Kali Linux is quickly getting traction as de facto penetration testing suite/OS for professionals and hobbyists alike. But obviously, it is not as popular as mainstream Linux distros like Ubuntu, Mint or Debian. That leaves most of pentesters in the dark when searching for the best laptop for Kali Linux. Up until now, Kali forums are filled with year-old suggestions of buying a Lenovo laptop that’s almost as old as you are. And I won’t lie – in some cases, you might aswell get that refurbished Lenovo. But maybe now is the time to get a something new?
Well, I took on the mission of finding the best Kali Linux laptops and it wasn’t pretty. Apparently, checking laptops one-by-one for their WiFi chipsets is not most fun way to spend my free time.
Now, I will skip the whole “do you really need Kali Linux” part and I’ll assume you have all the reasons in the world to install it and to buy a laptop for it.
Ok, let’s go straight to finding the holy grail of penetration testing – the best laptop for Kali Linux.
Requirements for the best Kali Linux laptop
How much power do you need?
To find the best laptop for penetration testing we need to define what exactly it will be used for.
For the most part, any laptop that runs Linux will work. You don’t need anything fancy when it comes to pentesting laptops. In the most basic sense, if Ubuntu can run on a laptop, Kali can run on it too.
You could use a Kali Live USB with persistence or dual-boot with Windows (or other Linux distro). Most likely, you’ll also need to have a couple of virtual machines (via Oracle Virtual Box, VMware or Parallels). That only requires a basic processor and a bit extra RAM. You don’t need much for capturing, probing and listening. In that case, you might want to steer away from bulky machines and towards lighter ones if your budget allows it.
Using GPU cracking is an entirely another subject. In that case, you’ll need a laptop resembling a gaming rig. Then powerful CPU and GPU will come a long way but even then there some serious issues with GPU cracking on a laptop.
Finding the best laptop for photo and video editing requires balancing a lot of power-hungry components with a top-notch screen while keeping a personal budget in the equation.
And it gets even more complicated.
When you need a lightweight machine that can run for hours on its battery alone while still being able to provide the smoothest workflow.
In this post, I will describe what you need to look for EXACTLY in a notebook for creative work and what you should expect at your price range to the dollar.
Finally, I’ll list out 7 best options when it comes to best laptops for video and photo editing. To pick them out, I went over a 100 hottest laptops and evaluated them using specs and benchmarks that took me days to find and collect.
What are we looking for in a photo and video editing laptop?
What is essential for the best laptop for photo and video editing?
Major requirement SSD
How much storage do I need?
You need to decide on the total amount of storage that you’ll need. A basic starting point should be 500 GB. But if I were you, I would advise going up to 1 TB or more.
Do I need an SSD?
Yes. I recommend getting at least a small 250 GB SSD for OS, Photoshop, Lightroom or your favorite photo editing app and several “hot” photo folders. It will make a world of difference. When I edit photos, I notice a measurable difference between my files on SSD and HDD. And I don’t have to work with super high-resolution uncompressed RAW images that would benefit the most from an SSD.
But the main issue with laptop SSDs is that there aren’t many laptops that come with 1 TB SSD built-in. That’s why sometimes you’ll need to limit yourself to 500 GB + 1 TB setup or you’ll need to spend ~$320 for 1 TB SSD.
What should be my target?
At the end of the day, everything revolves around two variables:
Size of a desired laptop
Your spending budget
That’s what I would recommend and what you should optimistically expect:
250 GB SSD + external storage
250 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
250 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
500 GB SSD
500 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
500 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
500 GB SSD + external storage
500 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
1 TB SSD + 1 TB HDD
The good part with 15.6″ and 17.3″ laptops is that they often have 2 or 3 slots for storage. That allows easy upgrades in the future.
Pro Tools is extremely demanding. Especially when you are a plugin fanatic like me. Many would say that you must build a dedicated PC to even run Pro Tools without pulling your hair out. But that simply isn’t true. Yes, in a studio, a dedicated PC/Mac with a powerful set of hardware will go a long way and will give you extra space to play with CPU-intensive plugins on a low buffer, but laptops these days can come closer to that level of performance than ever before.
But everything comes at a cost. Expect to spend ~$1400 for a good laptop for music production. If that’s beyond your budget – I’ve found a few cheaper options that offer good enough performance to run even complex projects.
In this post, I’ll lay down the requirements for the best laptop for Pro Tools and then I’ll finish strong with a list of Top 9 laptops for music production. Short and sweet.
And oh boy, did I spent too much time on this article… But enough complaining, let’s get this post rolling.
Mind you, these requirements were released for a desktop PC. Right off the bat, since Desktop i5 ~= Laptop i7 processor (and sometimes even worse), we’ll need i7 series CPU. And that’s a minimal requirement! 8 GB of memory is a bare minimum to run Pro Tools, but I and Avid themselves recommend to get at least 16 GB. Meanwhile, 15 GB of disk space and USB-port are irrelevant requirements.
