After the completion of my latest rig I felt it was time to finally refocus my attention on my wife's broken and battered photography rig. This turned out to a be a lot more fun than my own rig. My two boys decided they wanted to help introduce and build their Mom's new computer. The build log for this computer can be found here. I also did a dedicated show case video for her computer and her photography as a way to say thank you for the last 10 years of unshaken faith and support in everything I do. Video starts at 0:32
The first nine pictures were taken and edited by my wife with her new rig. The Camera in the picture is her old D70s that kicked off her love of photography. It is not the camera she now uses. All photos where shot with a Nikon D750 with a 50mm F1.8 Nikor lense. She uses a Wacom Pro to do all her editing. She really makes the Phanteks Evolv Shift look even better than it already is. I really hope you all like this one, and if so how about letting her now down below in the comments!
but let's take a step back in time real quick...
My wife's computer began back in December of 2013 when I received an A10-7850k ahead of the official release. While brainstorming ideas on what to do with it, my wife popped in and told me she wanted to build her own computer. So I handed the APU off to her, placed an order with NewEgg, and The Jolly Roger was born unto this world. With the cpu seated on an asrock itx board and loaded with 16gb ddr3-2400 (stuff was cheaper than cheap in 2013) she carefully stuffed it, a 128gb ssd, 3 3tb drives, and an Antec 550w PSU into a Bitfenix Prodigy Arctic case. With a 4.7ghz OC cooled by a CoolerMaster Nepton 240 that I had in inventory, my wife downed the log in name Dread Pirate Jen and finished off her very first system. This really was her first build and she only asked one question, how to install the OS.
But it wasn't all fun and games. Over time the little 7850k continually showed it limitations when pushed to it's max limits. My wife jumped head first into photography just after finishing this build. With lightroom libraries growing and branching off, plugins galore for photoshop, and eventually a new camera with new lenses producing much larger files, it finally gave up the ghost. It started with a failure of the AMD raid controller resulting in the loss of both drives in raid. We had a back up, but I had forgotten to verify backups for several months, so she lost some stuff. From there we lost memory stability, then sata ports fried, and finally the board died. I suspect the 4.7ghz and a hefty gpu overclock finally took it's toll.
From there we rebuilt her computer with a 6600k and a gigabyte z170 board that came out of my used PC challenge build. She added a m.2 drive to replace the 128gb ssd, and added a couple 512gb ssd's as work space drives. She also moved her backups outside the system and maintained a single internal 3tb drive for general storage. Though this upgrade saw vastly improved performance over the 7850k, it still wasn't as snappy as my wife wanted it.
With the introduction of Phanteks Evolv Shift and my move to AMD, I knew I had not only the right case but the right parts to finally make her a dedicated photography rig. My kids helping in the video was an added bonus that she absolutely adored. My wife had only a few requests. She wanted to see real performance increases in photoshop and lightroom, less memory restrictions, and it had to have lights (RGB). How about we talk parts?
Phanteks Evolv Shift - It looks good. It looks REALLY good. But, looks aren't everything.
1. Like most itx cases, space is a premium and you REALLY need to plan your layout well. Imagine building in this case like putting down layers. If you realize you need to make a change in the second layer, but your already laying the 10th layer, you have to peel everything off to make the change. Having a clear idea of how you want to layout your hardware will save you a TON of time at the end of the build.
2. Plan your air flow carefully, changing out the front two fans can lead to removing the GPU and/or radiator and/or rerouting cabled JUST to get at them. In my case I opted for two exhaust fans on the side (top and bottom) with two intake fans at the bottom in a push pull configuration on the radiator. I wound up removing one fan due to size issues, but I do plan on putting another fan back on that rad. The idea behind this setup was to have intake air immediately exhausted out to help keep internal temps down. There is a LOT of ventilation at the top of the case! My thought here was to have the fan pull cool air in from the top flowing over the board, and then exhausted. So far it seems to be working out, and should do even better with the additional fan back in place.
3. The side panels hid a decent amount of space for cable management. I actually opted to store the 3tb hdd behind the back panel. Perfect spacing and it stays pretty darn cool!
4. PSU placement is ridiculous and don't bother getting a non modular PSU. The PSU can interfere with video card placement, specially if you have an unnecessarily large gpu.
5. The plastic bits really feel cheap. It's the biggest disappointment with the case. The chassis is so well build, the side panels are pretty durable, the glass is gorgeous, but the plastic base and top pop latch cover are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP. Cost saving measures I know, but they feel just as cheap in the Shift X which is $70 more!
6. The glass pieces are held in place really well, and are secured with a couple thumbscrews at the top of the case, and then promptly hidden by the case lid. Quiet clever! 7. It's actually far easier to work in than you might thing, specially if you have a decent plan laid out for installing parts.
Ok, I can go on and on and on about this case. I do like it, I might even love it. It's got it's quirks no doubt, but damn... it's so good looken in ALL the right ways.
The 7700k has turned out to be the perfect cpu for this rig. My wife constantly makes comments on how noticeably faster her system feels when processing files in lightroom and working in photoshop. We've kept the CPU at stock speeds as the Evolv Shift isn't the greatest when it comes to air flow. The Arctic Liquid Freezer keeps the cpu cooler than I had expected it to. I DO plan on adding another fan back on top of the rad. The Arctic fans are a little taller than a standard fan which blocked the GPU from sitting properly (the MSI 1060 6gb card is ridiculously huge).
The bump to 32gb of memory was a pain in the pocket, but was worth it. When trying to diagnose performance issues in her 6600k system, I noticed she would max out memory during post processing, regardless if she was doing light touch ups or full blown composites. The bump to 32gb has smoothed that performance hump out quite nicely. I have to admit, I'm quit surprised at how much memory Photoshop can utilize.
Along the lines of performance improvements, as request, I added two NVMe drives where along with a 128gb SSD. The 960 evo is her OS/app drive. This houses all her adobe programs. The PM961 is used as her primary scratch disk while the 128gb is used as her primary work drive containing temporary libraries and works in progress, and in a pinch can be used as a secondary scratch disk. The 3tb drive is used as primary storage of all completed and raw files. She now has two external drives used exclusively as back up drives.
The rest is just your standard fair of hardware. The GTX 1060 is only used as support for adobe applications that can take advantage of it, the Integra 450w PSU came out of my Node 202. It's a darn good machine and my wife is beside her self with it. She has really put it to work since build completion! She's an incredible woman with an incredible talent. Building this is just a very small way of showing her my gratitude for everything... literally everything!
PHEW... another long read. If you made it down here then I thank you! I really hope you enjoy this build, it's been one of the more entertaining builds I've done!