Fast system for Photoshop?

I'm going to build my first system. The main app I will use on the PC is Photoshop and processing of large RAW images on Vista. I will occasionally do some video editing, but that isn't the main use. As I understand it, going dual core at 3GHz is faster in Photoshop than quad core at a slower speed because most functions are parallelized beyond two CPUs.

I'm unsure about overclocking so not planning on it right now (mostly just because I don't know much about it yet). I'm willing to spend for good quality and speed, but don't need to pay for things that won't help me. I do not play games. Photoshop doesn't need much in the way of GPU (it still does most of the work itself with the main processor). I've been reading as much as I can get my hands on and have this list of components so far for my system. I hope to keep things like the case, power supply and some drives for many years while upgrading other components when faster stuff is available.

I am not going to initially set up RAID, but I may want to do this in the future.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz 4M shared L2 Cache
Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3P Rev 2.0 LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Ultra Durable 2
Ram: CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel (2 of these for total of 4 x 1GB)
Case: Antec Performance One P180B
PSU: ZALMAN ZM600-HP ATX12V 600W Power Supply 100 - 240 V
OS-Drive: Western Digital Raptor X WD1500AHFD 150GB 10,000 RPM 16MB Cache Serial ATA150 Hard Drive
GPU: ASUS EN8600GTS/HTDP/256M GeForce 8600GTS 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready

These components add up to about $1200 on Newegg.

Any helpful comments or alternate suggestions on these components would be much appreciated.

I have two existing SATA drives that I'll be moving into the new system for data storage.

I haven't figured out what to do for a DVD/CD drive. I'm intrigued by the Lightscribe drives that can write on the DVDs and I've heard I should get SATA, but I haven't found any good suggestions there yet.

I have an HP 30" LCD on order (dual link DVI-I) so I need a graphics card that has that connection and can go 2560 x 1600, but Photoshop doesn't otherwise benefit from ultrafast GPU.

Some specific questions:
Any general comments on this system or alternate recommendations?
What SATA DVD/CD drive would folks recommend? Does the Lightscribe stuff work?
If I'm not overclocking, should I just go with the stock fan/heatsink that comes with the CPU?
I don't really know anything about power supplies. The Zalman here was recommended by some other posters. I won't ever go dual GPU, but I may end up with a fair number of SATA storage drives.

Any help or comments would be appreciated.

10 answers Last reply
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  1. I don't know much about Photoshop, I still don't really know how to use my old version 7.0 correctly.

    As far as the DVD drive, I know Lite-On is a good company, I've installed a hundred or more over the years and I've only seen one die. I've also used some Samsung drives with good results. I like the Lightscribe feature, though I wish the media for them was a bit cheaper and the contrast wasn't quite as much as I expected, but with my Lite-On set to max contrast it looks cool still. A lot better than just writing with a marker or trying to print out some stupid label and centering it on there. A Lightscribe drive only cost a few dollars more than a model without so it seems kinda silly to not get one. Just remember you need the correct discs to use LS.

    If you really don't plan on overclocking and you know your case has good ventilation already, I'd say yeah keep the stock cooler. Intel has already decided it does an adequate job, hence why it's included. If you decide down the road it's not quiet enough or doesn't cool well enough you can always replace it with a better one.

    I'm not sure about a Zalman PSU, I'm sure someone else makes them but I don't know who. If you're going to spend that kind of money on one I'd go for this PC Power & Cooling:

    or this Seasonic:

    They are both a little cheaper and I know they're good products. I'm not saying the Zalman is a bad one, just that I don't know anything about them.
  2. Look before you leap:

    Adobe says no way to Vista updates

    If you are running CS3 it's not a problem ... as long as your Vista is 32 bit.
  3. Thanks for the response. I'll check out the Lite-On drives.

    Someone else just recommended the Corsair 520HX PSU instead of the Zalman. What do you think of that choice?
  4. nhobo said:
    Look before you leap:

    Adobe says no way to Vista updates

    If you are running CS3 it's not a problem ... as long as your Vista is 32 bit.

    I'm on CS3, so should be OK.
  5. Don't use on board software raid also look at a mac system new hardware may come out at the time 10.5 comes out.
  6. Joe_The_Dragon said:
    Don't use on board software raid also look at a mac system new hardware may come out at the time 10.5 comes out.

    What do you mean by "don't use on board software raid"? If you mean "don't use the RAID support that is built into some motherboards", can you describe why?
  7. Joe_The_Dragon said:
    ..also look at a mac system new hardware may come out at the time 10.5 comes out.

