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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Previous comments
Alistair barclay's picture

would this sort of spec be suitable for Davinci resolve 15?

Nath kaplan's picture

This is great information, thanks. Do you have something like this for a PC laptop that will be used for Photoshop and Lightroom? This is not the primary machine, it is just used for travel and teaching. Thanks.

Lee Morris's picture

We love our Dell XPS 15 laptops

Michael Kormos's picture

I remember my first custom PC build. I fried the motherboard because I forgot to use nylon spacers when I attached it to the metal case. Fun times.

Although Lee, wouldn't any established video/photo editing business that has the budget for these top-end rigs also see the value in having a reputable custom PC maker put it all together instead? Sure you pay a premium, but isn't your time better spent focusing on getting new clients and growing your business? Plus, having a custom PC company build it will get you experience and support. You really don't want your machine dying on you when you're handling a big project with a tight deadline, all because you didn't get the proper heat sinks for the RAM.

Don't get me wrong, tinkering with motherboards, CPUs, cooling, etc. is fun. I know it's a big culture in PC gamers and hobbyists.

I just figured, as the chief CEOs of fstoppers, you and Patrick should really focus on what's important. Like, which loveseat to buy for the reception area of your new headquarters.

Lee Morris's picture

Building a PC can be incredibly annoying (like when our cooler didn't fit right) but for the most part, I enjoy doing it.

Deleted Account's picture

Meh, my late 2014 Mac Mini thing still crunches D850 and Z7 RAW files with ease with 2 Dell 27's linked up.
No double thread Hyperripperzippers here.
Faster LR export speed? Why would I want to shorten my tea breaks any more than I had to?


Umit Pala's picture

It`s actually funny when you compare performance of AMD and Intel based on faulty, crappy software called Lightroom. Make a decent test and you will see actual results.

Amit Raam's picture

Good CPU recommendation, Photoshop needs less cores but faster ones, and current Intel top CPUs can turbo just 1-2 cores.

Ken Everett's picture

I have to ask, how did you get the OS installed on the machine? Did you attached a DVD while you had it open? Then disconnect it?

Lee Morris's picture

I put windows on an SD card and plugged in a card reader and booted from that.

Dwayne Kilbourne's picture

We have been looking to upgrade our 3-year-old video rig. We hear that Threadripper (and certainly the new gen that is coming at the end of the year) are better than Intel's offerings, but, since Adobe CC does not appear to be fully-optimized for all of those cores, Intel tends to get the most bang for the buck. For us, we are looking at adding a Barricuda Pro (10 or 14TB) hard drive from Seagate to host our Dropbox for Business files while using M.2 (maybe 2 of them) for working files, OS, etc.

What are your thoughts about going above 64GB of RAM? What about faster DDR4 RAM (i.e. 3200, 3600, or 4000)? Also, while we do not do a lot of gaming, it seems that RTX 2080 Ti should be just fine and offer more bang for our buck than those nice new RTX Quadros.

One last thing; what if we want our new video editing rig to ALSO work well with OBS or Wirecast Pro for Live streaming? Of course, Internet capabilities are a major consideration there, but we have Xfinity at 250 Mbps right now. Any hardware considerations to possibly then consider?

Terry Mase's picture

Umm, don't use his links to buy the parts. Use