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Photoshop CC 2017.1.1 CPU Comparison: Skylake-X vs Threadripper

Written on August 31, 2017 by Matt Bach


When AMD launched their Ryzen CPUs back in March, they became a serious challenger to Intel in a number of different markets. Intel fired back in June with their 6-10 core Skylake-X CPUs which in many cases put Intel back on top, but the dust hasn't even settled and both Intel and AMD are once again launching new products. In mid-August, AMD released their 12 and 16 core Threadripper CPUs that are designed specifically for workstation workloads. On Intel's side, the Core i9 7920X 12 core Skylake-X CPU launched a few days ago (on August 28th, 2017) and the 14, 16, and 18 core variants are scheduled to be here in September.

With all these new CPUs, it can be very tough to keep track of what CPU is the best for different applications so today we are going to look specifically at how AMD's Threadripper CPUs compare to the currently available Intel Skylake-X CPUs in Photoshop. One thing we do want to note is that Photoshop does not scale particularly well with a high number of CPU cores, so neither the Skylake-X or Threadripper CPUs are really the best choice for a pure Photoshop workstation. However, Photoshop is an extremely common application that is often used in a secondary role for video editing, rendering, 3D modeling, or a host of other workloads. Because of how widely used it is, we felt it was a good idea to do this testing in case there are any major performance issues with either of these product lines that might affect your choice of CPU.

To see how these new CPUs compare, we tested how long it took to complete a wide range of tasks in Photoshop including:

  1. Launching Photoshop
  2. Opening/Saving large .PSD files
  3. Convert to CMYK/RGB
  4. Applying Blurs
  5. Noise Reduction
  6. Camera RAW Filter
  7. Resizing images
  8. Creating Panorama image
  9. Creating HDR image
  10. More - see full list in the Benchmark Results section

If you would like to skip over our test setup and individual benchmarks, feel free to jump right to the conclusion section.

Test Setup

Our test platforms for Skylake-X and Threadripper are listed below, but we did want to point out that the RAM configuration changed a little bit depending on the CPU. For the majority of the CPUs we used DDR4-2666 RAM but since the Core i7 7800X only natively supports DDR4-2400 we tested with that RAM instead.

As we mentioned in the introduction, Photoshop typically performs best with a quad core, high frequency CPU so neither Skylake-X or Threadripper are likely to be the absolute best in terms of raw performance. To see just how much performance you might be losing compared to the top choice for a pure Photoshop workload, we also decided to include the Intel Core i7 7700K which is currently the fastest CPU available for Photoshop:

Intel Core i7 7700K Test Platform
Motherboard: Asus PRIME Z270-A
CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K 4.2GHz
(4.5GHz Turbo) 4 Core

RAM: 4x DDR4-2400 16GB
(64GB total)
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 8GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Software: Photoshop CC 2017.1.1

One thing we do want to note is that since Threadripper is in essence two Ryzen CPUs combined into a single device, it can have performance issues in some applications depending on how the software is coded. This is not an AMD-only issue, but is something we see with some regularity on the Intel side as well with dual Xeon workstations. You can read the details in AMD's blog about using Threadripper for gaming, but the short of it is that some applications simply don't work well with very high core counts - especially when those cores are spread across multiple "CPUs". To try to alleviate these issues, AMD has provided the ability to switch between two modes through the AMD Ryzen Master software:

  1. Creator Mode (default) - All cores are used
  2. Game Mode - Half the cores are disabled which essentially turns Threadripper into a Ryzen CPU with more PCIe lanes and memory bandwidth.

Switching modes requires you to restart your computer so it isn't something you can do on the fly, but since Photoshop typically works best with fewer cores that run at a high frequency we wanted to see if Game Mode would provide a boost in performance. Since many users will not want to have to switch to Game Mode just to use Photoshop, we decided to publish results for both modes in the following sections.

The images we used in our testing (and their source) are:

Photoshop Actions

360MP (21500x16718)
Scaled up from the Hardware Heaven Photoshop Benchmark V3 (no longer available)

Resized to 38MP (7000x5443) for Smart Blur

Merge to HDR

5x 18MP TIFF (5184x3456)

Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i

5x 80MP TIFF (7760x10328)

Camera: Phase One IQ180
Courtesy of Mark McGilvray Photography

Settings: Default


6x 18MP TIFF (5184x3456)
Merged to 98MP (26144x3759)

Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i

6x 80MP TIFF (7760x10328)
Merged to 177MP (18552x9552)

Camera: Phase One IQ180
Courtesy of Mark McGilvray Photography

Settings: Auto Layout. Blend, vignette removal, geometric distortion correction, and content aware fill enabled.

Benchmark Results

Due to the sheer number of actions we tested and the fact that the performance differences were remarkably consistent, we are going to forego our typical action-by-action breakdown. Feel free to analyze the individual results below in more detail if you wish, but due to the consistency of the results, we encourage you to skip straight to our conclusion for our benchmark analysis.

