Computers & Electronics

Is CPU speed the only thing I should care about when I just want fast PC for general computing?

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  • Apr 21st, 2020 2:15 pm
[OP]
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Nov 10, 2013
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Toronto, ON

Is CPU speed the only thing I should care about when I just want fast PC for general computing?

Hello folks. I need to build a PC for general computing (Chrome, File managing, Photo viewing, etc) that is affordable and fast. The hardest thing this PC will be tasked with is Photoshop for occasional photo editing. Nothing too serious like 20 layers or 3D elements...just portrait touch ups.

Anyways, in the past, I have always built PCs where everything is mediocre. Mediocre video card, mediocre hard drive, mediocre cpu and so on. It never seemed lightning fast. I think the issue was that in the past I didn't have access to good hard drives and just chose 7200RPM's and CPU was also mediocre.

With this PC, I want to go all 100% on CPU and SSD as they seem to be the bottlenecks in general computing. I might even skip video card altogether and go for integrated as my tasks I believe are all CPU depended.
Can any of you tell me if I am wrong or I should be not wasting money at all (I currently have 2017 MacBook Air and it's not quick enough for my needs).

My question is:
1) Can I omit video card altogether, go for cheap RAM, go for cheap mobo and other peripherals in order to save some money? Or will I not notice a difference in computing speed vs my MB Air 2017?

2)How important are:
RAM memory / RAM speed / RAM latency / Video card memory / video card speed / when it comes to how quick something opens up or unpacks zip archive etc
18 replies
Deal Addict
Apr 22, 2013
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Markham
To omit a GPU in Photoshop you pretty much have to ensure the things you're doing do not require GPU acceleration, because if they do even the bottom of the barrel GPU would be significantly faster than an iGPU. Photoshop is also changing what it leverages as time goes on, initially CPU speed was most important and to a degree it still is, but even as slow as Adobe is, they're now leveraging more cores as well meaning i7 9700K and AMD 3700X get good performance out of Photoshop, you don't need to go overboard with cores, 8 cores seems to be Photoshop's actual limit.

Puget systems has done an article specifically regarding Photoshop and the core components and questions revolving around it.
https://www.pugetsystems.com/recommende ... mendations

Best to refer to it based on your specific needs.
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Jun 16, 2009
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GTA
For Photoshop I always thought you needed an abundance of RAM, at least 16gb minimum. Then the CPU would be crucial, but maybe you can do fine with a decent i5. But I'm not a Photoshop user, so...
c'mon get happy!
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Apr 29, 2018
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What do you mean by Quick? What exactly on your computer do you want faster?

Boot-time depends on SSD. Programs startup depends on SSD. Pretty much the only bottleneck that exists in any modern system is the HDD and a SSD solves nearly everything.

For general work, a video accelerator is useless. It is only used for 3D Games & a few programs such as Photoshop (when dealing with very large files etc). A fast CPU is also just as useless for a normal PC, unless you are doing some heavy Audio/Video/Image processing or compressing/decompressing files.

Also, integrated cards are pretty freaking powerful these days. Intel even has the QuickSync interface for near instant video conversion. They can run all games at Low settings
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2004
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Omitting the GPU:
With Ryzen you'll have little opportunity to omit the videocard because only a few of their CPUs (what they call "APUs") have iGPUs in them. These are the Ryzen-G CPUs, i.e. the model# ending with G and there aren't many of them. Intel, most of the CPUs did used to have iGPU but now they have started cutting it out of many and that is indicated with the F suffix--those do not have iGPUs either.

So for no dGPU you're gonna need to either get a Ryzen-G or a non-F Intel CPU, but heed the warning in post#2 about GPU acceleration.

RAM:
Even 8GB is more than enough for general computing. However for Photoshop, the more RAM the merrier so 16GB should be min, 32GB is probably preferred since you say you want to go more all out with this build. In terms of speed, I wouldn't go below DDR4-3200. Going with faster RAM than that may not be even usable depending on what CPU/board you go with, and above that is where the price starts to increase into "diminishing returns". 3200Mhz RAM is usually the best balance of price and performance, plus lots of it can be OC'd if you need it faster and your board/CPU allows.

CPU:
TBH, for "general computing" needs, you won't run into many "CPU bottlenecks"--even an i3-9100 will do the job perfectly fine and won't be noticeably slow in any real way. However it's Photoshop where you'll get into wanting to have a better CPU.

