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  1. #1
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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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  3. #2
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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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  6. #4
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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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  7. #5
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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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  9. #6
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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 10:54 AM.
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  10. #7
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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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  11. #8
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    You need a laptop with huge buttons. LOL!!

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  12. #9
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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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  13. #10
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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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  14. #11
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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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  16. #12
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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 02:36 AM.
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  17. #13
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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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