What graphics card - photo editing use mostly

Started May 6, 2011 | Discussions
Pavel Muller
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What graphics card - photo editing use mostly
May 6, 2011

Planning to buy a new system - most likely Dell 580s. Looking for a compatible graphics card. Mostly photo editing use, some office applications, no gaming, rarely a video viewing. Looking for a card that supports 2 monitors, fast, high res., good colors, will work well with mainstream color management software (X-rite at present). Thinking of getting Dell Ultrasharp monitor - relatively inexpensive but I am happy with the rendition of the image - good match to my prints, good resolution, can tone down the brightness enough, good, but not spectacular color range.

Please advise on the video card, preferably one sold by Dell. Perhaps recommend one from the Dell stable in addition to the one you consider the best suited. Please give reason for your choice. Thank you a great deal.

Pavel

Jim Cockfield
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Re: What graphics card - photo editing use mostly
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 6, 2011

The Dell 580s boxes have a relatively weak PSU (Power Supply Unit), meaning your choice of video card will be very limited. You'll need one that can run off of the PCIe slot (as the power supplies in those boxes won't have connections for better video cards).

The space available may also be a bit tight.

So, I'd probably stick with a smaller card that fits in a single slot without taking up a lot of room.

Something like this one (low profile, single slot width, bus powered) would probably be a good bet

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814133356

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Leigh A. Wax
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Re: What graphics card - photo editing use mostly
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 6, 2011

I've had excellent results with an NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 128 bit/1GB which is a single slot, single fan card.

The GTX equivalents are dual fan, and take up more space, and are more desirable for "gaming"; but the GTS 450 works fine with PS CS-5, on my Win-7 64bit machine.

Leigh

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Jim Cockfield
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It's a small case with 250W PSU in it. ;-)
In reply to Leigh A. Wax, May 6, 2011

The 580s machines being considered by the OP only have a 250Watt PSU in them (with no spare PSU connections for a GPU that requires them like you'd need with a GTS 450).

http://supportapj.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/insp580s/en/cs/cs_en.pdf

I don't even see where Dell offers a dedicated GPU option for the 580s with their current configurators (although it does like they've offered them with a GT 220 in the past).

I wouldn't go with anything needing more power than an Nvidia GT430 which can run from bus power (and I'd stick to a shorter, low profile card, as those 580s slimline cases are pretty small). Even that one pulls more power than that PSU has available "on paper" (as Nvidia recommends a minimum 300w PSU for it, but the power requirements are likely overstated).

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Pavel Muller
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Re: It's a small case with 250W PSU in it. ;-)
In reply to Jim Cockfield, May 6, 2011

Thank you all - I learned a great deal.Mainly that my idea of going with 580s is a bit constrining, particularly when it comes to power supply. I do not want to blow more money than I have to. What Dell or other brand should I get to get a decent, reliable configuration that handles Photoshop well? I am not talking ultimate machine, just a capable one. What processor? Memory (8 GB?)? What else should I look out for? I assume 300 W?

I really appreciate the feedback I am getting here - I am out of my depth. Thank you all.
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mosswings
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Re: What graphics card - photo editing use mostly
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 6, 2011

Even integrated graphics will do for strictly video editing and general purpose computer use. However, if you think that you will be purchasing a high-res photo editing monitor (one with greater than 1080 x 1920 (23",16:9) or 1200 x 1900 (24" 16:10) resolution) you'll need one with DVI-D - or Display Port if your monitor has DP connectors. But if you're sticking with the 1080p resolution monitors, all you will need is a card with HDMI or single channel DVI connectors. The 580s uses the GMA310 integrated graphics and offers a single HDMI and a single VGA connector. That VGA connector won't do a contemporary 1080p monitor full justice - it's an analog format. Even though the 580s has an expansion slot, it is a slim tower design and is not really intended for expansion. Notice that Dell does not even offer a video card or extra hard drive in its configurator pages, which should tell you something. You CAN put a 2nd hard drive in it (highly recommended), but your video card is preferably a low power, fanless unit. A Radeon 5450-powered system is more than adequate, will cost something like $60-70, and comes with both a DVI and HDMI port typically. Anything more than that requires a fan and has a fairly high power draw. However, the 300 watt supply of the 580 should be plenty for something like a 5570.

