Does a graphics card add anything to a photo editing computer?

By ihaveaname · 15 replies
Jan 14, 2011
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  1. Erm, the title. Also would adding a small SSD add much performance? Planned budget is sort of $600 - $900 without monitor & OS by the way, but we already have all the other parts sorted. Also the computer will not be used for gaming.
  2. princeton

    princeton TS Addict Posts: 1,676

    Do you mean like high resolution art creation/editing in photoshop? Because for editing your vacation photos an upgrade probably isn't needed.

    Assuming it's the former, depending on what gpu you currently use yes an upgrade can be helpful. I believe photoshop has GPU acceleration now. For photo editing the most important thing is your monitor quality though. An LCD simply won't cut it when you need specific colors ect.

    Finally In my opinion an SSD won't bring any noticeable improvements except for decreased boot times/load times. But for loading large files into photoshop it could be faster, but I doubt it would be noticeably faster.

    Check out the GTX 460 though that might be overkill even for heavy image creation/editing. And you know, if you buy it maybe just send me that Just Cause 2 coupon with the card :p
  3. ihaveaname

    ihaveaname TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 107

    It's actually for my dad; he has a four year old Pentium 4 with 2GB DDR 400 RAM (he spends much more money on his camera ... s). I've been pestering him to upgrade. I think he uses Photoshop but I'm not sure.

    So a graphics card would help? I was thinking that if we got one maybe a 5770 would be good, but would that be overshooting a bit? We are going to buy all the parts at this shop called MSY (my dad lives in Melbourne) (if you want you can search it on Google; Techspot for some reason doesn't want to let me post links yet) (right now Australian dollar:US dollar is roughly 1:1) and the cheapest GTX460 costs something like $70 more than the 5770, which I don't think is worth it.

    Also with the monitor, are you suggesting we buy an LED one? My dad was planning on using his small LCD tv (24") as a monitor + regular tv in his proposed new study room (big plans ...).
  4. princeton

    princeton TS Addict Posts: 1,676

    Well for photoshop you'd need to upgrade the cpu/mobo/ram to see any improvements. A P4 is really old.
  5. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,034   +55

    Can I assume this is a desktop PC, which is using the 'on-board' graphics option?
    i.e. the monitor is plugged into a blue connector in the group of connectors next to the USB sockets, keyboard and mouse sockets?
    That's a VGA socket, very normal and standard connection.
    If yes, then a new ( or higher spec) graphic card installed into the PCI Express slot will give you more screen resolutions no doubt, but the biggest difference to sharpness and better colour contrast, for all uses, is to get a graphic card with a DVI output socket,
    then you will need a DVI to DVI lead, and a monitor with a DVI input.
    The socket is a cream colour, with square holes. It gives a sharper more accurate picture for all uses, and would be very good for camera pictures and editing.
    The reason it works so well, is that the picture is passed from the PC's graphic card right up into the monitor in a digital form, rather than, being converted to analogue then back to digital, ( looses quality in conversion).
    Most PC monitors have both the blue VGA input, and cream DVI input.
    Flat screen TV's now have a VGA input, but it won't give the quality that an all DVI set-up will give. Hope that helps. I have attached a picture that shows these sockets.
    Hope this helps !

    Attached Files:

  6. ihaveaname

    ihaveaname TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 107

    Actually, we were going to build a new tower from scratch with all new parts (but we only need the tower). Maybe I haven't explained myself well.

    I understand the two leads, but thanks anyway :) Can you answer my original question, ie. will a discrete graphics card bring benefits to a photo editing computer (and if so, what would you recommend), or would be be fine with the on board graphics? By the way we are planning on getting a Sandy Bridge CPU, which apparently has its integrated graphics thing. I stress again that the computer will not be used for gaming.
  7. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,034   +55

    I see! The integrated graphics in any PC is the lowest quality option, although it's much higher standard than even 3 or 4 years ago. The downside is that it always will connect to the monitor through a VGA (blue) connector~ (as far as I am aware).
    What gives the high quality picture is the PC (DVI) to Monitor (DVI) bypasses the Digital-to-analogue, then analogue-to-digital conversion that the VGA connection uses.
    So, any card with DVI 'out' will be superior to any VGA connection.
    It wouldn't matter too much which PCI express card you bought, as long as you make use of the DVI sockets. (In fact some cards only have 2 x DVI now.)
    If you want to use a 24" TFT TV, and plug into the VGA input, that's ok, but you will lose some of the quality, and you will need a DVI-VGA converter/adapter.
    I do a lot of digital photography, and so I see the advantages in the better screen to view and edit my pictures. I have a graphic card that is several years old, (ATI Radeon x1650 pro), and I use the DVI 'out' into a DELL 19" Ultrasharp TFT, and I am very content with it. Any of the current, or even a couple of years old, graphic cards will do fine, look for one with 512MB or 1GB RAM on board, for what you want, speed is not important.
    New cards are appearing several times a year, from each maker, but almost anything from 08,09,10 will be more than good enough, aim for middle of the range.
    Be sure to download the latest graphic drivers for it too.
  8. princeton

    princeton TS Addict Posts: 1,676


    I have a question. Why do you go to the next line every time you end a sentence? That's not how paragraphs work :p
  9. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +422

    Onboard has DVI or HDMI in a lot of cases now.

