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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Your Next Digital Darkroom


Between the large image files today's new D-SLRs generate and the demands of the latest software tools, your old computer is probably starting to show its age. We have some suggestions when it's time for an upgrade.

Click Images To EnlargeThis Article Features Photo Zoom
Alienware

Currently, there are four systems with various configurations available from Alienware. Each one has a basic configuration, which you can customize to suit your needs and budget. When you're building a desktop system on their website, each of the four systems will offer a different level of performance in the components you can choose from. Within each category for the ALX Crossfire and such as processor, RAM, hard drives, CD/DVD drive, video card and so on‚ you select from higher-end hardware, plus they come with premium VIP service and warranty packages.

The Area-5100 7500 is a more basic setup by comparison, but it's still high-performance by any standard. The standard out-of-the-box system starting at $1,399 includes an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 250 GB hard drive, a 20x dual-layer DVD burner, a 256 MB NVIDIA graphics card and Windows XP. For an additional $200, you can have 4 GB of RAM. The 250 GB hard drive can be replaced by various other configurations up to a maximum of 4 TB of storage. If you want to run two monitors, you need to upgrade to a dual graphics card and the 1000-watt multi-GPU-approved power supply.

Apple
The new Mac Pro has a recommended configuration starting at $2,800, which includes two 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon quad-core processors, 2 GB of RAM, a 320 GB (7200 rpm) hard drive, a 256 MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card and a 16x double-layer SuperDrive for playing and burning CDs and DVDs.

Rather than an eight-core setup, which won't be of benefit to most photographers, save yourself $500 and go for a quad-core setup. Putting that money toward more RAM and additional hard drive storage makes more sense.

HP
The Pavilion Ultimate series from HP has a recommended configuration for $1,630 and a base configuration starting at $1,000. Its recommended configuration includes the Windows Vista Home Premium operating system, an Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4 GHz processor, 4 GB of dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM, a 500 GB (7200 rpm) hard drive, a LightScribe 16x DVD SuperMulti optical drive and one 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT graphics card.

With a few tweaks to HP's recommendation, I was able to make a configuration more suitable to my needs as a photographer. That’s the beauty of customizing rather than buying something‚ off the shelf why not put your dollars where they’ll do the most good.

Alienware

Alienware Area-51 7500
(custom configuration)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz
Graphics Card: 256 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600GTS
Memory: 4 GB dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM
Operating System: Windows Vista Ultimate
Hard Drives: Two 1 TB SATA drives (RAID 1 data security)
Optical Drive: 20x dual-layer DVD burner
Estimated Street Price: $2,679 (as configured)
Contact: Alienware, (800) ALIENWARE, www.alienware.com/photo

HP
HP Pavilion Ultimate d4999t Series
(custom configuration)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4 GHz
Graphics Card: 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT
Memory: 4 GB dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM
Operating System: Windows Vista Ultimate
Hard Drives: Two 500 GB SATA drives (RAID 1 data security)
Optical Drive: Blu-ray/HD DVD player and LightScribe SuperMulti DVD burner
Estimated Street Price: $1,930 (as configured)
Contact: Hewlett-Packard, (888) 897-8561, www.hp.com

Apple Mac Pro
Apple Mac Pro
(custom configuration)
Processor: Intel Xeon quad-core 2.8 GHz
Graphics Card: ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT
Memory: 4 GB DDR2
Operating System: Mac OS X
Hard Drives: Two 750 GB Serial ATA (add $800 for Mac Pro RAID card)
Optical Drive: 16x SuperDrive
Estimated Street Price: $3,449 (as configured)
Contact: Apple, (800) MY-APPLE, www.apple.com

Monitors
Dell
Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC
Eizo
Eizo ColorEdge CG241W
When it comes to viewing and editing photos, bigger is better. A 24- or 30-inch display lets you see what a picture actually looks like as a large print. You can have two programs open side by side, which is a wonderful and efficient way to work. And whether you’re working in Photoshop or ACDSee, you’ll find the overall editing process is just easier and faster when the interface is that large‚ especially if you like to fine-tune specific portions of your images. Having more of the image visible on the screen when you're zoomed in at 300% or 400% means a lot less scrolling and less zooming out to periodically get your bearings. So make sure your next desktop system has a video card that supports a large HD display if you don’t already own one.


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