Time to upgrade...

Started 2 months ago | Discussions
saskskier Regular Member • Posts: 179
Time to upgrade...

So I currently have a 2010 MacBook Pro, which has served me (almost) flawlessly for the past ten years, but starting to show it's age and I'm thinking of moving to a PC desktop situation for editing at home.

I have a pretty limited budget, so I'm checking out the used market and have come across a few potential options. That said, what should I be looking for? I don't do any video editing or any gaming. Mostly use Lightroom, but want to dive deeper into Photoshop. I don't know a ton about computers (Mac or PC), but I do know my MacBook has 4gb of RAM, so I suspect almost anything will be an upgrade, still not entirely sure what I should be looking for.

Would something along these lines be worth checking out?

AMD Athlon 2 Quad Core 640 Processor
32 GB DDR3 memory
128GB solid state hard drive
Two 500 GB hard disk drives
Radeon HD5850 1GB DDR5 Video Card
Dlink XtremeN wireless card
Fresh install of Windows 10 Pro activated with all updates installed

$250cdn

Obviously I would still need to pick up a half decent monitor, but would this be a decent start?

Thanks!

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johnnyandedgar Regular Member • Posts: 132
Re: Time to upgrade...
2

What you are looking at is an anachronism. It's like throwing money away.

YMMV

johnnyandedgar

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WryCuda Veteran Member • Posts: 9,231
Re: Time to upgrade...
1

saskskier wrote:

So I currently have a 2010 MacBook Pro, which has served me (almost) flawlessly for the past ten years, but starting to show it's age and I'm thinking of moving to a PC desktop situation for editing at home.

I have a pretty limited budget, so I'm checking out the used market and have come across a few potential options. That said, what should I be looking for? I don't do any video editing or any gaming. Mostly use Lightroom, but want to dive deeper into Photoshop. I don't know a ton about computers (Mac or PC), but I do know my MacBook has 4gb of RAM, so I suspect almost anything will be an upgrade, still not entirely sure what I should be looking for.

Would something along these lines be worth checking out?

AMD Athlon 2 Quad Core 640 Processor
32 GB DDR3 memory
128GB solid state hard drive
Two 500 GB hard disk drives
Radeon HD5850 1GB DDR5 Video Card
Dlink XtremeN wireless card
Fresh install of Windows 10 Pro activated with all updates installed

$250cdn

Obviously I would still need to pick up a half decent monitor, but would this be a decent start?

A quick search shows that the CPU has its origins in 2009, while the  rest of the hardware is probably 2015 era.

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OP saskskier Regular Member • Posts: 179
Re: Time to upgrade...

Thanks guys. Again, I'm not particularly well versed in anything computer (especially PC) related and I've been almost entirely in the Apple world for the past decade.

Is there anything in particular I should be watching out for as I'm looking? CPU? Memory? Storage? Etc?

Any major reasons why I should switch to PC over sticking with Apple, outside of budget?

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WryCuda Veteran Member • Posts: 9,231
Re: Time to upgrade...

saskskier wrote:

Thanks guys. Again, I'm not particularly well versed in anything computer (especially PC) related and I've been almost entirely in the Apple world for the past decade.

Is there anything in particular I should be watching out for as I'm looking? CPU? Memory? Storage? Etc?

  • CPU could be Intel i5 or i7. Maybe AMD Ryzen (several grades available in each).
  • 16Gb RAM
  • 512Gb SSD for the OS, programs.
  • 3000Gb HDD (3 Terabytes) for storage.
  • Basic video card, or built-in on the motherboard (since you don't do games/etc.).
  • 2k (1920x1080) 24" monitor IPS technology (larger preferred, with higher resolution).

-I'd be thinking about spending AUD$1000 for a useful desktop.

Expect there to be a learning curve when you start using Win10.

Any major reasons why I should switch to PC over sticking with Apple, outside of budget?

Upgrading to a newer Apple will be expensive, but I don't know Apple, so can't comment further.

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johnnyandedgar Regular Member • Posts: 132
Re: Time to upgrade...

I used to use Apple. I got tired of getting the shaft with their proprietary mind set.

Save your money and purchase a Gen 9 i7 processor, Pcie ssd, 16 gigs ram. You might very well be able to use the on board graphics.

