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 Post subject: Win7 hardware planning
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:33 am 
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With the release less than a month away I guess I should start looking at what hardware to get to run on it. This will be a major upgrade replacing my existing desktop. No specific budget, this is peanuts compared to photography stuff anyway.

As background, I've generally gone for "fast enough at low noise". This generally means I buy around the value point, and avoid leading edge power hungry components. Key spec of my current main box is:

Q6600 SLACR at stock with a Zalman erm... some huge lump of copper with fan on it - cheapest quad at the time, also low(ish) power
GF7600GT passive cooled - I'm not a serious 3D gamer and this was as fast as I could go passive
2x 2GB Corsair PC6400C4 - note going ahead I plan on giving up on the high end stuff and go for mainstream speed grades, the real world performance difference isn't worth it
2x 500GB WD mirrored (system disks - storage separate) - fast enough, and I don't trust HDs for mechanical reliability particularly since the Deathstars.

So the question I'm asking myself is what to go for next?

Processor is quite easy, the recent i7 860 seems to be the best balance of price, speed and power. I need to read up on motherboards but don't expect that to be a big hurdle either.

Ram might be tricky. I want to target 16GB, but 4GB modules needed to achieve this seem rather rare. If this proves too hard I might make do with 8GB or 12GB depending on how many 2GB modules I can cram on.

GFX cards - here I'm totally clueless as I've not kept up to date. Again I'd like to go for the fastest card that is quiet, not the quietest card that is fast. I don't have any significant 3D gaming usage, but this will be in part future proofing as I do intend on going to full Photoshop at some point, and would want something that can provide worthwhile performance improvements. I've always been an nvidia person so absolutely not ATI under any circumstances! Any suggestions? Passive cooling isn't a strict requirement, but if there is a fan, it better be a quiet one under load. I'd also consider 3rd party replacement coolers to replace stock ones.

Disks are another tricky one. I'm wondering if now is a worthwhile time to put the system on a SSD... otherwise I'd likely go with a regular 7200 rpm drive. As noted earlier I intend having a bucket load of ram so it will act as a huge cache under most circumstances, mitigating disk performance to a fair degree. The size of my windows + program files directories is about 40GB so something like an 80GB SSD should be fine. I'd not bother mirroring it, and will manually backup to conventional HD.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 12:26 pm 
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How about just overclocking the Q6600 for the time being? I got mine (also the G0 stepping/SLACR) to 3 GHZ with just the stock cooler and without raising voltages. It should keep you happy until you build your new pc :)

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 12:51 pm 
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The main drive for the upgrade is the ram. 3.2GB is rather limiting. I've long gave up on OCing as I don't want the associated increase in power consumption and heat it produces, even if it is minor (both clock and power).

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 1:34 pm 
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I dont feel particularly limited by 3GB... I've got a fair amount of stuff open just now i'm using 1.2GB

(itunes, msn, 7 convo windows, tweetdeck, over 40-50 firefox tabs, Flashget, Dropbox, LogMeIn, and a few explorer windows open)

I could get away with opening Lightroom too without going over my 3GB limit too.

8GB is more than enough.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 1:50 pm 
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For normal use, yes, the ram quantity is fine. But at times I do push the ram. I want to experiment more in stitching/stacking type scenarios, and that's where I'm hitting the wall with the hard disk light going solid.

Also note that any ram unused by programs turns into a fat disk cache. That significantly mitigates the performance of hard disks.

Ram is dirt cheap as long as you don't go for the exotic stuff. Unfortunately so far it looks like 4GB modules qualify as being exotic. I've not found any below about £200 each. Ouch. So the best plan so far is to get a 6 slot mobo for 12GB total. 12GB (as 6x2GB) ram would only come to around £200 total, which is nothing. I can see no reason to skimp at all.

Personally the biggest unknown I have at the moment is which gfx to get, so will particularly welcome suggestions in that area.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 2:34 pm 
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I personally see no reason what so ever to upgrade your hardware. Your hardware can handle any photo software just fine without breaking a sweat. All you really need is an upgrade from 32bit to a 64 bit version operating system so you utilize all 4GB of memory instead of just 3.2GB of it. If you plan to run that much memory on Windows 7 just be sure to buy the 64bit version of it.

