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Help with Computer for Digital Photographer

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November 9, 2009 2:53:27 AM

My grown son has a digital photography business on the side - does weddings, etc. He is currently running Adobe Photoshop and Adobe LightRoom on a single-core Pentium 4 with 2 GB RAM and a 150 GB hard drive under Windows XP. Clearly time for some updated hardware to make his work go a little faster. I would like to keep the cost around $600 - not looking for cutting edge stuff.
My current thoughts are:
(1) Athlon II X4 620 quad-core CPU- Quad core for the masses! From what I have read, the absence of L3 cache should not be a major factor when running Photoshop.
(2) Gigabyte GA-MA785GMT MicroATX AM3 Motherboard - sounds like a quality board with "UltraDurable" technology, decent HD4200 on-board graphics, e-SATA, RAID (if I wanted it). I have been told that the on-board graphics should be good enough, so I wasn't thinking about adding a separate graphics card.
(3) Antec NSK 4480 case with 380 Watt EarthWatts PS - modest footprint with decent airflow and some expansion room. Hopefully the power supply will support the 95 watt CPU with no separate graphics card and one hard drive.
(4) 4 GB of DDR3 RAM (actually seems less expensive than DDR2 at this time).
(5) 500 GB or larger SATA 7200 rpm hard drive - so he can keep the current images on the local hard drive rather than using external hard drives with USB cables.
(6) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM.
Does this seem like a reasonable approach, or is there an obvious hardware bottleneck? Would a Phenom II X4 945 CPU make a significant improvement with its slightly higher speed?

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a b B Homebuilt system
November 9, 2009 3:28:48 AM

Looks like you're off to a good start. It would really help to have a bigger budget, but you've made a decent, balanced build for his uses. In case you haven't already found the parts, I'll link to some below. To answer your questions though, the Athlon II x4 will offer respectable performance even without L3 cache. Onboard graphics will be fine. That EA will easily power your system. That case doesn't have great airflow, but it's certainly sufficient for your build. DDR3/AM3 is a good choice. As for bottlenecking, it's pretty balanced, so their isn't one part that stands out as being a problem. Obviously a better quad and 4GB more RAM would help, though.

AMD Athlon II X4 620 Propus 2.6GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec NSK 4480 II Black & Silver 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If any questions come to mind, just ask.
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November 9, 2009 8:57:50 AM

As an alternative case and PSU, you might want to consider the following which costs %10 more but includes a good 500w PSU to enable later upgrades:

COOLER MASTER Centurion 534 RC-534-KKN2-GP Black Aluminum & Mesh bezel / SECC Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail $50
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W ATX12V V2.2 / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply compatible with core i7 - Retail $45 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

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November 9, 2009 12:03:12 PM

I use a celeron e3200 with 4G ram. My 10.1MP raw photos are plenty fast in photoshop, and what your looking at will be even better.
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November 10, 2009 2:11:52 AM

jbakerlent said:
Looks like you're off to a good start. It would really help to have a bigger budget, but you've made a decent, balanced build for his uses. In case you haven't already found the parts, I'll link to some below. To answer your questions though, the Athlon II x4 will offer respectable performance even without L3 cache. Onboard graphics will be fine. That EA will easily power your system. That case doesn't have great airflow, but it's certainly sufficient for your build. DDR3/AM3 is a good choice. As for bottlenecking, it's pretty balanced, so their isn't one part that stands out as being a problem. Obviously a better quad and 4GB more RAM would help, though.

AMD Athlon II X4 620 Propus 2.6GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec NSK 4480 II Black & Silver 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If any questions come to mind, just ask.



Couple of questions:
(1) The OCZ RAM seems to have fairly aggressive latencies - does this make it run hotter, or just faster?
(2) There seems to be a lot of "buzz" about the Samsung Spinpoint F3's - would I dare consider getting a pair for RAID 0? (i.e., twice the chance of a hard drive failure).
(3) If there was another $75 to $100, where would you spend it for this somewhat specialized purpose?
Thanks
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 10, 2009 2:18:21 AM

1) Faster
2) RAID 0 is definitely an option
3) If you don't ever plan on using this system for gaming, then your best bet would be to upgrade to a 955.
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November 11, 2009 2:43:51 AM

rockyjohn said:
As an alternative case and PSU, you might want to consider the following which costs %10 more but includes a good 500w PSU to enable later upgrades:

