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Which computer? An artist frets...

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  • Which computer? An artist frets...

    The family computer is constantly breaking down, and I get sick of having to move my chair in every time someone wants to go out to the garden (yes, it's a glamorous life :roll: ), so I'm looking at buying my very own laptop so that I can "create on the move" (well, in my bedroom really).

    At the moment, I'm considering the very cheap option of buying a refurbished/second-hand one online, but I've come to realise I actually know nothing about the pesky things.
    So if any of you tech-smart types can help me, I'd be very grateful. Basically I want a computer that can handle A4, 16 million colour images without freezing up. I'd like to be able to run a version of Photoshop (any version that produces CMYK images suitable for printing), and maybe Word too. A CD Rom Re-Writer would be nice, but not essential. That's not much to ask, is it? But all I see when I look at computer specs is a jumble of numbers and letters (Celeron M? What the f-?).

    If anyone could give me the idiot's guide to the sort of computers I should be looking at, then that would be fantastic.

    Thank you. :D
    "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

  • #2
    Re: Which computer? An artist frets...

    Originally posted by DeeCrowSeer
    (Celeron M? What the f-?)

    Hi Dee,

    I can help you on the "Celeron" thing...

    you often see two computers with Intel chips, one being a 2.5gz chip, and the other being a 2.5gz Celeron chip. The Celeron model is always a hell of a lot cheaper, even though it technically is as fast as the other computer.

    this is because the Celeron doesn't have the same (expensive) on-chip cooling architecture as the other chip, it get very hot, very quickly.

    This is something to think about in a Laptop, my Celeron-powered Laptop produced 60-100 watts of heat when I was running big graphics application. It kept my hands nice and warm (I was living in a really cold flat at the time), but it also cooked the plastic that made up the laptops casing causing it to crack and deform.

    False economies you see.....

    If you're rich enough, buy a Mac.
    \"It got worse. He needed something to cure himself. What? he asked. M-A 19 he answered.\"

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Which computer? An artist frets...

      Originally posted by M-A_19
      My Celeron-powered Laptop produced 60-100 watts of heat when I was running big graphics application. It kept my hands nice and warm (I was living in a really cold flat at the time), but it also cooked the plastic that made up the laptops casing causing it to crack and deform..
      8O 8O 8O

      Crikey! Thank you for the heads up. I assumed the difference would be purely technical (and beyond my comprehension), but that's a pretty solid mark against the Celeron... although my room doesn't have heating either... :?

      Originally posted by M-A_19
      If you're rich enough, buy a Mac.
      Ah, if only! I might have to get Una to help me break into the Art Department at my old university... I'm sure they wouldn't miss a PowerMac or two... :)
      "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

      Comment


      • #4
        AMD chips tend to run hotter than their Intel Pentium 4 counterparts. They're great for games, but calculation heavy stuff, like some graphic applications, seem to prefer Intel. I've got an AMD 2600+ machine at the moment, though.

        Alternatively, Mac's tend to be very popular amongst graphics folks. That new mini Mac, might be just the thing...

        PaintShop Pro is a very good graphic programme. Coreldraw and Photopaint, even better, but more expensive. Adobe Photoshop, unbelievably expensive.

        The Gimp, is free and it's great, for the price.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by AndroMan
          AMD chips tend to run hotter than their Intel Pentium 4 counterparts. They're great for games, but calculation heavy stuff, like some graphic applications, seem to prefer Intel.
          Cool, thanks! I'm going to keep my "work" computer free of games to avoid the temptation... hopefully. Although I was about a third of the way through Half-Life before the family computer's disc drive broke. Dammit!

          Which part of a computer's specs actually refers to the grace with which it handles large image files on screen? Is that the processor, or the size of the memory or the size of the hard drive?

          (That's probably a really dumb question isn't it? :( )

          Originally posted by AndroMan
          Alternatively, Mac's tend to be very popular amongst graphics folks. That new mini Mac, might be just the thing...
          I really don't have enough money for any sort of Mac, sadly. There may not be any technical differences, as TheAdlerian suggests, but the arty types do tend to favour them... perhaps because they just look so shiny and cute?

          Originally posted by AndroMan
          PaintShop Pro is a very good graphic programme. Coreldraw and Photopaint, even better, but more expensive. Adobe Photoshop, unbelievably expensive. The Gimp, is free and it's great, for the price.
          PaintShopPro has been very good to me for the last five years, but I've only just been made aware of its inability to produce CMYK images of any sort. I need that capacity if I am to produce print-worthy designs. Does The Gimp allow you to manipulate/produce images in CMYK? I certainly like the idea of saying "bring out the gimp" every time I click on the icon. :)
          "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by DeeCrowSeer
            I really don't have enough money for any sort of Mac, sadly.
            Mmm... a Mac mini is آ£339. Similarly spec'd PCs would be cheaper, but the Mac will pay for itself in reduced "care and feeding" over the years. Although you'd have to factor in the cost of new software, you'll have far less to worry about from viruses, spyware, etc. (See here, for example.)

