photo computers: dual core, dual cpu, or single?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), May 21, 2006.

  1. I'm looking at upgrading my computer system to handle my
    digital photo work. I run photoshop cs2 plus other applications.
    In looking at computers, I see a lot of dual cpu and dual core
    (perhaps even two dual-core cpus). My question for digital
    photo work is: is there a processing advantage in photoshop
    with dual cpu systems (besides the obvious like running
    another application with minimal speed loss)?

    In general, I do large format photography (600 mbyte to 2 gbyte
    image files), and am starting to do digital mosaicking
    (I did about a 100 frame 8-mpixel/frame mosaic in Hawaii
    last week). I'll be getting a system with minimum 2 gbytes
    ram, expandable to at least 4, with drive slots for minimum
    four 500-gbyte sata II drives.

    Any experience with fast performing systems would be appreciated.
    E.g. I'm looking at alienware computers at the moment.

    Photos at:
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), May 21, 2006
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  2. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    bmoag Guest

    The truth is that right now there is not much significant difference between
    running CS2 on a fast single core or fast dual core processor even though
    some CS2 processes are said to be dual threaded. I base that on my personal
    experience processing image files up to 100mbs in size on fast single core
    AMD and Pentium systems and a very fast AMD dual core machine. The dual core
    machine may be slightly faster but not overwhelmingly so.
    However the future may bring more dual threaded programs, CS3?, so it makes
    little sense to purchase a single core machine for high end work.
    If you are getting 2 gbs of RAM motherboards of all ilk tend to run more
    stably with two 1gb sticks rather than 4 512mb sticks.
    bmoag, May 21, 2006
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  3. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Steve Wolfe Guest

    In general, I do large format photography (600 mbyte to 2 gbyte
    Definitely dual-core. Lots of areas of CS2 will take advantage of it. My
    workstation has dual dual-cores (that's four cores), and I can often watch
    CS2 max out all four cores on heavy operations.

    Besides, with dual cores getting as cheap as they are (you can get into
    one for as little as $130 now), you might as well. And they'll be more
    responsive under load.

    If your images are that large, consider getting a motherboard with LOTS of
    memory slots. CS3 will reputedly be 64-bit, and will take advantage of all
    the ram you can give it. If you're working with 2-gig images, then 4 gigs
    of memory would be an absolute *minimum*, and 8 would not at all be too
    much. After all, that's only what - two history states, after the other
    various functions of photoshop?

    Steve Wolfe, May 21, 2006
  4. What are you running now? I'm asking since it might not be worth upgrading.
    It's best to look at you I/O and see if that might give you the best bang
    for your buck.

    Yes, we use dual Xeons and they do show a good boost in performance.
    Most performance hits and bottlenecks are with the disk I/O. Get yourself a
    good RAID setup with some fast drives. SATA or SCSI will do fine. I'm
    partial to SCSI since they have much better performance and reliability over
    You're better off building your own. If you want a motherboards or prebuilt
    you might want to look at Their systems and MBs are
    rock solid and bulletproof.

    =?iso-8859-1?Q?Rita_=C4_Berkowitz?=, May 21, 2006
  5. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Steve Wolfe Guest

    If you are getting 2 gbs of RAM motherboards of all ilk tend to run more
    Only if you're talking about cheaply-made motherboards. When you get into
    motherboards of decent quality, it doesn't matter how many DIMMs you stick
    in them, they still work just fine. Of course, they do cost more than the
    $100 boards you see at the local computer shop. Wait until your motherboard
    has 32 memory slots.

    Steve Wolfe, May 21, 2006
  6. I have a del 8200: 1.8 GHz Pentium 4 with 2 300 GByte ide drives
    and 2 GBytes ram. The problem is it is usb 1 only, I also have firewire.

    I need to run more than two disk drives, so I need a bigger
    enclosure to hold more drives. I find usb 2 too slow for this to
    use external drives. Sata II is 3 gbytes/second and has very good
    performance, better than scsi (on paper--is this true in practice?).
    I agree about scsi performance but 500 gbyte scsi drives do not
    exist and the large capacity scsi disks are a scam price wise
    (many times ide or sata).

    I run raid systems at work (about 14 terabytes) and am considering it
    for home. But raid must be backed up too. We had one raid
    box failure: a fan stopped working and cooked 14 250-gbyte
    drives over a weekend. All data were lost. Fortunately it
    was backed up onto another raid array in another building.

    My plan is 500 gbyte sata 2 drives backed up by 500 gbyte
    usb 2/firewire drives (multiple drives that get rotated).
    Currently I back up using 3 sets of usb disk drives that
    I rotate. A seventh usb drive is also attached to the system
    for real time backup. I believe offline backup is safer.

