Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

First-timer building a MicroATX PC for photo editing

Last response: in Systems
Share
September 21, 2010 8:01:44 AM

Hello everyone! A friend of mine referred me to this site to take a look at some configurations. After some research, I've got some of my build configured, but still have a few things to nail down and would like some feedback from the experts. I've been spending a lot of time reading the MicroATX gaming build thread hoping to get some pointers, and it has been mostly helpful.

I currently have a Mac mini 2.26 core 2 duo, 4gb ram, 500gb 7200rpm hdd with the integrated nvidia 9400M graphics running Windows 7 Pro. I've had it for about a year and a half now, but over the past few months, my sole use of the computer aside from listening to music and browsing the web has been photo editing using Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5. The Mac mini simply can't keep up. Photos take seconds to "resolve", edits made kick in after a couple seconds using sliders, making it difficult and frustrating to make precise adjustments, and this is just in LR, not PS.

The main reason I love(d) my Mac mini is due to its size, understatedness, and quietness, which is why I am sticking to a MicroATX case. I do not want a big monster tower with blue lights shooting out the sides.


Approximate Purchase Date: within the next month

Budget Range: $1000ish

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Photo editing, photo editing, photo editing, iTunes (yeah I know it sucks), interwebs

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg, amazon

Parts Preferences: I have no allegiance to any one brand, but am willing to pay 10-20% more for "quality".

Overclocking: Maybe?

SLI or Crossfire: If necessary?

Monitor Resolution: currently with a 22" Dell 1680x1050 monitor, but I am drooling over the 27" Dell ultrasharp which is 2560x1600 I believe. If I don't get that, I'll get the 24" version which is 1920x1200. Here is what I'd LIKE to be able to do, but I understand if it's unrealistic:

1680x1050 on the left, 2560x1600 in the middle, 1920x1080p HDTV on the right (AKA living room) via HDMI with audio. Currently I am using a display port + USB audio to HDMI adapter, and it works perfectly. All I do is drag the VLC window onto my TV so to speak to watch things out there, and switch the audio source to USB.

I'd also like 802.11N wireless, and bluetooth. I'm not sure if I should just use USB adapters for these, or use something else.

"Get on with it!"

OK OK, on to the build (so far). I got most of these components from the MicroATX gaming build thread.

Processor: Intel Core i5-760 Lynnfield 2.8GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80605I5760

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-H57M-USB3 LGA 1156 Intel H57 HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

RAM: G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL7D-4GBECO

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive

Case: LIAN LI PC-V351B Black Aluminum MicroATX

I'm pretty set on using this case. I dig the looks and think the price is acceptable.

DVD Burner: Lite-On blah blah blah

Total of the preceding items = ~$630

OK, here is where I am a bit lost:

Graphics Card: Is there a single card that would let me run 3 monitors at a time? If not, is there one that will let me hook up the 27" monitor with the dual link DVI and then run HDMI to the TV with audio? How about one with a display port adapter so I can use my current HDMI audio adapter with it, while running the 27"?

Power Supply: Something that will fit... and power everything... and stuff...

This seems to be the most powerful MicroATX box on the egg: Athena Power AP-MP4ATX55FEP8 550W Micro ATX SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply $110

Are there better PS's that fit the MicroATX case but arent necessarily designated as such?

Additional: Solution for 802.11N Wi-Fi and BT? Cooler?



Am I forgetting something? Let me know! I'm a noob at building things, and am definitely open to suggestions! It seems like anything will be an upgrade to what I have now, but I'd like to make sure I get it done right the first time so I can use this machine for at least two years.

Thank you to everyone in advance for your help. I'm willing to pay you in photo tips :) 

-Daniel
September 21, 2010 9:06:35 AM

^ That case can fit standard ATX PSUs, just make sure they are modular, so that there are no unused cables left...
Any of these -
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Video cards - A single card can power 3 monitors - The new ATI HD 5xxx series...
HD 5670 would be a good choice -
1 via DVI
1 via HDMI
1 via Display Port
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU Cooler 0 If no overclocking, then the stock cooler is fine...but if you want to try overclocking, then get this one -
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Bluetooth and Wireless
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
September 21, 2010 8:10:46 PM

gkay09 said:
^ That case can fit standard ATX PSUs, just make sure they are modular, so that there are no unused cables left...
Any of these -
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Video cards - A single card can power 3 monitors - The new ATI HD 5xxx series...
HD 5670 would be a good choice -
1 via DVI
1 via HDMI
1 via Display Port
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU Cooler 0 If no overclocking, then the stock cooler is fine...but if you want to try overclocking, then get this one -
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Bluetooth and Wireless
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


He might even be able to get a 25mm fan on that particular cooler. If he uses a power supply with a fan on the bottom, he might also be better-off flipping the fan on the CPU cooler.
Related resources
September 22, 2010 2:51:55 AM

Hi guys,

Thanks for the suggestions - very helpful. Good to know I don't need to spend $300 on a graphics card. I imagine the most important component for what I need is the processor and secondly the RAM.

I'll wait a couple more days before I buy just in case anyone else has an idea or suggestion, but it looks like this will be a pretty sweet setup.

The total is $840 by the way, for those curious.
September 22, 2010 3:39:40 AM

^^ Yup, that is a good way to increase the cooling,...
@dsloan, also read more reviews, articles and building guides just to make yourself comfortable with what you have selected...
!