Step-by-Step Guide to Build the Ultimate Photo/Video Editing PC 2019

We need a new PC for our new studio in Puerto Rico and for this build, we are going all out. 

Almost any computer on the market today can handle web browsing, email, and word processing, but if you're reading this, there is a good chance you need your computer to do much more. 

Before buying computer parts, ask yourself: which programs do I use and what hardware does that software use? How much ram do I really need? Am I storing my data internally or externally? Do I want to play games on the computer? 

The average computer user will see a noticeable boost in performance by simply adding additional RAM (memory) and swapping out a spinning hard drive for a faster solid state drive, but other components like the processor and graphics card can also help in certain applications. 

What If I Only Work In Photoshop and Lightroom?

The computer I built in the video above was designed for Adobe Premiere but if you don't work in Premiere, or you want to save some money, I've got some recommendations below. 

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic currently take advantage of a higher clock speed processor with up to eight cores. One of the best-performing CPUs for these programs at the moment is the i7-9700k processor but if you want to save some money, the i5-9600k is a fantastic choice as well. Keep in mind that the processor you choose will determine socket size and motherboard you need to buy.

Photoshop and Lightroom use a dedicated graphics card for certain tasks but an ultra expensive graphics card may not perform any better than one a quarter of the price. If you want an all around graphics card that will perform well while at the same time allowing multiple monitors and the option to game, I recommend the RTX 2060 or the cheaper GTX 1060. Now let's move on to my build.

The Ultimate Adobe Premiere Pro PC Build

Processor -  Intel Core i9-7900X

I chose this processor because it has a balance between clock speed (3.3 GHz) and cores (10). Yes, there are faster, more expensive CPUs out, but at $1,000 this processor is already a splurge. Surprisingly the 7900x may not show much improvement in Premiere in real-world use when compared to the Intel Core i7-9700K which is less than half the price. Remember that if you decide to buy a different processor for your build, you will need a different motherboard and cpu cooler that fits your specific chip.

CPU Cooler -  NZXT Kraken X6

I chose the Kraken X6 because I wanted water cooling and I liked the way it looked. It ended up being a pain to deal with and it didn't perfectly fit in our case. If you want something cheaper and easier to install, I'd recommend the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO.

Motherboard - ASUS ROG Strix X299-E

Next, I needed to choose a motherboard with the correct socket for my i9 processor (LGA 2066). I chose this motherboard because it had space for two m.2 solid state drives, 8 RAM slots, Wi-Fi, and USB 3.0 for the front and back panel.

RAM - Crucial 64 GB Ballistix Elite Series DDR4 3000 MHz

I chose 64 GB or RAM for my build but 32 GB might be plenty for you and can save you tons of money. RAM is one of the easiest components to upgrade later if you find that you need more.

Storage - Samsung 1 TB 970 PRO NVMe M.2

For this build, I decided to use two m.2 drives; one for Windows, and the other for all of my software. All of our files will be kept separately on a Synology 1819+ so I don't need a ton of internal storage. One drive might be all you need and will save you a few hundred dollars.

Graphics Card - EVGA GeForce RTX 2080

Premiere uses a dedicated graphics card only when certain effects are added to clips on the timeline. A high-end card can make playback more smooth and exporting/rendering much faster. At the moment, Premiere hardly performs any better with the RTX 2080 compared to the much older GTX 1080 so this card is probably overkill unless gaming is also a priority (which it is for me). If you want to save some money, check out the RTX 2070 or buy a used or overstocked GTX 1070 or 1080.

Case - NZXT H500 Mid-Tower Case

For this build, I went with a smaller mid-sized case because I didn't need extra room for hard drives or a DVD drive. Other than the cooler not fitting perfectly, I absolutely love this case. It's beautifully simple and modern looking while still having USB 3.0 jacks on the top. Keep in mind that this case does not have space for any optical drives if that is important to you.

Power Supply - EVGA SuperNOVA 750 G3

I've been told that it is a good idea to buy a power supply with slightly more power than is required by your components. I went with a 750-watt modular unit that allows me to only use the cables that I need (which for this build wasn't many).

Network Card - ASUS XG-C100C 10GBase-T

The motherboard has Wi-Fi and an Ethernet jack built in but we are building a 10 Gb network here in our office. To get 10 Gb speeds I needed this card. Keep in mind that these cards were over $1,000 just a few years ago. Now they are less than $100.

Monitors - Two Dell U2718Q 27

I'm convinced the greatest productivity boost in computing is moving from one to two or more monitors. I would rather have two, small, cheap monitors, than one large, expensive one (I'm looking at you iMac users). But, for this build, I wanted maximum real estate and resolution. Dual 27-inch 4K monitors is a sight to behold. If you are using Lightroom, and resolution isn't a huge priority, using 1920x1080 monitors will cut down on loading times and may be a better option.

