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Computers and You - A Guide in Making Choices as P

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    Posted: 23 April 2015 at 21:08
Computers and You - A Guide in Making Choices as Photographer



The current state (as of April of 2015) of computing hardware is something of importance to any photographer who wants to get the most out of their post-production time. It is vital to understand that this guide is only for those who shoot RAW and are performing post-production to these images. Although this guide can be used for anyone who wants to know what to look for in a new computer or are interested in building their own, this article is focused upon those that wish to get the most of their post-production.

How to talk the talk:

These are the standards that are out there, so please don’t argue with this, it is only so I can be precise and still use abbreviations. I am not going to get into Binary numbers or specifics such as a KB is actually 1024 bytes. But, for those that want to be pedantic, I am rounding from the binaries, meaning that everything in computers is based off of Boolean logic. So, numbers are 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096… You see these numbers all the time. RAM must be in a multiplier of these numbers.

G=Giga=1,000,000,000

M= Mega=1,000,000

K/k=Kilo=1,000

B= Byte=1 (and there are 8 bits in a byte) – This is a unit of measure for storage, be it RAM or HD’s.

b= bit=1 (there are 8 bits in a byte) – This is the unit of measure for network speed. So, a 100mbit connection has a maximum HD write rate of 100mbit / 8 (bits in a byte)=12.5 MB/sec. This causes confusion as every OS in the world shows you the write speed instead of the transfer speed.

When talking about storage space, you will run into gB (gigabytes) or tB (terabytes). When talking about transfer and network speeds, you will see mb (megabit) or gb (gigabit). When talking about computer clock speeds, you will see ghz (gigahertz) and mhz (megahertz).

Where to start?

The first question anyone must answer is: PC or Mac? LINUX? This generally comes down to a few factors:

1.      Goals for system
2.      Experience
3.      Budget
4.      Desire



1.      Goals for system – This can often dictate which platform to look at. If you need the greatest color fidelity and flexibility, the best option today will be to go with a PC. Here is why: Apple has been very slow to adopt 30-bit color. I emphasize need, because this is not very necessary for even the vast majority of amateur to semi-professional shooters. Even many pro’s do not need it. If you are not sure that you need it, you probably do not. Do you need your system to be flexible and want particular features? Closely examine what separates a Mac from a PC. There are very distinct advantages to both systems, and it is important to be sure what your needs are and if the platform choice will meet them. Things to be aware of include, but are not limited to:
        a.       Ability to swap out video cards, add storage, change monitors, use particular software, the ability to support specialty plugs and cords (older Firewire, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, add-in cards, etc.). If Apple meets all of your needs (and it is important to study the entire ecosystem), then it is a very good choice. However, the choices of video cards and drivers available for Macintosh computers are limited. This is well worth researching before making your decision.
2.      Experience – Do you have experience with the Windows, OSX, or Linux environment? Stick with what you know, because experience leads to the ability to work quickly and efficiently. Only make a change if you are willing to learn a new way of doing things. It can be frustrating and can result in buyer’s remorse. It gets easier if your applications can be used on either Windows or OSX (i.e., Photoshop). Do not discount the needs of anyone else in the household, if it is a shared computer. Think this through.
3.      Budget – Figure out what your budget is, and what sort of “bang for the buck” you want. The value you can get for your dollar varies depending on which system you want to go to. Currently, any hardware configuration you can imagine can be found in the PC world. On Mac’s, you have to recognize that there is a highly stratified system starting with iMac’s up to Mac Pro’s. First determine what you want, then find out what system that meets your needs.
4.      Desire – Do you just simply have to have a Mac, PC, or Linux box? This really should be the 4th consideration for you. Like GAS, this should be kept in check until you know what you need.

Remember, if you want a Macintosh OS, you have to buy a Macintosh Computer. And what is special about them? Fancy cases, keyboard, and mice. Apple really values design. However, the internals are all essentially same as any other PC. However, there are special attachments that are designed for Macintosh. But most of them can be used with a PC.

