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Thread: Computer help

  1. #1
    allenlennon's Avatar
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    Computer help

    Hi there. I'm been thinking of building up a computer for editing. And was wandering if any one can give me ideas/tips on what hardware I should get in the following:

    Graphics card
    Ram
    Motherboard
    Processor
    And what ever else

    I have some knowledge of desktops workings due to my father, he is going to help build it.

    Or should i spend a bit of money on a decent monitor, and connect it to my macbook pro and calibrate it? And if so, what type of monitors??
    Last edited by allenlennon; 5th May 2013 at 03:49 AM. Reason: add on

  2. #2

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    Re: Computer help

    This has been reviewed in-depth a few times recently. Do a search on this site for computer and read some of the threads. There are some very good recommendations and explanations already documented.

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    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    Allen

    I'm using a computer that is at least five years old and find it gives no limitations as far as editing go. As for storage any limitations are simply solved by another internal or external drive if needed.

    If you are not finding limitations with your existing one go for a decent monitor.

  4. #4
    kris's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    Allen,

    I agree with Grahame. For PP I use indifferently my MacBook Pro, Mac Air or MacPro. I do not see any really annoying performance difference, even with D800 raw files. However, when using laptops, I have an external good monitor. This makes the difference.

    Also you should buy a calibration device.

    Cheers
    A.

  5. #5

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    Re: Computer help

    My suggestions are ...

    - i7 CPU (it's the "V8" of processors). It costs more than an i5 - you don't need the extra speed at this point, but it will extend the useful life of the PC by a few years - so ultimately it's money well spent.

    - Minimum of 8GB RAM

    - Consider a PC with a solid-state hard drive as your main operating system and photo-manipulation drive (I HIGHLY recommend a 240GB Intel SSD - we've had ZERO trouble with them). SSDs are blindingly fast and make a huge difference when you're batch-processing images (and make the PC so much faster at all other times too).

    - You'll probably want a larger drive for regular storage (eg 2TB)

    - Any graphics card will do (even on-board graphics) - Post-processing doesn't require anything special.

    - Get a monitor with an IPS screen so the contrast and saturation doesn't change with the viewing angle

    - Windows 7 would be my personal preference to Windows 8 at this stage.

    - Don't forget to include some kind of effective backup strategy.

  6. #6
    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    Phew, thanks Colin. I just placed an order for a new system, and that is exactly the spec.

  7. #7
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    The most important part is your screen, rather than the computer itself. At least one large high quality IPS (in-plane switching), rather than the cheaper TN (twisted nematic) for accurate colour rendition. Size is going to depend on your personal needs, but bigger tends to be better as you have to have enough screen space to hold your work and the various palettes that the editing tool you are using will need. If you are feeling rich; get two screens, one main for your work and a side screen for your menus (this is what I have in my setup). The second screen can be a cheap TN, as colour fidelity is critical for the place where you place the editing tools.

    If you don't have one, invest in a profiling tool to make sure that your screen is displaying the colours accurately. I use a rather ancient x-Rite i1 unit.

  8. #8
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    Windows 8 really isn't that bad once you get past the Apps. The only annoying thing is the popups, which were prevalent in Windows 7 also, the only difference is now they also setoff with the brush of a finger. Once I get into a program such as Elements or LightRoom the system behaves as a normal computer.

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    Re: Computer help

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    If you are feeling rich; get two screens, one main for your work and a side screen for your menus (this is what I have in my setup).
    That's what I do too -- works fantastically.

    If you don't have one, invest in a profiling tool to make sure that your screen is displaying the colours accurately. I use a rather ancient x-Rite i1 unit.
    Never thought I'd see the day when someone finally called it by it's correct name rather than "calibration tool"!

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    Re: Computer help

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Once I get into a program such as Elements or LightRoom the system behaves as a normal computer.
    Love it -- so any computer running Win 8 isn't normal in other words

  11. #11
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    I picked up a laptop almost a month ago; a fairly decent ASUS Ultrabook machine with a screen (15.6") that is large enough to use for editing in a pinch. i7 processor, 8GB RAM, 24GB SSD, 750GB HDD, dedicated nVidia graphics with 2 GB of dedicated video RAM, etc. All in all, not a badly spec'd machine. The built in screen is nothing to write home about from a colour rendition standpoint, but I could use an external if I wanted to, but it is a touch screen, so in theory, ideal for Windows 8.

    After 3 weeks of using Windows 8, I gave up on the new and improved user interface. It really is a pain, even with a touch screen. I pretty well have only the Adobe Suite and MS Office on it. Too many tiles; what a pain. My conclusion is that touch screens are fine for tablets, they are a really less than useful for laptops.

    I loaded up some freeware called Classic Shell, that gets me back to the Win 7 type user interface, got rid of the overbearing administrator permissions, the stupid ribbon on explorer (that took a fair bit of work) and got rid of the crapware that was packaged with the machine.