    I just priced out a Mac Pro that could deliver comparable speed and it's more than twice as expensive as the system I can build. It's not truly an apples to apples comparison (pun intended) because the mac pro is nicer than my system in some ways, but if I just look at the basics of what I need to get the performance: fast motherboard, CPUs and clock rate, FSB clock rate, fast dual channel RAM, fast HDD and make sure the Mac Pro has the same, it's more than twice as expensive as the system I can build.
  8. Jfriend00: Yes the mac is expensive. But keep in mind mac pro uses XEON processors...Not 775 socket but 771. Ram costs more as well as the motherboards. So that brings the difference in price lower. They are still more expensive then just nabbing a pc version....But the difference in price between a Xeon socket 771 and desktop 775 system is quite substantial if you go for high end parts. My brother has a Mac Pro with dual 2.66 ghz processors and 8 gigs of ram. The thing is a god damn beast but cost around 6 grand. I'd never pay that much for a mac since I'm a pc user. But I've used it before and I must say the performance is there. not worth 6 grand as I can build the same system with a nice 30" monitor, raptor, new keyboard, mouse, top end soundcard and other goodies for the same price...But yea..comparing that rig to me 3.2 prescott..brings a tear to my eye =(.

    When he stated don't use onboard raid software. He's talking about raid run by just that...Software...Onboard raid hardware for your motherboard is fine. Just don't use a software raid solution....

    Regarding the PSU...anything on this list would do..

    Just stick with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 psu for the best quality possible. I'm also glad to see you nabbed a raptor as that will increase performance. The Corsair hx520 you stated would be fine. If you want more headroom in the future if you eventually decide to play games and want to get a nice high end graphics card..Or add a bunch of storage drives....then get the 620hx instead.

    Regarding your ram?...Which are you getting..The Cas Latency 4 or 5 modules?..The 5 modules are like 70 bucks while the 4 modules are 100...Although I doubt you plan to Overclock. grab these modules instead.

    They have a rebate also which will make them cheaper then the corsair XMS2 modules. Plus corsair has been switching out most their IC's for cheaper promo chips. While these Crucial Ballistix modules use D9GMH microns...MUCH better. I'd stay away from corsair for a while till the situation with all their chip changing settles down. Why D9GMH?...cause they are damn good chips. If you want you can even try tightening the might have to add a little voltage to do so. You can also overclock pretty damn well with these chips...

    Now I'm not saying you should overclock. A lot of people don't feel comfortable doing this. But these chips are nice in terms of quality. Plus they are a 4-4-4-12 timings compared to the 67 dollar XMS2's 5-5-5-15. For the 100 dollar XMS2 modules the timings are the same...Also the rebates are pretty much the same. They come out cheaper then the 67 dollar versions at 60 dollars a pop. But Corsair has been iffy lately..Go with the Crucial Ballistix modules. ^_^.

    If you are planning to OC you might want to get a q6600. If not then the 6850 should do you fine as the clock speed is higher. But if you do plan to OC then drop the dual core and nab a quad as it will be better down the line. The future is multicore...

    Are you planning to play ANY games?..if so you might want to look at a different card.

    Even if not don't get that asus..Get this instead..

    It has a lifetime warranty unlike the asus 1 year warranty. A smarter buy that will be replaced if it dies whenever it happens. Nice choice on the card though even if you do some LIGHT gaming. The 8600 GTS isn't bad..Just a tad bit slower then the x1950 pro unless you're talking about the more expensive superclocked 8600 GTS models which aren't worth it. But if you do plan to eventually play some games. You might want to nab or step up to a new mid range next month. The nice thing about EVGA is you have 3 months from purchase to trade it in for a better card. You just have to pay the difference. Also make sure you register the card ont heir website..otherwise you won't have the warranty and step up I believe. I also double checked this card and made sure it has Dual Link DVI...and it rest assured.

    I just re-read your post..If you do plan to OC get those crucial sticks and q6600..I can't stress that enough. If you want to OC keep in mind you have to keep your computer cool...In that case you'll need a nice cooling solution. If you don' plan to oc it's not neccesary...

    But good cooling is quite pricey...You can try these setups..

    Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme + Scythe S-Flex SFF21F fan + Arctic Silver 5...

    The Thermalright ultra 120 extreme is a fanless cooler..But it has a bracket where you can add your own. This is the cream of th ecrop in cpu cooling. Although getting all these 3 items listed will set you back between 70-100 depending on where you get everything...The heatsink is also quite huge. so make sure it fits in your case....

    Thermalright Ultima 90 (NOT ULTRA!) + Scyth S-Flex SFF21F + Arctic Silver 5

    Same as above but a smaller version of the 120 ultra. If also has brackets for a 90mm fan and a 120m fan. But I'mr ecommending the SFF21F because it has a High cfm low DBA ratio. We want something with great cooling with minimal noise..Best solution..

    Or you can just nab a Tuniq Tower's around 50 or so. It's similar in size to the 120 extreme but already has a fan in it. You just need to nab this with some Arctic silver 5...

    If you want really cheap cooling that won't break the bank. You can nab a Arctic 7 Freezer Pro for 20 bucks. It's better then stock but nothing compared to these solutions.

    Choice is yours.
  9. Kamrooz said:
    ... If you are planning to OC you might want to get a q6600. If not then the 6850 should do you fine as the clock speed is higher. But if you do plan to OC then drop the dual core and nab a quad as it will be better down the line. The future is multicore...

