I have a question that comes a bit unconventional and I apologize if it is a little off topic,

We need to buy computers (laptops because we have many power outages in Mexico) for web designers and programmers.

In all fairness, I wonder if the following configurations can work in good conditions:

  1. Web Designer
    Web designers does not 3D, they mainly use Photoshop, Fireworks and Dreamweaver type tools.

    Idea of ​​configuration: i5 + 15' (1920 * 1080) + 1Gb video card + 500Gb HDD + 23' external monitor + 8Gb memory

    • For a web designer, is there really need 2 screens type 23 'or is it a luxury?
    • Can it work in good conditions with the 15" and 23"?
  2. Programmers
    Programmers working with ZendFramework (PHP), MySQL + webserver on their computer

    Idea of ​​configuration: i5 + 15' (1920 * 1080) + 1Gb video card + hard disk 500Gb HDD + external monitor 21' or 23' + 8Gb memory

    • Is the configuration above is really a luxury (video card, 8 GB of memory) or not?

Thank you for your feedback as a webdesigner and / or webprogrammer.

  • This isn't really a graphic design question. That said, MacBook Airs with external monitors would make all of those folks happy.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 0:08
  • 4
    @DA01, o rly? A weak and overheating, non-customiseable, overpriced NETBOOK that can't even run Internet Explorer to test your code is a serious work tool in your mind? I beg to disagree on that one.
    – mingos
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 10:49
  • $1000 is overpriced? MacBooks are repeatedly rated the best notebooks on the market. And they can certainly run IE. and are hardly weak and overheating. Feel free to disagree but the fact are not on your side.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 13:45
  • I know it's not a real grafic design question but who can be to answer better than a designer ?
    – Michaël
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 19:52
  • I think the question should read "laptop" or "notebook" rather than "netbook". Will edit.
    – e100
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 11:56

4 Answers 4


Don't buy netbooks/laptops, they aren't built to last as long as normal desktop pcs and can be more expensive for half the power. To counter the power outage problem (I had the same thing in Bulgaria) buy a UPS system for each machine. Two 23' monitors might be a luxury, but I'd say at least 21'. In my office I have one 23 and two 21, they offer a lot of freedom when it comes to using Photoshop/coding/using FTP at the same time.

I'd go with a more powerful videocard in place of 8gb memory for Photshop users as it is a big resource hog when extensively used.

For programmers I would stick with the 8GB memory and two large screens as coding can get very in depth and require a lot of screen space to deal with all the files, uploads, code snippets etc.. Also as ZendFramework users (PHP in general) ALL of the developers should have Wamp, Xampp, LAMP etc on their machines to test code locally before uploading to the production servers. This requires a lot of RAM, so 8GB ram would be ideal.

Also, don't demand that designers and devs use specified software and only that software. One designer/Developer might be more comfortable using Linux over Windows or Mac and vice versa. Give them the freedom to use what they are comfortable with.

Hope that helps.

  • 8GB - Seriously? I never had more than 3.5GB and I heavily use AutoCAD, Cinema4D and similar stuff as well and it's more than enough. If you consider "normal" servers as real world opposites for coders, then that should go ok for them too.
    – kaiser
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 12:57
  • 1
    And often web designers may want/need multiple OSes...so the extra RAM is ideal to run virtualization software.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 13:47
  • 1
    Instead of individual UPS systems, it might be better to invest in a generator...
    – horatio
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 17:43

Most any notebook above $700 or so will be more than enough for most web design and development tasks. MacBooks are great for we dev as you can easily run windows and Linux on top of osx giving you a really wide range of dev and testing tools for nearly any situation. Being able to run an ubuntu server while testing in an iphone simulator, for instance.

The 8 Gigs of RAM Recommendation should be more than enough for most needs...and should accommodate a decent amount of virtualization as well. As for monitors, the bigger the better. Multiple monitors are more than a luxury--they are a huge productivity boost. Being able to code in one screen and see it in a brewer in the other is really useful.

Also, as mentioned, netbooks are NOT dev stations. They're typically designed for email and web browsing and tend to have underpowered systems. Go with a proper notebook/laptop instead.


I work in web, use a macbook pro with 8GB of ram and a large external monitor. I could work just as well on my old dell laptop it just wouldn't be as enjoyable and I would probably lose some productivity. The 8GB of ram helps when you run something like VMware to emulate Windows. Also, with huge Photoshop files with lots of layer comps I would imagine ram must help here as well.


I could be wrong, but I don't think Photoshop needs a powerful video card at all. Definitely focus on memory, speed, and storage; any old video card will do fine for you unless you're doing a lot of 3D work.

For web design, yes, it's nice to have extra memory so you can run other operating systems in a virtual machine. I use Linux as my design/development environment, but I often need to fire up Windows (I use the freely downloadable virtual machines from Microsoft's website) to test things in Internet Explorer. Running a virtual machine is a big memory hog.

Extra memory is also good when you need to work on large images -- it's good to work with high-quality source material and then scale it down to fit on a web page.

That having been said, I've got only 4 GB in my new Core i3 laptop, and it's perfectly fine. Virtual machines are a bit slow, cuz I can only afford to give them 512 MB of memory each, but I don't need to use them too often.

For a programming machine, you don't need anything fancy. I've gotten along fine for seven years on a 2 GHz Athlon XP with 1 GB of memory! I ran a full LAMP stack on that machine, plus my development software, without any trouble. True, Apache can use a lot of memory, but only on a production server with lots of connections. 8 GB is totally unnecessary.

And in regards to multiple monitors -- yes, it's SOOOOOOOOOO NICE for both web design and programming, because you can have your web browser open all the time on the second screen. I think 23" is unnecessary, because in order to be readable, most web pages should be less than 1000 pixels wide (otherwise the lines of text are hard to scan with your eyes). I have a 17" in addition to my 15" laptop screen, and it works great, but sometimes I wish I had a 19" when I'm editing photos and mockups. Those Photoshop toolboxes can take up a lot of space.

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