While photo editing may not be as demanding on a computer as the latest video games, it can test the resources of even the best PC. Processing speed, memory, storage and graphics all play a role in loading images and bringing them onto your screen quickly and with true-to-life details.
Some photo-editing software can push a computer's resources to the limit. Even a brand new computer may not have the muscle required to run it. Before buying a computer, take a look at both the minimum and recommended specs for your photo-editing software. The key specs to look for are the processor, RAM, video card and video card memory or VRAM. If you plan to buy the next software upgrade, the computer you buy today should go well beyond the minimum specs for your current software.
When it comes to photo editing, a slow processor is most noticeable during common tasks, such as when you are waiting for photo files to open, for filters to be applied to an image and when converting an image from one size or format to another. Comparing processors can ignite serious debates between technophiles, but the difference between the fastest processors is negligible compared to a lower-end processor.
Photo editing requires massive amounts of memory, so investing in a 64-bit operating system should be a priority for anyone serious about photography. The 32-bit version of Windows maxes out at 4GB of RAM. Anything more than that is unused. The 64-bit version can accommodate 128GB. Most PCs max out at 8GB of RAM, which should more than sufficient for even a demanding multilayered editing project. Video RAM, or VRAM, renders graphics onto the monitor and is separate from RAM. For VRAM, you should have a minimum of 512MB, with at least 1GB being preferred.
If you are buying a laptop or an all-in-one computer for photo editing, it's important to take a look at the screen. At a minimum, you want a 1024-by-768-pixel display, but a 1280-by-800 display will serve you better. If you need a small portable laptop to take on the road, consider getting a larger monitor for doing your photo editing at home. A 27-inch monitor with 1920-by-1080 resolution makes it much easier to see fine details than a 15-inch laptop screen. Look for a high pixel-per-inch or PPI and LED backlighting for the best reproduction on a screen.
Because a single photo shoot can take up a gigabyte of storage or more, it's vital that a new computer has plenty of storage. In addition to internal storage, it should also have access to external storage. An SDXC multicard slot reader makes it easy to load photos from a digital camera as well as provide inexpensive external storage. Most external hard drives can connect to a USB port on the computer. If you want to burn copies of your photos for sharing with others, a DVD burner is also a must-have.
Photo Credits: Sarah VanTassel/Demand Media
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