Where to allocate PC budget?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by demiro, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    If you're building or buying a system to do light photo editing and HD video editing - no gaming - where are your dollars best spent?

    SSD?

    A ton (16GB or more) of RAM?

    Best possible CPU?

    Graphics card?

    Assuming a typical $1000-ish budget and needing a PSU; OS; and Mobo as well.

    It seems like even "experts" disagree about what is a need vs a preference, and how much bang for your buck various expenditures actually provide. Confusing...:confused:

    Thanks for any advice!
     
  2. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Ehud
    In computers a system is as fast as it slowest component therefor you need to invest in a balanced system.
    For photo editing there is no need for a last generation graphic card, memory 8GB will be enough. Get a fast HD currently it is the bottleneck in computer systems. SSD might work but due to the limited size you will need to tune your system. For CPU performance get the one that give you the best price for money. You can make the calculation by dividing the price in the performs index charts data. A good source is AnandTech | Bench - CPU
     
  3. Nordiquefan

    Nordiquefan Mu-43 Regular

    77
    Mar 12, 2013
    You should be able to build a very capable rig for far less than 1k that will do everything you want and more. I just finished a build for my wife that came in at $660 after taxes including all hardware and an OS. It has more video card than you would need if you won't be gaming but the money saved could go towards a better processor than I put in hers.

    Too many people (myself included) overbuild computers and never use anywhere near the full potential of their machines.
     
  4. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    In general, the biggest impact components to a system are memory and SSD. Those two things make a dramatic difference in the day to day feel of the machine in a way that nothing else does.

    A fast CPU will be helpful for photos and video but won't affect the day-to-day. A fast GPU may be helpful for video, depending on the tools you're using. Premiere can make good use of NVIDIA graphics cards. A mid range ($150) card should do just fine for all common non-gaming uses. Right now I'd suggest an Intel H77 based motherboard with an i5 or i7 chip, a Crucial/Samsung/Intel SSD, 16GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA 660 GTX. If you're able to get to a Microcenter store, they have the i7 processors on sale for i5 prices.

    I strongly recommend not straying from the aforementioned SSD brands, as reliability of the other options is very poor. I'm not very happy with AMD for a wide variety of technical and practical reasons whether CPU or GPU. Lastly, do not buy anything from Acer. Everything they make is garbage and their support/warranty service is horrid too. I've had the best results from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI for the motherboard and graphics card. For memory, Corsair/Kingston/Crucial have proven to be excellent choices. G.Skill are very popular but I've had a surprisingly high DOA rate with them. Their warranty service has always sorted me out though. I like the Corsair power supplies a lot.

    There's some misc stuff pushing costs above 1k for the machines I've been building. High end motherboards with multi GPU support, Thunderbolt, etc are quite expensive. We're running high end graphics cards. Large SSDs are still fairly expensive, though prices have dropped dramatically. A few TB of magnetic storage isn't cheap either, especially in RAID configurations. I've also moved to water cooling (Corsair H60 is great and cheap), better fans, better cases, etc. These things make a big difference when you're pushing the machines fairly hard, which we do. You're unlikely to see mileage out of most of those upgrades.
     
  5. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    713
    Sep 24, 2011
    If by "light editing" you mean using Olympus Viewer 2.0 or 3.0 or the Panasonic SilkyPix programs and the Apple iMovie '11 or Windows Movie Maker programs then even a 5 year old computer with only 2 GB of RAM will run those programs at a reasonably brisk pace.
     
  6. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Case and Power Supply - $150
    Ram - $100
    Processor - $300
    Graphics Card - $200
    Motherboard - $150
    CPU Cooler, Other Fans, Other Incidentals -$100

    Overall, this would be a breakdown for where your money should go, IMO. The processor is the bottleneck for just about anything, so getting at least an i5, perferrably i7 is needed. MB's are a preferential thing, depending on what you need it to have on the back. Personally, even when using a graphics card, I always make sure there is a video out on the MB, just in case. 8-16gb of Ram will be great, depending on the price you pick it up at. SSDs are great for speed, but have the downside of (comparable) lack of storage. They run around $1/1-2gb, vs $1/10+gb for regular drives. Maybe get one of each, and allocate what needs to run faster vs regular storage things? Lightroom/Aperture/etc. are not high intensive graphics programs, so you don't need a super high end graphics card to push to its limits for it. For power supply, I would go with at least 500W, preferring more like 650-750. There are several deals usually on newegg which have them packaged for substantial savings. For what you are doing, the stock cooler would work that comes with the processor, or you could add something a bit extra. More for sound performance than speed.
     
  7. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    None of the above. As a photographer the most important bit by far is a good screen properly calibrated.

    Gordon
     
  8. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Northumberland
    If you know what programme you're going to use for editing you can hopefully find benchmarks of cpu/mobo combinations on Tom's Hardware or AnandTech : certain processors seem to have rather clever ways of getting extra speed for exactly your target task, so getting the right CPU setup might have more effect than the other parts in your system.

    For example AnandTech | Bench - CPU


    These days there's a lot to be said for a huge load of RAW too.
     
