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Thread: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

  1. #1
    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    I have been giving some thought to my next desktop PC and the elements on which to build it so that it performs better in post-processing than my current machine.
    I run Photoshop. Currently CS5 but imagine I will upgrade at some point in the not too distant future. I also use the Nik Collection and do some video and desktop capture editing. Outside of this it will also need to be a workhorse in terms of running MS Office applications, webcasting and some video streaming.

    At the moment this is my "wish list"; I'm trying to build a machine that will still work well in 3-4 years time. But I'm not a gamer, so am wondering if I've gone "overkill".
    I'd appreciate feedback from those with some experience.

    • Hytec 850W psu
    • Intel i7 quad core 3.4GHz
    • 16GB RAM
    • nVidia GeForce GTX570 1280Mb
    • ASRock Z77 Pro4 or Extreme4 motherboard
    • DVDBurner 24x
    • Integrated 7.1 HD soundcard
    • I would like two hard drives but not sure on HDD or SSD or the best configuration. I was thinking of having one for Windows and applications which would probably be SSD and a second larger HDD one for storage and with a portion as a scratch disk. Not sure if I'm thinking in the right direction here. Perhaps it should be two on-board SSD with external HDDs for storage and backups


    Feedback appreciated. Am I overlooking anything; or using not-so-good combinations? Or just plain overkill?

    Thanks
    Trace

  2. #2

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Trace: I did that just a short time ago, had one built, I had 3 hard drives installed in it. One was a 120GB SSD on on it I have all my programs run on it. The two other HHD drives are 1TB each, one is subdivided into 2 partions 75% with images only and the other 25% as my music and all files. The second HHD stands alone as a back up to the other one. As all the images are processed on the SSD, it is fast, 23 image pano stitched in less than 60 seconds, now it is a little slow getting files and saving files as they are stored on a HHD type of drive.
    Some one else had the same type of question some time ago, so I would suggest typing in the advance search box at the top of the page, if I remember correctly Colin had a very informative response.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Sonic4Spuds's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    It looks good for what you want, though the PSU may be a little overkill(check out newegg's PSU calculator).

    I also personally wouldn't go with ASRoc or Hytec (HT being the one I would really worry about).

    About drives, I would go with the SSD for programs and HDD for storage, if you decide on a third drive go for an external drive for backup. Internal backup drives are bad policy for backup.

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    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Hi Trace

    I can't comment on the components you've listed (without doing a fair bit of research) but in general you seem to be on the right track. The processor should have plenty of grunt !! A couple of points

    Maybe consider a Blu-ray burner if you're into HD video.

    One SSD drive for Windows and apps seems a good approach. Suggest a 2TB internal drive for storage and another for backup. I note Will's comment about using external drives for backup but I'm not sure what reasoning is behind this.

    Consider Windows 64 bit over 32 bit. Some Adobe apps like Premiere Pro only work on 64 bit.

    Dave

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Guess you forgot the monitor

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Hi Trace,

    Looks like a good specifications.

    Get a good tower. You will need extra bays so you can add more drives later. Having lots of room helps air flow which keeps the thing cool. You also should get noise insulation. I use a Fractal Design Define R3. Good compromise between all things and runs very quiet.

    The graphics card may not matter that much. Photoshop has been adding features that use the graphics card. You can see the features here:

    http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/...6-gpu-faq.html

    If you regularly use those features then spend more on the graphics card. The nVidia 500 series is on the list so this is good.

    Get a reliable brand for the PSU. This really adds system stability long term. Look for one with an 80 plus rating of bronze, silver or gold. SeaSonic are the best and also make units for other companies. A google search on Best PSU brands will bring up a whole lot of info and you quickly find that you get what you pay for. Top names are Corsair,Sesonic,Antec,Enermax,XFX.

    Only buy memory from the top names, e.g. Corsair, G-Skill or Kingston.

