What should I look for in a new computer?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by color, Jul 3, 2010.

  1. I want to buy a new computer for my photo processing. My old one is slow and boring to use. There are many people with opinions and of course, those seldom match. What I'd like is to find is an article written by a single person in 2010 that gives a good, fairly comprehensive overview of what a good package is for photo processing (PS CS5, LR3), what factors I should look for and what to avoid. I don't expect perfection, but what I've run across does not seem coherent inside my little head. This is an important issue for lots of people, so it seems like there's a need. Is there such an article?
    BTW, I'm in the market for a PC, not a Mac. Maybe next time.
     
  2. I just bought this with a couple of mods http://www.chillblast.com/pconf.php?productid=19139
    I've never used a faster machine,
    Intel Core I7 920 D0 Processor overclocked up to 3.8GHz
    Akasa Nero Quiet CPU Cooler
    Asus P6T SE motherboard with Intel X58 chipset
    ATi Radeon HD 5770 512MB Graphics Card
    Cooler Master CM690 Black Case
    OCZ 600W Power Supply
    12GB PC3-10666 DDR3 Memory
    LG Blu-ray Rewriter Drive (Supports burning to BD, DVD, CD)
    80GB Intel X25-M SSD Drive
    2 x 1000GB SATA 7200rpm Hard Disks in RAID 1
    Internal Card Reader Drive
    Onboard High Definition Audio
    Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit OEM
    2 Year Collect and Return Warranty
     
  3. That`s a great set up, Tony. Nice box.
     
  4. A Mac.
     
  5. I guess I need a lesson in cat herding.
     
  6. What I'd like is to find is an article written by a single person in 2010 that gives a good, fairly comprehensive overview of what a good package is for photo processing (PS CS5, LR3), what factors I should look for and what to avoid.​
    You wont find this article nor can you trust one as you've stated the reason yourself with
    There are many people with opinions and of course, those seldom match.​
    There is however a ton of photoshop users here that are experinced in building PC's. It's as an essential tool as a camera now. I'm not sure why you wish to ask here for a third party article out there?
     
  7. Garrison,
    I am not a PC builder and don't want to be, but I would like to get up to speed on what's available, what works together, what works well, etc enough to make informed choices about a new computer. You have not suggested anything specific and/or useful.
     
  8. You have not suggested anything specific and/or useful.​
    Well, you can't really blame me as I don't know what you're after here? You are in the best place to get informed and not sure of any articles or links outside of here that will be of much use.
    If you want a build list, many here can provide them. There isn't really a computer store that sells box's just to photographers. And what there is, choices are slim between polar opposites and they are Dell/HP on one side, or the gaming computer retailers on the other. Neither suit me and you'll pay too much for the latter, imo.
    Getting a build list from generous folks here and getting the local Main St PC guy to do it, is your best choice imo. Tony has a great system he listed but the motherboard is sata 3gb/s and the newer sata is 6gb/s and are starting to surface and become norm. There's only one 7200 rpm mechanical hard drive that I know of and that is 6 gb/s and that's the Western Digital 1TB Black and I'd have this as my C Drive. With that said, and that they are so cheap, at $100, that I'd buy two of them and RAID O them. This raid stripe, at 6 gb/s, and have 2TB of space, is an awesome deal for $200.
    I don't know of an article out there that will help you with this kind of advice or schooling.
     
  9. Garrison, that's something useful, not what I had in mind, but useful. Thanks.
     
  10. I'm not aware of such a single article (you can spend 1 night reading web sites/blogs and make an informed decision you won't regret). I suggest you employ the computer buying Golden Rule - always buy the fastest CPU and the most RAM you can afford. Pick an OS and get the biggest monitor and appropriate video card intended for image editing.
    Why? Moore's Law, capitalistic software writers sleeping with computer hardware designers, and the free market economic system.
    For what's it worth in reading ~33% of Martin Evening's latest LR 3 Book - The Complete Guide for Photographers, its appears there are more built-in features in LR 3 only supported by MACs. But that MAYBE because that's the OS he uses.
     