You may have to reconfigure the BIOS to recognize the new video card, a small pain.

Others may cring, but I recently purchased two HP Sandy Bridge performance desktops - an HPE-510t and an HPE570t. The HPE-510t is powerful and around $600, with sufficient integrated graphics; the HPE-570t is probably overkill but will last a LONG time. I had to configure it with a Radeon 5770 to get dual DVI-D connectors, and it cost around $900. But something like the base configuration Pavilion 6780t with the Intel i5-2300 and HD 2000 Integrated Graphics will have what you need; for an extra $50 you can get a dedicated Radeon 6450 graphic card with a bit more oomph factory configured. I've had zero problems with power supply capacity on my 570t, and if you're not gaming, neither will you. I tend to like HP's towers more than Dell's - much smaller (similar in size to the Dell 580), but much more configurable and space efficient.

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Jim Cockfield
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It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 6, 2011

Pavel Muller wrote:

Thank you all - I learned a great deal.Mainly that my idea of going with 580s is a bit constrining, particularly when it comes to power supply.

It's also constraining as to the space you've got for a card, as it's PCIe x 16 slot is designed for half height cards (which is why I suggested a low profile card for one).

These boxes are not really designed to add on to (expandability is very limited with that type of machine).

I do not want to blow more money than I have to. What Dell or other brand should I get to get a decent, reliable configuration that handles Photoshop well?

It's all a matter of perspective what will work best. You don't really need a high end video card for Photoshop right this minute. But, later down the road, it may be nice to have one for video editing, and as time passes, we'll probably see more applications that can make use of a GPU (Graphics Processor Unit) for other tasks.

I am not talking ultimate machine, just a capable one. What processor? Memory (8 GB?)? What else should I look out for? I assume 300 W?

Nope.. 300 watts is really considered to be "bare bones" for cheaper bus powered cards, not more mainstream cards that need separate connections.

It's not that they'll really use 300 watts. But, the cheaper PSUs used in the low end models are not going to have extra power connections, and are not very suitable for anything other than bus powered cards. But, you may not care about anything more than a less expensive card anyway if you're not into gaming.

I'd probably avoid the slimline boxes entirely, and go with at least a regular 580 instead. But, you're still going to be limited to bus powered video cards in one (their PSU is just not up to the task of supporting higher end cards).

I've got more than one Dell Inspiron box with the same basic form factor and PSUs. I buy them because they're cheap, usually buying the refurbished boxes from Dell Outlet (waiting for coupon codes for more off).

I actually bought my last one like that for $235 delivered (just a dual core AMD CPU with 3GB of memory with Win 7 that I got after a MB failure on another machine so I'd have something to use until it was fixed). lol

But, they're not the highest quality boxes around and their Power Supplies leave something to be desired. :I actually replaced the PSU in one similar Dell box I bought a few years back that has a Q6600 CPU in it, buying a cheap (but higher output) PSU that was on sale at newegg.com for it with the connections needed to support higher end video cards. But, installing a different PSU did require bending a few tabs in the case bottom and it was a very tight fit.

It would probably be best to just buy a box with a low end video card preinstalled in it from what it sounds like you're looking for.

What kind of budget are you trying to stay within?

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Pavel Muller
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Re: It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to Jim Cockfield, May 6, 2011

Thank you all - this is very helpful.

1) I was certainly hoping to spend less than a $1000, but on the other hand, I do not wish to spend more that I need to. I know that I can spend a lot more than a $1000, but perhaps I can have a perfectly good system for less.

2) I really do not care about the form factor. In fact reconfigurability is desirable, if it does not involve a large additional cost and size is not an issue.

