Build your own high-performance video/photo editing PC ... for under $1,500

Continuing my "Build your own" series, I'm going to follow on from building a Home Theater PC and today look at building a how to build a high-performance video/photo editing PC ... for under $1,500.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

Continuing my "Build your own" series, I'm going to follow on from building a Home Theater PC and today look at building a how to build a high-performance video/photo editing PC ... for under $1,500.

There are several requirements for a high-performance video/photo editing PC that differ from your average PC. In fact, even a high-performance gaming PC might not be ideally suited to photo and video editing.

Note: This is a bare-bones system so I'm not including peripherals (keyboard, mouse and monitor), OS or a case in the listing.

Here are my requirements:

  • Fast (but not super-fast) CPU
  • Lots of RAM
  • Plenty of storage
  • Fast storage
  • Ability to burn CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray

OK, let's pull the parts we need together!


OK, I'm looking for power, but I don't want to pay crazy money for that power. For this design I've chosen an Intel Core i7 processor, but rather than blow nearly $1,000 on the 975 Extreme Edition, I've gone for the more modest 920.

The Core i7 920 is a 2.66GHz, quad core part that's built using 45nm architecture. Not only is it a quad core part, but each core is capable of handling two threads each.

This part is also supports Intel's Streaming SIMD Extension 4.1 (SSE 4.1)making it ideally suited to dealing with multimedia (such as video encoding and decoding).

Some downsides are that this CPU needs a specific motherboard (Socket LGA 1366) and DDR3 RAM, both of which add to the price of the system.

Price: $290

Next -->


OK, so we need a Socket LGA 1366 motherboard to pair with the Core i7 CPU. Given the availability of these boards now, this isn't a problem.

I've gone for the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R for this build because it's a robust, high-performance and versatile board that's ideal for the kind of build we have in mind here.

It's a good board because it's already well set up out of the box, but has plenty of tweakability for those who like to tinker.

Price: $210


For this build we're going to need DDR3 RAM, and because this machine is going to be handling multimedia, let's make sure we have plenty of it.

You don't need super-fancy RAM, so I suggest that you go for Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1600. 6GB (3 x 2GB) will set you back under $200. If you want to up the RAM to 12GB, grab two packs. (I've had reports in that this motherboard,this RAM and Windows 7 don't play well together when you have 12GB installed ... I'll look into that)

Price: $190

Hard drive

If you're going to be handling photos and video, you're going to need plenty of storage.

There are plenty of scope for choice here. You could choose solid-state hard drive if you have plenty of cash to spend, but that's only an option for those looking for a super-spendy system.

Another option is to use RAID to pull together two drives into a RAID 0 array. I like this but two drives doubles the chances of failure, and hand-holding RAID isn't for everyone.

Instead, I'm going to suggest two drives. One fast drive, and another high-capacity drive.

For the fast drive I'm recommending the Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB. This makes an excellent OS drive of a scratch disk for applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro. I'd suggest fitting two of these drives to the system.

For capacity, I'm recommending a Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB. Bags of storage, good reliability and a decent price.

Price: 2 x VelociRaptor 300GB @ $240 each | Caviar Green 2TB @ $190 (Total: $670)

Next -->

Graphics card

You don't want anything insane here. Leave the high-priced stuff to the gamers!

I recommend a Radeon HD 5750 with 1GB of GDDR5. This card offers all the power you need at a decent price.

Price: $160

Optical drives

A system like this needs at least two optical drives.

First, a regular DVD burner to act as a workhorse drive. My current favorite is the LG GH24NS50, which is cheap and cheerful.

Then you need a drive that can handle all formats including Blu-ray. A good drive for this is the LG WH10LS30K.

Price: LG GH24NS50 (DVD) @ $25 | LG WH10LS30K (Blu-ray) @ $170 (Total: $195)

Power Supply Unit

For this build you need a nice mid-range PSU that's efficient, reliable and provides ample power. The Antec EarthWatts 650W PSU is ideal.

Price: $70

Total price: $1,495

Add to this:

  • 64-bit OS (Windows 7, Linux ...)
  • Chassis
  • Peripherals

Let me know what you think! Suggestions? Upgrades? Different configurations? 

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