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TL;DR: 11th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Processors for Photoshop
Depending on your budget, the new 11th Gen Intel Core processors range from being essentially on par, to slightly behind AMD's current Ryzen offerings. At the i5 and i7 level, the Core i5 11600K and Core i7 11700K perform a bit under the Ryzen 5600X and 5800X respectively, but cost a bit less as well. The Core i9 11900K, on the other hand, performs about the same as the Core i7 11700K, making it a both more expensive, and slower, than the Ryzen 5800X.
Overall, as long as you stick to the latest generation Core i7/i5 or Ryzen 5/7 processors, it is hard to go wrong with any of the Intel or AMD models for Photoshop. Above that price range, however, there is little to gain from either brand. The Intel Core i9 11900K isn't a great investment compared to the Core i7 11700K, and Photoshop doesn't benefit from the higher core count of the AMD Ryzen 5900X and 5950X processors. But below the ~$500 MSRP mark, you can pretty much expect to get a bit more performance for every bump up in price.
Earlier this month, Intel announced their new 11th Gen Intel Core desktop processors (code-named "Rocket Lake"). These new processors are marketed as having substantially better per-core performance compared to their previous 10th Gen Core models, but the top-end model (the Core i9 11900K) has two fewer cores than the previous generation which may hamper performance in some applications.
In Photoshop, we expect these new CPUs to do very well since Intel is boasting up to a 19% IPC (Instructions Per Clock) performance improvement over the previous generation which should considerably improve performance in these kinds of lightly threaded applications. The maximum number of cores has been reduced from 10 to 8 on the top-end Core i9 11900K, but since Photoshop typically doesn't leverage very many CPU cores, that shouldn't be a major factor in this case.
If you want to read about what sets these CPUs apart in more detail, we recommend checking out our landing page for the 11th Gen Intel Core Processors.
In this article, we will be examining the performance of the new Intel Core i9 11900K, i7 11700K, and i5 11600K in Photoshop compared to a range of CPUs including the Intel 10th Gen and AMD Ryzen 5000 Series processors. If you are interested in how these processors compare in other applications, we also have other articles for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Lightroom Classic, DaVinci Resolve, and several other applications available on our article listing page.
If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion.
Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:
|11th Gen Intel Core Test Platform|
|CPU||Intel Core i9 11900K ($513)
Intel Core i7 11700K ($399)
Intel Core i5 11600K ($262)
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U12S|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Z490 Vision D|
|RAM||4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)|
|AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Test Platform|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 9 5950X ($799)
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X ($549)
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X ($449)
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X ($299)
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U12S|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA|
|RAM||4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)|
*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of March 15, 2021
In order to see how the new 11th Gen Intel Core processors perform in Photoshop, we will be comparing them not only to the previous 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs but also to AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. For the test itself, we will be using our PugetBench for Photoshop V0.93.1 benchmark and Photoshop 22.3. This benchmark version includes the ability to upload the results to our online database, so if you want to know how your own system compares, you can download and run the benchmark yourself.
As for the setup of our testing, there is a number of things we want to point out:
First, you will note is that we are using a Z490 motherboard for both the 10th and 11th Gen Intel CPUs. There is a newer Z590 chipset that is launching alongside the 11th Gen CPUs, but we, unfortunately, did not have access to a board early enough to make it into this article. We don't expect the chipset to make much of a performance difference, but we do plan on doing a set of Z490 vs Z590 tests in the near future to make sure our assumptions are correct.
Second, the power limit settings that the motherboard and CPU are using to determine what frequency to run the CPU at under load is extremely muddy with the 11th Gen CPUs. There is the Intel "stock" settings, but also what are essentially overclocked settings that allow the CPU to maintain higher turbo limits for longer periods of time in exchange for dramatically increased CPU power draw and temperatures. The idea is that these power limits allow systems that have sufficient cooling to run the CPU at faster speeds, but we still have a lot of work to do to determine exactly what power limits we feel are safe for our workstations. For now, we opted to stick with the default on the Gigabyte Z490 board we are using, which is to run with the higher power limits. This will give Intel a bit of a boost in terms of performance, however, which is worth keeping in mind when examining the results.
On the flip side, some of the 11th Gen CPUs also support a new technology called "Intel Thermal Velocity Boost" which allows the CPUs to run at a slightly higher clock speed than Turbo Boost 2.0 or Turbo Boost 3.0 (and yes, those are independent) based on the CPU temperature and power draw. This feature is still in beta, however, so we did not opt to use it in this round of testing. Just like Z590, we will be doing follow-up testing in the future to see if it will have any measurable impact on performance.
While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each test, we also like to provide the individual results for you to examine. If there is a specific task that is a hindrance to your workflow, examining the raw results for that task is going to be much more applicable than the scores that our benchmark calculated.
Feel free to skip to the next sections for our analysis of these results to get a wider view of how each configuration performs in Photoshop.
Photoshop Performance Analysis
Intel has a lot of ground to make up versus the AMD Ryzen CPUs, but with the IPC improvements Intel has made, we expected to see some decent performance gains over the previous 10th Gen processors. Unfortunately, while the new processors certainly are significantly faster than the previous generation, it isn't quite enough to unseat Ryzen as the king of Photoshop performance.
Starting at the bottom of the SKU stack, the Intel Core i5 11600K is a bit less expensive than the AMD Ryzen 5600X, and ended up being about 5% slower overall in Photoshop. Considering the price difference, that essentially means that we would rate these two CPUs as being on par with each other as far as value goes. 14% higher cost for 5% higher performance with the 5600X is about right in the world of CPUs, so either of these processors is a great choice at this price range.
Going a step up to the Core i7 11700K, Intel falls behind AMD a little bit more. Here, the Ryzen 5800X is about 8% faster overall, in exchange for a 12% higher price tag over the 11700K. Again, that isn't too bad of a performance delta given the cost difference of these two models, so it would be very easy to argue for either model.
Last up is the Core i9 11900K, which in our Photoshop benchmark, ended up being only a few percent faster than the Core i7 11700K. Since it didn't score significantly higher than the 11700K, that also means that it doesn't fare all that well against the Ryzen 5800X or 5900X. One thing we will point out, however, is that there is still the "Intel Thermal Velocity Boost" feature for the 11900K that we did not include in this testing since it was still in beta. We don't expect it to make a huge difference, but it may be just enough to put the 11900K in the running against AMD.
Overall, this means that at the i5 and i7 level, Intel and AMD are about on par for value. The 11th Gen Intel CPUs are a touch slower, but also less expensive than the closest equivalent AMD Ryzen processor. This may not be what Intel fans were hoping for, but if we look at the gen-over-gen performance, you can clearly see just how much ground Intel has made up with these new 11th Gen processors:
Versus the previous 10th Gen Intel Core processors, the i5 level by far saw the largest performance increase in Photoshop with a massive 20% increase in performance. Intel has been advertising up to a 19% IPC improvement with the 11th Gen CPUs, and it is nice to see this claim verified in our benchmark results.
The Core i7 11700K is also significantly faster than the previous generation, coming in at about 16% faster than the Core i7 10700K. Even the Core i9 11900K was a solid 11% faster than the Core i9 10900K in Photoshop, although as we stated earlier, this really only allows it to match the less expensive Core i7 11700K.
Are the 11th Gen Intel Core Processors Good for Photoshop?
Depending on your budget, the new 11th Gen Intel Core processors range from being essentially on par, to slightly behind AMD's current Ryzen offerings. At the i5/i7 level, the Core i5 11600K and Core i7 11700K perform a bit under the Ryzen 5600X and 5800X respectively, but cost a bit less as well. The Core i9 11900K, on the other hand, performs about the same as the Core i7 11700K, making it a both more expensive, and slower, than the Ryzen 5800X.
Overall, as long as you stick to the latest generation Core i5/i7 or Ryzen 5/7 processors, it is hard to go wrong with any of the Intel or AMD models for Photoshop. Above that price range, however, there is little to gain from either brand. The Intel Core i9 11900K isn't a great investment compared to the Core i7 11700K, and Photoshop doesn't benefit from the higher core count of the AMD Ryzen 5900X and 5950X processors. But below the ~$500 MSRP mark, you can pretty much expect to get a bit more performance for every bump up in price.
Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for Photoshop and that performance will vary widely in different applications. If your workflow includes other software packages (we have similar articles for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Lightroom Classic, and DaVinci Resolve), you need to consider how the system will perform in those applications as well. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles to keep up to date on how all of these software packages – and more – perform with the latest CPUs.