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Building a Photoshop Computer: Need Guidance

Last response: in Motherboards
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July 23, 2008 8:36:06 PM

I need a new photoshop machine: my current ABIT Mobo and AMD processor lock up more and more often and are slowing down as my image files get bigger and bigger. I found a lot of advice suggesting a Q6600 processor. I'd like to get an ASUS motherboard and have thought of the P5E but as there are so many variations I am a bit confused (I am old, 63, and easily confused!) I expect I will have many more questions along the way but at the moment just want to select the motherboard and processor. I am not into games (well, I play Starcraft against the 'bots while running backups) or overclocking (as I don't understand it.) I'd like to have at least three separate disk channels (RAID arrays) with six disks (system, data & scratch) and I have a Dell 30" 3008WFP and 23" ACD that I would like to use, together if possible. I currently run WinXP Pro.

Any suggestions?
July 23, 2008 9:02:10 PM

P35/P45 chipsets are good especially if you are an average user that doesn't want nVidia SLI running.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131275
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131295

Don't get too hung up over P5K, P5Q, etc...just look at the features and see what all you will need. The boards I searched for had at least 6+ SATA headers since you wanted to run 6+ SATA drives. ICH9 and 10 support most standard RAID configs. If you are that interested in RAID, perhaps a RAID controller card would be a better solution for that many drives...?

ASUS and Gigabyte make good boards...all I will build with for people. Q6600 is a good chip, it will do well even at stock speeds for you. Are you running XP Pro 32 or 64 bit? 32bit will only be able to use >4GB RAM depending on your video and other allocated memory usage. 64bit for everything higher.

Starcraft shouldn't pose any problems with a system based on those components... :) 
July 23, 2008 9:24:09 PM

rubix, thanks. I'll poke around the ASUS site and see if I can get a grip on the various mobos. I'm running 32 bit ... have heard there are some application issues with XP 64 bit. I'm still avoiding Vista (imagine that!) I have LSI RAID cards in my current boxes as well as using the onboard RAID. [I have an LSI PCI-X MegaRAID board that I have never been able to use ... misread the specs when I ordered it. Guess I should look for a PCI-E version?] I guess I will propose more specific configurations once I have selected the motherboard.
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July 24, 2008 4:57:11 PM

A bit more research and I'm now looking at ASUS P5Q Premium (lots of disk support) and Intel Q9450. Is there a rule-of-thumb to determine required PSU wattage for a system ... number of disks times x plus video card times y, etc?
July 24, 2008 10:12:03 PM

I I have just built a pc for Photoshop with an Asus P5Q deluxe, and a Q9450. Photoshop is apparently one of the few programs which take advantage of the quad cores, so it seems to be the best choice. My system consisted of:

1 x Antec NSK4000 Blk/SilverTower Case
1 x OCZ 600W StealthXStream PSU
1 x Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 2.66GHz (Retail 775)
1 x OCZ 8GB PC2-6400 C5 Quad Channel Platinum Low Latency XTC 4x2GB)
1 x Asus P5Q Deluxe iP45 Socket 775 Motherboard
1 x 500Gb Hitachi SATA-2 P7K500 Hard Drive- 16MB
1 x 320GB Maxtor-Seagate SATA2 7200
1 x Sony DRU-190S 20x DVDRW Retail Kit - SATA
1 x ALPS Black 1.44MB 3.5'' Floppy Drive
1 x Asus ATi Radeon HD 3450 256MB PCI-E

I chose this motherboard because of the large memory capacity (16gb), although I have 8gb, (there would have to 4gb modules for 16gb and I have never come across those, but maybe in the future!).

The amount of RAM is very important for Photoshop (it uses RAM before it uses the scratch disk so the greater capacity the faster it works with files.) If you use Windows XP 32bit you will be limited to 3GB of RAM for Photoshop. All 32bit operating systems are limited to 4gb max. I work with files upto 1gb and with Photoshop CS3 there is big speed and performance difference between 8gb and 3gb. That is why I am using Windows XP 64 bit. Everything seems to run fast and stable, and was relatively easy to put together and setup.

The graphics card pretty much irrelevant for Photoshop as it does not make use of the GPU, so you will just need a decent card that can power your 2 monitors. However, Photoshop CS4, which will be released later this year is rumored to make use of the graphics card GPU, so in the future if you upgrade to CS4 it will become apparent that some graphics cards will be better than others for this, but you probably do not need to think about that right now. The Radeon that I have seem pretty good although I only have one monitor.

The other reasons I opted for the P5Q deluxe over the more basic versions were the extra power saving features and the Express Gate SSD, which is a great thing. It allows you to boot up to a mini Linux that is pre installed on the ROM chip, you can surf the internet and send emails within 5 seconds of pressing the power button and you can also browse any photos on your disks in the same amount of time, or you can simply skip this and it automatically boots to windows.

I believe the P5Q Premium has also has this feature and it has more 2 SATAS according to the comparison chart here:

http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=548

You can find a power supply calculator to work out what power you will need here:

http://educations.newegg.com/tool/psucalc/index.html

There is also lots of info on the Asus website, you can download the manuals to check anything beforehand:

http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=11&l3=709&l4=...
July 24, 2008 10:35:35 PM

Dave, that's dynamite! Thanks! I am curious about XP 64 ... I have heard less than stellar things about it for lots of applications. What else do you run on it? I have the Adobe Suite and MS Office 2007 and a couple of other photo specific programs that I need to be able to run as well as an Epson 7880 and R220 printers, although I have a good backup box that I could put most of that on if necessary.

Do you have a recommendation for a good scratch disk ... something small and fast?

Again, thanks for the tips and references. I will be bringing my build back here as I select bits and pieces to try to make sure there are not too many gotcha's!

Dwight
July 25, 2008 5:24:09 PM

I am not sure about which scratch disk. I just have a standard sata hard drive, which serves me fine. Although, I do believe that a Raid 0 configuration improves read /write performance, but that it is more risky in terms of data failure.

I haven't had any problems with XP 64 so far. If you are concerned about it, you could just go for 4GB RAM (2x2GB) and XP 32. Unless you are working with huge files...I'd guess 500mb+ you might not see the benefit of all that memory. With the ASUS motherboard, you could always add another 2 or 4GB and install a 64 bit operating system later depending on your needs. If your old memory is DDR2 you could even use that.

Good luck with the build!
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