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Download the test suite here. 11.8 MB

View the results database HERE

For many years enthusiasts across the globe have been keen to see how their systems stack up with many commercially available benchmarks from companies such as Futuremark.

For as long as I can remember HardwareHeaven has focused almost completely on "Real world" testing as we feel this is a more accurate indication of everyday system usage. Photoshop is a program used by many of our audience including designers, industry professionals and photographers.

This is really how the original Photoshop Bench V1 came to fruitition - we wanted to make available an easy to use and clearly explained way of analysing and comparing system performance with a plethora of other likeminded individuals. This means you can check if your system is performing as well as expected and it can even show you possible gains by upgrading your system.

Many people are also tired of running 3dmark and Pcmark applications and although they are attractive to watch they are, in many cases, not entirely indicative of real world situations for many people. This is obviously not the case with Photoshop as many people use it on a daily basis to earn money ... or just for enjoyment.

So today we are releasing our newest version of the benchmark (Version 3) which is a higher overhead script for the continually improving computer systems making their impact throughout 2008 and now 2009. We will be making the changeover to this version in all forthcoming hardware reviews and articles and obviously the new results are in no way comparible to the older V1 or V2 script results.

This script is fully compatible with all platforms, including Apple Macintosh and is stored in a friendly ZIP format. Before you jump into benchmarking your system however there is some information below which is important to read, as well as additional details on exactly what is going on behind the scenes.

This version of the script is compatible with Photoshop V7, right up to the latest CS4 but I do need to stress that results between different versions of Photoshop are not going to give consistent results. Adobe over the years have continually fine tuned and enhanced the code behind the scenes and when version CS2 was released many of the filters (such as Stained Glass) were actually rewritten.

To remain up to date at the time of this script release we are going to focus on CS4 for all our testing, however I am aware many of you will be running an older version of the application. Rest assured, the script will work but the results will be slower on older versions of the program. Additionally with Photoshop CS4 Adobe have finally released a 64bit version (for 64 bit windows) capable of handling more than 3.5GB of ram as well as enhanced states of operation for some of the filters.

Preparations before benchmarking

Firstly you are going to need 512 meg of ram minimum accessible to Photoshop and you should ensure that background cpu hogging applications are closed and that any active programs such as antivirus are in a static state. My rule of thumb is to open Photoshop fresh with every run to counter any caching algorithms which will slowly over time improve the results. Obviously in a real world situation the caching features within the code are a great benefit but they make getting consistent results for the purposes of this benchmark slightly more difficult. There may be slight increases by giving Photoshop access to more than 512 meg of ram with this benchmark script and ideally 1GB (or more) would be a great setting.

Accessing the performance settings to change the memory accessible by Photoshop is achieved via the EDIT menu within the program. Then "preferences/performance" (see image above).

Within the performance panel there is a slider showing memory usage. This details the total ram available to Photoshop and lets the end user adjust the setting to suit their requirements. As you can see above this particular system has 16gb of ram, approximately 14 of which is available to Photoshop. Photoshop recommends a percentage of the available memory for optimum use, however this can be ignored if the memory is going to be better served in other programs. It is also worth noting that this memory won't be immediately gobbled by the program on initial load, the program adjusts memory on the fly to this preset maximum level as required during use. Once memory is totally used, then Photoshop uses a Stratch disk system, similar in concept to virtual memory within the windows environment.

As many of you will know, there has been much talk of the graphics acceleration adopted within CS4, but unfortunately for the purposes of filter benchmarking it is a moot setting. Currently the graphics settings are more based on interface enhancements with the graphics card handling redraw via Opengl acceleration. Photoshop CS4 leverages the graphics display card's GPU, instead of the computer's main processor (the CPU) to speed its screen redraw. For Photoshop to access the GPU, your display card must contain a GPU that supports OpenGL and has enough RAM to support Photoshop functions--at least 128 MB of RAM--and a display driver that supports OpenGL 2.0 and Shader Model 3.0. For the purposes of our performance benchmark it makes no difference if this is enabled or disabled, so whichever setting you already have (or prefer) there is really no need to adopt a change.

Once these settings are changed (if they are), then accept and quit the application and reload for the new settings to take place. With every script run it is worth closing and reopening the application to ensure that no caching is taking place from prior runs.

The next stage is to unzip the archive you downloaded from HardwareHeaven, then open the actions palette (if it is not already) via the Window menu within the program.

Once the actions palette is available within your Photoshop working environment, then the action needs to be loaded.

You can either do this by simply double clicking the "HardwareHeaven Photoshop Bench V3.atn" file from the uncompressed archive or by loading the action from within the action palette (see above) then by locating the ATN file on your computer.

Once you have the script loaded, then you need to ensure that the actions palette is forced into "button mode". The image above shows where the button mode is toggled (on the right pop down) and the red panel on the left is where you will click when the test image is loaded into Photoshop.

Finally once the script is set up in button mode, the last step is to set Photoshop to set "timing mode", this is accessible via a navigation button on the bottom left of an open image. Once this is set, it remains so until changed again, even on application reloads. You will have noticed by opening the image that the timing already shows a figure, this is basically the time it took to open the image. This counter resets after every action, so there is no need to adjust anything for our benchmark.

The HardwareHeaven Photoshop Benchmark V2 was a 60MB image and in V3 this has been increased to 109MB. On a side note for those interested the image was taken by myself with a Canon 30D and is one of a collection of (delicious) Ducati bikes owned by a friend.

The V3 suite comprises the following tests:

1: Texturiser Test (1)
A canvas filter with scaling set to 112 and relief 10. Light direction, bottom without invert texture.

