Lightroom wannabe, torn between custom / refurb / 2nd hand PCs

  RefuseNick 17:43 25 Jan 2014

Hi everyone,

I just came across this forum yesterday and I'm impressed at the way members so generously share their knowledge. I've already learned quite a bit but - well, I'm torn, so I hope someone will nudge me one way or another!

I'd like to start processing RAW image files in Lightroom. I don't edit video or game. I record and edit 2-channel audio but I'll use an outboard USB box. And I'll be e-mailing, surfing, word-processing etc.

I've been very happy with a refurbished Dell Latitude laptop I bought recently, except then I didn't know about TN & IPS so I foolishly got a TN screen.

So I'd still like a good desktop from which to run a second-hand profilable monitor I bought.

My brother says the British Journal of Photography recommends the Chillblast Fusion OC Lite, which starts at about £1100 - but upgrading to 1600MHz RAM, adding a second SSD and Win 7 Pro brings it to just under £1300. Reading members' posts in other, similar threads, I gather it's not bad value, and ChillBlast's reputation seems good. Pity that there's no option (that I can see) to have 2 SSDs and 1 spinning HDD, which I'd prefer. And £1300 is quite steep. I've had a look at the other makers I've seen recommended here and they all come in about the same.

I've seen refurbished Dell desktops with similar specs (though not the graphics card or cooling) going for less. And I've just seen a second-hand, year-old Dell XPS (i7, 16GB RAM, 1 SSD + 1 HDD, GTX card) that's right up my street and less than half the price of the Chillblast. But then I also gather Dell use less good motherboards, cases and so on.

And is i7 + 16GB in fact overkill for Lightroom? Could I do just as well with an i5 and/or 8GB?

As you can tell, I'm all at sea here - so I'll be really grateful for any advice!

Thanks and all the best,


  RefuseNick 18:39 25 Jan 2014

Sorry, I've just realised I should have started this thread in the Comsumer Advice forum.



  Ian in Northampton 18:56 25 Jan 2014

I know nothing about Lightroom, but I'm sure you've looked here which is the basic hardware spec for the software. That tells me that, for example, the Core i7 is massive overkill. Don't get me wrong: the more powerful your hardware, the better your user experience is likely to be - but you get to the point of diminishing returns. If Adobe is to be believed, a PC costing less than half what you're talking about paying should do the job. I'm guessing that .raw files are pretty large, so having a lot of main memory is probably a good idea. Is that why you want a second SSD? Normally, an SSD would be used just for loading programs rather than data files. I guess if .raw files run to hundreds of megabytes, it might be worth it - but if they're in the tens of megabytes, less so.

  rdave13 19:31 25 Jan 2014

Raw files are sometimes called digital negatives, and not compressed as Jpegs can be. It's a way of editing a photo 'as is' without the camera doing initial editing automatically. I'm with Ian in Northampton up to a point but if you need to edit raw files then the first important thing is the monitor. High end IPS LED monitor first. The PC for editing, I would go for an i7 or i5 CPU with a high end dedicated graphics card, 16GB ram and PSU to fit.

My humble opinion only. £1,300 seems certainly over the top especially as you only need the desktop tower.

  hssutton 21:09 25 Jan 2014

I run Lightroom + Photoshop CS6.

I have an i5 CPU and 16gig of ram. Ram is very important when running Lightroom & Photoshop. I used to run an SSD as my 'C' drive, but found it better to use the SSD as a scratch disk for Photoshop.

You certainly do not require an high end GPU. I use a Nvidia Geoforce GT 640 which I find to be more than adequate. However a decent monitor IMO is a must. Many of my photographic acquaintances use the Dell 24in Ultrasharp range of monitors. However I use a 24 HP IPS monitor.

  rdave13 21:24 25 Jan 2014

Again I would go higher than the GT 640 if only for the rendering speed and quality on the monitor, click here.

  hssutton 22:55 25 Jan 2014

The GT 640 meets Adobes requirements for Lightroom and Photoshop and from experience I can confirm it's more than adequate. Works perfectly with my mid-range £500 24" IPS monitor

  rdave13 23:05 25 Jan 2014

hssutton, then I bow to your knowledge. Seems that working with raw files is less demanding.

  RefuseNick 09:58 26 Jan 2014


Thank you all for the advice, very much appreciated!

My RAW files vary in size from 9.5 to 37 MB. They could go higher if I start stitching landscapes or streetscapes and so on.

I've already got a 22-inch IPS LED monitor (second-hand).

From what you've said, and what I've read on various photography forums, my ideal spec might look like this:

  • i5 or i7
  • 8 or 16MB 1600MHz
  • GT 640
  • mobo with USB3.0 - no idea what make, but I only need onboard LAN & audio
  • 600W or 650W PSU (modular?)
  • 250GB SSD as boot drive (and site of LR catalogue)
  • 120gB SSD as scratch drive
  • 500GB or 1TB HDD as temporary storage (long-term storage external)
  • 24x DVD rewriter
  • Win7 Pro (that's my preference)
  • LR 4 or 5

For future-proofing, I'd go for the higher options (i7, 16MB, 650W PSU).

Things is, I can't find where to buy this for less than a grand, and usually more. All the suppliers seem to come in not much less than ChillBlast and sometimes more. Even the bare components come to that (admittedly, I only totted them up on Amazon).

Unless I go for refurb or second-hand...

Thanks again,


  hssutton 21:59 26 Jan 2014

Nick I'm no expert on PCs although I did build my own 12 months ago and yes it cost around £1000. I have a similar build, but due to the escalating cost of the build I used an i5 + my old DVD drives. As I mentioned earlier I moved my SSD from being a boot drive to a scratch drive, mainly because I use Photoshop.

Just a couple of points. You really need a 64 bit operating system and if you run Lightroom 4 or earlier you definitely require 16 gig of ram, v5 is easier on the ram, but I'd still go for a minimum of 16Gig.

Are you going to do all your editing in Lightroom? It's pretty good and many people do, however you will not be able to do advanced editing like using Layers.

Adobe do recommend using a normal hard drive as the boot disc and an SSD as a scratch disc, but if you are doing all your editing in Lightroom this will not apply.

Raw files from my Canon 7D come out at around 25-30Mb per file

  RefuseNick 23:25 26 Jan 2014

Hi, Thanks so much, your advice is invaluable!

Yes, I will be using only LR. I reckon it'll take me several years just to master that and 'shot discipline'!

I will also definitely get the 64-bit OS.

Once again, I really appreciate you taking the trouble to answer in such detail!

Best wishes, Nick

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