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Cheap Photoshop Build -- PS specs explained?

Last response: in Systems
April 8, 2010 3:14:12 AM

Hi -- I'm fairly familiar with building desktops (have build about 5) and am going to build a Photoshop system for my sister (I think she currently has CS4 and is considering CS5). I don't use PS, and don't know much about it. She is on a very tight budget (I'm hoping for the $400-500 range for the box components). I can cannibalize some parts here and there, so I won't need: a power supply (I think I have a 450 watt), DVD drive, keyboard, mouse, monitor, or OS (will be using Windows 7 64-bit).

Could someone please explain a few requirements so that I understand which parts I need?

1. I understand you need a (some?) scratch disk(s). Assuming this means at least 2 hard drives, how big do they need to be? Are they configured in some PS-specific manner?

2. I understand that a powerful CPU is more critical than the video card, but my sister has an 8-year-old son who already is very interested in video games. A good beginner gaming card (that works for any PS requirements) would be nice.

3. I have never had a good grasp of RAM speed, timings, etc. (I've always just purchased RAM that fits the specs of the motherboard). Is there a particular type I should be looking for?

I would appreciate any and all advice. I usually order from Newegg, but am flexible.

In short, I think I'll be needing suggestions on purchasing the following:

Hard Drive(s)
Case (I actually have a few old dell and HP cases lying around, but am not sure exactly
which motherboards would easily fit. If purchasing new, I prefer working with mid-to large cases...)

Thanks very much. mcaren
April 8, 2010 8:32:15 AM


I'm building my first system in a long time. It's going to serve the same purposes as yours, but with a slightly higher budget.

Seeing as it's been a long time since I've built a pc or looked at photoshop / adobe CS requirements, but here's what I remember:

1 scratch disk should be fine, unless alot has changed. size not important, but speed is. I used to have one small drive that held the OS and scratch disk, then a larger disk for storage.

Monitor is important for design.... I don't know what quality one you have to start with, and if this is for school or professional quality work, but IMO the monitor is the most important part of a graphics workstation. if you're going to upgrade, I'd buy the monitor in a store, so you can see what you are getting. I've had to design and build websites on crappy monitors, and when you look at the result on a good monitor, you see all kinds of little details and often mistakes or color problems, that were invisible to you on the crappy monitor you were building it on.

If this is just for school or hobby, i guess you can always get a good one later.

given the tight budget, I'd just get a mobo with on board video for the games at this point. you'll save $$ for ram or cpu upgrades, and can always drop in a video card later if the kid really gets into it, and youll get a better card for cheaper, and the kid will feel like its christmas.

as far as PS specific graphics card features, there are a few, I cant recall the names, but last time i looked into it, it didnt seem worth the cost, as most of the improvements were just for running certain filters and such... again I may be wrong nowdays.

I think ram timings arent as important as sheer volume of memory for this application, as opposed to gaming. Again, i might be wrong, someone else chime in.

I'll be posting a similar thread soon asking opinions of my build, ill link to it when its up (my budgets looking to be about $1k... maybe)
April 8, 2010 9:07:20 AM

Hmm wat sort of 450watter u have there? Also at your budget range i would really go IGP and hit as good a chip for your main intended use for rig i.e PS
Related resources
April 8, 2010 9:22:53 AM

Hmm meantime due to some juicy combos spotted today this could be had for $523 AR free ship :p 
Good to go for up to 1680 x 1050 gaming actually and i would have toned down to an AthlonII X3/4 but PS does take advantage of that L3 hehe ^^
April 8, 2010 2:02:51 PM

Thank you all for your replies.

Hotdogfingers: good point about the video card later -- considering the computer my sister has now, a new internal card will seem like Christmas! I'll keep on the lookout for your build coming up...

batuchka: I was wrong about the 450 power supply (I've got a Zalman zu550W). Thanks for the links (I have a new AMD processor myself and like it, but wasn't sure if PS required an Intel...). I didn't know about the L3 thing. And, I have no idea what you mean by IGP -- ??

Thanks! mcaren
April 8, 2010 2:05:39 PM

IGP - Integrated/Onboard Graphics and yes budget no object the i7s are best for PS but yes the Deneb X4 offers great performance for the $$. L3 refers to the processor L3 cache - and with AM3 sockets u have the AthlonII line (no L3) and PhenomII line (6mb L3) You are welcomed ^^
April 8, 2010 3:55:32 PM

I have to second batuchka's recommendations. There's next to no way to afford a good 4-core Intel processor on this budget, as any quad-core Intel will require a discrete graphics card, which in turn, will likely drive you past your budget.

Additionally, I think you'd want to go with a quad-core (as recommended) over the Intel dual-cores that are available at the same price point, as Photoshop benefits heavily from additional cores.