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$1200-1600 Photo editing dual-monitor build (w/gaming potential)

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July 29, 2012 7:59:47 PM

Hello! My first thread is my entry into the custom build world, and after reading a thread on a similarly budgeted computer for similar purposes, I wanted to see if my ideas (different enough to warrant my own thread I hope) were sufficient and a good plan for upgrades in the future.

I'm looking to develop a name in photography, but on this current machine I just get unorganized and throw fits waiting for stuff to load/process. I want to cull and edit albums of several hundred photos and have libraries of thousands with little (or no?) lag. I'm sick of waiting and I'll gladly pay for my time. That being said..

I don't know what processor would work best, the sandy 2600k, or a newer i5 with overclocking ability if needed in the future. I don't know enough about threads but toms reviews seem to show

I also don't know what level of graphics card I need to run my two 22" monitors, what card can help photoshop along, and what is needed for modern games



Approximate Purchase Date: e.g.: this week (the closer the better), non-essentials like second HDD can wait a short while since I have external HDD's. One 128gb ssd is half of what my current pc has and shold be sufficient for my OS and photoshop programs + some games. then I can add a bank of drives later I suppose.

Budget Range: $1200-1600, give or take if expensive components are highly recommended. I'd like to stop at 1500 for the tower if we ignore the $280 I've already spent on two monitors. You get the idea. ;) 

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Multitasking while using Photoshop and lightroom photo editing (needs to handle lots of large images quickly, good workflow speed and on two screens), light gaming, web surfing, movies etc... I'm planning to upgrade to CS6 and Lightroom4, CS3 and LR3.
Being able to open several programs and lots of tabs simultaneously on either of my two screens without getting choppy is a major plus. I assume my budget allows for this...

Are you buying a monitor: Yes, I already purchased two HP (LG panel) zr22w IPS monitors and a stand for them @ $280 total.

Do you need to buy OS: Yes - Looking at best feature set for what I need, and not a dumbed-down crippled version, but I also have no need for a huge price here...I just want to use my components and programs as I should be able to (16gb-32gb RAM in future, I think home premium might get that done?) Are the cheaper SP (service pack?) editions good to go for to save money, or should I get retail?? Using XP programs is a plus, but I hear I can use 3rd party programs and avoid Win7 Pro and Ultimate.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: TigerDirect (NO CA sales tax!), newegg if discounted or if it's the best warranty/deal for the money, and ANY OTHER reputable dealer (microcenter, mwave, I have no experience with either). I want good warranties/RMA policy on parts that might be expensive and/or more likely to possibly need returning)

Location: City, State/Region, Country - Humboldt county, California; I'm near Eureka

Parts Preferences: Intel CPU, otherwise I just want reliable components!

Overclocking: Maybe, if beneficial in the future as needs arise/tech becomes more dated, why not?

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe, if my setup proves fun enough to run good games on, or if dual cards will make editing more fluid than a single card, especially on two monitors.

Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080 x2 (so I guess 3840x1080, or 2160x1920! :D ) hopefully the nature of my IPS screens having input lag won't kill games..

Additional Comments: I'm going for reliable, not too pricey, fast photo editor with potential for upgrades to editing AND gaming machine in the future, since I am spending a grand on it, I might as well game, no?

Why Are You Upgrading: My current (and family) computer is a pentium D 820 dual core running 2.8 GHz, it just can't handle 12mp photos in large quantities and my 2-3gb ram cap in 32bit XP is KILLING me in photoshop. Even with just lightroom or photoshop open, lag lag lag and if I stitch a large panorama=crash. Also, I want my own darn computer, I can't stand sharing one and waiting to work.


I was thinking of a setup such as this:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($279.98 @ Amazon)
CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS9900ALED Ball Bearing CPU Cooler ($52.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($114.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($59.99 @ Newegg)
SSD: Plextor PX-M3S Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($159.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($144.98 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 560 Ti 2GB Video Card ($249.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Cooler Master HAF 932 Blue ATX Full Tower Case ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair 850W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($159.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($16.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Full (32/64-bit) ($161.66 @ Amazon)
Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse: already bought, and found, respectively.
Wireless card/thingy: I have no idea what to get but will likely need to access internet this way. ($$$?)
Thermal compound: Arctic cooling MX-4 or similar ($10 @ newegg)
Total: $1541.54
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available. Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-29 )


Any advice is much appreciated. I'm working a lot more lately and I'm researching when I can, so far this is the closest I've come to what I think is ideal, but I'm just not sure on the processor, what to look for in a motherboard, a cool running case, or if I should buy 2 8gb sticks of RAM of 2 4gb sticks, with intention to buy a duplicate set later. Those are some main issues I'm having, I'm sure there's more like power supply issues: 850w @ 50% load vs 400-500w @ 80% load power draw (from the wall).
July 29, 2012 8:11:11 PM

Is the Tustin Microcenter close to you?
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July 29, 2012 8:14:56 PM

azeem40 said:
Is the Tustin Microcenter close to you?


