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Any advice on this config for image editing & some gaming?

Last response: in Systems
August 16, 2009 11:29:24 PM

Hi everyone,

I'm looking to get a new PC for photo editing and some occasional gaming, mainly strategy. I'd like to be able to use Photoshop, Lightroom and Photomatix, preferably at the same time and efficiently, and my current Asus laptop (Core 2 Duo 2.2 Ghz, 3 Mb ram, Radeon graphics) has been failing spectacularly - crawling along and then crashing from overheating. I've been looking at getting this system from CyberPowerPC. I'm open to building my own if it comes out much cheaper, but that doesn't seem to be the case according to a quick price comparison I did on newegg (unless I'm missing something when it comes to picking parts on newegg that are roughly equivalent to the ones below).

Any opinions on whether this looks like a good system? Anything I should upgrade? Anything that I shouldn't be spending the money on? All help would me much appreciated. :) 

Price so far: ~$1500 excluding monitor. Willing to be flexible, just don't want to spend money on things that won't really make a difference.

* CASE: CoolerMaster Storm Sniper Mid-Tower Gaming Case (Original Color)
* POWER SUPPLY Upgrade: 800 Watts Power Supplies (CyberPowerPC XF800S Performance ATX 2.0 Power - Quad SLI Ready) [still researching this one; I understand it's better to choose a name brand; will need to read some more reviews]
* CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-920 2.66 GHz 8M L3 Cache LGA1366
* COOLING FAN : Asetek Liquid CPU Cooling System (Extreme Cooling Performance + Extreme Silent at 20dBA) [Not insisting on this, but I wanted a quiet and efficient solution and this seems to fit. Works well according to some reviews I've seen.]
* MOTHERBOARD: (3-Way SLI Support) GigaByte GA-EX58-UD4P Intel X58 Chipset SLI/CrossFireX Ultra Durable™3 Mainboard Triple-Channel DDR3/1600 SATA RAID w/ eSATA, Dual GbLAN, USB2.0, IEEE1394a, &7.1Audio
* MEMORY: 6GB (2GBx3) PC1333 DDR3 PC3 10666 Triple Channel Memory (Corsair or Major Brand)
* VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA GeForce GTX260 CORE 216 896MB 16X PCI Express (EVGA Powered by NVIDIA)
* HARD DRIVE: Single Hard Drive (1TB (1TBx1) SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 16MB Cache 7200RPM HDD)
* Data Hard Drive: 1.5TB (1.5TBx1) SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 32MB Cache 7200RPM Hard Drive
[I might also add a dedicated Photoshop scratch drive later on if it proves necessary.]
* Optical Drive: (Special Price) LG 22X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Dual Layer Drive (BLACK COLOR)
* Flash Media Reader/Writer: INTERNAL 12in1 Flash Media Reader/Writer (BLACK COLOR)
* OS: Microsoft® Windows Vista™ Home Premium w/ Service Pack 1 (64-bit Edition)
* Windows 7 Upgrade Coupon: (Free Upgrade Coupon) Microsoft® Windows® 7 Home Premium ($29-$29 Mail-In-Rebate = Free) (64-bit Edition)

Monitor: HP LP2475w, 1920 x 1200, extended gamut, IPS-based, $550; said to have good color accuracy once calibrated, which I plan to do.
August 16, 2009 11:59:31 PM

How do you feel about assembling your own? You can do a lot better price wise. The only warranty support you get is us.

As for the setup as above,
PSU: 800w is more than you need, a 750w if you think you're gaming will increase, otherwise a 600w will be enough for any single GPU rig.

HSF: Unless you're going to OC this system, the water cooler won't be any quieter than a HSF on low setting. Which is all you'd need at stock speeds.

HDD: I'd look for a smaller system drive, then setup smaller data drives in RAID. If you're working with large files, then the faster access times will help alot.

And before ignorant self declared know-it-all starts screaming about spending $550 on a display, read this. There are segments (Graphics editing) that benefit better display technologies.
August 17, 2009 1:00:24 AM

Thanks for the super-quick reply! I'll take your advice and go with a lower-power PSU. I wasn't sure how much I needed for my system - first time building my own, so I never had to make the decision before, and finding specs on exactly how much power each component uses proved to be more difficult than I thought.