Windows – Most flexible. Will rarely run into issues of “Why is there no PC version of this?’ And can sometimes run into “Why does this seem so cheaply made?” (see Mac “Why does this cost so much?”)

Mac – Very flexible, but you may run into issues of “Why isn’t it made for Mac?”
Will occasionally run into “Why does this cost so much?” (see PC “Why does this seem so cheaply made?”)

Linux – Only use if you are an expert and KNOW that you can use the software.
Can run into “I love this stability.” Will run into “Why does no one make software for this?” and “Why can no one help me with this?”


HARDWARE

Monitor
Your first purchase should be of a monitor. This is the closest thing that comes to a durable good in computers. I went through 6 different desktop boxes, but kept the same stellar CRT monitor through them all. LCD technology has really come a long ways from the early, bad days. There are a lot of catchphrases out there, with Retina displays being the most recent one, but they do not really mean a whole lot. It simply means that they are high resolution displays at a pretty dense pixel per inch (PPI). For smaller screens, this could be as much as 339 ppi and for larger 13” screens it could be as little as 207. PPI is largely an irrelevant measurement on desktop screens. Look for overall resolution, and if we ignore the 4k displays, the most common high resolution to look for 2560x1600. This is a total of roughly 4mp. 4k displays are on their way, and are becoming better all the time. Today, some of the best display manufacturers (Dell, LG, Apple, HP, etc.) make 3840x2160 displays. This is roughly an 8mp display. However, color accuracy is (right now) a bit of a gamble. Research which models tend to have good color accuracy, not just brands. Moreover, color calibration can be maddening. Simply use two different models of monitors and attempt to calibrate them. While basic calibration is important, it is still no guarantee that they will ever match.

Pay very close attention to the ports on the back of your monitor. Here is a quick little list going by what is still currently available:

D-Sub 9 – Analog – DO NOT USE. You want an uncompressed digital signal. Today’s video cards do not have the clarity of signal that the old Matrox cards had in producing a beautiful analog signal.

DVI – Digital (and Analog, but no longer implemented) – Good choice for budget builds. Cannot exceed 2560 x 1600 @ 60hz refresh rate, or 3840 x 2400 @ 30hz (this gives me headaches). Any higher resolutions need a more exotic dual-dvi connector, and 2 DVI ports (that support Dual linking) on the video card. Little known fact – it can also carry audio, but the builders never enable it. HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is optional. Apple also has a proprietary version of this called an ADC. Adds USB and Monitor power.

HDMI – Digital – Almost identical specs (but extremely different plug) as DVI, but HDCP is mandatory. Several iterations exist to allow for increased sound options and 3D output. Not relevant for 99.x% of computer users. Maximum resolution is 2560 x 1600 @ 75hz or 4096 x 2160 @ 60hz

DisplayPort – Digital - This is the port that most people should use if you are building a system today. Resolution up to 2560 x 1600 @ 75hz (my favorite refresh rate) or 8192x4320 @ 60hz. HDCP replaced with AES on version 1. Version 1.1 brought HDCP back in addition to AES. 1.3 adds the higher resolution for 4k screens.

There are numerous technologies behind a monitor. Here is a brief run-down of what they are:

1.    IPS (and all of its mutations) - Tends to be the highest quality. It has the greatest viewing angles and very consistent color and response time. It also uses a bit more power (between 10 and 20% more) than TN panels and they are more expensive to make.
2.    TN - Tends to be cheaper. Very cheap to make. Very, very fast/low response time. Great for competitive video game players. However, the newest 4k monitors that are budget-friendly (cheap) are TN. TN technology has improved drastically in the last 5 years. May become a viable option for good color reproduction.
3.    MVA and PVA - Better blacks. An attempt to combine the best of both TN and IPS panels. Can have "ghosting effects" when transitioning from dark to light colors. Color reproduction is not up to par with IPS yet.

