Photoshop Optimized Machine

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by zdobson, Dec 22, 2007.

  1. zdobson macrumors 6502

    Nov 9, 2007
    What kind of Mac Pro setup will give the most noticeable boost in Photoshop performance? My usage consists of shooting RAW files for editorial, commercial, and wedding clients.

    Yes, I am waiting for the Penryn update, but besides that...

    I know that I'll be getting at least 4GB of RAM. How important is a scratch disk if you have that much RAM? I was thinking about only having 1 hard drive, is that ok? I back up everything externally. I've heard a GPU over 256MB is a waste. Any truth to that?

    Are the dual processors overkill? Would it be better to get a single cpu and save money if they happen to make that an option? I'm definitely not getting an iMac because I don't like the glossy monitor, plus I want it to be easily upgradeable. Any feedback is appreciated.
  2. Mr. B macrumors regular

    Dec 25, 2005
    I'm not so sure about the dual cores, but a scratch disk is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

    It is probably one of the more important parts of speeding up photoshop.

    get two hard drives.

    Partition one of the hard drives.

    On one of the hard drives install photoshop, then use one of the partitions of the second hard drive as the scratch disk, and then on the second part of the second hard drive save the files you work on.

    Honestly three gigs of ram and a good external had drive will speed things up way more than just plopping in tons of ram.
  3. jerryrock macrumors 6502


    Sep 11, 2007
    Amsterdam, NY
    Ram will speed up Photoshop, as much as you can afford. On a Mac, Photoshop will actually use RAM above the 3.7 Gig Photoshop limit before going to a physical scratch disk. The scratch disk should be on a separate drive and contrary to popular belief, partitioning will not improve performance while a raid 0 set up will.
    External hard drives used as scratch disk will actually slow down your Photoshop performance. (Sorry Mr. B, but you are wrong)

    Here is a link to the Adobe tech note describing memory management and Photoshop CS3 on OSX:

    All MacPros come with 2 processors, and there are programs that can take advantage of the extra vram (Aperture, PSCS3 Extended, Final Cut Pro etc)
  4. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Jul 16, 2007
    Let's get this clear:

    All Mac Pros come with 2 separate processor chips.

    From there, 2 variations appear: quad-core and octo-core.

    "Quad Cores" are 2 cores per chip (there are 2 chips; 2x2=4 cores)
    "Octo-Cores" are 4 cores per chip (there are 2 chips; 2x4=8 cores)

    You'll want to stick with the quad core... octo would be overkill.

    More RAM, the better. Get a nice scratch disk, and you'll be screaming.
  5. zdobson thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 9, 2007
    I know all MPs have 2xcpu. I've done a lot of research, but people in the MP forum seem to do mostly video and want to max out everything. I guess my question about the dual cpus is that if for some reason they decide to offer a version of MP with only one, or if they have a mini tower in the future, would one cpu be enough, or are two necessary? I know this is very highly unlikely, but if on some off chance it happened, I'd be interested in knowing.

    I thought I had heard that it will write scratch to RAM before HDD, so I guess you're confirming that. How much scratch space do you actually need? If only 4GB or so, I would probably buy more RAM. If more than 4GB, I could buy a smaller 2nd HDD to use for scratch only. Is it worth it to have a 10K drive for scratch?

    I'd like to keep the cost under $4K, including monitor(s). I've also decided I'm going to buy any additional RAM or HDDs from 3rd party, so that will save some money. I suppose my concern is that I don't want to buy more processor than is necessary and miss out on RAM, or spend too much money on RAM when I could just buy a scratch disk. I'd also like to see if I can work two monitors into this budget without sacrificing speed.

    The feedback has been great so far. Thanks for the help.
  6. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    Photoshop relies on the cpu for all its work. It is also 32-bit, and there are no plans from Adobe to migrate to 64-bit. If your machine is dedicated to Photoshop work, then you might consider getting a 2x2 cpu, 4 gigs of RAM, a 20" display for your tools and a 24" S-IPS display for images.

    A lot of variables to consider, but in the end, it really comes down to what suits your personal style and flow.
  7. Mr.Noisy macrumors 65816


    May 5, 2007
    I'm using CS2 for HDR and CS3 for everything else, 4gb of RAM is ideal in the quad, you won't need a scratch, as for monitors, i'm happy with 2 x 24" dells at present (getting dual dell 30"s soon), but regular monitor calibration is a must, and for this ive had some good results using the spyder kit.
    as for HDD's i use all Western digital but most brand names will be ok.

    the Mac Pro is a great Photoshop machine ;)
  8. jerryrock macrumors 6502


    Sep 11, 2007
    Amsterdam, NY
    This comparison will help clear up some of your questions:

    Ram is very important for Photoshop, buying third party ram will save a lot of money. A great feature of the MacPro is that it has four drive bays that can hold up to four terabytes. Faster hard drives will increase scratch disk performance (and you definitely need a scratch disk)!

    Take some time and read the Adobe link I sent in my previous reply, it explains a lot about how Photoshop uses memory.

    How much memory you will use is a totally subjective amount. Who knows what projects you will be working on in the future and how large the files will be?

    My current system is a 2.66 ghz MacPro (2 dual core Xeon processors) 12 gigs of ram, two 500 gig WD 7200 rpm hard drives and an ATI X1900XT video card. I have an external hard drive (firewire) for backup and I use a 6x11 Wacom tablet, 20" Apple Cinema Display and print to both Xerox Phaser and a Canon iPF5000 printer.

    I just finished my degree in Graphic Design (2nd career) and am employed as a Graphic Designer.
  9. zdobson thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 9, 2007
    Interesting results on that link. I have heard that Photoshop is not yet optimized for quad core processors, so that is why it doesn't look significantly faster than an iMac right now. When you look at how much faster the MP is than the iMac with After Effects, which does utilize quad cores, it tells me that I'd better buy the quads for when Photoshop is updated for them.

    I performed this speed test on a MP (2x3.0GHz 4GB RAM) and an iMac (C2E 2.8Ghz 4GB RAM) at the local Apple Store. 35 sec for the MP and 57 sec for iMac. So that MP time should drop even lower once PS uses 4-cores. Apple better hurry with the MP update. That speed test on my system (PowerBook G4 1.25Ghz 1GB RAM) took 10 min 53 sec!

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