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Looking to build a PC for CS6 and Gaming

miguksarammiguksaram Member UncommonPosts: 835

 

It's that time again, looking to build a new PC.  This time however it's for my wife whose hobby involves Creative Suite (CS).  We recently upgraded from CS5.5 to CS6 and while our craptastic laptop "can" do what she needs it's FAR from ideal.  On top of that she was hoping to play GW2 with me so it's definitely time to upgrade.

While I am familiar with specs needed for a pure gaming PC I will be honest and say I have no idea what is the ideal setup for a PC based on CS.  Add in the requirement for efficient gaming (read: medium to high settings) and I'm lost.  So I turn to my fellow MMORPG community for help.  While there is no specific budget I would like to stay under $1500 if possible (OS needed, we already have all peripherals).  That said if that price is unrealistic I am willing to increase/decrease as appropriate.  Bottom line is that I'd prefer to get the best performance per dollar as possible.

A few desires, although not exactly musts, are small form factor (Micro ATX if possible) due to where it will sit (plus my wife fond of large towers sitting on desks) and as mentioned previously it should be optimized for CS performance but still retain the ability to play games like GW2 at medium to high GFX settings.  Please be aware that there will be times, if not the majority, where CS will need to running/working while still gaming so if more cores are needed to do this please factor that into your build suggestions.

According to a few articles I read most suggest lots of ram (16Gb or higher) and multiple storage drives (SSD boot drive, SSD specifically set for photo editing processing and HDD or two for storage).  Another thing mentioned in these articles are the AMD FirePro and Nvidie Quadro cards.  While I realize these GPUs are specifically designed for photo editing/graphic arts the thing I am worried about is their overall gaming performance.  Would a top end gaming GPU be able to and both functions adequately or vice versa?  If neither are a solution on their own should I consider other options such as one of each?  Is that even an option in a single PC without performance conflicts?

Any help the community can offer I highly appreciate.  Thank you!

 

EDIT:  As a side note, if these will work I do have the option of using 1 or 2 GTX560 Ti (will be upgrading my gaming machine from these to the current generation) but please keep in mind Photo Editing performance takes precedence over gaming (although medium to high settings  at 45+ FPS still a must in GW2).

Comments

  • RidelynnRidelynn Member EpicPosts: 7,061

    Those 560's will provide good GW2 and CS6 performance. They are still fairly nice cards if you have them in hand. And you lose nothing by trying them out, and if you need more CS6 performance, you can drop in a professional card.

    Quadro/Firepro may give you a bit better performance in professional programs (such as CS6 and CAD programs), but your not looking at huge differences, and for about 4x the cost. They tend to perform about one or two generations back in video game performance (largely because they are high precision versions of GPU's from one or two generations back). For instance, the Quadro 4000/5000/6000 are basically the same GPU's as the GTX480.

    At least so far, GW2 seems more CPU-heavy than GPU-heavy, favoring Intel CPUs (which is what you would probably want for CS6 anyway).

    A good gaming PC will perform very well on CS6. The extra RAM and SSD space would be icing on the cake, and something you could add after the build very easily if you did in fact need it.

  • miguksarammiguksaram Member UncommonPosts: 835
    Originally posted by Ridelynn

    Those 560's will provide good GW2 and CS6 performance. They are still fairly nice cards if you have them in hand. And you lose nothing by trying them out, and if you need more CS6 performance, you can drop in a professional card.

    Quadro/Firepro may give you a bit better performance in professional programs (such as CS6 and CAD programs), but your not looking at huge differences, and for about 4x the cost. They tend to perform about one or two generations back in video game performance (largely because they are high precision versions of GPU's from one or two generations back). For instance, the Quadro 4000/5000/6000 are basically the same GPU's as the GTX480.

    At least so far, GW2 seems more CPU-heavy than GPU-heavy, favoring Intel CPUs (which is what you would probably want for CS6 anyway).

    A good gaming PC will perform very well on CS6. The extra RAM and SSD space would be icing on the cake, and something you could add after the build very easily if you did in fact need it.