    Awesome feedback. Thanks much.

    In the Mac, what does the XEON and 771 socket get you that the 775 socket with the D6850 or Q6600 doesn't? I saw that they were different, but didn't know what difference it made.

    I had already changed my mind to the Corsair HX520 PSU. It sounds like I don't really need the HX620 if I'm not going with fancier video cards or dual video cards. I may end up with 4 hard drives over time, but I thought I'd still be safe with the 520.

    On the RAM, I don't pretend to yet understand the different options very well. For Photoshop, I want to give Windows and Photoshop the max RAM it can take so I was planning on putting in 4GB. I've read some of the debate about 4x1GB vs. 2x2GB and wasn't sure what to make of it for pure performance when all sticks are matched. What would you recommend? Should I just go with 4 of the 1GB Crucial Ballistix modules you recommend?

    I read a bunch about overclocking this weekend and I now think I may get the Q6600 and overclock it just up to 3.0GHz since folks seem to say that's fairly conservative and should end up faster than the E6850 and is better positioned to take advantage of future software that can use 4 cores. To go with that, I was planning on getting the Tuniq Tower 120 and Arctic Silver 5. That sounds consistent with your recommendations.

    The EVGA card is $15 more than the ASUS card. I guess it might be worth it for the longer warranty or trade-up option. I wasn't planning on playing any serious games.

    Thanks again for the detailed response. Very helpful.
  10. No problem what so ever ^_^.

    Xeon processors are pretty much workstation and server based processors. For just photoshop work you wouldn't really need to put the money into getting a socket 771 rig. I would only recommend socket 771 if you need extremely high levels of processing power. Such as high def video editing as well as 3d modeling. With just photoshop work a 775 based system will be perfectly fine as a 771 rig doesn't justify the price. With 771 rigs the processors are a bit more pricey, motherboards, Ram as well. You also mostly end up with registered FBDimm modules in socket 771 systems which drives up the cost as well...really not worth it for your uses.

    Regarding the Corsair HX520. For your needs it will be fine. But IMO I would nab the 620. It might be a little more expensive. But this way down the line you can always slap in a high end graphics card if you ever decide to game. Also keep in mind overclocking also pulls in more power as you are running the hardware above spec. If you bump up the voltage and whatnot that is...

    Even so with your current system and 4 hard drives...the 520 watt should be perfectly fine with room the spare. Especially considering you are using a 8600 GTS. But I always like to leave a little headroom..You may not want to upgrade now...But a year or so from now you might change your mind...

    Regarding Ram...Any ram would do pretty much. Timing on ram is basicly the latency at which it can access information and finish it's current task ...This is of course a simple explanation to make it easier to understand...So both rated speed and latency are important. Although the performance difference would be pretty difficult to determine...For the average user any ram would do. For those who like to tweak their system for optimum performance they have more selective needs in terms of memory. Overclocking falls into that characteristic. There are many types of different IC's released from many companies..The most sought after and desired are the Micron D9 series for DDr2..While for DDR3 is currently the Micron Z9 series. The two most wanted DDR2 Micron modules are the D9GMH and the D9GKX......

    I would recommend the Crucial Ballistix series that I linked before. Performance for the dollar is fantastic. They should easily get you to 3 ghz without even straining your memory depending on your Multiplier usage when you overclock. Now when it comes to OC'ing...It's easier to OC just two sticks then it is 4. As having 4 sticks can and has caused issues for some users. For me it worked perfectly fine. Now if you want a 2x2 solution there is one set that I know has Microns as well but I'm not sure which type....

    The choice is yours really though. If you want to be able to get 8 gigs down the line you could nab these. Or grab these

    Choice is up to you. Both will do the job fine. 2x2 modules are still in their infancy....So not many choices out there and the chips are still being improved upon. Where as 4x1 has matured pretty much to the point you can get fantastic chips for such a small amount of money. But some users have had a few issues with 4x1 sticks since all the memory slots are full. This would also take more power as well as 4 chips would required more power then 2. I personally have oc'ed 4x1gb in the past and have had no issues. But some people do and some people don't..

    Choice is yours though..As the 2x2 solutions are more expensive...

    Overclocking is indeed nice. It takes a while though to set up. Lots of testing to get it stable as well. There are tons of overclocking guides out there to help you along.

    About the graphics card. EVGA is a very reputable brand as well as XFX...In my eyes and MANY others they will swear by it. Service is fantastic and you really can't beat a lifetime warranty. Keep in mind the one I linked you too has a rebate also to bring it down to 155. They also have another model which is 5 dollars more, It has an extra 45 mhz clock on the core and 100 mhz on the memory..

    It also has a rebate to bring it down to 160. choice is yours though as 5 dollars isn't much. I personally always nab just one of the default models and OC it myself..Unless the price is extremely close I'll just grab the next one up and still OC it. I always OC all my graphics card to make sure I get the most out of it ^_^...But yea...choice is yours again...either card will do.

    If you have any other questions feel free to ask. Regarding anything...I'd be glad to help.
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