Good luck.

johnnyandedgar

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Mister Anders0n
Mister Anders0n Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Time to upgrade...

Upgrades are good

Austinian
Austinian Veteran Member • Posts: 8,792
Re: Time to upgrade...

saskskier wrote:

Thanks guys. Again, I'm not particularly well versed in anything computer (especially PC) related and I've been almost entirely in the Apple world for the past decade.

Is there anything in particular I should be watching out for as I'm looking? CPU? Memory? Storage? Etc?

All of those.

But there are plenty of knowledgeable people here who will advise you about the choices.

Any major reasons why I should switch to PC over sticking with Apple, outside of budget?

I like to specify my computers' hardware in considerable detail.  Apple's gear is expensive and the hardware choices are severely limited, but if you've been happy with what they offer and don't mind the costs, I don't see a compelling reason to switch.

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ken_in_nh Regular Member • Posts: 264
Re: Time to upgrade...

Austinian wrote:

Apple's gear is expensive and the hardware choices are severely limited, but if you've been happy with what they offer and don't mind the costs, I don't see a compelling reason to switch.

Precisely the reasons to dump Apple!

If performance matters, then you need to pay attention to the following, in order:

1.  CPU.  Faster is better, since any photo program stresses the CPU the most.

2.  Memory.  16GB or more

3.  SSD for Windows and program files.  HDD will work ok for picture/data storage.

4.  Supported video card will have some, but not huge impact, on performance.  You could always upgrade later.  Lightroom makes less use of video cards than Photoshop, except for one new feature.

Purchasing an off lease commercial box can be VERY cost effective as long as the CPU is fast enough.  There are lots of sites that compare CPU speed - just google.  For commercial boxes, just don't plan to upgrade the CPU.  RAM is easy.  Upgrading to an SSD could be troublesome but doable.  Most will have an available slot for a video card if you want to add one, but not all.  Ebay is a good, inexpensive source for slightly used last generation video cards if you want to speed things up a bit.

I'm in the process of specing a new machine (mine's now 8 years old) so I've done some deep dives into what makes a good Lightroom editing machine.

shutterbug61 New Member • Posts: 13
Re: Time to upgrade...
4

I build my own PCs and so carefully evaluate the components that I'm going to put into any new system.

Based on your needs, as stated, and the fact that you're not currently interested in video editing or gaming you might want to consider a reasonably priced system built around a 2nd or 3rd generation AMD Ryzen processor with integrated RX Vega graphics. For your intended uses there is probably little to be gained from the expense of having a discrete graphics card, and the Vega integrated graphics processors are considerably more capable than the integrated graphics in the Intel Core CPUs. For example, here is a summary of user benchmarks comparing the Intel UHD Graphics 630 found in the Core CPUs with the AMD RX Vega 11 used in the AMD Ryzen 5 3400 and earlier 2400 CPUs.

Perhaps something like this "own brand" Canada Computers CC PRO Platinum A-162 Desktop, based on one of the latest 3rd generation AMD Ryzen 5 3400G 4 Core / 8 thread processors with the integrated RX Vega 11 graphics mentioned above. It includes 16GB RAM and a 480GB M.2 form factor SSD plugged directly into the GigaByte B450M DS3H motherboard...ideal for the Windows 10 Home operating system, installation of your applications, and for temporary work space. You could probably have them add something like a WD Blue 2TB or 4TB HDD for your photo storage. By default the SSD and HDD would appear as distinct drives (e.g. C: and D: under Windows), but since this system is based on the AMD AM4 socket and 400-series chipset (specifically the B450) the motherboard supports the AMD StoreMI technology. This enables the SSD and HDD to be configured to appear as a single logical drive and will automatically manage which of your most frequently accessed files are physically stored on the SSD for faster access.

If at a later stage you decide that you'd like to do video editing or gaming and find that the Vega 11 iGPU isn't quite up to the task (although you might be pleasantly surprised) then you can easily add a suitable discrete graphics card and bypass the iGPU.