SSD:
Indeed you are correct about the main bottleneck being the storage subsystem though. Don't try to run a computer off an HDD. You can have one for storage (even then I recommend network storage instead) but any PC that has a CPU that's Core2 or newer (and Core2 is quite old by now) an SSD should be seen as a requirement. For general computing, even an old C2Q system with an SSD will basically "feel faster" in every way than a much newer QC i5 having only an HDD. HDDs should strictly be used as storage, not drives to run OS or main applications from.
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May 11, 2009
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Debtario
There's more factors that play into performance than just raw clock speed and SSD. That said, I find the upper-tier chips from older generations (haswell and up) still perform quite well and can net you substantial savings if you're shooting for maximum value performance.

Depends on your budget. Performance improvements have been incremental in the last few years for most usage scenarios, diminishing returns and rapid depreciation kick in quite fast and IMO are not worth it unless you want benchmark bragging rights or are into heavy productivity tasks where time is money (rendering, compiling, etc.).
"I possess a device, in my pocket, capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers"
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Oct 26, 2003
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CPU + ram is all you need for office pc, but some people like myself who does 3d stuff in the office, will need gpu as well.
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
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You seem to have very light needs, including for Photoshop. You could probably even do that on your MacBook Air if you're just doing this occasionally. Have you considered just running your MBA with a nice external monitor? It would not be fast but it would work.

For a desktop, all you'd probably need is a middle of the road Intel Core i5 level desktop CPU.
I would recommend 16 GB RAM. No boutique RAM needed. Boutique RAM is a complete waste of money.
Above average monitor. Get a decent IPS screen.
No video card needed. Or else get a lower mid-end GPU.
SSD.

BTW, I know people who do this stuff professionally on 2015 quad-core iMacs. They just need sufficient RAM and SSD.
Sr. Member
Nov 14, 2008
785 posts
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+ ssd (m2 if possible) should be a given .
divx wrote: CPU + ram is all you need for office pc, but some people like myself who does 3d stuff in the office, will need gpu as well.
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^yes ssd is needed for all pc
[OP]
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Nov 10, 2013
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kramer1 wrote: What do you mean by Quick? What exactly on your computer do you want faster?
Quick I mean where the actions of the PC are quicker than my mouse movement. Like when I open or minimize a window, I want to immediately open something else on desktop, and not wait until minimizing animation finishes up. For example minimizing Photoshop (nothing heavy...just a simple 6MB JPEG file with light touch ups) and not having to wait until I can open Chrome. Or installing an app like printer drivers and trying to right click on a file to choose "Rename" while the installation is still going. Those sort of things that bug me. My MacBook Air previous Gen isn't slow, but I was under the impression that Mac OS would be snappier. It is a very polished OS, don't get me wrong...but somehow my older laptop that I purchased in 2010 that runs Windows 7 somehow seems snappier in every day tasks.
kramer1 wrote: Also, integrated cards are pretty freaking powerful these days. Intel even has the QuickSync interface for near instant video conversion. They can run all games at Low settings
That's great to hear as I am on limited budget and would prefer to have less components.
M1K3Z0R wrote: Depends on your budget. Performance improvements have been incremental in the last few years for most usage scenarios, diminishing returns and rapid depreciation kick in quite fast and IMO are not worth it unless you want benchmark bragging rights or are into heavy productivity tasks where time is money (rendering, compiling, etc.).
Thanks for the tip. I was exactly looking for something that doesn't hit the diminishing return cap. Like that sweet spot where upgrading to something more powerful is going to give you unnoticeable improvement.
EugW wrote: You seem to have very light needs, including for Photoshop. You could probably even do that on your MacBook Air if you're just doing this occasionally. Have you considered just running your MBA with a nice external monitor? It would not be fast but it would work.
Thanks for the suggestion. But I seem to be generally have problems with MacOS than the display size. I have been using this laptop for 1.5 years now (not every day though) and I still can't get used to MacOS. Everything seems like illogical starting from menu ending with little things that irk me. Don't get me wrong, it is a wonderful OS, but I just hate the fact that I can't use it with my eyes closed like I did on my Windows laptop. It was from 2010 and running Windows 7, but it somehow still seems snappier in 2020. Unlike my MBA, which just doesn't "seem" lightning fast even for general computing. I understand that if I start doing something more heavier, the MBA will be much faster, but if all I will be doing on PC is email/word/Chrome, I will never get the benefit of the MacBook.

