Semi-Budget Build for Photo Editing and General Use

This seems to be the go to forum for computer building so I figured you guys would know better than anybody else. I've never built a computer before, but I'm good with my hands and have fairly decent technical knowledge of how mechanical and electrical devices work. If I don't know something, I can generally figure it out pretty quick. That being said, I would like to build a computer for my home office that would be good for my wife to do photo editing with as well as for just general home use. I am not a gamer, but I would like the system to be reasonably fast in the event that I want to play a few games, edit video, etc. I also do a fair amount of work on AutoCAD.

Here are the details:

Approximate Purchase Date: Next Week

Budget Range: ~$1000 including monitor

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Photo editing, surfing the web, office use, music, etc.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: I prefer Amazon since I have Prime, but I have picked quite a few items from Newegg since I've had good luck with them before.

Country: US

Parts Preferences: Intel Processor, mid-tower case

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: Not Sure at this point

Additional Comments: I like the understated look. I'm looking for performance, but not at the expense of reliability.

Here is what I've picked for parts so far, so please sanity check for me:

Case Antec 300 Amazon $55.00
Monitor ViewSonic VA2702w Amazon $259.00
Motherboard Intel BOXDH67BLB3 Newegg $90.00
Processor Intel Core i5-2500 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz Amazon $195.00
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS Amazon $127.00
Memory G.Skill F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL Newegg $40.00
Keyboard/Mouse Logitech MK260 Amazon $26.00
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium Amazon $100.00
Card Reader Kingston FCR-HS219/1 Amazon $11.00
Optical Drive ASUS DRW-24B1ST Amazon $20.00
Speakers Logitech S120 2.0 Amazon $10.00
Power Supply Antec EA-380D Amazon $45.00
Video Card PowerColor AX5450 1GBK3-SH Newegg $30.00

I'd truly appreciate any input that you guys could give me!

Thanks so much,

21 answers Last reply
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  1. I don't think it's worth going 27" at just 1920x1080. 24" will still show you all the detail that's there. The Asus VE248H is good, LED-backlit and $205.
    Get a 2500K. The extra $10 will make a huge difference because in the future, when you'd have to replace the non-K 2500 just to get by, you can overclock a little and get a whole bunch of extra performance for free.
    You still have $45 extra from the smaller monitor after switching to the 2500K, and I'd put it toward the GPU. You need some kind of decent card if you want to play any games at all. For $95 after rebate you can get a 6770, which is quite a decent card.
    Good PSU. Antec means high quality.
    Keep the card reader if you really think you need it, but consider whether you do. If you have a camera worth its salt, it probably came with a reader for the only kind of card you'll ever use.
  2. Kajabla,

    Thanks for the quick reply! The wife has pretty much told me that a 27" is a must, but she might be fine with dual 24" monitors...I'm a bit flexible on the cost, as long is it doesnt sway too much past the $1100 mark. Roger that on the processor, I'll go ahead and bump it up to the 2500K. I should have also taken the card reader off there as it's really not part of the build. I originally had an internal 3.5" in there, but that Kingston I listed is just a standard USB type reader.


  3. Well, 27" it is, then. I still support the 6770 at the least. That'll get you smooth Photoshop, as well as getting you through any games you decide to take on. Of course, going up to a 6850 (~$130 after rebate) would be much nicer.
  4. Your going to need a new motherboard as well if you go with the 2500K CPU and plan on overclocking. You will want a motherboard with the P67 or Z68 chipset. What software does your wife edit with? I might be able to give you some more suggestions then.
  5. Right! Forgot about that. Either chipset would be fine; Z68 doesn't have anything you need that P67 doesn't.
  6. My wife primarily uses Adobe Lightroom and does almost no Photoshop. Okay, this is where I'm at now:

    Case Antec 300 Amazon $55.00
    Monitor ViewSonic VA2702w Amazon $259.00
    Motherboard Intel BOXDP67DEB3 Newegg $110.00
    Processor Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz Newegg $220.00
    Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS Amazon $127.00
    Memory G.Skill F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL Newegg $40.00
    Keyboard/Mouse Logitech MK260 Amazon $26.00
    Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium Amazon $100.00
    Optical Drive ASUS DRW-24B1ST Amazon $20.00
    Speakers Logitech S120 2.0 Amazon $10.00
    Power Supply Antec EA-380D Amazon $45.00
    Video Card XFX HD-677X-ZNFC Newegg $95.00

    Total $1,107.00

    How does this look? Changed over to i5 2500K w/ P67 MOBO and the 6770 graphics card.

    Do you think the Antec EA-380 PSU is enough for this? I'm really hoping you say yes, since I don't have much more in the budget left. If I go too far over the budget, I will be told to forget about it and buy an iMac :pfff: . We wouldn't want that now would we, haha?

    Another thing I need to know about is what other miscellaneous hardware might I need for assembly (screws, connectors, cables, etc.)? I know I'll need a power cord for my PSU and possibly an HDMI cable for the monitor but I'm hoping most of the components come with their needed hardware.

