Posted by Scott

My last computer just wasn’t cutting it anymore performance-wise so I’ve spent the weekend building a new one. As a result, not much bloggery going down, but I’ll be back on it tomorrow. So for now, here’s a random picture of some sort of bad-ass record player. I’ll do a post on Photoshop / Media Production performance as it relates to hardware configurations once I’m done with the new machine.

26 Comments Leave A Comment


thomas says:

March 3, 2008 at 12:20 am

hopefully you won’t encumber it with vista!

i write physically-based photorealistic rendering systems (think maxwell render), and vista really takes the mickey out of any computer with its incessant bookkeeping (constant hard disk thrashing).

this isn’t intended to start an argument, it’s just my perspective as a developer of high performance rendering systems; i’m looking forward to your post.


Antonio says:

March 3, 2008 at 12:51 am

I know you don’t want to hear this but… get a Mac dude. You’re life will be better and someone like yourself who has such a great sense of design, I can’t imagine you rotting your brain with a PC.


Steve Adams says:

March 3, 2008 at 1:12 am

I liked getting a mac, but I hated paying for it. And wow, that is a bad-ass record player.

Good luck and god speed with sweeeet performance improvements.


Scott says:

March 3, 2008 at 2:06 am

I’m posting this reply against my better judgment as I suspect it will stir up that dead horse of a hornet’s nest that is the mac vs. pc debate. the truth is I’ve always used PC and I have never had a problem with it. I have used macs a lot, I find them slow and lethargic compared to the PC systems I’ve built. I was a computer science major in college so my background is well rooted in computer technology. If you know how to properly configure a windows machine (i.e. disable everything that isn’t absolutely necessary and strip the thing to it’s core) you will be rewarded with an amazingly fast computer. At this stage I make my living from computers and so any computer I bought or built would be a tax write-off, so money isn’t really the issue, the issue is getting the absolute best performance possible from the machine. I am very into hardware and the configurations of computer systems as it plays a key role in my work flow and therefore the final product whether it be music or design. So I am always researching benchmarks and hardware tests. The PC I was able to build blows doors off any Mac ever made, hands down. Photoshop performance is ridiculous and don’t get me started on audio apps, it’s crazy (it’s a water-cooled quad core intel extreme running near 5Ghz and cost half of what the comparable mac does). I run Vista Business 64 bit edition now, in the past I had been running XP64 / XP32. True, windows is a fundamentally flawed operating system, I am a firm believer that OSX is a superior operating system. this doesn’t mean it is the right choice when it comes to creating things. But at the end of the day it’s what works for you, I just happen to be a very impatient person and I also work on 24″x36″ @ 300dpi format PSD files which are around 300-600 layers deep and about 1-3 GB in size so I need top performance to even open these files. I have tried opening and working with them on comparably spec’ed macs (yes, the new intel ones) and it’s like pulling teeth just doing the simplest functions, just plain slow.
So that’s my experience, yours will differ, just throwing it out there. Bottom line is that I think Mac is great if you don’t want to spend a lot of time worrying about your computer, but if you have the time and inclination to truly understand how to configure and maintain windows you’ll definitely find it’s not the complete mess that every creative makes it out to be.

BTW, I’ve many musician / designer friends who swear by windows and know a couple more who’ve recently switched to windows from mac and are loving it. The other main issue is that I use Sonar to record / produce the Tycho stuff and it’s a PC-only app so I’ll always have to have a PC around (and no, I don’t like pro tools or logic so that’s not happening)
My 2 cents, you’re free to commence with the windows bashing now…….3..2..1.. GO!

but also, I’m installing OSX as a dual boot on this machine, so I’m not a totally lost cause.


Damo says:

March 3, 2008 at 2:51 am

Just out of curiosity – what hardware specs does your current system have? – I’ve often sought the Mac pro machine – especially the new quad core…when considering utilizing the full adobe master collection..however I do agree with your endevours on a windows OS when dealing with audio apps as I myself have had some experience with music recording in the past. Also I agree that you can custom build a PC system thats just as powerful as the new Mac pro quad core machine…I do prefer the Mac OS too as it is a solid OS – almost invincible! Being ambidextrous in both OS makes a versatile creative!