SSD hard drive are amazingly fast, I have one on my laptop. However they are pretty pricey for anything of decent size. Thus their mostly limited to the storage of the OS and a few key programs. You'll still need another massive regular hard drive for your photo/video/music/etc storage.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 2:36 pm 
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Yes stacking can really skyrocket your RAM usage, I've noticed that.

As far as graphic cards go....I really don't think you need the latest and greatest for photoshop and lightroom. A 9800GT would be more than sufficient (it's what I have). If you save on the GPU you can spend more on the processor (which in the end does 99% of the work for now, at least until GPU processing with openES becomes more mainstream)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 2:48 pm 
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Keep me in that just because you have 16Gb of Ram does not mean one program can use all of it or take advantage of it all. In Windows 32 or 64 bit each process is limited to 2GB of RAM Usage. If one application tries to use more then 2GB of ram Windows freaks out and the app crashes. Most of the time a program will behave and stay within it's bounds but I've ran a few different apps before that tried to access more then 2GB which promptly resulted in crashes. There are work arounds to allow up to 3.2GB of memory usage on 32bit Windows and up to 4GB of memory usage per application on a 64bit Windowsbut I found them to be a pain in the butt.

So in the end having 16GB of ram is only useful if you run 8 different memory hungry application and have that new shiny Core i7 quad core with Hyperthreading.

Check out this website for memory limits for windows, http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library ... 85%29.aspx

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 3:28 pm 
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The difference from 3.2 to 4 GB is insignificant. If I am going through the major change of switching to a 64 bit OS, I'm not going to hold back, and will get as much ram is practically possible.

While I haven't explicitly mentioned it earlier, I'm also taking this as a chance to build an even quieter PC than my current one as the fans and vibrations are getting worse from age.

The 2GB limit does not apply to 64 bit apps, hence I'm looking at upgrading photoshop version. Even if 32 bit applications have limits on memory space, as and when they swap that still fits in the OS cache so you still DO get benefit from the ram. There's an Adobe paper on it somewhere if you want to look it up. Unused ram works as a huge disk cache. I think in general people look at the CPU too much and neglect the ram at the cost of reduced overall system performance. There's nothing left to say about ram unless you can point me at low cost 4GB modules.

Bulk storage HD is not an issue. My only debate is for the OS drive, if SSD is now mature enough as a main drive. Side benefits are low noise (none!) and reduced heat too. Long term life is a minor concern, but I don't tend to run my main desktop PCs for more than a couple years so it's not likely to be a big problem either. I wont bother mirroring in this case to keep costs rather sane, and mechanical death isn't a risk any more.

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Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 7:26 pm 
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I agree on the necessity of more RAM part. You can never have enough. I think your current cpu/gpu is good-enough for all your 2D needs. All you need is more RAM and if possible, may be a fast disk to use as "cache", so you are not being hold back by the windows page file on the rather slow HDDs. And the size of that disk should not be determined according to how large your sys drive is, but by the amount of RAM you got. I think 8GB DDR3 RAM and about 16 - 20GB of a "cache" drive should be fine. You can save a LOT on a smaller one.

If you do feel like having a newish card, you might consider the (with 1 GB DDR3) GTS 250 -particularly the one from MSI. I got one recently. It's fast, cool, silent and is less power hungry. More than enough for CS4 and other plugins. But you do need more RAM to get the most out of it. Try to get the newer DDR3 ones though.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:25 pm 
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more ram yes, more than 8 (or maybe 12 if you really wanna push it) no.

I'd personally sell you the following stuff:

- CPU: Intel Core i7 860
- CPU Cooler: Noctua CPU-Cooler NH-U12P SE2
- Mainboard: Asus P7P55D, Intel P55
- RAM: 4*2GB Mushkin XP3-12800
- System Disk: Intel X25-M G2 80GB (SSD)
- Storage Disks: 2* Western Digital Caviar GP, 32MB, 1TB (RAID 1)
- Graphics Card: ZOTAC GTX-275 AMP! 896MB DDR3
- Case: Cooler Master RC-690-KKN1-GP, inkl. Mesh-Grid

That should make for a pretty good performance at a still reasonable price. Also it's gonna leave some serious headroom for overclocking the CPU.