            I differ from TheAdlerian's pov; I work with both machines (a PC at work; a Mac at home), and much prefer the Mac. In the IT firm I work for, in our team, more than a third of us have Macs at home... compared with an overall market penetration of < 5%. In fact, Macs are far more popular among industry folks than elsewhere!

            Oh, and don't be fooled by Macs' poorer clock speeds (the GHz figures); Macs use a different kind of chip altogether (PowerPC), and for a given clock speed they actual perform better in terms of "instructions per second". For your needs, Dee, you'd maybe want to compare Photoshop benchmarks, rather than the "raw" specs.

            Ciao,
            Ant [/url]

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ant
              Mmm... a Mac mini is آ£339.
              Really? Sorry, I haven't been paying attention to the world of computing, so I wasn't aware they were going that cheap. I'll have to check out the website.

              Originally posted by Ant
              For your needs, Dee, you'd maybe want to compare Photoshop benchmarks, rather than the "raw" specs.
              Thanks for that. I'd only just figured out (after a long, confusing conversation with my sister) what the GHz actually referred to, but what you say makes a lot of sense.

              Of course at this point I'd just settle for something with a USB port that didn't take five minutes to post to this forum. :(

              DeeCS,
              aka The Brown Crow

              Comment


              • #8
                Folks - Don't confuse Celeron with Centrino.

                Celeron chips are underpowered (from a processor perspective) Intel chips designed for low intensity applications. If you want to do anything which requires large amounts of number crunching (graphics editing, video editing, audio editing etc) a Celeron is NOT for you.

                Centrino refers to a chipset from Intel that includes the Pentium mobile chip, power handling, wireless ethernet etc that is designed specifically for mobile applications (notebook/laptop PCs etc) - they use less power, generate less heat etc. Although they don't necessarily have the same Ghz as normal Pentium4 Chips, they are quite effective.

                AMD (and for that matter Apple/IBM PowerPC) chips also have lower Ghz ratings but are still as - if not more - powerful than Intel Pentium 4 chips. The AMD 64s and the Apple/IBM PowerPC G5s are also 64bit processors so theoretically they can address much more memory and process things much faster than their 32bit counterparts.

                A lot of this depends upon the Operating System of course. Microsoft Windows is 32 bit - the 64 bit Longhorn OS is not "due" for release until sometime in 2006, though MS is notorious for slipping release dates. They have also been chopping out a number of promised features that directly impact on security and reliability in an attempt to meet their deadlines.

                The Apple 64 bit OS was released last Friday, 28 April as OSX 10.4 (Tiger).

                Then there's LINUX but I can't really talk authoritively about that except to say that it has a UNIX provenance (as does Apple's OSX). Both these OS' are more reliable than Windows because of the way they protect the OS kernel from the applications running on the machine.

                Then there's BeOS which is based on the old Amiga OS. Really good for music and graphics but supported by virtually no one (unfortunately).

                The thing about Apple is that they make the hardware AND the OS so theoretically you never run into the problem of strange mixes of hardware components doing weird things to your machine. They do tend to be a bit more expensive, but nothing like they used to be (though their Powerbooks are a bit much if you have to pay list price!). The miniMacs are particularly good value if you already have a keyboard/mouse/monitor etc. And Macs have nice (if slightly expensive) wireless options available.

                Check the number of ports (USB, FireWire) that you need. Don't forget that a keyboard and mouse (on a Mac) will take a USB port (but gives you 1 or 2 back with an inbuilt USB 1.1 hub). Digital LCD monitors (those with a DVI) often give you a builtin USB hub as well, but you sacrifice a USB on the computer itself.

                When deciding on a computer, particularly if you have a specific application in mind, I always choose the software first, then pick a machine to run it.
                Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
                Bakunin

                Comment


                • #9
                  Oh and by the way, I am just about to despatch my AMD PC with which I have been creating and editing music on for the last three years in favour of a new iMac. :D
                  Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
                  Bakunin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Memory, which is RAM, should be plentiful. You'll want to get 512 MB to 1 GB. This allows you to have more than one graphics application open at once, and will allow you to have multiple images open at once. That might sound stupid, but believe me, you'll find yourself with a million images opened while you surf the web.

