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pierces

My PC is turning 80...in computer years!

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1 hour ago, zackiedawg said:

I will likely go off-the-shelf as I know nothing about picking components and building my own.  I would like to get an SSD drive for the OS and programs with a spinning HD for storage - possibly dual HDs for storage with a backup internally, while still doing external backups as I do now.

 

When you're ready to pull the trigger, post to one of these threads and I'll be happy to help with choosing specs. You can future-proof pretty aggressively for under $2k nowadays.

 

1 hour ago, zackiedawg said:

 Why do big expenses all come piled up in the same year!?

 

If you find the answer, I have a list of other questions I need help with. Bread falling butter-side down. The number of red lights in relation to how quickly you need to get somewhere. Where women really want to eat when they say, "I don't care."

 

Dave

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I may just need to take you up on that.  I did some looking a few weeks back, but sounds like some next-gen is coming around the corner, so waiting may pay off better anyway.

 

If I can recall the specs, the previous version I looked at was a Dell, with Intel Gen8 i7 8700 6-core Core processor, with 256GB SSD boot drive and 2TB HD, 32GB RAM at 2666Mhz, GeForce GTX 1660 video card.  That may be enough for my needs and reasonably future proof - the system had room to expand RAM up to 64GB and claimed to be easily upgradeable/swappable XPS Tower body.  Ballpark was around $1,500.  If I could do better, great - if the new tech brings the price down, that would work too - or if I could get faster processors for around the same price, all of that would be worth waiting for.

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, zackiedawg said:

I may just need to take you up on that.  I did some looking a few weeks back, but sounds like some next-gen is coming around the corner, so waiting may pay off better anyway.

 

If I can recall the specs, the previous version I looked at was a Dell, with Intel Gen8 i7 8700 6-core Core processor, with 256GB SSD boot drive and 2TB HD, 32GB RAM at 2666Mhz, GeForce GTX 1660 video card.  That may be enough for my needs and reasonably future proof - the system had room to expand RAM up to 64GB and claimed to be easily upgradeable/swappable XPS Tower body.  Ballpark was around $1,500.  If I could do better, great - if the new tech brings the price down, that would work too - or if I could get faster processors for around the same price, all of that would be worth waiting for.

 

If you are looking at a late Q3 2019 or later purchase, it is likely that the build-to-order boxes from the major manufacturers will include much of the new tech, so the wait will likely be worth it.

 

I will be adding a couple of posts on what does and doesn't make sense to upgrade (or skip) on a build-to-order unit since I would guess that more people are in your situation than want to bother building from scratch.

 

Stay tuned! 😉

 

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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On 5/28/2019 at 5:25 PM, pierces said:

 

If you are looking at a late Q3 2019 or later purchase, it is likely that the build-to-order boxes from the major manufacturers will include much of the new tech, so the wait will likely be worth it.

 

I will be adding a couple of posts on what does and doesn't make sense to upgrade (or skip) on a build-to-order unit since I would guess that more people are in your situation than want to bother building from scratch.

 

Stay tuned! 😉

 

 

Dave

 

Dave, that would be extremely helpful for many of us!

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On 5/28/2019 at 2:25 PM, pierces said:

 

If you are looking at a late Q3 2019 or later purchase, it is likely that the build-to-order boxes from the major manufacturers will include much of the new tech, so the wait will likely be worth it.

 

I will be adding a couple of posts on what does and doesn't make sense to upgrade (or skip) on a build-to-order unit since I would guess that more people are in your situation than want to bother building from scratch.

 

Stay tuned! 😉

 

 

Dave

What is coming in Q3'2019, why not Q3'2020, there is something coming every every year, LOL

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Posted (edited)
44 minutes ago, chipmaster said:

What is coming in Q3'2019, why not Q3'2020, there is something coming every every year, LOL

 

A new architecture generation (3xxx series) of AMD CPUs, GPUs and PCIE 4.0 are the major changes with solid announcement dates. The usual baby steps from Intel are coming but aren't as significant as doubling the peripheral bus bandwidth.

 

New stuff is fairly annual but not usually worth waiting for. The new bus with faster storage access is worth it for me but until the build after this one, I can skip DDR5 and USB 4.0 which should surface in 2020 or maybe the year after that. By "surface", I mean get mainstream enough to have affordable products available. 🙂

 

The "worth it" threshold in tech is one of the hardest things to nail down and is very personal. Wait for this, not for that... Thankfully my threshold is pretty reasonable, otherwise I'd still be shooting with film!

