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Thread: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

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    Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    A work colleague is getting ready to upgrade his ageing PC. He mainly uses it for photo editing (10MP RAW images off his dSLR) and so wants something that's speedy, quiet, and just performs effortlessly.

    No need whatsoever for 3D performance for the latest games.

    In many ways, similar to phurbs' AutoCAD thread. I would post there, but didn't want to gatecrash

    He doesn't need any monitors, speakers, kb, mouse, so it's just the base unit involved. Initially playing around with a budget of around £600, but that's probably more than required. First, he was looking at a pre-built system, but I think you could do better building something yourself because the requirements are for more RAM and CPU, but not graphics.....

    Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4 Ghz 8Mb Cache
    4Gb Corsair Memory DDR2 800 2 x 2gb single modules
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    So, if it were me, I'd change from 2 hard drives to just one, probably one of those nippy 640GB jobbies. Quadcore looks nice. I would probably invest in a good card reader. I know performance can vary from card reader to card reader, and when you're constantly importing 4GB at a time, a mediocre speed would really annoy me! Not sure if dual optical drives are necessary unless you start burning or duplicating a lot. Is that G31 Gigabyte board good or are there better alternatives given the usage?

    I'd probably make sure to get Vista 64. I know the recent versions of lightroom benefit from a 64bit CPU and from what I've seen playing around with it, it eats up RAM at a rate of knots.

    So what would you recommend?

    As well as building, there's of course the option of finding something pre-built, but what is out there that would fit the bill and not cost a lot for the luxury?

    Thanks

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    I'd get what I recommended in phurbs thread.. it might not have been perfect for those needs but it is for your mates, especially with the Quad.

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Cheers Mike

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    You could make it cheaper with the corsair 450W VX though, and a cheaper motherboard if you wanted to. I'd only get the G31 if I were desperate though.

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Is there anything inherently not good about the G31 (Sorry, I'm being lazy to research it )

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Quote Originally Posted by tfboy View Post
    ....

    So, if it were me, I'd change from 2 hard drives to just one, ....
    I'd strongly advise against that for Photoshop machine. Better yet would be three drives. But at the very least, keep a drive dedicated to scratch files. That's far more important in Photoshop than in general PC usage.


    Quote Originally Posted by tfboy View Post
    .... Quadcore looks nice. ....
    Not especially. Not for Photoshop.

    There's no golden answer to this one, though. Some parts of Photoshop benefit from quad CPUs but most don't, especially most of the more time-consuming aspects. So you might want to think about what gives value from the budget. If you spend about the same on a dual core as you would on quad core, you'll end up with faster processor, so the question is whether you get more performance out of Photoshop with two cores at, say, 3GHz than 4 at 2.4GHz.

    But whatever you do, don't make the mistake of thinking that four cores equals anything like double the performance of two cores. Even under the best circumstances, it doesn't, and Photoshop is a long way from the best circumstances.

    Adobe's own software architects for Photoshop will tell you that the nature of many of the tasks Photoshop does just don't lend themselves to parallelisation. Video and 3D modelling do, largely because you can split a job down into frames, or sequences of frames, and have them processing in parallel on different cores. But much of the tasks Photoshop does are sequential, in that what one stage does depends on the results of the previous stage. And where that happens, you get little or no benefit from multiple cores, and indeed, trying to use multiple cores can be slower, because to do it, you've got to split the data into chunks and then transfer it to and fro from memory to cache to CPU, and that all has an overhead.

    I'm not going to tell you what to do re: quad v dual, but I will say that for Photoshop, think carefully and research it. Don't got for quads just because, generally, they're a good bet. And, were it me, just for a Photoshop machine, I'd get as fast a dual as I could.

    Oh, and make sure it's got plenty of memory. The bigger the files that'll be worked on, the more memory you need, and if your colleague is processing 10MP RAW files, then he could well (probably should) be working in 16-bit, then you're looking at about 60MB for a single layer image. as soon as you start adding multiple layers, you can go WAY above that, real quick.

    Assuming this is a late version of Photoshop, then I'm assuming it has native 64-bit support, so I;d certainly be looking at a 64-bit OS and unless there's any other reasons (like drivers) for him wanting to stick with XP-64, that suggests Vista 64. To go with that, I'd be inclined to add in another 4GB of memory giving 8GB in total, and you'll need a 64-bit OS to support that.

    The 64-bit OS and CS4 in 64-bit mode is good for about 10% general improvement in Photoshop performance by itself. If you add proper hard drive setup, proper use of scratch disk, a good helping of RAM and a good fast CPU, you'll get about as close as you can to optimum performance.

