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Author Topic: Advice on new computer build for Photoshop, please!  (Read 14615 times)
Jim Gronau
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« on: January 09, 2014, 06:49:16 AM »
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Iíd be very grateful for any guidance before I start buying components for my first build.  By far the most demanding task Iíll use this computer for is processing photographs in Lightroom and Photoshop (CC).  Images from my current camera can quickly grow to half a gig while being processed, and I may soon get a new camera that produces larger files.  What I hope to achieve with this build is a system that will handle multiple large images quickly and efficiently for the next four or five years.

I donít have a strict budget, but I do have a guideline: Iím willing to invest in a part if it yields significantly better results than a less expensive one, but I want to avoid spending a significant amount of money on insignificant performance improvements.  For example, Iíve read that up to 1866, itís worthwhile to invest in faster RAM, but that beyond that point, the difference per dollar falls off, so thatís the speed Iíve listed below.  Similarly, Iíve read that Photoshop does very well with six-core processors, but Iíve picked the i7 4930K, rather than the i7 4960X, which Iím sure is somewhat better, but is also almost twice the price.
 
Comments on any aspect of the build would be very welcome.  I also have two specific questions that Iíve been unable to find answers to in my web research.

I was hoping to populate half the DIMMs with a set of 4 x 8GB sticks now, and get another set in a year or two, for a total of 64GB.  Iíve heard itís not a great idea to mix memory, though, even if itís supposedly identical.  Does that mean that if I want to upgrade to 64GB in a couple of years, Iíll have to chuck the 4 x 8GB sticks and buy a kit of 8 x 8GB?  If thatís the case, then would I be better off getting 8 x 4GB now, rather than 4 x 8GB, and getting an 8 x 8GB set when I want to upgrade to 64GB?

My other question is about SSDs.  I have read all over the place that itís good to put the OS and programs on an SSD.  Iíve also read that SSDs make good scratch disks for Photoshop, and can be effective for other purposes (catalogues, previews, menus, etc.), as well, with Lightroom and PS.  This is all new to me; in my current system, I have one small HDD for a scratch disk, and one big HDD for everything else.  Can anyone suggest how many SSDs I should get, and what each should be used for?

Thanks in advance for your wisdom and patience!

OS
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit), SP1

CPU
i7 4930K

CPU Cooler
Noctua NH-D14

Motherboard

ASUS Rampage IV Black

Memory
DDRS-1866, 240 pin, 4 X 8GB:
G.Skill Ripjaws Z series (F3-1866C9Q-32GZH)

Storage etc.
2TB HDD:
Western Digital Black

SSD:
Samsung 840 Pro 256 GB (and maybe 128GB?)

Video Card
AMD Firepro W5000 2GB
   
Optical Drive
ASUS DRW-24B1ST

PSU
Cooler Master V1000 (80+ Gold)

Case

Fractal Design Define XL R2 Black Pearl
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2014, 04:43:06 PM »
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I just built a new photo editing PC earlier in the year.  I don't use Photoshop all that much so I scaled things down from what you have set out.  Here are some observations.  First, you do not need a 1000W PSU with the set up you are proposing.  That much power is only needed if you are running multiple video cards so drop down in power.  Personally I use Seasonic PSUs in all my builds and have not had any problems at all.  This 650W Seasonic will serve you well.  It's the same one I have in my PC and it's absolutely quiet.

I think you might be overpaying for the CPU.  Personally I don't think you will see a significant performance benefit from a six core CPU vs a quad core.  You could save $200 by dropping down to a fast quad core like this New i7 Haswell CPU.  You would have to make sure to get a 1150 socket motherboard however and you could save some money there as well.  With all the money you save you should be able to upgrade to 64GB RAM right now (though again I'm not sure about the performance difference between 32 & 64GB). 
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TorbjŲrn Tapani
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2014, 06:30:26 AM »
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I agree. I went with a 4 core CPU/mobo because limited benefit of more cores for Lightroom and Photoshop. But if you really want a lot of RAM then the workstation setup might be the right choice. Or if you plan on using it for video.

I would get the most amount of RAM you ever plan on using right away.

The Samsung 840 Pro seems like the best option. I suggest two SSDs, one for the system and windows temp, one for Adobe cache/scratch/work files (intermediate TIFFs and such). RAW files can live on HDD with negligible performance penalty. Adobe suggests one SSD is sufficient but you want to have some free space left on SSD for best performance. I made the mistake of getting too small SSDs so now I have added a third larger for work files (2x128 + 500).
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Jim Gronau
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2014, 07:25:16 AM »
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Thank you, Alan.