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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1 hour ago, pierces said:

 

A new architecture generation (3xxx series) of AMD CPUs, GPUs and PCIE 4.0 are the major changes with solid announcement dates. The usual baby steps from Intel are coming but aren't as significant as doubling the peripheral bus bandwidth.

 

New stuff is fairly annual but not usually worth waiting for. The new bus with faster storage access is worth it for me but until the build after this one, I can skip DDR5 and USB 4.0 which should surface in 2020 or maybe the year after that. By "surface", I mean get mainstream enough to have affordable products available. 🙂

 

The "worth it" threshold in tech is one of the hardest things to nail down and is very personal. Wait for this, not for that... Thankfully my threshold is pretty reasonable, otherwise I'd still be shooting with film!

 

Dave

Indeed the move by AMD to TSMC 7nm and chiplet approach is going to push chipzilla which is struggling

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Posted (edited)

Went back to scanning the news for more info on the tech that put my new computer on hold and here's what I found.

 

DDR5 memory:

Here this year but still a ways off. Some availability this year but likely only in the world of servers and insanely expensive workstations. This announcement of 2019 availability won't affect my timing on this build. My memory decisions have come down to speed and quantity based on my choice to go with AMD. The base speed for the new X570 boards is DDR4 3200 which is a bit faster than the Intel base. I'm not an overclocker, so base speed will do fine. The decision is now 32GB vs. 64GB and while more RAM is often better, there is a level of diminishing returns and I'm having a hard time finding definitive proof that over 32GB of RAM will boost photo processing in any way.

 

AMD 3xxx CPUs:

July 7. A real date and less than a month away! I haven't seen release dates for the announced motherboards but one would assume that the timing would be close if not simultaneous. Looks like I'm going with AMD this time around. New territory for me but they have made significant advances in single thread performance and for multi-core, they offer up to a 12-core, 24-thread option without breaking the $500 threshold. Photoshop doesn't seem to get any big boost beyond 6 or 8 cores but hey, maybe it comes with a "I HAVE 12 CORES" sticker for the case! They are supposed to run cool as well but liquid cooling is still on my shopping list.

 

AMD 5700 graphics:

July 7 as well. Still on the fence here. I have had a lot of good luck with Nvidia cards over the years but AMD has done well since I abandoned ATI cards way back before AMD bought them and killed the brand back in 2010. The new cards don't support hardware based ray tracing like the new Nvidia RTX cards, but I don't really plan on doing a lot of gaming. Even if I was, very few games support it anyway. I'm more concerned with having more processing power and memory available for Lightroom and Photoshop. It will come down to price since the cards being released apparently perform on par with the range I was looking at in the Nvidia brand. 

 

PCIE 4.0 SSD drives:

Looks like some will be popping out of the mill in July. First wave will be about 30%-ish faster than current top performers, which is attractive. Price will tell. As with cameras, the price/performance threshold is a personal thing and I will balk if the performance increase is out of sync with the pricing. Add in the possibility that PCIE 3.0 pricing may drop due to the newest shiny thing appearing and I may end up with insanely fast drives instead of ludicrously fast ones.

 

It looks like an August delivery for the new baby. 

 

Of course, this could all be derailed if Sony drops a hint of a smoking hot APS-C body this fall...

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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Dave,

What's your input or opinion on using SSD drives as the primary operating system drive - I'd use a spinning HD for actual storage this time around...my question/concern is: are there any finite limits on reusing SSD drives over many years where they may eventually fail?  I know they're pretty secure in general, and fast - and having them as the boot/OP drive is often recommended - but I think about other older SSD uses such as flash drives and memory cards, and there does come a point when reused constantly, deleted or formatted over and over, where they can have limited read/write cycles and I often hear quotes of 5-7 year lifespans.  Since I've kept my current computer that long, I'm wondering if I'd be more likely to have a hard replacement limit on an SSD drive vs HD drives, which can fail randomly almost any time but also can go for over a decade if you're lucky.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, zackiedawg said:

Dave,

What's your input or opinion on using SSD drives as the primary operating system drive - I'd use a spinning HD for actual storage this time around...my question/concern is: are there any finite limits on reusing SSD drives over many years where they may eventually fail?  I know they're pretty secure in general, and fast - and having them as the boot/OP drive is often recommended - but I think about other older SSD uses such as flash drives and memory cards, and there does come a point when reused constantly, deleted or formatted over and over, where they can have limited read/write cycles and I often hear quotes of 5-7 year lifespans.  Since I've kept my current computer that long, I'm wondering if I'd be more likely to have a hard replacement limit on an SSD drive vs HD drives, which can fail randomly almost any time but also can go for over a decade if you're lucky.

