March 24th, 2016
Last week Lee in Seattle asked the following:
I need to upgrade to a newer computer. Help, please, with advice on starting point for basic choices?
1. Which Windows computer model is ideal for PFRE image processing and management Windows or Mac?
2. Regardless, are there any guidelines for minimal hardware configuration, processor, RAM, hard drive, video card, etc?
I will be doing serious Photomatix, Lightroom, Photoshop, PTGui, plus minimal to moderate video editing.
First of all, which operating system you use (Windows 10 or Mac OS) has more to do with what you are used to and which ecosystem you are attracted to than any inherent suitability for photo post processing. I love the smooth interoperatibility of the Apple ecosystem and wouldn’t give it up but many others could make the same case for Windows 10. Here are some general rules of thumb for hardware:
- RAM: Don’t skimp on the amount of RAM you get. In the overall scheme of things RAM is cheap and generally makes more difference that the speed of your processor. I always get 16 gig of RAM on any machines I buy. Maybe you could get by with 12 gig, I don’t know. But with 16 gig RAM there is NEVER any memory issues. I’ve tried 8 gig, and that’s not enough for Lightroom and Photoshop to perform well all the time.
- Processor: Get the fastest you can afford but in the end, the amount of RAM and the speed of the disk drive is probably more important the processor speed.
- SSD drive: For my last desktop I got with a 250 gig SSD drive (250 gig of RAM that that looks to the OS like a disk). Wow! I’ll never buy another computer without one! Instant booting and instant everything else.
- Top of the line graphics card (GPU): Back in the days of Lightroom 4 and 5 Lightroom didn’t make use of a GPU but since Lightroom CC/6 Adobe says Lightroom makes use of the newer GPUs. For details see Eric Chan’s explination.
- High Quality 27″ or 30″ monitor: Lightroom and Photoshop work nicely with dual monitors. If you are doing much post-processing work you need a large monitor. Get two if you can afford it.
If I were to replace my mid-2010 27″ iMac right now I’d get a 27″ iMac with Retina 5K display, 4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM and an AMD Radeon R9 4GB GPU. I’m sure there’s Windows 10 equivalent configuration out there that someone can suggest.