COOLER MASTER Centurion 534 RC-534-KKN2-GP Black Aluminum & Mesh bezel / SECC Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail $50
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W ATX12V V2.2 / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply compatible with core i7 - Retail $45 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Thanks for the suggestions - looks like the Antec NSK 4480 is no longer carried at Newegg, so I will need to find something else. These might be a good choice. The case supports a micro-ATX mother board and seems to have good air flow. Still not sure what people do with 5 5.25-inch external bays. I also thought about the Antec Three Hundred, but that does not seem to support micro-ATX motherboards. The power supply is probably overkill for a 95-watt CPU and no graphics card - but the price seems hard to beat, especially if the rebate comes through. I have never used a modular power supply before - but it would be nice not having to stuff the extra cables somewhere.
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November 11, 2009 3:55:21 AM

You are right, if you don't plan to upgrade the system much - and especially not anything more than a very modest graphics card - you could use a 300-400w PSU.

Keep in mind that even with no graphics card, and in addition to the CPU, you are using mobo and maybe a USB keyboard and mouse that collectively may total about 40w, HD - 10w, optical drive 25w, RAM 5-10w, case fans - 10w - which puts it about 190w. Do you plan to use an internal card reader? Have any USB connected? So perhaps over 200w with no video card or other additions. Just rough numbers.

Then the sweet spot on operating PSUs is at about 60-70% of capacitly. Above that you can run into issues related to a lot of things, from normal power efficiency degredation over time (psus operate at decreasing efficiency as you approach capacity), to short spikes that some components have at startup as compared to operating wattage. And the biggie - increased heat as you approach capacity that causes the fans to speed up and get noisy - some increase occurs in all PSUs - the better ones don't let it get to noticeable but the in some it can get bothersome. To have your 190w system at 70% of capacity requires a 271w PSU before any upgrades or additions.

That said - no problem with the smaller PSU as long as you don't add too much to the system. The only smaller one I could find that I can suggest you consider is this one:

FSP Group ATX350-PA 350W ATX 12V (v 2.2) Power Supply - OEM $30
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

There are a lot of others on newegg at this size, but most come from brands known to be lower quality, (which can present risks as far as damaging system) or many others I have just never heard of, or simply cost more than the OCZ 500w which is on sale. I am recommending the one above solely based on the brand name which is known to be good a B list PSU so to speak. You might want to google for reviews on the FSP one just to check it out and make sure there are no problems, since I am only basing this on brand and they might carry a low end line - I don't know. Also note that its energy efficiency rating is only stated as greater than 70% - as compared to the OCZ which is 80+ rated and in its sweet spot was tested at 84%.

By the way - the OCZ carries a regular price of $90 and the price today is even lower - $40AR. Personally even on a tight budget I would spend the extra $10 to get it over the FSP.

What do people do with 5 5.25 drives: DVDRW, DVD (so as not to use DVDRW all the time to listen to music or have a backup if needed to load OS etc or to copy DVDs to DVDRW), Blu-ray reader/writer, card reader (especially video buffs downloading from cameras), tape drive (I still use one), special control unit with temperature gauges and fan controls (which may take one to two bays), front panel for sound card, hot swapable HD bay, and there are probably some more I can think of right now. Since I don't have a modular PSU I use one of them on the inside to hold the spare power cables. If you are still curious you might just look at the home page of this website:

http://www.frozencpu.com/cat/l1/g34/Bay_Devices.html
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November 11, 2009 6:33:04 AM

if you really want to be smart, just upgrade to prescott if possible, double dual channel the ram (2x2gb+2x2gb)
fill the agp with a 55nm or 45nm card, ATI of course...photographers know this... :wahoo: 

and of course him being a photographer, the ridculous LCD is not part of the setup.. if it is ...go get a 15 dollar CRT from 99 or later at the salvation army, if he hasn't got one already. You want pixel perfect cheaply?

get the marketing hype out of the way. Take it from an editor, with 10 years...

I can still make a 1.3 megapixel have pros asking questions....I have not gone beyond a prescott in 4 years. In fact, I gathered enough to build two more, one just to sit around as spare.

..and if you do fall for the latest is greatest, go for at least the 100w+ cpus, whatver socket and babbling cores you decide...
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