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New Build hi-performance Photoshop PC for USD $2500-$3000

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June 28, 2012 1:42:16 PM

Hello everyone - I'm hoping I can get some advice from the more knowledgable posters here (all of you are more knowledgable than am I). My current desktop PC is frustratingly slow in processing Photoshop files. It also has limited internal storage. I've decided to have a new desktop built - either by experienced techs or by myself if I feel brave and confident.

I know where I'd like to end up in terms of features and capability, but I'm not sure what combination of components will get me there. I'm willing to pay for speed, power, and flexibility, but I don't want to overspend for marginal return. My budget is $2500-$3000 USD. Obviously, I'd prefer to pay closer to $2500 if possible, but will consider the higher end if the return on investment is justified.

I've copied the recommended template, and included all comments I can think of. I haven't purchased anything yet, so instead of mentioning specific components, I've listed the attributes I'd like from each. I'll gladly take any and all advice on how to best spend my money to get the best possible machine. Thanks in advance.

Approximate - Purchase Date (this week)

Budget Range - USD $2500-$300 (After Rebates)

System Usage from Most to Least Important - Photoshop CS6/Lightroom 4; Surfing Internet, Music, Watching Videos, Office Applications; Video Editing, Gaming

Parts Not Required - keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

Preferred Website(s) for Parts - e.g.: newegg.com, Amazon.com, Microcenter.com

Country - US

Parts Preferences

CPU - I think I prefer an Intel CPU, since all I have read says they are the best for Photoshop. I'm looking at the i7 or i5 CPUs but don't have any idea which would be better for my purposes without buying too much.

Motherboard - I'm looking at ASUS, but am open to any other suggestions or recommendations. What I'm looking for in a motherboard is the capacity to expand to 64GB RAM in the future. Right now, I anticipate starting with 32GB. I'd also like to maximize the number of slots so I can add capacity in the future. I would like the motherboard to include some I/O ports, but am not sure what is considered standard and what needs to be purchased separately. I'd like several USB 2.0 and 3.0 if possible, and obviously ports for two monitors and two printers.

WIFI - I'd like to have wifi for wireless networking

RAM - I want to start with 32GB of RAM with the option to expand to 64GB in the future. I think DDR3 is standard, but I'm not sure if there are other considerations. I also am not sure what speed of RAM memory I need.

Case - I want a full tower since size and weight aren't an issue, and I'd like the case to have lots of internal and external bays so I can expand or modify the computer in the future.

Power Supply - I'm assuming that, for what I anticipate doing, that I'll need at least 750W, maybe even up to 1000W? Again, potential future expansion is an issue. I'd also like it to be relatively quiet.

Fans - if the case comes with a fan and hte processor has a heatsink, would I need to include another fan? I don't mind doing it if it is necessary or advisable.

GPU - I've read conflicting accounts of what role a graphics card plays in image editing. Some say it's nearly irrelevant and that any functional $50 card will do. Others say that, with CS5/CS6, the graphics card is more essential. Those who say this recommend at least 1GB of graphic card memory. The cards should also accomodate two monitors.

Sound Card - I listen to music on my PC quite a bit, and I have some nice Bose speakers. Do I need a dedicated sound card? If so, what should I look for?

Internal HD - My current desktop has a 1TB internal drive partitioned into C and D drives. I have all of my software (including Windows 7 64bit) on this drive. I'd like to keep it to avoid having to re-acquire and download all of my software. Can I legally use my existing copy of Windows 7 on the new build if I retain the current HD?

In addition to this recycled TB drive, I'd like to install (2) 3TB HDs (7200 rpm)for storage of my photo library. I have multiple 2 TB external drives for backup.

Internal SSD - I'd like to get 2 internal SSDs - one for a boot drive and the other for what Photoshop calls a "scratch drive." I'm not sure what size SSD would be best, but I suspect a 120-240 GB range would be sufficient.