My recommendation? Get an IPS panel

Processor
Choosing a processor is a tricky business. Bigger is better is the usual hue and cry of salespeople. However, it is important to maintain a bit of sanity when looking at the specifications of any processor choice. There are some major factors to consider when choosing a processor:

1.      How many threads (which ties to cores) are needed?
2.      Is speed of the threads (cores) the most important thing to my workflow?
3.      2, 4, 6, or 8 – This number of choices I do not appreciate!
4.      Do I need an external video card, or am I fine with the “basic?”


1.How many threads do I need? This is an excellent question. The unfortunate answer is, it only depends on your software. This comes down to a term called “multi-threading.” This is an over-simplification, but it comes down to how software is coded. Good software tends to be multi-threaded in that it will work on one thread and recognize that there are other things that can be done at the same time in another thread. So it will off-load much of this work to another thread. This is called parallelization. It will allow work to be done in parallel, not just in a single order of operations. So, why does this matter? Because the software has to be aware of how many threads are available. The good news is that most photo editing software is aware to up to 8 threads. This means that those of you with an Intel Core i7 (which the vast majority have 8 threads available to them) can use every ounce of your processing power. The flip side is that there are processors with 12 and even 16 threads available. Does this mean that these are wasted? Not really. For more information on this, see section 3.
2. Is speed of the threads (cores) the most important thing to my workflow? The short answer is for the most part, not really. Here is why, when we talk about parallelized coding, it can be more important that you have more cores available than having fast cores. There is a great big caveat to this. If you use Photoshop (not Lightroom or Photoshop Elements) a lot, edit video, or are converting large batches of images on a regular basis (wedding photogs are a great example), you will want at least 8 cores and you want them fast. For everyday tasks, and even a lot of basic Photoshop work, the speed of your cores has less impact than how many cores you have.
3. 2, 4, 6, or 8 – This number of choices I do not appreciate! So why have I been talking about threads rather than cores? Well, because its complex and the term "threads" is really more accurate. So then, let’s first talk about cores. We are going to talk about Intel primarily, because they dominate the cpu space, but we will talk about AMD, too. This is a core and thread count of the most different cpu’s made by Intel:
      a. Core i3 – 2 cores, 4 threads
      b. Core i5 (some) – 4 cores, 4 threads
      c. Core i5, i7 – 4 cores, 8 threads
      d. Core i7-E – 6 cores, 12 threads
What we see here is hyper-threading. Think of them as a “junior core.” You will never get 100% performance out of these extra cores. 50% is a bit more realistic. But, do not feel cheated. You are still getting 4 cores performing at the equivalent of 6 cores. It’s not too shabby.
AMD takes a different route with modules and threads. They handles their modules like cores, but they aren't quite. AMD can pool its resources to create a very balanced approach to compute tasks. In theory, they may very well have a superior design than Intel. In practice, they do not. One advantage AMD does have is they are able to add a relatively powerful GPU with their processors. This can come into play if you are trying to develop a good, cheap system that will also be performing GPU-assisted work (see section on GPU's and OpenCL/CUDA). However, if you are investing in a system, the best way to go today is with an Intel system. AMD is solely reserved for those who do not wish to spend the money on a larger system. But be warned, the performance of the top of the line AMD system is primarily equivalent to the middle performing Intel CPU.

4.So, the needs of a graphics card. Is it really necessary? For 95% of users, absolutely not. It is a waste of money. Video cards can only be of help in terms of playing 3-D video games or in select programs such as Photoshop, DxO, or After Effects. If you do not use these programs, stick with on-board graphics. This is the one area where AMD has an enormous advantage over Intel. AMD’s IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) is found within the same chip as its CPU (Central Processing Unit). They call them APU’s (Accelerated Processing Units) and they are a good match to low-end to mid-low end GPU’s. Moreover, they have been engineered to use the OpenCL in ways that neither Intel nor Nvidia can match. If you need some light GPU support and a lot of threads and you are on a budget, AMD makes a whole lot of sense. That being said, if you do not use any of the specialty software that utilize a GPU, the Intel IGP is really very robust. Once Intel starts to support OpenCL on their IGP's, it may change the equation. But for now, it is what it is.