Scroll right for more results -->

Time to complete Photoshop action (Seconds) Intel Core i7 7700K 4 Core
4.2GHz (4.5GHz Turbo)
Intel Core i7 7800X 6 Core
3.5GHz (4.0GHz Turbo)
Intel Core i7 7820X 8 Core
3.6GHz (4.3/4.5GHz Turbo)
AMD TR 1920X 12 Core
3.5GHz (4.0GHz Turbo)
Creator Mode
AMD TR 1920X 12 Core
3.5GHz (4.0GHz Turbo)
Game Mode
Intel Core i7 7900X 10 Core
3.3GHz (4.3/4.5GHz Turbo)
AMD TR 1950X 16 Core
3.4GHz (4.0GHz Turbo)
Creator Mode
AMD TR 1950X 16 Core
3.4GHz (4.0GHz Turbo)
Game Mode
Intel Core i9 7920X 12 Core
2.9GHz (4.3/4.4GHz Turbo)
General Photoshop Actions                  
PS Start Time 1.7 2.2 2.1 2.5 2.4 1.9 2.8 2.1 2.7
Convert to CMYK 2.7 2.2 1.9 2.8 2.4 2.2 2.9 2.2 2.4
Convert to RGB 4 3 2.2 2.6 3.1 2.4 2.7 2.6 2.6
Rotate 38deg 4.5 5.1 3.6 3.9 3.6 4.5 3.7 3.4 4.3
Smart Sharpen 4 4.6 4.2 4.6 4.2 4.8 4.7 4.1 4.9
Field Blur 26.8 30.3 25.1 31.9 28.4 29.5 32.4 28.2 28.1
Iris Blur 30 32.9 29.2 32.9 30.6 30.4 32.7 30 29.2
Tilt-Shift 29.8 32.6 29.3 33.2 30.6 30.6 33.1 30.2 29.3
Lighting Effect 14.2 18.3 20.7 15.7 15.5 20.4 16.8 16 16.3
Motion Blur 6.3 7.1 7.0 5.7 5.3 6.5 5.1 5.1 6.2
Water Color 44.5 50.5 45.4 63.9 65.5 44.9 64.6 73.4 46.7
Pallette Knife 73.1 89.2 79.7 82.8 85.1 78.6 84.1 95.9 82.6
Stained Glass 137.2 161.4 164.8 100.8 106.5 150.2 108.3 121.7 147.6
Liquify 17.8 25.8 21.3 22.2 20.6 23.3 22.2 21 21.5
Reduce Noise 52.5 59.2 51.9 48.9 49.6 51.2 48.8 53 54.2
Camera Raw Filter 13 11.6 10.1 11.5 12.5 9.4 11.7 12.4 9.2
Generate Normal Map 10.3 13.1 11.7 13.2 12.8 11.6 13.1 14.1 12
Lens Correction 36.8 50.9 40.5 43.3 42.7 39.6 43.1 47.7 41.4
Adaptive Wide Angle 138.4 189.9 198.8 203.9 178.2 258.6 224.6 184.8 241.2
Resize to 109MB 7.1 9 8.1 8.7 8.7 8.1 8.7 9.4 8.1
Smart Blur 20.8 26.4 22.8 22.8 22.7 22.7 22.9 26.5 22.8
Save 1.17GB PSD 16 21.1 17.1 20.7 18.5 19.7 19.9 19.8 19.5
Open 1.17GB PSD 5.5 6.3 5.4 5.9 5.7 5.5 5.9 6.5 5.6
Photomerge - 6x 18MP Images 64 64.5 56.1 58.7 62.7 55.3 57.8 63.6 56.6
Photomerge - 6x 80MP Images 248.7 276.5 248.6 253.9 254.7 243 258.5 274.7 251.1
HDR Creation                  
HDR Analysis - 5x 18MP Images 14.2 20.4 16.4 38.4 36.3 18.2 20.5 16.4 25.4
HDR Creation - 5x 18MP Images 7.7 8.8 7.7 9.2 8.9 7.7 9.4 9.5 8.1
HDR Analysis - 5x 80MP Images 33.8 32.8 32.0 37.7 37 32.9 39.5 33.6 32.1
HDR Creation - 5x 50MP Images 30.3 34.2 30.3 35.9 35.4 29.8 36.9 38 31.4


Photoshop Skylake-X vs Threadripper Overall Benchmark Results

While Threadripper did fairly well in our Premiere Pro and After Effects testing, these results make it clear that Photoshop is not an ideal workload for the 1950X and 1920X CPUs. Between Game Mode and Creator Mode, which one was better depended entirely on the specific task being tested. General actions were just a few percent faster in Game Mode, but creating HDR images was as much as 9% faster. On the other hand, photomerge was 4-8% faster in Creator Mode.

Unfortunately, even cherry picking the results from both modes, Threadripper is definitely overall slower than Skylake-X for Photoshop. General actions (which is likely the primary concern for most users) was only slightly slower compare to Intel, but photomerge and especially HDR creation was quite a bit worse.

To be honest, most people who are considering Threadripper (or Skylake-X for that matter) are probably not heavy Photoshop users since these really are not the correct choice for Photoshop alone. However, there are a ton of people such as video editors that have to use Photoshop relatively often throughout the day, but performance in Photoshop is a secondary concern behind their primary applications. While the results in the chart above look pretty bad for Threadripper, it is worth keeping in mind that the blue bar for "General Actions" is really the most important result for this type of user and in that test Threadripper was only about 3-5% slower than the Intel CPUs.

Tags: Photoshop, Skylake-X, Threadripper