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Joe-1957 Jan 31, 2009 2:15 PM

Hi, I don't know where to put this, so my apologies if it's in the wrong forum.

I am going to build a fast computer, primarily to run LR and Photoshop.

I read that LR doesn't really utilize the GPU

Balance between memory and processor? Would I be better off with a quad core processor, or dual Xeon processors.
How about memory? I have 8 G's (4-2G sticks of OCZ Reaper)
It's DDR2, but if an i7 processor would be significantly better, I could buy DDR3, but I'd prefer to stick with what I have if possible. Since the 8G's I have cost a fair chunk of change, I'd like to use them if possible, *however* if DDR3 would be significantly better, then let me know.:-) Not necessarily the DDR3, I understand that it alone wouldn't be that much better, but if a motherboard or processor that needed DDR3 was significantly better, that's what I mean.:-)

I'll be using a 64 bit OS, to utilize all of my RAM if nothing else.:-)

I know that the HD's are pretty important, something like SATA 10,000 rpm would be good.

I guess I'm just looking for suggestions.:-)

Joe Fisher
Kalispell, MT
Canon 40D, lots 'o' lenses
Lightroom v 2.2
Photoshop CS3

TCav Jan 31, 2009 3:59 PM

Photoshop has it's own virtual memory manager, so the speed of your hard disks will be important.

The only 64 bit OS that Photoshop CS4 runs on is Vista, and that would make me think twice about wanting to run a 64 bit OS.

And while Lightroom may not support a GPU, Photoshop sure does.

Get a good monitor, and pay close attention to ICC Color Profiles.

[email protected] Jan 31, 2009 4:34 PM

Realistically the challenge will be to not overspend.

I would assume you'll be processing jpg or RAW photos, perhaps 8-12mb average file size, and not scans, that can run upwards of 80mb's.

You could easily have good response with a dual core processor.

You don't need any more than 4 gb's of memory for photoshop.

You could either buy a new machine, or if you want to be environmentally sensitive, pick up a used machine.

You can get used Mac G5's, with or without Adobe software, for around $500-700 here in the US. They have pretty good FSB speed (front side bus) and generous cache. You can blow them out to 4gb of memory for $80 or less.

For new, I'd pick a fairly fast dual core processor and a motherboard with fast FSB (greater than 1 ghz) and generous cache (2mb per processor). I'd install about 4gb's of memory.

For a primary disk, any small 7200 rpm disk is good, somewhere between 160gb's and 320gb's as your primary disk for installing programs.

For a secondary disk to store your photos, you can pick up a quality 7200 rpm terabyte disk for about $120 USD or less.

Maybe consider going for an external 1 TB disk rather than internal. You can lock it up in a fireproof safe while your on vacation.

The main thing is to stay away from overclocked processors. I personally use a G5 with the old dual powerpc chips because they are safely underclocked and are bullet-proof reliable.

Get yourself a graphics card with 256mb or 512mb memory.

Finally think about cooling. A nice noisy fan (like the G5's have) is much preferable to a slient but overheating processor.

And think power supply. The G5 has a 600 watt power supply. Some of these low end machines have 350 watt power supplies.

So you don't need a "monster" machine for photos (in comparison to gaming).

What you need is a reliable, reasonably fast machine.

You can build one, or buy a new Gateway that would meet the above spec for under $600 or buy a used Mac G5 for $500-700.

Used Mac G5's are the "used Mercedes" as photoshop goes- and they can be bought for chump change these days.

fotografo35 Jan 31, 2009 6:24 PM

I don't see why you couldn't do what you want with just a really good dual-core processor. I won't suggest a ton of things here, but some I've not seen others suggest.

First off, get an AMD processor. AMD still has the edge over any Intel motherboards in terms of how much quicker AMD accesses the RAM. Also, AMD boards don't have the USB-port shorting out problems Intel boards are known to have (you could conceivably plug in a usb drive and the usb ports stop working on an Intel board and you've got to the replace the whole motherboard--happened to me at an office job). You can also get a really good AMD board for quite a bit less than a 'genuine' Intel one. The best brand of motherboard you can get is Tyan, but if you can't quite see paying for the Tyan (it has the least conflicts and best workmanship of any motherboard out there), the next best is Gigabyte. If you're truly dying for a quad core processor, AMD still is much cheaper and there's a small price war going on with quad cores (per ZDNet), so you could conceivably find a quad core for $230 if you really want that.

To attach the heatsink or fan to the processor (if you're building it yourself), while the Antec Arctic Silver is wonderful, the Ceramique is even better. Using that alone as the seal between your heatsink or fan and processor will reduce the processor temperature probably at least 7 F or more over standard black thermal paste. If you want to go quieter, attach a good heatsink with at least 2 heat pipes on it. will have good and typically in-depth reviews on what users find good.

Get a good case with good airflow + fan slots, at least one intake in the front bottom and one exhaust at the back, under where the power supply would go. Cooler Master is a really good case manuf. (look at the Centurion series for good bang for the buck) There are two other case manuf. that are good, and I think those are Antec and Thermaltake (however, look at any comments on airflow/cabling issues in the reviews and consider price as I think the Thermaltake usually is quite a bit more expensive, as is the Antec unless you find either on sale). Also get a good power supply, preferably from Antec, and one that lists being 85% + efficient, as this will lower internal case temperature 4 F by itself + has 3-yr warranty in most cases.

