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 Post subject: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 4:35 am 
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Hello,

I'm planning on building a quiet but relatively powerful system to be used for photo editing (mainly Adobe Lightroom), web browsing and word processing (no gaming). From what I've read on various websites recommending pc builds specifically for photo editing, a powerful CPU will help considerably with opening and manipulating images on Lightroom, therefore I was thinking of getting an Intel i7 (although I'd prefer an i5 for budgetary reasons). However, I've been alarmed by reports that Haswell processors run hotter (and therefore generate more noise) than pre-production versions sent out to reviewers (http://www.bit-tech.net/news/hardware/2013/06/06/haswell-heat/1 also reported on a post on this forum :( ), so I'm torn between deciding on a system now and waiting for the next-generation Broadwell processors (which will reputedly offer lower power consumption that current Haswell processors). Is it possible to have a quiet system (audible but not intrusive in a quiet room with low-level ambient noise) with a Haswell i7 processor using off-the-shelf components that will not need any major modifications (perhaps similar to the Puget systems Serenity build)?

Any advice or thoughts on this will be gratefully received.


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 7:05 am 
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Welcome to SPCR.

The short answer = yes.

There's a number of quiet/silent i7 builds in these forums - do this google search as an example: site:www.silentpcreview.com daw

That said, do you really need an i7? Lightroom is a bit of a pig and benefits more from fast physical cores than from hyperthreading. Here's an instructive chart from PCGH where they processed 30 images from a Nikon D800. The full page (in German) here. Do you have other heavy-hitting applications that can make better use of hyperthreading?

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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 4:08 pm 
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CA_Steve is right. An i5 will be more than enough for what you're looking to do.

A "generic" combo seen in many computers here is large tower cooler with wide fin spacing with slow moving fans to keep air moving. It does the trick in many computers as far as keeping noise levels down. It's sometimes surprising overall when you first see how little air is truly required to keep low temps in a computer with the right cooler and cable management.

For Lightroom and MS Office primarily, an i5 will be more than enough for a long time for you. The only time you're going to want more will be if you're doing massive layering and straightening in Photoshop. I've had a couple projects that gave me trouble with this, but converting frames to layers, cropping and straightening them all is a chore when you're doing a batch of 400 or so frames. Not really something I suspect you're doing.

If with heat being higher than initially anticipated with the Haswell, you're not looking at heat output that comes anywhere near the challenges of say keeping a P4 Northwood CPU silent. The new coolers out today as well as better designs have made a huge difference. So overall, I'm more than confident in saying that you could use an i5 and get away with it completely. If you do end up itching for the i7 however, the only thing you would really need to change your plans on would be the CPU cooler. You could easily a better, beefier, and more adequate cooler than stock coolers, and it's not something you're going to have to break the piggy bank over either.

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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:58 pm 
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CA_Steve, bonestonne, thank you both for your replies.

It's good news that an i5 will likely suffice for my needs as it represents quite a substantial saving over the i7. I don't think I will be using any other heavy-hitting applications but will do some Photoshop and perhaps a bit of video editing, though not imminently. I also open several tabs whilst web browsing. On the other hand, I'd prefer to set up a system with some degree of future proofing built into it, so that I don't have to upgrade soon. I also want the pc to be able to run linux smoothly as I plan to explore linux alternatives to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop at some point.

CA_Steve, thanks for the link in German, I did a Google translate of it, unfortunately the other link doesn't show the chart, it'd be interesting to see how the various CPUs fare in terms of raw file conversion.

I'll have a look at the projects on this forum to find examples of quiet builds using i5/i7.


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:38 pm 
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Alder wrote:
so I'm torn between deciding on a system now and waiting for the next-generation Broadwell processors (which will reputedly offer lower power consumption that current Haswell processors). Is it possible to have a quiet system (audible but not intrusive in a quiet room with low-level ambient noise) with a Haswell i7 processor using off-the-shelf components that will not need any major modifications (perhaps similar to the Puget systems Serenity build)?
Yes. Avoid a video card with a fan, and you can do very well. Or, just don't use a video card at all.

IMO, your CPU list should be:
i5-4460
i5-4570
i5-4690
i7-4790K

Choose by which fits your budget better, at the time you order. Faster is better, but the relative cost can sometimes be silly, compared to the speed increase. The i7-4790K has a 4.0GHz base stock speed, but is much more costly than the others, and much more likely to throttle from reaching TDP, if not undervolted (and then, how far can your sample undervolt?). The i7 may be faster, but chances are good that the i5-4690 will be the best overall choice, and the spare money should go to a bigger SSD, or more RAM.

