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Adobe CS5: 64-bit, CUDA-Accelerated, And Threaded Performance

How Should You Accelerate Adobe?

Any knowledgeable PC user understands that there are many ways to skin a cat, including when that cat happens to be Adobe’s Creative Suite. Tools like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and After Effects continue to be favorites for millions of professionals and prosumers. When time is money, the performance levels realized in Creative Suite can mean the difference between making or losing money on jobs. Even if you’re just a home video enthusiast who’s taken to Premiere and After Effects, would you rather spend minutes or hours on a task?

Potentially, this is no overstatement. With Adobe starting to build GPU acceleration into various facets of Creative Suite and better leveraging CPU multi-threading, a system running CS5 today could realize performance an order of magnitude or more better than, say, a five-year-old system running Creative Suite 2 (CS2). We’re not going to state the ridiculously obvious and benchmark just how much faster a new CS5 rig would be compared to CS2. Instead, we want to approach Adobe’s new CS5 from a hardware perspective and examine if and when it makes sense to upgrade from CS4.

After all, the move from the last-generation suite to CS5 is one of the most significant in Adobe's history. Beyond the feature expansion in each app, the company finally embraced 64-bit support, dramatically improving performance in workloads able to take advantage of extra memory. Additionally, there's a good bit of GPU acceleration in play--something we've not seen enough of from other media- and productivity-oriented titles.

So, here’s our scenario. Assume you have CS4 and are considering CS5 as a way to become more productive through getting the same tasks done more quickly. We’re going to examine three possible vectors that could be responsible for this performance increase:

  1. Upgrading from CS4 to CS5. This gives you the benefits of shifting from 32- to 64-bit code and addressing extra memory above the 4 GB threshold.
  2. Increasing CPU threads. This could be through the addition of cores as well as from leveraging Intel’s Hyper-Threading (HT) feature.
  3. Employing CUDA. At this early stage of the industry’s adoption of general purpose GPU acceleration, Adobe has started to weave in support for Nvidia’s CUDA platform. We hope that OpenCL and/or DirectCompute support follows soon, but for now we have to examine CUDA as a case study in what exists today and a harbinger of what will come.

Could it be that stepping up from CS4 to CS5 alone could yield enough benefit to make a hardware upgrade unnecessary? Or will an upgrade to CS5 plus bringing CUDA into play make a $500 processor overhaul mandatory? Let’s try to find out.