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These days laptops are fast and can have a large amount of storage - our best laptop can have up to 8TB of storage internally.

We even have some laptops which work with desktop processors so the laptops really are as fast as a desktop machine using the same chip. We also have laptops that have two graphics cards - perfect for programs like DaVinci Resolve - and a laptop that uses the desktop version of an nVidia card, rather than the laptop version.

This does not mean you can pop into Tescos and buy the latest cheap laptop and edit with no problems. Cheap laptops do not have dedicated graphics cards - which means that they use the computers RAM to run the graphics card which can cause problems with some editing applications. More and more editing applications use the graphics card for effects processing and a shared memory laptop means incorrectly rendered effects, crashing or programs failing to run. Our laptops have dedicated cards with their own memory just like desktop machines.

Cheap laptops generally have a lot less RAM, and lower spec processors - we would recommend 8GB as the minimum amount of RAM, and if editing HD then 16GB is better. For 4K editing 16GB is the minimum and 32Gb or even 64GB is nicer. Also video takes up lots of space.  Cheap laptop will generally have a small solid state drive or a large mechanical drive.  If you can use a solid state drive for Windows then the laptop will be faster and a lot nicer to use, but they cost a lot if you want one that is large enough to hold video.  Ideally you want a solid state drive for Windows and at least one more drive for video.  All our laptops can have at least two drives, some can have up to 4.

Can I transfer projects between laptop and desktop?

Yes; any project edited on the laptop can be finished off on a desktop or vice versa. Ideally keep all the media on an external drive and then you just need to plug this box into the system on which you wish to edit. Use a USB3 connection if possible as this is fast and very common. Some of our laptops have USB3.1, which is faster, and Thunderbolt 3, which is faster still. However, very few external drives are available using these connections.

Will our laptops work the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine?

Yes.  Adobe's Mercury Playback Engine works with any graphic card with at least 1GB RAM.  All of our laptops have this an a lot more, with some of the top models having very powerful graphic cards with 8GB RAM on board.  All can power the Adobe MPE.

Expanding the laptop

You can have a lot of storage inside the computer but want if you want to add other devices or extra external storage.  The laptops have USB3, Thunderbolt 3 (on some models only) and also Express card (on HP models)

What is express card?

Express card is a way of plugging in various devices to the laptop.  This was introduced on laptops a few years ago and is slowly being removed from most laptops, which is a shame for video users.  This is currently only found on the HP Zbook. An Express card socket lets you plug in various external video devices like the Matrox MXO2 and Grass Valley Storm Mobile.  Our other laptops can use either USB3 or Thunderbolt devices so this interface is less important for video i/o, however, it has now become about the only way to capture footage via FireWire as none of the latest range of laptops have a FireWire port built in.  There are USB3-FireWire adaptors but they simply do not work for video capture.  There are Thunderbolt to FireWire adaptors and these work for capture but not for recording back to tape.

Express card can also be used to read the footage of Sony SxS cards - as used by Sony XDCAM-EX camera. The only laptop we have with an express card socket is the HP Zbook.

Can I edit HD or 4K?

All of our i7 laptops can edit 4K footage.  With Grass Valley EDIUS 8 you can get a couple of layers of playback of UHD footage on either the desktop processor laptop or on the normal Haswell laptop.  This is because EDIUS 8 can use Intel Quick Sync to help playback H.264 based UHD footage which means that even on a regular laptop you can get good 4K playback as long as your footage is H.264 based (such as footage filmed with the Panasonic GH4).  UHD/4K footage filmed into other formats like ProRes will work best on the desktop processor laptop.

Avid and Premiere will both want the best processor you can get, so we recommend the desktop processor laptop with these programs.  DaVinci Resolve will also need a large amount of RAM on the graphic card to handle 4K and you must choose a graphic card which has 4GB or more RAM.

HD is easier than 4K and all the laptops can happily handle HD editing.  SD is even easier.

How do I get footage in and out?

DV or HDV is captured via FireWire, so you will need a FireWire interface.  As explained above you can currently only get this if the laptop has an express card or Thunderbolt interface.. If your footage is stored on card based media, like AVCHD, just pop the card into the laptop card reader and copy it off.  Our laptops have USB3 card readers so copying footage is as fast as your card can manage.

For other footage add either a Grass Valley STORM Mobile (if you edit with EDIUS), using an Express card interface, or AJA IO Express. Express card is only found on the HP ZBook.

Alternatively you can use one of the Blackmagic USB3 devices like the Blackmagic Intensity Shuttle. This works on all of our laptops, however, it generally has problems with Avid Media Composer, although works well with EDIUS, Premiere Pro and Resolve.  The performance of the USB3 devices does change as the drivers and software changes so if you are thinking of buying one of these devices check with us for the latest info.  There are no 4K USB3 devices.

The third alternative is a Thunderbolt device.   The HP Zbook has a Thunderbolt 2 interface and works with all Blackmagic's Thunderbolt 2 devices. The desktop processor laptops have a Thunderbolt 3 interface and work with the Blackmagic Thunderbolt 2 devices using a Thunderbolt 2 -3 adaptor. You can also capture FireWire on these laptops using a Thunderbolt-FireWire adaptor.

I have got the software can I just buy the laptop?

Yes. Send us the software, or in most cases just send us the serial number, and we will install and test it when we build the laptop.

Can I add a Blu-ray writer?

Yes, Blu-ray writers can be added internally or externally, depending on the laptop model. Blu-ray writers are actually quite cheap now, so we fit them as standard.

15" or 17" screen?