 

I have has an SSD as a boot drive for the last 6 years or so. First was a SATA unit from Sandisk that was about three time as fast as a spinning drive and the latest is a NVME M.2 drive that is six times faster than that. I have found them to be reliable and they really do perk up boot and the load time of programs. I make sure the size is enough for the operating system and to have the program files installed in the Program Files folder as well.

 

Unless you are a collector of random software, a 250GB SSD is probably enough, though you may want to double that for other reasons outlined below. With the Adobe programs (sans catalog for LR) installed as well as the Office 365 local copies, SQL Server, Visual Basic, Luminar, and a ton of plug-ins, I still had about 20% of a 256GB drive left over. I replaced it with a 500GB unit after research turned up an issue with deteriorating performance when about 80% is reached. I also moved my user files like My Music, My Documents, pictures, etc. to a separate storage drive (really easy in Windows 10) to improve performance as well as free up space. 

 

SSDs do have a finite life span as do memory cards and USB drives. The technology is very similar and the individual cells will deteriorate after a finite number of read/write cycles. Functional life span is measured in TeraBytes Written (TBW) rather than hours and your usage can affect the life of the drive. Unless you (foolishly) edit a lot of video directly off the SSD or some other intense daily use, they will last for years like a spinny drive. Modern quality drives usually have the same 5-year warranty as traditional drives. Another factor is a 500GB drive of the same model family as a 250GB one will be rated at twice the TBW since there are twice as many cells to spread the usage across. 

 

I had to replace my 256GB drive not only due to the volume issue but I found I had exceeded the TBW by about 75% (with no cell failures). It was an older model  and the new drive is rated at nearly six times the TBW despite being only twice as large. Dell and HP machines in the $1500 range typically have a 500GB M.2 SSD and you can expect five years out of it easily. (I have had my work laptop for over two years and abuse the read/write cycles horribly with database work. It is only about halfway to its TBW recommendation.) Even if you overrun the limit and get antsy about failure, it is pretty easy to replace one, even for a non-gearhead. 🙂

 

Bottom line: M.2 SSD for boot and programs. Spinny drive for storage.

 

Dave

 

P.S. Spinny drives throwing a bearing are way more common than a total SSD failure. 😉

 

Edited by pierces

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Cool - thank you.  I'd been leaning that way anyway, but it's good to hear.  I have an SSD drive in my work computer, as most of what we do at work is on network drives on servers that we access - so the SSD doesn't need to store much more than the operating system and a few program files.  It's about 2 years old though, so I haven't yet had the experience to know how long it will last.

I think if I get a good size HD spinner for storage/editing/access of all photos, music, video, etc, and leave the SSD mostly for the programs, that should be a good combo for speed and maintaining lots of storage.  I definitely need to get a 2TB for the main storage drive, as I've filled about 80% of a 1TB drive already...though that took 7 years and includes OS, lots of programs, plus all my media.  If I strip it out to just media, it's more like 500GB - 600GB...most of that being photos.  If I needed to, I could add another drive for storage, on top of the backup drives I already keep (I've got my photos on 3 separate drives).

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, zackiedawg said:

Cool - thank you.  I'd been leaning that way anyway, but it's good to hear.  I have an SSD drive in my work computer, as most of what we do at work is on network drives on servers that we access - so the SSD doesn't need to store much more than the operating system and a few program files.  It's about 2 years old though, so I haven't yet had the experience to know how long it will last.

I think if I get a good size HD spinner for storage/editing/access of all photos, music, video, etc, and leave the SSD mostly for the programs, that should be a good combo for speed and maintaining lots of storage.  I definitely need to get a 2TB for the main storage drive, as I've filled about 80% of a 1TB drive already...though that took 7 years and includes OS, lots of programs, plus all my media.  If I strip it out to just media, it's more like 500GB - 600GB...most of that being photos.  If I needed to, I could add another drive for storage, on top of the backup drives I already keep (I've got my photos on 3 separate drives).

 

2TB spinner only slightly cheaper than 4TB these days...just sayin'.