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WryCuda Veteran Member • Posts: 9,231
Re: Time to upgrade...
1

shutterbug61 wrote:

Perhaps something like this "own brand" Canada Computers CC PRO Platinum A-162 Desktop, based on one of the latest 3rd generation AMD Ryzen 5 3400G 4 Core / 8 thread processors with the integrated RX Vega 11 graphics mentioned above. It includes 16GB RAM and a 480GB M.2 form factor SSD plugged directly into the GigaByte B450M DS3H motherboard...ideal for the Windows 10 Home operating system, installation of your applications, and for temporary work space. You could probably have them add something like a WD Blue 2TB or 4TB HDD for your photo storage.

Similar specs to those already suggested. I'd agree with your favourable opinion of Vega graphics. Good price.

By default the SSD and HDD would appear as distinct drives (e.g. C: and D: under Windows), but since this system is based on the AMD AM4 socket and 400-series chipset (specifically the B450) the motherboard supports the AMD StoreMI technology. This enables the SSD and HDD to be configured to appear as a single logical drive and will automatically manage which of your most frequently accessed files are physically stored on the SSD for faster access.

I hadn't heard of the StoreMI tech; Interesting, but it's hardly a chore to operate with separate drives.

Edit: This extract from the FAQ Is relevant for larger SSDs...

StoreMI for AMD supports a 256GB Fast Tier (SATA SSD or NVMe). The remaining capacity will be mounted as a standalone virtual SSD device. If the SSD is larger, than 256GB, then the rest of the SSD will appear as a separate data drive which may be formatted as a separate volume e.g. note that users who want larger SSD support can purchase AMD FuzeDrive for Ryzen.

For the information of he OP, I have an older computer with a 128Gb SSD, which has Win10 plus a heap of other programs but is only using 45% of the drive space (HDD for data).

Another computer has a single 512Gb SSD, and there's plenty of room for Win10, programs and a reasonable amount of data (but not my Photo archive). I intend using this computer as a file server.

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shutterbug61 New Member • Posts: 13
Re: Time to upgrade...

WryCuda wrote:

I hadn't heard of the StoreMI tech; Interesting, but it's hardly a chore to operate with separate drives.

I totally agree with you here. Earlier this year I built myself a Ryzen 5 2600-based desktop PC for photo processing (DxO PhotoLab 2), editing (Affinity Photo), and management (Photools IMatch) using a 500GB second generation WD Black M.2 NVMe SSD as the primary drive and a WD Blue 4TB HDD as the secondary. After installing Windows 10 Home I simply created the usual top-level user folders (Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos) on the D: drive and then changed the Location properties for each of the corresponding shortcuts under This PC in File Explorer to map to my new folders on the D: drive. Very simple.

I hadn't read the StoreMI FAQ so good catch on it only using up to 256GB of an SSD.

With the new desktop PC I mentioned I also noticed, as you have, that the o/s and other software don't really occupy much space. Of the 465GB of NTFS formatted space on my 500GB SSD only 89GB is currently used. In fact so little space was used that when I refurbished the machine that the new desktop PC replaced -- a 9 year old Core i7-920 full tower PC, which I turned into a file server -- I only used a 250GB Samsung 860 EVO SATA SSD for the primary drive, which formatted to 232GB and only has 38GB used for the Windows 10 o/s and other installed software.

So for the OP, there certainly isn't any great need for a large SSD. A 128GB SSD should be more than sufficient for the Windows 10 o/s and your Adobe applications. Going up to a 250GB or larger SSD will give you more flexibility to improve performance, such as locating your Lightroom catalog on the SSD, while keeping your photos on a much larger (but obviously slower) HDD.

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WryCuda Veteran Member • Posts: 9,231
Re: Time to upgrade...

shutterbug61 wrote:

WryCuda wrote:

I hadn't heard of the StoreMI tech; Interesting, but it's hardly a chore to operate with separate drives.

I totally agree with you here. Earlier this year I built myself a Ryzen 5 2600-based desktop PC for photo processing (DxO PhotoLab 2), editing (Affinity Photo), and management (Photools IMatch) using a 500GB second generation WD Black M.2 NVMe SSD as the primary drive and a WD Blue 4TB HDD as the secondary. After installing Windows 10 Home I simply created the usual top-level user folders (Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos) on the D: drive and then changed the Location properties for each of the corresponding shortcuts under This PC in File Explorer to map to my new folders on the D: drive. Very simple.

