Is GPU or CPU more important for Photoshop and Lightroom?

  • I'm looking to buy a laptop (for a spare) and I'm not ready to spend the amount I did on my first one. The machine will only be used for photo editing. Should I go for the dedicated graphics card or faster CPU? Has there been greater performance differences when using Photoshop with a better/more CPU or GPU?

    Specifically I'm asking whether a dedicated GPU will offer a substantial jump in the performance of Photoshop and Lightroom over an integrated one, when compared with a faster CPU.

    Note: the question is about comparing hardware performance specifically of the GPU & CPU when using PS & LR (I've done my own tests & research regarding SSDs, RAM, monitors etc. I'm not looking for help in buying a computer, I'll do that on my own...) I'm asking the question here because I assume many people using this site have either experienced or researched the topic and I would like to see what the results were

    Interesting question. There's a little piece on Tom's Hardware that asks the same question as you do. They conclude that it does benefit you if you do a lot of editing with the supported operation. As a bonus there's the benchmark results you can have a look at. You'll notice that integrated GPU's can perform well. Just keep in mind that when it comes to Intel GPU's, they're not built to provide exceptional performance, just enough for the job.

  • dpollitt

    dpollitt Correct answer

    8 years ago

    You are asking two very different questions, because Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop of course do not have the same system requirements or use the same system resources.

    Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

    Graphics Card:

    Lightroom does not currently utilize the GPU for performance improvements. It is outlined in the Lightroom documentation here.

    Lightroom requires a video card that can run the monitor at its native resolution. Built-in, default cards that ship with most desktop or laptop systems typically suffice for Lightroom.


    From Adobe:

    The minimum system requirements to run Lightroom are just that: the minimum you need for Lightroom to operate. Additional RAM and a faster processor, in particular, can yield significant performance benefits.

    Adobe Photoshop CS6

    Graphics Card:

    Photoshop CS6 does utilize the graphics processing unit for enhanced performance. Here is some detail from Adobe staff:

    Some features require a compatible video card to work; if the video card or its driver is defective or unsupported, those features will not work at all. Other features use the video card for acceleration and if the card or driver is defective those features will run more slowly.

    Additional info here.


    From Adobe:

    Photoshop CS5 and CS6 require a multicore Intel processor (Mac OS) or a 2 GHz or faster processor (Windows). Photoshop generally runs faster with more processor cores, although some features take greater advantage of the additional cores than others.


    If you have already maxed out your RAM and storage options, I would then decide which program speed and efficiency are more important to you. For example if you are a much heavier user of Lightroom, I would choose processor over GPU. If you are much heavier user of Photoshop, it is a harder decision, and really gets into the specific processor model and GPU model(which I won't go into here, and would be better suited for If it is a desktop model, I personally would go with the CPU over GPU since it is likely you can upgrade the GPU anyways.

    To answer your secondary question, if you are using an older version of Photoshop that does not have heavy requirements on the GPU, you still need a graphics card to handle things like Windows and the actual display on your monitor, it just won't be used by Photoshop to offload the heavy tasks it does with many new features.

    Additional information can be found in other questions already on this site:

    Please note: the "requirements" for Photoshop CS5 & 6 are deliberately pessimistic (to avoid performance complaints). Some features (like the canvas rotate, and for reasons I find baffling, "stamp visible"—CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) will not be available if the graphics subsystem is insufficient; others will merely be (sometimes painfully) slow. (I'm running PS CS5 on a 2GB Atom-based netbook until I can replace my dead machine, and while it's no picnic, it *works*. CS6 has more trouble.)

    `PCI` -> `PCIe`. I haven't seen a PCI graphics card in over a decade.

    Know that if something is not *required* it does not mean that it does not improve performance. A true graphic chip almost always delivers a higher performance for various reasons than embedded graphics of the same generation and that even if GPU functions are not used. Things like bandwidth, dual-ported memory help with the simple operation of sending pixels to the screen.

    @Itai - I think Adobe said it best themselves in the quote I noted: "The minimum system requirements to run Lightroom are just that: the minimum you need for Lightroom to operate."

    @Itai Agree, as a general observation, that "if something is not required does not mean that it won't increase performance". Disagreee with the implication that buying the $1000 nVidia Titan graphics card might improve Lightroom performance over integrated graphics (whatever ships with any computer that's capable of showing the desktop) in any perceptible way: If Lightroom doesn't use the GPU, it doesn't matter which graphics you have. For Photoshop, improvements are limited to the specific features Adobe lists as "these use the GPU". I'd go with more CPU, it's more generally applicable.

    @j-g-faustus - Even though something does not use the GPU, there are advantages to a separate graphic chip. It does not mean you have to shell out $1000, $100 is certainly enough and $50 probably too. The $100 may even outperform the $1000 one! You would be surprised. I spent 9 years working on image processing software and optimizing graphic processing, so I've seen and measured exactly how each operation performs with various graphics hardware.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM