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Apple Mac Pro Customized for:
Photo and Design

There are so many different models, brands, and revisions of hardware that choosing the right components for your Mac Pro can be a huge challenge. We've taken the time to perform in-depth analysis of Photoshop to determine exactly what kind of hardware is needed for the CPU, RAM, and video card. This ensures that you will be getting a system that has all the capabilities you need without spending money on components that will not be beneficial.

If you rely on the above photo-editing packages, you want to make sure that whatever you purchase, you include an SSD and (for your budget) maximize the amount of RAM. RAW files create a large RAM footprint and opening and saving projects will be accelerated by the speed delivered with an SSD.

Component Recommendations

Processor

For many other industries, having the maximum number of cores is ideal. However, for Photoshop, there is a diminishing amount of performance improvement per core above 6-cores. Going from 2-cores to 4-cores and from 4-cores to 6-cores, there is a scaleable improvement. However as we increase to 8-cores and to 12-cores, the improvement nearly flattens. Please see resource for Adobe Photoshop CC - CPU Cores Scalability: MacPerformanceGuide.

To reassure this hypothesis, we found another resource that has concluded the following (Puget Systems):

  • Photoshop does not work well with multiple physical CPUs
  • Most actions in Photoshop are either single threaded or lightly threaded.
  • Multi-threaded actions hit a point of diminishing returns after around 6 CPU cores, and most completely stop improving after 8 CPU cores.

Our recommendation when choosing a CPU is to simply go with a model that has a high frequency. For the Mac Pro tower, the fastest CPUs for Photoshop use is the Quad-Core 3.33GHz and 6-core 3.46GHz. For the Mac Pro cylinder, the fastest speed frequencies are the Quad-Core 3.7GHz and 6-core 3.5GHz.

RAM

Since 6-cores is sufficient for Photoshop, more of the budget can go towards more memory. Unlike processor cores, having a greater amount of memory can improve Photoshop performance. Typically, Photoshop uses 70% of the system memory and leaves 30% for non-Photoshop processes. Thus, having greater memory will allow Photoshop to use more. Photoshop CC has a memory usage setting. Go to the Photoshop CC tab on the top, then preferences, then performance. If you don’t multitask, you can increase the Photoshop CC memory usage. If you run many other applications at the same time, it’s better to leave the Photoshop memory usage at 50% to 70%. (Resource: Petapixel)

Storage

With the falling costs associated with SSDs, we almost always recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that will host your OS, Photoshop itself, and any active projects you are working on. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive. However, SSDs are still more expensive than traditional drives per GB - so for long term storage we recommend having a secondary traditional hard drive in addition to a primary SSD. If you can afford it, having multiple SSDs (one for the OS and Photoshop and a second dedicated for active projects) along with a larger traditional drive for storage is even better.

  • Hard Drive = Standard spindle technology @ 7,200rpm
    • Hard Drive Bay = ~175MB/s
  • Solid-State Drive - connectivity via SATA3 controller
    • Hard Drive Bay = ~250MB/s
    • PCIe Slot = ~500MB/s
  • Flash Storage = connectivity via PCIe controller
    • PCIe Slot = ~1250MB/s

Graphics

Any professional GPU from NVIDIA or AMD will provide the OpenCL accelerating used in various filters and spending more on a GPU delivers diminishing returns, so even a basic GPU will suit your needs, unless you need exotic display support for higher resolutions or maximum display arrays.

Photoshop CC 2017 NVIDIA GTX GPU Performance

Compatibility

Tower and Cylinder Comparison

Tower

Advantages

  • Ability to add more hard drives and solid-state drives.
  • Ability to upgrade to the NVIDIA graphics cards
  • USB 3.0 connectivity (optional)
  • Lower price

Disadvantages

  • Thunderbolt not compatible
  • Earlier technology

Cylinder

Advantages

  • Thunderbolt 2 connectivity
  • Small sleek design
  • Newer technology
  • Apple warranty (optional / depending on configuration)

Disadvantages

  • No additional drive storage (via external Thunderbolt 2 or USB 3.0 only)
  • Higher price

For reference, here are some 64-bit multi-core Geekbench scores:

  • Cylinder 12-Core 2.7GHz (starting price $5000): 32,500
  • Tower 12-Core 3.46GHz (starting price $2500): 31,000
  • Tower 12-core 2.66GHz (starting price $1900): 24,000
  • Cylinder 6-core 3.5GHz (starting price $3000): 16,000
  • Tower 6-core 3.33GHz (starting price $1400): 14,000

Source: https://browser.primatelabs.com/mac-benchmarks

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