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Photoshop workstation

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April 13, 2009 2:36:19 PM

Hi everyone,

I would like to get your opinion on a general outline of what you would consider the way to go for a Photoshop workstation. My wife is a professional photographer and a Photoshop expert. She works with very high resolution images - her current camera can shoot as high as 21mega pixels. We have Photoshop CS4 installed with the graphics acceleration feature, which is nice to have. In addition she of course needs plenty of storage. My main concern is that she would be able to throw anything at Photoshop and not get any hesitation. This means opening up files and saving files should be blazing fast. Working and retouching files should be even faster. I guess what I would really want to know is, how would you set the hardrives, and how much ram is enough (depending on which platform i opt for). Another important issue would be ofcourse backup - I would want to make sure all her work is secure in case of failure. So to sum it up - Best performance for my buck on high end photoshop work along with safety backup. She will be running windows XP (perhaps 64bit if more ram is required).


Thanks.

More about : photoshop workstation

April 13, 2009 2:44:04 PM

Hi,

Do you have a budget in mind? A workstation specifically set for high-end graphics use will be substantially more expensive than a PC configured for high performance which can also do well with graphics. What kind of monitor is she using or do you intend to buy a new one as well?

As much information you can provide will help you get better suggestions.
April 13, 2009 2:45:44 PM

I'm going to assume you have a very good budget. If that's true, look at something like Q9550 (or Q9650), GA-EP45-UD3R, 2 sets of 2x2GB DDR2-800, Velociraptor 300GB, WD1001FALS.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136284

You could even go for an i7 920/X58/12GB DDR3 build, but it would cost more and I'm not sure it's worth it. I don't like the idea of $300 motherboards for people who don't even need more than one graphics card.

Speaking of graphics card, AFAIK the graphics acceleration feature in CS4 needs a Quadro card. That is, it has to be an nVidia workstation card. A gaming card (ATI or nVidia) would work, but not all the features in CS4 would be enabled.

Related resources
April 13, 2009 2:50:01 PM

I currently got her a 30 inch Samsung monitor (excellent color for photo editing) . I am not looking to spend as much as possible, im looking to get the best performance for my buck - in other words, if I can get amazing performance for $500 , I won't spend another $1000 for another 5% increase in performance or anything like that. I hope that explains my objective better.
Thanks.
April 13, 2009 2:59:32 PM

I think your best choice (without breaking the bank) is a GTX 285 card. Something like GTX 295 would probably be less useful because I doubt Adobe uses two GPUs.
With a card like that you'd need a PSU like Corsair 650TX or bigger. You'd also need a roomy well-cooled case, e.g. RC-690.
April 13, 2009 3:19:52 PM

aevm said:
Check this out:

http://hothardware.com/Articles/Nvidia-Quadro-CX-Workstation-Graphics-Card/
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814133248

Edit: never mind, I guess you're not interested in a $1500 card. Read the article anyway. They mention that it's possible to buy a $200 gaming card and a plugin for HD encoding separately. Does your wife even need HD encoding?


This card is like driving a Ferrari to the supermarket around the corner. Even if I got a $400 high end graphic card I think the additional $1100 will be better well spent on other stuff such as a cpu, ram, hardrives, etc. Its complete overkill with very little performance increase to justify its insane price.

Thanks for the info though - I read about this before, hoping I discovered something that can make photoshop suddenly faster than the speed of light :) 
April 13, 2009 3:21:43 PM

aevm said:
I'm going to assume you have a very good budget. If that's true, look at something like Q9550 (or Q9650), GA-EP45-UD3R, 2 sets of 2x2GB DDR2-800, Velociraptor 300GB, WD1001FALS.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136284

You could even go for an i7 920/X58/12GB DDR3 build, but it would cost more and I'm not sure it's worth it. I don't like the idea of $300 motherboards for people who don't even need more than one graphics card.

Speaking of graphics card, AFAIK the graphics acceleration feature in CS4 needs a Quadro card. That is, it has to be an nVidia workstation card. A gaming card (ATI or nVidia) would work, but not all the features in CS4 would be enabled.


How would you set up the hardrives? What would you use for the OS? How would you set up the storage? RAID? etc.
April 13, 2009 3:41:36 PM

Yeah, a $400 graphic card makes a lot more sense. Maybe even a $260 GTX 275.