3) Reliability is an issue. I would rather have a power supply that can handle a system that is optimized for good photo editing.

4) I do not see myself getting into photo editing (I am too old), gaming (too old) and watching video is a bonus and not a primary need. Watching a movie on the system would be desirable though.

5) I would like to purchase a high resolution monitor. my current one is used at 1200 x 1900 and I certainly do not plan going below that. I am looking for a monitor that has at least the range of colors (color gamut) of Dell Ultrasharp, my current monitor, but if I can get better monitor with wider gamut at a cost of not more than a double of the Ultrasharp, I would consider it. 24" is the smallest I would consider. I color calibrate with x-rite and I want to make sure that the monitor and video card are compatible with it. I need a card with dual monitor capability.

6) I assume that 8 GB RAM is enough. Is it? I want to make sure that the system is expandable beyond 8 GB

7) I use the internal drive for programs only. The drive does not need to be big by today's standards (500 GB-1 TB is enough). I store images on Drobo - an external drive system based on RAID. It allows for USB3 input. Ideally USB 3 output in addition to E-sata would be nice. I have it currently hooked up to E-SATA, and that works great.

I hope that this clarifies what I am looking for. Please advice the configuration I should be looking for or preferably a system from Dell or HP or some other major supplier that would give me what I am looking for. The way I make decisions, I like to know why I am making them, so please explain in simple terms why you recommend what you do.

I am very grateful that you are willing to help and if you need any help with photography, please feel free to contact me. I would be glad to reciprocate if I can.

Thanks

Pavel
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Jim Cockfield
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Re: It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 6, 2011

Pavel Muller wrote:

Thank you all - this is very helpful.

1) I was certainly hoping to spend less than a $1000, but on the other hand, I do not wish to spend more that I need to. I know that I can spend a lot more than a $1000, but perhaps I can have a perfectly good system for less.

What are you using now (brand/model if you know what it is, along with it's CPU type and how much memory it's got in it). That would give us an idea of what you're trying to upgrade and how much difference in performance you may see with a new machine (depending on how it's equipped).

I'd give more info on where it's holding you back, too (why are you looking to upgrade it right now)?

2) I really do not care about the form factor. In fact reconfigurability is desirable, if it does not involve a large additional cost and size is not an issue.

Well.. as a general rule, the cheaper boxes don't give you much room for expansion, and the larger boxes tend to cost more (at least in name brand boxes from major brands). But, there are lots of options.

3) Reliability is an issue. I would rather have a power supply that can handle a system that is optimized for good photo editing.

GPU power is not a big deal (yet) for still image editing, although more and more apps are starting to take advantage of using the GPU now. But, a more stable PSU can be useful in other areas (and you really don't get higher end PSUs with most inexpensive boxes).

Personally, I tend to go with lower end systems and just upgrade more often (as the "latest and greatest:" CPUs, GPUs, etc. tend to cost a lot more, yet a reasonably low cost system now may still have a lot better performance than one you would have paid a lot of money for a few years back.

I also tend to add on to them myself later (hard drive updates, memory updates, etc.), and some users may not care to do that kind of thing..

But, if you don't plan on updating a system for a while, then it may be a better idea to spend a bit more for higher quality. There are pros and cons to any approach.

4) I do not see myself getting into photo editing (I am too old), gaming (too old) and watching video is a bonus and not a primary need. Watching a movie on the system would be desirable though.

Even the built in video in most modern systems is going to be fine for video playback now (of course, you do still need to take each chipset on a case by case basis to make sure it meets your needs and has the connections for multiple displays,etc.).

5) I would like to purchase a high resolution monitor. my current one is used at 1200 x 1900 and I certainly do not plan going below that. I am looking for a monitor that has at least the range of colors (color gamut) of Dell Ultrasharp, my current monitor, but if I can get better monitor with wider gamut at a cost of not more than a double of the Ultrasharp, I would consider it. 24" is the smallest I would consider. I color calibrate with x-rite and I want to make sure that the monitor and video card are compatible with it. I need a card with dual monitor capability.

