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Author Topic: Short Information about a mobile workstation  (Read 1505 times)


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Short Information about a mobile workstation
« on: October 27, 2009, 10:15:28 PM »

I was asked by a few people about my new mobile workstation. I asked here a while ago about dual and quad cores and what notebooks options are out there. Now after using my new mobile workstation for 4 months I can share some more information.

Let's start at the beginning.

The Problem:

I'm traveling for 6 months in total. Mainly shooting every day, everything from cities to landscapes. The files are mainly from the P65 and 5DMk2. I shoot a lot of panoramic images. I would say around 1/3 of all images are panoramic. So over time a lot of images are coming together. If I would not have edited anything I would end up with around 50-80k of images at the end of 6 months. That gives me around 20k of panoramic files. So if ever panoramic had around 8 images that would be around 2500 panoramic images. So coming back home and only then starting to sort, edit and stitch wasn't an option. So I took my Sony notebook with me.

Sony: 2,4Ghz Dual Core, 3Gb Ram, 320Gb hardrive

This worked well for editing 5DII images, however for editing P65 images it wasn't the best choice. Especially checking focus and stuff took loooooooong. I tried to render a few panoramics, but soon stopped that. Trying to render a 6image P65 stitch already clogged up the whole system for, well to loong....

My solution was to buy a new mobile workstation:

My idea was, just get a nice DELL, HP or Apple one. Here started the second problem. I needed the notebook for my travel time. After that it probably won't be used to often. Apple just wasn't really that faster. I mean a Macbook Pro is nice, but not really a mobile workstation especially the limitation of a dual core wasn't that great. In addition a 17'' mac with all features got quite expensive and would not have been a huge step up from my Sony.

Next was Dell and the others. As example I will only use DELL:

Putting a notebook together was quite simple and the start looked promising. (Starting price is around 1.5-2k) The problem here was that it to gets quite expensive. I mean just a basic setup with a Quad at 2.5ghz, 4GB RAM, a simple 512MB graphic card and two 250Gb hardrives already result around 3200$. Now add 4Gb of ram, a better screen, more space or SSDs and you reach something around 4-6k very quickly.

This is great for someone who has that type of money to spend. I don't. I could justify 4-6k on a real workstation, but not on a mobile one, which after 6 months won't be used that often.

So my search went one. Until I finally found the perfect solution for me. A custom made Gaming Notebook. There are many different companies out there, who use Clevo and  Sager models and put them together. You could just google it. There is a huge selection of different hardware components available. I bought mine from I choose them, because they made it possible to deliver the notebook in 5 days to me.

Now first a short overview:

- Intel Quad Core i7 running at 3.06Ghz (in overdrive up to 3.46ghz)
- 6Gb RAM
- 3x250 Gb 7200 HDs in RAID 0
- GeForce GTX 280M with 1GB Video Memory
- 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) "Super Clear Glossy" LCD Display
- 11.55 lb. including battery
- price for that system around 2900
- ( ) all technical data and images

Now you could get a even faster CPU, 12GB of RAM, 3 RAID 0 SSDs drives and so on, but than again you would hot something like 5k as well.

First of all before I go into more detail there are three important things at the beginning:

1. The things is fast, it is faster than my current main workstation. It's just incredible, that this comes out of such a small (relative term) package.
2. The thing is BIG and heavy. It's not something you carry around.
3. The screen is shit. I'm completely hones here. It's probably one of the worst screens I have ever seen. (More later)

Now more details:

- The build quality is quite nice. Nothing fancy like a nice mac, but solid.
- It has all connections needed
- It's not getting that hot. As long as you leaf it on a hard surface so that the fans can work.
- The components used are more or less the same as on a real Desktop workstation. This is the main reason the thing is so fast.
- Batterie life is around 1hour, which surprised me.

Now I will try to explain why the thing is exactly right for me. It is really fast. I can sort edit and render panoramic files on the fly. I can do all the processing work every night to keep up with all the stuff I shot. My workflow looks the following:

--> Import stuff into Lightroom
--> Select and Sort
--> Develop Panoramic files in C1
--> Merge files in PTGui
--> Finish up the Panos in Photoshop
--> Re-import the finished Panos into Lightroom

A few words about the screen. I don't need a good one. I don't do final color corrections until right before printing files. This is done at home. So what I need from the screen is give me a overview over the photo and that's it. Gamut is around or a little smaller than sRGB and there certainly is banding in dark blues and greens. So if you need a good LCD screen this is not an option for you. For me it works very well.

Now at the end a few more thoughts. I think if you need something really fast on the road, but don't want to or can't spend a lot of money, these types of notebooks are great. If you money doesn't matter than you can choose a DELL or similar with a fantastic screen. What I love about this notebook is the RAID 0 set up. It gives me a great speed, which is important for panos and does not cost as much as SSD drives. It is important to note, that this type of notebook is a REAL Workstation and not a notebook for sorting a few files. It really is for someone like me, who needs great speed and has lots of images and data.

If you have any questions or something is a little unclear just let me know. The whole thing was kinda written during a quick lunch break.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2009, 10:18:29 PM by Christopher »
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