Tuesday 18 May 2010

PC Power?

The weather here over the last couple of days has been hot but wet-very wet, So i have been stuck behind the PC screen getting some processing done, I had my PC lock up 3 times when using Capture one and although my PC isnt the least powerful around it shows that the new software's that are hitting the market take up a lot of your processing power, So once again i have been spending some time in stores and on-line to see what's available and may move my purchase up and use the money set aside for a new camera, So now i have had 3 visits to the Apple store and have visited the most popular PC custom makers like Puget Systems and Cyberpower, I think my mind is made up to stay with a PC as opposed to a Mac, I was suprised to see that BH sell Macs and offer reasonable deals over the Apple store but i digress, So now its just down to specs, I was going to get the most powerful i can afford which would be one using the new i7-980 processor along with 12 mb Ram, An SSD for the OS and a fast hard drive for other stuff as well as keeping all my images externally, The PC would offer USB3 and SATA so when i upgrade my externals, downloading and up loading should be very fast, Now the question is am i going over board, The PC will basically be a gaming PC, So am i wasting my money, My thoughts are that although its a touch ott at the moment in the next year or two both Nikon and Canon will be offering 30+MP cameras in the way of the 1DS4 and D4X, I dont want to be buying a new PC every 2 years by just buying whats good now, If my PC is way too fast now-can it be? then in 2 or 3 years it should still be good right?
So give me some help here-what would you do, Buy the fastest available now or down spec



  1. Sounds like yiou have a good set up in mind."Gaming" machines usually have the latest and greatest graphic cards and feature seedy rendering/processing.

    Both qualities will give you good results now and in the future.

  2. Hi David,

    I think going for a super quick machine is a good idea because like you say, who knows what camera's and software will be eating up computing power in a few years!

    Personally I'm halfway through the transition of going from PC and Mac based to fully Mac based but that's a personal choice as I don't like to tinker with computers, I just like them to be hassle free with minimum input to maintain them. Plus Macs are almost silent, and that's always appealed to me.

    Best of luck with the new PC though, it sounds like a monster!

  3. Thanks for the comments guys


  4. Dave
    I always believe you should get the best you can afford. If you don't you will always regret it.
    Thats what you do with camera gear.
    You are probably specing something that will last beyond 3 years but you never know....

  5. Dave,

    You already know some of my thoughts on this. I personally do not prescribe to the "max. out everything to the right" approach. My philosophy is to get the appropriate balance. That is to balance the key elements of mobo, processor capability, RAM capacity and GPU versus costs & affordability. The latest and fastest componenets are always priced at the absolute top end when they are launched, which means that there is downward price pressure on either previous models, or slightly lower spec items such as processors.

    When I specced mine a couple of months back, I wanted a good spec mobo, so specced in usb3 and SATA 3. Not that there is much availability of these items yet, and what there is is way over the top price wise. My main thinking here was for when decent usb3 ext HDD's are common currency. As we know file sizes are only getting bigger so this will give you some future leeway there.

    On processors, it is almost a curving scale on price so you need to think about balancing the price v capability here. I looked at the Core i5 and i7. Eventually settling on Core 15 - 660 as my price/capacity balance. Of course mileage may vary, and the market is fluid. Whatever you get now will be superseded in no time, so you have to take your decision and stay with it.

    RAM is critical for many of your photo apps, partic. CS5 and C1 v5 when batch processing. But don't overspec. Some of the latest and fastest RAM will not be fully addressed, and there are big price differentials. e.g. when I checked the price differential between DDR3 1333mhz and 1600mhz, the price delta was huge.

    CS5 does need some GPU capability - more so than CS3 and below, so it is worth getting a reasonable GPU, but you dont need to go over the top and get a mega gamers GPU.

    Word of advice re. Hard drives - get two built into the case. A small-ish one for the OS and apps, and a second larger one, as big as you can afford for the files. Additional hdd's can be added easily enough later.

    I took this overall approach on my last PC, which I also built to my spec, and I got 4 years from it.

    One of the really big differences I noted with the new one when processing large RAW files was the speed differential that the 64 bit OS makes to that, plus all other apps too.

    It is worth going to a manufacturer that has the 'build it as you go along' options. That way you can do numerous builds withe the different components so you can factor the costs of each item against the potential performance benefits. I did exactly that when I specced mine, and as a result, changed some of my thinking around RAM and mobo. BTW with RAM, whatever you pay now will be max price. 18 months - 2 years down the line, you can bung in another couple of chips dead easily to give you a performance boost when the inevitable more resource hungry software comes along. By then, the RAM prices will have dipped as the next versions will be out, but it doesnt mean what you have is out of date.

    A few things to think about there for you, and other readerstoo who may be going through the same tought process.

    Also for other readers benefit, it is easy to get carried away with putting all your cash into the box. The screen is vital for top quality photo work. It is worth making sure you again recognise this, and balance your funds to get a good graphics quality monitor. The best ones are Lacie, Eizo and NEC with Dell and Apple coming along next, followed by anybody else, if you check out some of the suppliers of graphics monitors. Monitors are like anything ese - you get what you pay for


  6. My philosophy follows Martin's logic. Best VFM IMHO is to identify the leading edge tech & spec and drop to the level just below. In most cases you avoid paying premia for just released tech. However RAM I am sure you can never get enough so I would major here for longevity. If you get 4 years out of PC tech then that's probably the life of it. On a separate point, with tax relief and VAT (state sales tax) relief as a pro, you'r probably at a 30% benefit to us retail punters so why worry......... - assuming you have a good accountant ;-)