About the PSU, what you say jibes with what I've seen in other people's builds - contrary to the prescription I've seen in a couple of places that actual use should come to about 50 or 60 percent of the PSU's capacity.  I will look at the Seasonic you mention.

I've heard that having more cores means less time waiting for blur and sharpening filters; that makes the i7-4930K sound awfully good to me - I wouldn't want to calculate how many hours I've spent waiting for those filters!  But maybe the great increase in RAM would diminish those wait times a lot?  I have no objection to saving money!  I hadn't realized there was a new Haswell CPU available; I'll check it out - and 1150 socket motherboards.

Jim
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Jim Gronau
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2014, 08:00:15 AM »
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Thank you, TorbjŲrn.  I'm thinking I just might get all the RAM right away, as you suggest.  Assuming I can find it, that is.  There is one place in town whose website says they have it (naturally, if it's on the web it must be true, right?); otherwise, nowhere in Canada (that's where I am) seems to sell it.  I'd take either the G.Skill or the Corsair Vengeance Pro.

What combination of SSDs do you think would be best for each of the jobs you mention?  One 256GB for OS and programs, and one 128GB for scratch disk, etc.?  Or something quite different?
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D Fosse
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2014, 08:14:44 AM »
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Lightroom wants CPU, Photoshop wants RAM.

FWIW, I have an i7-3820 (quad, hyperthread, 3,6 GHz). It seems to handle Lightroom 5 well, processing big D800 files without ever maxing out all 8 virtual cores that I've seen. So at the moment there's still headroom there.

For Photoshop I have a feeling that CPU is way overkill (but maybe I don't do as much blur and sharpening as you do). But the 32 GB RAM I have installed gets eaten up on occasion, so go for 64 if you can.
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2014, 08:41:04 AM »
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Forgot to post this nice LINK to the issue of how much memory and what speed you might need.  They found that RAM speed wasn't as important as quantity.  This may help in your purchase decision (they did not test over 32GB).
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TorbjŲrn Tapani
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2014, 09:31:56 AM »
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Thank you, TorbjŲrn.  I'm thinking I just might get all the RAM right away, as you suggest.  Assuming I can find it, that is.  There is one place in town whose website says they have it (naturally, if it's on the web it must be true, right?); otherwise, nowhere in Canada (that's where I am) seems to sell it.  I'd take either the G.Skill or the Corsair Vengeance Pro.

What combination of SSDs do you think would be best for each of the jobs you mention?  One 256GB for OS and programs, and one 128GB for scratch disk, etc.?  Or something quite different?

That would be a viable solution if two 256GB drives is too costly.

I would not skimp on the system drive at least, that will be hard to replace later. If budget is tight you could use just one SSD as per Adobe recommendation: http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/optimize-performance-photoshop-cs4-cs5.html

The thinking with two drives is that Adobe has it's own memory management and PS always writes to the scratch disk, no matter how much RAM you have. Windows has it's own page file and could be writing to disk at the same time. With SSD this is less of a problem.

You can always add a second SSD later.
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2014, 01:40:44 PM »
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Thank you, Alan.

About the PSU, what you say jibes with what I've seen in other people's builds - contrary to the prescription I've seen in a couple of places that actual use should come to about 50 or 60 percent of the PSU's capacity.  I will look at the Seasonic you mention.

I've heard that having more cores means less time waiting for blur and sharpening filters; that makes the i7-4930K sound awfully good to me - I wouldn't want to calculate how many hours I've spent waiting for those filters!  But maybe the great increase in RAM would diminish those wait times a lot?  I have no objection to saving money!  I hadn't realized there was a new Haswell CPU available; I'll check it out - and 1150 socket motherboards.

Jim

Hi Jim -  Each time I get involved in one of these "what should I build" threads I swear never again.  And here I am back again.. it must be a sickness.   Shocked Shocked

The term you're looking for in regard to not overbuilding past what makes economic sense is "the point of marginal returns."  This is the point where spending more money results in such a small improvement in performance that it doesn't make sense to proceed.

You didn't say what system you're coming from.  When I help clients  with a build this is the first thing I ask because it helps gauge expectations.  For instance if they're coming from a more modern Sandy Bridge quad core and they're really complaining about performance I'll first look at their current system to see if there are any glaring discrepancies.  If not we'll need to look at some serious changes.  But, if they're coming from a 4-5 year old Core Duo.. man, I know they're going to ecstatic with most any modern system that fits their workflow.

