GraVT Professional Photographer System Hardware Review

While we love to review all the new cameras that are released every year, we don't always take the time to dive into how photos will be edited after our trusty digital camera has captured a wonderful moment. Thanks to our friends over at Intel, they teamed up with a company called The 3D Shop to deliver a monster rig for the aspiring professional photographer. 

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Housed inside a custom red Lian Li case, the system utilizes a Intel Core i7-2600K processor, Intel DZ68BC motherboard, 16GB of RAM, two WD Caviar Black 2TB hard drives, an Intel SSD and an ASUS GeForce GTX 570 video card! Running on Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, the system comes preloaded with Cyberlink Power Director, Photo Director and Media Espresso as well as trial versions of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

A more complete list of specs can be found below: 

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Motherboard: Intel DZ68BC
  • Memory: 16GB DDR3-1333 Kingston Value Ram
  • Graphics: ASUS GeForce GTX 570 DirectCU II
  • Storage: Intel 311 20GB SSD Drive for SSD Caching, 2 x 2TB WD Caviar Black 7200RPM Hard Drives
  • Optical: 16X LG DVD-ROM Drive w/ Lightscribe
  • Power Supply: 1000W Cooler Master 
  • Chassis: Lian Li, Red
  • Cooling: Antec Kuhler H2O 620 water cooler
  • Multimedia: Vantec 3.5-inch All-in-One Reader
  • Keyboard: Microsoft Wireless 2000
  • Mouse: Microsoft ARC Mouse
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
Hardware Impressions:

The Lian-Li casing on this beast of a computer is sleek and the red color reminded me of the Spider-Man costume, plus the case is covered in spider-themed references. All edges of the case have been rounded for easy maneuvering and comfort when transitioning the rig to a new space. On the front of the machine, the red, brushed metal plating covers the DVD drive bay and the mesh black grill hides the fans pumping air into the unit behind red slats.

On the top of the unit, the user will find the power and reset button as well as handy connection ports for USB 3.0-powered accessories and a eSATA port as well as a microphone or headphones. Behind the ports, there's plating covering a spot for an optional 140mm fan that can be added to increase cooling by expelling hot air. However, the system is cooled by an exhaust fan at the back of the unit as well as the fans in the power supply. 

On the back of the machine, you will find the power connection as well as two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0/1.1 ports, one IEEE 1394a & eSATA port, one Gigabit RJ-45 LAN port, a a S/PDIF out and 5x audio jacks (Line In/Line Out/Microphone). On the ASUS GeForce GTX 570 DirectCU II video card, there is an HDMI and Displayport connection as well as two DVI ports for dual monitors.   

After removing the two thumb screws on the back of the unit, the left panel slides off to reveal the internal hardware. Incidentally, the panel uses a clear, plexi-glass material that allows the user to see into the computer. It's especially cool at night when the lights are dimmed and LED light is emanating from the machine

Next to the four strips of 4GB memory sticks on the motherboard, you will find the speedy Intel processor being cooled by an Antec Kuhler H20 620 water cooler. During operation, you can occasionally hear the water cooler kick in to cool the CPU during graphically intensive operations, but it's far quieter than a typical CPU fan. The biggest user of space within the large enclosure is the sizable video card. It barely fits in between the metal casing on the back of the unit and the area where the hard drives are mounted. It also has to be positioned in the top PCI-Express x16 slot as the card will not seat correctly at the slot located aty the bottom of the motherboard without displacing fan monitor and audio-related connections.

All hard drives are connected to the Intel motherboard using the SATA III 6Gbps interface. The Intel 311 20GB SSD is located above the two Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB drives mounted at the front of the machine. The cord management system within the interior of the unit is easy to understand and the flat cable design helps improve airflow throughout the enclosure. 

Software Impressions:

After firing up the PC for the first time, I noticed that Windows 7 Professional booted in about 15 to 20 seconds from a cold boot. More importantly, the amount of time from the login screen to all startup functions being loaded was extremely minimal. The guys at The 3D Shop  made an awesome choice not to load up the system with crappy bloatware or other useless software utilities. 

We immediately fired up the Windows Experience rating system and got a score of 5.8 in the machine, mostly due to the hard disk holding the score back.  All other scores were above the 7.5 range, killer ratings for the speed of the Intel processor and ASUS graphics card. We also ran several tests of FutureMark's latest version of 3DMark and continued to garner scores around 5800. That software is designed for anything that will be gaming on the system as well as intensive graphical editing in a program like After Effects.

However, our most important tests were simply related to how the machine could improve our work flow during post-processing. In short, insane speed and power makes for an extremely satisfying experience. Loading Photoshop CS5 from a cold start took approximately 3 to 4 seconds, if that. Loading the last version of Fireworks was even faster, likely around 1 to 2 seconds. Loading active projects in After Effects was like night and day compared to our main video editing Dell that was built just a year ago. And most importantly, processing and exporting our finished project was much faster. 

If you are into gaming, this machine can also deliver on that front as well. We tested Skyrim and Star Wars: The Old Republic on this system; both games were able to run on ultra settings at high resolution at a silky-smooth framerate.

Final Opinion:

For any aspiring or current professional photographer, having a speedy system like this with an Intel i7 processor, a ton of RAM and a fast graphics card can save you hours upon hours of time over the life of the system when waiting for software to simply load or process changes. When you aren't editing photographs or creating new videos, it also makes for a heck of a gaming machine. This particular machine was able to handle anything that we threw at it and easily juggled several CPU-intensive programs at once. We fully recommend the GraVT Professional Photographer System designed by The 3D Shop. 

Check out our contest page to see how you can win one of these amazing machines in our latest giveaway!