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Help Me, LAPTOP: I need a Photoshop-Friendly Notebook With Long Battery Life

When you write to helpme@laptopmag.com asking for advice, we're there for you. Today, we have a note from Jerome, whose aging notebook can't run the latest version of Photoshop. While many graphic artists won't part with their Macs, he explicitly asked for a Windows 7 notebook.

He writes:

I am currently in the market for a new laptop that I will be using for the next 4-5 years. I'm a big fan of Adobe Photoshop (currently using CS3 Extended) and unfortunately I'm not able to upgrade to Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended due to my aging laptop, but that's not the main reason. I am replacing my 4-year-old HP Pavilion dv1000 SE with a 14in screen, due to several reasons: it's not Windows 7 compatible, no dedicated graphics card, no built-in webcam, no wi-fi N-receiver (just b/g), no built-in bluetooth, and the battery last for about three hours max from web browsing through wi-fi, playing music, watching 480p video, and/or downloading music contents.

I was very interested in the HP Envy 14, but I thought for the starting price of $999, it was too much. Especially when the battery life lasted only 4 hours and 25 minutes in your full review. I'm specifically looking for a light, slim laptop with 13in - 15in screen display (preferebly a flush screen like the HP Envy 14 or the Samsung Q430-11 or the latest Macbook Pro's screen, but it's not a must-have feature for me). On top of the feature list that the laptop must have: Windows 7 (home premium or pro), Intel Core i5 with turboboost, weighs no more than 6 lbs., 5 hours battery life, multi-touch pad, bluetooth, wireless b/g/n, backlit keyboard, optical drive (dvd is fine), media card reader (SD card support), webcam, and most importantly for under $999. Could you guys possibly help me. Thanks in

We think  you've hit on some of the best choices in this category in your search already. A 13-inch MacBook may actually be the best choice for you, even if you want to run Windows 7, because it lasts more than 7 hours on a charge and has discrete graphics. As you probably know, you can run Windows 7 on a Mac using bootcamp. However, the 13-inch MacBook only has a Core 2 Duo CPU. If you want Core i5 power, you'll have to step up to the $1199 MacBook Pro, one of our favorite systems of the year.

After the Macs, the HP Envy 14 is a really strong choice too. As you know, it has a nice high-res screen, discrete graphics, and a powerful CPU. If you want the extra endurance, you can splurge for its optional battery slice (a $200 option on HP.com).

Beyond the Envy 14 and the MacBooks, we strongly recommend you take a look at some solid business systems that can be configured with discrete graphics. Though not thought-of as a graphics system, the ThinkPad T410 is available with Nvidia Optimus switchable graphics and an optional 1440x900 resolution screen that will fit a lot more of your content on it. With the extended battery, it should last around 6 hours.

The problem with all the systems we've recommended above is that, while they usually start below $999, you may have to pay a bit more to get the extra options you want. However, if you're planning to keep your notebook for 4 or 5 years, we recommend you splurge a little to get all the features you need. Also, if you're patient, it's possible you'll see some significant deals over the next few weeks as we enter holiday shopping season.

The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.