Switching from Mac to PC. How?

dell.gifAs regular readers know, I use a Mac. But the lack of a midrange model really has me fuming and I need a machine that does the job, at a price that doesn’t kick the buyer in the face.

I received a brochure for Dell the other day which showed off a nice little quad-core machine for pittance compared to a quad core Mac Pro. I could upgrade the dual internal drives to 1 TB drives, drop in a Blu-ray burner and, with Adobe CS4, I could be editing and burning HD video with aplomb, compared to standing around with my thumb up my Mac ass waiting for Steve Jobs to get past his “bag of hurt” feelings and make Blu-ray authoring on the Mac a reality.

But what sort of machine should I get?The Dell I put together online is probably all wrong, because I know not the intracacies of selecting a processor, what platforms use what motherboard, which has more speed for what PCI card for external SATA drives and better buss throughput to the RAM next to the whatever. For $1281, this is what I slapped together:

PROCESSOR    Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Processor Q9550 (2.83GHz, 12M, VT, 1333MHz FS)
FILE SYSTEM    NTFS File System for all Operating Systems
OPERATING SYSTEM    Genuine Windows Vista Business Bonus-Windows XP Professional downgrade
WARRANTY & SERVICE    3 Year Basic Limited Warranty and 3 Year NBD On-Site Service
REMOTE MANAGEMENT    ASF Basic Hardware Enabled Systems Management (Not Upgradeable to iAMT/vPro)
HARD DRIVE    80GB SATA 3.0Gb/s and 8MB DataBurst Cache™
OPTICAL DRIVE    No Optical Device
VIDEO CARD    256MB ATI Radeon 2400 XT, Dual Monitor DVI or VGA (TV-out), full height
MONITOR    No Monitor
SYSTEM DOCUMENTATION    Resource CD and DVD contains Diagnostics and Driver for Dell OptiPlex Syste
My Accessories
KEYBOARD    Dell USB Keyboard, No Hot Keys
MOUSE    Dell USB 2-Button Entry Mouse with Scroll, Black
SPEAKERS    No Speaker, OptiPlex
FLOPPY & MEDIA READER    No Floppy Drive
1394 CARD    1394 FW Controller Card, FH

Am I headed in the right direction or is there a better tact to take for the PC buyer who knows nothing about selecting all the critical internal components by hand and trying to magically make them all work together to capably edit Full HD video in real time?

11 thoughts on “Switching from Mac to PC. How?

Add yours

  1. Overall it’s a pretty good system, although you probably won’t use a Quad Core system since there are very few applications that can use 4 cores. A dual Core system will be just as fast (depending on its use) at 2.66 or above. Also, I wouldn’t recommend getting the XP downgrade. While there’s no difference in price, there’s really no need for XP at this point. Besides this, XP is much more vulnerable to viruses and malware than Vista, thanks in part to the UAC (which many find annoying, but I find useful). I work for a computer consulting company, and at least four times a month, if not more, we get calls for virus removal on machines with Windows XP. granted, this mostly has to do with people clicking on whatever they want, but XP also doesn’t have the best protection built in. If you’re using a 32 bit version of Windows, it will only be able to use 3 GB of RAM, so 4 would be overkill. If you’re using a 64bit OS, however, 4 GB is minimum. Also, you may want to upgrade your hard drive to something bigger, depending on how much stuff you’re going to put on it.

  2. I would check out videoguys.com. They regularly provide Windows system recommendations that you can either build yourself or use to customize a system with a vendor. (However they don’t sell computers.) Personally I’ve had the best success with HP systems recently. Good luck!

  3. I’m a pc tech that got into video about 2 years ago and don’t worry about viruses etc. because I now how to defend a pc from them. But in the specs of the machine you list above I see one weakness, you will need a bigger hard drive, working with HD footage takes up gobs of space and I like to have lots of free room on my hard drive. I will sometimes have 3-4 big AVI files in my system and space on my 160 gig drive starts getting tight. I prefer XP because it doesn’t hog computer resources like Vista and lets my editing software work more efficiently

  4. Of course, bigger drives for video. That’s the purpose of the removable front bay- to put in a 1 TB removable media drive. This way, projects can be swapped in and out, and even archived on the shelf in the hard drive.

    A second, 1 TB internal drive would house OS, backup, applications, and common media (JumBacks, audio, etc)

    The optical would be a multi-burner, including Blu-ray.

    I’d insist on a quad-core, at the least. HD video really requires it- for instance, as I spec out systems that could possible be used to record ProRes 422 1080i30 video to hard drive, both hardware packages say a dual core laptop would not have enough computing horsepower to handle _one_ stream of HD.

    Would the new i7 chips be a better bang for the system?

    What about looking at “gaming” systems like this:

  5. I just ordered the system below as a replacement for a system that was about four years old. Two items that you don’t see in the quote:

    1. External RAID & Controller: 8 x 2TB…There never seems to be enough drive space. I back completed projects up to WD My Books
    2. New Nvidia Quadro CX video card. I saw this at an Adobe seminar. It’s pricy but really helps with acceleration.

    Have Fun!