Well... wider gamut displays may not be very desirable, depending on how you use a PC more often, as you can have issues with non color managed apps using one. But, some of them have sRGB modes now that can help to get around that issue.

If you dig around for posts from NewsyL, you'll find lots of info about newer displays (as he keeps up with that technology better than other forum members I've seen posting here). Here's a link to his profile and posts here:

http://www.dpreview.com/members/802387404

What Ultrasharp model do you have now? Is it an IPS display type (if you don't know, we can tell if you have the exact model)? Not all IPS displays are wide gamut, so you can have a decent display with good image quality and viewing angles without that part if desired. Pros and cons.

6) I assume that 8 GB RAM is enough. Is it? I want to make sure that the system is expandable beyond 8 GB

Well... 8GB is probably plenty for most purposes now. Most chipsets will provide 4 DIMM slots, where you can use 1GB, 2GB or 4GB modules. So, if you use 4 x 2GB sticks, you wont' have any slots left. But, 4GB sticks are more expensive (cost/megabyte) if you go that route. For example, using 2 x 4GB sticks for 8GB total, leaving 2 slots open for expansion will cost you more. I'm assuming you're using a chipset that provides 4 DIMM slots for dual channel addressing. Some chipsets provide 6 DIMM slots and use tri-channel addressing.

There are many ways to approach it, and I'd also take memory cost from a given vendor into consideration, as the "big name" vendors will tend to "rob you blind" on hard drive and memory upgrades (it's often a better bet to buy one without as much preinstalled and just order more from a vendor like newegg.com later [if needed], as you can [sometimes] save a considerable amount of money doing it that way (depending on what a vendor's current deals are).

Of course, how willing you are to mess around with installing that kind of thing yourself also factors into buying decisions.

7) I use the internal drive for programs only. The drive does not need to be big by today's standards (500 GB-1 TB is enough). I store images on Drobo - an external drive system based on RAID. It allows for USB3 input. Ideally USB 3 output in addition to E-sata would be nice. I have it currently hooked up to E-SATA, and that works great.

You can buy a PCIe card to give you USB 3.0 if desired if it costs too much more to get that feature built in. They're relatively inexpensive now (under $50 delivered).

I'd give us a better idea of what you have now and why you're looking to upgrade for better feedback from members here.

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Pavel Muller
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Re: It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to Jim Cockfield, May 6, 2011

I currently use HP model p6218f with AMD Athlon II X3 425 processor 2.7 GHz, 8GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD4650, DELL 2407WFP monitor. This system is working. My wife's system died and I would like to replace my system with something clearly better (in terms of speed, image quality) and pass on this system to her. (It is fairer than you think - she has a system at work, does little besides office applications at home and only occasionally runs Lightroom. I spend several hours a day processing images.

Please be very specific in your recommendations. It is good discussing general principles, but it requires greater knowledge than I have. Ideally, I would like to know what balanced system I should get from any of the major supplier, taking into account my specific concerns as described in what I see as a great detail in the above posts. What processor, what video card, what power supply, what monitor (optional), what RAM (assuming 8GB)? I would also like to know why you make the specific recommendation, because if I do not understand the rationale, I am not comfortable with the recommendation.

Thanks guys.

Pavel
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Jim Cockfield
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Re: It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 7, 2011

gotcha....

I just noticed your reply (as I'm out of town and my wife just showed up for the weekend to join me, and I was making a quick post about a phishing e-mail she was asking me about) and I probably won't have a chance to do much else tonight.

But, I'll do a bit of digging tmrw and look for any obvious bargains on a specific system that would meet your needs.

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mosswings
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Re: It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 7, 2011

Pavel Muller wrote:

I currently use HP model p6218f with AMD Athlon II X3 425 processor 2.7 GHz, 8GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD4650, DELL 2407WFP monitor. This system is working. My wife's system died and I would like to replace my system with something clearly better (in terms of speed, image quality) and pass on this system to her. (It is fairer than you think - she has a system at work, does little besides office applications at home and only occasionally runs Lightroom. I spend several hours a day processing images.

Please be very specific in your recommendations. It is good discussing general principles, but it requires greater knowledge than I have. Ideally, I would like to know what balanced system I should get from any of the major supplier, taking into account my specific concerns as described in what I see as a great detail in the above posts. What processor, what video card, what power supply, what monitor (optional), what RAM (assuming 8GB)? I would also like to know why you make the specific recommendation, because if I do not understand the rationale, I am not comfortable with the recommendation.

Thanks guys.

Pavel
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Gents, if I might suggest...if you visit anandtech.com and go to their cpu benchmarks here:

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/25

and GPU benchmarks here:

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/GPU/119

you can get an idea of how powerful the various processors are for photo editing applications. Note that your current processor is somewhere around a score of 30 for CS4 retouching, and even an i5-2300 (Sandy Bridge) CPU will be below 15, or twice as fast. The fastest Sandy Bridge CPU (i7-2600) is nearly 3 times faster. Lightroom and Photoshop are CPU intensive and can handle multiple threads well. The i7 series offers hyperthreading, which allows 2 concurrent processes per CPU core. The i5 series does not. However, you can see that the i5-2400, which is not hyperthreaded, is only 15% slower than the hyperthreaded i7-2600, so it represents a good price/performance compromise. AMD offers nothing to compete.

The CPU scores are less relevant as they are gaming frames per second; here you can see that a 5450 class machine (somewhere above a 4850 and below a 5570) is about 41 frames per second, and the 5770 is about 58. But this only matters if you want to use the GPU to speed up your CS4 redraws, or game. Any current GPU will handle your photo editing needs with ease, including the 1600 x 2550 30" monitors. The main thing you need to look for is DVI-D or DP output for monitors beyond 1200 x 1920.

Adobe itself has demonstrated that Lightroom's threshold for fast operation is around 4GB; if you're not processing huge batches of photos, 6GB is fine and 8GB is just gravy. Some folks like 12GB, but my system has never been slowed down by 8GB.

Lightroom/CS4 likes 2 internal drives - one for OS, applications, and cache; the other for data. That way there's no contention between new image fetches and redraws. A system with a fast link to an external drive is just about as good. Western Digital Blue is a good choice; drives over 1GB have shown decreased reliability in general.

Somewhere between 300 and 500 watts is a good capacity for a non-gaming desktop power supply. Seasonic makes very good ones, and builds for several big name companies. If you buy individually, you'll find it hard geting something under 450 watts; there's no point. But again, I've done fine with a 300 watt supply with an i7-2600, 5770 GPU, and 2 HDDs; the Sandy Bridge processors are very power parsimonious.

By the way, Pavel, I visited your website. Your images are superb and compelling.

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Pavel Muller
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Re: It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to mosswings, May 7, 2011

mosswings, this is immensely useful post in terms of my understanding. I tried to take in one step further and to pick a video card that would do a good job for me, but I found that there is no simple match between Newegg.ca cards for sale and the rated cards. Since I do not fully understand the descriptions/features of cards, I was not able to make needed extrapolation. Can you help? For me a card that is about half the speed of the top model is probably enough. I need high resolution perhaps for a 30" monitor, good color range (color gamut), 2 high quality monitor support, good calibration. The use is mostly photgography editing, some office application (anything should be good enough for that) and OK ability to display video on occasion. I also need a computer (processor?), 8 GB RAM, (Power supply?). My preference is a bundle from a major manufacturer (DELL, HP...). Video card may be extra and I can add ports as needed. I will research monitors separately. I will be looking for high res, high color range monitor well suited for color management (not a Cadillac, but a good one). I would appreciate a specific advice. Thanks

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mosswings
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Re: It's a matter of perspective...
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 7, 2011