GPU – Do I need one? Realistically, you are the only one who can answer that question. A GPU is only useful if you have a program that will utilize it. Photoshop being the most entrenched software for photographers, has really made things more complicated for us. Here is why: Up until CS6, Photoshop used CUDA, a proprietary programming system for Nvidia hardware. This is where the entrenched knowledge of “What Nvidia video card do I get?” came from. Beginning with Creative Cloud, Adobe has switched from a proprietary standard (CUDA) to an open standard (OpenCL). Why do this? Because OpenCL has surpassed CUDA in many/most areas, and it is open, meaning it can be run on just about any sort of hardware. Both Nvidia and AMD support OpenCL, but AMD is far and away the class of the world where it comes to OpenCL. If you are a user of CC, or will ever be a CC user, AMD GPU’s are the way to go. It may even be worthwhile for Desktop professionals to upgrade. It is that much more efficient and they do not have to pay Nvidia to use it. DXO also uses OpenCL. For other programs, check to see what sort of GPU Acceleration they provide, if any.

For further information on Photoshop's GPU/IGP utilization, check the Adobe GPU FAQ and Adobe's Rationale behind switching to OpenCL

DXO Optics simply states that they utilize OpenCL with both Nvidia and AMD.

For users who use CS6 or earlier, you can still use Nvidia hardware. However, unless you are willing to purchase expensive Nvidia cards or edit your registry to trick CUDA into running, you may not be getting any benefit at all. Moreover, there is a well documented issue with Nvidia’s drivers where they use a reduced color space. A fairly straightforward registry edit can fix it, but why they have not fixed it or provided a checkbox in their driver software, I will never know. If you do not want to mess around with this, and accurate color is important to you, get an AMD GPU or simply use the on-board graphics. For you Intel-based laptop users out there, it will not be an issue. Laptops have what is called switching graphics (each company has a different name for it, but they work the same) where the on-board Intel GPU does the work until a 3D application fires up the other GPU, be it AMD or Nvidia. To see if your video card supports CUDA in Photoshop (without editing your configuration files), it must be a Quadro professional workstation card. No Ge-Forces.

So how much video card do I need? Unless you are editing video, the truth is not much. Remember, only certain tasks are off-loaded to the gpu. The very nature of a GPU is that it highly parallelized (see above where we talk about cores). In overly simple terms, think of it as anywhere between 400-3,000 very, very weak cores all working together. A good choice for the semi-pro shooter would be a low end to mid-range GPU. For the heavy pro that is shooting near-daily, a mid-range and sometimes a higher-end (not the top end) are warranted. Just make sure you have at least 512MB of Video RAM (VRAM).

Multi-Monitor Support – This is the biggest game-changer in terms of productivity today. Going with multiple screens allows for some awfully good workflows to be developed. Two screens is easy to do, but you can get far more exotic with up to three monitors on Nvidia cards, or six (6!) on certain AMD hardware. While for editing photos, this is not such a big deal, but 2 large monitors can dramatically help your workflow, and 3 can be helpful as well.

This is a great example of how even a dual monitor setup can help you: Fro Knows photo – lightroom workflow basics with dual monitors.



Memory
RAM is pretty simple. If you are buying it as part of a system, do not worry too much about brand. Look at four things, in this prioritized order:

1.      Capacity – 8 GiB is the minimum today. 16 is better. Only go 32 if you know that you need it OR if you have a 6-core CPU. It takes a lot of RAM to keep those threads full. And with an Intel –E processor, you will have triple to quad-channel which provides a ton of bandwidth.