I suspected the water cooling might be overkill. But it's only $50 more expensive than the cheapest option cyberpowerpc has, so I might just go with it. Not planning to overclock right now but I don't want to rule it out from the start either.

I'm worried about data security with RAID. (I know, I'm supposed to backup regularly anyway, but it somehow doesn't seem to happen as often as it should.) Unless I do RAID-1, but that might be a bit expensive, and I'm not sure about the performance gains.

I'll have to think about assembling my own. My husband's done it before, so we could definitely get it done between the two of us. But it doesn't seem to come out much cheaper so far.

That's funny, I was actually very happy to find such a cheap display :)  For what it is, it's hard to find an equivalent that's not $2000.
Related resources
August 17, 2009 3:59:32 AM

Before going further with the i7, the laptop. Get a can of air, take off the memory cover and any other cover you can and blow the HSF fins off. It doesn't take much dust at all to cripple a laptop because of heat. If its regularly used or in a high dust environment or a home with pets, I'm sure you'll see instant improvement. I recommend twice a year, taking a can of air to a laptop.

Now, if you approached me and said, I need a PC to do commercial grade photo editing, I'd spec out a system close to this:

Now being a refurb, it still has a 3 month warranty. If this is work for you, TD offers 2 year on site repair for an extra $150. With how cheap the base system is, it really does make this a worthwhile option. Especially since you know they put in a PSU that meets min build requirements, but unknown manufacture till you get it.

For the system itself, you can't OC this. Not much of an issue since you're not planning on it now. Software could get the job done if absolutely needs be.

I'd probably just replace the ram instead of upgrading it because its just slow.

The 4850 should be fine for RTS games even at that resolution. If you need more, a second 4850 is cheap, but you'd need a new PSU also. Both would be $175 or so.

Adding 2 more drives will be $180 if you need the scratch drive off the bat.

Total with the Ram and 1 HDD and 2 year on site warranty would be just over $1050.
Second HDD and GPU/PSU upgrades total $1325

Something to consider if you aren't building yourself. If you want me to spec out a system for you to build yourself, I'd be happy too. Might not get to it till tomorrow night though.

Does Vista work for you or do we need to factor in Win 7 upgrade also?
August 17, 2009 5:19:27 PM

First off, thank you for all the excellent advice. It's great to have a second opinion this, as it's going to be a pretty major purchase for me.

You're right, the laptop most likely has a big dust problem. I've been working on trying to take it apart for cleaning, but I'm having trouble taking the screws off; they're really well screwed in and I end up scraping the groove off instead of rotating them, no matter how hard I press. I'm going to try getting a newer screwdriver and see if that has a better grip. But anyway, I do want a new system and not just because of the dust. This one is slow even when it's still cool, and the monitor is too small for image editing - I can't use Lightroom very well because with all the toolbars there's hardly any room left for viewing the image.

I've changed the power supply to a weaker one, and with that and the rebates ($115), plus a 5% off code I found, the price goes down to about $1300. (Here's a link to the config: ). With that I feel the price might be close enough to the Gateway (which is indeed a great price, I agree) to make it worth it, given that it also will upgrade with Win 7, has a great case that should last me even for my next system, better cooling, and doesn't need any parts replaced which always involves a measure of uncertainty. Little things, I know, but since I'm already spending a lot on the system and plan to use it for a few years, I feel it might be worth getting the just-right config as opposed to the almost-right config.

I'm willing to build my own if it comes out cheaper by, say, $100-200. In fact I'd feel better about starting from scratch than trying to modify the refurbished Gateway. But I've been looking at component prices and doing the math and I just don't see that it would come out that much cheaper than the cyberpower config.

I'd like to do Windows 7. I suppose I probably don't technically need it, but every system has to have a shiny new part that you get just for wanting it, and this is going to be the one for me. :)  Plus I heard it might actually be better than Vista (not that that's saying much). I'd also like to go with an NVIDIA card, because I've read in a review and some posts that ATI tends to set the fan speeds too low to prevent noise, which causes overheating. Maybe it's just prejudice on my part, but I think it's the ATI card that's been overheating my laptop (and used to do so even before it was all dusty), so I'm just tired of them at this point. Also NVIDIA has manufacturer-built utility for changing fan speeds if necessary, which is a nice touch, whereas with ATI I'd have to try to find a third-party app.
August 17, 2009 5:31:36 PM

OCZ generally has the best deals on memory right now, the platinum is what I went with.

