I'm building my girlfriend a budget workstation PC--she's a digital artist, and her work is starting to come in at such a rate that we need two separate computers! This is good, but kind of expensive. My question to you guys is this:
I intend to build this thing around either an i5 2500K OR an i7 2600K (to take advantage of hyperthreading). She primarily works in Adobe Creative Suite but there are some other programs here and there that she uses. I was looking toward a Radeon 6870, but I wonder if I could get away with something cheaper? I know NOTHING about 'professional' graphics card or what really makes them different. Would a cheap 'professional' graphics card (like a Quadro or Firepro) be better than a pricier 'gaming' card for this application?
Apparently some programs in CS5.5 have some CUDA accelerated features. I don't know how widespread these are. I've heard that you are supposed to have one of the higher end nvidia cards (580, 570, etc) but that the lower ones can be hacked to work too. You should look into that.
Basically, Quadro and Firepro have drivers optimized for professional applications like CAD. That's really the only difference. And they cost like 5x as much.
for professional graphics you should look into the Quadro and Firepro cards, like the Quadro 600, it is made for such use, and it costs less then a gtx 560, or a hd6870. The quadro supports 10bit color if she needs extreme color accuracy, and it also has CUDA. So in this case no it does not cost an insane price (if you want that look at the Quadro 6000), and it was made for such use. In certain uses like CAD some gaming cards perform terribly compared to even the lower end quadro's. I do photo editing on a Pc with a Quadro 600, and it does pretty well. The gaming cards may be better in certain things, but all in all a Quadro may be the overall winner, but that depends what specifically she plans on doing.
with photoshop your not going to see much speed on the render between an i5 or an i7. save your money pick up an i5 and a main ssd drive. the nhave a reg 1tb drive or larger for the data drive. if this pc for her work i would look into picking up a 2.5 inch drive tray or removable bay and another 1tb drive and some good backup software. you dont have to back up windows or adobe if you dont want to but you want to back up her data drive once every few days.