    Have fun building it. If you do it yourself it should be easy. All the plugs fit in only one place. Just make sure you get a good thermal paste for the CPU when you mount the heat sink. Put a blob in the middle and when you press them together it will spread out on the whole chip. However you can buy motherboards with a CPU and heat sink in place. This is the hardest part to do. All in all it should take 5-7 hours to build the system from boxed parts and be up and running.

    Final note, are you planning on using the standard heat sink for the i7 chip? It will be fine unless you are overclocking (making the chip go faster than it is rated for). If using a different heat sink you should check the dimensions fit within your PC case. Some heat sinks are massive.

    Alex

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Quote Originally Posted by enaiman View Post
    Guess you forgot the monitor
    That won't be needed because there is also no keyboard or mouse.

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    A speaker; very comforting on POST. A good case with lots of large fans and fitted with dust filters.

    Make sure your not fobbed off with an old board that has been lying around in the shop for ages; maybe buy a new battery anyway.

    I had loads of problems with mine, a Gygabyte; because it was just dead. Nothing worked at all so I had to pay a chap with a voltmeter who didn't mind sticking paper clips in live terminals to check everything out. He did and found nothing wronge just didn't work.

    Phoning up the retailer to RMA it I got to hear that sound car mechanics make and immediately smelled a rat; so I got on the internet and an American was very helpful in determining the fault, an old board.

    AMD changed the specification at the last moment and Gigabyte had already gone into production; this was 6 months earlier and all that was needed was a BIOS update, which couldn't be done without a different processor.

    I think you have gone a bit overkill for what you want it for, I don't know about intel but mine is a lot simpler and managed 2^80 calculations in 12 hours or estimated as 6.7Ghz equivalent single core by Prime 95.

    I would look at all the latest stuff like Sata 3, USB3.0, the fastest harddrives and not bother about the extreme stuff. My memory is only 8GB Crucial 1600Mhz latency 8,8,8,24 DDR3 but I never run out of it and it scored 7.9 on WEI; which is the highest.

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Hi Trace,

    I've just been through the process of trying all the permutations of spinning disks and SSDs as system drive, data drive, scratch disk for PS and catalogue/cache disk for LR. Because of the different performance characteristics of SSDs and spinning disks I believed I had worked out where/how I was best to employ SSDs vs spinning disks, but I wanted to confirm with some real world tests.

    SSD as a system disk:
    If your PC is a general purpose machine, so you open and close apps frequently and start-up/shut down your PC on a regular basis then you will find the improvements in Windows and application responsiveness on an SSD a real boost to productivity, it does make a significant difference to real world performance. However if (like me) you have a PC dedicated to photography and you start up Windows, run up a couple of applications (LR and PS in my case) and then leave it running for days or weeks at a time, you won't actually see a great deal of performance benefit once Windows and your applications are up and running.

    SSD for data storage:
    Again the pattern of use will influence the degree of benefit gained by using SSDs vs spinning disks. If you tend to work with data in a manner that requires a lot of random reads and writes (such as large databases) or you work with very large files that need to continually streamed to and from disk (such as HD video) then the advantages of SSDs are clear to see. However if you work on files of just a few tens of MB, which are read into memory then worked on and saved back to disk you won't see a huge improvement in performance as the data being manipulated will either reside in memory or in temporary files created by the application, which leads me on to...

    SSD for PS scratch and LR catalogues/cache:
    This is where you will see the largest increase in performance, and it really is quite noticeable. Because of the way in which applications like PS and LR use their scratch, catalogue and cache files, the fast random access times and high throughput of SSD are perfectly matched to this type of use.

    My choices:
    I've gone with spinning disks for the system as I don't use my PC in a way that an SSD system disk delivers enough of a performance increase for the additional cost, though it was quite nice to have that extra responsiveness of an SSD for a while even if it didn't significantly improve productivity.

    I have also gone with spinning disks for primary data storage as again the performance increase is so marginal for my patterns of use that I'd rather have the extra capacity at a lower cost.

    However I have gone for a pair of small (120Gb) SSDs, one for PS and LR scratch, catalogues and cache, and one for Windows swap/temp and as temporary storage for working on large (>1Gb) files.

