What do I need in a computer to do what I want?
March 12, 2012 3:26 PM   Subscribe

What do I need in a computer to do what I want?

I asked about laptops a few months ago, I have not yet purchased a new computer. I am moving to a new apartment next month. I recently enrolled in a graphic design program through work. I will be learning Illistrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash, and Fireworks.

I will be using this new computer to learn these programs, watch netflix/movies, internet, and some light gaming.

I will not be using the Adobe professionally, just learning the software. The gaming I would doing is Team Fortress 2 and I am waiting for the Walking Dead game to come out. Neither of those should be that demanding.

I have been looking at either making my own desktop or buying a desktop or laptop.

My buget is up to $1000, but the cheaper the better of course.

What I want to know is:
what specs do I need to be able to do what I want? I am not looking to get something too powerful I will never use, I need it to be powerful enough to run what I want.

So can anyone recommend what I should get? I am pretty confused as to what I would need to get.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not good enough with computers in this field to give much advice on this topic, but I would strongly suggest getting a powerful computer. An example of a less powerful on being irritating is at my workplace, where the computer isn't powerful enough to run the Excel spreadsheet I use, which causes it to suddenly stop working for 10-20 seconds every 1/2-1 hour, which is infuriating.

What I'm trying to say (in a long-winded way) is that a powerful computer is very helpful and the difference between getting a low powerful and pretty powerful should not cost the earth.
posted by sockpim at 3:43 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tech specs for Photoshop, which in my experience is the most processor-intensive of the bunch. Make sure you're well over the minimum reqs and you should be good. Don't cheap out though - a laptop won't allow you to to replace parts as you go if you need to upgrade, so shoot for the upper end of your range so that you can get something that will last a few years.
posted by ella wren at 4:02 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nothing you want to do is all that intensive, spec-wise, so $1000 should keep you future-proof for a few years.

Main things I'd recommend:
*4GB of RAM minimum (for Photoshop).
*Discrete graphics card (for the games). This may not even be necessary, but will open up gaming possibilities for the future, should you decide you want them.

Any newer computer with these 2 things will almost certainly have a processor that'll do everything on your list. An Intel Core i3 would be plenty.

Honestly, I've done work similar to what you want to do on machines with 2GB of RAM and no graphics card, but it was SLOW (and less than $500). You should be able to find what you need for ~$800.
posted by coolguymichael at 6:01 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, thanks.

I know what I am doing would not be that intense. I think I do want a desktop so I use it for netflix viewing.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 6:25 PM on March 12, 2012

Computers these days are just ludicrously powerful and your uses aren't demanding. But do get a graphics card in it - an nvidia gtx 560 Ti is a current sweet spot for price v performance or even a 460.

Post your spec and we'll give you more detailed feedback.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:14 AM on March 13, 2012

Response by poster: I was actually looking at the ibuypower lan warrior because it seems small and powerful. Does anyone know the main difference between Intel chips and AMD? I know the price is a big difference, AMD is a lot cheaper. I know Intel is probably faster or whatever, but is the difference worth the price?
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 7:23 AM on March 13, 2012

Best answer: Nothing wrong with AMD, and you're right in choosing an off-brand (ibuypower, although I've never heard of that particular brand) rather than Dell or HP or one of those. I like to work on my own computers, and have found that off-brands use much better cable management and mounting hardware. They'll also likely put less crapware on on it.

I have a desktop system that does all the stuff you're looking for. It's a Systemax from TigerDirect with a very nice AMD Phenom II. Plenty fast. (I can't link to it though, because I bought it as a kit, with no hard drive, memory, or OS). In total, it only cost around $500.

I imagine you could get a very nice, assembled system for $600 with decent warranty.

Here's a nice chart showing general chip speeds (anything in the top 2/3rds will easily do what you need. Even the lower 1/3rd -- above a Pentium D -- wouldn't be all that bad for basic needs).
posted by coolguymichael at 8:12 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay thanks. The reason I was really interested in that other PC was the size as well. But I can deal with a mid or full tower.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2012

Best answer: I've built PCs for years now and processor specs still throw me for a loop. It's so confusing with different architectures and what not. But I've always thought of it as Intel = slightly faster, much more expensive. And then the top of the line Intel chips are definitely the fastest but all sorts of crazy expensive. I've never had any problems running games or anything on either of my AMD builds (current is a AMD Phenom II from 2010 and it's still really fast, last couple modern games I've played have been New Vegas, Mafia II, Mass Effect 2- all at maximum easily). I'm definitely into games but I didn't build it strictly for that purpose, earlier I had like 10 tabs open and 3 CS5 apps: Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, with no real feeling of impact on performance. This is a system that was maybe 1300 with monitor in 2010. You'll be FINE for that budget.

If you're looking to buy rather than build start checking slickdeals.net daily. You'll see the best deals but many go quickly. They had an Alienware desktop with dual SLI cards and an i7 at 3.something Ghz for $999. Good deal that was pretty close to DIY pricing.

If you're looking to go cheap you can get really cheap- I just got a Dell laptop, i3 at like 2.4, 6 GB ram, 700 GB HD, 14"- for $350. I didn't SUPER need it, but my Macbook Pro is 4 years old and getting slightly janky. But for that price? Killer. So yeah, Slickdeals.
posted by tremspeed at 12:29 AM on March 14, 2012

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