    Thank you very much Ridelynn (btw your name always makes me chuckle every time I read it).  I figured the GTX 560 Ti's might perform up to spec but my main concern was whether or not only using one in a SFF build would perhaps be less than ideal price/performance wise in the end (yes I currently do have 2 in SLI on my main gaming machine).

    Would anyone else like to chime in?  I would very much appreciate the input!

  • CleffyCleffy Member RarePosts: 6,254

    The most important things for photoshop are a strong processor and memory.  Considering you also want to play GW2, this means you will want a Core i5 2500k or 3570k since AMD does not work well on GW2.  Memory I would recommend around 16 GB since its pretty easy to get 16GB, and I am pretty sure in Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, it cannot support more then 16GB for a single program.

    The storage array is also pretty important, but not too important.

    Traditionally, Photoshop is more GPU bound.  The recent editions have added more GPGPU functionality, but its still not used aggressively like in CAD programs.  A high end gaming GPU should work fine here over a workstation card.  If you do use one, don't use Kepler based cards.  Kepler based cards do not perform well in GPGPU functionality compared to AMD or Fermi based cards.  You will actually notice a huge improvement in GPGPU functionality using a workstation card.  Even midrange parts in the $500 range.  However, like I said photoshop does not aggressively use GPGPU functionality.

  • syntax42syntax42 Member UncommonPosts: 1,378

    I am not familiar with Creative Studio, so I won't comment on the hardware requirements.  However, it sounds like the hardest part of this build will be finding a case which provides adequate cooling for your CPU, GPU, and power supply in a small form factor, while also providing enough room for drives and the GPU.  

    A micro ATX motherboard probably won't have two GPU card slots, so the main concern is where the first card fits in relation to the drive bays.  SLI or crossfire won't be an option, most likely.  I would be surprised to see it available on a Micro ATX motherboard, but it might exist.

    You can forgo a CD drive if you have or purchase a USB external drive.  Most motherboards support them enough to start loading Windows.  Many people feel they can't live without CD writing drives, though.  I haven't looked into SFF cases lately, but if I were looking, I would try to find one which only has 2.5" drive bays.  A laptop hard drive can work nicely for mass storage while SSDs are almost always 2.5".  

  • miguksarammiguksaram Member UncommonPosts: 835
    Originally posted by syntax42

    I am not familiar with Creative Studio, so I won't comment on the hardware requirements.  However, it sounds like the hardest part of this build will be finding a case which provides adequate cooling for your CPU, GPU, and power supply in a small form factor, while also providing enough room for drives and the GPU.  

    A micro ATX motherboard probably won't have two GPU card slots, so the main concern is where the first card fits in relation to the drive bays.  SLI or crossfire won't be an option, most likely.  I would be surprised to see it available on a Micro ATX motherboard, but it might exist.

    You can forgo a CD drive if you have or purchase a USB external drive.  Most motherboards support them enough to start loading Windows.  Many people feel they can't live without CD writing drives, though.  I haven't looked into SFF cases lately, but if I were looking, I would try to find one which only has 2.5" drive bays.  A laptop hard drive can work nicely for mass storage while SSDs are almost always 2.5".  

    The lack of SLI/Xfire options on a smaller board is not really a concern.  If it exists great, if not, no big deal.  That said my wife would still like access to a standard DVD/CD drive so that has to be available as part of the case.  I hadn't considered the 2.5" only bay option but that does seem like a good idea for a small form factor build.  I'll look into it.

     

    Please keep the suggestions coming these are sparking ideas I hadn't thought of originally, thank you all!

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,135

    If you really, really want small, this is the smallest that you can go and still fit a powerful computer:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163187

    I'm sure that looks expensive for a case, but it includes a pretty good 600 W power supply in a non-standard form factor to allow the case to be smaller.  It also has space for any PCI Express compliant video card, though three-slot coolers are out.  Needing a half-height optical drive also adds about $20 or so to the cost.