The processors approximately track their power usage, and allow short bursts over their maximum, by a small amount, for a small period of time (you can tweak the settings for this on most motherboards). A hotter CPU may mean it going to a lower power state than the specified base frequency, but it won't mean having to cool more, and the actual performance differences are negligible, in practice. A 3.5GHz CPU might jump from 3.2 to 3.5GHz, as it throttles, speeds back up, and throttles again. It's not going to fall back to 2.5GHz and stay there, or anything of that sort.

As well, if you choose to not get a video card, definitely get DDR3-2133 or faster RAM, and a motherboard that can support it, to make the most of the integrated graphics, which Adobe's newer CC programs can make good use of (you may end up with a video card for various reasons, but integrated is no longer a cursed feature). Best case is if you can find such a kit that is on your board of choice's QVL. With a video card, faster RAM will give you extremely small returns, since the CPU and GPU are hardly ever competing for time on the memory channels, so there's little point in spending on anything better than 1600MHz or 1866MHz.


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:57 pm 
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There's very little benefit for Photoshop (or any other app) beyond DDR1866 with the iGP.

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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 1:33 am 
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Hi cerbie and CA_Steve,

cerbie wrote:
IMO, your CPU list should be:
i5-4460
i5-4570
i5-4690
i7-4790K


This is extremely helpful as I'ved gone through the CPU options but am unsure which one to plump for (and on what grounds). Just a couple of questions if I may: I can see from your list of suggestions, cerbie, that you've not included any S or T CPUs. Is it because the energy efficiency gains that can be had with a 65W or a 35W CPU can be emulated in a 85W CPU if you undervolt? I think I read somethng along these lines, unfortunately can't find the site.

Another question: Haswell or Haswell Refresh? I'm quite confused by the options there; on a online store that I've used in the past I can see a i5 4690, Haswell Refresh, 3.5GHz, 3.9GHz Turbo, 1200MHz GPU, 35x Ratio, selling for a few pounds less than a i5 4670, Haswell, Quad Core, 3.4GHz, 3.8GHz Turbo, 1200MHz GPU, 34x Ratio (both retail). The price difference is negligible, I'm just wondering why the newer processor with slightly higer frequency and ratio sells for less then the older processor with lower frequency and ratio.

cerbie wrote:
As well, if you choose to not get a video card, definitely get DDR3-2133 or faster RAM, and a motherboard that can support it, to make the most of the integrated graphics, which Adobe's newer CC programs can make good use of (you may end up with a video card for various reasons, but integrated is no longer a cursed feature). Best case is if you can find such a kit that is on your board of choice's QVL. With a video card, faster RAM will give you extremely small returns, since the CPU and GPU are hardly ever competing for time on the memory channels, so there's little point in spending on anything better than 1600MHz or 1866MHz.


I've been considering using the integrated graphics card (at least for now) as from what I've read Lr does not make very much use of the GPU. The integrated graphics card will have to support at least 27in monitor (which, ifI'm right, Intel graphics 4600 can do). Admittedly, I hadn't given the type of RAM much thought, I somewhat naively expected this issue would sort itself out once I'd decided on a CPU and motherboard. Are there any important considerations I should bear in mind while choosing RAM?


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 5:05 am 
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RAM: How much are you using now? Do you think your workflow will get more intensive? My guess is that (unless you are working with lots of large images at the same time) 2x4GB is good enough. You can always add another 2x4GB. Run a heavy workflow with your current setup and look at the RAM usage in the task manager.

Haswell Refresh = the Haswell SKUs released this year as opposed to the SKUs released in 2013. Same chips, just diff frequency mix. Cheaper because it's 2014 and not 2013. :D

CPUs vary their core voltage based on the frequency selected. Lower freq = lower core voltage => lower power. Power is proportional to (clock freq) * (core voltage ^ 2). All the Haswell chips follow the same freq vs voltage curve. So, S and T parts are just further down the curve.

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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:04 am 
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CA_Steve wrote:
RAM: How much are you using now? Do you think your workflow will get more intensive? My guess is that (unless you are working with lots of large images at the same time) 2x4GB is good enough. You can always add another 2x4GB. Run a heavy workflow with your current setup and look at the RAM usage in the task manager.


That makes sense, I don't think I'll need more than 2x4GB initially, and as you say, I can always add more later.

CA_Steve wrote:
CPUs vary their core voltage based on the frequency selected. Lower freq = lower core voltage => lower power. Power is proportional to (clock freq) * (core voltage ^ 2). All the Haswell chips follow the same freq vs voltage curve. So, S and T parts are just further down the curve.


Can I just clarify this: if I were to get, say, the i5-4690T (2.5 - 3.5GHz Turbo) over the i5-4690 (3.5 - 3.9GHz Turbo) I would have gains in coolness (and therefore in terms of noise) as the CPU would never draw more than 35W. This would be at the expense of computational speed as the processor would throttle to avoid overheating once it reached its ceiling, is that right? The i5-4690, by contrast, would maintain similar voltage to the i5-4690T under light usage (and therefore similar levels of heat and noise) and would only increase voltage if more demanding applications were used, yes? If that's right, I can't see why anyone would want to get the lower Wattage CPUs (S or Ts) unless they knew they were never going to need the extra power.

Sorry if this sounds hopelessly confused, I'm just tying to make sure that by getting a 84W processor I won't be setting myself up for a big disappointment in terms of heat/noise geneated by the system.


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:17 am 
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I never recommend S or T variants, as its a factory nerfed CPU, yes it will run cooler on load but thats becuase its also doing less. All CPUs since Sandy Bridge can downclock on their own if you allow it on the the windows power management, in the case of haswell to 800mhz, this applies from a celeron to i7. Now what changes are loads and turbos, this is where higher TDP will also draw more power and heat up, but they will also finish the task faster and return to the same idle 800mhz faster. That said i do think there are spots for the S and T, for example in very limited space cases, or if you want a low profile stock cooler (the T usually come with it), or even if the user OS wont have a way to allow the cpu to downclock itself... but for the vast majority its better to go for the none S/T version.

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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 7:12 am 
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Quote:
The i5-4690, by contrast, would maintain similar voltage to the i5-4690T under light usage (and therefore similar levels of heat and noise) and would only increase voltage if more demanding applications were used, yes?

That's the gist of it. Abula mentions the other part of it. All processors alter their state on the fly.

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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:25 pm 
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Alder wrote:
Just a couple of questions if I may: I can see from your list of suggestions, cerbie, that you've not included any S or T CPUs. Is it because the energy efficiency gains that can be had with a 65W or a 35W CPU can be emulated in a 85W CPU if you undervolt? I think I read somethng along these lines, unfortunately can't find the site.
Not even undervolt (not that it would be a bad thing to do, or anything...). You can set the TDPs on most mobos. In my B85M Pro4, I can set the long-term TDP, short-term TDP, and the duration before the long-term TDP kicks in. So, if you need a lower long-term TDP, just set it. Most work doesn't reach TDP, or doesn't stay there for long, and with peak power consumption being quadratic, with respect to clocks and voltage, the top few hundred MHz are a lot of the TDP.

FI, my CPU has a long-term TDP of 80W. If I set it to 50W, and the short-term to 70W (not sure what the default for short-term is, for mine), multi-core benchmark scores go down by no more than 15%, but most only 5-10%. Why? Because most tasks don't bring the CPU close to the standard max TDP. Logging instant power use w/ CoreTemp, I found most games, CPU-heavy programs, and even benchmark programs, mostly got into the 60-65W range, with stock settings. YMMV, obviously, by sample, but why give up options for the same price?

The S and T models are not superior CPU bins, but merely parts specified for ease of use in SFF implementations, for small system integrators and large OEMs, that need to be able to plug the CPU into the socket, turn it on, and not fuss with anything else, because a human spending 5 minutes in a BIOS interface per unit adds up to more than the difference between CPU model costs.

Quote:
Another question: Haswell or Haswell Refresh?
Cost, at some speed. The refreshes are mostly 100-200MHz higher for the same cost, in the U.S. and Canada, so there's little reason not to go with the refresh. If that is not the case in the UK, the non-refresh are great CPUs, too. For the most part, this refresh was uneventful, at least for desktop users.

Quote:
I've been considering using the integrated graphics card (at least for now) as from what I've read Lr does not make very much use of the GPU. The integrated graphics card will have to support at least 27in monitor (which, ifI'm right, Intel graphics 4600 can do).
Size doesn't matter, but resolution and refresh rate can. Some monitors may need HDMI or DP from the IGP to run at full res/refresh, which might be easier to get by adding a card, given how few DIYer mobos come properly equipped, in terms of office-oriented video ports (DVI or HDMI, VGA, 2xDP). A 27" 1920x1080 monitor will be the same for the GPU as a 20" one. 2560x1440, OTOH, can be iffy, depending on board, at least at 60Hz. If more than one of those, a suitable video card can be cheap insurance.


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:03 am 
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Abula, CA_Steve and cerbie, this is all terribly helpful and clear, thank you very much. Just a small question: I understand the OS power managament capabilities are key here, can I get similar power managament tools with Linux (Debian/Ubuntu) as I can with Windows? I plan to experiment with linux alternatives to Lr at some point, so it's best the have the power management issue covered from the start.


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 5:15 am 
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Yes. The kernel includes the features, but there are different tools to manage them on different distros. Being Linux, there are new kernel features to replace the old ones, and so on, so the details are always a moving target, with some distros even supporting multiple power management packages. But, for a desktop, you can generally just check clock speeds to make sure it's working, and then leave it alone.


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 Post subject: Re: quiet pc build for photo editing
PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:59 am 
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That's good to know, thanks cerbie.


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