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Upgrade or new build Photography Workstation

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January 13, 2013 7:02:58 PM

Objectives:
• Fast photo processing workstation (photoshop cs6, lightroom 4, Unified Color Expose 2 (fully multi-threaded app), and DxO Optics 8.
• QUIET for normal use. It’s OK if the PC gets louder under maximum load (in other words, ok if fans pick up speed during high processing)
• Runs dual monitors (photo monitor 1920x1200 (built in hardware LUT) and second standard monitor at 1920x1080)
• Significantly faster processing for large files (300mb to 1.7gb) in Photoshop and Lightroom.
My current PC
• Core 2 Quad Q9400 overclocked and stabe at 3.3ghz
• 8 Gig DDR2 Ram, running at 420, 5,5, 5, 18 (I’ve seen the ram nearly fully utilized while processing some files)
• Video Card: Radeon HD 4550 1199mhz, 1 gig ram, 64bit bus
• Motherboard Asus P5B Delux
• Thumbdrive used for Readyboost
• 1 Terabyte of photos stored on homebuilt NAS PC. I wonder whether read/write to that PC (aside from file open/save operations) via wired network does slow overall photo processing work; however, I don’t know how to check whether that’s really happening. Some files are 1.7gb and both read a write can take a while!

Approximate Purchase Date: next two to four weeks
Budget Range: $800 or so for CPU, CPU Cooler, RAM (either 16 or 32gb), MOBO, Graphics Card, and SSD Cache/HDD combination. I have everything else already and this will be a Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 8 pro (rather not go to windows 8).

Parts Preferences:
• I’m looking for quality/reliability.
• Have successfully built with Intel and AMD in the past.
• Most articles say that Intel CPUs work better for photo work on Photoshop right now and that the 6 core CPUs from AMD are better for fully multi-threaded apps or running many apps simultaneously. With my photo work I do at times have lightroom, and photoshop, running multiple processing operations at the same time. One of my apps, Unified Color, is fully multi-threaded; so, it will probably perform better with a six core AMD.
• I definitely want USB 3 or other high speed interface to attach backup drive for regular backups
• Quad or dual channel ram?
• What about going for a dual socket MOBO and using two less expensive Intel CPUs?
• Based on recent articles about SSDs and Raids, I think that it would be useful to have Intel SATA chips on the Mobo (some SSDs apparently work better with Intel SATA chips) and Intel’s raid controller chip. I’m thinking that I might want an SSD Cache attached to a multi disk Raid 5 for both instant speed and large volume mass storage (may go up to 6 drives, with one as a dedicated failover drive).

Overclocking: Yes, but stability is key.
SLI or Crossfire: Only if this makes photo processing faster
Monitor Resolution: Dual monitors (1920x1200 w/ built in hardware LUT and second monitor at 1920 x 1080)

Additional Comments:
• Quiet for regular use, ok if louder under high load
• Windows 7 home premium or windows 8 pro (not excited about windows 8)
• Photoshop CS6
• Lightroom 4
• Unified Color HDR Software (fully multi-threaded)
• DxO Optics 8

Why I’m Upgrading:
• I’m now processing large panorama files which can hit 1.7GB (!) and I am very tired of how long it can take the various photo applications to complete certain operations (literally 3-5 minutes for a single operation on a single file!)
• In my photo processing, I’ve noticed that only the Unified Color HDR application consistently maxes out all 4 cores of the CPU (the developers have told me that it was designed to be fully multi-threaded). All other photo applications that I have don’t consistently leverage the CPU cores even though it can take quite a while for an operation to complete. That may be an application issue, but it may also have to do with other system bottlenecks (writing to/from NAS, etc.). I don’t know how to figure out what the hardware based sources of delay are

Can I really Achieve Significantly Faster Processing?
According to some published charts going from an Q9400 (at regular clock speeds) to and i5 2400 should be about 1.7x faster in general and 4.33x faster for photoshop (http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/c...CS-6,3169.html) Note, I'm running OC'd at 3.3ghz.

The same charts indicate the AMD FX 8350 (Vishera 8c/8t) would be 2x faster in general and 6.4x for photoshop.

Frankly, these numbers seem too good to be true. I’d be really happy if something that currently takes 4 minutes would take 2. Can I really expect that it might take as little as 1 minute?
January 13, 2013 7:28:48 PM

given you want to overclock the rig, i got you a amd rig. if you had more money, a intel would be the way to go given fx uses 2x the power of a intel rig

you are better off with a single large drive (ex. 3tb) than many drives. the SSD i have provided is for boot operations and your program. if you want a wicked fast scratch disk, you can build one by getting 32gb of ram and dedicating half of that for a scratch disk. you cant store things on there forever as ram is volatile but it is dam fast

heres the build
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xqLg
January 14, 2013 9:07:46 PM

The advice I'm getting for photo processing is to have lots of ram, fast storage, and graphics cards are not that important. Since my current card does work with PS CS6, I may simply not upgrade it for the time being.