Optical Drive - I'm looking at a combo Blu-ray, DVD W/R drive, but not sure what specs to consider

I/O Ports - I'd like to make sure I have lots of USB (2.0/3.0) as well as ports for monitors and printers. I'm not sure if Firewire or other ports are necessary.

Overclocking - Yes - from what I understand, this is becoming more useful and more common. I think most of the mid-high end CPUs have this option.

SLI or Crossfire - I'm not at all familiar with these terms.

Monitor Resolution - 1920x1200

Additional Comments - I'd like this desktop to be upgradeable in the future. Ideally, I'd like it to last 5 years, with an anticipated upgrade after 3.

I know I have a lot of considerations here, and some of them may be unnecessary or contradictory. I'll be grateful for any guidance anyone can provide. Thanks again.
June 28, 2012 2:16:27 PM

SLI and Crossfire refer to ganging two or more graphics cards together for more power. Multiple graphics cards aren't required for your needs. (If you planned on using, say dual 30" monitors, then yeah, maybe.)

Also, I don't think you need two SSDs. Go ahead and have one for the OS. You have three choices for the scratch drive...buy a larger SSD and use it for both OS and scratch drive; use a portion of one of your HDDs; or make a RAM drive. Unless you are working with really huge PS files, I'd probably go with an HDD partition.

Since you are only using one graphics card, the 750W PSU should be just fine. Get one that is quiet and Energy Star rated.

You don't need a dedicated sound card unless you are an audiophile with a good ear. Just liking to listen to music does not signify.

Optical drives: I like Pioneer drives, but most any one will do the job. The big question is whether or not you want to be able to burn Blu-ray discs, as well as play them. Blu-ray burners are more expensive, but not out of line with the other components you're considering.

You can use your copy of Win 7 on the new computer, but you may need to re-register it. Also, consider wiping the drives and doing a clean install anyway. As long as you back up your data files, favorites, and contacts, and have all your registration numbers/product keys for software, it should go fine...and a clean installation will do a lot to ensure your new machine runs up to its potential.

The Tom's Hardware PC Challenge Build this last time focused on application performance...have a look at their $2,000 PC.

June 28, 2012 3:30:34 PM

Thanks for the advice - I appreciate it. I've read that without a dedicated scratch drive, Photoshop can "bottleneck." I'll have to look into that more - no need to buy more than I need. Im not sure about needing to burn blu-ray - right now I don't, but who knows in the near future. I'll look into the cost difference. An optical drive should be one of the easier upgrades in a couple of years.

My Windows 7 is an upgrade from Windows XP that was installed on the computer I bought - I'm not sure if that license is transferrable. Either way, purchasing a second license for Win 7 isn't prohibitive. As for wiping the drive, I have all files already backed up in two external HDs - it would primarily just be software. I think I have all of the product keys and serial numbers - is it just a process of going on-line to redownload the software? If I were to buy a second new HD, could I just copy the software files to the new disc and reregister them on-line? I've not done that before, so any more info would be helpful.

Finally, do you or anyone else have recommendations for motherboards and cases? I want a motherboard that is compatible with my processor, naturally. But, I'd also like plenty empty slots and some built-in IO ports. Are there any you or someone else might recommend? With the case, I'd like a good number of bays - internal and external.

Thanks again - this information is very helpful. I've never tried to build a computer before, and am a bit hesitant to do it. I'd hate to purchase these components and then screw it up during assembly. I'm reading about the mechanics of assembling computers, and it sounds straight-forward. But then, such things are almost always more complicated in practice than they seem in theory.
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June 28, 2012 4:01:13 PM

rcheek said:
Hello everyone - I'm hoping I can get some advice from the more knowledgable posters here (all of you are more knowledgable than am I). My current desktop PC is frustratingly slow in processing Photoshop files. It also has limited internal storage. I've decided to have a new desktop built - either by experienced techs or by myself if I feel brave and confident.