2.      Voltage – Always get 1.5v. Every motherboard out there supports it, and it’s stable. The only reason there are other voltages is for those overclockers.

3.      Speed – Your motherboard will only support so much speed. You can always overclock, but this can result in system instability. Right now, DDR3-1600 is pretty much standard, but you can find anything from 1333 to 2333 now. Oh, and these mean mhz. So DDR3-1333 means it runs at 1,333 megahertz (1.3 gigahertz). Back in the day, you wanted to have your RAM speed match the Front Side Bus speed (usually 400mhz). Today, you want your RAM speed to just be fast and stable. Multiple cores are really a bit of a pain in the butt, because they change the equation and the math. I always recommend DDR3-1600 because the price:performance is great. Faster RAM=higher price with diminishing returns.

4.      Timings – The lower these numbers are the better. We are currently in DDR3, and timings may look like 9-9-9-24. The lower these numbers are, the better. It means that there are fewer cycles for the memory to get through. It raises bandwidth, and results in more snap and overall speed. CAS latency (the first number) is the most important number to look at. The lower the better. 7 is what you want. A good example of proper timings would be 7-8-8-24 at 1.5v.



Storage
This one can be a bit polarizing because there are numerous strategies for protecting your data. For photography, it is hard to lose data. We work hard on these images, and losing them is heartbreaking. Let’s start with simple setups. The best scenario is to have an SSD (Solid State Drive) with a mechanical hard disk drive (HDD) for storage. The speed of an SSD is the single best improvement you can make to your system. It negates the need to defragment hard drives because it can randomly access data nearly as fast as it can linearly. If you are looking for an SSD, look at storage size first. There are other considerations that are fail-safes for your data and what-not, but their effectiveness is a bit suspect. There is pretty cool endurance test that is on-going at the techreport.com. If you are interested in SSD’s, it’s a good read. As for your mechanical hard drive(s), storage capacities are now hitting 4TB. It is possible that many shooters can get by with 1 HDD, even with 36mp cameras. For those who are archiving data, it is important to get into NAS (Network Attached Storage). It’s a full array of storage that is kept away from your computer and offers all sorts of data protection. It is a bit expensive, but you can put together a 4 disk, 16 GiB array on a 1Gb network for about $1,000 US. Storage is one area where a desktop computer has some advantages.

It can house up to 8 or even 12 mechanical hard drives and multiple SSD’s. For pro’s, imagine a 512 GiB SSD for OS and programs, a 128 - 256 GiB scratch disk, with 4 mechanical HD’s for longer term storage that is then mirrored to your NAS. It can be done for under $3,000 today. Pretty cool stuff. Video editors can use these systems to their fullest.

There has been a lot of discussion about hybrid drives which have both an SSD and HDD in the same drive. In theory, I like them. However, I have not used them myself. The only issue I can see is when it comes to file fragmentation and how it deals with bad sectors. As long as the system works, it is pretty sweet. However, there is the possibility for problems. There will be people who have never had an issue, and those that will. However, for me, I like the security of knowing that if I lose my OS drive, I can restore it and be back up and running within 3 hours. If I lose my one big drive… well, I have to buy a new drive and then reinstall everything. Downtime, for the pro, is death.
Other good storage solutions include external hard drives, as well as Network Attached Storage (NAS). The advantage here is that you can plug in a hard drive to your existing laptop or desktop, and have an extraordinary amount of storage. It also is an excellent way to back up your existing data. One good strategy I ran across is to buy one external drive per year, write on it in permanent marker or on a piece of tape, which year it is for, and then it can be archived for longer term storage. This does indeed work well, but do not look for this to be a long-term solution. Hard drives can and will go bad. It is better to cull (edit and delete) images harshly, and keep the only the best. Family shots are a completely different matter. For my money, if I have a desktop computer, I will keep adding internal hard drives until I run out of room.
Networked Attached Storage (NAS) is a bit newer and is more at home in the business world. It is simply a storage solution that is designed to plug directly into your home router and be a remote storage location. It’s very simply in design and function, but is a bit expensive to get into. Good NAS cases hold 2-4 hard drives, and can cost $200-600 US. However, it is also the most elegant solution for home backups. It allows the user to set all of their backups to a remote hard drive in another part of the house. If you wish to pursue NAS, there are some important rules to be aware of: Only do this if you have a wired 1 Gigabit connection. You do not want to move large files over a wireless network, particularly at a low speed. It can be done, but it is not worth the time and negates the advantages of NAS. Use a 1Gb router, and cabling to your main computer and to the NAS. Do not ever buy an NAS that does not support 1Gb speeds.