I'd use the Velociraptor for most work and the 1TB drives for storage.
RAID 0 would improve speed, but it's also increasing the risk of losing data. That is, if one drive fails you lose what's on the other drives too. I guess it's OK, if you back up often. There's also RAID 5, supported by most motherboards and allowing some redundancy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID

OS: not much choice here. Vista Home Premium 64-bit, Vista Business 64-bit, Vista Ultimate 64-bit. You can't use XP 64-bit because it's not officially supported by CS4 and some functions won't work, apparently. Mind you, I haven't tried it myself, it's just what I've read in forums. You do need a 64-bit system, otherwise you're limited to 3GB of RAM or less (1GB is taken by the graphic card, and 32-bit systems can address 4GB max).
April 13, 2009 5:36:49 PM

aevm said:
Yeah, a $400 graphic card makes a lot more sense. Maybe even a $260 GTX 275.

I'd use the Velociraptor for most work and the 1TB drives for storage.
RAID 0 would improve speed, but it's also increasing the risk of losing data. That is, if one drive fails you lose what's on the other drives too. I guess it's OK, if you back up often. There's also RAID 5, supported by most motherboards and allowing some redundancy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID

OS: not much choice here. Vista Home Premium 64-bit, Vista Business 64-bit, Vista Ultimate 64-bit. You can't use XP 64-bit because it's not officially supported by CS4 and some functions won't work, apparently. Mind you, I haven't tried it myself, it's just what I've read in forums. You do need a 64-bit system, otherwise you're limited to 3GB of RAM or less (1GB is taken by the graphic card, and 32-bit systems can address 4GB max).


So assuming the graphic card and OS have been selected already.
The hardrive setup would be as follows:

OS / Program files / Files I'm working on at the moment - Velociraptor (Maybe even in a RAID 0 setup)
Storage - 1TB drive x 2 perhaps in a Mirror RAID setup for backup. (plenty of storage for the time being)

Would there be a more ideal way to set it up?
How about adding an SSD in the mix?
April 13, 2009 5:59:42 PM

Sounds good.

Personally I'm waiting for 2010 to venture into SSDs. Let them mature a bit. I'm sure next year they will be larger and cheaper and possibly a bit faster too.

Here's an example:
OCZ Solid Series OCZSSD2-1SLD60G 2.5" 60GB SATA II - Retail $150
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227373

Compared to a Velociraptor, it costs about twice as much per GB and it's slower for writing (90 MB/s instead of 130 MB/s). Not very tempting, I'd say. On the plus side, it's quiet, consumes less power, and writes faster (155 MB/s instead of 130 MB/s).
TBH I have no idea if your wife would see lower or higher productivity with a SSD, since the typical editing involves both reading (faster) and writing (slower).
April 13, 2009 6:51:16 PM

aevm said:
Sounds good.

Personally I'm waiting for 2010 to venture into SSDs. Let them mature a bit. I'm sure next year they will be larger and cheaper and possibly a bit faster too.

Here's an example:
OCZ Solid Series OCZSSD2-1SLD60G 2.5" 60GB SATA II - Retail $150
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227373

Compared to a Velociraptor, it costs about twice as much per GB and it's slower for writing (90 MB/s instead of 130 MB/s). Not very tempting, I'd say. On the plus side, it's quiet, consumes less power, and writes faster (155 MB/s instead of 130 MB/s).
TBH I have no idea if your wife would see lower or higher productivity with a SSD, since the typical editing involves both reading (faster) and writing (slower).


I know this may seem extreme, but the price isnt all that bad - how about something like this?

Only downside is that its limited to 4gb, but 4gb of the fastest speed you can ask for :) 
April 13, 2009 7:27:40 PM

It's got a few more downsides.

1. It costs about $240. That is, $133 for the card itself, and you need to buy 4 GB of some older type of RAM (with 184-pins). Something like this will set you back another $108 for 4GB, for example:
CORSAIR XMS 2GB (2 x 1GB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) $54
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145575

2. I think there's a risk there of losing work. Would your wife need to remember to copy from the RAM disk to the real hard disk every time she's done working and ready to turn off the PC? What if the PC reboots because there's a spike in the electricity supply? The thing claims to have a battery, but that can't help it copy unsaved stuff to the real HDD IMO because the real HDD will not have a battery and won't be available.
April 13, 2009 7:47:15 PM

aevm said:
It's got a few more downsides.

