Help and comments - Photograper's PC

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Help and comments - Photograper's PC

Post by RichardP » Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:55 am


I'm about to embark on my first build, and would appreciate some re-assurance and clarification on my spec and a few uncertainties.

1. A highly responsive PC optimised for Lightroom and occasional Photoshop.
(NO gaming; No current plans for video).
2. As quiet as possible without extreme measures.
3. As efficient (low power usage) as possible.

Current thoughts
Case: Antec P183 V3
Power: Antec CP-850 (I know its overkill, but it fits the 183 and is reported to very quiet and efficient at my loadings).
Processor: Intel i7 2600K – moderately over clocked (I don’t want to get into complex adjustments, but I should be able to get to 4.5/4.6 GHz).
Cooler: Gelid Tranquilo w/ Scythe SlipStream 120 PWM fan (I have no experience in this area, so I stole this idea from the Puget Serenity spec – if it works for them, it will work for me – i.e. it will fit the m/b and do the job)
Case Fans: ? Replace with Scythe SlipStreams ? (How many? PWM or not?)
Motherboard: Asus PP8Z68-V Pro (or ASRock / Gigabyte alternatives)
Memory: 8GB (2x4) DDR3 1600 – whatever looks a good buy?
Graphics: Integrated Intel HD3000
SSD: ?? Crucial M4 120GB ?? (Not sure on this one - for Windows C drive + Lightroom Cache and DB?)
HDD: Re-use exiting 2x WD 1TB Caviar Black in Raid 1.
Optical: Re-use existing 2 x LG drives
Monitor: Re-use existing Eizo CE240W
OS: Existing Windows 7 Home Premium
Backup: Continue to use existing 1TB Samsung in external eSATA enclosure.

I have been running for 5 years with a reasonably quiet PC:
Antec P180, standard fans.
Antec Neo HE 450 power supply
Core 2 Duo E6700 – standard heat sink, no overclocking
Asus P5B Deluxe
4GB DDR2 memory
Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS fanless
2 x WD 1TB Caviar Black in Raid 1
1x WD 74GB Raptor
2 x LG DVD Writers

1. Is that CPU cooler sensible?
2. How many case fans - what positions - how controlled? Preferably from the motherboard?
3. Are any of the motherboard brands better / worse at fan control - which I guess is the only way that choice impacts the objectives. I'm only familiar with Asus, and even with them I have no experience of fan control.
4. Any comments on the Integrated graphics? Everything I've read says that for purely 2D photographic work, and in particular, Lightroom, it shoud be fine, and it removes one source of heat / sound / power. But then everyone seems to spec a GPU?
5.Nothing to do with quiet, but any thoughts on a best buy for SSD?
6. Any other general comments / suggestions?

Thanks for any input

Richard P

Patron of SPCR
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Location: UK

Re: Help and comments - Photograper's PC

Post by SebRad » Sat Jun 04, 2011 2:03 pm

Hi Richard, a quick look at the adobe required spec for Lightroom (3) is very low so an up to the minute PC should be great for it!
I haven't looked hard but I believe mostly the "video card" doesn't really do anything for it, however I'm pretty sure the latest versions of Photoshop can use the GPU for accelerating some features, certainly nVidia, not sure about AMD GPUs.

For performance and power efficiency there's nothing to touch Intel's new Sandybridge chips so no problem with choice there.
If you want to over-clock then you have to have a K CPU, the 2500K may well be worth a look as significantly cheaper and in most circumstances very little slower, unless running very heavily threaded software that take advantage of more than 4 threads.
[The 2600K adds hyper-threading and 8MB vs 6MB cache over the 2500K]

To use the onboard graphics and overclock you have to have a Z68 chipset motherboard. Which one comes to choice of desired features, eg USB3, firewire, ATX or mATX. Asus or Gigabyte safe choices, for quiet PC fan control is definitely important, check it out from reviews etc first.
For power efficiency you'll need to be smart with your over-clock so the CPU can still drop it's clocks and voltage at idle, I'm sure this can be done effectively with a bit of work.

From what I've read unless you go mad with the overclocking the Sandybridge chips don't get that hot. If the Gelid heatsink works in the super quiet Puget PC then it certainly should work great for you. As would anything off the top of SPCR recommended list, check s1155/1156 compatibility though. The super cheap Coolermaster Hyper 212 probably be very nearly as good and more than adequate. One thought is I think you can get quieter cooling from some heatsinks with two slower fans, one on each side, see the some of the recent SPCR reviews.