678 miles away. :(  also in cali so that should mean microcenter has sales tax :( 
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July 29, 2012 8:17:34 PM

All Microcenters have tax. That sucks.
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July 29, 2012 8:24:17 PM

i7-3770k cpu and an AMD HD797 gpu. This will help with the editing side of your computer.
-Bruce
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July 29, 2012 10:34:51 PM

No matter what modern selection you choose, you're gonna see a helluva improvement! :) 

I wouldn't worry about going for an ivy system since there's not much improvement, in general, over sandy - that 2600k is still a beast....and very overclockable!

Since you're not going higher than 1080p or 3D for both monitors then you don't need the highest end nvidia/ati card.

cuda(nvidia) or direct compute will be used to automatically accelerate many of adobe's functions. Bear in mind that cuda has been around alot longer thus has a much more mature feature set than the ati equivalent i.e. stay with nvidia.

You do want as much RAM as possible for gfx editing, then also check out a ram-disk for, for example, temp rendering purposes....forums such as adobe will advise on best use for spare ram capacity - there are ways to significantly further speed up workflow here! The adobe forum will also give you better tailored advice than that given here (in general).

Enjoy your new build!
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July 30, 2012 8:37:37 AM

azeem40 said:
All Microcenters have tax. That sucks.


Not if you're out of state, it all depends on where you are for any seller: http://www.microcenter.com/customer_support/shipping.ht...

dish_moose said:
i7-3770k cpu and an AMD HD797 gpu. This will help with the editing side of your computer.
-Bruce


I was looking at the i7-3770k but could you explain why you think that CPU would be worth the the extra cost? it's nearly $100 more than the i5-3570k and $30 more than the still-awesome SB i7-2600k. Also, I found a couple 300-400 dollar cards with the HD797 chip, none with good reviews. I'd love to know why you suggested that, especially since both push hard on my budget. :??: 

mesab66 said:
No matter what modern selection you choose, you're gonna see a helluva improvement! :) 

I wouldn't worry about going for an ivy system since there's not much improvement, in general, over sandy - that 2600k is still a beast....and very overclockable!

Since you're not going higher than 1080p or 3D for both monitors then you don't need the highest end nvidia/ati card.

cuda(nvidia) or direct compute will be used to automatically accelerate many of adobe's functions. Bear in mind that cuda has been around alot longer thus has a much more mature feature set than the ati equivalent i.e. stay with nvidia.

You do want as much RAM as possible for gfx editing, then also check out a ram-disk for, for example, temp rendering purposes....forums such as adobe will advise on best use for spare ram capacity - there are ways to significantly further speed up workflow here! The adobe forum will also give you better tailored advice than that given here (in general).

Enjoy your new build!


Thanks!
I'm glad to hear it will be much better, I was literally feeling sad/depressed over not being able to edit photos, so many people want to see my work and photos I've taken for them, but I can't process them. it SUCKS.

I've read that the 2600k has slower clocks or something so you'd have to overclock it more to reach the speed of a moderately overclocked 3770k..and that ivy bridge CPU's will run hotter if pushed as fast as a sandy bridge... all this seems over my head.

Should I repost or ask to be moved to the adobe forum? I didn't realize there was one yet or that I could direct system build questions there. :) 

Is Ramdisk that software or are you referring to a scratch disk?
If you have any suggestions on components or the case let me know :) 

Thanks for the help so far everyone!
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Best solution

July 30, 2012 9:39:46 AM

Its a good build, only small changes.
The i7-3770k is preferable, but if cash is tight the 2600k is more than sufficient (Though I think I can find a way to lower the price a bit).

You can get the Coolermaster 212 EVO for $35 and its a great budget cooler. Keeps my 3570k under 55C at full load (no idea what ambient temp is, ~20C).
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Never seen that RAM before, but Crucial is a decent brand and it seems fine, its actually faster than the one I would recommend.
Editing rigs ahould ideally have 16GB of RAM, but since its photoshop, you can get away with 8GB (if it was video editing I would say get 16GB).

