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Walczak Photo
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 15:14
Hey Folks,
Well, it's fast coming time that I'm going to need to upgrade my ol' "digital darkroom" here and I need some suggestions. As of right now I'm running a home build system with an MSI motherboard, AMD 2500 Thoroughbred CPU, 1.5 gigs of PC2700 RAM, 1 20 gig hdd, 1 160 gig hdd (both HDD are EIDE), etc.. Since I recently upgraded to Windows XP Pro and Photoshop CS3 as well as the new Canon 40D, the system is running painfully slow...some filters in CS3 (such as lens blur) can take as much as 10 minutes or more to apply! Since I tend to do several layers when I'm processing, as you can imagine...well...home dentistry would be less painful.

I am most likely going to build the new system myself and I'm planning to go with 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM and a pair a SATA 160 gig harddrives but I would like some recommendations for a new motherboard and/or CPU. I would prefer to stick with AMD for a CPU if given a choice, but am open to Intel if need be. Now please keep in mind that I am on a budget here...I would like to keep this whole thing under $500 (preferably as close to $300 as possible), so please don't tell me to go out and buy the most expensive new system from Dell or HP...it's not going to happen. In other words, what's the most inexpensive mb/CPU combo that is going to run the software I mentioned above reasonably well?

Also, I've been running higher end ATI vid cards, but as I understand it, the newer motherboards have abandoned the AGP video standard. Will the "onboard" video of these new motherboards handle working with images in CS3 and such or do I need to get a new PCI vid card as well?

Thanks!
Jim

bacchanal
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 15:40
I'd strongly recommend an Intel Core2 duo or quad if you can afford it. Also I would go with an add-on video card vs. an onboard card. Boards without onboard video are generally more stable in my opinion and you can get a basic add-on pci express (not the same as pci) card for very little ($30)

I couldn't recommend a specific board at the moment, but I would just look at newegg.com for a socket 754 intel board and sort by popularity/rating. Then look for the feature set that you want. Personally, I'm a fan of intel chipsets and brands like ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte.

Also make sure you have enough IDE or SATA connections, depending on what type of drives you plan on running (not sure if you were going to recycle your old IDE drives).

Walczak Photo
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 17:02
I'd strongly recommend an Intel Core2 duo or quad if you can afford it. Also I would go with an add-on video card vs. an onboard card. Boards without onboard video are generally more stable in my opinion and you can get a basic add-on pci express (not the same as pci) card for very little ($30)

I couldn't recommend a specific board at the moment, but I would just look at newegg.com for a socket 754 intel board and sort by popularity/rating. Then look for the feature set that you want. Personally, I'm a fan of intel chipsets and brands like ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte.

Also make sure you have enough IDE or SATA connections, depending on what type of drives you plan on running (not sure if you were going to recycle your old IDE drives).


Thanks. I will certainly keep the vid card in mind...all the boards I've looked at all have built in video, but I'll keep my eye out for one without. I also agree on ASUS and MSI...I got an MSI up here and an ASUS down in my music studio and both have been great boards.

As far as the CPU goes, I have actually looked at the Intel Core 2 but I'm still not sure what the difference is between a "Core 2" and a "Dual Core" CPU...I still have some reading up to do on that.

As far as the HDD connections go, I'm planning on going with a pair of 160 gig SATA's for now at least. I'm going to go ahead and put my older EIDE's into external USB housings and use them as backup drives, so as long as the board supports up to 4 drives (like IDE does), I should be good there. I'll probaby have to get an IDE to ATA adapter though to keep a CD ROM on my system...my DVD burner is external USB, but I do like to keep a stand CD drive on the system as well.

Any other thoughts/suggestions?

