Now that my digital photography has changed to an almost exclusively RAW workflow, I’m frequently testing the limits of my computer. Though it’s maxed out with more than 1 GB of memory, the computer is having increasing difficulty with the multilayer Photoshop files I'm producing. It's even more of a challenge when I have other applications open for browsing the web, managing e-mail and cataloging thousands of images.
With this in mind, I took a careful look at the Cisnet Extreme Multi-tasking PC A7098. This high-end machine isn't for the budget-conscious, but it promises to deliver for the person handling large numbers of high-resolution digital files. And for a multitasking photographer with a serious case of ADD, this system more than meets the challenge.
Designed around an AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 Dual-Core Processor, this computer is built for speed and capacity. Not only is it fast but it can run hot, which is why the CoolMaster enclosure includes three fans, which are both quiet and efficient. It comes with 2 GB of PC3200 (400MHz) Dual Channel Memory with two additional expansion slots available. It also features two Seagate 300 GB SATA2 hard drives with ample space for two additional drives. This isn't a system I'd outgrow anytime soon.
As I began working with the system, I appreciated that it offered several USB 2.0 slots (four rear, two front), FireWire andan 8-in-1 media reader. The system was incredibly responsive as I edited images in Photoshop. RAW images converted to 16-bit can grow into files that are hundreds of megabytes in size, and this system handled multiple files with ease, even with other memory-hungry applications open. (This can change, however, as you load more and more applications over the years. I've found that dedicating a single computer strictly for image editing can maintain the optimal performance of a system for the long term).
The 16x Dual Layer DVD +/-RW burner provides up to 8.5 GB of storage for backups or for archiving digital files. A 16x DVD-ROM drive allows you to make backups of all your important CD and DVD discs—redundancy is important.
The package includes a Logitech Internet keyboard and Logitech Marble MSE trackball mouse. These devices can be the weak link with many systems. The direct connection between you and your computer, they must be both reliable and comfortable. I was pleased with the keyboard but found the trackball to be useless for the purpose of photo editing (though it may be ideal for browsing the Web or other applications). I quickly connected my Wacom graphics tablet with its own mouse and stylus for the purpose of photo editing.
The generous amount of RAM, ample hard-drive space and speedy processor make this system a serious contender for any advanced or professional outdoor photographer. I welcome using a system that I know will grow with me. List Price: $2,339.