Following on from this thread, I realised I hadn't posted a subsequent 'update' for anyone that 'may' have been interested.
After several people, both on and off the forum, recommending HP instead of Dell, after looking at the HP kit in more detail I decided to go for that. So I ended up with an xw6600 workstation.
Main spec is...
Plus the usual plethora of USB sockets, Firewire on the front, PCIe/PCI slots, GigaBit ethernet etc. and a LightScribe DVD/CD burner. It's also all in a very neat mini-tower, only 17cm wide and 43cm tall.
- Quad Core™ Intel® Xeon® 5420 (2.5GHz, 2x6Mb L2 cache 1333 MHz FSB) processor (option to add a second processor)
- 8Gb (4 x 2Gb) DDR2 PC2-5300 (667Mhz) ECC fully buffered memory
- 250Gb SATAII primary drive (came as standard)
- 80Gb SATAII secondary drive as Photoshop scratch disc. Didn't need to have oodles of Gb of storage in the workstation as all my data is on a RAID5 Terabyte NAS.
- NVIDIA Quadro FX 570 (256 MB) graphics card.
- Windows XP 64 bit edition
- 3 year next day onsite warranty
Whereas before my previous workstation was also used for the day-to-day stuff as well, this one is used soley for imaging side of things and I'm very, very happy with it and came just at the right time. Had it a good few weeks now and it absolutely flies through the RAW processing and Photoshop is a dream to use now.
A nice upgrade path for the future is that with the motherboard being dual-processor I can stick in another processor and have eight cores! Also with only four out of the eight memory slots being used I can stick in another 8Gb (4x1Gb) without having to ditch any of the current memory - or I can have 32Gb by getting all new memory (8x4Gb) but that'll be huuuugely expensive and I'm not sure if even XP x64 would take advantage of it - so the second processor would be the first upgrade.
So with that one being used for just imaging, I got another HP desktop to use for the day-to-day office stuff. Nothing as meaty as the workstation, but still a decent spec - Intel® Core™2 Duo processor E8400 3.0Ghx, 6Mb L2 cache 1333MHz FSB / 2gb DDR2-Synch DRAM PC-6400 / SATAII 250Gb / XP Pro 32bit and again the usual plethora of connections and a LightScribe DVD/CD burner.
All I really added to it was a separate graphics card in place of the onboard stuff so that I had a DVI connection for the monitor. A friend had an Nvidia GeForce 8600GT (512Mb) that they had going for £20, so I got that and stuck it in.
I stuck with the monitor mentioned before - Eizo CG241 24" widescreen - the quality of which is simply absolutely stunning! Calibration all done by a gizmo that plugs into the monitor. So both PCs are connected into that as it has two DVI inputs and the Logitech USB cordless mouse and keyboard going through a KVM switch to keep it all neat with just one keyboard and mouse.
As I'd been working on dual-monitors previously (19" CRT and 15" LCD) I had thought about having a second (cheap 17") monitor to dock all the Photoshop palettes etc. on, but the main monitor is managing quite nicely in terms of having everything on the same screen - so if I can manage like that without taking up desk space with a second monitor then that'd be good. I'll see how it goes for the moment - I may end up still going down the second monitor route again.
So, I think that lot will keep me going for a good while before I need to change anything. It'd better 'cos I'm skint after what it all cost!!
I'd just like to thank JuzzyD for a lot of useful info he gave during the process, and for initially steering me down the HP path and also to carteg for similar useful info. Cheers chaps!