I went with a 4870 mostly because I'm more of an ATI guy, but I think it was cheaper than the 260 when I bought. You can manually set the fan speed on my XFX 4870 with catalyst, no third party app. In laptops most high end graphics cards fail all the time regardless of brand as laptops do not offer the greatest cooling(usually) I have seen multiple laptops with the 9800's fail 2-3 times.

Unless you're an audiophile or using this rig for recording, I'd axe the sound card. Unless you need the 7.1.

And also, unless you're going radical with overclocking, you can save a pile using air instead. The i7 is a champ as far as overclocking. Of course water cooling is really cool:) 
August 17, 2009 5:59:11 PM

That's good to know about being able the fan speed on ATI. Thanks for the info. I suppose I'll have to look into ATI cards as well now. <Sigh> Just when I thought I was done researching graphics. :) 

I'm not getting a soundcard. The 7.1 is onboard audio.

Yes, I've been warned about the water cooling being too much. The thing is with cyberpower it's a good deal compared to their other options. If I end up building my own from scratch I'll go with some other cooling.

August 17, 2009 6:27:39 PM

My bad on the sound card, should have seen that:) 
August 17, 2009 6:44:13 PM

If I were you I would definitely build from scratch. The main reason: You choose exactly what you want and you can choose high quality parts. Here is a build that I put together based on your usage:

EVGA microATX mobo & GTX 260 core 216 GPU

Antec P180 & Vista 64-bit w/ free upgrade to Windows 7 Combo

Corsair 750tx PSU - Simply one of the best

OCZ Platinum 1600 6GB & Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB combo

Samsung DVD Burner

Xigmatek Dark Knight CPU Cooler

Now for the i7 920 if you have a local microcenter near you they are selling them for $200.
Otherwise you can get it from newegg.

Now this is a very solid build and comes out to around $1200 depending on where you get the i7 920 from. It still will not come out to over $1300. I would build this anyday over getting a prebuilt from Cyberpower. This is just my opinion and you can still do what you want but please take this build into consideration. Also you could change the mobo and case to an ATX form factor and a mid tower or full tower case for a little bit more.

Hope I could help and good luck!

August 17, 2009 10:15:55 PM

Since you're down to $1300, and picking quality parts, the cyber power rig is a fair price to get a warranty. What manufacturer PSU did you pick? Corsair I hope!

And I'd still steer clear of the self containted water cooling systems. Look at the big air/little water articles in the case/cooling section. The little waters don't perform any better than the air and noise is noise when they all use the same 120mm fans. But they can leak. And that would be bad. Unless you're trying to get a 4.5ghz OC and willing to use a traditional waterblock system, stick with a product that won't leak and short out your rig.

The only other caveat about CPs system is they don't tell you the ram timings. The i7s respond much better to tight timings and care little about the speed of the ram. Look at the i7 scaling article in the memory section. If you can get an answer as to timings, then pick the lowest timings you can. If its 1333 or above, you'll be fine.

(Sorry I didn't include any links, I'm not on my pc and multi windows really bogs down this connection.)
August 17, 2009 11:21:53 PM

Thanks to all for the great advice! Cyberpower just sent me 2 (two!) e-mails in the past couple of hours telling me that I should buy right now because their systems go up in price (guess when) tomorrow. Apparently memory prices have just increased by 70%, who knew. They just care for me so much that they had to warn me about it, but they are unable to hold the price for the 7 days for which saved configs are kept. I'm really thinking now about building my own.

The other thing is I've been trying to decide on a power supply - the last step - and cyberpower just doesn't seem to have any really good ones. They have some overpriced Thermaltek that have mixed reviews. No Corsairs. That is kind of a bummer because I was happy with all the other parts.

Thanks for the tip about microcenter, waynec121. I hadn't heard of them before but they do have a store in my city. I feel more OK with building my own if I can return defective parts easily and without having to pay shipping. Newegg doesn't seem to have the best return policy, so I was a little less than enthusiastic about buying my parts there.

Skora, I guess you're right about the water cooling. I assumed it would be good enough not to leak, but maybe I'd better not take any chances.

