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another request for computer upgrade confirmation

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Hello- I've read through other posts requesting info about upgrading a computer, and clicked on the link you had in Catherine L's thread (started March 13th).  (When I went to Dell on my own, there were 3 pages of 8930s.  Your link just showed me 8 options, so that was less overwhelming.)  I don't really know what a lot of the descriptions mean, like the NVIDIA GeForce being a 1660Ti or 2060, although I see the 3rd one is the only one with 8 GB for video.  I'm also seeing that they only have 256 GB main drives when you recommended 1 TB.  When I click on customize for the $1199 option, I can switch the default dual drive 256 GB M.  + 1 TB 7200 RPM to single drive 1 TB.  Based on Catherine's thread, my notes say that I should do 1 TB M, correct?  I'm also looking at the original prices  and seeing that the $1199 (lowest price one) was actually most expensive to start with.  It would "seem" that is one that should be purchased, but again, it's all like trying to read a foreign language to me.  Based on what Catherine said, I would also call myself an average user, versus a power user.  Any advice is appreciated!


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This is the main issue with "What to Buy" threads: The information is outdated so quickly. Bear in mind that the majority of members here are Photographers, so their needs are a bit more than your average user that wastes time on FB, watches Netflix and buys stuff off Amazon. That's why I recommend the same things over and over and the reason that "BRIAN!! JUST TELL ME WHAT TO BUY!!!!" almost never works.

Brian's 2019-2020 Windows Computer Recomendations

  • Intel i7 (or i9 if you can afford it, but not a huge deal-breaker unless you are editing video.)
  • 16GB RAM at a Minimum - 32GB or more preferred, like 64GB
  • 1TB Hard Drive for the main drive. I don't care how fast that 128GB / 250GB SSD Drive is, it won't to you a damn bit of good if it's full. Of course the bigger the better when it comes to hard drives. Windows updates can be huge, so I would shoot for a 1TB at a minimum, though a person could get away with a 500GB HD. That said, as I write this, 500GB HD are becoming "Too Small" for today's modern Photoshop and 24MP+ cameras.
  • A video card that has separate & dedicated video memory. 2GB - 4GB is fine (like 4GB) and since Adobe's products are using the graphics cards for a performance boost, a video card with 8GB of Video Memory is a good thing. So call it 4GB recommended / 8GB preferred when it comes to Video RAM.
  • Windows 10 Home is fine for personal use; that said, f you are connecting to work for a day-job, be sure to get Windows 10 Pro.


The main issue with those small SSD Hard Drives is that the lack of capacity can get away from you pretty quickly. Remember, you don't get the full Hard Drive Capacity that is advertised after partitioning, formatting and having Windows 10 installed. A 256GB SSD Drive and Windows 10 Installed, should leave you around 200GB or so available. After formatting, your capacity goes from 256GB to about 240GB and Windows 10 takes anywhere from 20GB or so just for itself, not including the large Windows Updates and Backup Data / Patch files. In reality, you have around 189GB to play with. Meaning, your Hard Drive ("C Drive") is no longer a dumping ground where you can click "NEXT-NEXT...I AGREE...NEXT-NEXT-NEXT...FINISH INSTALLATION." without thinking. Or just dump a session or two to edit while you do other things. You will need to be super-anal about what is stored on a small SSD Drive and where those files reside at all times. A 256GB is the absolute bare-minimum that I recommend for the Windows 10 Operating System and a Program or two, like Bridge and Photoshop, ONLY! No photo sessions, no data files, none of that stuff. Those files need to be stored on a Secondary Hard Drive or at the very least, an External Hard Drive. As far as a 128GB SSD, forget it. You are just wasting your time with today's current version of Windows and programs.

There is also the pesky thing that comes along with Windows and Photoshop: Areas of the Hard Drive that are used to supplement the lack of RAM or system resources, we know them as the "Photoshop Scratch Disk" and Windows Swap File. The less space you have available for those areas means the less performance you have for your programs. Especially if you have a 24MP or more camera, as those RAW files tend to be on the larger side as compared to a 12MP-16MP camera. That's why I jump up and down about the HD capacity; unfortunately for the consumer pre-built / store-bought computers seem to have small SSD Drives these days.