    I find ide performance adequate for my needs (it has not been
    an issue on my current system). Reading gbyte images is plenty
    fast. My main issues are disk storage, a faster cpu that can
    use more memory, and faster usb. I also want my current 1.8 GHz
    system for a linux box.
    I'm open to doing this. Having never done it I am in the dark
    as to what to choose. Is there some recommendations listed
    somewhere that is current? I'm after good performance, but not
    state of the art (you pay too much for state of the art that
    just gets surpassed in a few months anyway).

    Thanks for the help,

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), May 22, 2006
  7. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Rich Guest

    Anything as long is it isn't Apple and hasn't got an Intel chip in it.
    For motion images, Hollywood studios use AMD machines now almost
    See the May (I think) issue of P.C. Magazine.
    Rich, May 22, 2006
  8. Really. I figure one needs _four_ fast internal drives for heavy duty

    0: OS + other software
    1: OS swapping drive
    2: Photoshop swapping drive
    3: User data

    I suppose 0 and 3 could be on the same drive, but on-demand loading of
    binaries could interfere with user data reads and writes. (I prefer to keep
    user data on a separate drive from the system for other reasons, so I need
    (but don't have) all four.)
    I have two internal 60GB Sata internal drives and just got a Maxtor 200GB
    USB 2 drive.

    Nbench gives 49 and 36 MB/sec (write/read) for the Sata and 20 and 23 for
    the Maxtor. Althouth that is a nasty hit, it's still livable. (That's for
    100 MB test files.)
    You're a better man than I. (I backup to DVD+R and keep my photo archive on
    the 200GB drive.)
    I've looked into building my own, but ordering from Dell has always been
    easier. However, getting off the beaten track (e.g. wanting four fast
    internal drives) is usually not possible.

    By the way, we've been stuck at 3Ghz for three years now, and there are some
    pundits* who claim this is all we're getting for the foreseeable future, and
    that multiple CPUs is the only way to go. Since I buy into that theory**,
    IMHO, if you want something that will stay close to the bleeding edge for
    the mid-term, you want at least dual CPUs. Of course, in the short term,
    most current software probably doesn't make best use of dual CPUs so it may
    be a wasted expense in the near term. (My PC is a 3GHz/2GB two-year old


    **: I even _like_ the theory. I really hate it when lazy software developers
    claim that efficiency doesn't matter since computers are always getting
    faster, and would like to see people spending more time thinking about
    computing smarter rather than computing with more bells and whistles.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, May 22, 2006
  9. Photoshop can use multiple CPUs for many tasks.

    I don't know about Windows, but MacOS X and Linux will run much faster
    with lots of RAM. I'd go with about 5 to 12 GB of RAM. Even if you
    only have a 32 bit application (4GB limit), the OS can use the rest for
    file caches. Photoshop could be swapping image chunks to its temp file
    to avoid its 4GB limit but the OS will cache its temp file in the
    remaining RAM.
    Kevin McMurtrie, May 22, 2006
  10. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    PossumTrot Guest

    Since M$ new OS (Vista) will be out within a year (supposedly) you might
    want to check the recent info from M$ about minimum hardware requirements.

    *** ***
    PossumTrot, May 22, 2006
  11. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Stacey Guest

    Those were awful CPU's with limited memory bandwidth using the chipsets
    available then. P4's are memory bandwidth hungry. And is that is an early
    DDR ram system rather than a rambus one? Those early DDR system were
    pathetic as far as performance.
    SCSI drives are faster but are smaller unless you spend $$$$ Forget the
    SATAII spec, that's just the interface, not the drive throughput which is
    what really matters.
    The 10,000RPM raptor drives might make sense as a scratch disk? I've been
    tempted to try one.
    That's what I did. I had a 2.4/533 single channel ram system and upgraded to
    a 3.0/800 dual channel DDR system and use the old one running linux for
    internet use. The difference in performance in the dual channel ram with
    the faster bus was substantial with a P4 system.
    Stacey, May 22, 2006
  12. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Steve Wolfe Guest

    I need to run more than two disk drives, so I need a bigger
    No. Even if SATA II can theoretically get 3 gb/s over the bus, the disks
    can't read or write anywhere near that much.

    In a single-stream, sequential-read or sequential-write operation, it
    might be a tossup between a good SATA drive and a SCSI. But when it comes
    to things that count (like latency and number of I/Os per second), SCSI wins
    hands-down. The WD Raptors come close, but don't take it.

