Adobe Photoshop CS3 Beta Performance: OSX vs XP

Adobe Photoshop is a staple application for the vast majority of graphics professionals in the industry. For those with new Intel based Apple Macs, their only option was to run version CS2 using Rosetta, which is essentially using software emulation for x86 architecture compatibility. This of course imposed a performance hit. With Adobe not converting CS2 to a Univeral Binary which would provide hardware level compatibility, Photoshop users using Intel based Macs were stuck.

Enter Photoshop CS3. Currently in Beta form, Adobe is addressing this performance problem by releasing CS3 as a Universal Binary, so it will work without emulation with Intel based Macs. Performance wise, there is no question that CS3 is faster than CS2 for those specific pieces of hardware, just check out this comparison.

But Intel based Macs can also run Windows XP natively. What about CS3 performance in XP? No surprise here, but Adobe is also releasing CS3 for Windows based computers.

Since Intel based Macs can now easily run both Windows XP and Mac OSX, it's easy to compare performance on the same machine. To compare performance,'s Photoshop Benchmark v2 will be used. This test suite uses a standard image and tests performance by running through 12 Photoshop functions and measuring the time for completion. To accurately measure time, Photoshop's built in "Timing" feature is utilized.

The test machine is an Apple Macbook with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.0GHz (T7200). The hard drive is a standard (Apple stock) Fujitsu 80GB SATA 5400rpm model. There are two memory configurations being tested (both are specific kits for the Macbook), Mushkin 2x1GB 667MHz and Kingston 2x2GB 667MHz. The operating systems for the OSX tests are version 10.4.8, and for the Windows tests, XP Professional with SP2 are being used. Apple Boot Camp 1.1.2 drivers are used for the Windows XP install. Both OS instances are clean installs with no third party applications running in the background.

It should be noted that with the Kingston 2x2GB memory kit, only 3GB is usable by the operating system (both OSX and XP, due to hardware chipset limitations) even though 4GB is recognized. In Photoshop CS3 Beta, memory access is set to 70%.

And now on to the results...


The test results speak for themselves. It's easy to see that Windows XP performs faster for all but 1 of the tests performed. As a total, with the Mushkin 2x1GB and Kingston 2x2GB memory configurations, the test suite ran 27% and 28%, respectively, faster with Windows XP than OSX. Not only does Windows XP beat OSX in Photoshop CS3 performance, but it demolishes it by a wide margin.

If you would like to see any other tests performed, or have any suggestions on test routines/suites to use, please comment.