I know where I'd like to end up in terms of features and capability, but I'm not sure what combination of components will get me there. I'm willing to pay for speed, power, and flexibility, but I don't want to overspend for marginal return. My budget is $2500-$3000 USD. Obviously, I'd prefer to pay closer to $2500 if possible, but will consider the higher end if the return on investment is justified.

I've copied the recommended template, and included all comments I can think of. I haven't purchased anything yet, so instead of mentioning specific components, I've listed the attributes I'd like from each. I'll gladly take any and all advice on how to best spend my money to get the best possible machine. Thanks in advance.

Approximate - Purchase Date (this week)

Budget Range - USD $2500-$300 (After Rebates)

System Usage from Most to Least Important - Photoshop CS6/Lightroom 4; Surfing Internet, Music, Watching Videos, Office Applications; Video Editing, Gaming

Parts Not Required - keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

Preferred Website(s) for Parts - e.g.: newegg.com, Amazon.com, Microcenter.com

Country - US

Parts Preferences

CPU - I think I prefer an Intel CPU, since all I have read says they are the best for Photoshop. I'm looking at the i7 or i5 CPUs but don't have any idea which would be better for my purposes without buying too much.

Motherboard - I'm looking at ASUS, but am open to any other suggestions or recommendations. What I'm looking for in a motherboard is the capacity to expand to 64GB RAM in the future. Right now, I anticipate starting with 32GB. I'd also like to maximize the number of slots so I can add capacity in the future. I would like the motherboard to include some I/O ports, but am not sure what is considered standard and what needs to be purchased separately. I'd like several USB 2.0 and 3.0 if possible, and obviously ports for two monitors and two printers.

WIFI - I'd like to have wifi for wireless networking

RAM - I want to start with 32GB of RAM with the option to expand to 64GB in the future. I think DDR3 is standard, but I'm not sure if there are other considerations. I also am not sure what speed of RAM memory I need.

Case - I want a full tower since size and weight aren't an issue, and I'd like the case to have lots of internal and external bays so I can expand or modify the computer in the future.

Power Supply - I'm assuming that, for what I anticipate doing, that I'll need at least 750W, maybe even up to 1000W? Again, potential future expansion is an issue. I'd also like it to be relatively quiet.

Fans - if the case comes with a fan and hte processor has a heatsink, would I need to include another fan? I don't mind doing it if it is necessary or advisable.

GPU - I've read conflicting accounts of what role a graphics card plays in image editing. Some say it's nearly irrelevant and that any functional $50 card will do. Others say that, with CS5/CS6, the graphics card is more essential. Those who say this recommend at least 1GB of graphic card memory. The cards should also accomodate two monitors.

Sound Card - I listen to music on my PC quite a bit, and I have some nice Bose speakers. Do I need a dedicated sound card? If so, what should I look for?

Internal HD - My current desktop has a 1TB internal drive partitioned into C and D drives. I have all of my software (including Windows 7 64bit) on this drive. I'd like to keep it to avoid having to re-acquire and download all of my software. Can I legally use my existing copy of Windows 7 on the new build if I retain the current HD?

In addition to this recycled TB drive, I'd like to install (2) 3TB HDs (7200 rpm)for storage of my photo library. I have multiple 2 TB external drives for backup.

Internal SSD - I'd like to get 2 internal SSDs - one for a boot drive and the other for what Photoshop calls a "scratch drive." I'm not sure what size SSD would be best, but I suspect a 120-240 GB range would be sufficient.

Optical Drive - I'm looking at a combo Blu-ray, DVD W/R drive, but not sure what specs to consider

I/O Ports - I'd like to make sure I have lots of USB (2.0/3.0) as well as ports for monitors and printers. I'm not sure if Firewire or other ports are necessary.

Overclocking - Yes - from what I understand, this is becoming more useful and more common. I think most of the mid-high end CPUs have this option.

SLI or Crossfire - I'm not at all familiar with these terms.

Monitor Resolution - 1920x1200

Additional Comments - I'd like this desktop to be upgradeable in the future. Ideally, I'd like it to last 5 years, with an anticipated upgrade after 3.

