Its time to replace my vintage G5, but I am struggling with how to choose between a Quad-core or Eight-core Mac Pro. Most of my work is Photoshop for print, with files of various sizes (typically 300-300 layered PSD files, but occasionally upwards of 1.5 GB+ layered PSD files). I also use CS4 InDesign, Illustrator, DreamWeaver, and Acrobat.
For the short term, a 2.66 GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro would be fine, but the 4 RAM slots are restrictive. On the other hand, a 2.26 or 2.66 Eight-Core machine will theoretically give better PS performance, room for more RAM and more long term value. I can add RAM later, but I'll have to live with my processor choice. As best as I can tell, the Eight-core machines aren't a good value for Photoshop work until the software uses all cores. I assume that Leopard and CS5 will eventually well together. My gamble is wether a Quad-Core will serve me long term, or if the additional cores and RAM of the Eight-Core will be worth the extra investment now.
I've read about problems with CS4 and the Nehalem processors, but I hope most of these have been resolved by now. Unfortunately, I can't afford to wait a few months before CS5 is sorted out, so I hope to make a safe choice for CS4 now, that will work with CS5 down the road.
Adobe TechNote: Optimize performance in Photoshop CS4 on Mac OS
Excerpts from Apple TechNote kb404440:
The CPU (Central Processing Unit) of the Macintosh limits the speed of Photoshop. Since Photoshop manipulates large quantities of data and performs many calculations, its speed is greatly dependent on processor speed.
Photoshop requires a PowerPC G5 or an Intel-based processor. Photoshop can also take advantage of multiprocessor systems (that is, systems that have two or more PowerPC or Intel processors), which are much faster than a single-processor systems. All Photoshop features are faster on a multiprocessor system, and some features are much faster. Note that there is a law of diminishing returns with multiple processors: the more processors you use, the less you get from each addition processor. Therefore, you may not experience expected speed increases if you use more than four processors.
Excerpt from the TechNote above states that all PS features are faster on a muti-processor machine. Per Lloyd Charles' tests, (http://macperformanceguide.com/Reviews-MacProNehalem-MoreIsLess.html) the dual CPU is actually slower for many functions in PS. Lloyd's tests were done in OS X 10.5.6 (updated in June 1, 2009). Have the newer Mac Pro machines or Leopard changed any of the performance issues since Lloyds' tests? Sorry if these tests no longer apply, but I am trying to confirm how things stand at this point.
I agree. The 8 core Mac Pro is overkill unless you are doing video or 3D modeling. I would put all of the money you save on the quad core and invest it in RAM though. I worked with a Mac Pro the other week with maxed out RAM and Illustrator/Photoshop launched in less than 2 seconds with palettes and large files open and ready to go! Check out Macworld's reviews of each unit if you want:
In practice, the power of machines now on the mac side seems to be exceeding what Photoshop can use them for. By a fairly long margin. On the top end of machines that I use I don't notice a huge difference. I mean I can't tell that an 8 core is noticeaby faster than a 4 or a dual. Not in practice.
I agree with the others, its having sufficient RAM that makes the real difference to operational speed of Photoshop. This is, and always has been the case. Get at least 6 or 8. The latest processors quads or 8 core are really all tremendously fast.
The other consideration you have is graphics cards. Make sure you get a good enough card for CS5 and CS4.
Reynolds (Mark) wrote:
In practice, the power of machines now on the mac side seems to be exceeding what Photoshop can use them for. By a fairly long margin.
As was posted previously, the 8 Core machines are really geared toward video editing and 3-D modeling which are as processor consumptive as they are with RAM.
I was at an event two weeks ago which was covered by about a dozen TV crews from local and national affiliates.
The "Press stand" was full of cameras and underneath each one was a MacBook. There was a table with what I learned was four MacPro Servers with 8 Core i7s and 32Gb of RAM each. The MacBooks were connected by ethernet to the Pros and they were using OnLocation to make live edits as they shot. There were three crews working from each 8 Core Pro.