1. It costs about $240. That is, $133 for the card itself, and you need to buy 4 GB of some older type of RAM (with 184-pins). Something like this will set you back another $108 for 4GB, for example:
CORSAIR XMS 2GB (2 x 1GB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) $54
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145575

2. I think there's a risk there of losing work. Would your wife need to remember to copy from the RAM disk to the real hard disk every time she's done working and ready to turn off the PC? What if the PC reboots because there's a spike in the electricity supply? The thing claims to have a battery, but that can't help it copy unsaved stuff to the real HDD IMO because the real HDD will not have a battery and won't be available.


Lets just say that if I was going to spend $1500 on a so called Photoshop super duper graphic card, I should consider something like this Dram drive before anything. As far as all the risks involved with losing data in case of power failure and so on - I recommend you read about this product here.
This can accommodate a max of 64gb, has a constant backup to a flash card and can really offer instant read/write times. And this is what we were talking about before - read and write times are the main concern for photo editing. With this kind of set up you would be able to dump 10 images of 20 megapixels each into photoshop and instantly see them right before your eyes. Now that's performance! DDR2 ram should be very cheap nowadays - for about $200 you can get 16gb of ram at an 8x2gb config. In other words at a total of $600 you can get that amazing boost. I gotta admit, I'm pretty tempted :) 
April 13, 2009 8:34:16 PM

Wow... Yeah, that sounds good. You can use it with 6 sticks of 2GB each and end up paying under 300 pounds. I think sticks of 4GB or 8GB are way too expensive for now, but it's good to know they are supported too.

Mind you, the marketers who wrote that are hyping it a bit too much IMO when they talk about 800x faster and so on. Look at it this way: when you write a 20MB photo, the Velociraptor spends 4.2ms to find the right track, then at worst 0.1 ms waiting for the right sector to arrive under the head, then it writes at 130MB/s, for a total of 4.2+0.1+20MB/(130MB/s) = 158.1 ms. The nice device they present there would do the same in 0 ms + 0 ms + 20MB/(145MB/s)=137.9 ms. That is, the Velociraptor would take 20 ms more every time you press Ctrl-S or whatever the save command is. You wouldn't really notice that.

Edit: I'm not trying to convince you to buy a Velociraptor, OK? I don't have one for sale anyway :)  It's just that I'm annoyed by marketers who exaggerate the benefits of whatever they sell. You have to be careful because they tend to focus on the good parts.

April 13, 2009 8:51:45 PM

aevm said:
Wow... Yeah, that sounds good. You can use it with 6 sticks of 2GB each and end up paying under 300 pounds. I think sticks of 4GB or 8GB are way too expensive for now, but it's good to know they are supported too.

Mind you, the marketers who wrote that are hyping it a bit too much IMO when they talk about 800x faster and so on. Look at it this way: when you write a 20MB photo, the Velociraptor spends 4.2ms to find the right track, then at worst 0.1 ms waiting for the right sector to arrive under the head, then it writes at 130MB/s, for a total of 4.2+0.1+20MB/(130MB/s) = 158.1 ms. The nice device they present there would do the same in 0 ms + 0 ms + 20MB/(145MB/s)=137.9 ms. That is, the Velociraptor would take 20 ms more every time you press Ctrl-S or whatever the save command is. You wouldn't really notice that.

Edit: I'm not trying to convince you to buy a Velociraptor, OK? I don't have one for sale anyway :)  It's just that I'm annoyed by marketers who exaggerate the benefits of whatever they sell. You have to be careful because they tend to focus on the good parts.


I see what you're saying, but that along with very quick load times for applications and all other read/write operation can make it a very fun environment to work on. Besides I would believe that the performance on a mechanical hardrive is not consistent. I mean, a hardrive that has more data stored on it might tend to offer slower performance than one that is just formatted from the factory with less data or bigger file sizes, etc. Anyways, I'm gonna look into this as an option. Also if you read their suggestions on how to set it up, its pretty cool. Another cool thing here is that they say you can even set it up to work as 2 devices in a RAID 0 configuration (its in the FAQ) . Anyways for a more Biased review I found this older article on their previous model and seems just as impressive.
April 13, 2009 8:55:26 PM

Well, yes, it does have advantages. It will last longer and be quieter (no moving parts), it will be a lot faster when dealing with tiny files or fragmented files, etc.
If you do get it please post back later and tell us how it works.