The graphics card can easily support two screens, you can only game on one and it should be good for light-med gaming.

Thats a good SSD, but is $30 more than its competition, and that high up the SSD ladder, performance difference isn't noticeable except in benchmarks. The OCZ Vertex 4 is much cheaper, and should have similar (or better, depending on the test) performance to the Plextor.
OCZ Vertex 4 128GB. $115
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The 850W PSU is a bit overkill for a system with only one graphics card, a good 600W supply should be perfect and leave plenty of room to upgrade. Unfortunately there arent any good 600W supply's out there, so heres a 650W. If you want to go dual cards, get a 750W supply.
Corsair HX650 80+ Bronze, fully modular. $110
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

That OS is the retail, not OEM version. Its more expensive, but you can use the product key on multiple machines. If your only doing this machine, an OEM is what you want to get.
Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit. $100
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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July 31, 2012 12:40:53 PM

manofchalk said:
Its a good build, only small changes.


Thanks for your advice! I've done some more thinking and reading and reconfigured some things, so I'm a bit closer, thanks!

Is the 3770k better than the i5 because of more threads? I don't plan on video editing yet so I wasn't sure if it would help much, I'm currently looking for comparisons.

I looked at that cooler but I fell in love with the zalman products, I love how they look (I'm an artist and aesthetics is somewhat important, sorry if that sounds dumb to anyone) I will consider that one with your testimony though, if I decide to save some cash, thanks :)  Just got a new job though so I might just splurge on things I can't upgrade later as easily.

Another choice that was based mostly on aesthetics; that ram has accent LED's on the top and base. ;)  By faster do you mean the timing is faster than you think is necessary, or the bus speed? I don't know enough about timing, all I know is 1600 is a good compromise between speed vs cost, and $50 later I'll have 16gb when I want to upgrade, or perhaps 24gb if I do a 6-slot mobo?

I'm glad that I picked out a decent card, I think I just looked at card speeds and cost bracket then picked one with great reviews. If you have any idea about a better or more cost effective option I'm all ears, I'll do more reading on the options though. Glad it looks like a good one, I'm not sure I want a $400 card. :ouch:  I have to check the mobo to, I just looked at pricing/reviews for that one too.

I decided to choose more expensive SSD so if it wasn't the best choice, my estimate would drop my final build price rather than increase it. WEIRD... I just searched for a comparison to the Crucial M4 and found your thread on the two...and it also reveals you too like a good looking PC, great! :D  then you wont think LED ram is silly, hahaha. I'll likely do the vertex 4.

I'll look for a gold 650w if I can find it, maybe the 750 but I'm not sure on dual cards.

Any thoughts on the 3tb drives or motherboard? I figure it's the best deal as far as $/gb is concerned.

Thanks again for all the tips you've helped immensely! That cheaper OS will help a TON.

Here's my most recent iteration with tweaks:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

*CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($329.98 @ NCIX US)
CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS9900ALED Ball Bearing CPU Cooler ($52.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($132.86 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($54.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($144.98 @ NCIX US)
*SSD: OCZ Vertex 4 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($104.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 560 Ti 2GB Video Card ($249.99 @ NCIX US)
*Case: NZXT Phantom 410 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case ($99.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair 850W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($159.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.98 @ Newegg)
*Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) ($88.73 @ Amazon)
Total: $1444.47
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available. Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-31 08:36 EDT-0400)

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July 31, 2012 1:08:50 PM

In a nutshell, an i7 does better in optimized editing programs (which is most of them) because of its additional threads. In games you wont notice a difference though.

I'm good with decisions based on aesthetics, just make sure to research the cooler and see if its actually good quality.

"faster" can sort of mean both. Its frequency (1600Mhz) is the same but its timings are lower, so "faster". I'm actually surprised it can run at those speeds and have LED lights at only 1.5v, no idea how it does it.

I suppose the next step up in the graphics cards would be to a HD7850, but since it doesn't have CUDA, it wont help in your rendering. That essentially means you will have to stay on the 560ti until you can jump up past the mid range, into the high end and get a GTX670, a $400 card. The 660Ti should be released sometime soon though, and will serve as the mid-range offering from Nvidia's Kepler architecture. If that comes out before you need to upgrade, that would be the logical step.

My Vertex 4 has had no issues so far, and boot times are very quick.
... oh lord, you found a thread I made when I was still a newb at all this... oh god its on the first page of Google Search!