    However, when it comes to most desktop usage, the performance benefit
    isn't worth the cost, especially not for a "data" drive, where you're simply
    going to store a few hundred gigs of image files, and will occasionally read
    one, then some time later, write it back out to disk. You could look at
    using them for swap and Photoshop scratch disks, but unless you've hit
    motherboard or OS limitations, your money will be better spent just adding
    more RAM to keep from using swap or scratch.
    That sounds like a very good plan. Lately I've been using a few of these
    drives at work:

    For rotated backups like you mention. They're fast-fast-fast. In fact,
    unless you're using Firewire "B" (1394b), you're not using the full
    capability of the drives, so pick up a 1394b card while you're at it. I got
    some relatively cheap 64-bit PCI-X cards, and these drives will *write* at
    up to 60 MB/sec for me. USB 2 doesn't even quite provide that much
    theoretical bandwidth, and will fall far short in real-world bandwidth.
    If you need LOTS of ram, consider a dual-CPU motherboard, with 8 or more
    memory slots. =)

    Steve Wolfe, May 22, 2006
  13. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Ron Hunter Guest

    You certainly need a faster processor, and I would recommend a board
    with both the USB 2 and Firewire ports in order to maximize flexibility
    on what can be attached. As for dual core processors, they are used by
    only certain software, so don't expect great gains at this time, but
    they should be a good investment in the future. While I bought a 64 bit
    processor machine, and it certainly faster than my old machine, the
    speed is only really obvious in certain applications, such as Photoshop
    Elements. Everything does run faster (partly due to the faster SATA
    drive), but it isn't dramatic.
    Ron Hunter, May 22, 2006
  14. A bit old and slow, but worth saving by getting a $10 USB2 card.
    A basic rule:

    SATA= Cheap storage

    SCSI= High performance and reliability
    For many budget minded home applications SATA will squeak by and offer a bit
    of performance.
    Was that a SATA array? Most arrays have redundant fans and warning systems
    (alarm) for fan failure and thermal problems.
    I backup to U320 SCSI drives.
    If you find IDE performance adequate you probably will be disappointed with
    any CPU/memory upgrades.
    The key is to buy into something that doesn't have dead-ended technology in
    sight. A couple extra dollars now will save loads for years down the road.
    Any E7525 chipset board that Supermicro has will fill your needs. I like
    the X6DA8-G since it covers all basic needs except SAS. Just pick out the
    one that bests suites your needs.

    Throw that in an SC742 case and you'll be set. I use the 742 and it is the
    best case made for a performance workstation

    They make SATA and SCSI versions of this case.

    =?iso-8859-1?Q?Rita_=C4_Berkowitz?=, May 22, 2006
  15. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Clyde Guest

    I just rebuilt my computer with parts that should relate to your

    I had a P4 3.2 GHz Prescott processor that started getting flaky on me.
    OK, it might have been the motherboard, but both had to go anyway. This
    is a computer I had built myself.

    I got an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ with an MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum
    motherboard. Since you can't get AGP slots on motherboards any more (at
    this level), I also got a new Asus/ATI X550 video card. That is more
    than enough for Photoshop CS2, my one 3D game, and probably Vista too.
    I used the same dual channel DDR400 memory in 512 MB chunks; 2 GB
    total. I had to upgrade my power supply too, but kept my same hard
    disks: a 7200 rpm, 120 GB Seagate and a WD Raptor 10K rpm with 37 GB. I
    use the fast Raptor only for XP Pro's pagefile and for Photoshop's
    scratch drive; it really does make a difference.

    This computer is significantly faster than my old configuration in
    everything, but particularly in Photoshop. I don't have any good
    numbers for it, because the old setup was flaky and not good for
    getting numbers. I have many CS2 actions where I used to spend many
    long minutes twiddling my thumbs while I waited for it to finish. Now,
    I have no time for multitasking on or off the computer. Tis a shame too
    as this setup can really do multiple things at once great.

    I see CS2 using both cores in my X2 a lot. I won't use both of them for
    everything, but the stuff that can really use it, it does. Dual core is
    very much a good idea for Photoshop work right now. It really flies
    with it. It will only get better in future versions. The future in
    high-end desktop computers is 64 bit and multiple processors. Don't buy
    anything less today. Luckily some of that future is now and makes it
    worth buying that now.

    I keep reading that people think that Photoshop is bottlenecked by hard
    disk speed. Frankly, I don't see it. In rebuilding my computer, my
    memory and hard disks stayed the same. I changed the processor and mobo
    and got a huge improvement real world speed. If HD and RAM were the
    bottlenecks, this shouldn't have happened.

    I could be wrong, but it seems like the most critical thing for CS2
    speed is the processor. At least my experience seems to be pointing
    that way. Now I may have picked up some added performance because my
    memory is now managed on the processor instead of outside of it, but
    that shouldn't have affected the HD speed at all. Besides, my memory is
    running at the same speed as before.