                    Every serious artist that I have know has always had a large screen to work with. This is expensive, of course.

                    Any laptop you purchase used will be near the end of its life, is my opinion. I have bought stacks of used equipment and have only ever had trouble with the laptops. It's because people don't like to let them go, and try to get rid of them when they get flakey.

                    Good luck on your search DCS.
                    The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Berry Sizemore
                      Memory, which is RAM, should be plentiful. You'll want to get 512 MB to 1 GB. This allows you to have more than one graphics application open at once, and will allow you to have multiple images open at once. That might sound stupid, but believe me, you'll find yourself with a million images opened while you surf the web.
                      Absolutely! Given the choice between a 0.25 Ghz increase in speed and doubling your RAM (for example) your money is better spent on the RAM.

                      Also, if you want a large screen area to work on, its cheaper to get two smaller screens running off a reasonable card than buying a single big screen. Most Macs can do this out of the box, a PC needs a dual-head card (not very expensive). Laptops (PC or Mac) can usually do it straight out of the box as well, using inbuilt screen plus another one plugged into the video port. The Apple iBook (but not its expensive sibling the PowerBook) needs a software patch for this.

                      Also, if you do buy things new, check out the warranty! Extended warranties (from 1 year to 3 years) on laptops are expensive at about 15% of the retail price. On a non-laptop you are looking at round the 10% mark, but you may not need it as it probably won't be moving it much anyway.
                      Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
                      Bakunin

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Seem to recall they were always using Apple Macs in Buffy. It may be that for image conscious Wiccas and Artists the Mac is the way to go.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          DCS,

                          I manage to do all the things you mention on a secondhand HP OmniBook XE2 which cost آ£165. I did, however, spend a bit more upping the memory to its maximum, so call it آ£200. As has already been mentioned, this prevents the thing from being grindingly slow when opening multiple images. The screen isn't as large as on more recent models, but I personally don't find that a problem. You can now buy 17" CRT monitors for next to nothing (bought a spare one at a school fair at the weekend for آ£2.50!) as everyone's changing to flat screens for convenience, even though the image is poorer. As you can simply plug an external monitor into the back of a laptop, you could find somewhere to park one and just use it when doing image manipulation. Oh yes, this particular laptop has very little video memory, so it tends to balk at complex moving images. This prevents many games from running on it, thus dissuading my household's marauding yoof from attempting to colonise the machine!

                          All laptops seem to me to generate ridiculous amounts of heat. I use a laptop cooler, which is a thin flat box with three fans in it which you just slip under the laptop. It's quite extraordinarily effective. I think they cost about آ£20 at the moment. I've not found the kind of issues Berry mentions with used laptops (I've also got an ancient refurbed Toshiba Satellite which runs like new), but maybe I've just been lucky. I have found, however, that pre-owned laptops often have a better spec than they would have had when new, as many users would upgrade them before parting with them.

                          Can't remember if you're in the UK, but if so - think you are - , have a nose here:

                          www.sterlingxs.co.uk

                          and

                          www.computerbargains.co.uk

                          Both these companies can supply a range of refurbed laptops with warranties. I've bought from both on various occasions and have been very pleased. Anything with 256MB or more of RAM should see you right. There's also eBay, of course.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Crikey! So much to digest...

                            The Minimacs do look very nice, but I think the whole price thing is a bit of a cheat. I would have to buy a new monitor/keyboard/mouse to use it, so the cost really isn't quite as cheap as the flashy boasts on their site claim. Damn these USB ports! I never voted for them. :( Also, I think it's fine and dandy having a Mac in the city, where there's more chance of support and software, but stuck in a backwater town like this one, I doubt it would be a smart way to go. Not a "Genius Bar" in sight...

                            Thank you all for your comments though. I knew it would be better to ask such questions here, rather than rely on the chaps in the local shops who are constantly trying to sell me expensive things I don't need.
                            "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Groakes
                              Oh and by the way, I am just about to despatch my AMD PC with which I have been creating and editing music on for the last three years in favour of a new iMac. :D
                              Switcher!

                              Gr.,
                              Ant

                              PS. My teenage sons opted for Macs over Wintel machines (:D) so now they each have a G5 eMac - way better than my old lime-green G3 iMac ().

                              PPS. eMacs start at آ£549, DCS - including integral CRT, kb & mouse. (They're bloody heavy though.)

                              PPPS. Not that I'm evangelizing for Jobs or anything. (I don't work for Apple.)

                              PPPPS. Mac OS X is the best-selling UNIX-based desktop OS in the world!

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