TheHoff
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 17:07
Is it worth getting 160gb drives when 500gb drives are like $20 more? You could get one 500gb instead of two 160gb, etc, etc. Newegg has a Hitachi for $65 and there is a combo deal with a processor as well

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822145215

I understand wanting to get the same size drives as your backups but you don't need to backup every file on your drive, just the data... seems a waste to build a new system., buy new drives, and get such low capacity when the value price point is $20 more.

davidcrebelxt
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 17:29
I also suggest Intel, and nothing less than a Core2Duo... though more and more its looking as if Quadcore is the way to go.

Several years ago I would suggest AMD because the you got the same performance as Intel at cheaper price point... lately it seemed you get lower price but at the sacrifice of performance; they just haven't been keeping up... In a couple years the tables may reverse again, who knows.

davidcrebelxt
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 17:35
Oh...
Have you thought about 32-bit vs 64-bit also? Vista, or sticking with XP?

One note that Lightroom2, for example is not officially supported on XP 64 bit, but is on Vista 64-bit. (Though I understand it does install if you know how to do it.) I don't know if this is a sign of things to come, if more and more newer software will not be supported on XP-64bit, but something to keep in mind.

tim
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 17:44
Core2 Quad, the 9xxx series processors are a generation about the 6xxx series. RAM is cheap, get 4GB. Hard drives are cheap, get one for OS and one for data. You'll need a pci-e-16 (or something) video card, get a cheaper 64/128MB one unless you play games, as they make no difference for photoshop. If you run vista or game get a decent one.

bohdank
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 19:40
If your budget is under $500 for the entire system you are going to have to make a LOT of compromises, imo...

Here's a reasonable MO + CPU that should fit into your budget

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3981899&CatId=1599

I didn't check whether it has built in video but I would get a seperate card anyway. For photo editing any Nvidia 8500GT will do. You can pick one up with 512meg on board for about $40. Add drives and memory, and you should be withing your $500 budget.

Don't forget a CPU heatsink/fan. I would recommend the Arctic Freezer Pro for less than $20.

tim
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 20:22
Under XP32 a 512MB video card reduces the addressable RAM by 512MB. Get a 64 or 128MB card. A 6X00 series card is fine.

BottomBracket
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 20:30
OP, all of the posts here have good advice. I agree with going with a quad core as runs well with photoshop. Couple it with a good inexpensive board such as the Asus P5K SE which runs for $80 and you'll have a motherboard-CPU combo for under $300 (the Q6600 is around $190). If you can wait for another couple of months, prices will surely tumble when Nehalem comes out.

bohdank
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 22:12
Under XP32 a 512MB video card reduces the addressable RAM by 512MB. Get a 64 or 128MB card. A 6X00 series card is fine.

Only if the video card is built into the MO, which is why you should get a separate video card with it's own memory so the video does not "steal" memory.

tim
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 22:15
It doesn't steal memory, it steals addressable memory space. Not sure how much of an issue this is or quite how it works, but lots of memory in a video card is pretty useless unless you're a gamer or running vista anyway.

Walczak Photo
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 22:43
Well, first off thank you to everyone for all the information...I truly am grateful!

To address some specific questions and/or comments...

Hoff - As far as the harddrives go the actual size isn't set in stone, but I do want to go with 2 seperate drives so as to have one as a "work drive" and the other for the programs and OS. I've done this for years with my music studio systems and it seems to work very efficient by not having the OS on the same drive that you do your work on. I may very well consider the 500 gig drives, but then that's going to lead to questions about backups and such...i.e. a terabyte of hdd's is going to require a terabyte of backup space, etc.. Also, while there may only be a "$20 difference", for that $40 for two drives, that could be the new vid card right there (or the CPU cooling fan or the new case...), so the budget constraints will also have to be a consideration. $20 difference may not seem like a big difference, but in this case it could make or break the deal.

Bohdank - Thanks for the link on the motherboard/CPU combo at Tigerdirect. I've dealt with them before and they're a decent company. That certainly looks like about what I'm looking for. I will look at the video card thing too, but I will NOT go with NVIDIA graphics...I've just had -way- to many problems with their graphics cards in the past. Once you get burned 4 or 5 times you learn not to put your hand in the fire any more. NVIDIA...decent chipsets, horrible video.

