I will be traveling overseas for about a few months and I would like to purchase a new notebook/laptop to process my RAW pictures using Photoshop Elements 9.

Weight and minimum processing speed are the major issues I'm facing; how should I balance those considerations, and what other features and specifications should I take into account?


Virtually every new laptop on market can handle elements even a netbook. However you will need at least 2gb of ram; 4 would be much better. Other than that, I'd focus on screen size & resolution. I find that my netbook's 10.1" screen is really too small to do proper post production work.


There are a lot of things to consider. Even a mid-class laptop can work but the experience will be far from optimal.

The most important thing to know is that no laptop can show you colors accurately, so you cannot adjust colors visually without hooking to an external monitor, preferable a good color-calibratable one. Since you are travelling, I assume you won't have one with you. You can still process images of course, only you have to make measured changes. For example if you introduce a white-balance or color target in each set of images, you can process to get accurate colors in your images even though you will not see them.

The second thing to consider is the graphics subsystem. Most cheap and even expensive light laptops use embedded graphics with low resolution displays. What you want is exactly the opposite, a discrete graphics solution with a relatively high resolution display. The options available vary by size so you can typically get a 1650x1080 15" or a 1920x1200 17" model.

Images are not that intensive to process unless you do panorama stitching, in which case get as much memory as you can. Otherwise 2 to 4 GB will suffice. Same for a modern processor for almost any laptop. Netbooks would certainly be a class below.

  • While I agree with most of your points, I don't think a discreet graphics card is necessary for someone asking about Photoshop Elements 9. I wouldn't suggest against having one, but I wouldn't call it necessary either.
    – dpollitt
    Jan 3 '12 at 16:30
  • Read carefully :) I did not say necessary either but it is greatly helpful. The difference though is easily noticeable if you use both side-by-side.
    – Itai
    Jan 3 '12 at 16:35

Keep in Mind that Photoshop Raw will require a 1024x768 resolution. Yes it works with less pixel but you won't be able to see all parts of the window if you are going lower than Xx768


Photoshop Ram Requirements

Photoshop by default does not require a lot of RAM, however when working with larger files or files with a larger bit depth or effects like the Liquify Tool, it can play an important role in performance. If you intend to use any of the video editing capabilities of Photoshop this will also be true. I recommend not working in Photoshop with less than 4GB of Ram. If you work in print production, I recommend 8GB of Ram, particularly if you are working with a lot of layers.

Photoshop Processor Requirements

Photoshop CC like Photoshop CS6 has made use of the Mercury Performance engine and is more streamlined than ever. That being said you should still be mindful that saving larger files with multiple layers, effects and filters as well as doing batch processing of high quality photographs will require intense processor usage. I recommend that when purchasing a laptop that you keep this in mind and purchase a Dual Core laptop though Quad Core is ideal, also they should have a core speed of atleast 2GHz. If you are purchasing an Intel chipset computer, get the I5 rather than the I3.

Advanced Photoshop/Adobe Recommendations

If you are going to be working in 3D or using some of the more resource intensive features of any Adobe app.lication I recommend the following:

A multi-hard drive setup: Many laptops today can hold up to 2 hard drives 3, if you replace the optical drive with a SSD. This is ideal as you can now use a completely separate Drive as a Scratch Disk for improved Photoshop performance

16GB of Ram. While most laptops allow for a maximum of 8GB of Ram there are some more expensive options that allow as much as 16GB of Ram. This is particularly useful in Quad and Octo Core laptops since ideally you would want 4GB to each core as a ratio.

Quad Core or Better Processors at 2.4GHz or more. Again typically this is not something that will come on a laptop that you can buy standard over the counter, however this is for your ultimate mobile work station if you are doing print, animation or video and can’t afford to slow down.

An External Hard drive to use as a Scratch Disk in addition to storage.




2GB will do (my 2006 has 2gb and runs Lightroom 3 and PS CS5 at the same time). You should aim for 4GB though as this will be much faster.

Hard Drive

Do you want speed or size? Speed means going for an expensive solid-state drive but sacrifising size, whereas size means you can get more memory at a standard speed. As you are going for a few months I would advise you go for size and get a 500GB HD or a 30GB HD.

Screen Size

My MacBook has a 13" display, sometimes, but not often I would like bigger. I would say that 13" is suitable for you, It makes the laptop lighter as well.

USB ports

You will need these if you are going to be importing images from camera to computer. You may also need to consider the spacing between them if you need to use a 3G dongle or other accessoires at the same time, such as a mouse, USB memory, etc etc.


Not specfic to each laptop model but size of screen. get a good one, I use a neopreane cover that absorbs all shock from knocks and bangs that would otherwise break a laptop, and as you are travelling this is an essential piece of kit.

Additional Power

You are travelling, will you always have access to power? make sure you can get additional batteries at a decent price, you will need them.

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