The 128Gb SSD + 2Tb HDD computer that I mentioned is an Acer AMD A9 laptop. I originally bought it 2 or 3 years ago as a travel computer, but it was pressed into service for general office work. I've left the default user folders standard, since most stuff gets saved to the file server. The 2Tb HDD is used for a range of general data, including my photo archive, scanned originals and server backups going back 2 years.

Originally USD$600, this was a good purchase; I was skeptical about the A9 CPU (roughly half the performance of a mobile i7), and the smallish SSD, but in practice, the user experience is OK, particularly considering that i runs a large 4k monitor. It even has USB-C and a DVD drive.

As mentioned, I'm planning to shift my Dell laptop (Ryzen 7, 16 Gb RAM, 512Gb SSD) into the server role for general office documents. Early trials with dummy data are promising, with considerably faster data access. So, it will be almost entirely an SSD system, apart from mass storage and backups.

The present server is also a laptop, a basic HP i7 with 1Tb HDD, which has given good service, and runs most of the time. It will become my travel computer (unless my wife grabs it, as she did with the AMD A9). Lately, it's refused to run an external screen and I'm not sure if it's software or hardware, but I don't want to troubleshoot at the moment. It actually has two sets of video hardware (Radeon + Intel) , and there may be an issue in that area.

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lokatz
lokatz Senior Member • Posts: 1,570
Re: Time to upgrade...
3

Saskier, Don't let yourself be intimidated by these guys suggesting high-end hardware. Decent photo editing can be done on a low-cost machine. Maybe not quite as low-cost as your initial post suggests, and I have to agree that the hardware you list there is overly dated, but still.

Something like an AMD Athlon 200GE-based system with integrated graphics, 8GB RAM and a 500GB SSD can be had in the $300-350 area and is still plenty fast for your purposes, MUCH faster than what you used so far. In fact, a 9th-gen Intel i7 won't be all that much faster, as the biggest contributor to performance these days is a decent SSD.  16GB RAM are better than 8GB, but 32GB is an overkill.

I strongly advise against buying a system that only has a HDD, though, as that would introduce a substantial performance bottleneck.

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desertsp Contributing Member • Posts: 912
Re: Time to upgrade...

saskskier wrote:

So I currently have a 2010 MacBook Pro, which has served me (almost) flawlessly for the past ten years, but starting to show it's age and I'm thinking of moving to a PC desktop situation for editing at home.

I have a pretty limited budget, so I'm checking out the used market and have come across a few potential options. That said, what should I be looking for? I don't do any video editing or any gaming. Mostly use Lightroom, but want to dive deeper into Photoshop. I don't know a ton about computers (Mac or PC), but I do know my MacBook has 4gb of RAM, so I suspect almost anything will be an upgrade, still not entirely sure what I should be looking for.

Would something along these lines be worth checking out?

AMD Athlon 2 Quad Core 640 Processor
32 GB DDR3 memory
128GB solid state hard drive
Two 500 GB hard disk drives
Radeon HD5850 1GB DDR5 Video Card
Dlink XtremeN wireless card
Fresh install of Windows 10 Pro activated with all updates installed

$250cdn

Obviously I would still need to pick up a half decent monitor, but would this be a decent start?

Thanks!

if possible I would look for a faster/newer CPU (search for <cpu 1> vs <cpu 2> and look for benchmark comparisons) at the trade off of less ram and maybe foregoing a dedicated graphics card. The old Athlon CPU indicates the overall machine is old and possibly will have driver-related issues or even age-related physical failures (fans wearing out, for example). Do get an SSD if you care about how quickly data and programs load, although once loaded the SSD doesn’t make a big difference. As another poster suggested, castaway enterprise hardware is a good value - those machines are built to last.

There’s a satisfaction in finding a good budget computer that’s still reasonable fast - good luck!

A J Fresnel Regular Member • Posts: 104
Re: Time to upgrade...

desertsp wrote:

search for <cpu 1> vs <cpu 2> and look for benchmark comparisons

Bad idea. That will lead you to userbenchmark. That site is the epitome of uselessness when You want to know what a CPU can do, because it is there is no record whatsoever of the test conditions. Did the CPU run on single or dual channel RAM? Most of them run in factory-built PCs with no standards whatsoever on what cooling the manufacturer installed.