Pavel Muller wrote:

mosswings, this is immensely useful post in terms of my understanding. I tried to take in one step further and to pick a video card that would do a good job for me, but I found that there is no simple match between Newegg.ca cards for sale and the rated cards. Since I do not fully understand the descriptions/features of cards, I was not able to make needed extrapolation. Can you help? For me a card that is about half the speed of the top model is probably enough. I need high resolution perhaps for a 30" monitor, good color range (color gamut), 2 high quality monitor support, good calibration. The use is mostly photgography editing, some office application (anything should be good enough for that) and OK ability to display video on occasion. I also need a computer (processor?), 8 GB RAM, (Power supply?). My preference is a bundle from a major manufacturer (DELL, HP...). Video card may be extra and I can add ports as needed. I will research monitors separately. I will be looking for high res, high color range monitor well suited for color management (not a Cadillac, but a good one). I would appreciate a specific advice. Thanks

Pavel --
http://mullerpavel.smugmug.com/

You're having difficulties with the graphics cards because consumer graphics cards are not really sold according to the needs of your application - they're sold (and designed for) their 3D-rendering capabilities for gaming. The integrated graphics included in the latest processors are more than capable of supporting HD video display, and therefore still image display. Dedicated graphics cards under about $80 do no better. Returning to the geek websites, on Tomshardware.com is a the latest update of "best graphics cards for the money":

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card-radeon-hd-6990-geforce-gtx-590,2912-2.html

You can pretty well be confident that selecting the card at or near the bottom of this list will give all that you need and more. GPUs change so frequently that your biggest problem will be finding a lower end card that's still manufactured! The main thing that you will want is DVI-D/Display Port outputs (30" and 27" high res monitors will use these) and multiple-LUT operation for proper calibration. The 5570/5670 quoted therein would be just fine.

I've already given a couple of suggestions for HP boxes similar to the ones I currently run - If you want a future proofed box I'd suggest the base configuration HPE-570t with the $10 1GB 5570 GPU upgrade, mostly because it includes a DVI-D, a Display Port, and an HDMI output and supports Eyefinity (3 monitor drive). To that I would add (from newegg) a 1TB Western Digital Blue HDD and a $50 USB3 PCIe card. HP no longer offers USB3 in the package, and you can save $40 by installing the 2nd hard drive yourself. This would be about $980. There appears to be a current promotion offering two 1.5TB internal drives for the price of one (the normal configuration), and customizing the HPE-510t would wind up not saving you much money.

As for monitors, I'm partial to the NEC PA series, but the Dell 3011 is quite good.
More later.

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Jim Cockfield
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I'd look at the Dell XPS 8300 in under $1K configs
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 7, 2011

Pavel:

I'd look at the Dell XPS 8300. It's within your $1K budget from Dell Canada (I see you're in Canada and would prefer to stick with HP or Dell), and it's a step up from the 580 and 580s models you're looking at, with a faster CPU and discrete card options.

See some CPU benchmarks for image editing here (even the Core i5 2400 Dell has with the lower end XPS 8300 is very fast):

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/25

Frankly, if I were in your shoes, I'd just go with the cheapest ($699.99 config) on the left side of the options on this page. Dell wants too much for the higher priced configs (faster CPU, faster GPU, etc.) compared to the performance gains you'd get (you'd be better off swapping out parts yourself later if you ever wanted a faster GPU or CPU).

http://www.dell.com/ca/p/xps-8300/fs

It looks like it's got a Core i5 2400 with 8GB of DDR3, a 1GB Drive and an ATI 5450 Video card in the base config.

If you go with one of the newer displays with a display port, you could use the adapter's display port for one display, and the dual link DVI port for another display.

That's a relatively inexpensive video card. But, Dell really wants too much for the other options, and if you ever decided you wanted something better for gaming, etc, it would be less expensive to get something else from newegg.ca anyway. Also, for still image editing you really don't need a high performance card..