Because they are cheap. Cheap-Cheap-Cheap. The COGS for the manufactures is way low and they get to brag on how fast their computers boot, usually it takes 15 seconds from a powered off state to a login screen. Plain and Simple. They are also fast and weight less than your typical HD, which saves on shipping costs. Yes, a few ounces adds up very quickly if you have a bunch of computers in a shipping container on a boat or in a trailer of a truck. If eliminating just two olives from a jar saved an airline $450,000 per year in fuel savings makes a difference, or the fact that UPS only makes right turns saves millions in fuel each year, you can bet the farm that PC manufactures also are doing the same thing. But I'm digressing here, where does that leave you? Having a realistic budget to start with, which in my opinion is anywhere from $1000 - $1500, just for the computer.

With my recommendations, I'm a bit on the higher side as you won't see me recommend the "$999 Special / Package" that comes with a printer, a monitor, surge protector and a bunch of crappy add-ons to make it seem like it's a good value. I'm sure you have seen these deals at Costco or Best Buy, or some other box retailer from time to time. I used to sell computers A LONG time ago, before I became a Service Technician and those bundles would always sell, and the computer that had better hardware on the hood, which would last longer and have less problems, was only the computer being sold-and nothing else...for few hundred more...would sit. That's why we put THAT computer next to the "$999 Special." LOL!! Because it worked. Huge profit for the store and the customer got a "Okay Computer/Good Enough" with lots of extra stuff to make them feel good. As you can see, I'm not in Sales any longer. :D

Right now it seems that RAM is cheap, but processors seem to be expensive. It used to only be a $200 difference between a i5 and a i7, but I just checked the Dell Website and it's like a $300 difference, but now you are getting 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB to start with. Bottom line, it's all the same amount of money, maybe $100 more at the end. It's just that the final cost of a CPU Chip and RAM Sticks Flipped. Another thing to keep in mind: The US Trade-War with China. The majority of computer products or components are either made or built in China. With the current pissing-contest and the value of the US Dollar being high, reflects in the prices that we see.

So what do you buy? On Dell's Website, the one that matches most of my recommended specifications, is the $1249 Model. Bear in mind, not only do my recommendations are on the bit of a high-side, there is a method to my madness: When I buy computers, I have an Eight Year Time Frame in my mind. Of course you could get the $799 model or whatever, but you will be replacing that in about 2 years or so. I hate wasting money on this shit. "It's just as good as... or I can only afford..." ultimately costs you more money in the end. Save up, make a plan for it and work with what you have now to  purchase what you should buy, instead of half-assing it.  Sure, it's important to live within your means, but wasting $700 now and then $1000 later when you could have bought the $1249 model and be done with it...is a better choice long term as you have saved about $450 in the end. Or more if you bought three computers within that 8 year period. KWIM?

An i5 CPU will work just fine with Photoshop. Is it a huge deal-breaker? No. Is there a difference? Only with the latest versions of PS CC. If you are still running CS6, there is only a 5-7% difference in speed between a i7 and a i5 CPU. But if you have PS CC 2019 version 20.0.5, yes, there is a difference as the current versions of PS are starting to take advantage of the architecture that makes a i7 or i9 so fast.

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What I would do? Look at purchasing the $1249 model and buy a Samsung EVO 1TB SSD. Have someone clone your Main HD over to the SSD and use the existing 1TB HD for storage. If you don't want to go that route, I'd still buy the $1249 single 1TB HD model without the 256GB m.2 drive 1TB HD combo.

Oh, in case if anyone is wondering, why do I recommend Dell? The answer is simple: Availability. Dell, like Apple is a World-Wide company and they are easy to find / configure and purchase. The Dell XPS line is decent for what they are. If you want fancier stuff, feel free to find another brand with similar specs that I recommend. 

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Thank you so much for all of your honest information!  I'm sure you get tired of all the requests, but it's because we trust you!  My current computer (which is a dell) does not support the most recent the version of PS, I have an outdated version of windows, so I'm really getting frustrated with the inefficiency of my current computer.   Based on what I was looking at the other evening, I was guessing I'd be in for about $1200-$1500.  We are just leaving for vacation, so I will review in depth again all of this information when we get back, plan on using the profits from my upcoming photo sessions and "pull the trigger". Again, thank you for taking the time to explain and guide us through the process.

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Prices & Models fluctuate so quickly. I'm sure within 4-6 weeks the model that I recommended will change completely or slightly. Though the budget you have in mind, $1200-$1500 will probably stay the same. There is a push for computers being replaced and backorders are common, due to Windows 7 being taken behind the barn and shot dead on January 7, 2020. Microsoft will no longer provide any updates or patches and drop support for that OS. So now is the time to replace that outdated computer.

Have fun on your trip and we can revisit things within the next few months. Who knows? Things might be cheaper.

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