Power Supplies
Often the most overlooked part of any system. An efficient quality power supply will make sure you do not have odd failures or catastrophic loss of components. The standard today is to get an 80 PLUS efficiency. There are bronze, silver, gold, and platinum levels. The higher the level, the more efficient.

Operating Systems
Essentially, for the photographer, there are three main OS’s you can choose. Windows, Macintosh, or Linux. While this has been previously discussed, it is very important to note that just because you have purchased a Mac or PC, does not mean you are locked into your choice. In the last few years, a new technology has made in-roads into becoming mainstream. It goes by many names, but it is most well known as a Virtual Machine. It literally means that you can fire up a program, and it will allow you to run a completely different operating system complete with any program you wish to install. This is a much more advanced topic, but here is what is currently technically (and legally) possible:

Own a PC? - You can also run Linux.
Own a Mac? - You can also run Windows 7 or 8 or Linux.

Well, I hope this helps with decisions. If you have any areas you want further information, please let me know. I tried to keep things basic, so there may be areas that could be more clear or appear to be flat our wrong (like the whole KB/GB/TB thing, where I did it on purpose and don't feel bad about it.)

I also highly recommend the Tech Report System Guides. For the do-it-yourselfer, it is a way to put together a high quality, stable system for much less money than a manufacturer would charge you. It also looks at things component by component.
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wetapunga View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote wetapunga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 01:23
I'm pondering overclocking the i5 intel processor in my PC. Any thoughts on whether that is smart?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TheEmrys Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 02:41
Is it a K labeled processor? Like the i5-2500k? If so, it is a great option if you have need. There may be better ways to achieve an increase in performance, but none are cheaper. The two factors to consider are:

1. Where is your current bottleneck? Could be storage (ssd?), RAM (do you have enough?), or processor (overclock or replace?).
2. How is your airflow in your case? The higher your clock speed, the higher the power usage the higher the temperature inside your case. A dirty case is a hot case. Clean it up before you do anything. Blow it out, and then, if you have a K part, start moving up your clock speed. As a beginner, do not play with te voltages. Wait until you have experience.

If you have a k part, let me know. A great program to tell is called cpu-z, available at Majorgeeks.com.
a7II, a6000 - Sony 28/2, 21mm converter, 55/1.8, 16-70/4, Minolta 28-135, 100/2, 80-200 HS G, Minolta 100-300 APO D,MD 35-70/3.5, MC 50/1.4
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Post Options Post Options   Quote wetapunga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 03:33
Thanks

It's an i5-4570T.
The PC has a hybrid SSD/HDD system, which is pretty good.
It needs more RAM, but that'll probably have to wait for now.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote keith_h Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 03:45
Great article, thank you. Today I acquired Lightroom 6 which it is said finally takes full advantage of GPUs (a.k.a. video cards, graphics cards, etc.) to bring very real performance improvements.

It seems faster than before and might be a reason to ensure your video card is compatible.

From Adobe:

Performance Boosts

Unlike previous versions of Lightroom, Lightroom CC now uses the GPU on your computer, which gives you faster-than-ever performance. Adobe says it could help speed up the program by 10x for some users.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote keith_h Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 03:59
Originally posted by wetapunga wetapunga wrote:

I'm pondering overclocking the i5 intel processor in my PC. Any thoughts on whether that is smart?


