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i5-560m or i7-740qm for Photoshop on laptop?

Posted on 2010-11-12
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Last Modified: 2012-05-10
I'm looking at a Dell XPS 15 laptop with 1920X1080 graphics (additionally I'd be using external monitor for Lightroom's ability to have editing panels on one screen and the full photo on the other.

I probably use Lightroom more than Photoshop, but do have the Nik collection of plugins that seem to be more flexible as smart object layers in Photoshop.

I also will be using the computer for general web browsing/office suite tasks.

My question is: All other things being equal, would I be better off with the (cheaper) i5-560m dual core (2.66 Ghz) with higher turbo-boost speed (3.2GHz), 3MB cache, or the i7-740QM quad core (1.73Ghz) with turbo-boost to 2.93GHz, 6MB cache for additional $85?

One more wrinkle...it appears that the i5 can only be purchased with the NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 420M 1GB video
while the i7 can only be purchased with the NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 435M 2GB graphics for additional $100.

So, total extra cost is $185 for quad core, with better video card.

My understanding so far is that regardless of which would perform better in Photoshop, the i7 would suck more battery.  

It's also not clear to me whether the i5-560m can switch to the integrated graphics when the application doesn't need to use the NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 435M 2GB graphics. (giving even longer battery life).
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Question by:hbear
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garycase earned 250 total points
ID: 34119074
The best measure of CPU "horsepower" is PassMark's CPUMark.

The i5-560m scores 2356 on this benchmark;  the i7-740qm scores 3628 ... a bit more than 50% higher.

As you've noted, the single core performance will be appreciably better on the 560m, due to its higher clock and faster turbo-boost speed  [This is evidenced by the fact it has 65% of the performance of the 740qm with only half the cores] ... so on a single-threaded application it would generally be a bit faster.

Nevertheless, the quad core 740qm will give you better performance with any recent version of Photoshop, which is multi-threaded.    That, plus the better graphics, would certainly tend to favor the 740qm system.
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by:hbear
ID: 34119119
Gary,

Do you have a feel for how much shorter battery life might be on a day when I'm away from AC and just doing Office apps? (with the i5's ability to switch to integrated graphics)

(I realize that I can't have both screaming performance and long battery life. Just wondering how much run time I'd be losing)
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 34119152
Hard to say, but it's likely to be fairly significant, all other things being equal.    In addition to being able to power down the graphics card, the i5 uses about 20% less power than the i7  [max of 35 watts vs. max of 45 watts for the i7].      If battery life is a significant factor, that favors the i5 system.    If performance is more important, buy an extra battery :-)
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