The MacBooks had 8Gb each from what I was told and on Core Duo processors were plenty fast for video work, even if they carried it along with a hend held cam, which I also saw.
The Quad Core machines are sufficient. Just make sure you have enough RAM for the work you're looking to take on.
Thanks for all the helpful replies. Part of my quandary has been wondering if CS5 and future versions of OS X will better implement the additional cores. I'm aware that some Photoshop functions rely more on CPU processing, while other functions rely more on RAM. I suppose a 2.66 Quad-Core will be fine with plenty of RAM. They currently max out at 16 GB, which for CS5 applications should be waaaaaaay more than enough.
Side note: Would the ATI Radeon HD 4870 offer any significant performance value for the CS5 applications? I currently can't use the OpenGL in CS4 Photoshop, (although I was able to use OpenGL in the less demanding CS3). I don't do any video or gaming, don't plan on using two monitors, but I occasionally work with Maxon Cinema C4DXL (3d application). My primary interest is a video card choice to use with CS4 (eventually CS5). Additionally, I have a NEC LCD2680WUXi monitor with hardware calibrator (re-branded Greyagmacbeth hardware calibrator w/SpectraView calibration software). Any reason why either of the MacPro video cards wouldn't work with this?
My experience - in April, I bought both a 3.06 GHz duo core and a quad core i7. CS4 works ok with some minor annoying glitches on the duo core. But with the quad core i7, I quit using CS4 because of all the problems. Illustrator wasn't as bad, but Photoshop was unusable. Since both computers had the same software otherwise, I had to assume that it was the processor since that was the only difference. I've been reading of all the problems with CS5. So if all my problems are due to the quad core processor, I can only imagine that 8 cores would be problematic.
Wow, I may not know all of them because after a certain point, I quit using it on the quad core.
Illustrator - I didn't use it that much on the q4, but the color picker doesn't work. When I click on the color box to change colors, the small color box with the slider is the only thing that opens. on the Duo core, the color picker opens.
Photoshop - On the i7 quad core - Constant crashes and other glitches that I can't remember because I haven't used it since April. But the main problem that I encountered is that the layers palette quits working. It may be ok when I first open PS, but then becomes greyed out - nothing in the palette (either from the dropdown menu or the layers palette box) works - including layer styles like drop shadow, merge, flatten, new layer or anything else in layers. If I opened another file, it would be the same way. Without being able to use layers, and with the constant crashes, I quit using that computer.
The only problem I have on the duo core is in Photoshop in using tools. Frequently, when trying to use a tool, I get a small menu open at my cursor. It keeps popping up and I have to leave tools and do something else then go back to the tool. The tools I've had this with specifically are the paint brush, select tools, burn and dodge tools.
I'm also quite annoyed that twain is no longer included so that I can use my scanner within PS. I just talked with a friend this afternoon who downloaded a trial version of CS5 this afternoon to be sure it works before she upgrades. She is upset because her scanner doesn't work in PS and she is having problems with other plug-ins so she is not going to upgrade.
Thought of more problems - on the quad core, when I click on the hand tool for the image to fit to sceen, it doesn't work. I have to use the minus or plus zoom to change the image size.
On the dual core, the hand tool works. However, when I click on the zoom to enlarge or reduce, it makes all the files I have open do the same. If I have 10 images open, it enlarges or reduces them as well and this is very annoying.
I find it odd that you were crashing so often in Photoshop CS4 when other users aren't.
Are you sure you downloaded the dot releases (11.0.1, 11.0.2)?
With the dot releases installed, the majority of the Photoshop CS4 crashes are from MacOS, not Photoshop itself, and still fairly far between.
When you click and hold on a tool in the toolbar, the other tools in the slot show up in a small menu - that is perfectly normal.
And if you're talking about context menus - those are very normal when right clicking or control-clicking.
TWAIN is an optional download -- we had to remove it from the default because so many buggy scanner drivers were causing Photoshop to crash, and customers had a difficult time figuring out that their scanner driver was at fault. Even with TWAIN installed, most scanner drivers are 32 bit and don't have 64 bit versions yet.
However, when I click on the zoom to enlarge or reduce, it makes all the files I have open do the same.
That sounds like you forgot that you enabled the "zoom all windows" checkbox in the zoom tool options.
And I still suspect that you failed to install the dot releases.
More likely is a quiet slipstream upgrade of the Mac Pro 2-3 weeks from now, or perhaps even July or August. Apple is now primarily a media company (iPhone, iPod, iPad), and the Mac Pro ranks very low in terms of importance to Apple’s bottom line.
More than ever, it seems likely that any upgrade to the Mac Pro will be a yawner with probably little more than a hexacore CPU instead of quad-core CPU, which will have very little bearing most every photographic effort..IMO
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If Steve weren't Steve, he would outsource the computer side and let someone do as good a job as the better alternate makers did many years ago. But what do I know, maybe there's a handheld MacPro 8 ghz 128 gig with a 4 tb SSD drive laying on a bar in Cupertino right now.
It's not the number of cores that will allow Photoshop to perform better - it's CPU speed. Get the fastest CPU available on the quad and you'll find that Photoshop outperforms anything with 8 cores and slower CPU.
Chris I wanted to update you since after months, you helped me with my problems. I was not working with PS for a few days so didn't get to it immediately. .01 upgrade didn't help as much as .02 did. It appears that most of my Photoshop problems with CS4 are fixed. If only I could get the Illustrator problems on the quad 4 fixed (the latest update didn't help there.)
With the Twain, I couldn't find the download - Adobe's site says to get it from my installation disk. Weeks ago, I had searched every file on my disk and could not find it, even in the goodies folder like it said and searched again today. It is simply not there. However, a friend sent me the plug-in from hers and I installed it and finally am able to scan into Photoshop.
Thanks for your help.
The new mini shows some promise for most users. It's fast enough, can hold 8 gB, Has a n 800 port and four USBs, and most important, has an SD slot so you can hook up
external SATA/eSATA drives. I'll probably get one this summer. My Mac dealer says he can save me 150 on filling up the RAM.
I have a two port SATA SD card in my Dell notebook which works well, so I have some confidence in that setup.
Maybe someone will build a USB 3 or FW 3200 SD card soon also.
Chris, After working more, I'm still having a PS problem with tools. I mentioned earlier about getting the menu when working with tools. This is not when I select, but when I am working with the tool. I will have the tool selected and using it over the image. the tool may work one or more times then I start getting the menu at the cursor. For example, I use the paint tool, paint something and then the next time I click to paint, I get a menu. Or when I click using the paint fill to fill an area or the select tool. For example, holding down the shift key to select multiple areas, the first few select, then I start getting the menu at my cursor.
Also, when I select a tool by clicking on it, not hovering over it, I get the menu of the tool seletions for that tool. The menu used to appear in prior versions when I clicked on the little arrow at the lower right of the tool. So everytime I click on a tool, I have to select the actual version of that tool I want to use
This happens on 2 computers. I don't have this problem other than with Adobe. In addition, I have a problem with the hand tool to fit the image tp screem (this happens also in Illustrtor) - the hand tool doesn't do anything. I am using the mouse, not the keyboard when this happens. When my batteries are low, I have problems, but my batteries are new in both mice and this has been an ongoing problem on brand new computers since I installed CS4.
Chirs, its me again. Take back everything I said about Photoshop working ok since I updated. After working with it extensively today, I find that none of the problems I wrote about have been corrected (after all updates installed). I get freezes and have to force quit, then I get crashss and loose information and my layers pallete quits working completely. This is in addition to all the little pop up menus that keep happening when I use a tool, any tool.
Actually, I haven't been using my keyboard but my mouse. Just to try it, I turned off my Apple mouse and started using a non-apple mouse and continue to hae the same problems.
Another problem that I have been having, is when PS hasn't crashed and I want to close it down, I hae to use force quit as the quit photoshop option is gayed out. These problems are not unique to me as I have been reading of these problems being had by others for over a year on MacRumors, starting in April 09 and continuing with current posts.
Here is the link and you can see all the problems posted that coincide with mine.