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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Buyer's Guide 2009: Photo Workstations

Upgrading to a faster, more powerful machine can dramatically improve your speed in the digital darkroom

This Article Features Photo Zoom

With the trademark ribbed lid and glowing silver alien head, the 17.1-inch Alienware Area-51 m9750 laptop features a glossy widescreen with 1920 x 1200 resolution. This is higher than the standard 1600 x 1200 resolution offered by most 17-inch notebooks and great for viewing high-definition images. Hard-drive capacity goes up to 1 TB and RAM is expandable to 4 GB. A magnesium-alloy chassis is lighter than steel, yet robust enough to protect the laptop. Another notable feature of the m9750 is 7.1-channel audio.

Basic Configurations

Screen Size: 17 inches
Processor: 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 1 GB
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8700M GT (512 MB)
Hard Drive: 120 GB, 7200 RPM
Optical Drive: CD, DVD
Ports: FireWire (1), USB (4), S-video, VGA, DV, 4-in-1 memory card reader
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, Internal
Intel PRO Wireless, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 15.6x11.7x1.5 inches
Weight: 8.5 pounds
Estimated Street Price: $1,299

With an upgrade to the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a larger hard drive and a standard 2 GB of memory, the Apple MacBook Pro continues to impress with its high performance and sharp-looking design. Available in a 15-inch model, the larger 17-inch version is better for working with images. There's also plenty of internal room with a standard 250 GB hard drive and RAM that can be upgraded to 4 GB. The display, with 1680 x 1050 resolution, is offered in both glossy and matte versions. Also included is a third LED backlit option that's lighter and more power-efficient.

Basic Configurations

Screen Size: 17 inches
Processor: 2.5 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT (512MB)
Hard Drive: 250 GB, 5400 rpm
Optical Drive: SuperDrive (CD/DVD)
Ports: FireWire 400 (1), FireWire 800 (1), USB (3), Dual-Link DVI, VGA
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit, Ethernet; 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 15.4x10.4x1.0 inches
Weight: 6.8 pounds
Estimated Street Price: $2,799


The HP Pavilion dv9700t laptop is a solid choice for the roaming photographer. Intel Core 2 Duo processors with 64-bit support let you run several multimedia apps at the same time without slowing the system. Dual hard drives are configurable with up to 640 GB of storage and RAM can be expanded to 4 GB. The glossy, black resin notebook is elegantly designed with a full-sized keyboard. You can control volume and launch buttons with a simple tap of the keyboard. You also can log on by swiping your finger across an optional integrated fingerprint security reader.

Basic Configurations

Screen Size: 17-inch
Processor: 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS (256 MB)
Hard Drive: 250 GB, 5400 RPM
Optical Drive: SuperMulti Drive (DVD)
Ports: USB (3), FireWire, S-video, VGA, HDMI, 5-in-1 media card reader
Networking: Intel PRO/Wireless
Dimensions: 15.2x11.6x1.6 inches
Weight: 7.7 pounds
Estimated Street Price: $1,099

Lenovo partnered with Microsoft to design a laptop specifically for photographers. Weighing just over eight pounds, the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 packs some attractive features into its hefty frame. A built-in digitizer that basically serves as a mini Wacom tablet sits below an integrated color calibrator that automatically adjusts the display's color. Optional dual hard drives with RAID configurations, up to 8 GB of RAM and a seven-in-one multicard reader round out key specs. The 17-inch screen delivers WUXGA (1920 x 1200) resolution, displaying 72 percent of the color gamut, or range of visible colors. The W700 also will support Intel's mobile quad-core processor.

Basic Configurations

Screen Size: 17 inches
Processor: 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB
Video Card: NVIDIA Quadro FX-2700M (512 MB)
Hard Drive: 160 GB, 7200 RPM
Optical Drive: DVD
Ports: USB (5), Dual-Link DVI-D, VGA, DisplayPort
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 16.1x12.2x1.6 inches
Weight: 8.3 pounds
Estimated Street Price: $2,978


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