Obviously, you can alter stuff like memory brand, the case, cpu cooler etc (although in that particular case I'd really recommend the Noctua - it's whisper-silent and reeeally cool)

Don't go for 4GB RAM kits just yet.. once this really becomes necessary, I'm sure the prices for RAM will have dropped dramatically once again and you can get them for a sensible price.

ah and:
popo wrote:
So the best plan so far is to get a 6 slot mobo for 12GB total. 12GB (as 6x2GB) ram would only come to around £200 total, which is nothing. I can see no reason to skimp at all.


Getting a 6 slot mainboard means using Triple Channel RAM, which means going for the older (but still great) LGA 1366 Core i7 (the 920 probably, since its the only one without an outrageous pricetag). Now, while that's possible, it's not the best bang for the buck as far as I can work out. For that you'll need a more expensive mainboard and you'll "only" get a 2.66GHZ CPU for the same price as the 2.8GHZ LGA 1156 Core i7

oh and:
R0Y.1 wrote:
But you do need more RAM to get the most out of it. Try to get the newer DDR3 ones though.


rubbish! you're not gonna be able to put DDR3 RAM in your current system unless you change the Mainboard to some weird LGA775 Socket board with DDR3 RAM (they exist but are absolutely, utterly useless.)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:59 pm 
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Nostrum, that's not far off what I'm thinking...

Mobo wise, there is one Gigabyte P55 chipset mobo with 6 slots still in dual channel configuration. Not so cheap though...

The SSD would be my first choice, although I have no idea what availability or price is like as the last time I looked I couldn't find Intel ones anywhere. I don't need to replace storage disks yet as I'll just transplant them from my existing system until they do get full.

Case I'm finally going to use one I have lying around for years now.

Still need to read up on gfx cards, thanks everyone for the suggestions so far.

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Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 9:13 pm 
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Ah yep, missed that Gigabyte with 6 channels.. it's jolly expensive though, you might as well just use the LGA 1366 Core i7 at that price point..

seriously though, I don't think you'll need more than 8GB memory, and once you DO need it, it's gonna be affordable to buy 4GB modules.

As for the SSD: I own the Intel X25-M G2 80GB and it's superb. And it'll support the TRIM feature of windows 7 (which essentially negates the problem of performance loss over time which you currently get with SSDs)

There's a pretty long waiting list for the 80GB intels pretty much everywhere (the G2 at least - and that's the one you want, obviously). But if you're not in a hurry, just go and put yourself on that list and you'll eventually get one.

gfx: I like the GTX 275. it's a pretty quick single GPU card and it's not too expensive.. of course for photoshop etc. you could probably get away with a GTX 260 or even lower, too.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 9:39 pm 
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Nostrum,
Quote:
rubbish! you're not gonna be able to put DDR3 RAM in your current system unless you change the Mainboard to some weird LGA775 Socket board with DDR3 RAM (they exist but are absolutely, utterly useless.)


I never said I'm lookin forward to put DDR3 RAM in MY CURRENT SYSTEM. I do have a LGA 775 based mainboard, because it's where my c2d processor sits. But I don't understand what's "weird" about that. Suggesting faster RAM "rubbish" ? :shock: And which part is "absolutely, utterly useless" ?

BTW, the stuff you're willing to "sell" popo are meant for extreme gaming, not photo editing - which is just what she wants to do.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 9:51 pm 
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ah sorry, that "you" was out of place there - I meant popo's current system. And it's useless because there is pretty much no performance gain whatsoever for DDR3 over DDR2 ram on an LGA775 socket.. use google if you don't believe me. Just think for a moment what advice you're giving here: replacing an LGA775 mainboard with another one (with DDR3 support) for pretty much no reason.. let alone that LGA775 will soon die and you can throw the board in the trash anyway if you ever want to upgrade your CPU.

And what exact part isn't suitable for photo editing then? Cs4 CAN use your GFX card and you can't argue that a fast CPU and enough RAM is improving the speed of the relevant programs (lightroom, photoshop). Yes, the system happens to be able to handle highend gaming too.. the requirements are actually quite similar to those for photoediting. You can probably easily get away with a cheaper gfx card, but the pricegap is so small, I don't see the point in doing so.

I'm not suggesting that you can't do photoediting with a much slower system too, but that's not what this is all about here. It's about building a system which delievers the most bang for the buck.

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