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Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Talk about computer software/hardware problems, related to digital video or otherwise.

Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:56 pm

­**4th Quarter, 2010**

Okay, here's the scoop on what you should expect to get for the $$$ when buying or building a video & photo editing PC. Each system is intended to represent the most “bang for the buck” at a given price point (approximately $500, $750, $1000 & $1500) and CPU manufacturer (AMD vs Intel). If you are buying a pre-assembled PC, remember to add the cost of paying someone to assemble it for you. If you are building your own, feel free to substitute different components based on your needs, budget and personal preferences. There are literally millions of possible combinations of components you can choose when building a PC; the examples below are just my opinion based on experience.

This page over at Videoguys.com is a good starting guide to building an editing PC.
If you really want to read up on the technical details of NLE parts specifications, this article by Harm Millaard over at the Adobe forums is quite informative.

The criteria:
- All systems use Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. (Add $40 if you want Professional instead)
- All systems have a minimum of 4GB of RAM.
- All systems have at least 2 separate hard drives: 1 for the OS & programs and 1 for Media files.
- SSDs were used when possible for the OS drive (with Sandforce memory controllers only)
- All systems are configured with a DVD burner. (Add $100 for a Blu-Ray burner instead)
- All systems use a basic case & PSU to mimic what you'd get with an off-the-shelf PC. Feel free to upgrade to a fancy gaming case with flashy neon if you prefer ;)
- All systems include everything except keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

The disclaimers:
- The components were selected based on value, performance, and positive user reviews.
- The components were selected to give balanced systemwide performance.
- The prices are valid as of December 2010 and may change depending on sales and availability.
- While there are “hacks” to enable non-approved video cards like the Nvidia GTX260 to work with the Adobe CS5 Mercury Playback Engine, the least expensive “officially-approved” video card is the GTX 470 at $249, so adjust prices accordingly if you need that capability.
- These systems are not necessarily suited for gaming or overclocking. These PCs are specifically intended for the needs of video & photo editing.

** Intel is releasing their new “Sandy Bridge” CPUs on January 5, 2011. They will replace the current line-up of Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs and motherboards at similar price points. Preliminary testing shows significant performance improvement for video editing as well as other tasks, so if you can wait a month or two before buying or building a new PC, it should be worth it.

I'll have new lists up after the release.



AMD: $500
CPU: 3.0GHz Athlon II X4 (Quad-core)
RAM: 4GB DDR2
OS HDD: 160GB 7200RPM
Media HDD: 1TB 7200RPM
GPU: ATI Radeon 2100 onboard graphics
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=18194367


Intel: $500
CPU: 2.93GHz Core i3-530 (Dual-core w/Hyper-Threading)
RAM: 4GB DDR3
OS HDD: 160GB 7200RPM
Media HDD: 1TB 7200RM
GPU: Intel Integrated graphics
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=19561888


AMD: $750
-SATA III & USB 3.0
CPU: 2.8GHz Phenom II X6 (Six-core)
RAM: 8GB DDR3
OS HDD: 160GB 7200RPM
Media HDD: 2TB RAID0
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=18194507


Intel: $750
-SATA III & USB 3.0
CPU: 2.66GHz Core i5-750 (Quad-core)
RAM: 8GB DDR3
OS HDD: 160GB 7200RPM
Media HDD: 1TB 7200RPM
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=19625988


AMD: $1000
-SATA III & USB 3.0
CPU: 3.2 GHz Phenom II X6 (Six-core)
RAM: 16GB DDR3
OS HDD: 60GB SSD
Media HDD: 2TB RAID0
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=19562268


Intel: $1000
-SATA III & USB 3.0
CPU: 3.06GHz Core i7-950 (Quad-core)
RAM: 6GB DDR3
OS HDD: 160GB 7200RPM
Media HDD: 2TB RAID0
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=11988271


AMD: $1500
-SATA III & USB 3.0
CPU: 3.2GHz Phenom II X6 (Six-core)
RAM: 16GB DDR3
OS HDD: 120GB SSD
Media HDD: 2TB RAID0
Storage HDD: 1TB 7200RPM
GPU: Nvidia GTX 470 Video Card (*Adobe CS5 Mercury Engine capable)
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=19562528


Intel: $1500
-SATA III & USB 3.0
CPU: 3.06GHz Core i7-950 (Quad-core)
RAM: 12GB DDR3 RAM
OS HDD: 120GB SSD
Media HDD: 2TB RAID0
GPU: Nvidia GTX 470 Video Card (*Adobe CS5 Mercury Engine capable)
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=19625148
ASRock Z77 Pro4, Xeon E3-1230 V2, Windows 7 64-bit, 32GB RAM, 3GB GTX 660 ti, 240GB SSD for OS/programs, 3x640GB in RAID0 for projects
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:05 pm

Side note: could a moderator please "sticky" this thread and un-"sticky" the one from 6 months ago? Thanks!
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Chuck Engels » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:11 pm

jackfalbey wrote:Side note: could a moderator please "sticky" this thread and un-"sticky" the one from 6 months ago? Thanks!


