Specs for an artist's computer

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    Specs for an artist's computer

    Next year I'll be attending art college and since I'm mainly into digital art I wanted to buy a new desktop computer. The problem is, I'm really a hardware newbie and I already got lost trying to decide on the specs.

    My expectations are a desktop PC that will run both Photoshop and Painter smooth even with the more complex brushes. I will also be doing basic 3d modeling and animation for college. And last thing, I want it to have a big monitor (or maybe duel monitors?) so I can work "big", 17" just isn't enough for me.
    oh, and the budget is around 1k$

    Any advise would be much helpful.
    Thanks.

    btw, shouldn't there be a "hardware" section in the "sfoware and hardware" forum? I couldn't find any place more relevant to post this then the lounge...

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    You can build your own for quite Cheap. I spent about 600-700 on the box, and already had a monitor (150 on my 20" Samsung Touch of Color). (Then again I also got a processor for free).

    You can get a 1 or 2 tb drive for about 100-150 bucks now. I usually have 2 drives. One is for storage one is for the OS. A 500gb drive is about 50 bucks and is a very good start where you can upgrade later.

    Processor, go with an icore7 the new AMD processors or Intel Quad Core Q9650 (the q9650 is about 300) AMD Phenom II's are very cheap at 165 for the processor.

    As far as 3d work you can get a Quadro FX at base level about 150-200 dollars.

    I went with a good Gigabyte Mobo but Asus is also touted as pretty good. I only spent about 100 on the mobo and it is upgradable for 16gb of ddr3 memory.

    If you're bad at building, I never built my own and did a bunch of googling and watching some vids before I made the decision. I went with building my own because I don't like the fact many pre-built ones will void your warranty if you make any changes. You can get a better warranty on each individual part and save money on fixing it yourself.

    However, headaches are...if you're not too good with PCs and have an issue - for example a dead cpu/mobo/ram these things are harder to test out without spare parts.

    I will say when you do learn to build your own, you become much more price conscious and realize what money to spend on without getting ripped. - It's also a lot easier to learn than car parts

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  5. #3
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    AMD is coming out with the new 6 cores. Apparently, they will be cheaper than the Intel ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flashback View Post
    AMD is coming out with the new 6 cores. Apparently, they will be cheaper than the Intel ones.
    Yes, you're referring to the Phenom II X6
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=...qid=1274307916

    Now, theoretically having more cores is "good" but if you don't have good threading tech, cache it's meaningless. Sometimes you get cores that are good in gaming - it seems AMD is great when it comes to gaming but when you do a lot of multimedia work the Intels tend to do better. - Saying that though, you as the consumer how much would you notice?

    Depending on how heavy the work he's doing even having that many cores isn't necessarily useful (if he's an illustrator it's not really a big gain other than just a faster core in ghz - most illustration programs don't even utilize multi-cores or do it well). You can get by rather well with 4 cores.

    Repeating again as the consumer it really doesn't matter too much for general purpose work. Usually computers are fast when first assembled with fresh installs but slow down due to adding in more items that can cause registry issues, add ons to your startup. With good housekeeping it isn't so bad, but as general consumers we tend to become lazy with our Personal Computers.

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    21" widescreen monitor at least.
    Samsung or LG are very affordable in that price range.

    Widescreen will give you enough room for tool menus in PS or Painter and a decent working area.

    If you're not comfortable building the actual box bribe your geeky basement dwelling beardy mate* with beer or Xbox games and have him do it for you..

    *everyone knows one..

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    Pretty good start to a build, the i7-930 for $200 is tough to beat.

    And you can root around Newegg and find combo deals that save a lot of cash. If you started with that cpu, this would give you a solid motherboard and OS for another $289

    Optical Drives are very cheap.

    Nice deals are out there for case/HDD combos

    There are ways to save on PSU's.

    You'd still need memory, and a graphics card.

    If you got into gaming and overclocking you'd probably want a heatsink as well.

