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

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

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

Postby jackfalbey » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:44 am

­Here's my long-awaited update on what you should expect to get for your $$$ when buying or building a video & photo editing PC, mid-2011. Currently, I'm only recommending Intel's “Sandy Bridge” platform, because at this time AMD's processors just can't keep up with Intel's architecture for sheer speed of encoding & processing. There will always be something better coming just a few months down the road, but for now Sandy Bridge is the best option for video editing. If you've been waiting to upgrade or build a new editing PC, now is the time.

Each of these systems is intended to represent the most “bang for the buck” at a given price point (approximately $500, $750, $1000 & $1500). If you are buying a pre-built PC, please consider the additional 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.

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:
No “Open Box” or “Recertified” components were used. *Feel free to choose these if you are comfortable with troubleshooting any potential problems that may arise.
All systems use Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. (Add $40 if you want Professional instead)
RAM is maxed out at each price point for fast & efficient performance.
All systems have USB 3.0 & SATA III connectors for fast data transfer.
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 System Drive. (OS & Programs)
All systems have a DVD drive/burner. (Add $30/60 for a Blu-Ray drive/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 needed to function 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 system-wide performance.
The prices are valid as of July 2011 and may change depending on sales and availability.
Most of these systems do not have a separate (discrete) video card. Unless you are using Premiere CS5 or newer with the Mercury Playback Engine, or plan to use the system for high-end gaming, you won't need one.
While there are “hacks” to enable non-Adobe-approved video cards like the Nvidia GTX260 to work with the Mercury Playback Engine, the least expensive “officially-approved” video card is the GTX 470 at around $250, 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 (although all you would need to add for high-end gaming is a good modern video card).


$500
CPU: 3.1GHz Core i3-2100 (Dual-core w/Hyper-Threading)
RAM: 4GB DDR3
System Drive: 500GB 7200RPM
Media Drive: 1TB 7200RPM
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 2000
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=16473525


$750
CPU: 3.3GHz Core i5-2500k (Quad-core)
RAM: 16GB DDR3
System Drive: 500GB 7200RPM
Media Drives: 2x 1TB 7200RPM
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 3000 (Z68 mobo allows use of Mercury Engine-capable video card if desired)
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=16474145


$1000
CPU: 3.4GHz Core i7-2600k (Quad-core w/Hyper-Threading)
RAM: 16GB DDR3
System Drive: 60GB SSD
Media Drives: 2x 1.5TB 7200RPM
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 3000 (Z68 mobo allows use of Mercury Engine-capable video card if desired)
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=16474605


$1500
CPU: 3.4GHz Core i7-2600k (Quad-core w/Hyper-Threading)
RAM: 16GB DDR3
System Drive: 2x 60GB (120GB RAID0) SSD
Media Drives: 3x 1.5TB 7200RPM
GPU: Nvidia GTX 570 Video Card (*Adobe CS5 Mercury Engine capable)
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/Publi ... r=23832788
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
Panasonic GH2; Adobe Creative Cloud
http://www.CMDStar.com
http://www.FamilyTreePhotography.co
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Re: Need a new editing PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Steve Grisetti » Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:41 am

Great list! Thanks, Jack!
3.6 ghz i7-7700 running Windows 10 Pro 64-bit with 16 gigs RAM and a 2 terrabyte HD. Also iMac 2.6 ghz dual-core, 4 gigs of RAM, running OSX El Capitan and Boot Camp Windows 10 64-bit.
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Re: Need a new editing PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:21 am

No problem, Steve. It took a while because I had to wait for the Z68 motherboards to come out & be tested. They're the only way to get the benefits of Sandy Bridge's QuickSync video encoding and still be able to use an Nvidia video card for Adobe CS5's Mercury Playback Engine. The "sweet spot" for an editing PC seems to be around $750 (or $1000 if you add a GTX 470); spending more only gets you slightly better CPU performance, SSDs and more conventional hard drive space.
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
Panasonic GH2; Adobe Creative Cloud
http://www.CMDStar.com
http://www.FamilyTreePhotography.co
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Re: Need a new editing PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby George Tyndall » Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:02 pm

jackfalbey wrote:­Here's my long-awaited update on what you should expect to get for your $$$ when buying or building a video & photo editing PC, mid-2011. ....


A very interesting post, Jack. Thanks for taking the time.

Question: Is system memory of SSD 60GB likely to be enough for the typical video-editing machine?