Sadly, Avid does not provide much information on what would make a great PC for Pro Tools. This is a very common problem with requirement sheets – not enough information on how the system should scale and on what components money could be saved.
To address this, I’ll break down my personal requirements for the best Pro Tools laptop one-by-one.
Major requirements for a Pro Tools laptop
I’ll start with major requirements for Pro Tools. They will be your bread and butter and you should invest in these key areas whenever possible. They’ll save you time for years to come. Ignore them at your own peril #wordOfTheDay.
Major requirement Very good processor
I’m sure you know how important a processor is for these kinds of tasks. But for Pro Tools, single core performance is more important than the number of cores/threads. That’s because audio chains cannot be “shared” mid-way between several CPU threads. In short, that means that the longer chain from synth/sample to your ears – the more stress is put on a single core.
Right now, in the laptop I mix with, I have a Core i7-3630QM which is comparable to the more recent i7-5500U and i7-6500U CPUs. It does its job very well and I’m glad that 2 years ago I bought a laptop with this processor. But it has its limits, especially when I have a habit to pre-master in my initial mix. Additional plugins especially at the end of the mastering chain put a lot of strain on the processor and that’s where I have to start dropping down quality settings and turning off oversampling which is not ideal.
This year I had to start doing my own taxes for my freelance work. To get everything cleared up, I had to talk with an accountant that I’ve helped out multiple times with various computer problems. Since I’m a “computer person“, she asked to help her out with building a new PC for accounting or picking a new laptop. After all, it shouldn’t be that hard to find the best laptop for accounting software, like Quickbooks.
The first idea that popped into my head was “oh that’s easy, accounting software shouldn’t require anything special“. But then I remembered the problems she faced with her previous PC. And then I started recalling the problems I have when dealing with spreadsheets…
That’s what this post will be about – the problems that should be taken into account (heh) when searching for the best laptop for Quickbooks. On the second half of this post, I’ll give some great laptop models depending on your budget and needs.
Enough of my stories, let’s get this post rolling.
Word of caution. This post is very strictly focused on accounting and not on very demanding 3D/audio software. This post will focus on a laptop for Quickbooks and other accounting software, whether it’s on the web (online) or desktop (offline). Since Quickbooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise do not demand high-performance components, the laptops I’ll recommend will be great for the desktop versions and QuickBooks Online. Worth noting, I am assuming that the laptop will not be a part of client and server setup.
These requirements will also guide as to good enough laptops to smoothly run other accounting/business software, such as Microsoft Office, TurboTax, Lacerte etc.
What am I looking for in a best laptop for Quickbooks?
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that if a computer is good enough to run QuickBooks Premier, then it will be good enough to run Online version. I’ll just make sure that the laptop will be able to run any QuickBooks product that it will need to (Desktop or Online).
But these requirements are just the start. How these official requirements translate into exact parts I’m should be looking for? And what else is needed for a QuickBooks laptop?
Major requirements for an accounting laptop
Major requirement Mid-range processor
QuickBooks performance depends almost entirely on the processor. At the same time, there’s no need to go for an expensive power-hungry CPU – Quickbooks will work very well even on a lot cheaper hardware.
I do, however, recommend not going for the cheapest CPUs. As time goes on and additional software piles up, low-end processors start taking too to long to respond to commands. And if we’re shopping smart, we can find that the price difference between a low-end and a decent mid-range processor can be negligible.
So you’re searching for the best laptop for GoPro video editing that can fit within some reasonable budget. You could ask opinions on forums and wait a day hoping you’ll get a decent response. Or you could do the research yourself, list the most recently released laptops and compare each and every one of them.
But that would be a waste of time, wouldn’t it? Well… not if somebody else does it. That’s right, I weighted most popular best-selling laptops and hottest new releases from the most respected brands to separate diamonds from the rest.
In the next 5 minutes, you’ll get to know how I’d choose the best laptop for GoPro editing if I’d need to buy one right now and what are 3 best laptops that will handle your GoPro footage as it was no big deal.
I’ll start off with my reasoning behind the requirements for a GoPro laptop.
So what are we looking for?
Major requirement High-end processor
Your processor will be doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to video editing. In some cases, graphics cards can assist your processor, but to a very limited extent. Above all, you’ll see the best results by investing in a better processor.
i7-6500U, i7-4600U, i7-5500U, i5-6300HQ
i7-6700HQ, i7-4710HQ, i7-4720HQ, i7-5700HQ
i7-6820HK, i7-4870HQ, ported desktop CPUs as i7-6700K
You probably noticed that I heavily lean towards latest generation Intel Core Skylake processors. That is due to their improved graphics performance (APU). You see, if you’ll decide to connect an external monitor, very likely it will be handled not by your beefy dedicated graphics card but by Intel’s own graphics chip which sits within the processor. Therefore, if you want to have a smooth 4K video preview, 6-th generation Intel processors are measurably superior to their older counterparts.