 

I plan to go with a 500GB M.2 boot drive with another 500GB M.2 "active file" drive where I will import new photos and work on them. Once they are all sorted, edited and culled, I'll move them to a 4TB spinner for "inactive files". Windows 10 allows you to designate multiple folders under the Library folders like Pictures or Documents which makes organization of active and inactive directories easy. I won't be adding an internal backup drive this time, so backups will be to an always-connected external drive (USB 3.1 is really fast) with a secondary backup to a portable.

 

Still looking for the best place to put the Lightroom catalog. Maybe the best place is on the fast boot drive since after the OS starts and your working programs are loaded, not much is happening over there.

 

Decisions, decisions....

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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Justin,

 

Just a note on longevity. I just checked my boot drive and it shows 26.6 TBW after 9 months. The math on the Samsung 970 EVO's 300TBW rating on a 500GB drive puts it at 8.5 years as of now. I'm not a casual user and my read/write volume is probably higher that average by a fair amount. Even if my usage increases a bit over the next few years, my 3-4 year replacement cycle makes it safe to say I'm not worried about SSD lifespan. The drive I replaced was an older 250GB drive with a 75 TBW rating and it was a bit over three years old when I replaced it.

 

Another SSD caveat. No SSD ever needs to be defragmented like a spinny drive does. The nature of their cell allocation and storage management does not require it and doing it will add a bunch of writes to your TBW total.

 

Dave

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Good point on the defrag - I guess I'd be confident on the SSD drive.  Considering that it's mostly going to be a boot drive and just have basic programs installed, with all my actual data elsewhere, replacing shouldn't be too difficult if it does start to go, and from what you say, they don't often simply crash and fail, but show degradation more gradually where you should have enough signs that you need to replace.

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Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, zackiedawg said:

Good point on the defrag - I guess I'd be confident on the SSD drive.  Considering that it's mostly going to be a boot drive and just have basic programs installed, with all my actual data elsewhere, replacing shouldn't be too difficult if it does start to go, and from what you say, they don't often simply crash and fail, but show degradation more gradually where you should have enough signs that you need to replace.

 

There's a free utility called CrystalDiskInfo that does a very detailed analysis of drives (disk and SSD based) showing current status, bad sectors, operational hours, etc.. Cloning a boot drive for upgrade or replacement is a breeze these days with free migration tools available from most manufacturers. Replacing my old 250GB drive with the 500GB one took less than an hour, including the data copy.

 

SSD has my vote for Boot and one will be a working drive this time around. Next time? Maybe storage too. Time will tell.

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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Posted (edited)

Another update. Nothing dramatic, but I thought I would post some results from research on optimizing for Lightroom and Photoshop and a tentative drive configuration based on the findings.

 

News flash! Ok, maybe a dull news glow on the horizon. The first PCIE Gen4 SSD appeared on Amazon to preorder for August 1. $250 for a 1TB drive that runs at 4950MB/s read and 4250MB/s write (A fast spinning drive is 150MB/s) isn't as much as I expected. And no, I didn't. Yet.

 

Before I talk about RAM, I should say that you should always install the 64-bit version of any software that gives you a choice. This includes Windows, Adobe products and Microsoft office programs. 32-bit systems are limited to addressing 4GB of RAM and 32-bit programs usually have a 2 GB limit. Putting 32GB of RAM into a 32-bit system is going to waste 28GB worth of your money. Most installations default to 64-bit now but some offer 32-bit for compatibility with older programs (mostly business-centric) that may be vital for some reason or other. This bit of info is for Windows systems. Macs have been 64-bit only for a while now and Apple has been trying to purge support for all 32-bit applications for just about as long. 

 

Memory:

It looks like nobody has published proof that Photoshop needs more than 32GB of RAM to speed up performance. The big boosts seem to come from a fast processor and a fast scratch disk that is separate from where your working images are stored. While more than 32GB doesn't seem to help much, the other standout was that less than 16GB is a big, big mistake with Photoshop or Lightroom.