2: CMYK Colour Conversion
Important for all the professionals as this 4 plate (cyan, magenta, yellow and black (k-key colour)) colour mode is used in graphics bureaus and printing presses for colour reproduction to newsprint or magazine. Digital photographs will be converted to this mode for final output.

3: RGB Colour Conversion
Important test for web designers as this colour mode is used for webpages and will be the mode of choice for digital images raw from the camera.

4: Ink Outlines
A relatively demanding test which applies a brush stroke filter to the image.
Stroke length: 6. Dark Intensity: 20. Light Intensity: 11.

5: Dust and Scratches
A filter which is used quite widely by professionals scanning less than perfect original flat copy. Radius is set to 3 and Threshold is set to 36.

6: Watercolor
An artistic filter to create a realistic watercolor image.
Brush detail: 11. Shadow Intensity: 3. Texture: 1

7: Texturiser Test (2)
A canvas filter follow up to the first with a variation of settings. Scaling: 67. Relief 9. Light Direction, top right with invert texture applied.

8: Stained Glass
A very intensive filter which seen recent optimisations in CS2/3. Cell size: 6. Border Thickness: 3 and Light Intensity: 4

9: Lighting Effects.
Light source, RGB colour. Red 255, Green 255, Blue 255. With light enabled. Focus 69, Intensity 35 in Spotlight light mode. Position 50: 50. Vector 0: 84.112.91.589. Vector 1: 28.037.67.757. Radius: 13.551. Light source RGB colour. Red 255, Green 255 and Blue 255. With light on, Focus 69 and Intensity 45 in Spotlight mode. Position 22.897.95.794. Vector 1: 25.701,35,514. Radius 13.551. Current light 2, Gloss 47. Material 30, Exposure 17, Ambience 27, Ambient Colour RGB. Red 255, Green 255 and Blue 255. Frame Width 69.626.

10: Mosiac Tiles
Makes use of memory bandwidth, Tile size 5. Grout Width: 2. and lighten Grout 9

11. Extrude
One of the most intensive filters and a test of CPU core efficiency and memory bandwidth
Size 12. Depth 16. Without solid front faces. Without mask incomplete blocks. Type: Blocks.

12: Smart Blur
Another intensive filter which puts an emphasis on overall system FSB, cpu and memory performance
Radius 20.7. Threshold 28.7. Quality high and mode normal

13: Underpainting
Brush size 2, Texture coverage 23. Texture type,. Canvas. Scaling 100, Relief 6, Light direction top with invert texture

14: Palette Knife
Stroke size 23, Stroke detail 3 and softness 0

15: Sponge
Brush size 2, Definition 12 and Smoothness 5

As we can see from the test suite, there is a good cross section of intensive, real world filters which stress the system. Unfortunately however Adobe Photoshop has not been yet coded to take full advantage of 4 or 8 core systems. Therefore although much of the performance will relate to core efficiency and clock speeds, in fact many of the results can be improved by increasing system FSB, ram speeds or tightening timings. I hope in the future that Adobe will allow end users the option to allocate cores to the program via performance panel settings.

All the systems below are for guideline purposes. All are Vista 64 bit operating systems (Macbook is OSX 10.5.6 which is a 64 bit OS). The results are marked for 32bit or 64bit CS4 benchmark runs.

The Intel V8 system is 2 x Xeon 3ghz cpus with a total of 8 cores. 16Gb of 667mhz FB DDR2 is installed. The Skulltrail system is overclocked to 4ghz with 16gb of FB DDR2 memory at 805mhz. The Macbook pro is a 2.5ghz dual core Intel CPU with 4gb of 667mhz DDR2 (last years highest end macbook 17 inch model). The Core i7 system is based around a 965EE, 3x2gb DDR3-1333, Intel SSD/Raptor (again a 64bit Vista OS installation).

Lower scores are faster (better).

 
V8
32bit

V8
64bit

Skulltrail
32bit
Skulltrail
64bit
Macbook pro
17 inch
Core i7
64 bit 3.2ghz
Core i7
64 bit 4.0ghz
Texturiser
1.9
1.7
1.4
1.3
2.0
1.3
1.1
CMYK
1.5
1.5
0.8
0.8
3
1.1
0.7
RGB
1.6
1.4
0.9
0.8
4
1.2
0.8
Ink Outlines
19.9
19.2
14.6
14.2
21.3
16.5
13
Dust & Stratches
2.0
1.7
1.5
1.1
4.3
1.4
1.2
Watercolor
19.5
18.9
15.1
14.1
18.2
16.5
13
Texturiser
1.8
1.7
1.7
1.5
1.3
1.4
1.1
Stained Glass
11.8
12.3
8.8
9.4
13.1
10.6
8.5
Lighting
2.0
1.8
2.0
1.1
3.7
1.2
1
Mosiac
13.0
9.5
9.0
6.5
22.7
8.0
6.3
Extrude
91.9
82.4
71.0
61.8
117.6
59.6
47.3
Smart Blur
57.3
56.7
41.3
42.0
127.9
43.3
34.4
Underpainting
20.7
19.1
16.6
14.8
27.6
16.6
13.1
Palette
17.2
15.8
12.8
11.9
24.2
14.4
11.3
Sponge
25.9
25.7
19.5
19.5
24.4
22.8
18.2
Total
288.0
269.4
216.8
200.6
415.8
215.9
171

Can I compare with others?

You certainly can, several years ago we released an online database system to allow the public to enter and compare their scores and this can be accessed over here. We have wiped all the V1 and V2 results today to start afresh. The new database system also automatically calculates your final score.