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4 Recommended Computer Specifications to Run Adobe Photoshop and Creative Suite

Recommended Computer Specifications to Run Adobe Photoshop and Creative Suite

Recommended Computer Specifications to Run Adobe Photoshop and Creative Suite. I see so many individuals that head to a box store and purchase a computer. Most employees have no idea what it takes to operate Adobe Photoshop or the Adobe Create Suite. If you look at Adobe's site they will give you the bare minimum and recommended specifications to run a single program. Like your computer, programs need to use the processor and memory to function. Another more important problem is that you are rarely running a single program in the creative suite. The object of the article is to give you a realistic guide to the computer specifications you will need to run a variety of programs in Adobe's creative suite.

I teach in college and every semester I deal with students' computers that are unable to run or struggle to run Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is just one program and we are usually using Zoom, Adobe Bridge, or Adobe Lightroom Classic in addition to Adobe Photoshop. The two main issues are lack of RAM (Random Access Memory) and internal hard disk space. Let's take a look at a computer's major components. We will see what they do and I will give you suggestions or recommendations based on your specific needs.

Intel cpu

CPU-it's your computer's brain, but that brain comes in a variety of configurations. There are three major processor manufacturing companies for computers, Intel x86-64, AMD x86-64 and Apple ARM. When selecting a CPU, you must understand the cores, threads and clock speed. Think of cores as a brain being divided into sections. A four-core processor would have 4 mini-brains, and each core can work independently. For example, a four-core processor can deal with 4 tasks simultaneously, and an eight-core processor can deal with 8 tasks simultaneously.

Next we have threads. Think of threads as the roads or paths to the core. If we have one thread per core, there is only one path in and out the core. If we have four threads per core we have four roads in and out of the core. Each thread can carry a different task to the core, thus speeding up the entire process.

The last is clock speed. The clock speed is read in GHz and there is a baseline frequency and a peak frequency. This is how fast the CPU is able to perform a task. Base refers to the speed at which it can operate at a sustained speed with no overheating. Top or turbo is its maximum speed, but computers are not able to sustain this speed without overheating. There are other aspects to a CPU like nanometers but we will stick to the basics for the time being.

RAM Random Access Memory

RAM (Random Access Memory) -That's where most computers fall short in my opinion. Firstly, we have to look at the cache which is another type of memory used by the CPU before it reaches the RAM. The cache is a smaller but faster memory source which is used by the computer for tasks it uses all the time. For instance, if you wash your hands 10 times per day, the cache will remember this process. RAM is also used to store memory, it allows applications to store and access data rapidly. The CPU can switch seamlessly between the cache and RAM. All applications require a minimum of RAM in order to operate. I find the stated minimums not sufficient for most applications. However, the big problem is that most people only get enough RAM to execute one app at a time. The CPU must allocate RAM to the operating system and all running apps. Therefore, the RAM requirements are usually much larger. Too little RAM will slow down or crash your computer, but too much RAM will not expedite the process. The point is to find out exactly what you need.

SSD or Solid State Drive

Internal Hard Drive-SSD-Your internal hard drive should be an SSD verses the old optical drive. These drives store apps, operating systems and all other data like pictures, and documents. This is different from RAM because your CPU generally does not work from an internal hard drive. However, you can allocate scratch disk space and cache to an external hard drive. Hard drives come in internal and external versions. SSD's are getting larger and cheaper, but most internal SSD's are not very large and cannot handle a large amount of data. I do not recommend saving photos, videos or other voluminous files on your internal hard disk. Use this space for the operating system, applications, and small document files. Your computer will store the image cache preview files in that location unless you indicate otherwise. This can eat-up space quickly. Your internal hard drive also needs plenty of space just to function effectively. If you have ever seen "Scratch Disk Full" pop-up on your computer this is the result of a full internal hard drive. The fix is to remove data. Get the biggest internal SSD you can afford to help fix that problem.

gpu graphics card

Graphics Card (GPU) -Computers have two distinct types of graphic cards. One is an integrated graphic card that is part of the processor, and the other is dedicated hardware. You may buy an external graphics card, but I do not advise them. A graphics card processes visual data. If you have more than one monitor or play video games, the GPU is used to deal with what each pixel should look like on a display. An integrated graphics card is fine, simple graphics, web browsing, and other basic functions. A dedicated graphics card can be used to run multiple external monitors, edit video, 3-D design, and video games.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the parts of a computer. Let us examine the specific needs of the various applications. This is a link to the Adobe website with the MINIMUM and RECOMMENDED requirements. Here you'll need a piece of paper or a calculator. If you plan on running Adobe Lightroom Classic, and Adobe Photoshop CC you will need to add certain requirements together to get the required specifications to run both applications at the same time. Let's take a look at the recommended specifications for both applications running under Windows.

First are the requirements for Adobe Lightroom Classic:

  • CPU-Intel®, AMD, or ARM processor with 64-bit support; 2 GHz or faster processor. 
  • RAM-16 GB
  • GPU with DirectX 12 support, 4GB of VRAM for 4K or greater displays. (Note to use a GPU with Lightroom you will need to enable it in the preferences. This will help accelerate image editing)
  • Hard Drive-2 GB of available hard-disk space; additional space is required for installation. 

Here are the requirements for Adobe Photoshop CC:

  •  CPU-Intel® or AMD processor with 64-bit support; 2 GHz or faster processor with SSE 4.2 or later
  • RAM-16 GB
  • GPU with DirectX 12 support, 4GB of VRAM for 4K or greater displays. Only certain features will make use of the graphics card inside of Adobe Photoshop. To see the list, visit this Adobe link.
  • Hard Drive-16 GB of available hard-disk space; additional space is required for installation, (fast internal SSD for app installation) and (separate internal or external drive for scratch disks)

Assuming these are the only two applications we would ever run, which will not be accurate in most cases. Let's check out my recommendations for a computer. I will use an Intel processor as they are the most common. Please note that CPUs are usually classified by generation. The greater the number, the more recent it is. We are on the 11th generation Intel CPU when this was written.

  • The CPU - Core i5 will work, but I would go with an i7 or i9 (the higher the number the better) They will also vary in cores and threads.
  • RAM-16 will work, 32 is best, and 64 would be overkill.
  • GPU-This is tricky because I have been a MAC user for 30 years. If there is one part you can cheap out on this would be it.  If you really just plan on using programs like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom that do not need graphics acceleration, a high end graphics card could be eliminated.  If you plan on multiple monitors, or editing video it is a must.  ZOTAC GeForce RTX 3060 Twin Edge, ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1650 OC 4GB, XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS XXX Edition, MSI GeForce RTX 3070 LHR 8GB, NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3050 Ti 4GB GDDR6 (There are plenty more that will work, just search best graphics cards for whatever programs you use and hopefully you will get accurate information)
  • Hard Drive-An internal SSD with as much space as you can afford. This depends on the number of applications you are going to install. My minimum would be 500GB.

I left out monitors, but for any image-related application, 1920X1080 HD with UI Scaling will not cut it. A HD monitor is only able to display approximately 75% of the sRGB and Adobe color space. I would look at an IPS 4K monitor or better.

Now for tough part to stomach.  Yes, this is going to cost you some money. A Dell XPS with these specs will run you around $2700. A Mac with these specs will run you $2899. These products are not exactly matched, but as close as I can get. The two places to save money would be the graphics card and a 1920X1080 HD monitor.  In the long run I think you would be disappointed if you made this choice. 

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