Darktable PC build - GPU vs CPU processing

Hello all,

as processing photos in Darktable on my old laptop is hitting its HW limits, I’m thinking about building a new PC and would like to discuss here the HW considerations. Photo processing in DT will probably be the most HW demanding operation I will do on that PC.
I would like to stay within a reasonable budget (would be great to fit under 400 eur) and hence I’m curious about what would get me better performance - shall I spend more on the CPU or rather think about using OpenCL and spend more on the GPU?

To be more precise - which of the following options is likely going to lead to better performance with DT?

  1. Ryzen 3 1200 + Radeon RX 550 (2GB), OpenCL
  2. Ryzen 5 2600 + whatever 2nd hand GPU allowing me to use my OS fluently…
    (Considering the rest of the configuration would be the same: 16GB DDR4 RAM, some well known budget SSD, Linux Mint 20 (XFCE), Darktable 3.0.2)

I will appreciate any inputs, thank you in advance :slight_smile:

I would go with the Ryzen 3 and the best second hand GPU you could get.


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I would suggest getting the best cpu you can aim for and get a better gpu later.
faster cpu will always come in handy for certain tasks that either haven’t been gpu optimized yet or just can’t for whatever reason.
maybe aim for 3600 on the cpu its a good price point for performance level?

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Thank you for your answers. Maybe I could reframe my question as: “is spending money on GPU just for OpenCL support worth it or not, considering such a low budget build?”
I’m not asking “what to buy first and what to buy later”, I’m not planning to build something now and upgrade it during the next 2 years. I’m just an enthusiast, I’m also not a gamer, and I know that focus on CPU makes more sense for all the other stuff I do on my computer. In fact, except some delays in DT, I’m still OK with running on an i5 M520 (with integrated GPU), 8GB RAM and SSD. So if a decent GPU will not bring me any significant performance gains in DT (as I don’t know how many modules are actually able to use it efficiently), I see no reason to think about the GPU much.

My desktop machine has an old i7-4770 and an nvidia GTX760, bought in 2013. DT gets a big performance boost when opencl is used - that’s why I recommend putting a bit of emphasis on the GPU.

I am looking into a new desktop. Has settled on a Ryzen 5 3600 + nvidia RTX2060Super. You can see, that I prioritize the GPU over the CPU. I don’t game, the machine is for darktable and simple video editing.

Even a cheap OpenCL-enabled graphics card will provide you with a better speed boost than an upgraded CPU. I bought a pre-owned 2Gb GTX 770 a couple of years ago and the increase in speed was significant.

I use the graphics card exclusively for darktable and I drive my monitor from the intel graphics built into the motherboard.

I think it comes down to what it is you (want to) do with your machine.

A while back I had the resources to build myself a new machine and had to choose between a fast CPU and a “lesser” GPU or vice versa. I ended up going for the better GPU and, now that a few month have passed, I’m very happy that I made that choice.

I asked for some insights and advice right here on the Hardware section at the time. Although the component choices are not in your price range, you might want to scan that thread. It sums up my main use and has some nice general advice.

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Thank you all for the valuable information, this is what I was looking for :slight_smile:

I think you’ll see with that link that yes GPU can help massively, and if you look at the GPU models mostly it doesn’t matter what as long as its opencl it will make a massive boost over cpu only.
I’m unsure how much video card ram is needed for happy opencl stuff you might want to research that unless you game then just aim for 8gb and call it good.

I found my old NVIDIA GT1030 with 2gb video ram used to run out of memory during some darktable opencl processes. No issues so far with my new 8Gb AMD rx580