The question that most photographers ask when it comes to a computer system running Photoshop, “Do I need more RAM or a faster Graphics card”
We already know that the CPU is above all the main component in system performance in any computer, but does adding more RAM increase performance, or is a faster graphics card needed to make a big difference, or perhaps both?
To test this we used the benchmark program, PCMARK 8 Advanced Edition from Futuremark. PCMARK 8 has several benchmarks for testing a computers performance.
The benchmark test we used was Applications – Adobe Creative Cloud with Adobe Photoshop Light and Adobe Photoshop Heavy (see picture below)
During testing PCMARK 8 opens up Adobe Photoshop and automatically loads several photos and applies various filters and effects to each. It then measures the time taken. The less time it takes the faster the computer is.
The base system used for testing was a Haswell 4790K CPU @4.0 Ghz with onboard Intel HD 4600 Graphics and with 8 Gigs of RAM. In other words a separate graphics card was not used, but instead we tested using the built in Intel HD 4600 Graphics.
We then added a GTX 580 graphics card and then increased the RAM to 16Gig and then further increased the RAM to 32 Gig.
The results of the Photoshop Light Benchmark (above)
The results of the Photoshop Heavy Benchmark (above)
The results of the both benchmarks together. (above)
The computer system with onboard HD 4600 graphics and only 8 Gigs or RAM was, as expected, the slowest of all.
Adding a GTX 580 Graphics card increased the overall performance by 12%
Increasing the RAM from 8 Gig to 16 gigs increased the overall performance by 30% – just by increasing the RAM alone gave a performance increase of 18%
Increasing the RAM from 16 Gig to 32 gig increased the overall performance by 38% a further 8% increase in performance from 16 gigs of RAM.
As you can see, increasing RAM from 8 to 16 Gigs of RAM saw the biggest increase in performance, but going from 16 to 32 gigs only showed a marginal speed increase.
The GTX 580 is a fairly old graphics card, the current series is the GTX 10 series. We tried this option as well. The card we tested was the GTX 1060 which on a graphics benchmark score is 160% faster than the GTX 580. The result of the test was identical, to that of the GTX 580, in fact we had no increase in performance in the Photoshop tests at all!
It is obvious that adding a graphics card and more RAM do increase performance in Photoshop, but there are limits.
16 Gig of RAM seems to be about the best, although if you load up a lot of images at the same time then we would recommend 32 gig of RAM.
Onboard graphics is a bit too slow but a low to medium end graphics card certainly makes a difference. If you also like to do some Video Editing or play games then an even faster graphics card is what would be needed.
The main component that is required, is of course the CPU, the faster the CPU, the faster Photoshop will be.