Gold doesnt necessarily mean quality, just a better efficiency. I would say a good 650W supply, because getting two of those cards in SLI would be pointless, you could just get a better single card. This is a good supply and you could run dual cards on it, it can supply 648W through the 12v rail, its good for dual Crossfire/SLI.
Seasonic X-650 Gold, fully modular. $140
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Seagate Barracuda's are the best value HDD's you can get, especially compared to Caviar Blacks which can be up to $200 for a 2TB model. So keep the one you picked. They are of good quality as well, actually perform better than the Blacks.

Motherboard is very good, it will let you dual Crossfire/SLI properly with its PCI-3 8x/8x slots. I have it in my rig and nothing wrong with it (don't be alarmed if the far right mounting holes in the board don't line up with the case. The Extreme4 is 3cm smaller than ATX standard).


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August 1, 2012 7:07:05 AM

I'll look at specific tests and see if I should get that, I'd like the computer to be good as long as possible so that CPU might extend this computer's lifespan...perhaps.

The Zalman coolers get good reviews, I'll make sure I pick a good one

There might be a chance that those sticks have overdone specs. Either way, they light up and have positive reviews, haha.

I'll consider that upgrade, perhaps I should hold off on an expensive card and use a cheap dual-monitor or no card until the rumored August 16th release? Do you know if cards are priced high and drop a bit after release? I hope it would stay under $300 like it's predecessor. I have a new job so I want to use my extra earnings to do this right the first time if I can. or at least without too much wasted funds, and I wouldn't mind a few extra weeks for a dedicated card if that one is worth the short wait without two monitors.

Hahaha, I hate finding my old posts on forums!

Yeah, I am looking at some tests too. I found a nice white PSU from NZXT that will go with my NZXT case well, it's gold certified, and it's less than 150 through amazon: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A great (exhaustive) review shows great results, with only minor issues (no surge protection), and I'll likely use a surge protector anyway: http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/NZXT/HALE90_850W/9.h...
There aren't a TON of reviews like comparable more expensive units, and several users of their 1000w model had duds, but I'm hoping that's just the early stages that the good reviews haven't made it in yet. It does very well at 50% load, which will give my max loads good efficiencies. I'm not sure what % of the time I'll be pushing my system that hard, but even at 200w it should be above 90% efficient and that's important. I know a lot more people seem to buy corsair and seasonic, so I'm a tad wary, but it looks like an awesome deal..
I'll keep that seasonic in mind though, I actually glanced at that model, it ranks well on pcpartpicker.

That's awesome that the 3tb drive should be ok, I don't think I'll need the special software on 64bit windows 7, either.

As for the motherboard do most cases allow adjusting to something sized differently like this board? Is there anything that might be worth looking for in another motherboard? I only ask because it wasn't a very decisive choice, moreof a filler for budget purposes that you happened to also have...probably because it's so popular? I forget why I picked it.

I hope I'm not being to exhaustive here, I don't often spend so much money and your help very much appreciated. nobody else seems to want to reply anymore either, lol.
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August 1, 2012 7:32:55 AM

New graphics cards are always expensive at release then drop a bit due to the initial massive demand for them, combined with small quantity available that comes with paper launches (e.g. The GTX680, GTX670 when they released). Its the mid-range offering, and to compete with AMD who currently dominate the mid-range, it would have to be ~$250.

The 560Ti will support dual screens, any card will. Upgrading the graphics will make no difference to the number of screens it can support or the visual quality (unless your talking about gaming across multiple monitors, but you need 3 or 6 monitors for that). So going up on the graphics will only, give you more performance in games and/or more CUDA cores to help in rendering.

That PSU seems fine, but 850W is still overkill, even if you'v got dual graphics cards and overclocked everything.

No, cases support the ATX standard and the board doesn't fit that. But it isn't a massive negative on the board. There are 6 other mounting holes that will fit to the case, so the motherboard being supported isn't an issue.
The Extreme4 is quite popular, but for good reason. Supports many of the features on premium boards (onboard power switch's, numeral LED Debug, UEFI BIOS), runs dual cards at PCI3 8x/8x, can run memory up to 2800Mhz (kinda pointless, but still) and is absurdly cheap.

Yea, run-on threads like this tend to only have 2 or 3 people involved by the end of it. Think its because people see the post count and think that this person has already gotten plenty of advice, and there's a lot of reading to do before you can chime in your own opinion.
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August 1, 2012 10:15:38 PM

Cool, well I might wait on that component and just run my displays off the motherboard. I did realize that image quality won't change I was merely concerned with the display outputs, I assumed you needed two of the same type on a card to mean it would output a dual-display. I am now reading in the ASrock extreme6 that you just use two of the four optioned hookups.