 

While poking around, I rediscovered a concept that I used 20 years ago when disks were really slow and was surprised to see it was still sort of relevant. A RamDisk! This is a program that allocates some of the system RAM and presents it to the system as a hard disk. Setting your windows TEMP and TMP path to the RamDisk will speed up minor data movements and accelerate things that use the TEMP space like some programs as they load and during installations. They speed up zipping files about 20% but unless you don't care about saving the zip file after you send it somewhere, copying it to storage eats up the time savings. Before you say "Scratch Disk!", realize that a multi-GB scratch disk is not uncommon and Photoshop will use RAM before going to the scratch disk anyway. RamDisks disappear when you shut down or lose power. They can be set to copy the contents to a regular disk at shutdown but are not recommended for any data you would regret losing if there is a power outage. You can install a program or a game to them and they will load like a bat out of hell, but it has to be loaded to the RamDisk when your computer starts and will increase your boot time. Still, I found that even setting aside 1GB of RAM for TEMP duty perked up the system a bit. There's a free version available that will manage up to 4GB of RAM so you may want to try it out. 

 

Graphics card:

Using a discreet GPU (add-in graphics card rather than the one integrated into the CPU) is better but gains aren't night and day, so even a budget model like a GTX1050 or GTX1060 will suffice. It's not worth spending an arm and a leg on a top-of-the-line card unless you plan on using the PC for gaming. A discreet GPU with at least 2GB of memory is recommended if you use Lightroom and have a high-resolution monitor.

 

CPU:

More than 4 cores on the CPU will be used but the performance improvements drop off quickly and flatten out over 6. Core use is also dependent on what you are doing with some operations not gaining anything with more than one core (a faster processor still helps). Thankfully, the biggest use and boost come in while doing most of the usual adjustments for hue, saturation, exposure, shadows and the like. Lightroom also uses multiple cores for adjustments and such. It follows Photoshop's 6-core limit on major improvement. Same for Lightroom stuff like facial recognition and exports. 


Disk Configuration:

Based on the file location research, I have tentatively decided on a four disk design. This is a variation of what you would see on an off-the-shelf PC with a Boot SSD and a storage drive. 

 

  • Boot: 500GB very fast drive mounted on the motherboard's main PCIe x4 slot. Likely a PCIE Gen4 SSD. Programs and OS only. 
  • Working: Maybe the same 500GB very fast drive as the boot drive mounted on the motherboard's secondary PCIe x4 slot. I don't really see the need for a 1TB drive here since it will be mostly for recently imported photos and Lightroom/Luminar catalogs. Maybe a folder for the non-image documents I access on a regular basis.
  • Temp: A smaller, 250GB fast PCIe Gen3 M.2 SSD mounted on an add-in card to be used as a scratch drive for Photoshop and the Windows paging file. 250GB is overkill for this but fast drives start at 250GB and the price savings over an older, slower 128GB M.2 drive isn't really much at all. I could go with a cheap 2.5" SATA SSD, but it would be 6x slower and only $30 to $40 cheaper.
  • Storage: A 4TB 7200RPM spinning disk with 128MB cache. This will store finished photos, archived documents, music, and downloaded application installation packages. Maybe 6TB or 8TB if prices keep dropping.

That's about it for now. The AMD vs. Intel question has been answered with AMD on top. Nvidia vs. AMD for graphics is still a toss. I will wait for the July 7 AMD release for all of the major sites to publish their test results before making that choice.

 

The recommendation on ordering a computer from one of the major retailers is in the works and should be ready this weekend. I'll add basic minimum recommendations for buying one off the shelf at Costco or Best Buy as well.

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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Posted (edited)

Well, the prediction of the weekend research was optimistic...

 

Our company had a widespread malware attack the day after my last post and needless to say, my life has been consumed with recovery efforts since then.

 

The recommendations are still in the works and maaaaayyyybeeee...this weekend?

 

Also, the AMD 3000 series chips, 5700 graphics cards and the flood of x570-based motherboards hit the stores this week and promptly went on back-order (or got scalper pricing tacked on). Nvidia tossed a bit of a wet blanket on AMD's fire with the surprise announcement of their RTX 2060, 2070 and 2080 "Super" Graphics cards. They will fall into the same price range of the older non-Super cards and compete directly in both performance and price with AMD's new Radeons.

 

It doesn't look like I'll make my final decisions and order until August at least. That will give time for the products to ship, reviews to populate and the horror stories to show up. They don't call new tech the "bleeding edge" for nothing. 🙂

 

Some search terms for "light" reading:

Ryzen 9 3900X

Radeon RX 5700 XT

PCIe Gen4 

Nvidia RTX 2070 Super

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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That time frame also works for me - waiting a bit - I just bought a new car last night, so I've already amped up my bills/spending for some time!