Major requirement CUDA Graphics card
Specific graphics card requirements can change wildly depending on the software you’ll be using to edit you GoPro footage.
Professional software such as Adobe Premier (via CUDA), Sony Vegas (via OpenCL) can take full advantage of a new dedicated graphics card. That speeds up rendering and shortens video preview times which results in a much desired snappy workflow. Meanwhile, most hobbyist software including GoPro Studio editing software only occasionally can find any use for a fast graphics card (GoPro Studio uses it only for H.264 decoding). As you can guess, any laptop in this list is also the best laptop for GoPro Studio for its price. And anyways, GoPro Studio kind of sucks…
Also, GPU-assisted rendering does not matter much when working with a Full-HD footage. Please do not be fooled by Premier benchmarks for non-real-life projects demonstrating the power of hardware acceleration. Many effects and especially 3rd-party plugins couldn’t care less about your graphics card. Taking all of that into consideration, all main benefits of a good graphics card start to take off when you get past 1080p, especially when you reach a 4K resolution.
In conclusion, if you own a 4K camera like GoPro HERO4 Black – high-end laptop with a dedicated graphics card will pay off tremendously in saved time. But most of us still using older GoPros or GoPro HERO4 Silver/Session it’s a no biggie and can be skipped in favor of saving 200-400$ for a larger hard drive. Hell, that’s almost enough money to buy a 4K GoPro.
Choosing a laptop for Adobe Lightroom is not particularly hard – having a high-end graphics card is not necessary, laptops with larger and faster hard drives and memory are now commonplace. But it gets problematic when you have to take into consideration screen and upgrade potential.
Surely no sane man would go through all new, well-received and best selling laptops to find out what is the best one for Lightroom. But you’d be making a mistake if you call me sane.
So I compiled a list of 90 hottest laptops (originally it was over a 100, but I had to remove really terrible ones out of it). Then I compared them by their performance (using real benchmarks), storage, screen quality and weight. I have weighted all of these metrics according to what’s important to Lightroom – so you know these laptops are the best for their purpose.
In this post I’ll cover 9 best laptops for Lightroom and what’s so great AND what’s not so perfect about them. Also, I will make sure that anything above budget options will also be a viable option for other software you might end up using (khm khm.. Photoshop).
This time, unlike any other, I’ll start off with the laptops and then I’ll write about how did I end up choosing them. Finally, at the bottom of the article, I’ll give you the link to the spreadsheet covering all the quantified comparisons of these 90 laptops ranging from 400$ to 3150$!
The upside of Revit is that it doesn’t require a powerful graphics card and that makes Revit a lot more suitable for laptops. Knowing that I’m going to guide you through the requirements for a good Revit notebook and my picks for the best laptop for Revit.
November 16th update. Updated CPU, GPU write-ups, added MSI GL62 6QF and Dell XPS 15, updated the spreadsheet (290 laptops compared instead of just 58)!
Autodesk makes it very clear that the processor should be #1 priority:
“Highest affordable CPU speed rating recommended.” – Autodesk
Unlike other visual software (AutoCAD, Solidworks etc.), Revit does not need a powerful graphics card for rendering the drawings.
So what do I recommend?
For an entry model under 950$ – a higher-end Intel Core i5 model is a necessity. Anything above that should have a 5th-7th generation “i7” processor. In some rare cases (covered at the end of the guide), there are laptops under $900, that come with a fast i7 H-series CPUs.
Exact models, I am talking about are:
Intel Core i7-6700HQ, i7-4720HQ, i7-4710HQ or equivalent for 950$+ models
Intel Core i5-6300HQ, i7-6500U, i7-7500U for anything under 950$
As per usual, 8 GB of RAM should be your starting point and 16 GB is the magic spot where you don’t have to worry about the memory (for the most part).
Right now, 1100$ is a good line to draw for what amount of memory is acceptable. Any laptop under 1100$ can have 8 GB of RAM and anything above must come with 16 GB on board.
It does not matter whether it’s DDR3/DDR4 – the DDR4 potential isn’t yet fully used due to higher memory access time which is just as important as the memory frequency itself. In short, don’t worry about it.
Solid State Drive
For Point Cloud interactions, it is required to have either a 10,000+ RPM hard drive or a Solid State Drive (SSD). That leaves laptops with only 1 option – SSD. SSDs have fallen dramatically in price and apart from budget laptops – should be the standard package.
Now you need to draw a line on how much storage you need – 250, 500, 1000 GB? Most likely, something like 250/500 SSD + 1 TB HDD is enough. In that case, your OS, Revit, and projects you’re working on should stay on the SSD while older projects and general media can be moved to a spacious HDD.