    The other thing you might want to look at, depending in part on exactly what your colleague does, is whether you'll get worthwhile benefit from GPU acceleration. Photoshop supports GPU hardware acceleration in some functions, providing you have a compliant video card. Bit that means OpenGL 2.0 support and Shader Model 3.0 are required, and a minimum of 128MB of VRAM, though 256MB gives benefits and 512MB is better yet. Oh, and a PCI-E x16 card is best, too. So choose the video card carefully, too.

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Wow. Thanks for the lecture

    I was thinking about the benefits of a faster dual core as opposed to quad core, realising that parallelisation is never optimum.

    Talking of storage, we were thinking about getting a second drive running them in RAID 1 mirror. Being a complete noob on PS, I wasn't aware that the sratch was still used - I always thought the scratch drive was a PS-specific paging file, and that given enough memory, it would minimise the usage. Sounds like I got it completely wrong

    So maybe tempted by a faster dual core, maybe another 4GB of RAM, and slightly different hard drive configuration.

    Would you have any recommendations on how to best set it up?

    Thanks again for the long post - very informative

    edit: he's using Capture One at the moment, not photoshop, so I wouldn't overly worry about photoshop-specific quirks in terms of hardware requirements, but of course, still thinking about it in general

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    I woundn't run the OS off a 80gb HDD, if you go for multiple drives use a 250gb or 320gb platter one. Can't see what benefit RAID 1 would have. I would prefer an independant drive that you periodically back up to.

    Ditch the Samsug DVD and get a pioneer, much quieter.

    Think a 9800gt is overkill for Photo editing, maybe get a "lesser" card with lower power draw to save on the lecky bill, below is a guide on GPU power consumption (pinch of salt)

    http://archive.atomicmpc.com.au/foru...s=2&c=7&t=9354

    Again personal prefence would be to go for a cheaper dual core (E5200 or E7200) but spend a bit more on the Motherboard (G33 or P43 depending on your case), not sure how much the amount of Processor cache would come into play with Photo editing though.

    Good luck
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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Photoshop certainly dies still use scratch disks, up to and including CS4. But yes, increasing RAM, subject to other uses the system may put it to, will reduce the amount of time PS uses scratch disks. Note scratch disks - if you've got multiple drives, PS can use more than one.

    As for setup, don't put PS scratch disks on the same drive as Windows virtual memory if you can possibly help it. Use a drive with a large amount of free space, and keep the drive defragmented. If you've go several disks that sit that designation, you can specify more than one.

    RAID 1 will add nothing to performance (unless you use high-end hardware controllers which read from multiple drives), and conventional RAID 1 can even even a bit slower - after all, it writes to both drives and there's some overhead in that, but it's pretty nominal. RAID 1 does give you some data redundancy in that everything is written to two (or more) drives, but it's not a substitute for backup. It won't, for instance, protect you from viruses, or many forms of OS problem, or from the PC's PSU blowing up, or from fire, flood, theft, etc. So don't use it as an alternative to backup if the data matters. Oh, and because you're mirroring, you buy 2 disks to get the space of one of them.

    RAID 0 is perhaps the ideal option in performance terms, but you gain nothing in resilience or data redundancy. If you've got a good portion of RAM, two or three decent speed internal hard drives and especially with a 64-bit OS and CS4 (in 64-bit mode), I'm not sure I can see the point of RAID in terms of Photoshop. Better, IMHO, is to look at upping the physical RAN than relying on RAID 0 for performance, though perhaps it has a role to play if you're after every last drop of performance and cost isn't a concern. But in that case, go for a good hardware controller and don't rely on onbOard RAID.

    If backup is a concern, look at external (perhaps NAS) drives. Or look at either an MS Homer Server box or an old PC running something like FreeNAS. Then use something that either automatically synchronises files or doe regular automated backups/mirrors, like TrueImage. But don't pull working Photoshop images off a remote drive like that, because it's far slower. Use an internal drive to store the images you open to work on, and an external (or even internet) drive to store data to protect against fire, theft, etc, and PC hardware blowups.

    Most of this is a case of assessing the value of the data/images, and working out what it'd cost if you lost them, and then coming up with a solution that's rational in the light of the extent of that potential loss, both in terms of what it'll cost to protect against it and the hassle and aggravation of using it. It's all very well using a cheap, manual solution, like copying to a local USB disk IF the user has the discipline to ensure he keeps backups firmly up too date. But me? I know I'm a lazy type when it comes to that, so I set up automated ways for most of this, because I know if I don't, I'll get lazy, skip it from time to time and that will be when Fate bites and something happens .... like the time when a PSU failure took out (and I mean physically blew ruddy great holes in the controller chips) three (yes, three ) hard drives inside one PC. Thank goodness for network data backups.