    For me and the way I work this setup provides the greatest performance increase and delivers the best price to performance ratio.

    A note on spinning disks:
    When it comes to spinning disks it is worth looking at enterprise class disks or specialised AV disks, such as the RE4 (enterprise class) or AV-GP/AV-25 (AV class) from Western Digital. These classes of drives will give more consistent performance and greater reliability through the use of additional technologies (such as RAFF, TLER and faster controllers processors) and cherry-picked component parts. For the best in spinning disk performance you may want to look at 10,000RPM drives such as the WD Velociraptor. Don't be put off by the fact that most of these disks will still have a 3Gbps SATA interface as in testing there really is no discernible improvement in performance from sticking a 6Gbps interface on a spinning disk (unless you are looking at very high end SAS drives). Obviously there is a small price premium but nothing like the premium on SSDs.

    I hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    A

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    I think Adrian's advice is top notch; I would rather follow it than anything I might have said: because he does it or did it as a job and I just put things together without testing, just reading reviews ect.

    I cannot think of many things I would least like to do than build a computer; I just do it out of necessity, but I still think a system speaker is a good idea.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    My machine (now around 2-1/2 years old) has a slightly older nVidia graphics (I use Cuda graphics acceleration with Premiere Pro for video work) and no SSD (they were too small and expensive when I built the machine), but the other specs look similar to what you are planning to do.

    I would probably not go with the power supply you are planning to go with. A quick review on forums does not put them in a very good light. A flakey power supply can cause all kinds of problems with your system and I learned long ago not to scrimp and go with a no-name there. Brands I like and trust include OCZ, PC Power & Cooling, Coolermaster and Antec. An extra few dollars can save you a lot of grief, and like anything else, you do get what you pay for.

    Unless you are doing video work (Premiere Pro or After Effects), you can get away with a much cheaper graphics card. The workload you put on the card in PP work is really pretty minimal. Pretty well any graphics card that supports Open GL 2.0 will do. I would probably look at a lower end graphics card. You are getting into a mid-range gaming card there, and you won't be using anywhere near what a GTX570 delivers; and the 1GB of RAM is probably overkill for PP as well. I generally prefer AMD (ATI) video boards; I've generally had better luck with them than nVidia ones.

    I've never used an ASRock motherboard, so can't comment on them. They tend to make less expensive boards, and people either love them or hate them. Most of my most recent machines have used ASUS motherboards and I can't complain.

    DVD or BluRay - These are the least used components I have on my machine. I probably burn less than 10 disks a year, so whatever suits your purpose and even though I installed a Blu-Ray burner, I haven't authored a Blu-Ray disk yet...

    I can't comment on the SSD. I use one on my Ninja external video recorder and it performs nicely there. I might try a SSD system disk on the next machine I build. I have tried enterprise drives, but frankly they are not worth the extra money. I have virtually always replaced hard drives because of capacity issues, not because they have failed. I generally try for a desktop drive that is in the "sweet spot", i.e. best value and right now 3TB 7200 RPM drives look like they are the lowest storage cost per MB right now. The only advantage of a faster drive is your load / save time and that is a minor consideration to me when I look at my work flow. Once the image is on your computer, it uses the RAM, and you are planning to have lots of it, so you should be fine and not need a swap drive. I've had a few drives go bad on me, but with my archiving scheme, I haven't lost any data in at least 10 years.

    One thing that I would recommend you think about is backup external storage, and your options are quite broad here. I use a Drobo FS, which I believe can handle up to 16TB of storage, which is connected to my home network. I have all my files on my local drive and archival copies on the Drobo which is located in a different area in the house from where I work. If a hard drive ever fails, I'm covered. It would literally take something like a house fire or lightning strike for me to have a real data loss issue. There are much cheaper solutions out there than what I am using.

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    Ady's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    I think Adrian's advice is top notch
    Thanks

    I'm hesitant to mention it as I don't want to bring back the trauma of your own self-build experience, but I hope your PC is performing well and not causing you any grief.

