I am planning to build a new desktop specifically for Photo editing.
Primary use will be Adobe Lightroom which is a 64-bit app, and building slideshows in adobe encore. I also use Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, Photoshop, and cubase. I am not a fan of massive overkill.
Will an aftermarket video card help my application any more than onboard graphics if i'm not playing games?
I considered a pre-built unit from ibuypower or cyberpower, but I just don't know enough about graphics and 64 bit memory use for non gaming applications. I would rather spend an extra $400 on a blu ray burner and ssd rather than ectra ram and a video card I will never even scratch the surface of using. Any recommendations on ram speed and amount, processor dual vs quad, and video card vs onboard.
You definitely require fast storage and a healthy amount of RAM.. Next comes the CPU.. Photoshop is not so highly threaded to make efficient use of a hexa core CPU.. A quad core will be good.. I'd recommend Intel as they have are faster.. As for the GPU, photo editing involves playing with colors and as such, a dedicated GPU will surely be of some good use along with a good quality monitor.. You wont require a workstation class graphic card however.. A normal desktop video card will do.. Keeping all the points in view, my part list recommendation would be -
1. Intel Core i5 760
2. Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD2 Motherboard
3. G-Skill 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1333 MHz RAM
4. OCZ Vertex2 120GB SSD (for OS and primary apps)
5. Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB SATA Hard Drive (for backup and storage purposes)
6. Nvidia GT 220 Video Card
7. Sony Optiarc AD-7240S Dual Layer Dvd Writer Optical Drive
8. Corsair CX 400 Power Supply Unit
9. CoolerMaster 690II Advanced Mid-Tower Case
Hopefully it all fits in your budget.. You may add card reader drive also to your rig as they are pretty handy..
I edit 24-bit fine on an integrated 785g in my other box, so I don't think an dedicated really has value. Granted, I don't have any experience with flash and it may very well need a dedicated GPU to code (I can playback youtube flash on the integrated fine though).
And IMO if you're going to be multitasking/PS while working with another program a hexacore or i7 (for hyperthreading) would be good. I don't know about the specifics of those programs besides LR+PS, but as productivity tasks I imagine they're at least dual-threaded, and likely quad+ threaded.