Let's start.  About power supplies:  You're right, a power supply runs at it's best efficiency, produces cleaner power, and runs most quiet at its 50-60% point.  Still, you want a bit of headroom.  I also use Seasonic (when I'm not in Japan where I can find Sythe's), their platinum versions, which can actually be set so the fan won't come on under a 50% load.  This by itself might make a few bucks more for a larger capacity power supply worthwhile.  Still, I'd recommend the Seasonic 850 Platinum.

Next, RAM:  It's very important every "bank" of RAM be made from the same type of RAM, same timing, etc.. and ideally the same manufacturer.  Easy to do.  But if a year later you want to add another "bank" of RAM, all you really need to do is find the same type and timing and things will work great.  Ideally, get it all upfront if you can afford it.  But you don't have to.  More:  From your usage requirements 32gb of RAM I think is more than adequate.  That would be my recommendation.

Motherboards:  When determining motherboards I ask the client if they plan on over clocking (not recommended for serious work) and how many of each port type they need.  They might be able to get by with only 5-6 USB3.0 ports and no more than 6 drives and if they don't over clock, then a $150ish MB will do great.   If you need a lot of ports and drives and must over clock.. then you'll need the $300-$400 MB's which are built for over clocking and have lots of ports.  Why an Asus?  I like them and I also like Gigabyte and at the moment Gigabyte offers better economics with more choice.    Over clocking and how many ports?

CPU:  Based on what you describe as your workflow, the Haswell 4770k will more than do the job.  Easily, it won't even max the individual cores.  The six cores are more money, require more power, produce more heat, and would largely go underutilized for 98% of its' lifespan.  The Haswell being a newer generation that produces a lot less heat, is can do roughly 10-15% more work than Iivy Bridge.  So it's really like 4.5 cores vs. 6 if those six are the slower Ivy Bridge.   If you did a lot of video then I'd recommend the six core for sure and 64gb of RAM for sure.  But you're using PS.

SSD's:  I really like the Samsung 840 Pro you chose.  Nice.  Get one (at least a 256gb) for your system disk, and 128gb for a PS cache.  If you're a LR user then match an SSD to about half the size of your catalog and task the PS cache to it as well..

Case:  Look at what Lian-li offers. Lian-li is like the Rolls Royce of cases. Well worth the little bit extra when building a system.

HDD:  2tb?  With 3 and 4tb so inexpensive.. consider going 3-4tb and consider getting two of them and putting them in a RAID1 using your MB to drive them.  If one goes bad, the other takes over and you're saved from disaster.

 Video card:  Before we go there, can you tell me your video requirements?  Is 10 bit important to you?  You didn't mention video.  I guess I'm not understanding why a workstation card when a much less expensive GTX card will do..

Good luck with your build.
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2014, 02:16:34 PM »
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Hi Jim -  Each time I get involved in one of these "what should I build" threads I swear never again.  And here I am back again.. it must be a sickness.   Shocked Shocked
Excellent points all but two minor quibbles.

Quote
Let's start.  About power supplies:  You're right, a power supply runs at it's best efficiency, produces cleaner power, and runs most quiet at its 50-60% point.  Still, you want a bit of headroom.  I also use Seasonic (when I'm not in Japan where I can find Sythe's), their platinum versions, which can actually be set so the fan won't come on under a 50% load.  This by itself might make a few bucks more for a larger capacity power supply worthwhile.  Still, I'd recommend the Seasonic 850 Platinum.
But he has nothing in his build that argues for this much power.  I would agree with you if he was running two GPUs but he's note.  SSDs and the other stuff are not big power drinkers.  This system could be run at 450W without any problems at all.

Quote
Case:  Look at what Lian-li offers. Lian-li is like the Rolls Royce of cases. Well worth the little bit extra when building a system.
I like Lian Li as well and have built some HTPCs with their cases.  However, the Fractal Designs case he has chose is fantastic and stone cold quiet.  I don't think Lian Li does as good a job building silent cases as Fractal does

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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2014, 03:29:05 PM »
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Excellent points all but two minor quibbles.
But he has nothing in his build that argues for this much power.  I would agree with you if he was running two GPUs but he's note.  SSDs and the other stuff are not big power drinkers.  This system could be run at 450W without any problems at all.
I like Lian Li as well and have built some HTPCs with their cases.  However, the Fractal Designs case he has chose is fantastic and stone cold quiet.  I don't think Lian Li does as good a job building silent cases as Fractal does



1.  If he was building a HTPC, a Micro, or some other space limiting platform then sure, 500-600 watts and he's running at 70% which is okay.  But he's running an ATX case where there's plenty of space for a power supply, and for a few bucks more he has future expandability and at 850 he's below the 50% floor which will keep the fans off.  At 400-500 the fans are coming on, and that's presuming Seasonic has that feature on their lower powered fans.  And 850 will be less than an inch bigger on two of the dimensions, a few bucks more, and if later he wants to run another GPU or move to a more powerful one, add drives.. he won't be having power issues and wondering why.

2.  Lian Li makes very good silent cases, but they're pricey.  Mostly I just wanted to throw some more choice out there at approximately the same quality.

I'm tempted to recommend the new Gigabyte UD-7 MB (which would require the quad core Haswell 4770k) with thunderbolt..  It has the most possible USB3.0 ports, the most possible SATA3 ports, it's built like a brick house where the foil runs and power regulation is concerned.. very nice board.  But $400..  Might be worth it to him though if TB is important.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2014, 06:53:26 PM »
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I'm tempted to recommend the new Gigabyte UD-7 MB (which would require the quad core Haswell 4770k) with thunderbolt..  It has the most possible USB3.0 ports, the most possible SATA3 ports, it's built like a brick house where the foil runs and power regulation is concerned.. very nice board.  But $400..  Might be worth it to him though if TB is important.
The only downside to this board is the price.
I am in the process of putting together a new system with this very motherboard.

Tony Jay
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2014, 07:00:36 PM »
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The only downside to this board is the price.
I am in the process of putting together a new system with this very motherboard.

Tony Jay

It is pricey.  But currently it's a one of a kind mother board.   Still..  Roll Eyes
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armand
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« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2014, 05:49:31 PM »
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I see an Asus with Thunderbolt2 for about 100 cheaper (ASUS Z87-DELUXE/QUAD), at around 330. Is the Gigabyte better?
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2014, 05:59:02 PM »
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I see an Asus with Thunderbolt2 for about 100 cheaper (ASUS Z87-DELUXE/QUAD), at around 330. Is the Gigabyte better?
Hard to know.
I think one would need to compare all the specs but obviously the chipset is the same.
Apart from the Thunderbolt 2 ports the gigabyte board offers ten USB 3 ports - this combination would be almost irresistable to anyone doing high-end digital/video editing work with lots of copying and backing-up to multiple EHDD's, not to mention the initial downloading.

Tony Jay
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2014, 07:14:03 PM »
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I see an Asus with Thunderbolt2 for about 100 cheaper (ASUS Z87-DELUXE/QUAD), at around 330. Is the Gigabyte better?
They are both very high quality boards.  Four things stand out as significantly different imo:

1.  Gigabyte utilities and drivers are slightly more refined and trouble free.  Gigabyte also updates drivers faster.  With that said, customer service on both is.. well.. frustrating at times.

2.  Gigabyte has significantly more USB3.0 ports

3.  Gigabyte has significantly more SATA3 ports.

4.  (some of you might want to put your hands over your eyes before I continue)  The Gigabyte board will work with a Hackentosh build. 
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2014, 10:01:10 AM »
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I see an Asus with Thunderbolt2 for about 100 cheaper (ASUS Z87-DELUXE/QUAD), at around 330. Is the Gigabyte better?
The only folks I know that have done some comparisons here are Puget Systems who do boutique PC builds.  They prefer ASUS motherboards.  I've used both and the only issue ever experienced was a bad DVI port on a mini-ITX Gigabyte board for HTPC use.
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Miles
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« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2014, 10:31:24 AM »
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I built a new pc using the Asus tb2 board in November/December (black Friday deals on componenets).  Thoroughly happy with the results and have not had any issues at all.  The system has been rock solid to date.  I have yet to use the Thunderbolt connection however as that was for future storage.  Build included i7-4770k processor, 32 gig ram, 500g ssd and a pair of hard drives in raid configuration.  I used an Asus GTX 760 video card and Asus Blu-ray writer just to maintain consistency with manufacturers.  I'm not an expert at this stuff, but the instructions were good and everything worked right off the bat.  The Asus board has a digital readout that can be referenced in their manual to let you know of any problems and where to look.  Quality was top notch.  If you want to overclock (I don't now, maybe down the road), Asus has a switch on the motherboard for 2 levels. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this combo to others.  I recognize thunderbolt 2 as a feature that I would want soon, so why buy similar without this feature.
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Jim Gronau
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« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2014, 01:35:03 PM »
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First, thank you all for your posts, and please accept my apologies for not responding sooner; since my original post, I've spent most of my time in bed with a seasonal bug (which I do not recommend!).  It was really gratifying to return to the world and find this great debate had been going on while I was out of the picture.