Note that it looks like the 8GB configs do use all 4 DIMM slots (they're using four 2GB sticks). But, again, they want too much money for more memory. If you ever decided you wanted more, it would probably be cheaper just to yank what's in it and replace them with 4GB sticks later versus paying what Dell wants for more than 8GB now).

It sounds like you're already keeping your storage separate via a Drobo solution, too. I see where the descriptions for that system show optional USB 3.0 support so you could connect your storage that way, but I sure can't find that option in any of the configurators.

No big deal. Just grab a USB 3.0 PCIe card from newegg.ca and plug it in. This one looks like a good bet. It's got a power adapter cable if you need it whereas some don't, a two port card, and a driver disk. Hint... all of these cards use the same NEC Chipset and use NEC drivers. So, when you see complaints, it's usually just because of driver version differences or something that a user is doing wrong.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815201038&cm_re=usb_3.0_pcie-_-15-201-038-_-Product

As for a display... I don't keep up with all of the current offerings. So, hopefully others will chime in.

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mosswings
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Re: I'd look at the Dell XPS 8300 in under $1K configs
In reply to Jim Cockfield, May 7, 2011

The base Dell 8300 is a heckuva deal at $700 for an i5-2400 + HD5450 + 8GB. HP currently can't touch that for less than $780 or so. And Jim's right, you're looking at around a 15-20% performance difference between the i7-2600 and i5-2400, so instead of 2.8x faster than your present machine, it'll only be 2.5x faster. Big wow.

About the only comment I'd make on the 8300 enclosure is that it is quite big for nothing more than stylistic purposes; the HP is significantly shorter. But again, at $700 the Dell is the price leader right now. Check logicbuys.com for coupons - you can often get 10-20% off the lowest advertised price using coupons you can find there.

Note, however, that you will be able to drive 1600 x 2560 displays only with the DVI_D connection from the 5450; the HDMI connection will drive a 1200 x 1900 display. So that implies a dual 24" display or a 30" 27" high res plus a 24" or smaller monitor.

If you're willing to spend upwards of $1000 for a 24" monitor, the NEC PA241W is superb. At the $2000 point the NEC 3090 or newer PA301 are at the practical top; below that, at the $1400 price point, lie the Dell and HP offerings, both good. The Dell U2410 has had its share of problems. The HP ZR24 is a good SRGB entry level IPS monitor but also somewhat problematical. Below this size you can't get 16:10 aspect ratio monitors - they become 16:9 HDTV format and lose about 10% in vertical resolution. They also become 8 bit instead of 10 bit. It seems that 24" is the magic point for photo quality displays.

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Pavel Muller
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Re: I'd look at the Dell XPS 8300 in under $1K configs
In reply to mosswings, May 7, 2011

Jim and Mosswings, I feel greatly indebted to you for taking time to give me all this valuable, actionable information - I will act on it. I will purchase the 8300 you both recommend. The rationale is clear, the price is right. I am not after small differences in speed and performance. I am not about to loose speed over 10% change in performance. I suspect that memory swaps, loads and saves of files will be bigger issues. I am thinking of getting one 24" and one 30" Dell Ultrasharp. Based on your comments Mossw2ings, I understand that the new computer will be able to connect with both monitors simultaneously and achieve their respective highest resolution. I also understand that the video card will be able to drive the 30" monitor at max resolution.

Again, this is a very difficult thing for me to decide on my own. I would have to depend on the "Dell advisor" and past experience does not make me comfortable. I also hope that the 305 W power supply is sufficient. Please let me know if I am mistaken in any way.

Take care gentlemen and please feel free to contact me should you have any questions with regards to photography or current photo gear or supplies. I am better with that than with a computer.

Pavel
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Jim Cockfield
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Re: I'd look at the Dell XPS 8300 in under $1K configs
In reply to Pavel Muller, May 7, 2011

Pavel Muller wrote:

Again, this is a very difficult thing for me to decide on my own. I would have to depend on the "Dell advisor" and past experience does not make me comfortable. I also hope that the 305 W power supply is sufficient. Please let me know if I am mistaken in any way.