David C. - Sticking with XP. Virtually everyone I've talked to said that Windows Vista is pure crap on par with Windows ME. Also, I've tried Lightroom and I really didn't like that program at all so in any case so I'll be sticking with PS CS3 and Adobe Bridge running on XP for now. Besides...after all of this new hardware, I'm not going to have any money for software anyways :D.

Tim - If the motherboard I end up getting supports 4 gigs of RAM, I will certainly go that route...sooner or later (I've looked at a couple that don't support that much RAM). I agree that it's dirt cheap right now but again here, with the budget constraints that extra $30 for 2 gigs of RAM may not seem like a lot, but it could be a deal breaker. Also I don't do much "gaming" other than the occasional Doom 2 with my wife on the network...I burned out on the crap a long time ago. About the only thing I use my system upstairs here for other than graphics and video editing is just for surfing...watching Youtube videos with guitar tutorials and such. Ok, ok...I listen to mp3's up here too :D. Any music editing and such I do downstairs on a separate dedicated system in the studio and my wife does her programming stuff on her own PC.

BottomBracket - Thanks for the comments on the ASUS board with the Quad Core...very possible there. As far as waiting goes...well...that's always the thing with PC's isn't it? Ya wait 6 months for the newest thing to come out to drive the prices down and 6 months later, something even newer comes out...it never really ends and you really just can't win. Either way there are two problems here. First, waiting would put the upgrade right in the middle of the holiday season, which unfortunately means no money. Second and just as importantly, it's gotten to the point where it's really hard for me to get much, if any work done on this currant beastie of mine. I really needed a new system 6 months ago but bought the new camera instead. The bottom line is that if I'm going to do this, I'm going to have to do it now while I have a little money to do it with...if I have to wait until later, it's simply not going to happen until sometime next year.


Okies...again thanks for the suggestions everyone, I'm grateful!

Jim

TheHoff
20th of August 2008 (Wed), 22:48
I getcha. I skimmed over the final budget as soon as I saw 160 gigs. Of course if you see yourself being able to upgrade in a year or two you probably won't run out of space by then but I've got 80 gigs of photos from 8 months and I'm not a super heavy shooter and I do edit.

You're right on about having two separate drives but it is true, you don't need to back everything up. Even if you went for two 320 gigs in the system you'd be able to get by with a total of 320 gigs of backup space since a lot of the drives will be used for OS, programs, scratch space, junk files you don't backup, etc.

davidcrebelxt
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 00:22
David C. - Sticking with XP. Virtually everyone I've talked to said that Windows Vista is pure crap on par with Windows ME. Also, I've tried Lightroom and I really didn't like that program at all so in any case so I'll be sticking with PS CS3 and Adobe Bridge running on XP for now. Besides...after all of this new hardware, I'm not going to have any money for software anyways :D.



Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but honestly much of it comes from people who (1) never used it, only repeating what they heard from questionable "tech" news sources who want to sell a headline or (2) were apparently in High School when XP was released, and don't remember any other OS upgrade and what is involved or (3) people swayed by the Apple ads, which strangely enough mock features in their very own OS or (4) people who tried to upgrade an older XP machine to Vista and it simply wasn't capable. It is NOWHERE on par with the mess of Windows ME...

I've been using it for 11 months now, and have had only one blue screen, and the only real problems have come from Creative Labs unwillingness to update their sound card drivers in a timely fashion.

Even if you don't like LR, it may be a sign of what Adobe plans to do with CS4 in terms of 64bit support, also... so going 64-bit Vista COULD be a way to have your system ready for the future. Just something to keep in mind. I didn't go 64-bit when I got my system a year ago either... but with how good I've heard Vista 64-bit is compared with XP 64-bit in regards to compatible drivers (disclaimer: from what I've heard from various tech pundits) I'm thinking my next OS will be 64-bit.