    For example, a cheap i3/i5/i7 board has DVI:

    And HDMI would work fine with a cheap HDMI->DVI cable.
  10. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,034   +55

    (About paragraphs and 'newlines', Princeton)
    I do understand about new sentences and starting on a new line. As you know, when you write up the post in the editing box, your text does not format on this site with the same length lines. If I write just a few lines, I will space and format my text in the conventional way. However, if I think many lines of text begins to look like a wall of text, I think it is better to break the lines up with more newlines. It's just to make it easier to read, especially if it's technical, or instructions to follow.
  11. princeton

    princeton TS Addict Posts: 1,676

    Ah I see. I didn't mean to criticize it or anything, I just wondered if it was a formatting technique or something.
  12. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,034   +55

    That's ok. I even agree with you. I do review and edit what I type, and try to be as clear as I can. It's difficult to know how much the person at the other end knows about PC's and/or software, and I want to make it as clear as I can, even if it looks like a list !
    I have been tempted to use bullet points, but that's going too far !
  13. ihaveaname

    ihaveaname TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 107

    Okay so what's the cheapest graphics card which has a DVI output? Would a 4350 do? We are really trying to save as much money as possible....
  14. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,034   +55

    What's the best to buy now? If you don't need or want the latest card going, then you should be able to find some bargains that are a year or so old. The prices tend to fall quickly once a new range is on the market. On this Techspot site there is some very good advice on Budget/Value cards, and this is unbiased advice, so really worth reading.

    So my advice would be to aim for Radeon 5670, or 4770/4850. Or in Nvidia Geforce 9600 or 9800.
    Any of these would be fine and would all have DVI and/or HDMI outputs.

    I had a search for best value for money in UK and I found this;
    They show a price of £38, that's very good value.
    If you could find a similar one in your local shops or online, it would do all you want.
  15. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,033   +2,558

    I think you must have meant, "an LCD TV won't cut it", since LCD monitors are used in graphics arts and photo editing all the time. The monitors used however, are of IPS design. TN panels in fact, don't cut it. Here is an example of an IPS monitor, which is prefect for photo editing, both at the amateur and professional levels 24-inch S-IPS LCD Monitor&lang=en&cc=us

    An SSD would, (probably) decrease the launch time of the program, and only the launch time, for two reasons.

    The speed of importing photos from the camera into PS, is limited by the speed of the camera flash cards.

    You can't keep a substantial photo collection on an SSD, (presently), since they're simply way too small. That said, we come to our second reason; the speed of opening photos from onboard storage, will be limited by the speed of the mechanical HDD.

    And just for good measure; if PS is using the system drive during editing, ("scratch disc"), there isn't enough installed RAM in the machine. "Photoshop Creative Suites 4 & 5" are compatible with a 64 Bit OS, and that's what would speed up the process the most.

    For all the talk about graphics hardware acceleration in the new versions of PS-CS, it's still a very CPU intensive application, which runs well on Core i integrated graphics.

    The integrated graphics in Sandy Bridge CPUs will be more than adequate for at least 90%, of tasks in Photoshop. There would be no need for an add in card.

    Professionals in art production might see an improvement in 3D drawing speeds.

    With that said, Sandy's graphics will at very least tide you over, until you absorb the cost of the system, and can afford a more powerful video card later. If somebody is plodding along with a P-4 system at present, a 64 bit system based on a Sandy Bridge CPU, will seem like an arrival at the "Pearly Gates".

    I have been told that this HP monitor is available in Australia, at reasonable prices; 24-inch S-IPS LCD Monitor&lang=en&cc=us

    Oh, please get the idea that "TFT" tells you the type, (or design), of an LCD monitor, out of your head. They're all, "thin film transistors", so the term is meaningless, with repect to quality. Look up the terms, "TN", "IPS", "PVA" and "MVA". (Hint, IPS is the best).
  16. ihaveaname

    ihaveaname TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 107

    Okay thanks for the help guys!

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