How powerful computer for photoshop

alaiosalaios Registered Users Posts: 668 Major grins
edited March 22, 2015 in Digital Darkroom
Hi all,

I am running photoshop and lightroom (cc both version) in my 5 and half years old computer. A low spec double core of its age with 4Gb of ram. Thinks are slow and I am considering an upgrade.

I am currently thinking on how I can find
1. How powerful beast I would need.. for processing three photos in lightroom and photoshop (multiple layers). Also a firefox with 40 tabs would be constantly running. Does 8 Gb of Ram suffice or 16gb are necessary? What about the processor?

2. What is the real difference between a laptop and a desktop at the same price range. For both cases I would have an external screen connected for the photo work. Laptop gives you the plus to pick your equipment with you when travelling. For example these two are of the same price.

3. How advanced graphic card photoshop needs?

Any help on the above can help


  • RichardRichard Administrators, Vanilla Admin Posts: 19,847 moderator
    edited March 19, 2015
    A few guidelines: In general, a desktop will be cheaper than a laptop for the same performance level and it will also have greater expansion potential. Photoshop is most sensitive to the amount of RAM installed. 4 GB is marginal, especially if you have FireFox gobbling up memory at the same time. If possible, you might want to consider just adding another 4GB to your existing machine to see what that buys you. After memory, disk speed can be another limiting factor. Of the two systems you linked to, the laptop has a solid state drive, which is far preferable to spinning platters. Of course, you can find SSDs in desktop machines. Graphics cards don't matter a whole lot unless you are doing video editing or gaming. Just be sure that the video adapter is capable of driving your external monitor at its highest resolution and refresh rate. Both PS and LR will use graphics processors for hardware acceleration (thus offloading the CPU), but the demands of normal photo processing are nothing compared to video games. A newer machine will give you USB3 ports, which speeds up transfers and backups, assuming your peripherals are also USB3 capable.

    FWIW, I'm happily running CS5 on a Win7 Pro Lenovo W530 ThinkPad, with 16GB memory, i7 processor, NVIDIA Quadro K1000M and SSD. I also keep FF open all the time (though with fewer tabs) and I don't think I've ever seen memory consumption go much above 8GB; typically it's maybe 5 or 6. It's also very rare to see the CPU at 100%.
  • Tom FosterTom Foster Registered Users Posts: 288 Major grins
    edited March 19, 2015
    My laptop I use for editing is an i7-37xx (don't remember the last two digits... 30 maybe?) with 16gb RAM, SSD and just using integrated graphics but it absolutely flies! I get into bad habits of never closing tabs, etc. actually as it never causes slow downs, means I always forget when using someone else's PC/laptop though!

    I would agree though if you need to do any video editing, make sure you have a dedicated GPU as the rendering time will drive you crazy otherwise! ;)
  • alaiosalaios Registered Users Posts: 668 Major grins
    edited March 20, 2015
    Thanks for your feedback guys. Please do the following for me. Open light room. Open three raw files in photoshop.. and one or two psd files you have with many layers. How much the memory consumption is then?

    I guess you also connect your laptop to an external monitor. What is the resolution it supports for external monitors? I am thinking using my lapto driving a 24inches Dell screen (the models that have 100% almost srg coverage)

  • MitchellMitchell Registered Users Posts: 3,503 Major grins
    edited March 20, 2015
    What camera are you shooting and how large are your files? My old computer was fine until I bought a Nikon D800. Those RAW files from a 36mp camera are huge. Working with them on the old machine with multiple layers became an issue. I needed a much more powerful machine.
  • Tom FosterTom Foster Registered Users Posts: 288 Major grins
    edited March 20, 2015
    Yeah, was going to say that such an exercise is a bit pointless! I've got a D800 and have never noticed a slowdown no matter what's open but the amount of memory used varies widely! I've noticed it above 8gb several times though and it could quite easily be a huge amount if you have a big multi image panorama up for instance. Very glad I have the 16gb RAM but it depends what your usage is going to be I suppose.
    If you have any doubt I would get extra RAM as it's dirt cheap (well... it is if you buy and install it yourself)!
  • MomaZunkMomaZunk Registered Users Posts: 421 Major grins
    edited March 22, 2015
    I have been doing some work this weekend flipping between LR5 and PS6.
    Memory for each of the programs was 6GB-8GB, for a total of 18GB for everything. (Crashplan(backup paused, Chrome, Firefox, MS Outlook)

    I was switching between the programs, and the memory remained this high until I told Lightroom what to do with the settings of the edited files from photoshop (i.e. overwrite or import settings)

    These were 360 pano files that ranged in size from 500 MB to 2.5GB.

    For memory, I would not go below 16GB.
    As for graphics cards, I would look at the verified cards for PS 6, and stick with those. LR 6 is supposed to push more work to the graphics card so you will probably see more advantage with the next version. The Quadro/Tesla Nvidia cards are supposed to be the best to work with the adobe mercury engine, but these cards are pricey, and probably have more advantage with video.

    I just upgraded my memory from 16GB to 32GB, as I had noticed my memory was always maxed out, especially when exporting. I have definitely noticed the difference with the upgrade.
    I only occasionally see the CPU maxed out, usually during batch operations like applying settings over a batch of 200-300 images at time in LR.

    My set up is as follows:
    Win 7 Pro 64bit
    i-3770K on ASUS Z-77pro
    32 GB RAM
    SSD for boot
    SSD for LR catalog and photoshop caches
    GeForce GTX660

    I hope this helps.
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