  11. Late last year a few friends helped me put a list together to build my own - I'm not repeating the list here because things have certainly already progressed since then. And sorry, I don't know of a single article that could help you but this is a good place to start looking: http://www.tomshardware.com/us/
    I wanted a rig for around $1500 - that excludes going for the fastest CPU (which isn't really necessary anyway as the performance gain isn't all that great for PS work (i.e. a comparison speed test between three processors that differ by a factor of two in cost resulted in a few seconds difference (15 vs 19 seconds) - hardly relevant unless you process a lot of images all day long) - I got the lowest of the i7 processors available at the time. Memory is something one can never have enough of with PS - so get as much as you can afford - I have 6GB and may go for 12GB at one point. If you really want to optimize the performance of your rig, get 10,000 rpm hard drives; RAID 0 will be the fastest option. Would have busted my budget, so I stuck to a 7,500 rpm drive. CS4 and CS5 make use of a GPU in your graphics card, some middle of the road card for around $250-300 with 1GB memory will do; support for two large monitors is mandatory.
    Everything that makes for a good gaming rig (which I don't need) makes for a good PS machine as well - but unless you enjoy tweaking the machine to get the last bit of performance, even a lower end gaming computer will be more than sufficient.
     
  12. I had pcsforeveryone.com build my last pc because they'll customize, including the choice of a case. Their web site makes it easy to build your own configuration.
    http://www.pcsforeveryone.com/
    As for actual components, look at some of the review sites - many of them run performance tests with Photoshop. I'd probably opt for an Intel i7-860 processor with 8 GB RAM if I were buying today. Or you could wait 6 months and hope that Intel launches 32 nm quad desktop processors. Here's a link to Photoshop performance tests:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2839/3
     
  13. I've used PCs For Everyone back when they were located in Cambridge. They're fantastic because they let you choose parts very specifically and will put anything they have in any compatible system - unlike Dell, which makes bizarre decisions for you like only putting the Pro/Business version of Windows on certain configs and only pairing certain video cards with each product line.
    There's no really simple way of describing a PC that's for Photoshop, but the requirements are:

    -A good CPU, but specifically one with more speed per core rather than more cores.
    -A competent, midrange video card that uses onboard, not shared, memory.
    -4GB or more of RAM.
    -Plenty of hard drive.
    I write this web site: http://3datstech.com to give configuration recommendations that are mainly for people doing 3D architectural rendering, but there's a lot of crossover. On that site, the configuration I recommend for people doing mostly Photoshop work is the Budget system, but part of the reasoning behind that is that in the type of office the recommendations are for the people doing mostly Photoshop work are not the senior artists, so, with that as a starting point, I'd suggest:
    -CPU and MB: either a Phenom II 965 quad core on an 890GX or 890FX motherboard, or (and this is better) an i7 860 or 875K on a decent 1156 motherboard (I've recommended the ASRock P55M Pro before).
    -RAM: DDR3-1600, 4GB or 8GB.
    -Video card: Something in an ATI Radeon 5670. Good performer for the budget and very low power consumption.
    -Hard drive(s): one or more 1TB drives. An SSD for the boot disk if you're feeling spendy.
    -64-bit Windows 7
     
  14. I disagree on the ssd. I'm still hearing that SSD hard drives are a waste of time on Photoshop boxes right now. Sure, you boot up 20% quicker and that's it. My understanding is that they're slower to write too with large files, so now you're actually going backwards over a $75 caviar black mechanical hdd. SSD's, from what little I know about computers, are only good for for small files and running apps and an os that doesn't write files, like an office or a gaming environment. But are horrible as soon as you start using raw files, opening, moving, adjusting, saving. People have rebuilt their systems and gone back to mechanical. if you want to configure it so all data stays off of them, then yeah. But otherwise, I don't see the benifit in a $250 ssd. I'd get more opinions.
    I also disagree on the i7-860 and AMD. I like the i7-920 even though the i7-860 is quicker and cheaper. The i7-920 at least has an upgrade path and will be able to use Intel's upcoming Core i9 'Gulftown' 32nm six-core processors, and maybe even some of the faster quad-core 32nm Core i7 models if the price drops in a year or two. So, at least there is an upgrade path for LGA1366. With the i7-860 on the other hand, the LGA1156 platform seems to be a dead end as there is only one faster cpu above it, the i7-870, and will probably be the highest-end LGA1156 processor available for 1156. In other words, if you want to upgrade in the near future and go above the i7-870 to one of Intel's upcoming high-end processors, you will have to buy a whole new platform. Yet with the slightly slower i7-920, you wont have to throw out your mobo and ram if you want to go six-core in a year or two or three.

