Can Ultrabooks Really Handle a Design Workflow? Photoshop, Illustrator And Edge Preview on an Ultrabook

Miniaturisation is great – it means that professionals who need computing power can always have it, even on-the-go. To demonstrate this point, I’m going to review what it’s like to use ‘big-screen’ products from Adobe’s CS6 suite on an ultrabook.  It’s surprisingly easy.


One of the biggest limiting factors is screen size – most ultrabooks see their screens limited to around 13 inches in diameter, which is cramped for even the most minimal of designers.

However, this is often made up for by relatively high dots per inch (DPI) screens – manufacturers try to cram in ‘standard’ resolutions (such as 1024×768 pixels) that they’d normally save for 13 to 15 inch screens, and that means that the display looks really crisp. Added to this, most ultrabooks offer some kind of LED backlighting – some even offer OLED backlighting – which make for superior colour and brightness representation, at a fraction of the battery life cost.

I find designing in a studio a bit stifling. It’s like working in my bedroom – it’s just not the right environment to inspire much creativity. And when you need to get the creativity gears going, it’s nice to get out of the house for a while. The best thing about an ultrabook? It can come with you. What’s more, it’s usually instant-on, which means you’re unlikely to miss even the slightest breeze of inspiration as and when it chooses to strike.

The devices have improved vastly on the first and second generation brethren as regard sheer power, and even the most basic models are now perfectly well-suited for running powerful design programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Edge Preview. We’re now going to go through each, and list some good and bad points.

Photoshop. Adobe’s premier image-manipulation (and image creation, to be fair) program suffers most from the small screen sizes available on ultrabooks. However, most ultrabooks include some element of multitouch functionality on to their trackpads, which eliminates most of the need for manually scrolling around an image. The panning is smooth on even my basic model, and filters are applied with due rapidity and ease. It feels like using my three-year-old desktop – and that’s no slouch, being £1,000 three years back as it was.

Illustrator. Where Photoshop occasionally gives me a hard time for making massive panning or zooming transitions on large documents, Illustrator’s resolution independence makes short work of any moving around in a document. What’s more, the selection tools really benefit from the multitouch trackpad.

Edge Preview. Edge is Adobe’s newcomer in CS6. It promises to offer a way to make amazing HTML5 niceties happen relatively easy –- think Flash Builder for the modern age. Probably the most graphically taxing of the programs, nothing I could throw at it would cause the machine to become unresponsive, or even raise a proverbial eyebrow at what I was demanding. The screen size is less of an issue, because in Edge you’re usually making videos to embed on the web, banners and the like, which tend to be smaller than your regular web document.

So, it’s perfectly workable. And, if you really need the screen space, have a think about investing in an external display. What do you reckon? Think you’d be OK with just an ultrabook and nothing else? Or have any experience of your own to share? If so, feel free to drop a comment in the section below.

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