I haven't made any final decisions yet; I'll be pondering all your advice carefully before I do that.  Meantime, I should explain a couple of things, maybe, that I didn't mention in my original post because it already seemed way too long.

First, fwiw, I picked the ASUS motherboard in part because it supports the CPU I wanted, but also because it has the capacity for 64GB of RAM, and lots of USB 3 and SATA 6GB/s connections, and (thanks for reminding me, Miles) it has a "degug LED" to tell you what you did wrong if you're a newbie builder like me.

Next, about the GPU: yes, Steve Weldon, the explanation for a card many people are questioning is 10-bit colour.  I don't have it yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if I popped for a 10-bit monitor in the next year or so, and I'd hate to have to buy a new GPU to go with it!  Meanwhile, I take it there's nothing actually wrong with the Firepro W5000 - other than the price?

RAM: my assumption was that 32GB would be enough for the time being, but as my files get bigger and/or Photoshop gets hungrier, I'll probably want 64GB.  The only reason I was thinking it would be good to postpone the purchase of the second 32GB was that in a year or two it might be cheaper (on the other hand, I suppose, the line I buy initially might not be available any more at that point).

Oh, and thanks to everybody who mentioned Lightroom, which I keep forgetting I'll be trying to learn as soon as I get this build up and running.  I don't suppose I have to, but thanks to Adobe, I'm paying for it anyway, so I may as well.  Would the ideal be one SSD for OS and programs, one for a scratch disk, and one for LR catalogues?  Or would that be excessive?  Maybe I should make that my final (for now) question; how many SSDs, how big, do you all use for PS/LR?

Thanks again!
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2014, 06:42:38 PM »
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one SSD for OS and programs, one for a scratch disk, and one for LR catalogues?  Or would that be excessive?  Maybe I should make that my final (for now) question; how many SSDs, how big, do you all use for PS/LR?

Thanks again!
Jim -  You are being overly rational about all this.. Smiley  I can't decide if you're paying too much up front for what you don't yet need, or saving money in the long run.  Perhaps both.

I'd get a 256gb Samsung 840 pro for your system/programs  and a 128gb Samsung 840 pro.   You can set the 128gb SSD up as BOTH a cache for PS and a LR catalog.. and the only time you'll be taxing both at the same time is if you have LR and PS open at the same time and are actively working on an image.  This only means you'll have two active files on the disk at idle..  Until you use one.  If you are running an intensive action on PS you're accessing the SSD.  If you're moving through the LR catalogue you're accessing the SSD.  So, if you start an action, flip over to LR and start moving through the catalog.. you're now accessing both at the same time.  Would your realize a gain if they were on separate SSD's in this specific situation?   Hard to say, but if you did it would be a minimal loss.. less than 20% for sure.  And that would only be for the disk access part of the equation.. so over all 2-3%? 

Now.. as you use LR and find your catalogue growing.. once it starts to approach half the size of the SSD..  get a dedicated SSD for the catalogue.. a Samsung Evo at a size estimated to be half the size of your biggest ever catalogue.  (that's my bar, yours may be different.   For instance, I require a 1tb Evo for my catalogue drive.

Or you may not like LR so that becomes moot.]


Now.. I know, I can hear you thinkingL:  What about a work drive?  If you're moving 1 file at a time, even for your most extensive PS actions, if the rest of the system is set up ideally.. then using a SSD over  WD Black HDD or even a good NAS (Synology recommended) there will be less than 2/10th's of a second overall in the final equation.  Nothing worth worrying about. 

Now.. if you need to access 500 images at once to see them in a nice 1:1 preview.. that's what LR is for and why you're using an SSD for your catalogue.   If you need to queue up 10 images into PS for some job that will probably take you an hour considering the complexity.. you'll lose roughly 2 seconds by not using a SSD for your work drive.    So.. an SSD for a work drive isn't worth much.  Knowing what I know now about the performance of my Synology 1813+.. I'm more than content using it for a work drive.

Hope this helps.
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