    Last edited by Bill; May 22nd, 2010 at 11:54 AM.
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    Dude, you just missed me. I dumped an EVGA Core2 Duo board running stable and cool on air @ 4ghz, dual 8800 GTS cards, 8gb of DDR2 800 running @ 940 and a Freezer7 Pro fan for $400. This was a steal, I'm just trying to reduce the clutter around my electrical workbench to make way for my latest project. That rig never gave me a hardware or performance issue ever, I just wanted to go i7 on the mobo to get straight for the next 2-3 years. Like one of the previous posts mentioned, Newegg all the way bro. You can slide on ebay for the case though. If you build for gaming, then graphic design will benefit. A Quadro FX was also mentioned. Excellent for 2d/3d design, but the minute you lay back and take a casual break with a game the rest of your system should run effortlessly, you might want to turn those settings down so it will be playable. I learned this the hard way years ago. Two drives is also a good idea, but you can opt for a smaller, faster primary physical drive for the OS/Programs and keep all your documents and files on the secondary drive which can be larger. I keep absolutely nothing on my main rig to protect against theft and any freak hardware crashes. Good luck.

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    You need a laptop with huge buttons. LOL!!

    Specs for an artist's computer

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    Thanks a lot guys, this information helps me a lot =]
    the problem with Newegg is I don't live in the US, I live in Israel so...
    I might ask a friend in the states to ship me if the price difference will be much but then I won't have the warranty I suppose...

    If you're not comfortable building the actual box bribe your geeky basement dwelling beardy mate* with beer or Xbox games and have him do it for you..
    My brother is really a hardware freak, got a hell of computer lab down the basement, I'll ask him as well when he get's some free time. I just want to learn it myself and see what the "real" professionals use for their own =]

    @Bill - pointing out the actual real thing never been more helpful, thanks =]
    @ zaorr - yeh... I almost went for a 17" laptop and then realized how huge it was. but don't tell that to anyone shhh

    btw, I hear a lot about overclocking but is it actually worth to overclock for 2d art? I thought only hardcore 3d artist or gamers use it to squeeze the juice out of their system.

    and again, thanks a lot for the information. Once I'll check with the vendors around here and decide I'll let you know what I got =]

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arshes Nei View Post
    Yes, you're referring to the Phenom II X6
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=...qid=1274307916

    Now, theoretically having more cores is "good" but if you don't have good threading tech, cache it's meaningless. Sometimes you get cores that are good in gaming - it seems AMD is great when it comes to gaming but when you do a lot of multimedia work the Intels tend to do better. - Saying that though, you as the consumer how much would you notice?

    Depending on how heavy the work he's doing even having that many cores isn't necessarily useful (if he's an illustrator it's not really a big gain other than just a faster core in ghz - most illustration programs don't even utilize multi-cores or do it well). You can get by rather well with 4 cores.

    Repeating again as the consumer it really doesn't matter too much for general purpose work. Usually computers are fast when first assembled with fresh installs but slow down due to adding in more items that can cause registry issues, add ons to your startup. With good housekeeping it isn't so bad, but as general consumers we tend to become lazy with our Personal Computers.
    I use my computer for gaming. Besides Cores, you need to have good hard-drive with good memory cache ( which i don't have) , and ram (which I do have), and it really depends on how well a program is programmed, or if it's even worth programming.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erayo View Post
    btw, I hear a lot about overclocking but is it actually worth to overclock for 2d art? I thought only hardcore 3d artist or gamers use it to squeeze the juice out of their system.
    Personally I don't see the point in overclocking for 2d art programs. Considering the software out there, the same problems happen whether or not your system is overclocked.

    Ex Painter still lags at certain brush sizes no matter the specs. It's because of the code on how to render brush strokes.

    I think Space and Memory is more important than CPU. It's because right now illustration programs don't really do much in multicore. If it's not doing much for mutiple cores, it's not a real gain in overlocking one core.

    I mean...really what will it make you do, Paint faster? A lot of good art still takes time regardless of cpu power.