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    but I still think a system speaker is a good idea.
    Absolutely, sometimes those sequences of beeps during POST are the only clue you get as to what's going wrong.

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Hi Trace! In general, the configuration looks OK for not only post processing but also many other general purpose uses.

    I use a SSD for the OS and applications but because write speed on an SSD tends to be slow I use a separate 640 GB HDD for all data and e-mail storage except images, they go on a 2TB HDD along with the paging files and system backups.

    I manually alternately backup to a pair of 1TB Data HDDs and a pair of 2 TB Image HDDs. As the backup drives are off-line unless I am actually doing a backup there is less chance that a virus can attack these drives and in the case of a total system loss, I can open any of my files by attaching the HDDs to another PC.

    In the event of a drive crash I can recover the OS and programs from the original sources and all data from the most recent backup set of external drives. Although I've had total system wipeouts, virus attacks and multiple HDD failures over the past 25+ years, the only file loss has been due to human error.

    How much drive space you need is tied to your file vollume and in my case I manage over 60,000 just music and image files on-line.

    Hope this helps!

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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Quote Originally Posted by Ady View Post
    Absolutely, sometimes those sequences of beeps during POST are the only clue you get as to what's going wrong.
    The built-in sound generator (speaker??) on my motherboard(s) are where I get the POST alarms, not through the speakers my system is connected to. If the computer doesn't boot up, it can't load the sound drivers and can't output to the external speakers.

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    Ady's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Hi Manfred

    I have to confess to slipping through a time warp back to the 80's, when I started working with 8086 AT form factors, and assumed Steve was talking about the small system speaker (usually a small drive unit with 1" to 1.5" cone) that would be clipped into the front of the case and connected to the system speaker header on the motherboard.

    However you are quite right its been a fair while since a PC motherboards utilised a speaker for the sytem sounds.

    A

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Actually didn't have any speakers on mine; so I bought a second hand one out of a Dell for 3 inc postage. It is a tiny thing you can hardly see I wrapped around the HDD frame.

    It is nice because when I start up, 5 seconds later it goes 'beep'. I don't know what I would do without the beep.

  17. #17
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Don't forget operating system drivers for printers, scanners, etc. If you plan to upgrade your operating system in the future, make sure it is compatible with your other devices.

  18. #18
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Quote Originally Posted by Ady View Post
    Hi Manfred

    I have to confess to slipping through a time warp back to the 80's, when I started working with 8086 AT form factors, and assumed Steve was talking about the small system speaker (usually a small drive unit with 1" to 1.5" cone) that would be clipped into the front of the case and connected to the system speaker header on the motherboard.

    However you are quite right its been a fair while since a PC motherboards utilised a speaker for the sytem sounds.

    A
    Yes I remember those paper cone speakers all to well. And of course the 8" and 5-1/4" floppy disks and all those other pieces of hardware that have come and gone...

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    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Wow... some great responses on here, and some good food for thought. Thanks all for the detailed responses, I will revisit my configuration with these thoughts in mind; but good to know I'm roughly on track. Good advice on the tower; that is a major limiting factor on my current computer. And thanks for the advice on the PSU, I'll relook at that more carefully. The experiences and various setups for the disk drive configuration is invaluable and much appreciated. Thanks Adrian and others for sharing! I am one who goes in and out my applications fairly regularly and this computer will be for my work applications as well as for my photo processing, so thinking the SSD will be beneficial as a system disk. I will give further thought to an additional one as a scratch and for cache.

    Oh, and I promise there will also be a monitor, mouse and keyboard!

  20. #20
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    Re: Building a desktop PC with post-processing in mind

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    Hi Trace! In general, the configuration looks OK for not only post processing but also many other general purpose uses.

    I use a SSD for the OS and applications but because write speed on an SSD tends to be slow I use a separate 640 GB HDD for all data and e-mail storage except images, they go on a 2TB HDD along with the paging files and system backups.
    Slow writes? Normal SSDs have slower write speeds than their read speeds, but the writes should still be faster than a standard HDD by a significant margin.

    -Sonic

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