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CS4 OpenGL Feature means I need which video card?

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February 5, 2009 5:42:41 PM

Need some advice here from people who know (cause I’m still learning).

OK, so I’m a freelance graphic designer. Two years ago when I first started into this I went to Best Buy to pick up a good workhorse of a computer. Thanks anyways, Best Buy.

What they sold me was a Gateway GM5446E with the following specs:
Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6320 (64 bit processor, each core 1.86GHz, shared 4 MB L2 cache, 1066 MHz FSB)
-NVIDIA GeForce 7650GS 256MB
-Optical Drive DVD+RW
-500 GB SATA II HD
-2048 MB DDR2 (I’ve since upgraded to 4GB)
-300W PS
-24” Gateway display
-Windows Vista Home Premium (32 bit)...arrgghhh
…and some other features not so relevant.

This computer has been a fine entry level machine for me, other than Windows Vista (which actually had so much problems a few months ago that it was entirely locked and Gateway support advised me that I’d have to reformat the whole machine – which really sucked). All I really run on it, though, is Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium (Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS4, InDesign CS4, and though I don’t use them, Flash CS4 and Dreamweaver CS4).

Here’s my issue (apart from what may be the obvious): my computer is less than satisfactory when working with very large files in Photoshop, particularly files that are 300dpi resolution and larger than say 8 x 10 inches. Also my machine can barely handle it when I’m working back and forth between Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign simultaneously. Recently Photoshop began refusing to do what I asked it to during one such occurance, with the error message: “Photoshop could not complete your request due to insufficient memory (out of RAM).”

I contacted Adobe for support and was lucky to talk with someone who really knew hardware (actually not lucky – Adobe’s support is always that good – best around). He advised me that first off I ought to be running a 64 bit environment. [Strike one, Best Buy. I now have to completely purchase a retail copy of Vista in 64 bit since Microsoft will not allow you to upgrade an OEM copy for free]

Second he informed me that my performance settings in Photoshop needed some tweaking, including setting Photoshop scratch disks to it’s own hard drive – specifically NOT the one Windows uses for scratch/virtual memory. I didn’t have a second internal hard drive (only an external, USB connected drive), but I soon learned how to partition my internal disk and I made a 50GB partition for Photoshop’s scratch disks. Check!

The third thing that this guy informed me, which was very helpful, if not MOST helpful, is that when CS4 was released by Adobe last fall, NVIDIA simultaneously released a graphics card in their Quadro line specifically for CS4 users. Now I know what you’re thinking: fancy marketing gimic for NVIDIA to make more moolah. Maybe. But to me that showed me that as a graphic professional, either way I need something better than this GeForce 7650 that is currently messing me up.

So, again, back to the main issue: I need to upgrade my PC on a budget without actually building a new one (at least not for another year). My budget is like $800 or less, and I need to get the following:
-Decent graphics card (at least better than what I’m using)
-A second internal hard drive
-A new external drive (gotta replace the USB one with an eSATA or at least Firewire – just found out about those speeds from the Adobe support guy)
-An eSATA card
-A bigger Power Supply

So the whole point of this post is really to get some advice on the GRAPHICS CARD, because I’ve done A LOT of forum lurking reading stuff about Pro level cards (like Quadro line) vs Gaming level cards. The trouble is, I’m not totally sure what category I fall into, and I want to get the best card I can afford, but not one I really don’t need.

I don’t work with Maya, AutoCAD, 3DSMax, or any other 3D software although in the future I’d like to begin working with C4D. But that’s far enough down the road for me that if/when I build a new machine I can take it into account then. So would I want a “Gaming Level” card? The biggest wrench in the info that I’ve found so far is that nobody seems to be talking about Adobe’s CS4 change that allows CS4 programs to use the GPU by taking advantage of OpenGL (don’t mean to sound smart about it, I’m really not). So does that mean I should have a 3D type card, or 2D? And further, should I stick to a Quadro, or would a GTX be OK? (Let’s just assume I’m set on NVIDIA for sake of argument).

Sorry for the long read. Also any other suggestions like where to purchase (tigerdir vs. newegg vs. other) are helpful.
February 7, 2009 8:39:55 AM

For working with PS CS4, you need some GPU with fast rendering speeds.
ATi HD48xx cards are recommended by one of my friend working in Adobe.
About Quadro cards, they are the best for video editing and animation... but costliest things.. ATi has also a series of video editing cards..

As for your case, i suggest you to get ATi HD48xx card... and also increase your PSU(SMPS) to atleast 500W
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February 7, 2009 9:49:17 AM

I suggest you upgrade to 8GB and a 64bit OS if possible. then you might decide and get a separate scratch disk for those applications.

Graphics Card: HD 48xx series GFX (Quadro or FireGL if budget provides, but personally I don't think its worth it)
Hard Drive: Cavar Black HD 640GB+
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February 27, 2009 7:24:51 PM

As it turns out I upgraded my OS to Vista Ultimate 64 bit and added RAM giving me a total of 8 GB. I also added a WD Caviar black 640 GB internal hard drive (as a secondary drive to set Photoshop's primary scratch disks to) and upgraded my external drive from a USB drive to an eSATA connection. Also replaced my wimpy 300 Watt PS to a 500 Watt PS.

I haven't touched the video card yet, but everything seems to run alot smoother now.

As a side note I also switched from ie to firefox and really notice a lot of better performance using firefox for mulitple tabs where ie would really bog my system down. In fact, Task Manager shows that under System Processes it only takes 150 or so MB of RAM to do what ie took upwards of 900 MB of RAM and often higher. Also less spy cookies show up with firefox.

Thanks for all the help and suggestions.
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February 28, 2009 5:29:39 AM

I have found that Photoshop CS4's GPU features actually make it run slower than CS3, which doesn't GPU enhancement. After having the document open for a while, there's huge lag in panning. Sometimes when I restart Photoshop, it disables the GPU enhancements and claims that my drivers are outdated.

My Geforce 8800 GT is listed on the compatible GPU's chart: http://kb.adobe.com/selfservice/viewContent.do?external.... I have a classmate with the same card and he has experienced these same problems as well. I don't know if it's just the 8800 GT with the problem....
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February 28, 2009 1:08:03 PM

tokyotech said:
I have found that Photoshop CS4's GPU features actually make it run slower than CS3, which doesn't GPU enhancement. After having the document open for a while, there's huge lag in panning. Sometimes when I restart Photoshop, it disables the GPU enhancements and claims that my drivers are outdated.

My Geforce 8800 GT is listed on the compatible GPU's chart: http://kb.adobe.com/selfservice/viewContent.do?external.... I have a classmate with the same card and he has experienced these same problems as well. I don't know if it's just the 8800 GT with the problem....


Yeah, that was part of my problem, too. I would often get Photoshop shutting down and when I restarted it would tell me it disabled GPU enhancements and that I need to make sure my drivers were up to date. But I think in the end one of the major culprits was not having a separate internal hard drive just for Photoshop's scratch disks, and not running a 64 bit OS environment. Since upgrading to these things a few weeks ago (and upgrading to a total of 8 GB of RAM) Photoshop responds much much better now. And even the GPU enhancement works very well.

My take is that Adobe is just exploiting the fact that PC's are becoming more and more powerful and capable of doing big stuff - even though not everyone is running such PCs. Their thought is probably that people can upgrade if they really want the benefits that CS4 now has to offer.
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