As the CPU isn't that hot and your planing on using the built in graphics you might think about mATX as you don't need a big case to keep it all in or cool. Similarly you shouldn't have that much heat to shift the ventilation of the case less important.
My experiance is once the fans are reasonable quality it's then all about the fan control and getting the speeds down low enough while keeping the system cool.
You can either aim for a fixed fan speed that finds a balance of noise vs enough cooling for any circumstance. This has the advantage of constant noise signature, fans changing speed attract attention to themselves.
You can have variable speed, either software or hardware controlled, where the fans increase in speed as temps rise. This has the advantage of potentially lower idle or "low load" noise as the fans can be slowed right down but speed up if/when the system heats up.
You could even have a mix, some fans fixed, some fans controlled.

Some people aim for minimum number of fans to keep noise down, others like to have more fans each focused on cooling a certain part/area and running slower as doing less.
I don't think there's any "right" way to build a quiet PC, just look at the general gallery!

Personally my PC is in the many small slow controlled fans category. All the fans have been swapped (including the PSU) and the heatsinks too. At idle and most loads it's dead quiet. The PSU controls its own 80mm PWM fan, the 2x 92mm PWM fans on the video card are controlled by the video card, but I've tweaked the fan curve in the BIOS. The 120mm fan on the CPU and the 3x 80mm case fans are controlled from the motherboard using Speedfan.
Even with the 7 fans it's as quiet, or quieter, than the 1.5TB WD green (5400 rpm) drive standing next to it!

I think once you've got good fans and got the speed under control then the noise floor becomes the hard drive(s) where we come back to case choice. The gold standard is full soft mounting, it makes A LOT of difference and is essential for "proper quiet" PC. The only case I'm aware of to offer it as standard is the Antec Solo (and P150) however Antec's very soft silicon gromets aren't far off. Many cases will offer apparently soft hard drive mounting but it's usually rubber based and much too hard and barely worth the effort. You can of course roll your own soft mounting in just about any case, there's a big thread with dozens of examples.
I have a single hard drive and it's in a Scythe Quiet Drive, and I strongly recommend it. It knocks several dB off the HDD and reduces the seeks to almost inaudible. It's just great that I'm almost never aware of any noise from my PC, even at night when very quiet.
Downside is they're not cheap and take up a lot of room, especially when suspended as well!

On the subject of storage I believe that the (any) Sandybridge CPU will be very good and then the responsiveness / performance is dependant on the speed of the storage system. One route sometimes suggested is a small cheap(ish) SSD boot drive and then network storage out of ear shot but I don't think this would work for you and, certainly for Photoshop, it's all about the drive performance. To which end yes you want a good SSD or quite possible two! I'm not sure how you read / write data and/or cache files in Lightroom but maybe able to get better performance with two separate drives, eg a source drive and a destination drive. Of course SSDs don't have the "seek penalty" that mechanical drives do so reading and writing to same drive simultaneously isn't such a problem. Also larger SSDs are faster than smaller ones so 1x 120GB might work out similar to 2x 60GB in performance, certainly in price they mostly do.

As for which SSD I recommend looking on Anandtech, they have some very good articles and reviews as well as the "Bench" where you can compare many models. The current "best" is the new Sandforce 222x based drives, eg OCZ Vertex 3 BUT these suffer when handling compressed data, eg JPGs so your choice of Crucial M4 is probably a very good one. Worth taking a look at the Intel 510 drive or even the mainstream 320 series.

My PC cooling is massivly customised and no way you could build a PC like it for someone else and most people wouldn't build one like it for themselves, in fact I wouldn't again, most of the issues come from the old narrow case...
However I've built a couple of simple and very quiet PCs for people.

The first was some years ago as a Photoshop PC.
Antec Solo, E8400 cpu in basic Gigabyte mobo cooled with Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro. Not the best cooler but using Speedfan software the motherboard able to wind it down to iirc ~650rpm which was pretty damn quiet, only speed up under long sustained load. Rear case fan was a Xilence Redwing plugged in to resistor and then motherboard, ran ~600prm, again dead quiet but I don't think ever changed speed.
Passive HD3450 graphics, PSU was standard Seasonic S12 II 330w, and had 2 hard drives in the elastic suspension.
I think it was about 80w idle and 100w under Prime 95. (AC figures) Sandybridge should be lower idle, probably higher load though and vastly more performance.
The result was a PC with no mods and limited budget spent on quietness yet it was very pleasingly quiet.
Compard to the old, slow and noisy P4 PC it replaced my customer was over the moon!

The second PC was built on a strict budget so slightly more creative.
Basic AM2+ motherboard (Gigabyte I think) with Athlon II X2 250 and 2x2GB RAM
Cooling came from a Coolermaster Hyper TX3, fan swapped with Arctic Cooling F9 PWM fan
Case was a stylish but relatively cheap In Win Z637 (red) Surprisingly solid, took a 92mm rear fan, which was another F9 PWM sharing the CPU header using the PWM sharing system the fans come with so the case and CPU fans ran same speed. Think this is a fine arrangement as when CPU getting hotter and fan speeds up so does the case fan to remove the heat from the system.
Again using speed fan to wind fan speeds down to ~600rpm unless temps get too high then will be speed up, pretty much didn't happen unless run Prime 95.#
PSU was more creative, used a cheap(ish) Colors-IT black 450w model. Reassuringly heavy for a cheap PSU and not that loud but I fixed the fan to 7v anyway.
The hard drive should be hard mounted vertically to the inside front of the case but I rigged up some elastic suspension.
The end result was a nice little budget PC that performed well and was very quiet on a low budget without too much custom modification.

Specific suggestions for you: I'd swap the 2600K for a 2500K as the price difference is enough to buy a 60GB M4 SSD and I believe with smart management this will be more responsive to have more storage system performance than CPU power as the 2500K, over-clocked is already a monster!
The Gelid Tranquillo looks like a good cooler and not expensive, keep the stock fan until proved need to change it.
I'd be tempted to use a Solo for the case as it's cheaper then P183 and has the HDD suspension. The big top fan on the P183 isn't that quiet if my experience with Mini P180 is anything to go by. I'd suggest a 800 or 1200rpm Scythe fan be swapped in to the back of the Solo, will need to be speed controlled or get 500rpm model. Rubber grommets probably worth getting for it as only few £/$/E
I'd put your two existing WD drives in the elastic suspension and get an M4, or two, as Windows / cache / scratch drive(s) Can be mounted anyhow in the case, 2x2.5 to 3.5 adapter if you want to be tidy.
I wouldn't bother with intake fans
For the PSU pick one from the SPCR recommended list. 350 ~ 500w range be ample, unless you want to go mad with video card in future. For comparison note my system with overclocked Q9400 CPU and pretty hot overclocked GTX260 will run fine off Seasonic 330w (and pull 300w AC for ~250w DC delivered)

Once assembled it will be case of tuning the fan speeds to get the noise down. Shouldn't be too hard to get fans quieter than the WD drives you have.


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Re: Help and comments - Photograper's PC

Post by systemlayers » Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:15 pm

Go with a crucial or intel drive they won't have sandforce issues. Apparently both corsair and ocz's newest drives are having a few issues.
If you can save a little bit more for a heatsink I highly recommend the HR-02 it's the best in the market with a single low-rpm fan. Keeps my 2600k overclocked to 4.4ghz w/ 500rpm fan.
If you're replacing case fans go with the cheapest possible for the most performance. That would be the scythe slipstream series likely, the 1200rpm model is good if you put a fan controller on it. Otherwise the 800rpm is the low rpm king.
From my experience it's better to go with 2 5-800rpm fans than a single 1200rpm fan. Multiple slow rpm fans are the way to build a silent system.
I'd recommend covering the top fan slot of the p183. I have a p182 and i've hacked the heck out of it. The best configuration I came up with for a passive LGA775 + 460 was a Scythe Kama Bay (800rpm) in the 5.25" bays (this is no longer sold but you could strap a 120mm fan up front), 2 middle bay fans @ 500rpm, no fan in the PSU bay (just had solid state sitting down there without bottom bay filled) and one 800rpm fan in the back. Positive pressure kept it from becoming too too dusty. I had also cut out fan grills as they were fairly restrictive on the p182. In your case I guess you're going to be using 2 optical drives so you can't put a fan in the 5.25" bay but it greatly helps out a semi-passive cpu cooler I think.
Try without a graphics card first if you think you need one then you can always add a fanless model in.

With the 2600k you might not get to 4.6ghz apparently only 50% of 2600ks get over 4.6ghz. Myself I tried a bit to get there but ran into instability and didn't want to touch volts too much. With asus you should be able to click the big ol' OC button and get 4.4ghz without any problem on stock voltage. ... nners.html
Not sure if you really need a 2600k though. 2500k should be fine HT isn't going to do much good in Lightroom.

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Re: Help and comments - Photograper's PC

Post by ame » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:19 pm


I'm gonna quote you just to stay on track
1. A highly responsive PC optimised for Lightroom and occasional Photoshop.
(NO gaming; No current plans for video).
2. As quiet as possible without extreme measures.
3. As efficient (low power usage) as possible.
1. CPU-2600K is a fine choice. Overclocking to 4.5 is very easy. I would not try the auto overclock feature in the Asus board as it tends to raise the voltage to about 1.4 - a bit too high IMO.

GPU - You are right about wanting to use the Intel integrated. I think it will be fine with photo editing. You can always drop a dedicated card later. Nvidia gets a slight boost in Photoshop and other Adobe CS 5 apps. Not as significant as some might think this boost is unnoticeable for most Photoshop users. Still a silent/passive GTS450 should be more than enough for photo treatment on a high res display.

2. I'd keep the P180 and just swap the fans/mod if I were you, but the P183 is fine if you must change the case. block the top vent and swap the rear fan for Slipstream 800. Add 2 Slipstream 800 fans to the front top and bottom

3. If you are really after efficient low power usage forget about the Antec 850 PSU. Get Seasonic X400. The proposed system would be maxing ~150W or quite possibly less if you'll use the integrated GPU. The normal workload will be much lower. That means the 850 will be wasting a lot of power working at 10% of its specs or lower. don't expect 80%+ efficiency. OTOH a Seasonic X400 80+Gold would be much more efficient at these low power draw levels, not to mention quiet. If you install a bottom intake fan like I suggested in 2. it should be more than enough to cool it under any load.

Other HW choices you mentioned are fine. There are many good options out there for coolers and fans. I personally think 800 RPM fans are near silent for most users. If you want to go lower you can use the motherboard to control the fan speeds and get it even lower.

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Re: Help and comments - Photograper's PC

Post by Abula » Sat Jun 04, 2011 11:17 pm

This is what i would go,

Case: Fractal Design Define R3
Power: SeaSonic X series SS-400FL or if you plan to add more components like a dedicated gpu and OC, Seasonic SS-560KM
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge
Cooler: Thermalright HR-02 + Thermalright TY-140 (atm runing mine @700 rpm with intel mobo controlling it via bios PWM, i cant hear anything)
Case Fans: I would try the fans from R3 first, if you dont like them Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe M12-S1
Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO
Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM or whatver brand you prefer.
Graphics: Integrated Intel HD3000
SSD: Crucial M4 CT128M4SSD2 2.5" 128GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
HDD: Re-use exiting 2x WD 1TB Caviar Black in Raid 1 (this might end up as one of the loudest components, maybe for the future some 5400rpm drives).
Optical: Re-use existing 2 x LG drives
Monitor: Re-use existing Eizo CE240W
OS: Existing Windows 7 Home Premium
Backup: Continue to use existing 1TB Samsung in external eSATA enclosure.

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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:17 am

Re: Help and comments - Photograper's PC

Post by RichardP » Mon Jun 06, 2011 1:31 pm

Thanks to everyone who responded - your comments and advice have been very helpful and re-assuring.

As a result, my thinking now looks like this:

Case: Stay with Antec P183 V3 - this caused me the most thinking, but: Solo might limit future expension of drives, and I don't like the top mounted Power Supply; R3 looks very attractive, but only two external drive bays means that I have to abandon one of my optical drives or my card reader.
Power: Seasonic x SS-400FL
Processor: Stay with Intel i7 2600K this might be illogical on a bang for buck basis, but I'm going for it!
Cooler: Thermalright HR-02 + TY-140
Case Fans: Replace with Scythe SlipStreams 800 - Back fan, + two front fans - block top vent
Motherboard: Asus PP8Z68-V Pro
Memory: 8GB (2x4) DDR3 1600 – whatever looks a good buy
Graphics: Confirmed Integrated Intel HD3000 - re-assured by your input
SSD: Confirmed Crucial M4 128GB
HDD: Re-use exiting 2x WD 1TB Caviar Black in Raid 1.
Optical: Re-use existing 2 x LG drives
Monitor: Re-use existing Eizo CE240W
OS: Existing Windows 7 Home Premium
Backup: Continue to use existing 1TB Samsung in external eSATA enclosure.

If you think that I've got anything wrong, or that I've missed something important (e.g. about the R3?), please let me know asap, as I shall be ordering in the next 48 hours.

Once again, many thanks.....

Richard P :D

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