    If you get an Ultrabook; a very, very large warning. Be aware of something pre-installed called Intel Anti-theft. In itself, the idea is good, if the machine is lost or stolen, it can be remotely locked so that it does not work. Tracking functions on the internet allow you to trace your machine if it is lost or stolen This is a software /hardware implementation, so in theory hard to beat. You start with a free trial and then you can pay annually to continue the service.

    Now the downside; the hard drive is encrypted by the software and the software must regularly communicate with an Intel / McAfee server. If it doesn't do this, it assumes the machine has been stolen and locks up. Sounds good in theory, but in my case the machine somehow stopped communicating with the server and was threatening to lock up. Okay, no problem, just uninstall the software; but that did not work either. About 4 days of support calls and probably 8 hours on line with Intel and McAfee technicians (it took 3rd level support to finally fix it). Not something I ever want on my machine again. One can't even go through the back door to uninstall it; the disk is encrypted you can't get at your data. Sorry, Intel / McAfee, this tool is not ready for prime time! Install at your own risk!

    Anyhow, once you get rid of the tiles interface and some of the other dumb ideas (like the ribbon bar), Win 8 is a pretty resource friendly and fast OS. Too bad MS is trying to emulate Apple's walled garden approach. Not something I can support.

    Bottom line, if you are technically inclined, you can get Win 8 running for power users.

  12. #12
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Love it -- so any computer running Win 8 isn't normal in other words
    Only at startup. Once you get to the desktop you can skip all the touch screen stuff and use a mouse. Also, you can streamline the system to run like Windows 7 just be shrinking the Apps and pushing them off to the side. Lightroom has a lot of side scrolling screens so you have to be careful rolling the mouse across the panels. Would I have preferred skipping all of the thrills of Win8, yes but I purchased a laptop with touch screen capability so I can get through all the hype of Win8 features and start using the computer for its intended pursposes, net surfing. Woo Hoo!

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    Wayland's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    I think you of the greatest improvements I've made to my system lately was to fit a small 40GB solid state hard-drive and dedicate it to the Photoshop scratch disk.

    Other than that lots of ram (8 Gig in mine at the moment), twin monitors and swappable hard drives for back ups would be my recommendations.

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    Re: Computer help

    Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Talking 'putters.

    Multiple monitor setups are the absolute best for a multitude of reasons. Actually I have three monitors at the moment... in a way. I have my laptop display and am also HDMI wired to my HDTV. Added to that is a wireless HDMI connection to the TV in my bedroom. The most extreme I've gone is 4 monitors on one desk. I was running two video cards and 2 monitors off of each card. That was mostly just to see how the system would handle it and didn't last long, dropped down to 3. Now 3 monitors is a killer setup. How I had mine working was more for web site design but would still apply with photo editing. One monitor displayed my code, the second displayed the rendered output, the third... well the third, of course, was for watching a movie while I was working on a site.

    Good call on getting the I7 processor as it is the strongest of the I# series. Realistically though I doubt that it will add a whole lot to the system remaining 'current'. 'Current', if there actually is such a critter, is more determined by the instruction set of the processor. It is however the faster processor which is never a bad thing. I'm running an I5 in my Asus laptop as I don't need the extra power of the I7 for what I do. Where you would see a real difference in performance with an I7 is if you were doing heavy video editing or using software such as Auto CAD. Don't get me wrong! I'm in no way putting down the I7. I'm just saying that it is not a necessity for photo editing. One downside to the I7 is heat, they do run hotter than the I5. In a laptop I would not even consider one unless I was using a cooling plate. Notice that I have not mentioned the I3. Stay away from them. Not that they are bad... Shoot! I can't even say to stay away from them as they are not a bad processor. How about this... we'll talk cars. An I7 is the race car, I5 sedan or SUV and the I3 is the compact. For most people the sedan or SUV is more than enough. Very few actually need the race car and the compact isn't going to carry a large load.

    Yes, I'm a computer geek. I'm going to give an example on how computer companies try to oversell. I will use my I5, 8gig memory, 1TB drive Asus laptop as an example. I run a dual boot, when I start the system I have the choice to run Win 7 or 8. In either Win 7 or 8 I can open a window running Windows XP. For web development I run some other server stuff such as Apache web server, PHP, SQL and one or two others. With all this going on I've really had to try if I wanted to get my I5 above 25% load.

    P.S. If any don't understand any terms I've used, and would like to, I'd be more than happy to explain.
    Last edited by jaylach; 5th May 2013 at 11:39 PM.