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Oh, and you can always add RAM or another HD for scratch later. Keep an eye on the efficiency figure within Photoshop. If it drops much below about 90%, you're paging and either want to adjust memory usage settings or perhaps, add RAM.

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Don't worry, I didn't mean to imply that a mirrored set of hard drives removes the need for backup, far from it! He already "religiously" does backups onto external hard drives and optical media so the idea of RAID 1 was in case a harddrive went, you wouldn't have any downtime.

    If PS and Windows are still heavily scratch file / page file hungry, then I see your point about separate hard drives running standalone. But I remember being able to move most of my preferences settings and other stuff out of the Docs & Settings directory, whereas Vista seems even more keen to put all cached stuff in your user profile with no real option to move it out. So from my recent Vista experience, I'd never have an 80GB disk / partition just for the OS - I'd have something bigger.

    But I suppose the rationale of scratch space for PS is temporary dumping ground - so presumably, it's best if this is not on the same disk as your photos are stored. In which case, you're back to having your photos on the same drive as your OS drive, unless you get three drives - one for OS, one for data and one for scratch / temp files. The latter could be a small disk (providing it's still fast) as you'd never be using it for storage.

    But I'm just trying to gauge how much improvement you get by doing this, and ensuring that the system doesn't end up costing more in several hard drives for a mere 2% improvement in performance. I take your point that you can add a dedicated swap / scratch drive at a later time after witnessing how it's all working.

    edit: I wasn't aware PS had an efficieny figure nowadays

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    I'd recommend getting a bottom of the range graphics card. Even these will be fast enough for what he needs these days. The more expensive ones will just give you more 3D power, which you say he doesn't need.

    Steve

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    To get OpenGL 2.0 and shader 3.0 you need a 7series geforce or higher or an ati x1000series or higher.
    To run a desktop at 1600x1200 at 32bit (ie 20-22") you need the grand total of 16mb of graphics card memory.
    If you stick with the g31 onboard graphics it should be able to cope quite happly.
    Personally I would look at a graphics card but nothing powerful, 9600gt or ati 4650 anything under £50

    One thing I would strongly advise is a good quality monitor, especially if colour correction is important to you.
    If all you're doing is going over holiday snaps getting of "redeye" and such then a cheap lcd monitor with a TN panel is ok, but for anything more advanced I make sure you get a decent monitor you'd want a PVA/MVA panel at least
    If colour correction is vital to you then you need to be looking at a IPS panel which are 4x-5x the cost of a cheap TN panel monitor (if you can get hold of a IPS panel as they have become hard to find now)

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    Hazro Monitors are IPS and so are some Phillips and LG I think.

    If you want good colour correction you don't just need a good monitor you also need a calibrator to make sure the colours are the right ones! Also while VA and IPS screens are preferred for colour work a good TN panel can be calibrated as well to provide much better colour than standard.

    The only problem with calibrators is that you need a good one which will set you back a fair amount of cash £100+ and more likely £200+ (if you require more features) but if colour is important this is a necessary expense.

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    A little bump as he's now had the permission from the wife to buy bits.

    If I go with on board graphics, that would save £30-50 so probably worth doing? If I were to get an onboard GPU board, what would you recommend?

    I think on onboard would keep power consumption and heat to a minimum so probably more economical too. I suppose as long as you get a mobo with a 16x PCIe slot, you can always add a dedicated card at a later date...

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    Re: Help: advice for a graphics / photoshop PC

    I understand the ATI 3000 and 4000 series cards give a boost to performance in some photoshop CS4 tasks so it might be worth considering one of those. http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?op...=9809&Itemid=1

    If itegrated graphics is the order of the day then for Intel your basically stuck with G45. If AMD is an option then you have the choice of 780G, 790GX and 8200. The 780G and 790GX are based on ATI 3000 series GPUs and so may confer some of the performance benefits seen by the discrete cards.

    Your original spec called for a Q6600 (£148 Scan) if you moved to AMD then you could get a 9950 Phenom (£145 ebuyer) for similar money or if he can wait until the new year then the new Phenom II will be released, prices unknown at the moment.

    Oh and it is certainly worth waiting until next week to get the VAT reduction

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