We tend to imagine that a PC designed for photography would be reliant on a high-performance graphics card (GPU) but that is far from the truth. Our testing with the latest version of Adobe Photoshop CC (2017) shows that GPU performance has some influence on system performance in some Photoshop effects but the performance gains are nearly as good with an entry level card as they are with a high-performance model. The fact that there is a GPU installed at all makes quite a difference, but an entry to mid-level card is all that’s required.
Don’t I need an NVidia Quadro card for the best Photoshop experience?
Only if you wish to work with 30bit colour and 10bit displays. For general 24bit colour images and 8 bit displays, the performance between Quadro and consumer GTX cards is negligible, but the Quadro cards are considerably more expensive. General consumer GTX cards are not compatible with 10 bit displays and 30 bit colour depth, so if this is a requirement, we’re afraid you’ll have to fork out for a Quadro card. We would recommend the use of the Quadro P1000 or higher for 30 bit colour work as the lower end cards only have 2GB video memory which isn’t ideal for working with 30 bit colour images.
Does the amount of video memory make a difference to performance?
Yes, it does. If you can afford it, choose a GPU with at least 4GB RAM. We see leaps in performance which are greater than those shown below when using video cards with memory larger than 4GB and handling images greater than 50MB. A Video card with larger amounts of memory will also be of benefit to customers using multiple monitors and those preferring 4K displays. If you also do some video editing, the larger video memory will benefit your work greatly.
How does Photoshop performance scale with higher specification graphics cards?
The answer depends on the Photoshop effects you are comparing. Some effects don’t benefit at all but some such as Rendering, Lighting effects, sharpen and blur benefit a great deal. The below table is a rough guide for an average performance boost across a large number of Photoshop effects and indicates the expected performance boost compared with an equivalent system without a video card installed:
NVidia GT1030 2GB –> +20%
NVidia GTX1050 2GB –> +25%
NVidia GTX1050 Ti 4GB –> +27%
NVidia GTX1060 3GB –> +30%
NVidia GTX1060 6GB –> +32%
NVidia GTX1070 8GB –> +34%
NVidia GTX1080 8GB –> +36%
NVidia GTX1080Ti 11GB -> +40%
NVidia Quadro P600 –> +19%
NVidia Quadro P1000 –> +20%
NVidia Quadro P2000 –> +27%
NVidia Quadro P4000 -> +32%
Make sure you have Photoshop GPU acceleration enabled. Check the settings in Edit > Preferences > Performance and select ‘Use Graphics Processor’
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