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    Re: Computer help

    Quote Originally Posted by jaylach View Post

    Good call on getting the I7 processor as it is the strongest of the I# series. Realistically though I doubt that it will add a whole lot to the system remaining 'current'. 'Current', if there actually is such a critter, is more determined by the instruction set of the processor. It is however the faster processor which is never a bad thing. I'm running an I5 in my Asus laptop as I don't need the extra power of the I7 for what I do. Where you would see a real difference in performance with an I7 is if you were doing heavy video editing or using software such as Auto CAD. Don't get me wrong! I'm in no way putting down the I7. I'm just saying that it is not a necessity for photo editing. One downside to the I7 is heat, they do run hotter than the I5. In a laptop I would not even consider one unless I was using a cooling plate. Notice that I have not mentioned the I3. Stay away from them. Not that they are bad... Shoot! I can't even say to stay away from them as they are not a bad processor. How about this... we'll talk cars. An I7 is the race car, I5 sedan or SUV and the I3 is the compact. For most people the sedan or SUV is more than enough. Very few actually need the race car and the compact isn't going to carry a large load.
    Most client machines we retire are due to them getting too slow -- so we've now made it policy to only use i7 CPUs for them. We've got a few that are over 3 years old now, and under Win 7 they're still out-performing new i5 installs.

    The other thing is that if one has a SSD then an i7 makes much shorter work of batch processing (eg when one opens up 200 images in ACR - selects them all - and then starts making changes to things like exposure and white balance). In those situations an i7 CPU rips through them much faster (I actually use i7 Extreme Editions).

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    jaylach's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    I won't argue anything that you said, it boils down to what the user needs. That said, do you really feel that MOST users actually need an I7?

    Here is a sort of example. A while back there was a game demo out... Can't remember for sure but in may have been Halo. The system requirements for the demo stated an absolute minimum of a 1.5GHz processor. My system at the time was running a single core 1.0GHz AMD processor. I tried the demo anyway and it ran just fine with high frames per second at the highest video settings. The kicker is that I had a killer video card for the time.

    I'm not really trying to argue with you in any way, I'm just trying to point out that a computer is comprised of many separate devices that work together. If I were setting up a system designed to do photo editing I would go with the graphics card and monitor having priority over the processor. Of course, being a bit of a geek, I really want all three.

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    Re: Computer help

    Quote Originally Posted by jaylach View Post
    I won't argue anything that you said, it boils down to what the user needs. That said, do you really feel that MOST users actually need an I7?
    In these parts it adds about $150 to the build, but as mentioned previously, extends the life of the machine -- so long term, it's "cheap upgrade insurance". Short term it really depends on the circumstances; for many of my customers, using a PC is a BIG part of their day. I like to look at it this way -- if the person using it gets paid $80,000 a year - and the life of a PC is 5 years - that's $400,000 that the person will be paid over the life of the PC. The PC may cost $4000 (with other software and my time put into it and taxes etc) so in that circumstance (a) an extra $150 doesn't make much difference to $4000 and (b) why would one want to compromise a $400,000 resource (if only slightly) for the sake of $150?

    I'm just trying to point out that a computer is comprised of many separate devices that work together.
    I agree. Traditionally though, the bottleneck was the hard drive, but with solid-state drives, that bottle neck has now shifted to the CPU. For editing a single image i5 -v- i7 doesn't make much difference (and would have made even less with a conventional HDD), but in a SSD environment it means you can now make global changes to images in parallel, but it's still a CPU bound operation - hence the more horsepower you can throw at it the better.

    If I were setting up a system designed to do photo editing I would go with the graphics card and monitor having priority over the processor. Of course, being a bit of a geek, I really want all three.
    The monitor is a biggie, but a top-of-line graphics card or a basic one that's build onto the MoBo work pretty much the same in Photoshop; you only get a benefit from high-power graphics when high frame rates are involved. I know Adobe are trialing offloading some processing tasks to GPUs (because many are more powerful than CPUs), but I don't think they're mainstream with it yet (they certainly weren't at the CS5 release -- not sure about CS6).

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    Re: Computer help

    OK, I think that I get it now as to our difference of opinion... we are dealing with a different customer base. You set a base salary of $80,000.00/year. I deal mostly with lower income families and disabled war vets that might see that $80,000.00 in three or four years. I think that gives an obvious difference as to hardware advice.

    In fact when doing a new build I offer a 20% discount if the client will allow me to keep the old components. I then use such components to build a viable system that I will donate to a family with kids that cannot afford a system. I'm sad to say that this does not happen often any more. Sadly I just cannot compete with the big box stores as to a build unless the user wants a 'super system'.

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    allenlennon's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    Thank you everyone for your input. Think ill save a bit of money ANC get myself a decent ips moniter and connect it to my laptop and have the dual screen thing going on

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Computer help

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I know Adobe are trialing offloading some processing tasks to GPUs (because many are more powerful than CPUs), but I don't think they're mainstream with it yet (they certainly weren't at the CS5 release -- not sure about CS6).
    This isn't happening in the photography side of the Adobe products, but Premiere Pro and After Effects on the video editing and video compositing side use certain higher end nVidia cards for rendering functionality. The the technology is excellent and rendering times are a lot better than with the pure CPU solution.

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