On hard drives (HDDs), the SATA-2 3.0 mb ones should be fine for your use, although both WD and Seagate have their issues. Maxtor is now considered junk and lots of people now tend to prefer Samsung HDDs for the fact they tend to be quieter. Again, check newegg's reviews to see which HDD (between these 3 I've mentioned) comes out ahead. Now the easy choice for external backup is Lacie (to back up your photos); go with the Neil Poulton external case designs, as they will carry 2-yr warranty and USA-based tech support. :-) Sometimes has really good sales on LaCie Neil Poulton drives, but you can try using and to see if any other merchants have them for a better price when you haven't seen a good sale from at that time. Another drive to consider in an external case is Iomega, but that's more for portable HDDs of rugged construction of the 160, 250 and 320 gb (when I last researched about 6 weeks ago). By the way, the SATA-2 drives by themselves are so fast that the rpm rate isn't an issue as I don't think the interface speed of 3.0 mb is ever fully used during data transfer. Of course it's a shame the SSD (Solid State Drives) are still a ways away from being consumer affordable, as they would generate almost no heat (if any) in operation. They're likely still 1.5 years away from being affordable like the current SATA-2 3.0 HDDs are now.

It's likely the DDR 2 OCZ Reaper RAM you already have is more than up to the task you need and I've only seen 4-gb used in higher-end consumer systems + gamer systems. Can't see needing any faster DDR RAM unless you were going to play graphics-intensive video games that required you to also have an expensive high-end GPU.

Joe-1957 Jan 31, 2009 10:08 PM

That's true, I'm aware of that.:-) The only reason I'm planning on running a 64 bit OS is to be able to utilize more than 4 G's of memory if I wish to do that.

TCav wrote:

The only 64 bit OS that Photoshop CS4 runs on is Vista, and that would make me think twice about wanting to run a 64 bit OS.

JimC Feb 1, 2009 11:05 AM

fotografo35 wrote:

AMD still has the edge over any Intel motherboards in terms of how much quicker AMD accesses the RAM.
Look at the new Intel Core i7 Benchmarks using DDR3 memory.

Sandra 2008 Memory Bandwidth - CPU benchmarks at tom's hardware

[email protected] Feb 1, 2009 3:41 PM

The maximum RAM that photoshop CS4 can use on 64 bit systems is 3.5 gb's of memory.

You'll probably never use that much unless your script processing lots of photos or editing several huge 80mb scans simultaneously.

So unless your a mega power user of Photoshop, you won't notice any gains from running 8gb's or more of memory on your system.

In fact, no more than 5 gb's would be needed by a mega power user, unless they were planning to run several other programs at the same time (doh!).

So the difference of moving beyond 4 gb's is hard to justify unless your planning to edit huge files or script process a large number of files.

So, 4 gigs for power users, 5 gigs for mega power users, and 8 gigs for people who want to batch script a ton of photos in photoshop while listening to itunes, browing the web and watch a DVD at the same time!

Same issue with the quad core. It would only be noticeable during "power" operations like script processing of tons of photos.

For Mac Users, the current operating system cannot totally make use of the intense power of quad processors, your going to have to wait for the next version of the MAC OS for that. If your buying a dual quad core, your waiting for the software to catch up!

JimC Feb 1, 2009 3:53 PM

[email protected] wrote:

The maximum RAM that photoshop CS4 can use on 64 bit systems is 3.5 gb's of memory.
According to Adobe, the 64 bit version of CS4 can see as much RAM as you can fit into your computer under 64 bit Vista. But, if you're running the 32 bit version of CS4 under 64 bit Vista, you'll be limited to about 3.2GB. You'll see a chart on this page:

[email protected] Feb 1, 2009 4:07 PM

I think your right - It was Mac OS that is limited to 3.5 gigs, sorry!

I read an article that the 64-bit processing and additional memory offers a 12 percent increase in speed beyond a dual processor and 4mb for applications like Light Room.

So the additional memory is really only needed if you plan to batch process tons of files or editing many extremely large files open, and don't want to run out of memory.

So although my facts are slightly out, I think the effect is the same.

I think a quad core and 8mb's can be justified if you want a really fast machine generally, or plan to do video editing.

For photoshop, the extra expense of a quad, and the extra memory is going to buy very little benefit except for the most extreme users.

But hey, I stand to be corrected!

JimC Feb 1, 2009 4:54 PM

If I were doing much with Photoshop CS4 (raw conversion, etc.) and had the budget for a new machine, I'd probably go Core i7 with 6GB or 12GB of RAM. I use Linux most of the time and really don't need a new machine (I'm using a Q6600 based Dell right now, running the 64 bit version of SimplyMEPIS 8.0 Release Candidate 2).

From some of the Photoshop benchmark threads I've seen, the Intel Core i7 based boxes under 64 bit Vista are very fast with 64 bit CS4. You'll have to decide if the benchmark reflects what you'd normally do in your workflow.

For example, note the 16 second time for a PS benchmark on this page from one user with 12GB of DDR3 with a stock speed Intel Core i7 920 (the slowest and least expensive 2.66Ghz Core i7 Model). You'll also see a user that got 15 seconds using an overclocked Core i7 920 with 6GB of RAM. These are very fast times for this benchmark.

This is an 18 page thread (so far). You'll see how a lot of different configs compare using this particular benchmark (see the first page in the thread for a link to it).

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