Intel i7 Photoshop/Lightroom Workstation - Part One

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I've been eyeing parts to build a new computer for myself.  Not that my Q6600 based machine has anything wrong with it, but when you're staring at Photoshop all the time and waiting for your computer to save 500MB PSD files, every little bit counts.  Plus technology makes me happy and building new computers is fun.  And for some reason lately, I haven't been having enough fun.  So on Monday I broke down and clicked 'submit' on my order at

Here's the plan in list form. Some of the parts of the new machine are going to scrounged from stuff I've already got, and a few parts are going to swapped from my current box.  Those parts that I've already got are in italics:


Intel i7 920 processor
This is the low-end i7, but it's supposed to beat the pants off of anything else out there.  Especially overclocked which I intend to do.  I'm aiming for 3.6 or 3.8GHz.

Asus P6T WS Professional Motherboard
I probably could have gone with just the P6T deluxe, but I like the look of the board and I figure that the workstation bios revisions might be a little more stable.

OCZ 6GB DDR3 Platinum kit (x2 = 12GB)
I'm going to fill all 6 slots with this stuff for a total of 12GB of RAM. I think that should do me ok <evil grin>. I chose this memory based on reviews on newegg and it's lower cost than the alternatives. had an i7 RAM round-up today and this stuff won, so I think I chose wisely.

WD Velociraptor 150GB boot drive

I'm stealing this from my current machine. Was going to get an Intel SSD, but the competition in this space is going to heat up in the next few weeks, so I figured I'd watch and see where it shakes out.  Plus there was an article claiming that these things slow down over time. Intel refutes their claims, but it gave me a moments pause.  Plus, this thing is damn fast anyway.

Seagate 1.5TB storage drives (x2) in RAID 1 array
I've currently got 4 1TB drives in 2 RAID 1 arrays. I have a little under 1TB of photos currently on my machine, and I wanted to simplify my setup for heat and complexity reasons.  I was waiting for the 2TB WD drives, but they're expensive and I've already got one of the 1.5 for backup so I bought another and will gang the two up and transfer everything over.  Then use the old 1TB drives for backup with my eSATA dock using the 2 eSATA ports on the motherboard.

ATI Radeon 3850 Video Card
Not the fastest card out there, but certainly no slouch.  More than enough to run CS4 OpenGL stuff fine.  I can't remember the manufacturer on it though.  Oh and it's fanless, so it makes no noise.

Antec Solo case
Small, with rubber bands to mount the hard drives in.  This little case is great.  I had replaced it to get a much bigger Lian-Li case that can handle 7 hard drives, but I like the small one better.

Seasonic 480W power supply
I like Seasonic power.  Quiet, stable.  I've never had trouble with them and I've used them in the last few builds I've done in the past 4 years or so.

Thermalright Ultra120 Extreme 1366 heatsink
The stock Intel cooler is fine for normal speeds, but I plan to overclock this puppy.  I've got a similar cooler in my current box and they still rate really well, and should be much quieter than the Vigor Monsoon I recommended last time.


I've got a nice Samsung SATA DVD-RW drive that I will probably install, though I'm going to try something fun and install Windows from a USB drive.  Or rather from an 8GB SanDisk Extreme 3 card in an Ultra-DMA adapter.  I've already transfered it over and booted from it, seems to work.  I found the instructions on google.

Oh and speaking of that, I'm going to try a little experiment and not install Vista x64, but rather trying using Server 2008 as a workstation. I saw an article about it a while ago and figured I'd give it a shot. My favorite OSs were NT4.0 and Win 2000 so this goes back to those bare-bone days.  Basically, it's the same kernel and underpinnings as Vista, but with less services and crap on top.  Responsiveness and even benchmarks show it to be faster than Vista.  Maybe it'll be a waste of time, but it sounds kind of fun.  I don't use this desktop for anything but Firefox, PhotoShop and Lightroom anyway.

I'm going to build it out and stress test this weekend.  I'll let you know how it goes.  Oh and as for price, keeping in mind that I had a few of the parts already, I spent less than $1000.