I recently got a really sweet deal on a Dell Latitude E5540 which is a business laptop offered by Dell. It is not an Alienable but can it hold up to doing everything a Photographer needs to do?
It does have an Intel i5 4200U processor that has 2.30Ghz of power. That is coupled with 8GB of DDR3 Memory. However, the major concern for photographers would be the on board Intel HD graphic 4400 video card. How will it hold up?
I have used it for Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere Pro and some other editing plugins. I have not found it to be lacking in anything that is major. The concerns that I do have is not related to the hardware abilities. We will get into my issues with the laptop later though.
All in all, for the price that is on the market right now; you can’t go wrong. It does most of what any photographer would need and that includes doing HDR Photography and even editing 4K video.
Note that I did not do overly technical tests for this article. I wanted to give you real experience and give you a real world review. I am sure you can find some of those reviews if that interest you more on the internet.
How did Photoshop and Premiere Pro work?
Of all the programs that I use from Adobe, I would say that Photoshop CC and Premiere Pro CC is the most intense. Either of them has made laptops that I had in the past over heat. Normally I got around this by going to “Set Affinity” by right clicking in the Processes and unclicking some cores. Below is an example of that:
Adobe Lightroom had no problems with this laptop. It handled everything that I threw at it. I did many layers of edits on images and I never really saw much of a hiccup on the program.
Outside the normal challenges of using Adobe Lightroom on a PC (finding plugins folders for example), I did not experience anything that I can really report. It handle 36MP files from the Nikon D800 as well without a problem.
Photoshop CC can be quite more intense and can crash without the proper resources. This is where I expected some serious issues with having an smaller processor and limited video card. I was prepared for it to all crash on me or even worse: the laptop shuts down to protect itself from overheating. I was henestly preparing for the worse.
Doing normal functions in Photoshop that many photographers would be doing was not even a test for the Dell Latitude E5540. It handled everyone of them with flying colors. At one point, I had 13 different layers on an image and still had power to work with on the CPU.
It was not until I started using some heavy plugins on Photoshop that I started to see the processor really struggle. It was mainly the On 1 suite that became the match for the laptop. Topaz Labs was also a struggle to be honest. However, these are normal task for most photographers.
Premiere Pro is a different beast and one I do use quite a bit. I have had quite the problem with laptops not being able to handle it before. This is where the “rubber means the road” for me. Will I need to do some work around for it or not?
I played with some footage that was 4k and shot with an iPhone 7. It would tell me if the Dell Latitude E5540 would make the grade or not? Using video is becoming more and more important to the photographer and if you pay for Photoshop (as I do), you get Premiere Pro included so why not use it?
While using it on the Dell Latitude E5540, I did not experience any lack delays in my editing workflow. I did a full video with it and even get some color correction. Still not a problem. It did much better than I expected.
Where things get a little questionable is when you using plugins like FilmConvert. It is a heavy duty option for serious videography. It is not something that a lot of photographers use to be honest. Personally, I find the editing tab native to the Premiere Pro program is quite good unless you really blow the footage in camera.
If you are a film makers on a budget, using FilmConvert on the Dell Latitude E5540 is possible but it is not ideal. I would think you would be much better off with a high end XPS system or a Asus Republic of Gamers. I will add that I have never had any challenge with the plugin on my Alienware desktop.
If you are looking into using the plugin seriously, I would also recommend looking at the profiles that they have for different cameras. Some of them are pretty good and using a different profile than your DSLR can be quite interesting in editing. Try them here.
Two issues that I found with Dell Latitude E5540
While I have mostly positive things to say about this budget laptop, I do have to say there is two problems that I have: one is major and one is minor. Let’s start with the minor one!
In 2018, it is unbelievable that a laptop, business or personal, does not have a webcam. I understand that many corporations are against webcams. Many of them actually require employees to tape over it. I get that. However, webcams should be standard now. Freelancers need it!
The other issue that I found is related to the color profiles. For some reason, the screen renders a very cool resolution. I have not seen another system of this model to know if this is just a defect of this unit or an issue across the model. As a photographer, this is a major problem and I have just considered it when editing.
As these deal breakers? The color profile could very well be. The webcam is just annoying and is fixed by hooking up an external webcam. I have even used a Sony HDR AS300 Action Cam for a webcam. It is has great audio as well!
Bottom line: You get what you pay for
There will be some things you have to work around. I have been able to deal with the color issue when editing because I know I am seeing things cooler than everyone else will see them. However, to the beginner, this could be a game stopper!
If you can, I would suggest spending a few hundred more and get a mid range Dell XPS system if you do much with Premiere Pro or its’ related plugins. Otherwise, the gap between entry level systems and mid range is not as big as it use to be. I have managed quite well with this laptop.
For the price I paid for it, I am completely happy with what it delivered. If it quit on me tomorrow, I will still get my money out of it. That is something I can’t say about every laptop I have owned. Great job, Dell!