Best Portable 15 incher for Video Work

Discussion in 'Which Laptop should I buy?' started by DavidBeier, Apr 6, 2014.

  1. DavidBeier


    Apr 6, 2014
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    I'm a filmmaker and I've come to the point of needing a new laptop for video editing, photoshop, and after effects work. For the last few weeks I've been searching through countless options but have hit a brick wall so I'm hoping someone here can offer some good suggestions.

    While I know you always get more of a bang for your buck with a desktop, I've found that I really need a mobile editing solution (given how often I find myself stuck in different parts of LA or how often I have to take my work to different clients). I can't afford both a strong desktop and a laptop so I'm opting to get as good a laptop as I can.

    My previous "desktop" replacement was a big mistake. I'm usually a guy who goes with the most affordable option and doesn't really worry about portability or form-factor. In 2010 I ended up getting a gigantic 19 inch HP laptop that weighed a ton and looked hideous. It was so damn big that that I needed a special giant bag to take it places and it was incredibly painful on my shoulder. As a result, I hardly took it anywhere.

    Since I'm likely to use my new laptop for the next four years or so, I really wanted something that would be sleek, portable, but powerful enough to run everything I needed. It thus seemed that a 15 (or 15.6) inch laptop was the optimal combination of portability and power (as I find a 13 inch screen a bit small for graphics work). For video/graphics work, I've always been told that a quad core processor is important and 16 gigs of RAM is a must (you can never have too much RAM). A discrete graphics cards is also quite important and nVideo is preferable is it most Adobe and Avid programs are built to work with it. Also, at least a 7200 RPM drive is important.

    Anyway, I few weeks ago I did a quick search and settled on the HP Envy 15 Touchsmart. I was able to up the specs on the website to get a i7 4700 Quad; GeForce GT 470m; 16 Gigs of RAM, and a 5400 hybrid drive with 8 gigs SSD (these were pretty much maxed out settings). It ended up coming to around $1140 or so (also added the backlit keyboard and some other upgrades). I got the laptop in the mail and really liked the form factor. It was slightly heavier than I'd hoped (5.6 pounds) but it was still workable. I also loved that they gave it a sleek feel, similar to a macbook, and allowed the laptop to get slimmer towards the end like an ultrabook. It feels pretty smooth and portable.

    Unfortunately, there are two small problems with this guy. 1.) Even with a hybrid drive, the 5400 rpm just isn't cutting it. I knew I needed a 7200 rpm drive but friends suggested that a hybrid 5400 would be almost as good (wrong). 2.) The screen has lousy viewing angles and lousy contrast ratio. I guess I didnt' realize how bad the viewing angles could be on touch screen laptops. No matter how much I play with the tilt of the screen, part of it is always slightly too dark or too bright because of the angle. Side it side isn't bad but horizontal and vertical sucks. The colors are nice and it's very sharp but the blacks never feel like a true black and the contrast is very weak. I've tried to ignore this but, since I'm doing so much graphics work on the laptop, it's becoming a real issue. I've got another week to return this laptop to HP for a refund. I was thinking of just buying a 500 gig SSD drive and calling it a day but I've heard many have had real issues trying to put an SSD into this laptop as the Windows 8 Recovery through HP doesn't seem to work unless you clone the old disc. Also, putting in an SSD doesn't fix the screen.

    After my screen problems I went to a few store and found that many touch screen laptops had awful viewing angles. I've since looked at a few potential replacements for my HP but have yet to make a choice. Here is what I'm looking at but what's holding me back:

    Asus N550JV: Right now this seems to be the highest recommending multimedia laptop. The $999 model has i7 4700mq, GT 750M, a DVD drive, and a 5400 RPM drive. For this to work, I'd need to make upgrades so I'd order a specialized model from some place like Computer Upgrade King so that I could have a 500 gig SSD, a blu-ray drive, and 16 gigs of RAM. This would bring the total to around $1500 (which is a lot but worth it for a good device). I have one or two things holding me back fro this one. The first is that I think, despite a ton of reviews saying it had one of the best touch screens around; I found a model at best buy that was still a little disappointing (it it wasn't a N550JV but looked to have the same body). The model I held also seemed a little bulkier than I'd like (and I don't like the silver keys on a silver plate look). That said, the reviews have been steller so I may have to just bite the bullet and upgrade this guy. If only I could find a place where I could look at the screen again to make sure I knew what I was gettings.

    Asus N56JR: Like the previous Asus but with slightly better specs but no touch capability. I personally would like touch to future proof the laptop (and I've enjoyed it for web browsing on my HP). Also, I'm already planning to upgrade the N550J to be as powerful as this guy.