    The small size means that only a Mini ITX motherboard will fit.  That means you're limited to one PCI Express slot and two memory slots, among other things.  You can still get 16 GB of system memory as two 8 GB modules, which isn't really any more expensive than four 4 GB modules anymore, but it isn't really an option if you need more than 16 GB.  Incidentally, Windows 7 Home Premium won't allow you to use more than 16 GB of system memory; for that, you'd need the professional edition, which allows up to 192 GB.

    The case also only has room for one 3.5" drive and two 2.5" drives.  That's enough for a hard drive and two SSDs, so it should be adequate for most people, but not if you had ideas about a RAID 1 array to backup your bulk data.

    If you want something bigger, but still pretty small and pretty good, you could try this:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163182

    That will let you go with a more typical configuration, restricted only to MicroATX, rather than Mini ITX.  That means you can have four PCI Express slots, four memory slots, and so forth.

    -----

    I'd recommend not buying a new video card initially, but moving one of the GeForce GTX 560 Tis from your gaming rig to the new computer.  Try it out and see how it performs.  If you're happy with it, then keep it there and stay happy.  That will get you some data on how a Fermi card works for your wife in CS6, doing exactly what she wants to do with it.  And if the card is a complete failure, then you know not to go with a Fermi card for her.

    Quadro and FirePro cards use the same GPU chips (though sometimes different bins) as GeForce and Radeon cards.  One advantage of professional graphics cards is that they're built to be more reliable than consumer graphics cards.  Another is that they'll offer better warranty service, so if the card breaks, you can get a hold of someone that day, rather than having to send the broken card away and wait three weeks for a replacement.

    That's part of what you'd pay for with the huge price premium they charge.  That's a big deal if you do CAD work for a living, as each day in which you can't work because your card is dead implicitly costs you hundreds of dollars.  But I don't think the price premium is justified if it's only her hobby.

    Quadro and FirePro cards also offer different drivers optimized for particular professional graphics programs rather than for games.  If you're only going to use one particular program, then having drivers where AMD or Nvidia spend a lot of time trying to optimize drivers for that particular program, rather than just using their generic OpenGL implementation, is useful.  But it's not so good for gaming, since the drivers aren't optimized for games like they do with GeForce and Radeon cards.

    Nvidia will sometimes artificially disable particular features not relevant to gaming in their GeForce cards, and tell people that if they want the feature, they need a Quadro or Tesla card.  AMD doesn't do that, though you could argue that it's because they don't have features worth disabling to make people buy a FirePro card.

  • CleffyCleffy Member RarePosts: 6,254
    I think you might not be able to do a small form factor.  Fast memory is usually a good idea, and in a smaller case you will be restricted to a smaller motherboard.  Smaller motherboards typically don't support DDR3-1600Mhz or above.
  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,135
    Originally posted by Cleffy
    I think you might not be able to do a small form factor.  Fast memory is usually a good idea, and in a smaller case you will be restricted to a smaller motherboard.  Smaller motherboards typically don't support DDR3-1600Mhz or above.

    Smaller motherboard, yes.  But you can get something nice in a smaller form factor if you're willing to pay for it.  Is 2800 MHz memory fast enough for you?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157312

    This one apparently wanted more features than they could fit in a normal Mini ITX form factor, so it looks like they have a separate daughterboard for the power circuitry for the processor:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131840

    A lot of times, the reason a motherboard is Micro ATX is that it wasn't going to have all that many features, and if everything fits comfortably in on a Micro ATX board, then why pay more for a bigger PCB?  But that's not always the case:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157300

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128551

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131830

    If you want a nice motherboard and are indifferent on case size, then I don't see any reason to go Micro ATX and make it more cramped.  But if you want the smaller form factor, those are pretty feature-rich even as compared to most normal ATX motherboards.

    The Asus board that I linked is quite the overclocker, even.  The Gigabyte one will let you do CrossFire/SLI properly, with the PCI Express 3.0 slots three slots apart rather than two.

  • miguksarammiguksaram Member UncommonPosts: 835

    Great information, thank you Quiz!

