A Guide to Desktop Computers – How to Choose the Best Desktop Computer for Photography
Digital cameras have fast become the norm for photographers all around the world. With the technological innovations that have enhanced the picture quality and the options available with digital cameras, the old-school film-based cameras hardly find any use in the market. A key reason for the rise of digital photography has been the ease of use and flexibility that is offered while editing digital photos on a computer. Lightroom, Photoshop and GIMP are only some of the many software applications available to work on your photos. The customizations and the vast range of options available in these applications have been instrumental in phasing out the dark room that was required to develop films in the glory days of the analog camera.
If you are looking for a computer to work on your photos, you should make sure it is the best computer for photography available in the market. Here are a few guidelines that should help you pick your choice from the many options available.
How to choose the right computer?
There are various factors that play a role in determining the fitness of a computer for editing or working on photos. The Mac vs. PC argument is one of the more prominent debates that have been raging for quite a while, with Apple and Windows enthusiasts providing cogent reasons for their preferred computers. It can be bewildering to plod through page after page of suggestions, opinions, blog posts and articles to find solid information on what makes a good computer for photography.
Here are a few points you should keep in mind while reading about any model that claims to be the best computer for photography.
Laptop vs. Desktop
Laptops offer the luxury of being portable and lightweight. You can carry your laptop with you, transfer your photos to it, and edit them on the fly without having to return to your workspace to work on them. Laptops also take up minimal space and require almost no cables. This makes them ideal for you if you prefer an uncluttered workspace. If you are worried about your laptop screen being too small to work on high-resolution images, you can always hook up a larger monitor to it. Almost all laptops offer the option of multi-screen viewing.
On the other hand, desktop machines are more customizable and far more reliable than a laptop. It is always easier to replace or upgrade RAM or graphics cards on a desktop machine than on a laptop. The high-end laptops that you will need to work on high-quality photos are usually more expensive than desktops that have the same specifications.
In the end, the choice comes down to your convenience. If you are a photographer who needs a machine on the go, a laptop is the best computer for photography for you. A desktop is the better option if you find yourself constantly upgrading your hardware.
Mac vs. PC
The Mac vs. PC debate is a never-ending debate that has been raging for years now with no real resolution.
On the outset, Macs offer a tidy little setup that is available to be used out of the box. It requires minimum setup and minimum fuss. As the OS and the hardware are both manufactured by Apple, the Mac works smoothly and does not require the many software complications that Windows users have to face all the time.
On the other hand, the PC is more flexible than a Mac. You have a range of hardware suppliers that you can choose from to design your own customized machine. There are far more software options available for you on the Windows platform, both freeware and shareware. You can tweak your setup far more easily, upgrading it without the need to visit an Apple store. However, the Windows machine is far more susceptible to viruses and general software failures than the Mac. While you do not have to be a technical whiz to work on it, you will find yourself requiring some technical assistance with software issues, driver updates, etc. On a cosmetic note, the GUI of the Apple Mac is far superior to anything available on a Windows machine.
A new entrant in the market is the Google Chromebook that runs the Google Chrome OS. While it is still in a nascent stage now, it is expected to soon be a fair competitor to Apple and Microsoft.
Design and Performance
The technical details of a computer play a big role in determining whether it can be considered one of the best computers for photography. Photo editing and photo transfer are very performance-intensive operations for your computer. Photo editing software applications use a sizable chunk of your machine’s resources. A fast processor allows your computer to work on multiple applications easily and efficiently.
RAM determines the speed and response time of your applications. Lower RAM will lead to longer loading times where you may have to wait for several minutes while the edits to your photos are saved and displayed. You will notice that the best photography computers always have a larger RAM.
Hard drive speed is one of the ignored factors while choosing a computer for photography. A higher hard drive speed makes viewing and saving your changes faster. The standard hard drives have a speed of 7200 RPM. Relatively newer and more expensive, Solid State hard drives are much faster than the standard hard drives. If you can afford it, a solid state hard drive is the way to go.
You should also consider the video card options available for your computer. Video cards do not play a very important role for photo editing, and are mostly of interest to gamers or video editors. However, you should check if your video card is capable of supporting more than one monitor. Multiple monitors are not mandatory for photo editing, but they can make your life a lot easier by allowing you to use a superior monitor to work on your images while using a standard monitor for everyday use.
Lastly, as with all multimedia computers, you should look for optimal power saving options on your machine. Top rated computers for photography are both compact and offer lower power consumption. Considering you will be spending hours working on your photos, you should go for machines that use less power and are lighter on your electricity bills.
Now that you know what defines a top-rated computer for photography, here is a list of machines that are considered to be the best computers for photography.