I recommend searching for sensible tests. Try guru3d or Anandtech.

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desertsp Contributing Member • Posts: 912
Re: Time to upgrade...
1

A J Fresnel wrote:

desertsp wrote:

search for <cpu 1> vs <cpu 2> and look for benchmark comparisons

Bad idea. That will lead you to userbenchmark. That site is the epitome of uselessness when You want to know what a CPU can do, because it is there is no record whatsoever of the test conditions. Did the CPU run on single or dual channel RAM? Most of them run in factory-built PCs with no standards whatsoever on what cooling the manufacturer installed.

I recommend searching for sensible tests. Try guru3d or Anandtech.

It's a decent ballpark though.

For example I googled "AMD Athlon 2 Quad Core 640 vs i5-4570", and the top results are:

  1. http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core-i5-4570-vs-AMD-Athlon-II-X4-640
  2. http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/255/AMD_Athlon_II_X4_640_vs_Intel_Core_i5_i5-4570.html
  3. https://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Intel-Core-i5-4570-vs-AMD-Athlon-II-X4-640/2770vsm225

These each suggest, in various ways, that the Intel CPU is better. Therefore it could reasonably be assumed that if the other specs are similar, a computer with an i5-4570 is faster than one with AMD Athlon 2 Quad Core 640.

Of course if benchmarks of the overall system are available for the specific computers being compared, then those are probably more useful. My only basis for suggesting starting with CPU information is that the CPU is pretty important to overall performance, and may well be the differentiator assuming the other specs are reasonable (i.e. 8+ GB memory, solid state drive).

A J Fresnel Regular Member • Posts: 104
Re: Time to upgrade...

desertsp wrote:

A J Fresnel wrote:

desertsp wrote:

search for <cpu 1> vs <cpu 2> and look for benchmark comparisons

Bad idea. That will lead you to userbenchmark. That site is the epitome of uselessness when You want to know what a CPU can do, because it is there is no record whatsoever of the test conditions. Did the CPU run on single or dual channel RAM? Most of them run in factory-built PCs with no standards whatsoever on what cooling the manufacturer installed.

I recommend searching for sensible tests. Try guru3d or Anandtech.

It's a decent ballpark though.

For example I googled "AMD Athlon 2 Quad Core 640 vs i5-4570", and the top results are:

  1. http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core-i5-4570-vs-AMD-Athlon-II-X4-640
  2. http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/255/AMD_Athlon_II_X4_640_vs_Intel_Core_i5_i5-4570.html
  3. https://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Intel-Core-i5-4570-vs-AMD-Athlon-II-X4-640/2770vsm225

These each suggest, in various ways, that the Intel CPU is better. Therefore it could reasonably be assumed that if the other specs are similar, a computer with an i5-4570 is faster than one with AMD Athlon 2 Quad Core 640.

Of course if benchmarks of the overall system are available for the specific computers being compared, then those are probably more useful. My only basis for suggesting starting with CPU information is that the CPU is pretty important to overall performance, and may well be the differentiator assuming the other specs are reasonable (i.e. 8+ GB memory, solid state drive).

I just explained that these comparisons are worthless because of systematic errors. Either the CPUs are so far apart like in Your example that simply googling their prices would have told You that one is a 70$ chip and the other a 200$ chip from 2013 - giving You reliable information - or they are close enough that these comparisons give no reliable info at all. That's why i tried to give the OP a better option to google for controlled reviews.

Since a monkey could have made the distinction seeing them on the shelf at costco, try again.

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desertsp Contributing Member • Posts: 912
Re: Time to upgrade...

So you’re suggesting that the price a CPU once sold for, or it’s launch year, are stronger predictors of a CPU’s performance than its benchmarks?

WryCuda Veteran Member • Posts: 9,231
Re: Time to upgrade...

desertsp wrote:

So you’re suggesting that the price a CPU once sold for, or it’s launch year, are stronger predictors of a CPU’s performance than its benchmarks?

That would be a poor measure.

I've found that GeekBench gives a good indication of CPU performance.

https://browser.geekbench.com/processor-benchmarks

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