    The i7-920 DO stepping is easily over clocked and does 3.0 ghz all day on air. With that said, and in reagrds to SSD's, I'm building this up soon with ssd in mind.
    Intel Core i7 920 D0 Stepping Quad Core Processor LGA1366

    Gigabyte X58A-UD3R ATX LGA1366 X58 DDR3 4PCI-E SATA3 USB3.0 Sound GLAN CrossFireX SLI Motherboard

    2X Corsair XMS3 TR3X6G1333C7 6GB DDR3 3X2GB DDR3-1333 CL 7-7-7-20 1T Core i7 Memory Kit 12GB Total

    EVGA GeForce GT 240 550MHZ 1GB 1.6GHZ DDR3 PCI-E HDMI DVI-I VGA Video Card (01G-P3-1236-LR)

    SSD Intel Intel X25-M 80GB 34NM Postville 2.5IN SSD SATA Solid State Disk Flash Drive (SSDSA2MH080G2C1) OS and Boot

    2X Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA3 6GB/S 7200RPM 64MB Cache 3.5IN Dual Proc Hard Drive

    Antec Sonata III Black ATX 16IN Mid Tower Quiet Case 3X5.25 2X3.5 4X3.5IN 500W 120MM Fan

    DVD Pioneer Liteon 24X DVD Writer SATA Black Retail
     
  15. Wow, Garrison, you're just full of great ideas. You've got the "what little I know about computers" line in there, the SSDs being a bad idea (but you recommend one anyway), the i7-920 which, with its MB, is more expensive than the 860 but is slower, because you can upgrade to an i9. There is no such thing as an i9. There's a 6-core i7, but it's too expensive considering Photoshop can't fully use the 6 cores. Then, even though you argued incorrectly in another thread about the importance of video cards, you included a pathetic one while overspending on ram.
    So, yours:
    Gigabyte X58A: $290
    i7-920: $295
    12GB: $390
    Geforece GT 240: $95
    Subtotal: 1,070
    Mine:
    ASRock P55M Pro: $97
    i7-860: $290
    8GB: $192
    Radeon 5670: $110
    Subtotal: $689
    Mine is $381 cheaper, it's faster and it uses less power.
    I know you're mad about the time you were wrong about Apple APIs but please stop posting things just to disagree with me. It's not good for the OPs.
     
  16. Anyways (rolls eyes) Andrew, would you really recommend a $97 motherboard? To a photoshop user? I wouldn’t even let my 9 yr old nephew use a ASRock to do his home work on, let alone a $97 dollar one. It doesn’t even have sata3 or usb3 on it. I didn’t realize we were competing, but right there your build is slower than mine, lol.

    For those not aware, new faster sata is out as well as the new faster usb3 The old sata is 3 gigabits a second transfer and the new is 6 bg/s. Andrews $97 board doesn’t have either new sata or new usb3. If you’re building today, look for these features that are not on Andrews recommended motherboard.

    Yes Andrew, I'm still going to try ssd as I'm capable of moving Adobe's folders and files from ssd C Drive and to a FASTER drive. Did you read that part? Most average users aren't able/aware and have the folders remain on the C Drive but you'd just march them off and recommend they use ssd anyway when just the slightest bit of google research shows they are still slower for us that actually use the digital darkroom. Again, your build is slower.

    Odd how you wont challenge my point that ssd is slower for photoshop users and writing the large files we tend to create. Seems important, doesn it not? Not odd though, considering your ego gets in the way of your posts and instead try to nit pick away. If I’m wrong on this and ssd has made some major break through lately and are now a faster hdd option, please let us know.


    There is no such thing as an i9.​


    Andrew, how can you say there is no i9 Gulftown? Oh, right, semantics and marketing.We all know that. I forgot who I'm interacting with here and you're right, I should be specific. I’m still looking forward to it when I can afford them though, the 32nm and 12 cores.

    Regardless, the premise of my recommendation, going 1366 and slightly slower i7-920 cpu, is for the sake of future proofing one-self and having a bit of an upgrade path. I doubt it was missed by you Andrew, but just in case, going 920 provides one with this, going with your 1156 and 860 does not.

    Whether your build, with the slower ssd hard drive that is connected on old 3gb/s sata, and 8 gig of ram, with 860 or mine, running off RAID 0 Caviar blacks on 6gb/s sata with 12 gig of faster ram is a quicker machine? I’m not sure but most would think not. And with my build, in a few years, can upgrade easily to 32nm I9 12 core for $350. With yours, if the $97 motherboard hasn’t died, we have to start over.
     
