Computer Parts for Graphic Design and Photography

When buying a PC, you have many options available for every part of it. CPU, RAM, GPU, all come in various forms and models. Even for Mac, you have plenty of options.

Picking the right ones for the job you need can be extremely difficult when you are not an expert in the hardware field. Many things make your parts compatible and capable of the work you want them to do.

Compatibility

To make sure all of the components are compatible with each other and fit, I recommend using a tool like pcpartpicker.

Choosing CPU

Photoshop will benefit from the number of cores and clock speed (GHz) of the CPU, but today, even the cheap CPUs are quite powerful and can be more than enough when you start. Just for reference, all the work for this website is done on a budget AMD Ryzen 2200g. By today’s standards, its an extremely weak CPU, but I can assure you, it will get work done. I purchased it in late 2018, and CPU’s came a long way after that.

If you are on a tight budget, I’d recommend going with a Ryzen CPU. Intel CPU performance may beat Ryzen, but it all comes to the price/performance ratio, where Intel is not a winner.

AMD Ryzen™ 5

Ryzen 5 3600 currently is probably the best CPU. It will make you comfortable while working in Photoshop or Illustrator, and it’s powerful enough for programs like Premiere Pro and After Effects.

Ryzen 5 3600

# of CPU Cores- 6

# of Threads- 12

Base Clock- 3.6GHz

Max Boost Clock- Up to 4.2GHz

AM4 Socket

Comes with a good cooler (Wraith Stealth)

More info here

AMD Ryzen™ 3

The best one is Ryzen 3 3300x, it is slightly cheaper than Ryzen 5 3600, with a reduced core count. For its price, it offers outstanding performance. However, it has two cores less than Ryzen 5 3600, and it’s the right choice if you are on an extreme budget.

Ryzen 3 3300x

# of CPU Cores- 4

# of Threads- 8

Base Clock- 3.8GHz

Max Boost Clock- Up to 4.3GHz

AM4 Socket

Comes with a good cooler (Wraith Stealth)

More info here

High-end

Do you need more power? There is plenty of options.

When you upgrade from a CPU with performance similar to Ryzen 5 3600, I wouldn’t recommend going weaker than Ryzen 9 3900 (or 3950x). Although 3700x is more powerful, it’s not significant enough to do an upgrade.

If you are buying a new CPU altogether, or upgrading from something way weaker and you know Ryzen 5 won’t be enough, 3700x is a good option. It offers more cores, higher speed, and better overall performance. As a result, it also costs more. 3800x is overall a wrong choice as it has close to no difference when compared to 3700x, while it costs more.

Ryzen 7 3700x

# of CPU Cores- 8

# of Threads- 16

Base Clock- 3.6GHz

Max Boost Clock- Up to 4.4GHz

AM4 Socket

Comes with event better cooler (Wraith Prism with RGB LED)

More info here

Extreme

When even 3950x is not enough, you go Threadripper. Just by its name, you know, it’s not a CPU for the mainstream user.

The smallest amount of cores that Threadripper (3960x) comes in is 24! Its four times the number of cores that Ryzen 5 3600 has. Although it’s impressive, it also comes at a premium price compared to other AMD CPU’s. The most powerful Threadripper comes with 64 cores and clocks to 4,3 GHz.

You should also remember that if you are buying a CPU like that, it will require a much more expensive motherboard, cooling solution, and PSU (Power Supply), as it can draw up to 500 watts.

Threadripper 3990x

# of CPU Cores- 64

# of Threads- 128

Base Clock- 2.9GHz

Max Boost Clock- Up to 4.3GHz

sTRX4 Socket

Comes with no cooler

More info here

With Integrated Graphics

If you don’t want to purchase a discrete GPU for your system, I recommend going with the Ryzen G series CPU’s. They come with Integrated Graphics.

They have a similar naming scheme to non-G series. If you want an alternative to 3700x, go with 4700G, etc. Also, CPU’s with integrated graphics don’t go higher than 4700G, and if you want more cores, you will have to purchase non-G variant and discrete GPU.

Choosing RAM

The recommended minimum for Photoshop is 8GB of RAM. It may be enough for most cases, but I wouldn’t recommend going lower than 16 GB, as it will make your work much more comfortable.

The amount of RAM Photoshop uses on how big images you are working on and how many of them you are working on at the same time. It’s hard to predict how much you will be using, so I recommend going with a future-proof motherboard that will handle more RAM when you will need it, and stay at 16 GB for now.

Another important factor when purchasing RAM is its clock speeds. Ryzen CPU’s are wholly dependent on it, because of the thing called Infinity Fabric, an AMD technology that essentially ties packs of cores in the CPU together. The best option for RAM speed is to go somewhere in the range of 3000 MHz to 3600MHz. Going higher won’t be beneficial currently while making price higher. If you need more speed, look into timings (latency) of the RAM you are going to purchase. Lower CL values can make a difference.

Conclusion: Start with 16GB of RAM with a speed of 3000 MHz to 3600MHz and timings as low as your budget can handle while having a motherboard with the capability to add more RAM later.

Choosing GPU

Graphics Card will most of the time not affect your workflow when working in Photoshop, so integrated or mid-range one is more than plenty unless you also want to be able to game on your PC.

Pick any GPU that can fit into your budget after you have picked all the other components. But if you’ve got too little, don’t go with an extremely cheap one like GT710, it is a waste of money. AMD 5500XT or 1660 is a great starting point. If they don’t fit into your budget and don’t need one, go with integrated graphics, if you do need it, try to cut off on case and other cosmetics.

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