There are some well-rounded laptops that don’t come with an installed SSD. In that unfortunate case, I recommend keeping 100$-200$ extra for 250/500 GB SSD (I’ve had the best experience with Samsung EVOs, but there’s plenty of good brands to choose from).
Minor Requirements for the best laptop for Revit
We’ve got down our 3 major requirements – processor, memory, and storage. Now any leftover budget should go towards making sure it lasts long, it has a great screen to look at and it can perform well when using other professional software apart from Revit.
You’ll be looking at it throughout the day (and once in a while – throughout the night), so we might as well make sure it looks good.
A good screen is essential in 3 simple ways:
it allows working during bright sunlight without straining your eyes
it helps you see your work as it should be seen (as it will be in real life and how your clients will see it)
it makes your work a bit enjoyable
Every screen can be broken down by its resolution, contrast, brightness and color gamut.
When talking about the resolution – go for Full HD (1920×1080). There’s not much reason to go above Full HD, especially when Revit developers do not recommend going above 150% DPI scaling. That simply means, that fonts and buttons in Revit will not scale properly at high resolutions.
Contrast should be 800:1 or more, average brightness should be 280 cd/m or more (which is ~20 cd less than usually advertised maximum brightness). Good contrast and brightness are mostly important when working outside or near a bright window.
Finally, color space/gamut is not usually mentioned with other specifications but some reviewers measure it. In that case, 90%+ sRGB coverage and 60%+ Adobe RGB coverage indicate a wide color space. That means that the screen can produce vivid colors. In some cases, you might need to manually calibrate the screen to minimize its color bias – tendency to be a bit too blue/green or red.
Solidworks can be very demanding even for a dedicated PC. That makes it problematic if you want to keep your budget low. Also, Solidworks is designed to take advantage of professional CAD graphics cards which introduce even more variables when looking for a proper laptop. Despite this, I’ve decided to take up the challenge to find the best laptop for Solidworks even if you have to keep your spending tight! So without further ado, let’s jump right in..
In this post, I’ll attempt to reverse engineer the best laptops for Solidworks from various use cases and general Solidworks experience. Down the road, you’ll also get to know what is and what isn’t essential for a great Solidworks laptop. I’ll also identify the corners you can cut if your budget is limited but you still want a solid workstation.
At the second part of the post, I’ll list a few top-notch suggestions according to your specific budget. Finally, if you’re in doubt – drop a comment. It was my pleasure to personally answer roughly 50 of you in the AutoCAD post.
What should be your top priority for any Solidworks laptop
The Essentials for Solidworks are the same. However, the priority of these bread-and-butter requirements depends on your particular type of work. You can also evaluate this list depending on what you have to deal most often or even what part of your work frustrates you.
Processor and Memory
Modeling, Drawing and Simulations
Quad-core Processor @3GHz+
Modeling, a single-threaded task, relies heavily on a sheer clock rate your processor can provide. That’s why You should consider only processors that can offer at least 3Ghz frequency. At the same time, drawings and simulations will benefit tremendously from any additional cores/threads you can throw at them.
It gets better – processors with 4 cores and Hyper-Threading have become a standard even in budget laptops. The real question is whether you can afford ones with a higher clock rate and more internal cache.
Solidworks has ramped up its memory consumption in the past years and I’d be surprised if in the next 2 years it won’t start recommending 12 GB as a starting point. That’s why it’s the starting point for us apart from a few budget options.
To note, you could technically get away with getting an 8GB MacBook Pro model. But if you like to multi-task or you like having a lot of tabs open in your browser – you’ll regret not getting, at least, 12GB. Recently, I have upgraded my laptop from 8 to 12 GB and it was definitely worth it.
There are two main options you’ll need to choose from:
Certified cards for SolidWorks – more stable + RealView
Consumer grade (gaming) cards – cheaper
The choice becomes even less clear when considering that you can enable RealView in Solidworks via RealHack (basic Windows registry editing) even if you don’t have a certified card. At the same time, you might not even need RealView anyways (or at least not as often as you’d expect).
The choice comes down to budget and purpose.
If you can’t go over 1500$ – just go for consumer grade card. End of discussion. This includes most students, part-time freelancers, and hobbyists.
If you’ll be working full-time or your part-time gig justifies getting 2000$ – 3000$+ laptop – a certified Quadro/FirePro chip might be exactly what you need.
By now you might be wondering what’s so magical about these cards. Quite bluntly, there’s no fairy dust behind them. They’re based on the same architectures and chips that gaming cards have.
The main 2 differences are:
stability – the most stable chips are reserved for Quadro/FirePro lines
custom drivers for Solidworks* that are specifically tweaked and tested to work with all the features Solidworks can offer