    At the moment I'm a bit torn between the Silverstone FT03 or TJ08-E.  My gaming machine is in the FT02 which is a fairly large case but I do like the airflow orientation as it pulls air in the from the bottom and out through the top.  The only other case I've seen that has this same setup is the FT03 (minus Silverstones Raven line but those are just cheaper versions of my case anyway and are far from SFF).  Does anyone have experience with either or preferable both of the cases I mentioned here?  I'm not really interested in Mini ITX as it feels too limited but again thank you for the information passed earlier.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,135

    Mini ITX does require making some real sacrifices in a desktop, so it's really only for people who put a huge priority on a small form factor.  It sounds like it's not for you, and Micro ATX will be fine.

    One thing I will say, though, is don't get too caught up in the nominal form factor.  Look at the number of inches, too.  A 16" x 16" by 8" mid-tower takes the same amount of space as a 16" x 16" x 8" mini-tower.  If one supports full size ATX motherboards and the other is Micro ATX and smaller only, less form factor compatibility in the latter doesn't really benefit you at all.  Conversely, some mini-tower cases are substantially smaller than others, so you can't just look at "doesn't take a full ATX motherboard" and assume it's a fixed size.

  • miguksarammiguksaram Member UncommonPosts: 835
    Originally posted by Quizzical

    Mini ITX does require making some real sacrifices in a desktop, so it's really only for people who put a huge priority on a small form factor.  It sounds like it's not for you, and Micro ATX will be fine.

    One thing I will say, though, is don't get too caught up in the nominal form factor.  Look at the number of inches, too.  A 16" x 16" by 8" mid-tower takes the same amount of space as a 16" x 16" x 8" mini-tower.  If one supports full size ATX motherboards and the other is Micro ATX and smaller only, less form factor compatibility in the latter doesn't really benefit you at all.  Conversely, some mini-tower cases are substantially smaller than others, so you can't just look at "doesn't take a full ATX motherboard" and assume it's a fixed size.

    Oh I'm aware of the ATX vs MATX and respective case argument.  I don't know if you recall but back when I was wanting to build my current gaming machine around a MATX board/case you mention the same thing.  Ultimately I went a completely different direction with the SilverStone FT02 I finally settled on partially because of the information you provided then and I couldn't be happier.  Another reason I'm inclined to try another Silverstone case actually.  This time around however a SFF case is definitely import, whether it's MATX or ATX isn't really the issue at all.  However finding a quality case which can be used for more than a single build is and I've had a hard time finding one that can beat the overall size (15.16" x 8.27" x 14.72") of the TJ08B-E.  Especially when you consider the quality of it's construction along with the build options available in a case that size.

    With that said, if you know of other cases that can compete with it I'm all ears.  For example, the closest thing I could find is Lian Li's PC V700.   A very nice looking case but it is almost 5 inches longer than the TJ08 (not to mention it's over twice the price).  What is your opinion comparing the two?  Or perhaps some of Fractal Designs smaller cases, my wife and I really like their clean/sleek appearance (aesthetics matter to us).

  • miguksarammiguksaram Member UncommonPosts: 835
    I don't normally do this but, shameless bump to see if I can get anymore input.
  • RidelynnRidelynn Member EpicPosts: 7,061

    With regard to case:

    I don't have a lot of experience with MicroATX form factor cases, but I do have a lot of experience with Lian Li cases. They are top-quality cases. I have one mid-tower case that I've been using continuously for over 10 years now, and will keep using it until I can't get a power supply or motherboard to fit into it.

    They used to claim that aluminum cases helped to dissipate heat better. That may have been true before case fans became such a large factor. Regardless, Lian Li cases are extremely sturdy, no sharp edges, easy to work on, well ventilated, and generally well laid out. Most Lian Li designs are clean - straight lines, open grills, not a lot of frill or accents; it doesn't appeal to everyone, but makes them very mod-friendly if your into that kind of thing.

    Lian Li has a whole lineup of MicroATX form factor cases, many are smaller than the PC700 (The PC-V300 series, for instance), but keep in mind as you get smaller, things get more cramped and more difficult to work on.

    I don't work for Lian Li, or sell their products, but I whole-heartedly recommend them despite their typically higher price - I feel that I get my money's worth with them.

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