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Photoshop and GIMP Performance Shootout

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Everyone takes digital photographs.

The explosion of digital photography, ranging from cell phone cameras to simple point-and-shoot units, up to high-end digital SLRs and medium format cameras, has created an burst of photographic content. It also means that more and more of us are editing our photos on our PCs.

If you've ever used Photoshop, and watched the little progress bar crawl across the screen when you apply a filter, you've no doubt wished for better performance. Performance in photo editing applications has become a little more complicated, partly because there are more photo editing apps out today, but also because the graphics chip companies are in the game, accelerating portions of current generation photo editing software.

Also, most of us are on a budget. It would be cool to afford the latest, ultra-high-end rig with a professional graphics card. But would it be worth it? Or would a more modest PC system do the job just as well.

So I wanted to know: How does my favorite app perform on four different computer configs, each one with a few speed enhancers. I wanted to see whether a $2000 graphics card and an Intel top-end processor really do provide a mega-speed increase over lesser gear.

So, I set out to test the ultimate graphics performance. I wanted to find out, despite all the marketing info and individual reviews on graphics performance, which configuration is really the best all-around speed champion. I wanted to discover the comparison benchmarks for myself. I tested Photoshop CS4 and GIMP on an Intel Core i7 workstation with the best GPU that NVIDIA offers, and on an fast desktop, a mid-range PC, and a standard notebook.

Here's what I discovered.

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