Keyboard - Logitech K800

Logitech makes my favorite keyboard and mice. I personally like this one because it's wireless and the keys illuminate when it senses your hands getting close.

Mouse - Logitech MX Master 2S

If you want to ramp up your productivity, get a mouse with extra programmable buttons and a fast scroll wheel. It's hard to explain how the scroll wheel works on this mouse but once you try it, you'll never go back to your old mouse. 

Total Build Cost - $4,500

This build certainly wasn't cheap but if you already own monitors, and you buy the i7 9700, 32 GB of RAM, one M.2 drive, and an RTX 2070 or cheaper, you should be able to build something comparable for less than $2,000. In the near future, I will be building another computer around $1,000 to be used as our "postproduction" computer for Photoshop and Lightroom tutorials. If you're looking to build something that is a lot more reasonable, stay tuned for that.

Big thanks to B&H for sponsoring this build. If you do decide to build a PC, consider giving B&H your business. They have experts on call who can answer any questions you might have when deciding on which parts will be right for you.

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61 Comments

Alex Armitage's picture

Surprised the island has enough power for this beast!

Carlos Carmona's picture

Totally a value added comment ... grow up!

Alex Armitage's picture

Hey just wanted to apologize if my joke was offensive. I meant it in good fun because there is a common misconception that PR has no power (they talk about it on their last video about moving there). On top of that this machine uses a lot of wattage so I was playing upon that as well. However, maybe it's a subject that isn't a joking matter and it was insensitive for me to do so. For that, I do apologize.

Ed Sanford's picture

It was good humor.... People need to get a life! If you can't joke you may as well be dead... no apologies necessary....

Jon Dize's picture

Please stop apologizing for comments that one would have to be emotionally challenged to find offensive. PC is the enemy, the virus that will consume a free society from the inside out.
Nobody should ever feel compelled or pressured to apologize for stating facts, truths, expressions of reason. NEVER!

Drew Morris's picture

I logged in just to give you a thumbs up Alex. These other commentators are toxic and i think they forget they are on the internet.

Alex Armitage's picture

My comment was obviously in good fun, mostly related to the power of the computer and the miss conception that PR has no power. But I can see it's possible that my sarcasm went unnoticed and possibly upset those that it's not a joking matter for.

Daris Fox's picture

You could have saved cash and gone down the Ryzen 7/Threadripper route. Quite simply Intel is on the ropes with their arch, and AMD is only going to tighten the screws this year with Zen 2 arch coming down the pyke. At present you can pick up a 16 core Threadripper for 850.... Sure Intel has a minor edge over IPC but is 5-10% gains worth it when you're going to be hammering the GPU for rendering and if you're doing video rendering then you may as well set up render nodes as no amount of cores will make the system usable whilst it's crunching.

Also if you're looking for a content creator based graphics card then the new Vega VII could be a lot more interesting and worth watching the reviews when it lands on the 7th.

Also Seasonic PSU's are the industry standard, and I almost always recommend them over other brands

Check out the articles by puget systems. Their tests still prove intel has better performance with adobe software.

Daris Fox's picture

I'd also point you to LevelOne videos over on YouTube, there's a serious impact to performance on Windows with multi-core/Multi-NUMA systems.That impacts the AMD processors. Also most s/w is optimised for Intel as AMD only just got back into the game in the last year.

https://youtu.be/CULD3bxV7CY

In short on Windows there's Kernel Scheduling issues that affects Threadripper/Epyc CPUs.

Plus I wouldn't put too much faith in Adobe, their s/w is poorly optimised and bug ridden. I used to rely on Adobe but have mostly moved away from it as much as I could. I've gained more from paying for software that can actually use the hardware I have rather that being milked monthly by Adobe screwing the pooch. If DaVinci can run circles around Premiere for rendering on a dual Xeon rig with 32 threads in flight and 256Gb RAM (this is a HP Z820) with PCIe SSDs and Quadro gfx then I have no hope for anything else Adobe does when you have the h/w to throw at the problem. Lightroom chokes on that system that even C1 can't take full advantage of those resources but it's outputting images in a 1/4 of the time that Lr does and a higher fidelity.

This is why I choose to move away from Intel, they've become ossified and the industry just keeps throwing cash at them despite them holding back the market. We've seen more change in the two years that a resurgent AMD has brought with their Zen arch. Of course Intel is worried, and have been employing desperation tactics (such as using a industrial cooler to 'reach' 5Ghz on their CPU) to offset the limelight AMD is enjoying. The only reason we have now are enjoying multi-core Intel CPUs is AMD forced them to.