Sooo since my pc will run without a GFX card just fine I'll hold off for a month or two, if the setup without dedicated gfx is still a lot faster than what I have, which it likely will be. I can save for LR4 and CS6 in the meantime. :)  I'm runing LR3 and CS3 now w/out a gfx card.

I'll keep looking for a PSU, since I won't really see it when the case is shut, and since it is a black-white theme case it really doesn't matter and I might actually prefer the black. I was initially thinking that running a high-watt psu at 50% load might be better in heat, efficiency, and lifespan than running a lower-watt PSU closer to it's peak. I'll have to research that. I probably wouldn't even run a 850w PSU at 50% though, more like 30-40%. I'll use a calc to see.

I got to looking at the Extreme6 and I like it even more I think, it's a minor price change so I think I'll go for that board, they both look great based on reviews I'm reading, and if I save that 250 on not buying a card yet I can buy better components now.


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August 3, 2012 2:03:50 PM

OK, I think I'm going to pull the trigger on this build soon, I chose to omit a graphics card since my main editing program is Lightroom 4, which won't even utilize the graphics card, and what I do in photoshop doesn't seem like it will strain the limits of a processor so much faster than the pentium D dual core I currently have access to.

That being said I'm going to feed more money now into drives and try to keep the system as inexpensive as possible without too much compromise, saving for future cards if and when I decide to play higher end games.

I'm now going to up the ram to 16gb and using ASRock's XfastRAM to give photoshop a scratch drive, as well as the OS virtual memory, I'm hoping that will be sufficient and a good combo with the 128gb drive.

I'm attempting to avoid another SSD for a scratch disk, I'm still unsure how photoshop will react to various setups, or if it will ever need 16gb ram or how much scratch disk is good to have. the Vertex 4 60gb is only about $50 right now so I was tempted to get it just encase.

Not sure though so I'll leave it off for now and put in an order for some parts to keep the ball rolling.
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August 3, 2012 2:19:48 PM

Using an SSD as a scratch disk wouldn't be advisable. You will get blazing fast speeds from it, but SSD's do wear out the more read/write cycles you run over it, and the more times you erase content on the drive. SSD's are best off remaining static without heavy write or deletion traffic.

The RAM Disk as a scratch disk is fairly good idea, I wouldn't suggest using up more than 6GB for it though.
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August 3, 2012 2:47:19 PM


Are you suggesting limiting it to 6gb of RAM Disk so I don't leave myself with less than 10gb ram, or another reason?

I could consider 32gb ram and increasing the RAMdisk, sacrifice those nice looking tracer RAM sticks for something larger and more cost effective. I did find a set of dual 8gb sticks that light up a little but they are a slower RAM, and I was hoping for DDR3 1600, not 1333: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

So many options it's overhelming.
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August 4, 2012 12:13:31 AM

Pretty much it, having less than 10GB of system memory during rendering may inhibit performance. Dont quote me on that though.

You could get 32GB and have a permanent 16GB RAM disk (Home premium cant use more than 16GB anyway). I wouldn't worry about whether the RAM lights up, I would be more inclined to get quality RAM. If you want lights, buy an LED strip. I have two of these in my rig and it glows.
Bitfenix Alchemy Connect, Various colours and lengths.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

Also, red RAM looks amazing on that mobo. This 16GB kit from G.Skill is what I recommend.
G.Skill Ares 16GB (2x8GB) 1600Mhz CL9 1.5V. $104
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

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August 5, 2012 8:37:51 AM

Ah, ok. Well I was going to just get 8gb so I would hope it wouldn't hurt it too badly, but I do want to edit large panoramas and multi-layer photographs so I should have as much ram as possible probably, which totally rules out home premium. I forgot that it cannot take 32gb, and with my setup it would be silly not to take advantage of that, especially if I can get 16gb of really fast scratch disk. Darn, more $$ to Microsoft :( .

I was looking at some G.Skill Ripjaws that were red, I'll compare them, thanks :) 


I went ahead and bought the NZXT Phantom 410 case, 3770k cpu (around a day's work to upgrade from what I probably need now...so figured why the heck not) :bounce: , and the Vertex 4 128gb for the OS and programs. I'm looking to finish buying within a week but I'm working a lot, so we'll see.

My monitors came and they look great, right now I've got two laptops hooked up to play around on until I build my PC.
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August 12, 2012 4:38:58 AM

Best answer selected by Figit090.
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