  17. Oof. Okay...
    Anyways (rolls eyes) Andrew, would you really recommend a $97 motherboard? To a photoshop user? I wouldn’t even let my 9 yr old nephew use a ASRock to do his home work on, let alone a $97 dollar one. It doesn’t even have sata3 or usb3 on it. I didn’t realize we were competing, but right there your build is slower than mine, lol.​
    Of course I would recommend such a MB. It would save him $200. There's nothing wrong with ASRock parts, even Tom's Hardware recommends them and they cater to gamers, who are harder on hardware than photographers. If you're a brand snob, buy some other 1156 board and you're still saving money, but I've got many satisfied readers using the cheaper MB's and nobody reporting problems.
    You don't need USB 3.0 because you don't have anything that uses it. SATA 3GB/s is fine - on fast magnetic hard drives like you recommend, running them on 6GB or 3GB SATA doesn't make a difference. In a recent test I read, the reviewer tried the same very good Seagate XT drive on a Marvell 6GB controller and an Intel 3GB controller. On the 6GB, it had 138.5MB/s transfer and 17.12ms access speed. On the 3GB, it had 138.5MB/s transfer and 17.13ms access speed. Neither of those features buy you any speed at all, so what's the point in spending money on them?
    For those not aware, new faster sata is out as well as the new faster usb3 The old sata is 3 gigabits a second transfer and the new is 6 bg/s. Andrews $97 board doesn’t have either new sata or new usb3. If you’re building today, look for these features that are not on Andrews recommended motherboard.​
    Getting faster speeds out of USB3 requires some USB3 devices. Do you own any?
    ...
    Odd how you wont challenge my point that ssd is slower for photoshop users and writing the large files we tend to create. Seems important, doesn it not? Not odd though, considering your ego gets in the way of your posts and instead try to nit pick away. If I’m wrong on this and ssd has made some major break through lately and are now a faster hdd option, please let us know.​
    Putting your OS and software on an SSD makes your computer boot and open programs faster. I did say the SSD option was for "if you're feeling spendy" so I don't see what the big deal is. You get some extra speed and pay a lot for it, so get it if spending the money is not a problem. I'm not challenging you because we're not really disagreeing.

    There is no such thing as an i9.
    Andrew, how can you say there is no i9 Gulftown? Oh, right, semantics and marketing.We all know that. I forgot who I'm interacting with here and you're right, I should be specific. I’m still looking forward to it when I can afford them though, the 32nm and 12 cores.​
    There is no product called i9 Gulftown. I think it's pointless to buy a motherboard so it can upgrade to some product that doesn't exist. Assuming you mean i7 Gulftown, there is one available now and it costs $1000, and there's one to be released at $885 - both of which are unnecessarily expensive for Photoshop. Anything else is speculation. Will there be an affordable 6-core on 1366? Probably. Will there be one on 1156? Probably. I'd never advocate spending an extra $200 for a motherboard to support a hypothetical CPU that may or may not work with the less expensive board.
    Regardless, the premise of my recommendation, going 1366 and slightly slower i7-920 cpu, is for the sake of future proofing one-self and having a bit of an upgrade path. I doubt it was missed by you Andrew, but just in case, going 920 provides one with this, going with your 1156 and 860 does not.​
    It's not a good plan. You don't know what the future upgrade paths will be. Save your money.
    Whether your build, with the slower ssd hard drive that is connected on old 3gb/s sata, and 8 gig of ram, with 860 or mine, running off RAID 0 Caviar blacks on 6gb/s sata with 12 gig of faster ram is a quicker machine? I’m not sure but most would think not. And with my build, in a few years, can upgrade easily to 32nm I9 12 core for $350. With yours, if the $97 motherboard hasn’t died, we have to start over.​
    You say the inexpensive MB will die but overlook the likelihood of failure for a RAID of Caviar Black drives? Caviar Black drives run hotter than other 7200RPM drives, which makes them more likely to fail, and in a RAID 0 if one drive fails you lose it all so double the drives and you double your risk. If you really want to go that route get a better made drive like a Hitachi E7K series or Western Digital RE series.
    Now, please, stop posting bad advice. Arguing with you is a chore I'd avoid if it weren't for the OPs who you'd confuse into spending too much on this stuff. On that note:
    Public service announcement:
    For the next few weeks I'm going to be very busy, mostly with actual photographing, and unable to keep up on this web site and point out when Garrison K. says something that is wrong. In that time, all users are advised that Garrison K. doesn't know anything about computers and anything he writes should be considered incorrect unless corroborated by somebody who knows more than him.
    I'm out.
     