Well, looks like I'll have to think about this some more. Back to the drawing board.
August 17, 2009 11:29:31 PM

FYI - Newegg has about the best return policy you'll ever find. Their customer service is excellent. You don't have to worry at all about buying from them. I've built countless systems using them and the few times I got a DOA product it was replaced with no questions asked.
August 18, 2009 1:47:52 AM

Leila said:

Well, looks like I'll have to think about this some more. Back to the drawing board.

That's what were here for! I suggested some great parts in one of the earlier posts in this thread. Take a look at those and keep asking any questions you have! If you are unsure about anything don't hesitate! Good luck

To help lessen the research load for you here are some quality parts you do not have to worry about looking around for:
HDD: Western Digital Caviar Blacks are the way to go: Either 640gb or 1tb.
PSU: Corsair makes some of the best: 750tx is among the most recommended on these forums.
Case: That is very subjective based on the builders taste. Some good brands are Antec and Coolermaster, but if you want even higher end then Silverstone and Lian Li make amazing cases.
DVD: Any good sata drive on newegg that has good reviews. Around $25-30 max
CPU Coolers: Some well priced coolers are the Scythe Mugen and the Xigmatek Dark Knight on newegg. I would definitely go with either of those.
RAM: OCZ Platinum 1600 6gb is the way to go for an i7 build. It is well priced and has very tight timings. Another item that is a normal recommendation for i7 builds on these forums.
CPU: For i7 builds the i7 920 is the only way to go. The higher priced i7's are really a waste of money and would not fit in your budget.

As for the mobo and gpu: The mobo can be very confusing for many to choose. Some great mobo brands to choose from are the Asus, Gigabyte, and EVGA. They are the main recommendations on these forums.
GPU is based off of your monitor resolution and if you are going to be gaming alot of just a little. If gaming is not too big of a concern I would go with a 4850 or 4870. They are priced very well.

Hope this advice helps you!
August 20, 2009 11:31:36 PM

Here's my new list, using mostly the parts you all recommended:

GigaByte GA-EX58-UD4P
I'm open to other suggestions here. My main concerns are upgradeability and stability. The UD4P supports up to 24 GB of RAM (not likely that I'd replace all 6 modules, I know, but why not have the option), has a 8+4 usb ports which makes more sense than the Asus 6+6, and seems to have good reviews.

EVGA e-GeForce GTX 275 896MB
The difference in price between graphics cards is so small that I thought I might just go with the 275 instead of the 260. I do like to turn on all the pretty little details in strategy games, and play at a high resolution to see more of the map. Plus this way I can get a second 275 if needed at some point in the future, and with that have all the graphics power I need for a good while. (Do let me know if anything in my system wouldn't support SLI.)

i7 920

Scythe MUGEN-2 SCMG-2000

OEM Windows Vista Home Premium 64 bit with upgrade to 7

Power supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W

HD: WD Black 1 GB OEM
I might skip the dedicated data drive one until this one gets full, since HD prices are always going down. We have a home file server to which I can move my data temporarily when I'll do the Windows 7 install. But in case I do decide to get the second one now, any recommendations for a good 1.5 Tb or larger HD from a reliable brand?

Memory: OCZ Platinum XTC 12GB DDR3-1333 7-7-20
Is12 Gb overkill? Microcenter has a good price on it - $190 after rebate - compared to the 6 GB Gold. I figured I'd get this and skip the dedicated Photoshop scratch drive.

How does this all sound?

I'm going to reuse my husband's empty Antec Super Lanboy case that's gathering dust in the closet ever since he switched to using laptops. Also thinking of reusing one of his old CD/DVD drives; it's IDE but then I hardly use them for anything except installing software.

I was going to buy everything from my local Microcenter except for the OS. Their prices are as good as Neweggs or better on most of the items, and I don't have to wait for them. (And yes, I am looking forward to getting my hands on this soon. I've been doing nothing but researching parts for the past 3 weeks! :pt1cable:  I need to get this over with so I can have a life again. :bounce: )
August 21, 2009 1:04:32 AM

Go have a life. Thats a solid system that will last you for a very long time. 12gb is a lot of ram. Since you are running 3 system intensive apps at the same time, and for the minor price increse, its a decent idea. You could get away with 6, but now there's no doubt that the ram will be enough, especially if you take your work to another level and add a 4th or 5th app. Enjoy your build!!!!!!!

Oh, one note since your ordering the OS from newegg anyway, you can combo it with the mobo for a $30 discount with: