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I5-2500K-based quiet, two-monitor for photo work ??

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September 8, 2011 5:28:24 PM

Hi folks -

Executive Summary:
Looking to put together a quiet, cost-effective i5-2500K system for Adobe Lightroom 3 work that will ideally support 2 monitors (or a 23-25" pivoting monitor - for photos in portrait orientation).

Does the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 make sense?
Alternate suggestions in a comparable price range (~$150) welcome.

I'm guessing (but really don't *know*) that I'd be better off getting a separate video card
(or cards) rather than onboard video.

I've virtually no video card knowledge. Should I get -- one card that drives two monitors (if same exists), or two cards? Looking for fanless, if at all possible.

Also, will 4GB RAM suffice or should I get 8GB?

Insight welcome.

Thanks,

- Richard

+++++
Template:
Approximate Purchase Date: Last Week

Budget Range: ~$500 for mobo, RAM, CPU;
GPU(s) within reason - $250 is notional max, but less is more.
I don't game.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Lightroom, Audio recording, HTPC

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitors, speakers, case, OS

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: the egg

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: Asus / Gigabyte / similar for mobo, reputable brands for the rest

Overclocking: Maybe

SLI or Crossfire: dunno what this is

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080

Additional Comments: quiet PC - fanless video where possible, undervolt where possible

a b C Monitor
September 8, 2011 7:04:16 PM

I think an i3-2100 with a H61 motherboard would be worth considering, the hyperthreading on the i3 should make it perform almost as well as the i5 in workstation tasks and it would be significantly cheaper. I would also definitely get 8GB RAM.

If you were willing to go with the i3/H61, this would be a decent and quiet build:

i3-2100 - $124.99
ASRock H61M/U3S3 - $69.99
8GB G.Skill Ripjaws X - $47.99
ASUS HD 5450 Fanless - $34.99
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB - $59.99
Seasonic S12II-380 380W - $65.99
LIAN LI Lancool PC-K56 - $59.99
Samsung DVD Burner - $19.99

Total $483.92 before shipping and rebates ($15)


With the spare money you could either save it or use it to:


Make the PC more powerful by using an i5-2400 or i7-2600

OR

Make the PC more quiet by using a Fractal Design Define Mini, maybe a Scythe Big Shuriken and some quieter fans.

OR

Get an SSD
September 8, 2011 7:24:18 PM

Hey expat, I've built a few low-noise systems in the past, here's what I can recommend:

  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Bare Drive
    Notes: These drives are great for raw storage and the disk doesn't spin until a read or write is called for -- this means it's quiet (because it doesn't move) when not in use, but also isn't quite as snappy as other hard drives. I've used one myself and recommend it if you want quietness as well as raw storage.
  • EVGA 01G-P3-1371-TR GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
    Notes: I've used this card myself and can vouch for its' quietness: it is inaudible even with the case open. It isn't fanless, but its fan is (practically if not literally) inaudible which gives you extra cooling and airflow. It might be difficult to find a good fanless card that can handle two monitors, but admittedly I didn't spent a great deal of time researching that. I'm very confident you wouldn't be able to notice the difference between a low rpm fan and a fanless card, and fanless cards do generate more heat. To your other question: there's no need to use two graphics card to run dual monitors (I run dual monitors with this card myself with no issues).

    Edit: jmsellars1's card may fit your needs better, I overlooked that you didn't do any gaming. I still recommend a low rpm fan to fanless, though.
  • SeaSonic M12II 620 Bronze 620W ATX12V V2.3 / EPS 12V V2.91 SLI Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
    Notes: I chose this PSU because it's modular (less cable management woes and better airflow) and high quality, with enough power to allow you to upgrade freely. If you're building in a smaller form factor case, I highly recommend a modular power supply. You mentioned HPTC was one of your intended uses, which case do you have in mind? Will you be needing a TV-Tuner card?

    If you're working in a larger case and would like to save ~$40 here, I can also recommend this Antec PSU which isn't modular and may prevent you from upgrading to really power-hungry graphics cards in the future.
  • Kingston HyperX 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model KHX1600C9D3K2/8GX
    Notes: 8GB memory is worth it for you, since Lightroom benefits most from better CPU and memory. The difference between 4GB and 8GB is only about $20, memory is quite inexpensive these days. I like Kingston because their return rates are the lowest, which is indicative of good QA/testing and thus reliability. Of course other brands may also serve you well.
  • GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
    Notes: Your choice of motherboard is solid. It will support two graphics cards if need be, but is reviewed well and looks reliable (which imo is the most important aspect, particularly in a motherboard).
  • Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K
    Notes: The i5 will serve you well for Lightroom, good choice.

    TOTAL: $791.67

    It would be helpful to know your overall budget range for the whole system, and also what kind of case you're going with. When you're going for a quiet build, the case (and fans) are really important. I recommend these case fans for quiet builds, as many as your case will hold (since they're low-rpm and thus low airflow). Your choice of CPU heatsink/fan is also important, the stock fans that come with the processors aren't high quality and usually loud. If I know your case I can give you some recommendations for the CPU fan, they do differ by size and not all will fit.