    1 223-4702 Dell Precision T7400 Mini-Tower, Quad Core Xeon Proc X5472, 3.00GHz, 2X 6MB L2 Cache,1600MHz
    1 311-7703 8GB, DDR2 ECC SDRAM Memory 800MHz, 4X2GB, Dell Precision T7400
    1 310-7949 Entry Level, USB, No Hot Keys keyboards, Dell PrecisionWorkstations
    1 320-3316 Monitor Option-None
    1 320-5864 nVidia,NVS 290, 256MB dual DVIGraphics Card, Dell Precision T3400
    1 341-5236 300GB 3Gbps SAS, 15K RPM Hard Drive, 3.5 Inch, Dell Precision T3400
    1 341-5400 C21 All SAS Hard Drives RAID 1 for 2 Hard Drives Dell Precision T7400
    1 341-5977 Internal USB Media card reader19:1, Dell Precision T7400
    1 420-7632 Windows XP 64 SP2 with WindowsVista Business 64 Edition License, Dell Precision English, Factory Install
    1 310-1247 No Mouse for Workstation Model
    1 313-5710 16XDVD-ROM, Data Only, Dell Precision T3400
    1 420-9179 Cyberlink Power DVD 8.1,with Media,Dell OptiPlex/Precision
    1 313-5938 Internal Chassis Speaker, DellPrecision T7400
    1 313-5674 Resource DVD contains Diagnostics and Drivers for Dell Precision T7400
    1 341-5247 300GB 3Gbps SAS, 15K RPM Hard Drive, 3.5 Inch, Dell Precision T3400
    1 310-9161 Vista Premium Downgrade Relationship Desktop
    1 983-8732 Basic Support: Next Business Day Parts and Labor Onsite Response 2 Year Extended
    1 988-6888 Dell Hardware Warranty Plus Onsite Service Extended Year(s)
    1 984-5380 Basic Support: Next Business Day Parts and Labor Onsite Response Initial Year
    1 988-6887 Dell Hardware Warranty Plus Onsite Service Initial Year
    1 900-9987 Standard On-Site Installation Decline

  6. You can save almost 2/3 the cost and build your own system.
    I’ve built 5 or 6 now and it’s not much harder than putting in a disk drive. Just takes a little more time….
    check out http://www.tigerdirect.com they have full barebones systems
    you can put together. Also, consider going Vista 64 bit with the money you save. I know it’s not as lean as XP — but with ram going for next to nothing — you can address 8 gigs of ram and SMOKE with CS4. Vista 64 is not too bad with sp1
    take the pebble grasshopper you’ll never go back to buying full systems again….

    — TH

  7. Yea, well I can’t walk on rice paper without ripping it, and there’s a LOT to learn about pairing the right mobo with the right CPU and RAM and GFX card and fast SATA I/O to ensure the smoothest operation before I try to lift the tub of embers with my bare arms.

    I quote from a VAR I do deal with:

    “The i7 is not yet capable of running in a dual-processor configuration, so
    for that reason we’re not jumping in yet with both feet.

    It is a step forward for Intel, however, and one we’ve fought for with them
    for the past 3-4 years. Their NOT having this capability has forced us to
    use AMD Dual Dual-core Opterons in many systems due to their superior MOBO
    architecture (direct memory access). The Intel mobos were too sluggish to
    handle long GOP structure video (ie: HDV) in real time.”

    And how much money and time would I waste before I figured that essential nugget out?

    I’m not a computer builder, I’m a video producer / shooter and editor when I have to be.

  8. Ahhhh

    don’t sell yourself short

    I’ve been a Network TV Cameraman since back when computers were used mostly to control linear decks. I’ve built at least 7 systems from the ground up and only ONCE did I have an issue —I use Premiere (Pro) (since vers 4.3) and it was an audio driver.

    It couldn’t be EASIER man

    I’m doing XDCAM on a 2 year old Quad Core w/ 2 gigs of ram.
    As long as you stick to the major brands you’ll be fine.

    and unfortunately the way you’d want to go with HDV is monster amounts of ram so you’d be best suited for Vista 64

    I don’t care for AMD but you could build a dual INTEL quad core system with 16 gigs of ram for around $1500

    HDV is great for weddings but XDCAM is where the beef is

  9. Oh, I don’t doubt the quality of XDCAM. The cooking show I work on (link to old SD stuff here) is recorded straight to the hard drive as ProRes 422 HQ, and the field packages are XDCAM EX 35 Mbps from the SxS cards, so I work with that stuff every day.

    But I also do weddings and my gear is HDV because I went HD years before XDCAM was ever a purchasable product. Shy of HDV, there was no HD solution for the prosumer market. I also get footage from clients in AVCHD, because, well, that’s what most every cheap camera seems to shoot these days, even the still cameras. So I have to be able to handle many formats to best serve my clients (& keep the money flowing).

  10. I recently (and very reluctantly) dumped XP for Vista Ultimate 64 bit after experiencing repeated system crashes while editing long HDV projects to Blu-ray.

    I discovered two things:
    (1)Being able to address more than 4GB of RAM makes a HUGE difference in stability in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 (not one system crash since the switch)
    (2) A properly configured Premiere Pro editing rig should have a minimum of SIX internal Hard Disks- the faster the better.

    I use a Velociraptor 300GB 10,000 RPM drive as the capture drive for active projects (RAID works too, but I lost a RAID array after pushing my luck for years)

    THEN – When setting up a Premiere Pro project, assign a SEPARATE physical hard disk to each task (Video capture, Audio capture, Video Preview, Audio Preview) (This is straight from the Adobe web site by the way)

    So, basically, I use the following setup:

    500GB System Drive
    300GB Velociraptor Drive for video capture
    500GB Audio capture Disk Drive
    500GB Video Preview Disk Drive
    500GB Audio Preview Disk Drive
    1 TB drive for final Renders

    The principal is very simple: Instead of scouring a single drive for information, Premiere Pro simultaneously access the data from four separate locations. The result is DRAMATICALLY improved speed and performance and most importantly STABILITY while editing and rendering.

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