Apple 27” iMac
Apple is renowned for manufacturing some of the finest machines for multimedia and photography. The Apple 27” iMac is one of the best that Apple has to offer for photographers. Equipped with a 3.4 GHz Intel quad core processor, the iMac offers some of the best processing power that is to be found in the industry. It is fitted with Apple’s unique Fusion drive with a capacity of 1 TB that can be expanded further to 5 TB if required. The Fusion drive is a great advantage for photographers. With the Fusion drive, the iMac intelligently shifts the most used applications and data in the system to a flash drive which allows for faster access. If you are going to be using your iMac frequently for photo editing, this will make your work a lot easier and speedier than usual. The standard iMac has 8 GB high-speed RAM which is sufficient for any intensive photo editing. You can opt for 16 GB or 32 GB RAM at a higher price, if you need the extra boost to your system. The highlight of the iMac is that it is compatible with Apple’s impressive, top-rated Thunderbolt display. The Thunderbolt monitor is one of the best monitors in the market with sharp color rendering and excellent grayscale performance. Integrating the benefits of the iMac and the Thunderbolt, the Apple 27” iMac with a Thunderbolt display is considered by many to be the best computer for photography in the market.
Considered to be in competition with the Apple 27” iMac, the Asus All-in-One PC ET2701 is good enough for multimedia and photography. It features the Intel i5-2400S quad core processor with integrated graphics which makes it a reliable option for photo editing. Despite the integrated graphics, the ET2701 uses its AMD Radeon graphics card for all purposes. It has a HDMI and a VGA output, making it possible for you to run a dual monitor system with ease. The 27” monitor is quite adequate for photo editing. It is a touch screen monitor allowing you to control it purely by touch, though this feature does not have much use for photography work. With 1GB graphics card RAM and 8 GB of system RAM, you can easily run Photoshop on this machine without any performance issues or hang-ups. The system comes equipped with Windows 7 as its operating system. While it does not have the eye-catching features of the Apple iMac, the Asus ET2701 is a solid workhorse of a computer that will serve any photographer well.
Dell is known for offering one of the best tailor-made, customizable options for desktop PC’s in the market. When buying a Dell PC, you can decide every little feature that you want to incorporate in it from the processor to the operating system. The XPS 8500 offers some very attractive options for those working in multimedia and photography. You can select an Intel i5 quad core processor or the upgraded i7 processor. The memory is expandable up to 16 GB. You can choose how much RAM you want, from 4 GB to the maximum 16 GB. Dell offers options of AMD and NVIDIA video cards with 1 GB or 2 GB graphics card RAM.
Finally, you can go with a high-end Dell monitor like the Dell Ultrasharp to get a customized, high-performance machine that will serve you well. With some nifty selections, you can easily arrive at a XPS 8500 configuration that is well within your budget and also offers the best performance. If you do not mind getting involved with technical details while buying your computer, the XPS 8500 might just be the right option for you.
HP has been an industry leader in the manufacture of desktop computers and computer parts for a long time now. The HPE H8 – 1220 is part of the HP Pavilion series and offers an excellent configuration for photographers. It features a 2.8 GHz AMD FX-8100 Eight-Core processor. Opinions vary on whether the AMD processor is as competent as the Intel quad core processors, but it is good enough to compete with the Intel processors in terms of performance. The H8 also offers a staggering 10 GB of RAM with a hard disk space of 2 TB. It should be noted that the hard disks are not Solid State hard drives as is the case with the Apple iMac or the 7200 RPM hard drives in the Dell or the Asus options. The hard drives are SATA with a speed of 5400 RPM. However, this does not affect the performance of photo editing tools like Photoshop or GIMP. The 2 TB space allows for a vast storage space to store your images. The H8 has an NVIDIA graphics card which allows you to allocate up to 4 GB of video RAM. The graphics card also supports DVI, HDMI and can run two monitors simultaneously. Though the H8 may not seem attractive compared to the other options listed, it is an absolute workhorse and is capable of high performance and offers the biggest system storage of all the entries listed. If you are not too concerned about having a bulky machine in your workspace, the H8 would make a great computer for you.
The HP Z1 Workstation is a fair substitute for an Apple iMac, considering its specifications. HP allows you to customize your processor and video card selection based on your requirements and budget. The best configuration possible would be an Intel Xeon processor and the NVIDIA Quadro graphics card. The Xeon processor is on par with the i7 processor fitted in the iMac, offering the same performance and benefits. The NVIDIA card suffers when rendering 3D or animation, making it an inferior choice for video editors. For photographers, the 27” screen is better than that offered by Apple. The Z1 monitor has better color rendering than the standard Apple iMac display, allowing finer and more accurate color tuning. While picking the system, you have the option to choose your hard drive configuration. The choices range from a single SATA hard disk to two Solid State hard disks. The optimal choice would be to go for the two Solid State hard disks because it lets you devote one of the hard disks for your projects and the other to your system files. The HP Z1 has a few advantages over the iMac in terms of its color rendering, but unfortunately, it is also priced higher.
So Which is the Best Computer for Photography?
Simply put, it’s the Apple 27″ iMac
Considering all the options listed above, the Apple 27” iMac with a Thunderbolt display is our choice for the best computer for photography. The security and ease of use offered by the Mac OS has made it the popular choice among creative artists all over the world.
With the amazing display rendering offered by the Thunderbolt and the solid performance of the iMac, the 27” iMac is one of the finest, top-rated computers for photography.