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Posted (edited)

So, you want to buy a configure-online laptop?

 

My grandson is graduating in December and will enter the world of student teaching. His parents and other relatives have decided that entering the workforce with a 6-year-old laptop (now a craptop?) is no way to christen a career, so we (read as "I") have started shopping specifications for a replacement. It just so happens that he is also involved in the video game streaming world and is good enough to actually make some money from it. He therefore needs a laptop that will support things like MS Office as well as fairly high frame rates for gaming. Why am I mentioning this? It's because a laptop that has enough graphics memory and processing power to support a modern first-person shooter also has the oomph to tame photo editing beasts like Lightroom and Photoshop.  

 

Here are some points to consider:

 

  • Gaming laptops (worthy ones) start at about $1000 for a decent 15" unit with a decent graphics processor and run up to $5000 for 17" - 18" beasts that would leave all but the hottest custom-built desktop gaming rigs in the dust.
  • Options with at least 4GB of dedicated graphics RAM (DDR6 or DDR6 VRAM) are a good way of determining if the discreet graphics processor has enough power to make a difference in Lightroom and Photoshop processing. An Nvidia GTX 1000-series graphics processor is common at the $1100 - $1200 range and came with 4GB-6GB of dedicated VRAM in all the options I explored. Nvidia RTX 2000-series cards are found in higher end units or as upgrade options, but while better for gaming, it wouldn't noticeably boost photo editing.
  • An 256GB M.2 SSD boot drive is very common. Look for "NVME" in the specs. M.2 drives can also be SATA and are 4x to 7x slower than NVME drives. Options for M.2 SSDs typically top out at 1TB but many configurations allow you to add a large spinning internal hard drive for storage. Cost-wise, 1TB spinning drives are a far cheaper option but the $300 or so upcharge for the 1TB over the 256GB SSD will provide you with better performance and much longer SSD drive life. If a laptop offers either a M.2 SSD option or a 2.5" spinning drive option, chances are you can get the SSD and add a spinning drive on your own. If you consider this, keep in mind that 2.5" drives come in different thicknesses. Also consider that 2.5" SATA SSDs are usually as thin as the thinnest spinning drive, use less power and are faster.
  • USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt ports are great for connecting speedy external storage and are common on most laptops. Check the "External I/O Ports" section in the specs to make sure.
  • Most come with a built-in SD card reader. Good for most of us, but if you use other formats, you'll need a reader. USB 2.0 readers are still common so if you need to buy one, checking that you get a USB 3.0 reader is highly recommended.
  • Screen options are pretty much the same for 15" or 17" and 1920x1080 full HD is a common starting point. Gaming laptops usually offer either a 144hz (or higher) refresh rate upgrade to 1920x1080 screens or 4K (3840x2160). The higher refresh rates are great for fast moving games but offer no plus for other tasks. The 4K option might be pretty for photos and Windows 10 font-scaling and icon options can make it workable on a 15" screen. Personal choice on resolution, skip the fast refresh. Keep in mind that a 1920x1080 screen wouldn't limit you to that resolution on an external monitor. Most laptop-only homes use a dock with a "real" monitor, keyboard and mouse anyway. If you are like me and prefer a mouse over the trackpad while traveling, get a Bluetooth model so you don't use up one of the scarce USB ports.
  • No dock, monitor, keyboard and mouse? Get a dock, monitor, keyboard and mouse. Laptop screens are great for travel but are squint-inducing and badly positioned from an ergonomic standpoint for extended editing sessions. Docs also offer a wide range of additional ports and a wired network connection. You can always un-dock and sit in the recliner while you skim and pre-sort the pile of vacation shots you just brought home.
  • 16GB of RAM minimum for editing. Web browser, Outlook, Excel and Word users can get away with 8GB but Photoshop (even Elements) is a memory eater. Lightroom to a lesser extent. Most of the units I specced out came with 16GB. Consider 32GB if you plan on doing a lot of video stuff (editing, not watching). Most manufacturers fill both SODIMM slots so a 16GB configuration will have two 8GB modules. Upgrading to 32GB while configuring usually costs between $200-$300 since they replace both 8GB modules with 16GB units. Upgrading memory on your own is not really all that hard and generally requires the removal of a few screws on the bottom. (YouTube is overflowing with how-tos). If you feel adventurous, you can get a pair of name-brand 16GB 2666MHz modules on Amazon for about $120-$140 and sell the pair of 8GB modules on eBay. Just sayin'.
  • Speaking of Excel and Word. If you use them, don't buy the optional Office bundle unless it's a pre-pay for a year's subscription. You can subscribe to office 365 for $6.99/ month for one user (or $9.99 for a family plan for up to 6 installations...get the relatives to chip in) that includes continuous upgrades, updates and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage for each installation. (This is my personal recommendation and I am fully aware that many here have subscription allergies 🙂 ).
  • Wireless options often include an option to upgrade from support for 802.11ac to 802.11ax. 802.11ax is blazingly fast and is meant for two-way transfers with minimal lag while gaming. Unless you have a router that supports it and 1GB/s internet, it is of no value.
  • Antivirus? Your choice. Norton and McAfee can be resource intensive and problematic sometimes. Honestly, Windows Defender has come a long way and adding the free AntiMalware Bytes program for your browser is a pretty good option. If you go this way, be sure to set Defender to auto-update to keep it current. Oh, and don't click on that link to the free money from that Nigerian guy.