Scott says:

March 3, 2008 at 3:03 am

It’s an Intel Extreme QX9650 quad core with 8gb ddr2 1033 ram , 3(x) raptor 10k rpm RAID0 array for the dedicated photoshop swap and 1TB sata2 main drive. Asus Maximus formula mobo Overclocked with liquid cooling.


Shud says:

March 3, 2008 at 8:57 am

that turntable IS badass. reminds me of the oracle my dad had in the 80’s…it’s got the exact same tightener that the oracle did. i wish i had pictures of some of the audio gear my old man had back then, he had some pretty unbelievable gear for that time. i remember my grandma once had a nightmare that a set of these crazy speakers my dad had were chasing her.


Antonio says:

March 3, 2008 at 10:47 am

Scott, don’t get me wrong, I totally respect your opinion. My comment was more of a friendly jab at ya cause I know you’re a PC guy. There are many reasons why I prefer a Mac and one of the is the aesthetic nature of the machines. A Mac is not only a computer, but a piece of art and I personally appreciate that.

As for as performance is concerned, I’m not sure what Macs you’re using but I work worth huge Photoshop files as well and on OS X it’s snappy as hell. Not lag at all and this is even on the Intel iMacs. Their just as fast as any PC on the market, if not faster.

Anyway, it’s all subjective, but I just find it very odd when I meet very talented designers, who thrive off of visual stimulation, working on an ugly machine running an ugly OS.


Gareth says:

March 3, 2008 at 11:39 am

“Anyway, it’s all subjective, but I just find it very odd when I meet very talented designers, who thrive off of visual stimulation, working on an ugly machine running an ugly OS.”

Not that I’m grouping myself in the “very talented designer” category ( I make a living), but I have to say that PCs aren’t necessarily ugly…

My Dell XPS tower, and 30″/20″ dual monitor set-up is beautiful. As for the OS, I have XP and I’ve customized the GUI to be, like a good typeface, invisible – It gets out of the way while I’m in the flow of designing, and thats all I can ask for.


Alex / HeadUp says:

March 3, 2008 at 11:53 am

I need to invest in a new machine…mine is 2 yrs old and my plan of investing in a custom-built platform I could upgrade failed, as I didn’t take into account natural wear-and-tear, almost like decay, of computers over the years. At this point, I can’t go much over 100 layers and groups without performance taking a serious hit…

I am so tempted to go with a Mac for my next one, as the only thing I’ll really use it for after that is creative (videogames are now sadly restricted to console-only)…but it’s a tough step to make, especially given almost 7 years of design experience on PC.

And God help me, I’m not messing with Vista yet, I don’t know anything else but hear-say, but it doesn’t look like it’s been fixed yet, nor will it be any time soon.

Anyway, I’ll look forward to a post about design and performance…enjoy your new rig dude!


Albert says:

March 3, 2008 at 12:16 pm

First…the record player is so BAD-ASS….so overkill and unnecessary, but beautiful!

Second….as a Mac lifer…the PC you’re going to build rocks! Go with what works! If it’s a PC, great. If it’s a Mac, rock on! We just want talented people to do great things. Everything else is a means to that end.


Alan says:

March 3, 2008 at 12:33 pm

YES! Windows FTW! I’m a windows user, but not a water cooled dual boot OSX (but i have a friend who does this, and he loves it) 600 layer deep 3gb picture user. I mean, i play video games and stuff.. i’m out there… a little.

I think any computer with good hardware running windows xp is excellent. I’ve used vista and i enjoy it, but all the visuals and aesthetics involved in the menus really aren’t my thing anyway. OH yeah, and the interface in macs are confusing for me (but thats because i’m a windows guy, and i know fully that some people are mac guys/gals/users.)

I don’t produce or record music (all though i’d like to), but i think all the extra functions in web design and garageband and all those neat things that come with it have always made me want a macbook.