Anyhow, have fun putting together your computer... if you're using a single core now, I think you'll be amazed at how much more responsive using a multi-core machine feels.

TheHoff
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 00:24
XP sucked for me. Leaking memory in CS2 and FF was annoying... and this was on different systems, installs, rebuilds, etc. I know what I'm doing for the most part and I hated XP, XPsp1, XPsp2, etc. I went to Vista on launch and just went to Vista x64 and LR2-64. It is much more stable as long as you have enough hardware... turn off the alerts, automatic crap, etc, and it runs well.

davidcrebelxt
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 00:36
. turn off the alerts, automatic crap, etc, and it runs well.

UAC alerts aren't even a problem, and way overblown, and they seemed to die down after a week or two. Anyone who's ever used a Linux system I'm sure is used to the hassle of doing a sudo:root and having to type a password. With UAC as an admin, its only a click.

I find it strange using my XP system at work sometimes, and how certain areas AREN'T protected by any means from malicious software.

bohdank
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 07:49
I don't care to be a beta tester for MS.... I'll stick to XP32, for now. I may switch to XP64 but have no compelling reason to do so right now.

btw... I am not unfamiliar with computers. I do software development and have been since before the first "portable" computers were invented.

My first PC was a 286. I skipped the first generation of processors ;-)

The comment about getting a video card with minimum memory. True, photo editing places no demands on video.

TheHoff
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 08:00
My first PC was a 286. I skipped the first generation of processors

Sorry, but you mean the first TWO generations. If you don't have 8086 or 8088 experience, you're still a noob :D My first computer ran on a tape drive; my first hard drive was 10mb and we were glad to have it.

BottomBracket
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 09:10
LOL, I remember those 8086 and 8088 PC's, how they were cutting edge at the time. Back during the days when the floppy disks were really floppy. My first PC was an Apple IIc (I think) and the RAM was a whopping 64K.

About Vista 64, I like it because you can use RAM beyond 4GB, as much as your motherboard allows. It also has DirectX10, which is essential in some games, including my favorite, CoH. I'm not a hardcore gamer, but I do enjoy the occasional skirmish ;)

TheHoff
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 09:41
Your link, she do not work... just goes to an empty cart.

BottomBracket
21st of August 2008 (Thu), 09:50
I did some browsing around and came up with this (http://secure.newegg.com/Shopping/AddToCart.aspx?Submit=ADD&ItemList=Combo.117219) and this (http://secure.newegg.com/Shopping/AddToCart.aspx?Submit=ADD&ItemList=Combo.121005) at Newegg.
It has a Quad Core AMD CPU which fits the bill. I really like NewEgg's combo deal offerings,, you can really save a bit of coin. I have no idea how long the prices will hold though.

Hoff, fixed!

Walczak Photo
25th of August 2008 (Mon), 14:55
Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but honestly much of it comes from people who (1) never used it, only repeating what they heard from questionable "tech" news sources who want to sell a headline or (2) were apparently in High School when XP was released, and don't remember any other OS upgrade and what is involved or (3) people swayed by the Apple ads, which strangely enough mock features in their very own OS or (4) people who tried to upgrade an older XP machine to Vista and it simply wasn't capable. It is NOWHERE on par with the mess of Windows ME...



I do understand what your trying to say here, but the people I've spoken with are NOT the people you describe...including my wife who is a professional applications developer! Please understand that I spent several years as a hardware tech (granted some years ago) so I -do- know the difference between idle rants of the uninformed and the opinions of educated professionals in regards to this subject. If anything, most of the praise I've heard about Vista has come from folks who are pretty computer illiterate...most of the folks I know who really "know computers" don't like Vista...at all.

I would also add that I do not find it encouraging at all that many computer retailers are now offering a "down grade license" with their new Vista loaded computers for people to change to XP...this is the first time I've ever seen this in the computer biz and it tells me quite a bit.