Laptops have a whole variety of screen sizes, the most common being either 15" or 17 " (measured diagonally from one corner to another).  Since editing programs normally have a lot of Windows and relatively small type, generally the larger the screen, the better.  With most editing programs not matter how change the screen settings the icons and letter in the editing program do not get bigger.  We have always preferred using 17" screens on laptops ourselves.  The downside of the bigger screen is that the laptop is larger and heavier - fine if you are just moving from home to work, but not so good if you are moving around and carrying the laptop or not.

Both 15" and 17" laptops can have the same processors and RAM, so are equally as powerful, and the price difference between the two is not huge either.  The 17" models can generally have two hard drives internally, the 15" models can only have one drive.  You can plug two extra screens into either the 17" or 15" models - so when back at base you can ignore the laptop screen and run on two large normal monitors.   You can only run two screens at a time - i.e. the laptop screen and an external screen, or two external screens, without the laptop screen working.

So it is really a question of bigger screen and more possible hard drive space vs compact, lighter and more portable computer.

Windows 10, Window 8 or Windows 7?

Windows 8 start screen Microsoft's latest operating system was released in July 2015 and the big question is should you use Windows 10 or stick with Windows 8 or Windows 7 on an editing system?  We can actually supply all 3 and there is no difference in cost, so what advantage will you get in using the latest Windows?

Why you should choose to Windows 10?

The main reasons you may want to choose Windows 10 are:

You want to be up to date

You want to stay on the most up to date operating system, with support carrying on into the foreseeable future. Microsoft support for adding new features to Windows 7 ended on 13th January 2015 and the end of security patches is scheduled for 14 th January 2020. Windows 8 is set for the end of new features on 9 th January 2018 and for security patches on 10 th January 2023.

Synchronise your computers with your Microsoft ID

If you log in with a Microsoft ID you can sync data between other machines with the same ID and even sync project files if you save backups on your Microsoft "Onedrive".

New Windows 10 apps which are not available for Windows 7

You get access to a lot of extra apps using Windows 10, which now includesCandy Crush and many other ways to stop you actually doing any work.

Using a high resolution computer screen (i.e. bigger than 1920x1080)

If using a high resolution screen (one which is bigger than 1920x1080 pixels, like a UHD screen) the text in many programs becomes so small it is unusable. Windows 10 handles these higher resolutions screens a lot better than Windows 7.

Windows 10 backup is better

The Windows back up is considerably better than it was in Windows 7 as it allows you to set a folder to do an incremental backup of your files rather than the entire folder. If set up properly this can be very useful.

Windows 10 disadvantages

The major draw back to using Windows 10 is that some older programs and devices may not work on it.  Adobe Premiere Pro CC2015, Grass Valley EDIUS 8, Avid Media Composer 8.5, Sony Vegas 13 and DaVinci Resolve 12 have all been validated to work on Windows 10.

Problems of running software not validated for Windows 10 vary from simple things like Intel Quick Sync not working with older versions of EDIUS, the program crashing constantly (as has happened for users with Premiere Pro CS5 and Windows 10), to the program refusing to install (this happens with some versions of Avid). These problems may be solvable or they may not. However, as the software makers have not validated their programs to work with Windows 10, they may refuse to help; if there is a genuine problem they will not fix it as their "fix" will be to buy a version of their program which is compatible with Windows 10.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 are tried and tested and all the software and hardware we use has been used on them for a year or so - so we know the pitfalls and the problems. 

Some devices may not work on Windows 10

Hardware will need drivers for Windows 10 to work properly.  In many cases the Windows 8 drivers will probably work but since video editing makes the computer work as hard as possible you ideally want drivers specifically written for Windows 10.  Blackmagic have produced Windows 10 drivers, although these are only validated to work with recent versions of the various editing programs - Avid MC8, Premiere Pro CC2014 & 2015 etc..  Matrox have not produced Windows 10 drivers and have said they are not going to do so.

Microsoft have added many way to "data mine" your computer in Windows 10

Microsoft have added various ways of collecting information about you and your computer use into Windows 10.  This is called "data mining".  What are they going to do with the data?  Their stated aim is to tailor your programs to your needs.  Cortana, the voice recognition system in Windows 10 says it needs all the extra information to help understand your request as you talk.  Therefore you could look at all this data collection as a useful addition.  Other people such as Apple and Google already do this.  However you may be unhappy with the level of information Microsoft are collecting, which is greater than it was with Windows 7.  These can all be turned off, but only if you know how.  We disable most of these features when setting up our DVC computers and make sure all are disabled if you buy a system from us. Another alternative is to simply not connect your computer to the Internet - although this is not possible if using some editing programs like Adobe Premiere Pro. 

Microsoft have been slowly adding the same features to Windows 7 using automatic updates.  

You don't like Windows 10

Some people really like Windows 7 - although to be fair not many people liked Windows 8.  This is a good reason to stick with Windows 7.  If you like Windows 8 you can practically make Windows 10 work like Windows 8 so there is very little reason to choose Windows 8 over Windows 10.

So which should you choose, Windows 7, 8 or Windows 10?

Despite the above, quite long, list of disadvantages we think that if you have software which will work on Windows 10, which includes all the major editing programs we think you should choose Windows 10 as your operating system. It will give you computer a longer life and who knows what interesting additions there will be.

We can supply and install any of these o/s so it is generally down to personal preference. We think most people will either choose Windows 7 or Windows 10, rather than Windows 8.  Windows 7, because it is tried and tested and works will older programs or Windows 10, because they want the computer as up to date as possible.  We do not mind which you choose here at DVC, as all cost the same and take just as long to install and test.  We are tending to lean more towards Windows 10, especially when more programs are validated for it.

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