I know I have a lot of considerations here, and some of them may be unnecessary or contradictory. I'll be grateful for any guidance anyone can provide. Thanks again.


- CPU wise you are right wanting to go with Intel. The i7 3930k is worth the extra money especially with all the photoshop you will do.

- 32gb's of ram is justifiable for what you are doing.

- CS5 and CS6 both have GPU acceleration where Nvidia shines with its CUDA cores. ---> http://www.studio1productions.com/Articles/PremiereCS5.... http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/gpu-opengl-support-...

-What Bose speakers do you have?

-You will not be able to use your OS if you used an OEM version of the OS in your previous build or if it was prebuilt by someone like Dell.

-Don't worry about SLI of Crossfire CS5 and CS6 don't support them.

Here is what I recommend-

P9X79 Pro & i7 3930k- http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... 855$

G.Skill Ares 32gb 1600mhz- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 280$

Seagate 3tb HDD- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... x2=340$

Crucual M4 256gb SSD- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 210$

Asus Xonar DX 7.1- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 72$

Antec P280- http://www.amazon.com/Antec-P280-Black-Tower-Computer/d... 100$

Asus 12x Blu Ray Burner- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 85$

NZXT Switch 810- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 144$ After Promo Code EMCYTZT1811

Rosewill Capstone 650w- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 85$ After Promo code RW15PSU06 Knowing that Photoshop will probably never support SLI due to the minimal gains it will produce and the fact that CPU's and GPU's will be more and more efficient over time 650w will be plenty.

Cooler Master Hyper 612- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 50$

ASUS DirectCU II GTX 560 Ti 448- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 280$

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit OEM- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 140$

Total=2641$
June 28, 2012 5:41:19 PM

Thanks for the specific suggestions - I'm looking them over and I like what I see. If I could, I have a couple of questions:

Why do you recommend the Intel CPU with 6 cores? I've read that PS can only take advantage of 4 cores and that anything over that gets very marginal return in either power or speed? Do you think that the benefit of 6 cores justifies the additional cost?

Also, if I read your suggestions correctly, you only recommend 1 SSD - I suppose that would be for both boot and scratch. Some say that having a boot and scratch disc combined creates a bottleneck, and that the two should both be SSDs, but separate. Is your experience different? I'd like it if it was - save the cost of a second SSD.

Again, thanks to you and all others who can help. I'm getting lots of good information and useful recommendations.
June 28, 2012 5:50:46 PM

Quote:
Sound Card - I listen to music on my PC quite a bit, and I have some nice Bose speakers. Do I need a dedicated sound card? If so, what should I look for?


No - the built in audio on your motherboard is all you need.

Quote:

Power Supply - I'm assuming that, for what I anticipate doing, that I'll need at least 750W, maybe even up to 1000W? Again, potential future expansion is an issue. I'd also like it to be relatively quiet.

Fans - if the case comes with a fan and hte processor has a heatsink, would I need to include another fan? I don't mind doing it if it is necessary or advisable.


PSU - the 1KW PSU is unnecessary - the days of ultra high wattage PSUs are coming to an end with the current crop of GPUs being more energy efficient than ever.

Fans - you can only get as many fans as your case has mounts for. Don't get these until you get your case and you see what your air flow is going to look like.

Try this build:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3930K 3.2GHz 6-Core Processor ($569.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 CPU Cooler ($85.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($329.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Mushkin Blackline 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($214.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Hard Drive: Crucial M4 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($124.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: ATI FirePro V5800 1GB Video Card ($386.97 @ Newegg)
Case: NZXT Switch 810 (White) ATX Full Tower Case ($136.00 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling 750W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($89.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: LG WH12LS39 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (32-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $2078.90
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)

Add monitor and peripherals (I don't suggest these due to the fact that they're almost entirely personal preference) and you're good to go.
June 28, 2012 11:11:40 PM

Thanks, I'll take a look at these suggestions. I really appreciate all of the input. It's helping me make better choices.
!