Scott, i can totally tell your a computer guy, for a bit this seemed like a heated discussion actually. But anyway, its interesting that you don’t use pro tools or those common programs i hear about to produce music. With that studio and all that awesome equipment (not to mention how much i listen to Tycho) Its really interesting hearing about the work behind it.

Enjoy the new setup!


Scott says:

March 3, 2008 at 3:35 pm

that missive definitely wasn’t targeted at you, guess I’ve just been wanting to get that off my chest since a lot of my friends give me a hard timme about using a PC. I’ll try to research this further and come back with some real numbers to back things up. like i said, I’d rather be using osx but i am just not convinced of the performance. You said a mac can hang with any PC on the market, and i agree with you as far as preconfigured systems… but I still don’t believe a mac could touch the sort of stuff you can build yourself. but yeah, i get the whole mac cult thing and have always been tempted to get into it…. perhaps /i will with this osx install on the new machine.


justin says:

March 3, 2008 at 10:58 pm

I’m excited about the prospect of a bit of guidance into how to set up a Windows machine for maximum performance. I recently started working at a design shop that is an all-PC environment, and have been at a loss how to set up my machine so that it will run as efficiently as possible. I haven’t really touched a PC (except for browser testing and such) in about 8 years and Windows is a strange and foreign land to me… I know that my hardware has a lot of potential though and I’d love to be able to muscle my way through all the muck and tap into it.

I look forward to your sage insight.


Justin Meyers says:

March 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I have a 4gb, 2.5mhz dual core intel mac power tower and it can’t even begin to keep up with a new HP tower that I just got. 4gb, 1.8mhz.

I originally got the HP just because Comp USA was closing and decided to throw a trial version of creative suite cs3 on it, it blows my mac out of the water by far.

I can barely hang with your guys hardware jargin. I am a simple software guy, but the more difficult it gets to run photoshop, the more I invest time into researching new machines.


If this isn’t too nosey, what did you end up paying for this self-built PC?

Sounds amazing, not quite sure I would need half that power. I really only use photoshop. But… it takes me 15 minutes to save a 18×28 300 DPI print with maybe 200 layers.

I tried saving as a layered compressed TIFF and nothing changed. It shaved off maybe 250mb at the most.


Scott says:

March 4, 2008 at 4:16 pm

since photoshop CS3 is a 32 bit application, this rig is a bit on the overkill side since 8GB ram is sort of pointless since PS can’t reference it all … but I pretty much built it with music in mind anyways, the quad core really comes into play when you start to work with a lot of effects and plugins.
as for cost, it came out to around $2500, and that’s with all the bells and whistles and the water cooling system… so it’s not that bad. you could come in considerably lower than that if you just backed the specs down a bit. for instance, the CPU alone was $1000, which is ridiculous, but it’s an unlocked cpu so you can overclock it pretty hard. but there are comparable quad core intels you can overclock to around 3.2GHz that go for around $500. And you could probably get away with no water cooling on those and around 4GB ram so that would significantly reduce the price. Also, that processor sucks up the juice so I had to get a kilowatt power supply, which isn’t cheap. minus all that, you could probably get a somewhat comparable rig for right around $1500.


Justin Meyers says:

March 4, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Man, thanks for the insight. Yeah… I don’t think I would need anything close to what you have. After reading the specs on your set up, I was waiting for you to add “NOS”.

By the way, if anyone tries to sell you guys a NOS powered processor, it’s a rip off, it doesn’t come with a unicorn powered mother board and they do not fear the BBB. Bastards.

But… as far as comparing machines, it’s hard to not be attracted to price and power difference.

Thanks again funny man, I’ll be geeking out in the coming days.


George says:

March 7, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Hey Scott,

Would you mind detailing all the hardware you have put together? Just a simple list would do fine, and where you got them, maybe prices too if you can. I have always bought DELL machines, but I would love to build my next one from scratch, as it seems a top of the line DELL would be much more than $2500.