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NVIDIA's new RTX series cards are here and while they do bring a general performance increase, much of what makes these cards interesting are the addition of two new features: Tensor cores and RT cores.
What are Tensor Cores?
While already available on the more expensive Titan V GPU, the RTX line introduces tensor cores at a more reasonable price point. These tensor cores operate alongside the normal CUDA cores that traditionally do the heavy lifting, but are designed specifically for machine learning inference (running already created and trained machine learning models). While not utilized in Adobe applications today, these cores may be used in the future – especially as Adobe continues to develop their "Adobe Sensei" AI and machine learning technology.
What are RT Cores?
RT cores are brand new in this generation of graphics cards, and are specialized for a single type of operation: ray tracing. It is possible that Adobe may utilize these cores for things like lighting 3D objects in Photoshop, but if or when they will take advantage of these RT cores is currently unknown.
What makes these new RTX cards hard to review and test is the fact that Photoshop currently does not use either of these new types of cores. We can (and will) look at straight performance gains with the current version of Photoshop, but really what you are paying for is technology that might give you significant performance gains in the future.
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 is the test platform we will be using in our testing:
|Motherboard:||Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 5|
|CPU:||Intel Core i7 8700K 6 Core
3.7GHz (4.7GHz Turbo)
|RAM:||4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)|
|Hard Drive:||Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD|
|OS:||Windows 10 Pro 64-bit|
|Software:||Photoshop CC 2018 (ver. 19.1.6)|
To see how the new RTX cards perform in Photoshop, we tested it against a selection of cards from NVIDIA and AMD as well as the integrated Intel HD 630 that is built into the Core i7 8700K.
For the testing itself, we will be using version 18.4 of our Puget Systems Photoshop CC 2018 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. Not all of these tasks are GPU accelerated, however, so in this article we will primarily be looking at just the tasks that are as well as the combined "GPU Score" from these tasks. Full details on the benchmark are available on the benchmark download page.
While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each task, we also wanted to provide the individual result for each task in case there is a specific task someone may be interested in. Tests that are directly utilizing the GPU are marked in blue, but feel free to skip to the next section for our analysis of these results.
Individual GPU-based test results:
Our Photoshop Benchmark includes a large number of tasks that don't utilize the GPU, but there are five tasks in our benchmark that should show a benefit to having a more powerful GPU. These results are used to calculate the "GPU Score" portion of our benchmark which does a great job at showing the relative performance difference between each card in a more general sense.
If you were expecting to be wowed by these new cards, you are probably in for a bit of a disappointment. The issue with Photoshop is that once you get to a mid-range card, there really isn't much to gain from using a more powerful GPU. Technically, the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti are the fastest GPUs we have ever tested for Photoshop… but we only saw a 7% performance delta between them and a more modest GTX 1060. To be fair, this isn't the fault of these cards at all, it is simply the fact that Photoshop is typically much more CPU-limited even when we are using the Core i7 8700K which is the fastest overall CPU for Photoshop currently available.
Are the RTX video cards good for Photoshop?
Since Photoshop is relatively light in the way of GPU acceleration, the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti probably aren't worth purchasing simply for their raw performance. They are technically the fastest GPUs we have ever tested for Photoshop, but they are only 7% faster than a humble GTX 1060.
The real question is whether the RTX GPUs will be good for Photoshop in the future. The new RT and tensor cores could potentially have significant performance advantages for some tasks, or they might never be used at all. It really comes down to whether or not the Photoshop developers are willing or able to make effectively use of these new features. Our guess is that they will eventually be leveraged in some way, but whether it will happen in Photoshop CC 2019 or Photoshop CC 2030 is unknown at the moment.
Overall, the RTX cards are likely more powerful than you would ever need for Photoshop right now, but if you already need a high-end GPU for other applications (Premiere Pro, GPU-based rendering, etc.) we would highly recommend using one of these RTX cards if possible. The RTX 2080 does have less VRAM than the comparably priced GTX 1080 Ti (8GB vs 11GB), but the potential these cards offer is very hard to ignore.
If you are interested in how the RTX cards perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Video Card articles as we have (or are working on) a number of other articles for the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti.
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