Build-Your-Own 'Ultimate' Photoshop PC guide

Summary:Probably one of the most of the most-requested features here on Hardware 2.0 is for a 'Build-Your-Own PC' plan for the 'Ultimate' Photoshop system. Why Photoshop? Because it's a big, heavy application that when pushed hard can really tax a system. The better your hardware, the better your Photoshop experience will be.Well, here is is - my 'Ultimate' Photoshop rig guide.

Probably one of the most of the most-requested features here on Hardware 2.0 is for a 'Build-Your-Own PC' plan for the 'Ultimate' Photoshop system. Why Photoshop? Because it's a big, heavy application that when pushed hard can really tax a system. The better your hardware, the better your Photoshop experience will be.

Well, here is is - my 'Ultimate' Photoshop rig guide.

Note: I'm not much of a Photoshop user - most of my 'art' tends to end up looking like the 4chan Rage Guy, so don't bother asking me any Photoshop-related questions!

On a more serious note: While I'm specifically looking at a rig suited to Photoshop (and in particular Photoshop CS5), this plan would work for any of the big Adobe products - such as Premiere Pro or even the 'full' Master Collection suite.

A Photoshop rig needs three things:

  • A fast, quad-core processor
  • Lots of RAM
  • Lots of big hard drive

Let's take a look at these three things in a little more detail.

Processor

Some facts - Intel CPUs trump AMD when it comes to Photoshop, speed matters and and pushing the cores beyond four doesn't have a huge effect (here's one benchmark to support all of my statements). So you're building a Photoshop rig I'd start by putting an Intel Core i7 at its heart, such as the 3.4GHz Core i7-2600 part (which turbo-boosts up to 3.8GHz). This is a $300 part but it's a great start to any Photoshop rig.

RAM

You need RAM, and lots of it. I'd say consider 8GB a minimum but take that to 12-16GB if your motherboard allows. There's not need to get fancy and by fast gaming RAM here, in fact you're better off sticking to the basic stuff which is more stable.

Stick with RAM from Crucial or Kingston and you won't go wrong.

Storage

A Photoshop rig needs masses of storage, not just because the application is huge, and not because the output is massive, but because in order to get the best from Photoshop, you need multiple drives.

Ideally you need at least four drives. One for the OS, one for the application, one for output and one to act as a 'scratch disk' (the Adobe name for using a portion of a hard drive as virtual memory). You can get away with fewer disks, for example two disks (one for Windows and the applications, the other to ask as storage and a scratch disk), but it's not ideal. Running everything on a single disk is going to create bottlenecks.

If you want to push the boat out, put the scratch disk on two RAID 0'ed disks (which spreads the data across two disks, improving performance) and the data on a RAID 1 (mirrored) or RAID 5 array for performance and added data security.

Note: More on RAID arrays here.

If you wanted to push the boat out further, you could go for Solid State Drives (SSDs), but because you want multiple drives the cost of the system will quickly become astronomical. The idea of a RAID array of SSDs brings tears to my eyes ...

My suggestion is that you pick up for large, fast drives, such as the 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black which will set you back some $160 per drive.

What else ... ?

One more thing you might want to consider if you are planning on using Adobe Premiere Pro is which graphics card you're going to install. This is because Premiere Pro supports GPU acceleration when using certain NVIDIA GPUs.

Putting it all together!

OK, let's put this all together into a complete system:

  • Intel Core i7-2600 3.4GHz - $300
  • MSI P67A-GD65 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 - $180
  • 2 x (16GB) Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1333 - $162
  • 4 x Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB - $360
  • ASUS ENGTX570 GeForce GTX 570 - $350
  • LG WH10LS30 10X Blu-ray Burner - $70
  • CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W power supply unit - $105
  • Thermaltake V4 Black Edition chassis - $50
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit - $130

Total price: $1,707

There you go. I bet you're glad I steered you away from getting SSDs!

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Storage, Windows

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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