When I built my current machine some time ago, I experimented with overclocking. I found no benefit other than increased heat and at the edge of the overclocking envelope, instability.

This machine is built for gaming which means its got plenty of power (i5 3570K) and plenty of (water) cooling and seems to have enough performance for image editing without overclocking.

To give you an idea, with Lightroom 6 running, cores are at an average 20% while scrolling the library with the mouse thumbwheel. It peaks at 50% instantaneously when selecting an image and then goes back down. CPU temp is 35%. Machine idles at 3-5%. Its really not stressed with its standard settings and its actually running some sort of dynamic power saving mode which allows it to "Turbo" if needed. It doesn't look like it needs it the extra boost.

On RAM, you may not need as much as you think. I installed 16G of high performance RAM for the gaming machine. Its using a motherboard that can utilise the performance, not something everyone will have.

At idle, the machine uses about 3.6G. With Lightroom running, 4.2 and as much as 4.6 when scrolling and loading images. 8G should be plenty. I render video on this machine as well (Adobe premiere), 8G is still plenty according to my observations.

On RAM speed, while its true that there is faster performing RAM, in practice I doubt any of us will notice the difference in real life. The really fast stuff is stupidly expensive as well. In my HTPC which is playing video all day long, I bought 4G RAM for $20-00 or somesuch and it gets the job done. Not suggesting you buy the super cheapest, but do ensure you get the right stuff for your motherboard. You need to check vendor compatibility charts to be sure.

Having said that, well worth a go if you want to experiment. Before you do, install core temp to watch what happens. You can also use the task manager to monitor resource use.

Edited by keith_h - 24 April 2015 at 04:13
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote craig66 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 07:32
I agree with keith_h. I wouldn't bother with overclocking unless you enjoy tinkering with these sorts of things. The extra heat possibly reduces the life expectancy of components and gains are likely to be modest if you don't join the extreme overclockers crowd. Also beware in hot climates as the ability of the machine to reject heat is heavily dependent on ambient temperature.

I also agree that there is not a lot of point in buying expensive high performance memory. It might provide some gain or it's effect may be negligible and that depends on the memory usage patterns of the application software in use. System performance is a complex topic and you really need to benchmark the actual software you are using to see what effects changes in system configuration has. Of course the vendors of "high performance" components would like you to believe that buying their particular gadgets is a magic fix.

My priorities in a new computer would be lots of memory, high quality screen, sufficient storage and of course adequate backup hardware.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 08:55
Thanks for the read, I hadn't really considered my PC needs in photography mainly because I had a gaming system and when I started photography things just seemed to work just fine.

I like your section on graphics card, that's something to consider for my next PC.

Currently I have something with a i7, 8GB RAM and a descent (I can't remember what) nvidia graphics card. I am using a hybrid harddrive (SSDs were very expensive 4 years ago). I can now buy a good SSD or just upgrade my laptop to one that comes with a SSD. When I looked around the computers haven't really moved forward so much that I need to upgrade neither has my (software) needs but my fans are being awfully loud these days and cleaning it seems to a lot of pain. I did open up part of my laptop but it looks like I need to take apart the whole system clean it, replace thermal paste etc
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Post Options Post Options   Quote romke Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 09:01
Thanks for the excellent article. It is the very first article I have seen on the subject that is not OS or manufacturer biased, but just clearly points out the differences between the choices you have so as a user I can make a informed choice.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TheEmrys Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 15:45
My pleasure. Very glad to share my knowledge and experience over the last... 25 years? Getting old. Anyway, I certainly have learned far more than this in photography here. And I don't claim to have all the answers, and I like to think I am honest enough to recognize where opinion differs from fact.