    Thanks so much for the help,

  7. 380W is definitely enough.
    You shouldn't need any extra cables or connectors. The PSU comes with all the cables you could ever want, and the monitor will come with a DVI cable. DVI and HDMI carry the same video signal.
  8. I would ditch that Intel motherboard and go with a Gigabyte, ASUS, or AS Rock. Did you read the reviews of the one you chosen? It appears that it is a horrible overclocker and kinda defeats the purpose of using a 2500k CPU. A few advantages to Z68 is one that it will have onboard video in case your graphics card ever fails you will still have Intel HD3000 graphics available and that is plenty good enough for photo editing. With Z68 you will also get Intel quick sync for video editing. With Z68 you could also add a small SSD down the road to speed things up.
    I asked what software you wife used because in Photoshop you can get some GPU acceleration with Nvidia graphics cards but I don't think it works in lightroom.
    Your new computer case will come with all the screws you need to install all your components so no need to worry there. Most don't come with a case speaker if that matters to you. Down the road you might consider a USB3 media card reader since I did see you wanted a internal 1 originally. I shoot motocross races any I typically shoot between 4-5,000 photo's over a weekend and using a USB3 reader speeds up the transfer process tremendously over the cameras USB2 connection. This is especially true if you are using CF instead of SD.
  9. Okay, I'll change the motherboard over to Z68. I just thought Intel was a safe bet since, after all, their processor is going on it. I've heard Asus is good, but I see a bunch of bad reviews of them on newegg lately. How would you rank those brands? #1 Asus, #2 Gigabyte, #3 Asrock?

    Thanks so much,

  10. Don't use SSD caching, incidentally, unless Intel really steps it up. ATM it's better to manage your data manually.
    You can't really stick motherboards into classes. I'd say that each of those brands has high-end mobos that are very high quality.
  11. Okay guys, hows this look? I stepped up to a Z68 MOBO, DDR 1600 RAM, and dropped the monitor size to 24" but probably of better quality. The wife wanted 27" but I think I can make a case for a good 24".

    Case - Antec 300
    Monitor - Samsung S24A350H
    Motherboard - ASRock Z68 PRO3-M
    Processor - Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz
    Hard Drive - Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS
    Memory G.Skill - F3-12800CL9D-8GBRL
    Optical ASUS - DRW-24B1ST
    PSU Antec - EA-380D
    Graphics - FX HD-677X-ZNFC

    Thanks so much,

  12. One more question: Do I need more fans than the 120mm and 140mm fan which come in the Antec 300?


  13. I think you will like that motherboard much better than the Intel board for the long haul. You can always add more fans down the road if you feel that you need them. If you can squeeze another $30 into your build I would recommend a aftermarket CPU cooler. Most people here recommend the Cooler master Hyper 212+ and if you do overclock it will be much easier to install during your initial build.
  14. Hyper 212 EVO, recently. $5 more and significantly better.
  15. Well I ended up buying this package for my case/psu:

    It's the same case but it comes with an Antec PSU with 50 more watts (430) and ends up costing me $10 less. The problem is that I just realized my graphics card takes 2 6-pin pci power connectors and my PSU only has one. I bought a 2 molex to 1 pci power adapter in order to get enough power connectors. Is this okay or is it a hack job solution?


  16. The card should come with that adapter itself. It'll work.
    That PSU/case is cheaper because it's a little less efficient, but it's still reliable because it's Antec.
  17. I wanted to come back to this thread and thank all of you guys for your input!

    Got all my equipment in on Thursday and had my new computer up and running by Friday evening. I was wrong about the graphics card: I only need one 6-pin connector, not two. Also, I found cable management to be a bit difficult in the Antec 300 case and some of my cables were a bit short for effective cable management. Most cable are pretty much out of the way but the 4+4 pin CPU power cable was too short to go around the MOBO as was the front panel HD audio cable for the case. My main priority was keeping obstructions away form my cooling fans. I know I can get an extension for the 4+4 pin but I'm not so sure about the HD audio.

    This machine seems pretty smokin' to me, and I've never had the pleasure of working with such a fast PC. Photo editing for the wife is flawless and I love the fact that I don't have any bloatware to contend with since I installed all of the software from scratch. I don't think I'll ever buy a prebuilt desktop again!

    The next modifications will be two 120mm fans for the front of the case and a Cooler Master Hyper 212 CPU Cooler....I'm probably going to buy these this week.

    A few pics of the build:

  18. Sounds good. Go for those fans, and make sure you get the EVO, not the Plus.
  19. I think it is a little late, but if you will be doing a lot of photo editing on that machine, you should consider an IPS panel monitor.

    Most monitors use TN panels to display color. The problem with TN panels is that they do not provide for good color accuracy or viewing angles. However, they are cheaper.

    IPS (In Plane Switching) panels provide for a better quality monitor with much better color accuracy and better viewing angles.

    The reason viewing angles are important is because you will not always be looking directly into the monitor at a perfect angle. TN panels only provide decent color when you look directly at them. When you start to move around even a little bit, the colors will change, although slightly. When you start to look at the monitor at more dramatic angles, colors will be even worse. Try looking at your monitor and stand up and look at the monitor from an extreme downward angle. You will see how the colors do not look the same. This is an exaggerated example, but the colors slightly change at almost any angle.

    If you ask anyone who spends most of their time on a computer editing images or video, they will always say to get an IPS panel monitor, and for good reason. You will never find a photographer who suggests a TN panel. The downside is that IPS panel monitors can be a little more expensive.

    Luckily, Dell just updated their monitor lineup to include cheaper 23" and 24" IPS panel monitors.

    So if color quality, accuracy, and viewing angles are important, I would strongly advise looking into an IPS panel monitor. More specifically, the Dell u2312hm and the Dell u2412m, both of which are IPS and at a good price.
  20. Too late for that now....I'll know next time. If my wife did photo editing for money I would probably go through the hassle of trying to return it but I'll just wait until I'm ready to buy another one. This monitor does have pretty stunning colors with a pretty good viewing angle for a TN monitor.

  21. Great job and it looks nice, I'm sure your wife will enjoy her new machine for years to come. Down the road if you want install a internal card reader I just got this one from AFT.
    Not cheap but it is USB 3.0 and pictures transfer extremely fast.
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