Buyer's Guide 2008: Ultimate Systems
Upgrade the core of your digital darkroom for a faster, smoother photography workflow
Be RAM Smart
When you're configuring a built-to-order computer, you're often given a choice of RAM configurations. Computers have a fixed number of RAM slots, and how those slots are used can make upgrading RAM at a future date more or less expensive.
For example, the Apple iMac has two available RAM slots, which can be filled with either 1 GB or 2 GB memory modules. If you fill those slots with two 1 GB modules for 2 GB of total RAM and later decide you want to upgrade to 4 GB, you'll have to toss both the old 1 GB modules and replace them with two 2 GB modules.
Some manufacturers give you the option of selecting fewer larger-capacity RAM modules and leaving some of the slots empty. Unless you're ready to max out your RAM when you buy your machine, we recommend spending the extra cash up front for fewer, larger-capacity modules, leaving empty slots for future expansion. RAM prices tend to drop over time anyway, and you can usually get a better deal on RAM-even the exact same brand of RAM that the manufacturer uses-from third-party vendors.
Most of today's high-performance computers—both Windows and Mac platforms—use dual-core processors. This means that each chip is essentially two processors in one. The result is a huge gain in performance and a simultaneous reduction in power consumption. "Quad," or four-processor systems are also available on higher-end desktops, and Apple's Mac Pro even lets you pack two of these into its top-of-the-line model, for a total of eight processing cores.
MacBook Pro 17-inch Notebook
Apple's MacBook Pro remains one of the sharpest-looking and best-performing laptops you'll find. Also available in a 15-inch model, we like the extra space that the 17-inch offers for imaging work. Upgradeable to 4 GB of RAM and 250 GB of internal storage, the aluminum-encased MacBook Pro offers a choice of a glossy- or matte-finish screen. There's also a Mini-DVI output if you want to connect a second display.
2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
|Video Card:||NVIDIA GeForce 8600M|
GT (256 MB)
|Hard Drive:||160 GB, 5400 rpm|
|Optical Drive:||SuperDrive (CD/DVD Double Layer burner)|
|Ports:||1-FireWire 800; 1-FireWire 400; 3-USB 2.0; Mini-DVI out|
|Networking:||10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet; 820.11n WiFi; Bluetooth|
|List Price:||$2,799 (as configured)|