It's got a 460 Watt PSU in it. Scroll down a ways on this page showing some of it's features, and you'll see that part mentioned under the heading "Fast and Powerful"

http://www.dell.com/ca/p/xps-8300/pd?oc=dxps8300_f_1e&model_id=xps-8300

Again, the XPS 8300 is a step up from the Dell boxes you were looking at (in more than one way).

With your budget, the $699.99 offering I see there is about the best I could come up with (that's what I'd probably do if I were in your shoes and wanted a box from HP or Dell in Canada). Then, just add on to it later if my needs ever required it, as Dell wants too much for different video cards, etc. compared to getting them from vendors like http://www.newegg.ca

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Jim Cockfield
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P.S.
In reply to Jim Cockfield, May 8, 2011

Jim Cockfield wrote:

It's got a 460 Watt PSU in it. Scroll down a ways on this page showing some of it's features, and you'll see that part mentioned under the heading "Fast and Powerful"

http://www.dell.com/ca/p/xps-8300/pd?oc=dxps8300_f_1e&model_id=xps-8300

Again, the XPS 8300 is a step up from the Dell boxes you were looking at (in more than one way).

They also mention that it has a 460 Watt PSU in the "Visually Stunning" Section on that same features page. Here's a quote from it:

"Take stutter and lag out of the picture with performance-class ATI graphics. See (and create) movies and videos the way they were meant to be — in a smooth, uninterrupted format that puts you in the center of the action. A 460W power supply helps ensure you’ll have the power you need now and in the future."

The HD 5450 in the base config is an inexpensive card. But, you really don't need a powerful card for image editing; and Dell wants far too much for the other cards they have available in their configurators for that box. You'd be better off buying another card later from newegg.ca if you ever needed something else, versus paying the price difference to get the other cards they show as options.

Ditto for memory, different hard drives, etc. IOW, look at the box as being their "loss leader", as they probably make most of their profit when users select any options (or go with the next higher cost system which shows more savings, but in an "artificial" way since the prices for the extras are inflated compared to what the parts would cost elsewhere).

Again, if I were in your shoes, I'd get the cheapest XPS 8300 config for $699,99 using the sale prices they have for it now on the page I found for them. It's just not worth spending hundreds more for faster cards, etc. (when they don't even cost that much by themselves if you look at prices for them from vendors like newegg.ca and you probably would see zero difference in performance or display quality for how you're using a PC anyway, since you're not doing any gaming or video editing).

It also looks like that box has eSATA already, from what I can see of photos of the ports in the back (although I haven't tried to find a better specs sheet for it yet). So, you could probably use your DROBO setup that way with it if you don't want to get a USB 3.0 card (and USB 3.0 PCIe add on cards are very inexpensive, and it wouldn't take but a minute or two to open the case and plug one in if you decided you wanted one for something else later on). You're not going to see any speed advantage with USB 3.0 over eSATA anyway (unless driver differences contribute).

BTW, all of the current USB 3.0 cards you'll find use the same NEC chipsets, so there's not much difference between them except that some have the option to use a power supply connection to help with power hungry USB 3.0 devices that use more power than the bus could easily supply; and you'll find different driver versions included (but, they all use NEC supplied drivers and you can find a newer one if the one on an included CD is dated). I'd probably grab the one I posted a link to earlier if you want to use USB 3.0 for anything (your DROBO, USB 3.0 card readers, etc.).

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mosswings
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Re: P.S.
In reply to Jim Cockfield, May 8, 2011

Jim Cockfield wrote:

It also looks like that box has eSATA already, from what I can see of photos of the ports in the back (although I haven't tried to find a better specs sheet for it yet).

Jim's picked out the two advantages of the Dell 8300 configuration: a 460 watt PSU and eSATA. HP sometimes includes 460 watt PSUs on their ready-ship top end units, and always on their i7-8xx units, but has never supported eSATA on the back panel.
Score one for the Texans. Enjoy your new computer!

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