    Buy the fastest AMD 64 X2 processor you can afford. Get a good mobo to
    put it on. Get at least 2 GB of memory. Windows XP can partially use 4
    GB, but the apps can't use more than 2 GB of that. (Windows 64 can use
    a lot more.) Get a WD Raptor for your pagefile and Photoshop scratch
    disk. Then you will have a very fast Photoshop computer.

    BTW, if you fill up all 4 memory slots in the motherboard, AMD 64
    processors will cut the speed of your DDR400 memory down to 333 MHz.
    They will also drop your timing down to T2, but that isn't very much of
    a hit. This is all to AMD specs, but I don't really know the reasons.
    It may be because these processors are so nice and easy to overclock.

    I have overclocked my X2 to 2.4 GHz (from 2.0 GHz). It is 100% stable
    and significantly faster. It now runs at the 4800+ level. Overclocking
    to this level also raised the FSB speed to push my memory back to the
    400 MHz speed. Still no noticable bottleneck on HD speed.

    Another advantage to the AMD 64 series is that is uses way less power
    and runs much cooler than my old P4. I have a much smaller heatsink/fan
    on this X2 and it is running at 32 C for light use - like typing this.
    That old Prescott is noted for high heat, as are most Intel chips
    today, but it cruised in the mid 40s. Any kind of work at all would
    send it in to the lower 50s. When my heatsink got dusty, I would
    regularly hear the alarm at 57 C. When I pound both cores with Prime95
    now, it sits at a nice comfortable 44 C with the alarm defaulting to 60

    Clyde, May 22, 2006
  16. Apparently Vista will use a new mechanism for booting, instead of the
    BIOS that has been around for nearly forever. The chances of any
    motherboard you buy today booting Vista flawlessly are likely to be
    small. So, if you want Vista compatibility for sure, wait a year.

    Or buy a machine now, and realize that it will still be useful running
    XP for at least a few years.

    Dave Martindale, May 22, 2006
  17. You mean EFI? I was under the impression that Vista wouldn't require
    (or support) EFI, at least not initially. For EFI-based machines (the
    Intel Macs, and I'm not sure what else), booting into Windows XP requires
    a BIOS-emulation layer on top of the EFI layer, and booting into Vista
    will probably be similar.

    A quick Google found this:

    "Speaking at Intel Developer Forum San Francisco, Microsoft development
    manager, Andrew Ritz, also revealed that there will never be any support
    for booting Windows via EFI on systems with 32-bit processors.

    Although Microsoft has previously said EFI booting would be supported by
    Vista, Ritz admitted that EFI support won't be seen in any version of
    Windows until the release of Longhorn Server."

    Daniel Silevitch, May 22, 2006
  18. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    J. Clarke Guest

    I believe you are confusing OS/X and Vista. There is no indication that
    Vista will require any new boot mechanism, although Microsoft may have
    tacked on support for the one used on the Mactels, which do use a different
    boot mechanism from PCs.
    Vista has run reasonably well on every machine on which I've tried it--not
    perfectly, it _is_ beta after all, but there don't seem to have been any
    hardware issues.
    J. Clarke, May 22, 2006
  19. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Mardon Guest

    I have an HP xw6200 workstation with dual 3.6MHz Xeon CPUs and 5GB
    RAM (2GBx2 + 2x512MB because in Canada - and only in Canada, I don't
    know why - HP will not sell the XW6200 without the two 512's.) I
    have hyper threading turned on. I run CS2. Maybe I've just gotten
    used to the speed because sometimes I still think certain actions
    happen too slowly in CS2. It's no problem having lots of
    applications open at the same time, however. If you want a good
    system, I think you ought to go with more than 2GB RAM. I also
    suggest dual monitors. I have dual 23" HP L2335's and would never go
    back to one; esp. when using PS.
    Mardon, May 23, 2006
  20. Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)

    Photofast Guest

    I am working with big files in Photoshop CS1 every day. Files as large
    as 600 MB with 16 layers.
    I run Windows XP 64 bit Edition. 2 Xeon Supermicro Motherboard, 12 GB
    RAM. 1X 73 GB SCSI
    HD for the OS, 1 Raptor for the swap file, 8 Raptor 73GB connected to
    PCI-X Broadcom card. One partition of 100GB in Raid 0, and one
    partition of 340 GB in Raid 5 for the PS files.How it's work ?
    I left 1 GB for the OS, i give 1,8 GB for PS, and 9,2 GB for a RAM
    DISK. This one will be the first scratch disk in PS the second is the
    partition of 100GB of 8 Raptor in Raid 0. In fact with really big
    files, the more RAM you have and the more fast are your scratch disk is
    the good way. With this system, 60% of my work is using only the scatch
    disk made of RAM. Incredibly FAST !
    Photofast, Jun 8, 2006
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