)
    I'll argue that it does introduce a possible route for intrusion, but not as much as that one salesman who will click any link, let alone that one android app that promised to convert mm to in but it needs access to your photos... One must always consider whether or not they are a target or a potential phishing victim, and it is almost always the latter.
    As far as backups go, I like to get everything just perfect in my OS (for a production machine), then clone the disk and put it on an external on the shelf. This is a bad idea for several reasons, but for a typical oh sh*t moment, nothing gets you up and running faster. For your powerhouse artwork machine, you'll want to be more proactive or you'll be rediscovering every tweak you made over the past 3 years.
    Chromebook doesn't need to be backed up, it's 'hard' to mess it up on the software side, and it's dirt cheap, so you can heartily invest in a desktop with all the storage in the world, plenty of ram and a decent processor, and just haul the chromebook around where it may get dropped or sat on.
     
  19. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    Quite a bit of software has had their issues though, so even if they aren't directly malware, being used as a vector for malware is also a possibility. Depending on the OSs involved and how they handle permissions could also play a part. I waffle a bit though on if Google is the best thing. There are some things that I do use Google for and I do have an Android phone (much rather have a phone running Plasma, but all the specs suck compared to what I can get on Android).

    +1. I would also add to have a backup as well with just the OS with the drivers only installed, no programs, in case need to revert back to that state and not using the same programs that were apart of the backup after all the initial programs were installed on it.

    From there I would do a 3rd full clone and then incremental back or at least take one of those previous clones, put it on another drive so you aren't touching the original two but a copy of one and do incremental from that.

    It may be overkill, but I also don't have to worry about HD failures (or SSD failures), malware, wonky updates screwing things up etc. The savings in downtime are worth it alone.

    Much easier and efficient to wipe and reinstall and not worry about trying to do this, that and the other for a few hrs (sometimes it could be less then that) and still run the possibility of having to reload one of the backups.
     
  20. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    I'm not really all that fond of Microsoft's Surface notebooks for two reasons. The first is they're pretty expensive compared to similarly equipped models from other companies. The second is the stylus could be better. It doesn't work as well as the pen with Wacom tablets or Cintiq screens. The Surface stylus isn't as good as the Apple Pencil (for iPad Pro) either. I think the Surface Studio desktop computer is a really beautiful piece of hardware (to me it looks like a high tech art table) and it has a great looking screen. Like the laptops, it's really expensive for the processing power you get and the stylus is pretty choppy. That Surface dial gadget is pretty cool though. Adobe's applications work with it.

    There's a few things I have not liked about the 2018 and 2019 notebooks from several brands (Dell, Apple, Razer, Lenovo, etc). Too many recent model notebooks have been built too thin and have thermal issues when configured with more powerful CPUs and graphics boards. Dell and Apple are both guilty in that category. It's looking like notebook manufacturers may be taking thermal performance a little more seriously as they roll out 2020 models.

    RAM is another issue. Some of the "gaming" notebooks, like current models from Razer and Alienware max out at 16GB of RAM, which is odd when Dell's XPS 15 can fit up to 64GB of RAM. I'd like to get at least 32GB of RAM in my next notebook. Hopefully Razer and Alienware will address that issue in their next models.

    Then there's the kind of nasty way how these companies don't really let customers configure the systems with just the bells and whistles they want. Basically if you want one just one particular feature maxed out you often get forced into a configuration category that maxes out just about everything else. Often the resulting configuration ends up being too expensive. The Razer Blade Pro 17 is one example. If you want a 2160p UHD screen you first have to choose the most expensive video card option for the the UHD option to become available.

    Speaking of Dell's Precision 7740, if I was in a situation where I had to buy a new notebook immediately the 7740 would be one of the leading candidates. But a good configuration would run in the $3500-$4000 range. Might as well be buying a MacBook Pro!
     
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