A few days ago, while discussing various system configurations in answer to posts asking about what's best in new computers, it occurred to me that while we all know our own computers pretty well, it's practically impossible, without a whole bunch of different systems to work with on hand, to judge what system works best with Photoshop. Is more cores better? A superduper video card? Huge RAM?
Got a few minutes?
I propose we try a few "real world" things with Photoshop CS5 on our systems and report how quickly/interactively it does them, as well as our system configurations, in an attempt to understand what works best. This isn't a "one upsmanship" contest, but just a poll to see what systems really blaze through Photoshop work.
Let's try to keep the list of "some things" fairly small, so we can all easily try them. And the timing isn't too critical... Use a stopwatch if you can, or just watch the second hand on your watch or a clock and guestimate the timing to the nearest second.
List these things about your system:
A. Your architecture (PC / Mac) and what OS you're running.
B. Number of processors / processor models / GHz speed.
C. RAM size, speed.
D. Hard drives (OS, Photo storage, Photoshop scratch), their sizes and speeds.
E. Video card (model, graphics memory on board).
F. Your Photoshop Preferences settings - Amount of RAM you've allotted Photoshop, whether you have OpenGL enabled, scratch disk allocations.
Here are the things I think might be useful for multiple people to try and let us know the time it takes:
1. Cold start Photoshop, from where it is not running. How long does this take from start to everything on the screen painted and ready to work? Do it several times. If you use both the 32 bit version and the 64 bit version, see if there's a difference in startup time for each. This test represents how long you'll have to wait when inspiration hits you and before you can start working.
2. Create a big, new RGB image, 10000 x 8000 pixels in size, 16 bits/channel. Time how long it takes to File - Save As a .PSD in the location you often save files. Make sure you're set for Maximum Compatibility for saving PSDs. This gives your disk subsystem a bit of a workout.
3. Choose a round brush, set the Hardness to 0% (i.e., as fuzzy as possible), Spacing down to 10%, disable all the dynamics, and set the foreground color to something other than the background color of your image so you can see your strokes. How do brush strokes on your screen keep up with you interactively under each of the following conditions? If not, how long does it seem to take to catch up to where you just painted? Does it follow everywhere you moved your mouse, or at some point start to skip places where your mouse went if you paint quickly?
3a. Brush Size 100px.
3b. Brush Size 200px.
3c. Brush Size 300px.
3d. Brush Size 400px.
3e. Brush Size 600px.
3f. Brush Size 1000px.
3g. How big does the Brush Size have to be at 10% spacing and 0% hardness before it gets too laggy to be practically useful without slowing your strokes down hugely.
4. Filter - Blur - Lens Blur. Change all the controls to 0 then the Radius to 20 pixels and time how long it takes to fill the preview with the image (all checkerboard gone). You can cancel the Blur filter after the display is filled. This is a single-threaded plug-in.
5. How long does it take to complete an Unsharp Mask on the image you've painted, using a setting of 250% amount, 250.0 pixel radius, 0 levels? Time how long it takes after hitting the OK button to Photoshop being ready for you to do something else. This is a multi-threaded plug-in.
You can go ahead and close the above image after the Unsharp Mask operation.
6. How long does it take to convert a Canon EOS 7D and a Nikon D7000 image with default settings, between hitting the [Open] button in Camera Raw and the image appearing in Photoshop to be ready to edit? You can find raw files online to try with. This is where I got the ones I tried:
Please don't be shy about posting your results.
Your computer is what it is and there's NOTHING to be ashamed of. Some are going to be faster than others at different things, and I think it will be really enlightening to see how the different system architectures handle these operations. It can be a more or less objective way to see what architectures really do give great Photoshop performance. Then when people ask "what's the best architecture" to get to run Photoshop, we can respond with more confidence and point them to this thread.
I'll post my own results in a bit.