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    AMD does have affordable 6 core processors but they seem to run about the same or worse than intel's 4 core processors. The i7-920 beats the AMD six cores in both photoshop and 3Dsmax. Here are some benchmarks:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3674/a...55t-reviewed/1

    I recently built a computer using the i7-930 that Bill suggested. It will be very hard to build a computer including a monitor with a i7-930 for $1k i think. $1k for just the computer would be easier, especially if you don't care about gaming much.

    You could get an i7-860 instead which will be about the same as an i7-920 in 3d rendering and slightly faster in photoshop due to its more aggressive turbo mode (it overclocks itself when its using less than 4 cores). The 860 costs about the same as the 920 but it will allow you to use a cheaper motherboard and you'd only need to buy 4GB of RAM instead of 6GB. The 920 or 930 and their motherboards are technically "better" but you'd never notice.

    You don't really need a powerful video card for photoshop or even 3d work, its really the CPU and RAM that does the work. All the video card helps with is the viewport, not rendering. You could get a professional card (ATI FireGL or Nvidia Quadro) but I don't think its worth it. A $90 Radeon 4850 is actually more powerful than a $150 FireGL or Quadro. The video card companies pretty much take their gamer cards, give them drivers optimized for artists programs and better customer service, and inflate the price.

    I chose to buy two 500GB Samsung F3 hard drives for my system. The second hard drive is for backing up my artwork. I chose this drive because it uses the newer higher density platters (faster), and also because they are single platter drives. Less platters = less moving parts = less chance for mechanical failures. They are cheap too.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...-181-_-Product

    For monitors anything under $300 probably isn't going to be the best for artwork in my opinion. This is what I use:
    http://www.amazon.com/NEC-EA231WMI-B.../dp/B002LARVYK
    I'm happy with it. I got it on sale for $300 though. Monitors that use IPS panels are generally much better with colors than the more common TN panels. The NEC monitor I linked to uses a sort of budget version of IPS. Its better than TN but doesn't cost $600+ like some other IPS variants.

    Last edited by Burhtun; May 23rd, 2010 at 03:36 AM.
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    @Burhtun - your monitor looks great, I might get one as well. Only thing is 14 ms seems much more then all the other monitors I've looked into, does it make any difference?

    and two other dilemmas I stumbled into, I'm not much of a gamer but quadro fx still seem to be much pricier then the ge-forece do they actually worth it?
    and last thing, would you rather use 32 or 64 bit systems?

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    Windows7 64bit all the way. I've had no problems with it so far and it will let you use all of your RAM. 32bit OS will only recognize around 3GB total and 32bit software will only use 2GB max.

    I wouldn't bother with a pricey Quadro or a FireGL. At a $1000 total budget you can't consider them really. A gamer card is fine. If you want to run the latest games at maxed settings at 1920x1080, you'd need a Radeon 5850 ($300). A 5770 would probably be fine if you don't care about maxing out all the eye candy ($170). A 4850 is almost as fast as a 5770 and much cheaper ($90). Even a 4850 is overkill for photoshop. If you don't want to play games at all on this machine then you can save some money and get something even cheaper. Geforce cards are fine too, I just prefer Radeon at the moment.

    As for monitors, that is the downside to IPS panels, they don't have a speedy response time like TN panels. Response time only really matters for games and movies though. But I've been playing Bad Company 2 which can get pretty fast paced at times and I haven't noticed any problems. Some people claim to be more sensitive than others but the monitor seems fine for gaming to me. Great for movies too. I don't notice any ghosting or lagging.