You've had good luck with Vista...others have too...but I think that's exactly what we're talking about here...luck. The truth is that MS has really had a very bad hit/miss ration with Vista...A LOT of people are very unhappy with this OS (much the same as WME...and there were people who actually liked that piece of crap too). Regardless, I have no need or desire to go "64 bit" at this point in time, XP, Vista or otherwise. If and/or when that time comes, I'll deal with that then...and perhaps by then MS will have a better version of their OS out to run it.

I would also add that the ONLY reason I have XP on the system is because it was needed to run PS CS3...otherwise I would NOT have upgraded from 2000 Pro. In fact, until recently I still had Windows 98SE running on my laptop. I don't upgrade my OS (or other programs as a general rule) unless I absolutely have to. I've very much of the school that believes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and if my software does what I need it to do, I don't see any reason to spend even more money for unnessacary upgrades...I never did understand why people do that.

I don't doubt that I will be happy with a dual or quad core processor...now I just need to weed thru all the crap out there to decide what I need and what I can afford.

Please know that I didn't intent any offense with this post, I just wanted to clarify a few things.

Peace,
Jim

davidcrebelxt
25th of August 2008 (Mon), 17:10
I do understand what your trying to say here, but the people I've spoken with are NOT the people you describe...
...most of the folks I know who really "know computers" don't like Vista...at all.

Our tech support guys here at work know alot too... but they spout off about it all the time... so I ask them how long they used it before switching back... the answer was Nooooo we've never used it. In fact it came installed on a recent laptop, and given to a user who prefers mac's.... who complained about it the day he recieved it... but surprisingly after only one weekend he liked it and was wondering what the fuss was about.

I would also add that I do not find it encouraging at all that many computer retailers are now offering a "down grade license" with their new Vista loaded computers for people to change to XP...this is the first time I've ever seen this in the computer biz and it tells me quite a bit.

This has in fact been available for EVERY windows release since about Windows2000, I believe... in fact you can even downgrade Vista or XP to 2000 if you so desire, its just vendors advertise it now because the bad [so called] "press" Vista has recieved resulted in a flood of questions - this way they head them off at the pass, and their call-support guys don't have to deal with it. Its NOT because they truly believe there is anything wrong with Vista.

This "downgrade" has always been offered becasue MS realizes that business users often use legacy software that is not compatible with newer upgrades; which makes sticking with older OS the sensible option to scrapping hundreds of thousands of dollars of other software licenses.



A LOT of people are very unhappy with this OS (much the same as WME...and there were people who actually liked that piece of crap too).

I think that's the PERCEPTION, but is just not true... there are sure alot of "blogs" and "news" articles about it... but they're often replicating a SINGLE source, and in cases those sources have flip flopped opinions numerous times. But its true, some people got burned at Vista's release, and the fact that vendors were allowed to install it on hardware that was not truly capable... and perhaps rightly so, they're not going to give it a second chance; but at the same time they continue to spout about the problems they had 2 years ago as if it happened last week. Any recent system (built in the last year) should be able to handle it fine. And don't even BEGIN to group me in the the WME folks. ;)

I'll deal with that then...and perhaps by then MS will have a better version of their OS out to run it.

Fair enough... but beware, the next Windows OS (Windows 7) from announcements from MS, is based on same kernal as Vista... no overhaul to underlying system... Vista WAS that overhaul. Vista's not just prettified XP as some claim... it was a MAJOR change.

I'm not a MS fanboy, and got caught up myself in the "Vista's terrible" mindset early on myself. Now that I have it, though, I'm not looking back. I've had less problems with it than I did with XP, with more features to boot. I'm just tired of the endless bashing of the OS when after that initial release hiccup, its fine. My Ipod has crashed at least 7 times in the past 6 months... whereas my Vista's crashed once in the past year.