  18. You can always tell when Andrew knows himself when he is on shaky ground and his posts are full of holes. He brings in insults and lies and starts posts off with "Wow Garrison..." or has to finish other posts with a "service announcement". You see, Andrew talks a big game, but that's it.
    No one “won” the video card argument, Andrew. Here's an idea, why don’t you link the thread for the others so they can make up their own mind? Because you look foolish.

    For those that care, which I doubt you do, Andrew seems to feel that video cards have no performance relevance for photoshop users. None. In other words, especially two years ago when there was a difference in gpu’s, he feels that a $50 video card will do the same thing as $300 card in CS4. Well, that's contrary to my experience when I built up a computer around CS4 and used three different cards with CS4. The same is stated from others in the thread and lots in google as well. Common knowledge, I thought.

    So we in the thread asked him to quantify his claim that counters everyone else and show us that a faster photoshop experience will not be had with better video cards. He wont because he can't. Adobe and nVidia go to great lengths about the need and benefit of decent cards since CS4 and that the days of "any old video card" no longer apply. Even Intel goes on to explain how the new architecture of the front bus passes off video duties. Oh but not Andrew, he has a “theory” that is contrary to everyone else and gets a little hot under the collar when politely asked to back it up as we don’t really wish to take his word for it. Right Andrew? The thread more or less went like that? My post is still the last post in that thread and it quotes Adobe, that also counters Andrews' claim.We still await input from Andrew to put it to rest.

    Instead, he goes quiet, offers no proof and then commences in future threads with belittling name calling like “troll” and other insults and fibs in attempts to discredit authors in front of an audience. Just like now when somone differs with him. Would you really build a computer up around a ASWhat $97 motherboard?

    Worse yet, this spoils it for the innocent like it is now. Notice Andrew, my polite and adult rebuttal here? I enter each thread with a clean slate and no one, unless familiar with our history, would have guessed you didn’t like me.

    The sharing and (civilized) arguing of ideas is how we advance as a culture and community. However, he comes here with big impressive words and talks a big game but sadly gets a little insecure when he has to share a thread with others from the school of hard-knocks that have a different opinion or user experience that is relevant to the subject that he has little knowledge of.
     
  19. Getting faster speeds out of USB3 requires some USB3 devices. Do you own any?​
    At one point I didn't own anything that connected with eSata or blue tooth either. Or usb2. At one point, I had a motherboard with sata connections yet all my hard drives were ide. What was your question, again?
    Putting your OS and software on an SSD makes your computer boot and open programs faster. I did say the SSD option was for "if you're feeling spendy" so I don't see what the big deal is. You get some extra speed and pay a lot for it, so get it if spending the money is not a problem. I'm not challenging you because we're not really disagreeing.​
    If you read my posts, you would notice that I do indeed disagree with you and that ssd's are slower when we write large files. Image files like tif, or our cache and temp, you know the important stuff that bogs down and makes an ssd equipped computer slower than a computer that is writing to mechanical hdd's.
    With your silly statements about gpu performance and this one about ssd hard drives I'm convinced you just parrot and glean words off of other sites and come here to talk a big game when actually, you know very little about the digital darkroom and what it takes to make one run efficiently.
     
  20. Garrison, I do what I can but I don't have time for you right now. You're arrogant, an idiot, and a troll. Go ahead and give all the bad advice you want, I'm sure you can get others to make a few bad decisions in the next few weeks, because you're good at saying things that are wrong and making them sound good to those who don't better, and you can feel happy about that. If you want to say I'm wrong, and demonstrate that you do know... well, anything... go ahead and state your credentials, because as far as I'm concerned you're nothing but a high school student with a fake name and a keyboard.
     
  21. Sorry, Garrison, but Andrew's advice is solid. It's idiotic for most uses to buy a motherboard to support future processors. Most of us use our systems for several years and then upgrade everything at once. So you're planning to put a new processor into an old box at some point? Hard drives don't last forever, and who knows what will happen in two years. But, hey, it's your money to waste.
     

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