April 13, 2009 9:02:37 PM

As a fellow photographer/graphic designer, I can tell you what has worked great for me. I, too, want my programs to open as quickly as possible, no lag when working in CS4 programs and data protection. This is what I have:

PC1:
4-74GB 10k rpm Raptors in Raid 10 and Raid 0. Creating 2 different Raid arrays is done using Intel's Matrix Raid which comes on most Intel motherboards over $100. Look for ICH9R/10R. The Raid 10 is 100GB with OS/Apps/Storage. The Raid 0 is about 80GB used for media cache/scratch disk.
Q6600, 4GB Ram, Ati x1950xtx-works great with Bridge & Photoshop looking at my 24megapixel photos(Sony A900). This new feature in CS4 is the main reason I upgraded because it saves me so much time.

PC2:
4-150GB 10k Raptors in Raid 10 and Raid 0. 230GB Raid 10 with OS/Apps/Storage and 100GB Raid 0 for media cache/scratch disk.
4-500GB Seagate 7200.11 in Raid 5 on a 3ware 8port hardware Raid controller
Q6600, 8GB ram, 8800GT

Your PC: depends how much you want to spend. Getting at least 4 drives to run in Raid 10 and Raid 0 will provide, by far, the greatest benefit to speed and responsiveness. The 74GB Raptors are still available at newegg for $100 each. The Velociraptors are $170 for 150GB & $250 for 300GB but they only provide a small increase in performance vs the 74GB Raptors.

4-74GB Raptors $400
2-1.5TB drives in Raid 1 or use 1 inside pc and 1 outside in an external enclosure and use a good backup program to 'sync' them up. $240-Raid 1 $300-internal/external

i7 920 + motherboard + 6GB ram= $650
Q8300 + motherboard + 8GB ram= $360-380

Photoshop can't harness the full power of quad-core at the moment, so going from the Q8300 to i7 will provide no benefit. The Q8300 is fast enough as it is, that only video encoding and 3d programs can use all 4 cores to the max. However, most definitely go with quad-core and overclock it to 3.0-3.2GHz.
I have done a newegg Wishlist for you:
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx...
-Q8200 + PC Power & Cooling PSU combo $20 off. Wishlist doesn't allow combos.
-ASUS P5Q Pro + Vista x64 Ultimate $65 off
-Seagate 1.5TB + Vista x64 Ultimate $55 off if, for some reason, you don't get the ASUS board. The seagate 1.5TB drives are the 2nd fastest Sata drives only behind the 10k Velociraptors

With hard drives, another option is to use 4-1TB drives in Raid 10 and a 1.5TB drive in an external enclosure for backup. This would give you about the same space and cost less. The 10k rpm drives will certainly be faster when using Bridge and Photoshop when your wife is looking thru photos. If she doesn't have raid now, then she would be blown away with how much faster Raid 10 is. Also, if she is a Pro and does this for a living, then there is absolutely no reason she doesn't use Raid to protect her data.

CASE: I don't know how quiet you want the case to be plus there are so many different case designs; so, I just selected a case that is sleek/modern looking, very high build quality and quiet. I have the Antec P180 (just like the P182) as my "PC1" and I can barely hear my 4 Raptors seeking under heavy use, which is pretty amazing as they all move together. The other key to less noise is the Antec 3-speed 120mm fans that come with it and I also added 1 in front of the 2-drive bay. The only downside to this case is it can only hold 6 drives. My "PC2" case is a Lian-Li with an 8-drive bay. But I also use 4 of Antec's 5.25" HDD holder with 2 small fans built into it, and they cost $20 each.

I HIGHLY recommend against using Gigabyte motherboards for 1 major reason: they don't support add-in hardware PCI-Express Raid controllers. With your wife being a pro and using 21Mp photos, here storage needs will increase fairly quickly; so, getting a hardware raid controller and either Raid 5 or 10 to hold all of her photos. This is why I have 4-500GB drives in Raid 5 so it can hold my 150GB+ photos and several hundred GB's of video. I get an average of 240MB/s read from my Raid 5. What all is needed for Raid 5 is for another day.
April 13, 2009 9:57:18 PM

For best performance with Photoshop, you really need fast storage where the actual photos are stored. That is why the 4-1TB Raid 10 really helps the most and is still cost effective. If you want the fastest possible, than get 4 300GB Velociraptors. Hard drives are the most volatile and the slowest part of a PC so focusing there is best.

Also, 6 vs 8 vs 12GB of ram: 6 is more than enough with 64bit Photoshop. Even 4GB is enough. Only Premiere Pro and After Effects can benefit with more than 4GB ram.
!