    If you're into quiet computing, you may already be familiar with SPCR (Silent PC Review), which has a great array of articles and reviews. Their recommended section is worth a look.

    Also, one final note: I really recommend a SSD if your budget allows, while they're known for their speed (perfect for installing Windows and programs like Lightroom to for extra snappiness), they're also low-heat, small and totally silent (no moving parts). Great for HPTCs, and systems in general for that matter. I'm happy to make some recommendations once I have a better sense of your total budget.
    Related resources
    September 8, 2011 10:46:02 PM

    Thanks to you both.

    Total budget is a little as I can get away with -- really, looking for the sweet spot
    as regards most bang for the buck and, from what I've read, the i5 has it over
    the i3. I'm upgrading from an Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz chip, because
    I've found that I'm waiting too long to process images from my newish 16MB-sensor
    SLR using LR3 (or the Nikon software).

    I imagine I'll reuse my Spinpoint drive. I also have an externally mounted WD
    Caviar of some flavor -- will check when I get home.

    SSD in the fullness of time, probably, but not tomorrow.

    I've got an Antec Sonata II case I can reuse. Similarly, assuming that it specs out adequately,
    I'll reuse my (SPCR-blessed) power supply -- it's a Seasonic or comparable quality brand.
    (If you query SPCR for my handle, you'll see that I have indeed been there before. :D  )
    Oh, and I'm running Win7 Home Premium 64.

    So, the graphics card is still an open issue in my mind -- for photoshop or watching movies, am I going to see any difference (or experience reduced wait times) as between the EVGA 01G-P3-1371-TR GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) and the ASUS EAH5450 (keeping in mind that I don't game ...)?

    I'm willing to spend ~$100 per card more for a faster, smoother video experience, but if the software
    (LR3, maybe Photoshop someday) won't use the card's power (i.e. - if it's only going towards better
    gaming performance that I won't use), then it's not money well spent.

    Thanks again,

    - Richard
    September 8, 2011 11:39:40 PM

    Ah, I see. Given your budget criteria, the i3 might actually be a better choice. Looking at the numbers, the i3 might be the sweet spot for you: broadly speaking (going by overall score) the i5 2500k is about 20% more powerful than the Core i3 2100, though it may be closer to 30-40% stronger for photo-editing sorts of tasks. The i3 is $125 on Newegg, and the i5 is $220. Given your specific criteria, the i3 is the most logical choice. Since you're upgrading from a regor, you're still going to get a huge boost in power and speed.

    On the topic of speed, you might be able to hit the "sweet spot" a little better by including this SSD as a boot drive with the money you'd save going with the i3. I suspect the overall speed boost would be greater than using just an i5. Another thing to consider is that upgrading to a SSD later means having to reinstall windows to it in order to really benefit from the speed (which is obviously a hassle).

    Good that you have a solid PSU and case to use :) .

    As to the graphics card, go with jmsellars1's suggestion, as you probably won't notice a major difference between those cards for photoshop or movies. I still think a fanless card is a little pointless if you're using a spinpoint (this is because the spinpoint will drown out noise from a low-rpm fan, so your system won't be any quieter with a fanless card and will be hotter).

    Good luck, let us know if you have more questions!
    September 9, 2011 2:04:23 AM

    As far as SSD drives go, I'll just add this quote from Anandtech's website last month:

    It's a depressing time to be covering the consumer SSD market. Although performance is higher than it has ever been, we're still seeing far too many compatibility and reliability issues from all of the major players.

    That's all I need to read to keep me with 'conventional' hard drives this time 'round.
    a b C Monitor
    September 9, 2011 11:25:24 PM

    The Spinpoint isn't going to be making any noise if he has a SSD. It is going to be idle most of the time. Even if he doesn't, HDD noise isn't usually as annoying as fan noise. In my opinion of course.

    As for the graphics card, I doubt that you would even notice an improvement in going for the 460 over the 5450 if you're not gaming.

    With the SSD's, I think the Crucial M4 should be reliable enough. I just started work at an online computer store and I deal with a lot of returns. Yes there are a lot of SSD's being returned but mostly OCZ ones and a couple of Corsairs. I haven't seen any Crucial drives be returned yet. I haven't been working there long though.
    September 17, 2011 4:38:32 PM

    Ultimately, I opted to simply upgrade the CPU. X2 250 Regor to an X6 Phenom II 1090T.
    For what I do, the 1090T is in the same ballpark as an i3-2100, but the X6 gets the nod
    for Lightroom use, 'cause LR utilizes those 6 cores.

    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/146?vs=289

    At $159 on sale, delivered, it was easy, effective & cost-effective.
    No new motherboard or rebuild required.

    Had I decided to build a new system, definitely would have gone the SandyBridge route.
    (Which, sadly, doesn't bode well for AMD.)
    !