Why does Photoshop dog it?

There's no good reason why a MacBook Pro should be faster than a Mac Pro. And yet, for the standard application in photo-editing workflows, it is.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor on

A recent post on the Diglloyd Mac Performance Guide blog asks how a MacBook Pro Retina can run faster for photography than a 12-core Mac Pro? It's a great question with a better answer by professional photographer, developer, and blogger Lloyd Chambers.

Yes, the MacBook is less expensive, more portable, and offers a quarter of the cores to process data than the Mac Pro. So, what's up?

Chambers ran down a number of questions about the performance similarities, such as OS X's part in the mix. But he said that the culprit is Adobe and its continuing refusal to bring Photoshop's multitasking capabilities to use more than two to four cores for multi-thread-able tasks.

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom do a marginal job on most everything: Photoshop typically uses two to four CPU cores (less than two on some common operations, up to eight or so with certain obscure commands). Adobe Lightroom does better (three to six cores, highly variable, serialized I/O, and file handling egads), but neither gets anywhere near using 12 cores, certainly nothing close to that for any common operations.

According to Chambers, it's "indefensible" that Adobe Photoshop CS6 runs faster on a 6-core machine than with 12 cores.

I would add two points to Chamber's excellent analysis: First, Apple's slowness in bringing out its next-generation workstation must share part of the blame for Adobe's inaction. The Mac Pro for a long time has been a mostly static target while the "slower" machines in the lineup, the MacBook Pro and the iMac, keep getting faster buses and faster processors. Adobe can track the performance of the machines with four cores and show progress to its customers.

According to a recent post on the MacTrast blog, the delay of the next-generation Mac Pro is due to the rollout schedule for the next round of Thunderbolt controllers the ramp up of panel production for a 27-inch Retina display.

Anything is possible. Or not.

Meanwhile, the We Want a New Mac Pro page on Facebook has 20,000 likes.

Secondly, there's no serious contender to Photoshop in the professional market. Apple appears to have surrendered the category. If Apple had expanded the feature set of Aperture and made it a real competitor for professional workflows, then perhaps Adobe might get moving on increasing multi-threading for its base of Mac Pro users.

But no. With its cash base, Apple can afford to produce a new Mac workstation. It also can afford to drive the market in longstanding content production workflows. Where's the sugar?

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