    Last edited by Burhtun; May 23rd, 2010 at 05:30 PM.
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    For Photoshop and Painter purposes, you can actually make do with just a C2D processor and 2 GB RAM. I use CS3 and Painter IX and I don't have a problem with it, running on a measly 2.0 Ghz C2D. However, if you're also planning on 3D rendering, then yeah, you need real processing power.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erayo View Post
    @Burhtun - your monitor looks great, I might get one as well. Only thing is 14 ms seems much more then all the other monitors I've looked into, does it make any difference?

    and two other dilemmas I stumbled into, I'm not much of a gamer but quadro fx still seem to be much pricier then the ge-forece do they actually worth it?
    and last thing, would you rather use 32 or 64 bit systems?
    This is the Quadro Card I have in my system btw, served me quite well. Seems to pop up reading layers in CS4 pretty fast. I only got it because I am learning 3d too and want some power even at an entry level.

    http://amzn.com/B0023B133W

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    exactly what I was thinking about =]
    I'm pretty settled now, the only things I havn't decided on yet are the box and the brand of memory sticks. btw, is there any difference of 2X4 or 4X2 memory sticks? 8gb ram seems pretty satisfying to me.
    and yeh, I kind's passed the 1k$ limit I set to my self, I'm getting closer to the 1.5k but I can live with that.

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  22. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erayo View Post
    exactly what I was thinking about =]
    I'm pretty settled now, the only things I havn't decided on yet are the box and the brand of memory sticks. btw, is there any difference of 2X4 or 4X2 memory sticks? 8gb ram seems pretty satisfying to me.
    and yeh, I kind's passed the 1k$ limit I set to my self, I'm getting closer to the 1.5k but I can live with that.
    To be honest, I haven't seen any real difference in performance other than the fact the 4gb sticks are more costly. I'm also pretty happy with the amount of RAM on my PC. 8GB.

    My friend AND my father were happy about the AMD Phenom II X4 processors and gigabyte mobos, which in total was about 265.

    As I stated before, your new build will be pretty fast regardless if you have a quad or higher core processor. What slows down your PC is not having good upkeeping, like defragging files, cleaning out registry and allowing too many programs to go into your startup or background. So with any nice quality core you go with, expect cussing and your love period with your PC to be over within 2-3 years if you don't follow good housekeeping.

    If you like to see some shots/vid and reviews with the one I built:

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R32TF8E...cm_cr_rdp_perm

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R1PQXDG...cm_cr_rdp_perm

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R1O4VTD...cm_cr_rdp_perm

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R3N514N...cm_cr_rdp_perm

    Yes, I'm aware that's a HUGE fan. It's because as stated before, the processor I put in was a used on that worked fine. http://amzn.com/B000VBHB14 - they heat up because of the old 65mm but free intel quad is a free intel quad.

    Also I find the Antec 300 Illusions are pretty good for towers - http://amzn.com/B000GQMHBI It's also what I use. I had gotten a Gladiator for my father from Cooler Master but he said the setup was a bit weird for the hdd but had good cable management.

    As long as it's sturdy and has the space I needed I'm good. Or as long as it doesn't look like this:
    Specs for an artist's computer

    I know some people like that, but unless it has the actual Transforming sound effect and turns into an actual robot, no thanks.

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  23. #19
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    On the subject of heating / cooling, the only thing I regret on mine is not doing enough research on the temperature side of things. I went for the Cosmos 1000 Coolermaster (hmm) case cos it's solidly built (40-odd lb of steel!) but now, with only 3 of the 6 HD bays used, I'm having to operate it with one of the sides off as otherwise the HDs get too hot, and that's with 5 big case fans in there + big CPU fan + GPU fan. When I get round to it I'll cut a vent in one of the panels but it's a lot of hassle to do it so it looks right.

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  24. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arshes Nei View Post
    Also I find the Antec 300 Illusions are pretty good for towers.
    I know the OP doesn't have direct access to a Newegg... but an Antec 900 + a DVD drive for under $60 is a stupidly good deal.

    ^ And are those cases up there made from spare parts off the Millenium Falcon?

    Edit: ^ Apparently that deal was good for about a day.

    Last edited by Bill; May 25th, 2010 at 02:37 PM.
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  25. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill View Post
    I know the OP doesn't have direct access to a Newegg... but an Antec 900 + a DVD drive for under $60 is a stupidly good deal.

    ^ And are those cases up there made from spare parts off the Millenium Falcon?
    Oh I know, that's why I was using Amazon, I figured he might have a better chance grabbing some stuff, it's next best to Newegg if he can't use it.

