I recently decided I had enough of my now 5-year-old workstation and it was starting to struggle to keep up with my editing so I set off to replace it. I started off by searching for what would be best for running Photoshop and my other photo management software. I came across this post from Photography Life on the Ultimate PC Build for Photography Needs. I also visited pcpartpicker.com to help me pick components that wouldn't have any compatibility issues.
I knew from my previous experience upgrading my workstation that my care abouts (in no particular order) were:
1. Lots of RAM to handle the workload (my current setup is at 8gb and that was the max)
2. A GPU enabled graphics card (this is something I was lacking - my graphics card didn't want to play nice with Photoshop)
3. Space - I had my station setup with a 256gb SSD (recent upgrade) as my boot drive and then a 1TB hard drive for all my data. I kept my 'in work' files on the SSD and then moved them over to the bigger drive for storage (as well as backing everything to the cloud and an external drive)
4. Speed. I knew I could compromise on the processor a bit because really, the fastest processor won't save you if it doesn't have a good foundation behind it.
5. USB ports. The more the merrier. I actually rejected cases because they didn't have enough USB ports.
I started by looking at pre-built PC's (and yes, I did flirt with the idea of going to a Mac and then I quickly came to my senses*) but noticed that I could get 4 of my care abouts but not all 5. I was always giving up something and the price tag wasn't low enough for me to give it up. So I decided to build.
There are plenty of resources online that will essentially hand-hold you through the build process (and troubleshooting) so building wasn't really a scary proposition. As long as all my parts were compatible then I would be good - which is where I turned to PCPartPicker for help.
My build list:
Processor: Intel i7-6700K 4.00GHz 8M Processor - $345 (I picked the K version because it could be Overclocked. Not a deal breaker but if I ever decided to do it, I had the option. Turns out my motherboard makes it easy so I'm now running at 4.4GHz)
Motherboard: Gigabyte LGA1151 Z170 SLI ATX DDR4 Gaming 7 - $200 (This mobo came with a total of 12 USB ports including 1 USB 3.1 Type C which made me happy. It also has support for Thunderbolt 3 which would allow use of Thunderbold devices. Plus it just looked awesome.)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB SSC Gaming ACX 2.0+ - $315 (Truthfully, you got me on this one. It was highly recommended and it has 3 DisplyPort, 1 HDMI and 1 DVI so I could plug in about anything.)
Hard Drive 1: 256GB Samsung 950 PRO PCIe NVMe M.2 - $182 (This is as good as it gets right now. 256GB was really all I could afford to splurge but NVMe M.2 is THE hard drive style to get with insane read/write speeds of up to 2,200 MB/s and 900 MB/s respectively. This is my boot drive, where my OS is stored, and where all my programs reside as well as that 'Work In Progress' folder.)
Hard Drive 2: Seagate 2TB SSHD - $90 (I'm usually a Western Digital kinda girl but I was intrigued by this Seagate. It is a Solid State Hybrid Drive - so it combines a small solid state drive with a traditional platter. Over time it learns your most used files and keeps those at the ready on the SSD portion of the drive and the rest of your data lives on the old school platter. It installs just liked a normal hard drive but should show some quicker access times.)
CPU Cooler: CRYORIG H7 - $35 (Again, this was just a highly recommended option so I went with it. It looks pretty cool and is SO QUIET I don't even notice the computer running.)
Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 750 G2 80+ GOLD - $100 (This was bigger than I really needed but again, future proofing. Plus it had a rebate when I bought it. It's nearly silent as well and has plenty of room for expansion. As is, my computer with 1 monitor is only pulling about 130W per my UPS so I'm more than covered with 750W.)
Case: Zalman ATX Mid Tower Z11 NEO - $65 (Ok, I rocked a little nerdiness out here. It has a window! Plus fans galore so everything stays nice and cool - and quiet. It has 4 USB ports on top and a nifty little tray for my stuff. I'm all about the USB ports, can't get enough. The included top fan glows blue and the OC button and indicator lights on my motherboard are red so I made the rest of the motherboard lights green and it seriously looks amazing. My only complaint about this case is that the PCI slot covers have to be broken off so they can't be easily replaced.)
So the basics here total up to about $1,400. Which is a little sticker shock for some folks but this baby should last me for many, many years. It's actually a pretty awesome gaming setup if I wanted to get into that (maybe I should tag this post for the gamers....). I did add on a few extras that I'll list below that I'm not including in the total simply because I already had most of them but I wanted new stuff for this build.
You'll note that I didn't include any kind of DVD drive. Frankly I so rarely use it that I didn't feel it was necessary as a built-in part of my computer. I have an external drive that I use with my laptop that would be sufficient in case I ever needed it. I had downloaded Windows 10 from my old machine and loaded it on a USB drive to install. In fact, I don't think I even touched a CD for this setup. But if it's something you do need then they can be had for about $20 at Amazon.
ASUS VS239H-P Full HD IPS Monitor - Bigger is better and IPS rules for affordable monitors with great color reproduction.
Logitech K360 Wireless Keyboard - I was initially a little unsure about the compact size and position of the arrow keys but I've actually fallen in love with this keyboard and I picked up a second for another computer.
Logitech M325 Wireless Mouse - The scroll on this is so precise. Instead of feeling mushy when you scroll it is very crisp & clicky.