Michael Comeau's picture

I use Capture One Pro and Final Cut Pro X specifically because I hear so many performance complains about Lightroom and Premier.

I can't fathom paying a subscription for software that isn't absolutely top notch, and this has saved me a tremendous amount of money (and time) over the years.

Never had a real problem with either piece of software in the past 5+ years, even on an older 2011 entry-level iMac.

People scoff at FCPX... until they see how easily it handles 4K footage, and how quickly it exports videos.

Anthony Ojo's picture

If you only edit video then that's great but at the end of the day Apple only has to develop code for one operating system not two totally different systems and keep features between the two consistent, so if it wasn't fast it would be kind of sad. Apple can employ the use of optimized OS native code while Adobe has to rely on slower cross platform code. There was a time Premiere and After Effects used to only be on PC, which i would love for them to go back to because Mac hardware is a joke. However excuses aside, there are no great solutions for motion graphics and VFX from Apple. Especially with something as useful as dynamic linking. Being able to make a 3D or 2D animated lower third or tittle then instead of rendering out lossless files, dynamic linking it into Premiere and then even making changes to spelling inside premiere without having to reopen or re-render out of after effects is invaluable. Also with the amount of scripts, templates and plugins available to After Effects you can create some amazing things. Even integration with Cinema 4D for real 3D work! Workflow matters to some (or at least me) more than the speed of just one individual program. (Motion workflow makes no sense)

Michael Comeau's picture

Slower cross platform code = something us buyers should not worry about! But good points!

Alex Armitage's picture

I have a threadripper and there were definitely issues with Lightroom performance for quite some time as well.

Daris Fox's picture

Which proves my point, it's not a hardware issue it's a s/w. If C1 works fine on Threadripper (or other Zen based CPUs) then there's a serious issue in Adobe's QC which we know there is.

I can confirm that C1 is very snappy on AMD Ryzen 2700X. I've abandoned Adobe however. Can't comment on how Lr would run on the 2700X.

Great tutorial - seems a lot simpler than other builds I've seen (or done)!

I didn't even know they HAD i9 processors out. Wow.

Daris Fox's picture

It's a desperation move by Intel, they've butchered their SKU's so much that they had to release a new series to compete against AMD's Threadrippers. They're mostly rebadged (and rehashed) Xeon CPUs with parts fused off or clocked so hard that they chew too much power. Intel is a difficult position now, in that they don't want to cannibalise their Xeon line but they can't afford to lose mindshare against the Ryzen 7/Threadrippers that's under-cutting them. Intel is still struggling to move to the 10nm arch whilst AMD is already moving to 7nm, and stealing market share in the Server space with their Epyc CPUs which have a better TCO.

John Watt's picture

Recently treated myself to a Dell 3218K 8K monitor. It is simply one of the best upgrades I have ever made. Especially shooting anything in 8k video or medium format to use the available resolution. Simply stunning bit of kit. Well worth a look if you find yourself at year end with some tax saving plan to lessen the blow of the cost.

Motti Bembaron's picture

I would strongly recommend against the K800 keyboard. I just returned mine after about two weeks of scratching my head. Although it works when you hover over it, it also turns on by itself whenever it feels like it. When working in dim room and keyboard light is on maximum, it looks like a light show, annoying.

Look up Google for issues with lights and built quality.

Looks like a great machine.

Motti Bembaron's picture

It's not a cheap PC, however, my colleague just purchased an iMac for around that price and it does not have half the specs your PC has..

While I, too, work with PCs that I put together with components that I select based on what I feel are my needs, I'd say that for Photoshop many of the components specified here are overkill. Still, as Lee said, perhaps this build is perhaps better for Premiere. Here's what I'd do differently for a computer being used for Photoshop, with a view on saving money:

Processor: Anything way cheaper, whether Intel or AMD, that that has at least 4 cores and with one of them running at over 4 GHz (at least in turbo). The vast majority of Photoshop functions still can't utilize more than one core.

RAM: I myself have never come close to maxing out 32GB, though others may have special use cases.

Storage: Go with Samsung Evo instead of Pro, and while I admit splurging on a 1TB NVMe M.2 960 Evo for my C: drive (system and photo files), a standard SATA SSD will be cheaper (or you can buy a bigger drive) and won't be noticeably slower.

Graphics card: a 2080 is (as Lee admits) of little marginal benefit. I'd go with a 1060, which is also going to draw less of the little power left in Puerto Rico that some comments have mentioned.

