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Photoshop CC 2019 CPU Roundup: Intel vs AMD vs Mac

Written on December 5, 2018 by Matt Bach


If you are in the market for a new Photoshop workstation, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the hundreds or thousands of different hardware components you can choose from. Even if you are just trying to decide on a CPU, it can still be daunting to find one that not only fits your budget, but will also give you the best performance for your dollar.

In this article, we are going to be benchmarking a wide range of processors from Intel and AMD including the Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, and AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen CPU lineups. In addition, we will be comparing them to a current Mac Pro 12 Core and iMac Pro 14 Core for those that are considering going with a Mac-based workstation rather than a PC.

One thing to note is that we will not be including results for any previous-gen CPUs in this article. At first, we were going to include them but the charts and tables soon got out of hand. Instead, if you want to know how these CPUs compare to previous generations, we recommend checking out the following articles:

If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark result/analysis sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion section.

Test Setup & Methodology

Listed below are the systems we will be using in our testing:

Shared PC Hardware/Software
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1803)
Mac-based PC Test Hardware  
System: Apple Mac Pro (12 Core) Apple iMac Pro (14 Core)
CPU: 12-core
2.7GHz 30MB of L3 cache
14-core Intel Xeon W
2.5GHz Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
RAM: 64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC
Video Card: Dual AMD FirePro D700, 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM Radeon Pro Vega 64, 16GB of HBM2 memory
Hard Drive: 1TB PCIe-based SSD 1TB SSD
OS: MacOS Mojave (10.14.1)

For the testing itself, we will be using Photoshop CC 2019 (ver. 20.0.0) along with version 18.10 of our Puget Systems Photoshop CC Benchmark which is currently available for public download. This benchmark tests a range of general tasks (open/save, resize, content aware fill, etc.), filters, as well as panorama photomerge. Full details on the benchmark are available on the benchmark download page.

Benchmark Results

While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each type of task, we also wanted to provide the individual results in case there is a specific task someone may be interested in. Feel free to skip to the next section for our analysis of these results.

Benchmark Analysis

Photoshop CC 2019 Benchmark CPU Roundup - Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro

Our Photoshop benchmark (which is available for public download) tests a large number of tasks that we split into 4 categories: General, Filter, Photomerge, as well as GPU-accelerated which contains results from both the general and filter tests. With the exception of Photomerge, we also run each test in both 8 bits/channel and 16 bits/channel mode. These results all combine into a single "Overall Score" that represents the overall performance of the system in Photoshop.

If we sort by the overall score, you can see that the Intel 9th Gen CPUs like the Core i9 9900K and Core i7 9700K are the top performers - which is to be expected since Photoshop is not terribly effective at leveraging higher core count CPUs. Next is the iMac Pro 14 Core, followed by the whole slew of Intel X-series processors that were recently released. These X-series CPUs are around 10-15% slower than the Intel Core i9 9900K depending on which model you choose.

Below the Intel X-series are the AMD Ryzen 7 and the AMD Threadripper CPUs. Interestingly enough, while the lower-end Threadripper CPUs are only about 20% slower than the i9 9900K, the two "WX" series models are closer to 27% slower. These models are essentially two CPUs crammed onto a single die which results in additional overhead that can cause performance loss in applications that cannot take advantage of higher core counts. Even with the new "Dynamic Local Mode" feature enabled (which is supposed to assist in this sort of workload) the WX models clearly have some performance issues.

At the very bottom of our list is the old (but somehow still current) Mac Pro. With the Mac Pro, we are about 30% slower than the i9 9900K.

Intel vs AMD vs Mac for Photoshop CC 2019

For Photoshop CC 2019, there is no question that the Intel 9th Gen CPUs are currently the fastest processors available. Even if you were to spend 50% more on a workstation based around an Intel X-series CPU or almost twice as much for an iMac Pro, a Core i9 9900K will still be 7-15% faster.

Compared to an AMD Threadripper system, the performance gap is even larger. Here, you can expect a Core i9 9900K to be anywhere from 20% to almost 30% faster in Photoshop. The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X, on the other hand, does about right for its price. It is a bit more expensive than the Intel Core i5 9600K, but it is also faster by a few percent. This means that if your budget can only accommodate a ~$300 CPU, you likely won't see much of a difference between Intel and AMD for Photoshop.

If you are curious how your current system compares to any of these processors, we recommend downloading and running our Photoshop CC Benchmark which is the exact benchmark used in our hardware articles. And if you are interested in how the latest Intel and AMD processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of articles looking at CPU performance in Lightroom, After Effects, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and many other software packages.

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Tags: Photoshop, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro, 9900K, 9700K, 9600K, 9980XE, 9960X, 9940X, 9920X, 9900X, 9980X, 9800X, 2990WX, 2970WX, 2950X, 2920X, 2700X