t3chguru wrote: cpu and nvme ssd
I have read a bit about SSDs to brush up. my knowledge, and I heard that term nvme a few times. Could you please explain if M.2 and U.2 are related to that term? I am getting those terms confused even after reading wiki page.
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Apr 29, 2018
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Varian wrote: Quick I mean where the actions of the PC are quicker than my mouse movement. Like when I open or minimize a window, I want to immediately open something else on desktop, and not wait until minimizing animation finishes up. For example minimizing Photoshop (nothing heavy...just a simple 6MB JPEG file with light touch ups) and not having to wait until I can open Chrome. Or installing an app like printer drivers and trying to right click on a file to choose "Rename" while the installation is still going. Those sort of things that bug me. My MacBook Air previous Gen isn't slow, but I was under the impression that Mac OS would be snappier. It is a very polished OS, don't get me wrong...but somehow my older laptop that I purchased in 2010 that runs Windows 7 somehow seems snappier in every day tasks.
Aaah, so see certain things will always be slow, but you can do things to speed it up. For Animation speed - Use a tweak tool to disable them. You can make it lag free & instant.

For the other tasks, have you tried formatting your OS? A freshly installed copy of the OS should be super snappy and do things instantly. The slowness in an MBA can be the CPU or possibly RAM(try quitting all apps), but not the SSD.
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2004
26558 posts
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Varian wrote: Quick I mean where the actions of the PC are quicker than my mouse movement. Like when I open or minimize a window, I want to immediately open something else on desktop, and not wait until minimizing animation finishes up. For example minimizing Photoshop (nothing heavy...just a simple 6MB JPEG file with light touch ups) and not having to wait until I can open Chrome. Or installing an app like printer drivers and trying to right click on a file to choose "Rename" while the installation is still going. Those sort of things that bug me.
Uh okay but let's be realistic here. By "quicker than my mouse movement" you're seemingly getting into unrealistic territory. Unless you have a computer chip in your brain predicting what you're going to do faster than your brain can control your hand, this ain't gonna happen :lol:

However you can get close to what you're looking for by I dunno having a system with like 128-256GB of RAM and having things run off RAMdisk instead of an SSD, which even the fastest ones are too slow to be quite as "instant" as you're looking for. Apart from having copious amounts of RAM to use for storage subsystem, there's also the idea of using the fastest possible solid-state drives such as ones running PCIe 4.0 or using Optane Memory. None of this stuff will be cheap exactly though. They sky is the limit if you have the $$$ but you still ain't getting that chip in your head just yet ;) Maximise what you can do with your budget but keep your feet on the ground.

You also may not realise that window animations actually slow things down in terms of you you perceive them, so you can turn those off in Windows and things can appear to happen more "instantly".
Varian wrote: My MacBook Air previous Gen isn't slow, but I was under the impression that Mac OS would be snappier. It is a very polished OS, don't get me wrong...but somehow my older laptop that I purchased in 2010 that runs Windows 7 somehow seems snappier in every day tasks.
LOL Mac, LMAO :lol: Use with your eyes closed? Lemme ask you something, how the heck are you going to do that when everything there is designed to be backwards, twisted, illogical, and nonsensical, compared to basically every other computer OS ever created just for the sake of "being different"? :lol: You won't be doing anything with your eyes closed there, let me tell you. Anyway I'm not going to say too much here because RFD is well known to be pro-Mac and have many Mac fanboys and Mac-loving mods but IMO stay the hell away from Mac/Crapple if you want to get where you want to be. That's all I'm gonna say so I don't risk post deletion/warning points over this because I'm well aware of what happens when you tell the true story about Crapple on here.

Anyway, basically two things--be realistic, stay away from Crapple. That's my best advice here for success for 'ya.
Newbie
Apr 19, 2020
19 posts
8 upvotes
I have read a bit about SSDs to brush up. my knowledge, and I heard that term nvme a few times. Could you please explain if M.2 and U.2 are related to that term? I am getting those terms confused even after reading wiki page.
[/quote]


you don't really need to worry about U.2 anymore...nothing really uses it anymore

nvme basically just means a m2 drive that uses pci-express for its transfer...either 2x or 4x currently
and most nvme drives are 2280

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