Computer Reccomendation?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by scottanderson, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. Ok guys I need some firsthand experience and advice from you.
    I am trying to decide on a computer to purchase which will handle my raw
    processing and digital imaging. I am looking to spend $1500-2000 tops. I am
    only needing the box and guts and want to get the best possible setup for that.
    I really am wanting to stick with PC not a mac. Please keep this in mind. The
    amount of hardware I can get in the same price range dont compare and I have
    only used PC's so I wont know what I'm missing;) Can someone either tell me a
    place to look for info related to this or give me your own setup that you are
    happy with. Thanks in advance.
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  3. Scott,

    I've used Dell desk and laptop models for my image work for more than 10 years, choosing Intel processors each time. Your budget will buy a solid desk or laptop model based on current price quotes.

    Configure your choice with a Core 2 Duo CPU having 4M of Level-2 cache (the T7200 CPUs and up in laptops, and the E6600 and up in desk models). Add 2-4G of the fast RAM, and a fast boot drive (SATA, 7200 RPM on the laptops and 10K RPM in desk models). Add a second fast drive for your image work. Video? - a PCIe x16 card with 128M or more. Dell's UltraSharp digital monitors have been very good (use a DVI connection from the video card). If you have an existing flat panel or CRT (and the space), dual monitors are a great working environment.

    As for OS, Windows XP Pro still is the best bet for speed and compatibility. Vista may get it together in subsequent service pack releases over the coming years, but it's not ready at this time. Dell offers models with installed XP Pro through its Small Business division.

    Check and similar sites to see if there are further discount codes for your chosen Dell model (or HP and others as well).

    I've replaced my primary desk and laptop PCs with Dell models configured as above during the past 4 months. No doubt that Apples are good choices for your image work, as well, but I believe they're priced well over your budget. Good luck.
  4. I agree with Joe. Go desktop and E6600 for the best 'bang for the buck'. I built one system a few months back for just over a thou and am ordering components for another today. Be sure to get a good 500 watt power supply with a 120 mm fan. It should make for a nearly silent computer.
  5. Anyway, I agree mostly with Joe's assessment/tips. I personally do not think you need 4M cache in your processor chips, so any of the chips lower than E6600 will be suffice, but make sure it's still Core 2 Duo. It makes a small difference in benchmark tests, but for photoshop uses, you will not be doing benchmark tasks. I agree the assessment about getting as much RAM as you can.

    Regarding video card, any standard PCI express x16 card will work as long as it does NOT share memory from the system. A lot of cards will use a portion of the system's RAM for video. This takes away resources from the system and can slow down the graphics as well. It's best to find a video card that has dedicated memory on the video card itself.

    But if you decide to play video games or work on 3D modeling, then you will need a higher end card. For 2D photographic purposes, just follow what I said in the previous paragraph.

    For practical reasons, I do not think you need 10K RPM hard drive. Many tests, as well as my own practical experience, have shown that the 16 MB cache SATA 3.0g/s hard drives are just as fast at the 10K RPM drives. And it's cheaper too. So my recommendation? Get SATA 3.0 g/s hard drives with 16 MB cache 7200 RPM.
  6. the fast Raptors drives are nice but not cost efficient - especially if you want to spend less than $2000. For the price of 2 fast 10,000 RPM drives you can get 3 Sata2s which will allow you to put the OS and programs on 1 drive, a photoshop scratch disk on a separate drive and the Windows page file on a separate drive. This will speed up any functions where your RAM maxes out and page file occurs.
  7. This is a little late, but if anyone still is reading, I just bought components for another comp today. Asus P5B, Intel E6600, 2gig DDR2-800 ram, 250 SATA3 drive, SATA DVD burner, 700 watt almost silent PS, case all for just over 1 thou Canadian. All of these are top quality components. I already have a decent video card to use, but they're only 100-150. This is almost identical to the one I built 3 months ago, except wo the Raptor drive. As Phil says, they're much faster, but not cost effective. Also, make sure everything is SATA, do not buy IDE anymore. So much simpler to assemble & faster to operate.

    OK Mac guys, can you match that for $1,000?

    BTW, it takes 15 minutes to assemble and then load software (much longer). Difficult to assemble? Gee, if you can use a DSLR, you can assemble a computer. The reason I do it myself (besides saving $$$) is that I learn how to troubleshoot all problems myself. Having 2 almost identical systems allows me to swap-out components to find problems if they occur. the E6600 has been fluctuating in price lately, sometimes going up because it's the best bang for the buck in the line-up. Apparently AMD will be chopping $$ again, but check the charts, core2duo whacks then to bits right now. BTW, I've built 3 AMD machines, so I'm not for or against AMD, I just buy whatever does the job best.

  8. Say Doug, I'm about to start buying components for a new build. I have an IDE DVDRW (16x) that I bought about a year ago. I'd like to reuse it in the new build. Do you think there is really any significant diff. between it and a SATA DVDRW?

    BTW, I'm strongly leaning toward all the items you mentioned. Torn between an Antec P180 and a Thermaltake Soprano. Don't know about the PS. Any brands you really like?

    And Intel price cuts are due around 4/22 according to one PC forum. I'm waiting on the E6600 til then.
  9. I doubt that you will notice much, if any, difference in performance on the IDE DVD vs SATA. For me, it was an installation and troubleshooting thing. I've had a lot of problems with IDE devices going wonky. BIOS is not my friend.

    I got an Antec SLK300B but it is discontinued now. For me, I want a super quiet case. The PS I used both times was OCZ Game Extreme. One was 500 watt & the other 600 watt. There are lots of sites you can add the components up to see what you actually need for power. Keep in mind that many PS mfgs are rating power at max, not regular use, be careful on that. I add 25% to what the total needs are with regular ratings, not maxed. The PS is where most of the noise comes from. I've seen some with 140 mm fans, instead of the 120 I bought. The larger the fan, the quieter it will run. Check some sites for PS ratings. I will never buy case & fan together.

    The E6600 is a hot item these days. By the time it drops, AMD may have new units out that jump Intel again. Certainly the Intel FSB is much slower than AMD design, so keep your eyes open for what's new. Problem is, whatever you buy will change within days, weeks, months. The ram I got 1 year ago is useless in the new boards.

    We use computers to the extreme here. The 3-4 seconds per image that I saved with the new one pays for itself fast when you process the qty we do.

  10. Doug, thanks, advice noted and much appreciated.
  11. Hmmm.

    If you're working with a lot of files, hard disk speed can be a lag.

    Do you use external backup?

    If not, you'll need drive replication. Raid 1 will mirror them (most folks offer it). raid 5 will parity them so in theory you can recover if things go south; it will also stripe for faster read/write. raid 10 is better yet (stripe plus mirror). I put 6 drives in my latest build (2x 160G for mirrored system drives; 4x250G for a virtual mirrored & striped 500G data drive; all on raid 10.)

    I will point out that both processors and memory get MUCh cheaper every year. However, it's more of a pain (and more expensive) to upgrade the processor.

    I'd stick with 2 gigs of memory to save money. It's best if you can set it up so you still have 2 more slots for future use. I'd get four drives if you can afford it--one small one for system, and three larger ones in raid 5 for data. (some builders charge way more than others for this, so watch out).

    Then i'd get the best processor i could afford. AMD is currently most for the $$ AFAIK.

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