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Photoshop CPU Roundup: AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen, AMD Threadripper 2, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series

Written on July 17, 2019 by Matt Bach


For quite a while, Intel has been the dominant CPU choice for many applications - especially ones like Photoshop that do not scale well with a high number of CPU cores. This has been evident even in our own workstation product line, which have predominantly been Intel-based for years with AMD-based options only listed for very specific workloads.

However, with the new Ryzen 3rd generation CPUs, AMD has spent considerable effort to improve performance for moderately threaded application like Photoshop. In a large part, this is really what makes AMD's new processors very exciting. The increase in core count is certainly nice, but most applications simply are not going to see a benefit from the higher core counts that both Intel and AMD are trending towards. Instead, it is the IPC (instructions per clock) improvements that will be more significant for most users - even if that doesn't show up in the marketing specs.

AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen Photoshop Performance

In this article, we will be looking at exactly how well the new Ryzen 3600, 3700X, 3800X, and 3900X perform in Photoshop. Since we expect these CPUs to shake up the market quite a bit, we also took this opportunity to do a full CPU roundup. Not only will we include results for the previous generation Ryzen CPUs, but also the latest AMD Threadripper, Intel 9th Gen, and Intel X-series CPUs. And for good measure, we will throw in a 14-core iMac Pro and a current (for the moment) 2013 Mac Pro 12-core as well.

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

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Test Setup & Methodology

Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:

Shared PC Hardware/Software
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1903)
Photoshop CC 2019 (Ver 20.0.4)
Puget Systems Ps Benchmark V18.10 BETA
Mac Test Platforms
iMac Pro 14-core Intel Xeon W
64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC
Radeon Pro Vega 64 16GB
Mac Pro (2013) 12-core, 2.7GHz
64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
Dual AMD FirePro D700 6GB
1TB PCIe-based SSD

*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of July 2nd, 2019

Note that while most of our PC test platforms are using DDR4-2666 memory, we did switch up to DDR4-3000 for the AMD Ryzen platform. AMD CPUs can be more sensitive to RAM speed than Intel CPUs, although in our Does RAM speed affect video editing performance? testing, we found that even the new Ryzen CPUs only saw modest performance gains in Creative Cloud applications when going from DDR4-2666 to even DDR4-3600 RAM.

For each platform, we used the maximum amount of RAM that is both officially supported and actually available at the frequency we tested. This does mean that the Ryzen platform ended up with only 64GB of RAM while the other platforms had 128GB, but since our benchmarks never need more than 32GB of RAM to run, this does not actually affect performance at all. We have recently re-confirmed this in our RAM speed article linked above.

However, keep in mind that this is technically overclocking since the AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen CPUs support different RAM speeds depending on how many sticks you use and whether they are single or dual rank:

Ryzen 3rd Gen supported RAM:

  • 2x DIMM: DDR4-3200
  • 4x single rank DIMM: DDR4-2933
  • 4x dual rank DIMM: DDR4-2667

Since we are using four sticks of dual rank RAM (almost every 16GB module available will be dual rank), we technically should limit our RAM speed to DDR4-2666 if we wanted to stay fully in spec. However, since many end users may end up using a RAM configuration that supports higher speeds, we decided to do our testing with DDR4-3000, which right in the middle of what AMD supports.

The benchmark we will be using are the latest release of our public Photoshop benchmarks. Full details on the benchmark and a link to download and run it yourself are available at Puget Systems Adobe Photoshop CC Benchmark.

Benchmark Results

While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each test, we also wanted to provide the individual results. 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 our Overall scores. Feel free to skip to the next section for our analysis of these results if you rather get a wider view of how each CPU performs in Photoshop.

AMD Ryzen 3rd generation Photoshop Performance Benchmark

Benchmark Analysis

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Testing 22 different CPUs makes a bit of an overwhelming chart, but there are a few very clear conclusions we can pull from the results:

  1. AMD Threadripper CPUs are not good for Photoshop.
  2. Intel X-series CPUs are OK for Photoshop, but not an ideal choice for heavy Photoshop workflows since you can get more performance for less money with other CPU options.
  3. Intel 9th Gen CPUs are great for Photoshop.
  4. The new Ryzen 3rd generation CPUs are terrific for Photoshop.

We typically don't get too much into cost to performance since pricing is constantly in a state of flux, but there is no argument that the new Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs in particular are excellent for Photoshop. With current MSRP pricing, the AMD Ryzen 7 3800X is $100 cheaper than the Intel Core i9 9900K, yet performs almost exactly the same. At the lower end of the product stack, the Ryzen 5 3600 is $60 less than the Intel Core i5 9600K, but ended up being a small ~4% faster overall.

Something else we want to specifically point out is how large the performance gap is between the new Ryzen CPUs and the previous generation. The most direct comparison is between the Ryzen 7 2700X and the new Ryzen 7 3700X, where we saw a terrific 19% gain in performance. After years of seeing small 5-10% performance gains from one generation of CPUs to the next, this is very impressive feat and an indicator that AMD is definitely on the right track.

Are the Ryzen 3rd generation CPUs good for Photoshop?

Overall, the new AMD Ryzen CPUs are a great choice for a Photoshop workstation. There may not be much of a reason to go with the more expensive Ryzen 9 3900X over the Ryzen 7 3800X, but the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs should be slightly faster than the similarly prices Intel equivalents.

However, the performance advantage over Intel is really only a handful of percent which is going to be almost impossible to notice in the real world. While the AMD CPUs are slightly faster or more affordable than Intel, oddly enough that may not be enough of a reason to go with team red (AMD) over team blue (Intel) for everyone. There are many more factors that go into your choice of platform than just benchmark performance - especially when the results are as close as these are. Many consumers may make the choice based simply on which company they want to support (which is a perfectly valid reason), there are a few other considerations to keep in mind:

On the Intel side, the Z390 platform has been available for quite some time which means that most of the bugs and issues have been worked out. In our experience over recent years, Intel also simply tends to be more stable overall than AMD and is the only way to get Thunderbolt support that actually works. Thunderbolt can be a bad time on PC, and there are only a few motherboard brands (like Gigabyte) where we have had it actually work properly.

For AMD, the X570 platform is very new and there will be a period of time where bugs will need to be ironed out. However, AMD is much better about allowing you to use newer CPUs in older motherboards, so if upgrading your CPU is something you will likely do in the next few years, AMD is the stronger choice. In addition, X570 is currently the only platform with support for PCI-E 4.0. This won't directly affect performance in most cases, but it will open up the option to use insanely fast storage drives as they become available.

Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for Photoshop. If your workflow includes other software packages (After Effects, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, etc.), you need to consider how the processor will perform in all those applications. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles for the latest information on how these CPUs perform with a variety of software packages.

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Tags: Photoshop, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, Intel vs AMD, AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen