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Best Workstation PC for Adobe Photoshop (Winter 2020)

Written on December 8, 2020 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

Choosing the right PC for your needs can be a daunting task, but here at Puget Systems, we do our best to help you understand how different applications (like Photoshop) utilize the various hardware found in workstations. Not only do we have a number of on-going series of hardware articles for those that want to get deep into the details, but we also have our solutions pages that are intended to distill all our research and testing down to what matters most. Not to mention various other resources like our Youtube channel and podcast.

However, a number of our readers and customers are either not interested in or do not have the time to become fully versed in computer hardware and just want an answer to the "simple" question: what is the best computer for my needs?

Today we will be tackling that question in regards to Adobe Photoshop which is perhaps the most ubiquitous application for content creation. In many ways, Photoshop is relatively simple from a hardware standpoint, wanting a CPU with high per-core performance and a decent amount of RAM, but other hardware choices like the GPU and storage are also incredibly important.

Best PC for Photoshop (Winter 2020)

Something to note is that we are going to primarily focus on the hardware that is going to directly affect performance. Things like 10Gb networking, accurate displays, and peripherals are all incredibly important, but outside the scope of this post.

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Photoshop Workstations

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Good PC Configuration for Photoshop

We'll start off with a solid workstation for Photoshop that will give you terrific performance without breaking the bank. The core of this configuration is the AMD Ryzen 5800X which is about 10% faster than the Intel Core i9 10900K. This makes it a great choice for our "entry" CPU option, although due to the limited supply of AMD Ryzen CPUs currently, the Core i9 10900K is by no means a slouch and is a good fallback if you cannot get your hands on a Ryzen 5800X.

On the GPU side, while Photoshop can take advantage of the video card to process GPU-accelerated filters and effects, you are almost always going to be limited by the performance of your CPU. We have found in our testing that even a mid-range GPU will be similar in performance to a high-end one. Because of this, we will be using the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB on this configuration.

For the system memory, we will be using 32GB of RAM since Photoshop can need a lot of RAM as you add layers or increase the resolution of your projects. Rounding things out, we have a 500GB Samsung 970 EVO NVMe primary drive (for the OS and applications), and a 1TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD for your project and scratch files.

All told, this system should run you around $2,800, and according to our PugetBench database, should score around 1,150 points in our Photoshop benchmark. This makes it an excellent value for the amount of performance you will get.

CPU AMD Ryzen 5800X 8 Core
(Alternate: Intel Core i9 10900K)
Video Cards NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER 8GB
RAM 32GB DDR4
Drives 500GB Samsung 980 Pro NVMe (primary)
1TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD (projects)

Better PC Configuration for Photoshop

Stepping up a bit in terms of budget, there isn't much we can do in terms of CPU performance as the AMD Ryzen 5800X is already within a few percent of the best possible CPU choice for Photoshop. Because of this, we will stick with the 5800X for now.

For the GPU, we will bump it up to the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB, although this is more for the extra VRAM than for any additional performance. We will also put more of the budget towards doubling the RAM (64GB) as well as adding a dedicated Samsung 970 Pro 512GB drive for the scratch and cache files. If you are using Samsung drives (which we highly recommend as we have found them to be extremely reliable), it is important to use a "Pro" drive for these cache/scratch files since this line of drives have higher endurance than the "EVO" line. This can make a difference since cache files tend to perform a higher than typical number of writes to the drive which can affect the lifespan of an SSD.

Otherwise, the storage is the same as the "Good" configuration with a 500GB Samsung 970 EVO NVMe primary drive (for the OS and applications), and a 1TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD for your project files

Depending on current pricing, this configuration should cost right around $3,300 and score around 1,200 points in our Photoshop benchmark. Keep in mind that even though the performance will be within a few percent of the "Good" configuration, raw performance isn't the only thing you are getting with this configuration - you are also getting the higher RAM capacity and dedicated cache/scratch drive which can make a huge impact on your workflow even if it doesn't actually make any filters or effects apply faster.

CPU AMD Ryzen 5800X 8 Core
Video Cards NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB
RAM 64GB DDR4
Drives 500GB Samsung 980 Pro NVMe (primary)
1TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD (projects)
512GB Samsung 980 Pro NVMe (cache & scratch)

Best PC Configuration for Photoshop

For the best possible Photoshop workstation, there actually isn't much we can do over the "Better" configuration for straight performance, but we can bump the CPU up to the AMD Ryzen 5900X. It isn't much faster than the Ryzen 5800X, but the extra cores can help when using multiple applications at once.

We will also continue to stick with NVIDIA for the GPU, although in order to squeeze out the most performance possible we will upgrade to the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 10GB. It is only a few percent faster than the RTX 3070 in Photoshop, but it can make a bigger difference in other applications you may use like After Effects or Premiere Pro.

Another area we can upgrade is the RAM - going up to 128GB. This should be enough for almost any Photoshop workflow, and if you need more RAM (merging a large number of extremely high-resolution images for example), you will need to move to an Intel X-series or AMD Threadripper CPU which are, unfortunately, a bit slower in Photoshop. Because of that, we are going to stick with just 128GB of RAM so we can continue to use the AMD Ryzen 5900X.

For storage, we are going to use the same setup as the previous system, only bumping up the project drive to 4TB and the disk cache drive to 1TB. How much storage is enough varies greatly depending on each person's workflow, so depending on the number and size of assets you need on your local system, you may consider adding even more storage. Alternatively, if you will be using network storage then including a 10 Gigabit PCI-E networking card is a good idea.

All told, this configuration should come in a bit over $4,500 and scores around 1,140 points in our Photoshop benchmark. That isn't going to be measurably faster than the "Better" configuration in terms of raw performance, but the increased RAM capacity and storage is going to make a much bigger impact than the benchmark numbers suggest. Overall, this is easily one of the best possible configurations for Photoshop you can get with the hardware currently available (although you can always increase the amount of storage).

CPU AMD Ryzen 5900X 12 Core
Video Cards NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 10GB
RAM 128GB DDR4
Drives 500GB Samsung 980 Pro NVMe (primary)
4TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD (projects)
1TB Samsung 970 Pro NVMe (disk cache)

Additional Resources

If you want to know more about how Photoshop performs with various hardware as well as our justifications for these recommendations, we have a number of resources available. For those that want just a bit more information, we recommend visiting the "Hardware Recommendations" section of our Photoshop Solutions page. If you really want to dig into the numbers behind the data, we also have an on-going series of hardware articles that are regularly updated, as well as our public database of PugetBench for Photoshop benchmark results.

And, as always, if you aren't sure what you need or just want to verify that you are spending your budget in the most effective way possible, our technology consultants are always available to assist you in getting the exact right workstation for your workflow.

Computer System

Photoshop Workstations

Puget Systems offers a range of powerful and reliable systems that are tailor-made for your unique workflow.

Configure a System!

Labs technician talking with customer

Labs Consultation Service

Our Labs team is available to provide in-depth hardware recommendations based on your workflow.

Find Out More!
Tags: Workstation, PC Workstation, PC, Photoshop, Graphic Design, Photography
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