That about it. If you do some shopping and come up with a question I didn't cover, feel free to post it.

 

Many of the options I covered here are pretty much the same for PCs but I will still do a separate piece on them shortly.

 

Happy computing!

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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Posted (edited)

So....

 

August seems to be a realistic time frame considering all the new stuff is selling like hotcakes and scalper pricing is rampant. Also some of the new release horror stories are popping up with fixes in the works. I did buy a 1TB m.2 NVME Gen3 SSD from my list on Prime Day for nearly half off but missed the deal on the water cooler. Oh, well. 

 

So what to do while waiting? Buy a monitor!

 

A stupid huge one. Officially a Philips Momentum 436M6VBPAB 43" Gaming Monitor (an actual monitor, not a 4k TV). It is 4k and has about the same dot pitch as my 27" Dell that it is replacing. At about 33" normal viewing, it is easy to read with sharp, clear text. If you lean close enough, you can see the dots in photos but that is really similar to what I was used to with a lot more real estate. Color and intensity was eye-searing in normal mode and washed out in HDR mode, so I used the Spyder4 on it and it balanced easily after dimming it by half and resetting the calibration software to "wide gamut". Photos look great now. I am still adjusting how I work on it and tend to use most programs and my remote desktop in a 2560x1440 window right in front of me to minimize the amount of eye and mouse travel. That leaves room on both sides for browser windows for mail and such. First pass on Lightroom is pretty awesome now. I expand it to full screen and increase the thumbnails size to show better detail. This makes scanning though files very easy and I no longer have to imagine what a photo would look like as a large print! Photoshop editing tasks like drawing custom masks doesn't require scrolling like it used to.

 

Multiple inputs. Display port for PC (lacking on regular TVs). HDMI for Xbox and a 4K Fire TV stick. My own little world. 🙂

 

Work sits me in front of a monitor a lot, so this wasn't  really an extravagance. It also comes in handy for watching a movie when QVC's Christmas in July is dominating the main TV. Did I mention the Xbox? Yes I did. 4K games are immersive enough that your stomach tingles a bit when you jump from a height. My son wants to move back in with us now.

 

A bit more that I needed, but we all deal with the need vs. want discussions between the voices in our heads. As far as actual need goes, the price of decent 24" or 27" monitors is so low these days that there's no excuse to squint at a fading 10-year old 17" flat panel or, God forbid, a CRT. 

 

Anyway, another check mark or two off the upgrade list.

 

Dave

 

Edited by pierces

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Dave, Nice snag on the SSD. And geez, a 43" monitor! You're so right about Christmas in July on Hallmark eating up TV time. I'm on my 4th monitor now. Had to toss the 2004 17" Sony Trinitron .25 pix after it went single dot for a 19" NEC. When it went, gave it to Best Buy and got my now 27" LG 4k. Love it. Not sure what I had b4 the Sony but really loved the Sony CRT. This LG is really spectacular.

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Just taken delivery of my new pc, built to my specification.

 

I have one question - there has been reference to using an SSD drive as a scratchpad for Lightroom. I'm a bit confused by this - does that mean putting the catalogue on a separate SSD drive? 

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4 hours ago, Paul S said:

Just taken delivery of my new pc, built to my specification.

 

I have one question - there has been reference to using an SSD drive as a scratchpad for Lightroom. I'm a bit confused by this - does that mean putting the catalogue on a separate SSD drive? 

