BACKGROUND INFO (Questions listed below)
I need some help figuring out the best hardware configuration for a new laptop. I’m a student at a design school and I will be using the laptop to mainly run After Effects and to a lesser extent Photoshop and Illustrator. I don’t need to worry about 3D rendering software or Premier Pro. I am primarily interested in getting the best performance during editing. I am not looking for the best performance for final output. I would prefer to sacrifice final output times for better editing/interface performance.
I will be working with standard definition content and perhaps HD up to 720p on occasion. I do not need to operate in resolutions higher than 720p. My projects are generally animation and use many sources and many layers.
I’ve been reading up on optimal hardware configurations for CS5 but my understanding is still a little foggy and I would like to use this thread to figure out how to build the best machine for my budget. The budget is about $1400 to $1600 CANADIAN after tax.
I DON’T need help finding the laptop. I will search for it on my own. I just need to understand the best hardware to purchase within my budget.
I realize that it is probably impossible to buy the laptop I want with the hardware configuration I need “off the shelf”. Instead I will be looking for a good base model (~$900-$1100) and I will purchase the necessary hardware upgrades separately. I will not be purchasing a Mac.
Right now I’m thinking of a machine built something like this:
- 15”-16” screen (17” models are too big/heavy)
- Mid to high end i5 processor OR entry level i7 quad core
- 8GB RAM (I would go to 12GB, but it’s hard to find a 15”-16” laptop with 3 memory slots)
- SSD to replace HDD (However, if possible, I would like a laptop with dual HDD support or swap the optical drive for another HDD. If I had access to 2 drives, I would have and HDD/SSD combo).
- Medium/high end NVIDIA GPU to take advantage of OpenGL while editing.
1) Does the “Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously” option enhance general editing performance (applying filters, scrubbing through the timeline, reverting history states)? Or does it ONLY help speed up RAM previews and final output? Does it reduce the length of RAM previews?
1b) Is this option even necessary to enable on 64bit systems? (As far as I understand it was used to solve a problem where 32bit systems/software would only recognize 4GB of RAM per instance of AE).
1c) If I turn this option on to help with RAM previews, would I be hindering general editing performance in any way? Or does this option have basically zero drawbacks?
2) How come “Actual CPUs that will be used” will read 0 even if the sum total of RAM assigned to the CPUs plus the RAM reserved for other applications is less than the total available system RAM (on a 64bit system)? For example, I currently have 4GB RAM and 2 installed CPUs. I have 1.5GB reserved for other programs and when I set 0.75GB per CPU both CPUs are used. However when I set 1GB per CPU then 0 CPUs are used, even though the total RAM adds up to only 3.5GB.
3.) Considering the fact that I am more concerned with smooth performance while editing rather than final output speeds, would it be better to get a dual core i5 clocked around 2.5 or a quad core i7 clocked around 1.8?
4.) What is the difference between an i3 and an i5 processor even if they are clocked at the same speed? How does an i5 460M compare on the grand scheme of things?
6.) Should the quantity of RAM that I get (8GB vs 12GB) be based on the number of cores in my CPU? If so, how should I be calculating optimal RAM based on # of cores. Should I also be counting threads, or just actual physical cores?
7.) Should I replace the HDD with an SSD? I'm looking for snappy interface performance while editing. I would think that if the RAM fills up it would be best to have the SSD for scratch/cache.
8.) What performance benchmarks are most important when considering an SSD for After Effects? (4k writes? IOs per second? Max read/write?)
9.) I can afford the OCZ Vertex2 120GB SSD. Would this be a good choice if an SSD is recommended?
10.) Would it be better to have 8GB of RAM and an SSD, or 12GB of RAM and an HDD? Explain why.
10.) After Effects utilizes OpenGL to enhance editing performance. I will not really be using Premier Pro, so catering to the CUDA Mercury Engine is not a concern. Do high end gaming cards provide significant gains in OpenGL performance? Or do OpenGL performance gains taper off around the mid-range GPUs? (i.e. can you justify buying a high end GTX 260M graphics card for enhanced editing performance versus an "entry level" dedicated card like the 310M?)
11.) What hardware specs are most important when considering a GPU for editing performance in AE? (Memory size? # of Pixel shaders? Core speed? Shader speed?)
Thanks so much for any answers you can offer to these questions.