    Lenova IdeaPad Y510P. OK, I know this has amazing specs and everyone loves it. I agree the specs are fantastic. Dual SLI 750M seems a bit overkill (I play some games but am not a huge gamer). However, it still lacks a touch screen and I ABSOLUTELY HATE THE DESIGN. It's huge. It's heavy. It feels cheap. And the look of it is actually distracting to me (and would drive me nuts when doing graphics stuff). I'm not saying that every laptop has to be as pretty as an ultrabook or macbook but this thing is just big and fugly.

    Samsung Ativbook 6/Ativbook 8 Touch: These seem like the exact same laptop. I love their form factor (very light and sleek); and the monitor seems like the best touch screen I've seen. The processor is a 3rd gen i7 quad core but it benches about as well as the 4700mq. The real issue is that it only has a ATI card (which After Effects and Avid don't like); only has 8 gigs or RAM, and doesn't have a full SSD drive. I also can't find any places that easily upgrade or customize these guys (like the Asus) so it looks like I'd be stuck with these specs. It's a shame as I love the design and would gladly pay more than the $1000 starting price for a more powerful option.

    Dell Inspirion 15: I LOVE THE DESIGN of this. Like a macbook but nicer in some ways. The touch screen also had good viewing angles and a great contrast ratio. I've heard the colors aren't super accurate but they looked really good to me (should check more on that). I also love that it has an 16 gigs or RAM, GeForce GT 750m, and a 256 gig SSD. Two problems though (which is a shame as I REALLY wanted this one). 1.) The precessor is only an i7 4500 dual core. Everyone I know says having a quad core is important for video editing and the CPU benchmarks show that the 4500mq fall a fair bit behind it's quad core brother (4700). The other issue is that the SSD only goes up to 256 gigs. I know I'd fill this up fast so I'd need to add another drive (maybe just a 500 gig 5400 rpm for slower programs and media files); but there are no customization options for this guy and no only tutorials on how to open it up. I've also read some reviews that suggest the CPU and GPU end up getting throttled by the OS for some reason. It's a shame as I LOVE the look and feel of this laptop.

    MSI GS60 Ghost: Really tempted by this one. It's super thin and sleek but still has AMAZING specs. i7 4700, 16 gigs of RAM, GeForce GT 860M. What's best, it comes with a 128 gig SSD AND a 750 gig 7200 RPM drive. That means I could install the super processor intensive stuff on the SSD and the 7200 rpm drive would still be fast enough for everything else. The only issue is that it's expensive ($1700) and has no touch screen. I love the specs and portability so much that I would be willing to pay that much if it was also touch but, without that feature, it's a harder pill to swallow.

    Gigabyte P35k: Very similar specs to the MSI and very similar form factor/size. It's a little less powerful but I can customize it through a place like GenTech PC so it will have all the specs I need (16 gigs of RAM, SSD and 7200 RPM drive, ect). Reviews say the build quality isn't as good as it should be (which I can live with) but the screen is also non-touch which is annoying for this price.

    Dell XPS 15 Touch: Ok, this is the perfect laptop for me. Great form factor. Great specs. i7 4700; GeForce GT 750m; 16 gigs RAM, SSD. The problem is the price. The $1800 version (which is already near the limits of my price range) only has a 32 m sata gig SSD (and a 5400 RPM 1 TB). 32 isn't enough for the operating system and programs I'd need to run fast. It also doesn't look like there's an easy say to upgrade the mSata (no customization options or tutorials online). Thus I'd have to go with the 500 gb SSD version which is about $2300 and that is simply too much for me to justify.

    New Razer Blade 14': Looks amazing. Amazing specs. Similar to the Dell, TOO MUCH MONEY!!! The 128 gig SSD version cost $2200 (already too much) and the bigger SSDs cost even more. Also, 14 inches is a bit smaller than I'd wanted.

    And that's about it. If I return my HP, I have to do it soon (by 8 or 9 days). I can't find the right option yet so I'm hoping that there is some laptop I've missed that fits my needs or you guys may know of one coming out. Or you guys can let me know if my concerns about certain laptops listed here are unfounded. Thanks!!!
    DavidBeier, Apr 6, 2014
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  2. DavidBeier


    Apr 11, 2014
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    If a touchscreen is important then the HP Envy Touchsmart is one of the best that you're gonna do. There are not many touchscreen laptops with a quad core processor and/or a decent graphics card. The price is great too for it. My girlfriend has that laptop and it's great, the screen itself is very nice in my opinion.
    XeNoNF50, Apr 11, 2014
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