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PC for Adobe CS5 Illustrator and Photoshop

Posted on 2010-11-17
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-10
I am in need of a "high end" computer for CS5 work, this will be in a Windows environment.  
My total budget including CS5, a Workstation, monitor, tax, and shipping is $4000.
I am proposing the following, which is almost exactly $4000:
Lenovo ThinkStation S20, Quad Core Xeon W3530 / 2.8 GHz RAM 6 GB Raid card(single drive at first, if needed will purchase second drive for Raid 0 in future), 500GB SATA 7200 , NVIDIA Quadro FX 580 (512 MB),
Win 7 Pro
Adobe CS5 Design Standard
Lacie 324 24 inch monitor.

I had to opt for a cheaper Video card to fit a decent monitor into the budget.  I am not a designer, and have limited experience with illustrator.   This PC will be used to edit and create relatively large images used for Print, such as magazine advertisements, Packaging layout, Posters, etc.  
My concerns mostly are with the monitor and video card, I believe the rest of the hardware should be well suited to the task.  The HDD may be another bottleneck, but the capabilities of the video solution rate higher than the HDD performance.
I am looking for a critique of this proposal, I would hate to invest this money in a solution that was not up to task.  

Question by:runsysrun
LVL 16

Accepted Solution

HackneyCab earned 1000 total points
ID: 34155861
I recommend you do some research to decide whether you actually need a Quadro graphics card, as I've been searching around and there's a lot of discussion about whether the Quadro cards actually offer any performance gain (in CS5) over GeForce cards with the same specs (and the GeForce cards are far, far cheaper). If your monitor supports 30-bit colour, then it sounds like you'll want the Quadro for that benefit.

For high-end 3D-rendering and CAD applications, there do seem to be benefits to the Quadro series over equivalent GeForce cards, according to Tom's Hardware:


But CS5 is not listed there, and I recommend you find out whether you'll really benefit from the huge extra cost of the Quadro.

As for RAID mode 0, I'm happier with mode 1. Slightly slower disk speed concerns me far less than greatly higher risk of disk failure. (Of course, if you regularly backup your files to an external drive, you'd have that angle covered.)

Author Comment

ID: 34156830
Thanks for the feedback.  I will look into alternate graphics cards if possible, the workstations I am looking at from Lenovo all seem to have the Quadro technology.  Regarding raid 0, we have an Asigra backup solution, everything is backed up nightly, I would opt for the raid 0 only if it seems like there is a bottleneck with the Disk I/O... I agree, if we did not have a solid backup solution, I would def. be opting for Raid 1 or 5.
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 34160966
Adobe's John Nack posted an article from Adobe's performance testing lead engineer on How to set up a great Photoshop machine
Be sure to read the comments.
LVL 32

Assisted Solution

aleghart earned 1000 total points
ID: 34254297
I'm not sure what your price is on the monitor, but ~$1,000 for that size...you could get a suitable monitor for half that.  I just hooked up an HP LP2475w (24", IPS, 1920x1200).  You didn't budget for a calibration device, so why waste money on the monitor.  Without calibration, the money is wasted.

You are also designing for print, so color correction will have to take into account your output devices.  Having a full NTSC color space monitor won't help much when your target is CMYK for an offset litho.

I'm not saying the Lacie is bad...I used Lacie, Iiyama, Trinitron, Radius, and a slew of Apple & Dell.  But if you're skimping on other hardware in order to get a more expensive monitor, there might not be a payoff.  The most important concept is understanding what the image looks like on the target device.  I've fed 40" presses with cheap Apple CRTs running at 1024x768/16-bit.  The color proofs were always the important things, not the on-screen image.

I favor multiple monitors.  You never seem to have enough real estate.  Also, a 16:9 or 16:10 monitor rotated 90-degrees is great for editing single-page work, reading documents, etc.  I had a Radius vertical monitor for magazine work back in 1991...so the idea's not new.  Also, editing portrait photos is less onerous when the monitor is turned the right way.  Less moving around.  Less zooming in and out.

Make room in that budget for a datacolor Spyder3Elite.  Creates profiles for your monitor(s) and can run an analysis to show you how imperfect that "perfect"-looking monitor is.  You'd be surprised how much variation there is across your screen.

RAM.  RAM.  RAM.  I used to think 2GB was plenty for Photoshop.  Then someone came to me for a quick 5-minute video composition.  It took _days_.  My last laptop had 6GB...great for everything...until I had to run a virtual machines for some testing,  Now I have 8GB, and I think it's enough for now...but that's the max the board will hold.   If you have room, start with 2x4GB and leave room for more later.  Once you show some gumption, you'll end up running Photoshop for retouching, Premiere at the same time to assemble a video, and crunching/rendering work in the background.

I run off a single drive...no choice with a normal sized laptop.  Even with larger workstations, we didn't have RAID, but we also upgraded or replaced the machines every 12-18 months.  I did invest in a hybrid drive: 4GB solid-state cache + 500GB 7200rpm HDD.  It wasn't very expensive.  Windows boots in a minute.  Photoshop launches in 2-3 seconds.

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