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SHOOTOUT: Photoshop CS vs CS2
(both running under OS X "Tiger")

Posted July 1st, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Every previous Photoshop update I've tested has been slower than the older version. Not so with Photoshop CS2. Take a look....

BareFeat's two action sets are designed to test both multi-processor aware (MP) actions and non-MP aware actions (SP). It looks like some actions in our SP set are now dual processor aware. Good news for those of you with dual processors.

But the real surprise was the performance observed when we forced Photoshop to run with a memory cache smaller than the test file. We set both CS and CS2 to roughly 100MB cache size. Then we opened a 300MB file. Then we rotated it 30 degrees clock wise. We closed the file. Opened it again. Rotated it again.

Wow! Can you believe it? What happened? Tiger. That's what happened. Photoshop CS2, though it supports up to 3.5GB of memory cache, actually turns over cache management to Mac OS X. Using Activity Monitor, we observed the OS grabbing up to 7GB of memory to use as cache for Photoshop CS2, the only user application running on our G5/2.5GHz Power Mac with 8GB of memory.

With CS, if you tell it to use 100MB of memory for caching, that's all it uses. Anything over that gets written to the scratch disk. Hence the long times for opening and rotating. With CS2 (+ Tiger), the OS "ignores" the 100MB setting and uses as much memory as is available to cache the photoshop file and scratch area. Very cool. That's the way Photoshop and the OS should have been working together all along!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you run Photoshop CS2 under the "Panther" version of OS X (10.3.x), you will NOT see the "automagic" caching we observed. You need both Tiger and CS2 to get the speed leap we measured.

The Adobe Photoshop CS2 upgrade is a no-brainer. If you aren't convinced, download the CS2 Tryout and use it for 30 days. Run your own tests. I also recommend that you upgrade to OS X "Tiger" (10.4.1) and max out the memory in your Mac to take advantage of the performance we observed. By the way, the caching phenomenon observed with Photoshop CS2 also occurs with Motion 2 under Tiger.

And if you are about to buy a G5 Power Mac, be sure to get one with 8 memory slots! (See the list of model numbers in the WHERE TO BUY section below.) Also note that the caching phenomenon observed with Photoshop CS2 also occurs with Motion 2 under Tiger.

The only annoyance I encountered with CS2 was the new activation scheme from Adobe. It's smacks of Microsoft's scheme for activation of Windows XP after 30 days. And for me personally, it makes it hard to use my legal copy of Photoshop to test different Mac systems. At least Adobe does let you transfer the activation status to another Mac on the network.

Your speed test didn't take into account that CS2 is overall slower than even PS7. Liquify in CS2 is sloppy, lacking control and slow loading. The brush engine is intermittently slow and sometimes delays for 5 or more seconds before it catches up to strokes. The transform tool is jerky and imprecise. Sometimes clicking on layers is slow. Clicking on layer styles is very slow. Overall PSCS2 is a disappointment.

"I have voiced my concerns on the Adobe forum under the topic, 'CS2 made me go back to PS7.' (Judging from the many responses those comments have received,) many CS2 users seem to have had the same problems I've encountered. CS2 is, in its present state, unusable for me. I have submitted to those at Adobe my problems with the many bugs that slow down Photoshop for me. I do want to make it clear that I am an illustrator, not a photographer. I use many aspects of Photoshop that would rarely be used by photographers. These are the applications that seem to have degraded." -- Mark A. Fredrickson (See samples of Mark's Photoshop illustrations on

Buy from Adobe direct, from the Apple Online Store, or Small Dog Electronics. (If the link doesn't take you directly there, just search keyworld "photoshop.")

The Apple Online Store lets you custom configure your G5 Power Mac. Click HERE to buy a Mac and Bare Feats get a small commission. (UK readers click HERE.) Check also at the Apple HOT DEALS section for factory refurbs and other specials.

Two sources for new, refurbished, reconditioned, and open box iMac G5s and G5 Power Macs are Small Dog and Power Max.

Make sure you buy a G5 Power Mac with 8 memory slots! Whether you buy a new, refurbished or used G5 Power Mac, be sure to get one with 8 memory slots, 100/133MHz PCI-X slots, and 450W Power Supply. The table below gives the model number, etc., of these desirable G5s.

Model Number
clock speed
intro date
June 2003
June 2003
November 2003
June 2004
June 2004
April 2005
April 2005

All other models have only 4 memory slots, 33MHz PCI slots, and 250W Power Supply -- including the newest dual 2.0GHz models. If you can't find the 2003 and 2004 models at Small Dog or Power Max, go to and search on the model number listed above.

The display we used for testing was the DELL 24" WIDE ASPECT 1920x1200 LCD Flat Panel Display, currently selling for $747.

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist