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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: New PC recommendations needed for graphic-intensive programs

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) March 21, 2008 10:42 AM PDT

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New PC recommendations needed for graphic-intensive programs

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 3/21/08 10:42 AM


I need to upgrade my PC because I am using graphic-intensive programs including Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Illustrator. I intend to stick with Windows XP (I have no interest in Vista at this point) and do not want to change to a Mac. Do I really need 3GB or 4GB of RAM, or is 2GB enough? Will an Intel dual-core processor work well enough, or do I really need the more expensive quad-core? I have never spent more than $1,000 on a PC but realize that my current requirements push me close to $1,500, including a wide-screen monitor. I have looked at the Dell Inspiron 530 and XPS 410. I welcome any and all suggestions. I do not want to spend for more than I need but I am having trouble figuring out the necessary essentials. Thanks so much for your suggestions!

Submitted by: Joan P.

Answer voted most helpful by the CNET Community newsletter readers:

Joan, good news, you get to save money!


Well, first, you are suffering from a common mis-conception about graphics programs: In general, the programs you list are not "graphics intensive", and you could do quite well with a low-end video solution. Programs become "graphics intensive" when the video card has to CREATE 3-D content. This does not happen when processing photographs, video (DVDs, video editing, video capture from, say camcorders ... with one exception, that being very fancy scene-to-scene transitions) or creating web pages. It does happen when playing games, using CAD software or doing video editing involving CGI or a lot of fancy transitions from scene-to-scene. You didn't mention any of those. In all of your applications, the "image" comes from the file (e.g. the JPEG or TIFF files from your video camera directly contain all of the pixels in the image), and is not CREATED by the video card. This is classical 2-D video, it is not demanding, and you would do quite well even with just a modern low-end "chipset" integrated video system (in the case of Intel chipsets, AT LEAST GMA950 or later, but any current product will have that), or a low-end dedicated video card that is at least powerful enough to run Vista WITH the Aero interface. Note that being capable of running Vista with Aero is a threshold test of minimally acceptable video card "power", without regard to (and having nothing to do with) the entirely separate question of whether you actually use XP or Vista.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk about CPU: The "dual core" pentium has been created by Intel to go in-between the very low-end "Celeron" and the more powerful "Core 2 Duo" line of CPUs. A dual core Pentium might work well enough, but get a Core 2 Duo, which is still a dual-core CPU, but more powerful than the "dual core Pentium" CPU line. However, you don't need, and probably would not even benefit from a quad core CPU. Look for one of the Core 2 Duo CPUs with the larger cache memory system (say 4MB instead of 2MB) and you will have a fine system at a reasonable CPU price.

As to memory, 2GB should be plenty, especially if you are sticking to XP.

You didn't mention the hard drive, but I'd go with a 500GB drive, it won't cost much more than anything smaller, but going larger will really push the cost up and probably isn't necessary.

I don't see any reason why you can't get a system like this for WELL under $1,000, and perhaps more like $600, exclusive of an exotic monitor, however. I see nothing in your post that suggests a need to spend anything like $1,500. Or probably even $1,000. One other suggestion, if you are considering a Dell system (and even if you are not), check out a web site by the name of for deals on Dell computers. They come and go, and some of these deals literally last only hours. You have to be patient if you want to save money, but by watching this site for a period of about 90 days, you will likely find a deal that will save you nearly half of what you would otherwise pay for the exact same system.

Barry Watzman

Submitted by: Watzman

Many additional helpful answers within the discussion thread below, so please check them out as well.

If you have any additional recommendations for Joan please click the reply link and submit your answer. Please be as detailed as possible in your submission. Thanks!

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