Photography computer

Hi there. I'm looking to buy parts for a computer.

Primary purpose: Digital photography - processing 10 megapixel raw files in photosop CS3. Secondary purposes: net browsing, wordprocessing, other low-performance useage. I am not a gamer, so fancy 3D graphics and rendering is not required.

I'm looking to buy a case, motherboard, CPU, memory, hard drive, DVD burner, OS. By budget is $800 Canadian dollars. My preferred parts provider is Memory Express ( They have a shop just down the street.

I already have a keyboard, mouse, speakers, 24" high-end screen with 1920x1200 resolution.

I currently have a 2004 or 2005-ish vintage computer with an AMD Athlon 2500+ Barton processor and 1 gig of memory, Windows XP pro. It's been running just great but it's pretty slow processing 10 megapixel photos in CS3. Also, I often have multiple applications open at the same time (CS3, Adobe Bridge, windows media player playing mp3s, Firefox). My system then starts to swap a lot, and I could use more memory.

In the future I may be editing video - they are adding video to the new generation of DSLRs and I'm keep to play around with that.

I don't keep up much with hardware, and just with a bit of googling I came up with the following parts list:
- AMD phenom II X4 940 3 GHz with 8 Mb cache -CPU $230
- Kingston HyperX 4Gb PC2-8500 CL7 memory chipset $80
- Asus M3A78-CM w/ Radeon HD 3100, DualDDR2 1066, 7.1 Audio, Gigabit Lan, PCI-E board - $95
- Case with 380W power supply and fans, about $110
- Windows Vista 64 bit home edition, $130
- 1 terabyte SATA hard drive $100
- LG DVD burner $30
grand total about $790.

This is going the AMD route. I don't think there's money in the budget for an i7 or AM3/ddr3 system.

Will these components work together? What to expect? Better options for the buck?
Do I need a video card? My previous experience with onboard video hasn't been great but that was with 2005 vintage gear.

Advice and suggestions much appreciated!
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  1. Except for the "Case with 380W power supply and fans, about $110". Be very carfeul here.

    You want a brand name PSU above anything else, otherwise you're putting youre entire system at risk.


    You are doing well to get a quad-core for your PSing needs, and the 940 is AM2+ socket anyway so you don't have the DDR3 option.

    Drop Vista, no reason to buy it now. Get Windows 7 RC free until next March. I'd use that savings to get two WD 640 GB Black HDDs in Raid 0 and a WD 1TB Black HDD in an external inclosure for backing up your files. That would only add 20$ to the above build.
  2. Thanks drunknmunkys, that's helpful advice!
  3. Update. Here's the computer I built.

    AMD PhenomII X2 550
    Asus M4A78T-E
    Corsair 2x2 Gb XMS3 1333 DDR3
    Antec Sonata, 500 W
    Seagate 500 Gb
    Vista Home Premium x64


    I decided on dual core since my main CPU hog, Photoshop CS3, is not multi-threaded and the number of cores don't matter. If I upgrade the CS4 (or higher) in the future, I could buy a four-core (or eight or sixteen) CPU. Or I could try to unlock the other two cores on my chip.

    I decided on AMD3/DDR3 architecture for future compatibility. Memory cost a tad more, but not a deal-breaker.

    Got the Caddilac case. Good tip - I love it. Nice n quiet.

    Operating system. I started with Win 7 RC. Very fast boot times and Photoshop CS3 ran well. HOWEVER I got very frequent crashes. Sometimes it crashed during booting, sometimes after 5 minutes, sometimes after 1 hour, somtimes when idling, sometimes when maxed out. Memory and disk checked out ok, I updated all the drivers. Still crashing. I got frustrated, ran to the store, and bought Vista. Vista was unstable out of the box as well, but with SP2 it seems to run quite happily, knock on wood.

    I was keen on Win 7 RC, but it seems that hardware/OS/software of the same vintage works the best.... Besides there doesn't seem to be a whole lotta difference between Vista and 7, besides looks.

    I'm happy with the system - it's an order of magnitude faster than my old system. No more swapping. When my applications are loaded I tend to use 2-2.5 Gigs of memory. Makes me wonder how I made do with 1 gig of RAM.
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