Sunday, March 20, 2011

State of the Art PC for Photo Editing

When you edit images, you are dealing with huge files and even bigger memory footprints. A typical 16MP image these days in 8bit color jpeg is going to have 3 bytes per pixel times 16 million pixel (I’m being lazy here and not giving exact numbers, but this will be close enough) for a memory footprint around 48MB at a minimum. Of course, you will want to edit in 16-bit color, do double that to what is essentially 100MB per image.

Now, once you know how to edit the odds are that you will be using layers. And maybe smart objects and so on. This leaves your edits fully available for tweaking for variations later on. Add 5 layers and you hit half a GB per image in memory very quickly.

With 32-bit PCs, memory is limited to 3GB by Windows. If you take the memory footprints of the OS and Photoshop and Bridge plus whatever else you have running in the background, there really is no room for you to put this much data in memory. And heaven forbid that you want to edit a series of images together.

So today we are looking at a state of the art PC for editing as built from parts purchased at This is just an example of the incredible deals available at any online retailer these days.


Let me comment on each part I’ve added here so you know why it was selected. I’ll also suggest alternatives for gaming.

Sparkle GT 440

This is a fast video card with more than enough GPU power for CS5. I have good performance with a 9600GT, a much less powerful card. A gamer would probably choose a 460 or better. That would add $125 or so. State of the art is another $200 on top of that.

UBISOFT Brothers in Arms

Newegg stuck that in probably with the video card without me noticing. Watch for that. I would just delete it, but a gamer might take the deal.

BIOSTAR Intel 1155 P67 Motherboard

Standard socket 155 for the Sandy Bridge processors. This one has some nice features, the primary one being 4 memory slots. Don’t buy a board with 2 slots. No need to cheap out for 25 bucks.

Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB

A very fast hard drive, suitable for programs and data and with tons of storage capacity. I’d augment with a green drive version of this for under $100 with external USB 3 case in order to back up my images and other data regularly.

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

Excellent operating system. Really. Get the OEM version since you are building a complete system from scratch. Saves you 50 bucks.

NEC EA232WMi 23” LED Backlit e-IPS Monitor

This is an excellent monitor for image editing. Even better if you buy a Huey pro or Spyder Express calibrator. A gamer can get away with a cheap TN panel with slightly faster refresh but less accurate colors.

Intel Core-i7 2600

Super fast quad core i7 processor. A gamer would probably get the 2600K version as it can be overclocked for even faster performance. These things have crossed the 4ghz barrier with standard air cooling.


I use G-Skill memory in all my machines. Never had a problem. Great price for 16GB.


I use Gamma cases in all my new builds. It is easy to use with lots of room for hard drives and a bottom mounted power supply unit. It has a huge fan in it that is near silent. It is black and is drilled everywhere for excellent air flow. I love this case and it is cheap to boot.

Corsair Enthusiast Series 65oW PSU

I buy big and heavy power supplies. I recently got burned by an OCZ power supply that croaked out of nowhere, and I shun them now. I use Thermaltake, Corsair, or any other high brand except OCZ. (Note: I checked various sites and many people had the same problem I did with OCZ.)


I’ve had a lot of failures over the years with the super cheap Lite-On and LG drives and a store recommended I move up to Samsung for better reliability. So far I love this brand so for the 20 extra bucks I always buy it instead of the dirt cheap stuff.


This is one amazing system for under $1500. Seriously powerful. Enjoy.

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