With the money saved I'd then buy a) two 32-inch monitors with WQHD (2560 × 1440) resolution unless you're one of those young whippersnappers who can work with UHD squeezed into 27 inches, and b) whatever photography equipment I'm lacking (a couple of good, portable LED lights or that nice macro lens I never got).

Anywho, feel free to differ in your needs.

Kirk Darling's picture

Ken Welch, I pretty much agree. You can max out Photoshop and even most of what we're going to do with Premiere Pro (those of us not shooting the next superhero movie) spending a quarter as much. The fact is: Adobe is the bottleneck for modern hardware.

Processor: Agree--four cores does it for Photoshop. Four hyperthreading cores does it for Premiere Pro. Premiere Pro does benefit from the fastest processor you can give it.

RAM: If you're running multiple RAM-heavy applications simultaneously, you might need more than 16 gigs. Or if you're truly creating RAM-heavy effects with tremendously huge multi-layered image files. I come close to it when editing multi-cam videos in Premiere Pro with After Effects churning out a special effect while a movie is streaming on a side monitor.

Graphics card: Even an nVidia 960 with two gigs of video ram gets the most out of Photoshop (yes, they're still available, and cheap). Premiere Pro needs four gigs of video ram (it will crash the computer hard if you try scrubbing through a multicam setup with less than that). Two GPUs--which Adobe claims Premiere Pro can use--will actually slow down business. But this will make a difference: Bit-width. 256 bits will make a difference. Unless you're paying for 256 bits there's no point paying more.

Storage: I ain't gonna lie, video eats up storage space faster than my first modem. But for the C:, I agree with you. The working card for video editing is wisely placed on the M.2 port, but be careful that your M.2 port is truly PCIe and not SATA.

And, yeah, more monitor space is what you buy with what you save.

Motti Bembaron's picture

The components were donated by B&H so they (fStoppers) said thank you and did not argue. I would do the same. Lee mentions that for PS/LR this is way overkill and a couple of thousands dineros would do just fine.

My PC was built two years ago and I spent about $1,700 USD and it's a fast one. LR still had hiccups but LR always did.

Anthony Ojo's picture

Finally an FStoppers PC build i agree with. I built a similar PC about a year ago for the company i worked for using the 7900x and it is a beast of a CPU. I could be rendering in C4D (although I was rendering with Octane which is a GPU render) and edit 4K video in Premiere at the same time without breaking a sweat on playback. I also had it overclocked to 4.5 GHz on the ASUS Prime X299-DELUXE. Although pricey the Prime X299-DELUXE comes with whatever the ROG borad has and adds Wireless AD and below, 10GB LAN built in and a Thunderbolt 3 add in card to name a few of the highlights. The Prime X299-DELUXE board is magnificent if you can afford it! If you dont need the monitors in this build 100% upgrade to the Prime X299-DELUXE board!

I currently personally have a Dual Xeon build that has started to run slow for some reason so im upgrading to the 9700K in a few months for cheap. The motherboard im going with is the Gigabyte - Z390 DESIGNARE. Beware that the 9700K does not have hyperthreading it's and 8 core 8 thread CPU. the 7900x is a 10 core 20 thread CPU. so if you want a slightly better CPU for about $130 more than the 9700K, the 9900k is you best choice since it is an 8 core 16 thread CPU!

Also the 7900x is on the x299 platform which has up to 48 lanes of PCI while the 9900K and 9700K are on the z390 platform which only has 24, so if you were gonna load it up with GPUs for 3D rendering, RAID cards or 10GB or higher LAN cards along with your GPU, dont go for z390.

Anthony, what OS are you using on the Xeon rig? It could be possible that you need to set the processor affinity so that your apps run on one CPU and the OS runs on the other.

Anthony Ojo's picture

Yeah i've never had to adjust affinity for Adobe before however hen i tried it recently there was no change to performance on Windows 10. I've pulling out ram sticks to see if it's a ram issue and wiping the OS multiple time with different drivers. The last thing i'm going to try is to replace the ssds and see if there is an issue with my raid card. I believe the motherboard was damaged in shipping when UPS opened it up and put it back together incorrectly probably shorting out something on the board. Instead of buying another $400 board and still possibly having issues im hoping the newer z390 architecture will give me a noticeable performance boost over the aging C602 platform which technically has no support for Windows 10. I discovered affinity because when i first built the computer i tried to run Grand Theft auto which crashed almost instantly upon start. After days of searching i discovered a message board that said to change the affinity because GTA 5 doesn't support dual processors.

Anthony, multi threaded applications prefer cores and single threaded applications prefer physical CPU's.

If you were having a problem with the board it should have manifested itself in other ways such as a BSOD or some log entries indicating a problem.

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