a7II, a6000 - Sony 28/2, 21mm converter, 55/1.8, 16-70/4, Minolta 28-135, 100/2, 80-200 HS G, Minolta 100-300 APO D,MD 35-70/3.5, MC 50/1.4
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TheEmrys Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 16:01
Originally posted by keith_h keith_h wrote:



On RAM speed, while its true that there is faster performing RAM, in practice I doubt any of us will notice the difference in real life. The really fast stuff is stupidly expensive as well. In my HTPC which is playing video all day long, I bought 4G RAM for $20-00 or somesuch and it gets the job done. Not suggesting you buy the super cheapest, but do ensure you get the right stuff for your motherboard. You need to check vendor compatibility charts to be sure.

Having said that, well worth a go if you want to experiment. Before you do, install core temp to watch what happens. You can also use the task manager to monitor resource use.


As to Ram speed, there are a few areas where it makes sense, and I really only advocate getting the fastest speed that is adhering to standards (1600mhz). The lower timings, on the other hand, are often priced exactly the same (here in the US, xan't speak for the whole world). The exact same price. Why leave performance on the table for no change in cost? Often enough (and I don't want to get too technical here), when comparing two sets of RAM, the lower clock speed with faster timings will outperform high clock speed with higher timings. In my opinion, always get RAM from a known maker with:
DDR3-1600 1.5v and the lowest timings (mostly the first number as this is CAS latency).

The quicker timings can mean a lot for our photoshop crowd, and... probably only during export of RAW for LR.

I can get into more detail on CAS latency, if anyone is interested. But the simple way to look at it is Latency = wait. Lower Latency = lower wait.
a7II, a6000 - Sony 28/2, 21mm converter, 55/1.8, 16-70/4, Minolta 28-135, 100/2, 80-200 HS G, Minolta 100-300 APO D,MD 35-70/3.5, MC 50/1.4
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Freddan_6 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 16:29
I just want to add two notes

1) that a SSD disk primary makes your machine boot faster, like in 10s instead of 30-40s. I have a laptop with (too small) 128GByte SSD to boot and a storage HD of 750GByte, and yet another backup disk of 750GByte. Thus all pictures are at least stored in two places. A really good article. Buy at least 256GByte boot disk and you do not need to clean disk every week as I do.

2) DRAM for laptops have a new standard SO-DIMM DDR3L, with 1.35V voltage. If you use wrong memory your computer don't start, or don't work at all, so please pay attention.
Sony A77, Sony A35, Sony A99: Tons of Minolta lenses, 5 Sony lenses, 2 Sigma and 3 Tamron and 5 M42
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Post Options Post Options   Quote QuietOC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 17:24
There's also DDR3L DIMMs. Any decent motherboard supports them, and they do use a little less power. Like CPUs, there is a dazzling array of choices in DDR3 that are all really the same silicon. The rated voltage(s), speed(s), and timings are arbitrary points. Boring no-heatspreader DDR3 1600 CAS9 1.5V is good enough.

The one time memory bandwidth matters is using 3D video built into the CPU. My last memory purchase was a cheap 8GB pair of DDR3-2133 DIMMs. With Intel I needed to get a motherboard with the high end Z97 chipset to run them at their rated speed. It was a better motherboard for other reasons too, so probably not a bad purchase. Also I am using the built-in video. FWIW: Intel has supported OpenCL on their integrated CPUs since Sandy Bridge.

I recently got one of new 4TB Seagate SSHD hybrid drives for my Windows Home Server. I am happy that it is fairly quiet. I certainly wouldn't use it for a boot drive over a 60GB SSD. The 3TB and smaller models are faster.

Overclocking keeps getting harder, so it is hard to recommend it, but I do like my overclocked Core i5 4690K.

Edited by QuietOC - 24 April 2015 at 18:33
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Post Options Post Options   Quote QuietOC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2015 at 17:49
delete

Edited by QuietOC - 24 April 2015 at 18:07
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