  9. ghetto

    ghetto Mu-43 Regular

    Photo and video requirements are different. Photos will bottle neck on ram and cpu if you're doing a lot of transformations. Video will bottleneck on cpu and hd/ssd. As some one else stated, a lot of money can sink into a good monitor. Almost any typical low end system can do photos easily now a days.

    I would suggest any low end system (not a tablet/arm/atom, at least a real system) then a decent ssd and monitor...
     
  10. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    So it seems like the cpu should be top priority, but not the only priority.

    Comparing two options:

    Intel Core i7 860 - 2.80GHz - 1MB L2 - 8MB L3 and
    Intel Core i7 3770K - 3.5GHz - 1MB L2 - 8MB L3

    The 3770K pretty much blows the 860 away on Anandtech comparison tool. Link. Seems like it costs maybe $100 more. Is that a no-brainer decision, or are those better scores not all that important unless you are really pushing the machine hard?

    I guess that is part of my issue -- not understanding what the requirements are for average to a little above average performance. I don't want to squeak by with bare minimum, but also don't want to waste a lot of cash on specs that will never really matter to me.

    Thanks.
     
  11. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Mostly it is a no-brainer, considering that you are comparing a first and third generation i7 (the thousand number is the series). They added quite a bit of GPU processing onto the chip, redid the power consumption, and a bunch of other technical things. The K denotes it is unlocked for overclocking. All around, the 3rd gen is worlds better than the first gen, partially because the technologies are about 3-4 years apart on initial release.
     
  12. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    The i7-860 is quite an old chip, and I can confirm that in practice the 2600K is much faster and the 3770K is a tiny bit faster still. There's no reason to buy anything other than the Ivy Bridge chips. However, I will advocate an i5 paired with large amounts of memory and SSD over an i7, if budget is a factor. The i5 is a very capable chip, and the main advantage of the i7 comes into play for heavy video work. The i7 is a substantial improvement for video, but not earth shattering, and it makes no difference for photos.
     
  13. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    The biggest difference is that the i5 is a quad core that can support 4 threads at once. The i7 is a quad core which is 8 threads. Generally speaking, more threads=less workload on each.
     
  14. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    First off, thank you all for your posts. I know it is frustrating trying to help someone who is clueless. :)

    Secondly, here is my last question (maybe): I just received an email from Fat Wallet notifying me of a deal on a Dell XPS 8500 for $900, as follows:

    White w/19:1 Media Card Reader
    3rd Generation Intel® Core™ i7-3770 processor (up to 3.90 GHz)
    12GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz - 4 DIMMs
    Blu-ray Combo Drive (BD-R, DVD+/-RW), Write to CD/DVD
    2TB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive + Intel® SRT 32GB SSD Cache
    AMD Radeon™ HD 7770 2GB GDDR5

    Should I consider that? Simple is good for me, so I will make some compromises for being able to go plug n play. What about the 32GB SSD cache drive? Does that do much?

    Thanks again.
     
  15. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Ehud
    This is a very strong machine. The 32GB cache will speed things up.
     
  16. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    What the SSD is designed for is to load Windows, Office and one or two other programs you use a lot (in this case, LR/Aperture) to take advantage of the fast times an SSD gives you. It is a capable machine overall. The 12GB of ram is most likely in a set of three 4gb sticks, and most boards have 4 slots, which means you could add another stick later if you needed to. The MB may or may not have an additional slot for another hard drive, if you chose to add another SSD down the road without having to swap out the 2TB drive. The 3770 is the same as you were looking at, the change in specs is because it will natively Turbo-Boost (read idiot-proof overclocking) from stock 3.5GHz to up to 3.9GHz without you doing anything to it. It appears this is a "locked" processor, which means you would have to do more work to overclock it than getting an unlocked processor. The BR drive is CD/DVD burn, BR read. The only real thing that may be a weak point in this is that it doesn't list the power supply wattage on there (probably under specifications). Generally manufacturers go with the minimum recommended for the most power-hungry thing (in this case, the graphics card). Sometimes means the front USB's aren't always as responsive as they could be (too many things trying to draw power).

    If you do get this, I would download and burn a Windows install disk and a drivers disk, and then reformat the computer to get rid of all of Dell's bloatware that comes preinstalled. Also, not sure if everything is now shipping Windows 8 or if you can still get Win7 machines prebuilt.
     
  17. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    You can get Win7, but only at full price of $1299. I don't want 8, but how bad is it?
     
  18. angusr

    angusr Mu-43 Regular

    79
    Sep 21, 2011
    Windows 8 is fine. It has some irritating quirks (metro), but they are easily avoided/ lived with. I'm not arguing that it is what Microsoft should have released, just that for the average user, it should not be something to put them off in a purchase decision.
     
  19. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    My current take is that Windows 8 is unfortunate but tolerable. None of the things that are wrong with it really get in the way, once you find your way around. However, I've had so many bad experiences with Dell (whether it's the Inspirons or the XPS or the Alienware lines) that there's no way I'd spend money on one again.
     
  20. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    There is no lack of that same feeling toward Dell on the interwebs.

    Is there a brand that differentiates themselves in a good way from a pre-built PC standpoint?

    Thanks.