Done, thanks for the update Jack :)
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2. Cybertron PC - Liquid Cooled AMD FX6300, 6 cores, 3.50ghz - 32GB DDR3 - MSI GeForce GTX 960 Gaming 4G, 4GB Video Ram, 1024 Cuda Cores.
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Ron Hunter » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:32 pm

Jack, thanks so much for taking the time to do this for everyone...very helpful! I didn't know those new CPUs were coming out in January. Maybe I'll hold off until then.
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:11 pm

For more on Sandy Bridge and its implications for video & photo, see these articles:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/3871/the- ... in-a-row/8
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-20024079-64.html
ASRock Z77 Pro4, Xeon E3-1230 V2, Windows 7 64-bit, 32GB RAM, 3GB GTX 660 ti, 240GB SSD for OS/programs, 3x640GB in RAID0 for projects
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http://www.CMDStar.com
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Bobby » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:21 am

Thanks Jack, good stuff!
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Chris B » Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:59 am

Just a note - the low end ($500 and $750) and the low end AMD ($500) do NOT appear to contain firewire (IEEE1394) connections. Additional hardware will be required if you need this functionality.

Also - from what I understand you need to be careful with running a RAID configuration when you involve SSDs (although this does seem very driver/manufacturer dependent). Specifically you may loose the TRIM functionality on the SSD when RAID is enabled.
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Bobby » Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:42 am

Chris B wrote:...Also - from what I understand you need to be careful with running a RAID configuration when you involve SSDs (although this does seem very driver/manufacturer dependent). Specifically you may loose the TRIM functionality on the SSD when RAID is enabled.


Chris, are you referring to RAID SSD arrays (I don't think Jack's configurations have this) or that you lose TRIM when you have OTHER devices in RAID?
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Chris B » Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:04 pm

I'm going to the give the standard engineering answer "it depends". In the original releases of the boards if you enabled the raid drivers for intel boards then ALL devices even if they were not in the RAID array used the driver - and this driver didn't pass through the TRIM command. From the little research I have done it seems that at least some of the time this is now corrected - however YMMV....

To be quite honest I'm not sure you're going to see a real advantage in a RAID0 array for a data drive given that you've doubled the failure rate of your array compared to a single drive. How much of the work that you do is held back by the drive sequential read/write speed (the seek speed will remain the same).
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Bobby » Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:16 pm

Thanks Chris.

RAID 0? Who knows? My old daily PC here has two 80GB PATA drives in RAID 0. Has been running daily for at least six years (would have to check) with not a hiccup, drive reliability-wise.

At the time, I tested the system using one of the benchmarking programs popular at the time, and saw about a 50% improvement (your results may of course vary).

But I didn't RAID my video PC...
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Tue Dec 07, 2010 5:01 pm

I have 2x640GB WD Caviar Blue drives in RAID 0 for my current video projects. Archived projects are stored on a single 1TB WD Caviar Black. It seems like the response within Premiere when editing from the RAID is noticeably snappier than when I have to work on an old project from the single drive, although I haven't run any Premiere-specific tests to confirm this.

HDTune reports ~145MB/sec from the raid and ~97MB/sec from the single drive.
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Tue Dec 07, 2010 5:38 pm

As far as Firewire ports, most new camcorders are flash-memory-based, so that isn't necessary. If you do need Firewire, add-in cards are under $10, or you could swap out the mobo in my list for one with built-in Firewire. Good point though, Chris, for those users who have tape-based camcorders.

I don't know about the TRIM issue... I haven't gone to SSDs yet in my own system so I haven't really educated myself on the technical issues yet. I do know that only Intel SSDs and those with Sandforce controllers are recommended by Tom's and Anandtech.
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Chris B » Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:51 pm

I've got an 80GB intel SSD - and it's fantastic. I understand that the newer drives are even better. I'm pretty sure that given a choice editing ON and SSD would be great - no seek great transfer rates but I'm not sure I can justify the $/GB for the video work. For reference I've got some the F3 samsung drive mentioned above - and that's fast and quiet.

Final plug - I've got an ANTEC Solo case - old I know but the PC at idle is whisper quiet.

Bob - regards reliability - I've had several drives die in my time. If a RAID 0 array looses a drive you loose all the data! So your reliability is half that of a single drive.
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:14 am

Good points again, Chris. I don't recommend SSDs for media storage because of the cost, and frankly unless you're working with uncompressed video you don't need the extra speed of an SSD for your media drive. The real benefit of SSD is for the OS and programs.

RAID0 does have twice the risk of drive failure -n or more depending on the # of drives in the RAID); that's why I use Second Copy (Thanks, Bobby!) to automatically sync the contents of the RAID to a secondary backup drive at the end of every editing session. That way I get the performance of the RAID and there's a backup if one of the drives fails.
ASRock Z77 Pro4, Xeon E3-1230 V2, Windows 7 64-bit, 32GB RAM, 3GB GTX 660 ti, 240GB SSD for OS/programs, 3x640GB in RAID0 for projects
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Re: Looking for a new PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby JamesA » Mon Jan 03, 2011 7:07 pm

I've spent some time trying to learn about what system to build and have read several of Harm Millaard's posts on the Adobe forum. I don't understand why he has very little good to say about the new Sandy Bridge.

Here's the latest review I could find.
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-review-intel-core-i5-2600k-i5-2500k-and-core-i3-2100-tested/16
Seems like the i7-2600K is a pretty good chip to build a new NLE system around.
Not sure why Harm's so turned off on it?
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