:tx:
HP h8-1360t Win7 Home Premium 64-bit/Intel i7-3770@3.40GHz/8GB RAM/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050/LG BH10LS30 Blu-ray RW+SD DVD/CD RW+LightScribe/52" Samsung LCD HDTV (ancient 1080p)/PRE & PSE & ORGANIZER 2018/CS 5.1 & 5.5 (rare use) ::wav::
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Re: Need a new editing PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby jackfalbey » Mon Jul 04, 2011 11:12 pm

60GB is the smallest SSD I'd recommend for a C: drive. Windows 7 is going to take up 10-20 GB depending on version and features, and then you've got Program Files, Program Files (x86), and Program Data which all need to be on the C: drive. In my workstation, these 3 folders total another 46 GB... but I have Adobe CS3 & CS4 installed along with a ton of other production-related software. Your programs may take up a lot less space depending on what you need to have installed. There's also the Recycle Bin to take into consideration, and you'll want to move the Pagefile and any User folders to a different drive, both to save space and to reduce the amount of write cycles the SSD will be subjected to. And it's a good idea to keep the SSD somewhere under 90% capacity so you'll have a little extra wiggle room just in case you need it. Be aware that SSDs, like spinning hard drives, always have less than their rated capacity available and that this diminishes over time as the drive controller blocks off bad sectors. If you are going to go with an SSD, you can expect vastly improved program load times and a much snappier response, but you'll want to keep it mainly read-only (Windows & other executables/programs).

Just for the record, I haven't upgraded to SSD yet. I'll probably need at least 128GB and I'd like to have over 200 just to be future-proofed, and the prices are still too high for my liking on those.

If you do upgrade to an SSD, make sure you get one with a good controller; that makes all the difference between a decent SSD and an expensive paperweight, and in many cases is more important than brand. Pretty much anything with a SandForce controller will be good, and Intel also makes great SSDs too but at a premium price.

Looking at the machine in your signature, George, I think an SSD will serve you well. It'll be a nice complement to the speedy i7-930 CPU. If you do a lot with PS CS5, you might want to add more RAM, and keep in mind that the i7-930 uses the X58 chipset which is triple-channel, so you'll want to have RAM sticks in matched sets of 3 (3x2GB, 3x4GB, 6x4GB, etc.)
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
Panasonic GH2; Adobe Creative Cloud
http://www.CMDStar.com
http://www.FamilyTreePhotography.co
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Re: Need a new editing PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby George Tyndall » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:28 am

jackfalbey wrote:If you do a lot with PS CS5, you might want to add more RAM, and keep in mind that the i7-930 uses the X58 chipset which is triple-channel, so you'll want to have RAM sticks in matched sets of 3 (3x2GB, 3x4GB, 6x4GB, etc.)


I hardly ever use PS CS5, Jack. Ditto for PSE9, as I can do everything I like (beautiful slide shows) with the PRE/PSE7 bundle.

With regard to RAM, you've got my attention.

I've verified that I do, indeed, have the x58 chipset, but my Samsung DDR3-SDRAM (1333 MHZ) consists of 4 sticks of 2GB each.

How to explain?

Given that my current hardware/software are working very well, should I nevertheless consider upgrading, say, to 3-6 sticks of 4GB each, for even better performance? (I've got 6 slots.)

:tx:
HP h8-1360t Win7 Home Premium 64-bit/Intel i7-3770@3.40GHz/8GB RAM/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050/LG BH10LS30 Blu-ray RW+SD DVD/CD RW+LightScribe/52" Samsung LCD HDTV (ancient 1080p)/PRE & PSE & ORGANIZER 2018/CS 5.1 & 5.5 (rare use) ::wav::
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Re: Need a new editing PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby Bob » Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:05 am

George, with 4 sticks of 2GB, your memory is being used in dual channel mode. If you want to run in triple channel mode, you can add two more sticks exactly matching the existing installed ram sticks for a total of 12GB. The system will run in either mode.

Please note that WIndows 7 Home Premium edition 64-bit will only support up to 16GB RAM. To use more than 16GB you would need to install Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate 64-bit which will support up to 192GB.

Using the Elements bundle, which is 32-bit, your 8GB RAM is most likely more than adequate. You won't gain much from either going to triple channel or adding more RAM.
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Re: Need a new editing PC? Here's what to expect for the $$$

Postby George Tyndall » Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:06 am

Bob wrote:Using the Elements bundle, which is 32-bit, your 8GB RAM is most likely more than adequate.


That's precisely my impression.

But if ever I do decide to use either PSCS5, PPCS5 or any of the other programs that are included with CS5 Production Premium, would adding two sticks of 2GB each, for a total of 12GB, be adequate (given that I would also "unlock" PP so that my GPU could make use of the Mercury Playback Engine)?

:tx:
HP h8-1360t Win7 Home Premium 64-bit/Intel i7-3770@3.40GHz/8GB RAM/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050/LG BH10LS30 Blu-ray RW+SD DVD/CD RW+LightScribe/52" Samsung LCD HDTV (ancient 1080p)/PRE & PSE & ORGANIZER 2018/CS 5.1 & 5.5 (rare use) ::wav::
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