I'm now thinking of using local storage (Intel Raid) with an SSD Cache for both speed and lots of local storage.

That means a mobo with a lot of SATA connectors.

I'm also planning on 32gb ram and most photo experts are also recommending the Intel chips.

Assuming Intel CPU, what would folks recommend?
Related resources
January 14, 2013 10:12:31 PM

nope. you need a good CUDA GPU to accelerate your work. if your old CPU + a 670 can equal the rendering power of a i7 3820, it will surely accelerate your work as well. your GPU didnt work or wasnt compatable given it was a amd GPU and CS is generally CUDA friendly

intel and amd chips arent too different in performance. obviously amd uses a lot more power and doesnt perform as well as a i7 but it costs half of a i7. if you had more cash id definitely get a i7 but at this price range, you can really only afford a i5 system, which is a lot slower than a fx 8320 in these tasks
January 14, 2013 10:15:17 PM

there isnt too much point of 32gb of ram really given 16gb satisfys most. if you want more, go ahead but generally it should be enough

if you are getting 32gb of ram, id suggest dedicating half of that for a ramdisk. gives you wicked fast read and write speeds (5 gigabytes/s reads) and you can use that for a scratch disk. just that you cant store things permanently on the ramdisk given ram is volatile
January 15, 2013 4:58:40 PM

Let's assume the following:

CPU (either Xeon, i5, or i7 (maybe even i7 3770)) with Hyperthreading. Want to overclock. See note in cooler below. Target Spend under $325

Storage: Local Raid 10 with SSD Cache (intel SRT based). Probably will put os, programs, scratch disk on another SSD (if budget allows, right away, if not I'll do it later). I have the HDDs but not the SSDs


Graphics:
- Option 1: I will keep the existing card for now (it does work fine)
- Opion 2: use an intel chip with built in graphics for the time being (is this is good/bad idea?)

Memory:
- 32gb matched set or 2x8gb to start with an eye on expanding later. Advice on best choices?
- If I overclock CPU, is it a good idea to get faster RAM for some headroom?
- If I do go the 32gb route, I do like the idea of making part of it a ramdisk for scratchdisk functions. Although, if Photoshop has enough ram to start with, would it even even engage a scratchdisk?

Mobo: This is what I think I need or what seems important
- 6gbps Intel SATA controllers (Intel is supposedly better for certain SSDs)
- Enough sata connections for Raid 10 hdds, 2x SSD, optical drive, other(?)
- USB 3 connections for fast interface to external storage
- Gigabit ethernet (ideally Intel)
- Other?

Cooler: Air cooler, want to overclock CPU but have a stable setup with safe temperatures and safe internal voltages (in other words, not a huge overclock).

I'd appreciate recommendations: which CPU, MOBO, SSD(s), RAM, Cooler? Let's reset the budget to $1000 for those items (I have everything else I need).

Thanks!
January 15, 2013 8:47:44 PM

Quote:
Thanks everyone! Your posts have given me some good ideas to think about.

Let's assume the following:

CPU (either Xeon, i5, or i7 (maybe even i7 3770)) with Hyperthreading. Want to overclock. See note in cooler below. Target Spend under $325

Storage: Local Raid 10 with SSD Cache (intel SRT based). Probably will put os, programs, scratch disk on another SSD. I have the HDDs but not the SSDs




Graphics:
Option 1: I will keep the existing card for now (it does work fine)
Opion 2: use an intel chip with built in graphics for the time being (is this is good/bad idea?)
Memory: 32gb matched set or 2x8gb to start with an eye on expanding later. Advice on best choices? If I overclock CPU, is it a good idea to get faster RAM for some headroom?




Mobo: This is what I think I need or is important
6gbps Intel SATA controllers (Intel is supposedly better for certain SSDs)
Enough sata connections for Raid 10 hdds, 2x SSD, optical drive, other(?)
USB 3 connections for fast interface to external storage
Gigabit ethernet (ideally Intel)
Other?
Cooler: Air cooler, want to overclock CPU but have a stable setup with safe temperatures and safe internal voltages (in other words, not a huge overclock).


I'd appreciate recommendations: which CPU, MOBO, SSD, RAM, Cooler? Let's reset the budget to $1000.

Thanks!


-i7 + a good motherboard racks you 450 ish. amd will rack you 300 at most
-it works but it does nothing to make your system go faster
-hd4000 graphics are good enough for cod. thats it. also wont acclerate your work
-i dont see any point of raid in a regular build. just get a good sized SSD and a single large hard drive. more drives = more power consumption= more costly and also =more drives that could fail
-caching is useless when a sizeable SSD is used (in which it has in my build)
-raid 0 ssds are also useless. just get more ram and build a ram drive. 10x faster anyways
-most motherboards have usb3 provided
-gigabit intel nics are found in boards that are around 200+ dollars. completely not worth it if your internet is most likely no where near 1 gigabit speed. even then the performance is not too much of a issue
-provided in my build
!