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    Oh I know, that's why I was using Amazon, I figured he might have a better chance grabbing some stuff, it's next best to Newegg if he can't use it.
    Well, actually, Amazon doesn't ship most of the hardware parts to Israel so it is not much different then Newegg.
    On the other hand, my father will be in the US next week and I asked him if he could buy me some of the parts there, maybe I'll ship to him via Newegg.
    The Case is too big to smuggle in a handbag so I'll rather buy it over here for a bit more.
    And I prefer Newegg to review the products, they got way more comments and technical stuff...

    so far I decided on:
    Interl Core i7 930
    GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R Mother Board
    PNY NVIDIA Quadro FX 580 512MB PCI
    2X SAMSUNG 500gb hard drives
    NEC EA231WMI-BK Monitor

    some Antec 300-900 case
    4X2 GB memory sticks which I haven't decided on yet
    How much W should the PSU have? is 500W sufficiant? 600? 700?
    and then optical drives are peanuts...

    thanks a lot for the help =]

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    650 watt is usually good. I got the Apevia Warlock 750 for about 80 bucks. I had purchased a board with ddr3 ram since they're about the same price as ddr2. It's so when I do upgrade to an icore or faster processor, I don't have to scrap the memory sticks.

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R1O4VTD...cm_cr_rdp_perm

    I forgot to mention one of the reasons I use Amazon is because they allow me to ship to a PO box. I often had problems with disappearing mail, even via UPS. The other is I get charged Sales tax (In CA sales tax is nearly 10% or over depending on where you live) and I don't always get a good free shipping deal via Newegg. So I started price comparisons and generally I end up saving more through Amazon for my case and flexibility where to ship.

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    If you're going with an i7-930 then you will want a 6GB kit, not 8GB. The 930 requires a x58 mobo, which is what you chose so that is good, but they should be fit with either three or six RAM modules. So 3 x 2GB sticks = 6GB. Most motherboards require RAM modules in multiples of 2 because they are dual channel but the x58s are triple channel.

    I chose this case for my build:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811119216
    It has plenty of fans but doesn't look like a blinged-out spaceship as much as a lot of the other cases. I like things to be on the plain side. The stupid fan light can be kept off with a flip of a switch thankfully.
    bigger picture with light off:
    http://images.bit-tech.net/content_i...e-review/7.jpg

    Last edited by Burhtun; May 25th, 2010 at 06:44 PM.
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  29. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burhtun View Post
    The 930 requires a x58 mobo
    And be sure that the socket on your processor is compatible with you Mobo. The i7-930 will use a 1366 socket, whereas I believe the socket for the i7-860 will be an 1156 (for example).

    Last edited by Bill; May 25th, 2010 at 07:19 PM.
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    So glad I stuck with the LGA sockets...the icores just made it more confusing. At least AMD is pretty consistent and easier to understand upgrade paths.

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  31. #27
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    I have Q6600 processor, nvidia 285 with 2gig graphic mem, 4gig sysmem(deffy not enough), 2 storage HDs mirrored, then cache HD and last one for OS.

    That's a lot of HD but I'm a bit paranoid. Can't be too safe.

    This is old machine except the graphic card but still does the job.

    For digital painting i recommend picking monitor very carefully. I recently bought HP ZR24W which is decent for entertaining and does the job for craphics. Cost around 430e for me. Good colour accuracy and stuff when calibrated. I definetely recommend to get monitors calibrated. tho the calibrators cost a lot.

    Before that monitor i had an old CRT. Changing from that to LCD just opened a gate to another dimension. The dimension of darker values which wasn't visible with the old CRT.

    I do 3d modeling with Maya + Zbrush. Digital painting and texturing in photoshop. sometimes i have all the progs open at the sametime with very heavy works. Millions of polygons and big images. I recommend around 8gig memory if you do Zbrushing and want to add some finer detail to your models while working with big texture files at the sametime.

    64-bit OS makes life easier.

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