 The Lightroom catalog can be located on the same drive as the images. If your spec has a boot SSD and a hard drive for storage, the catalog doesn't take too much of a hit by being located on a hard drive. The catalog was designed to be portable.

 

The scratch disk reference was for Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw. My plan is to locate those on and SSD dedicated to TEMP operations. 

 

Photoshop: Edit > Preferences > Scratch disks

Photoshop: Edit > Preferences > General tab > Camera Raw Cache

 

Lightroom: Edit > Preferences > Scratch disks > Performance tab > Camera Raw Cache Settings

 

Dave

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On 7/22/2019 at 8:40 AM, pierces said:

The scratch disk reference was for Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw. My plan is to locate those on and SSD dedicated to TEMP operations. 

 

For clarification, the Scratch Disk setting in Photoshop identifies the location where the program writes to when it runs out of RAM and has to write some current working data to storage to make room for a more current operation. The same is true for Adobe Camera RAW Cache in both Lightroom and Photoshop. Note that even if you are editing JPEGs in Lightroom, the program is using Camera RAW settings and needs the cache space.

 

A large ACR Cache (50GB - 70GB) also seems to speed up loading large Lightroom catalogs.

 

Even an inexpensive 256GB M.2 NVME drive on an add-in card would make a speedy home for scratch disks, temp files and such.

 

Dave

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I thought I'd post results of some memory testing after a discussion and some research on RAM for Photoshop and Lightroom. I still could find no testing that gave definitive results on performance vs. more RAM beyond 32GB for photo editing.

 

Photoshop set to use 18GB. 

 

Memory usage started at 7.9GB with the normal stuff running in the background, so the question about needing at least 16GB of RAM on a modern PC is already answered.

 

Loaded Lightroom (170k image catalog) and usage jumped to 8.7GB.

 

Browsed around and loaded images in and out of the Develop module. It jumped quickly to about 10.5GB but never exceeded 11.2GB.

 

Opened a 24MP JPEG in Photoshop (directly from Lightroom) and usage jumped to 12.8GB.

 

Created three duplicate layers and edited to the 50 step history limit which took usage up to about 15.8GB. After a few minutes of inactivity, it dropped to 14.2GB leading me to believe that it wrote some of the older history steps to the scratch disk to clear active RAM.

 

Closed photoshop and usage dropped to 9.8GB indicating that Lightroom might have released some allocated memory after my extensive browsing was done and I was busy over in Photoshop.

 

Opened a 24MP RAW file which pushed usage to 12.1GB (unexpectedly, it was less than the JPEG).

 

I resized the image to a 60" x 40" 300ppi print bringing the total to 14.8GB. Fifty edits took it up to 21.8GB.

 

Note: I didn't see any "memory leakage". Every time I opened and closed files in Photoshop, it dutifully released all the memory back into the pool.

 

Opened sixty-four 24MP RAW files into Photoshop and it ramped up to about 28GB. Editing any one of those didn't increase usage more than a few MB since the PS memory cap was set at 18GB. 

 

Photoshop set to use 24GB. 

 

Opening RAW files consumed RAM up to 31.1GB for 74 files then stopped. I loaded 20 more and tried editing one. It performed as usual, telling me that Photoshop has gotten pretty good at managing data between scratch disks and RAM.

 

I didn't try setting Photoshop to more than 24GB since it was already capable of consuming 36GB of RAM with all the other things going on and the .9GB of free RAM left during the test was Windows being miserly so the system wouldn't lock up if I got an email or something.

 

Luminar? 

 

Very frugal. loading the catalog and doing editing stuff never exceeded 12GB (about the same as Lightroom).

 

The Verdict. 

 

16GB is the minimum I would recommend for someone using Lightroom and Photoshop. Even if you are using Elements and Bridge or Luminar, I would still set that as a minimum since just running normal processes takes up 7GB or so with a browser open. 

 

32GB handled way more than I have ever had open in the same session. Photoshop will use more than 32GB but unless you are doing gigapixel images with more layers than you really need, 32GB seems to be the sweet spot for Lightroom/Photoshop workflow. Based on this little exercise, instead of going with 64GB I will spend some of the difference on 32GB of faster RAM in an 2 x 16GB configuration. That will leave two slots open in case something changes in the four years or so until the next computer.

 

I learn something new every day! 😉

 

 

Dave

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