What benefit does increased RAM really offer?

RP
Posted By
Russell_Proulx
Jul 26, 2007
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353
Replies
12
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Closed
Most PS users already know that there are many factors that will improve Photoshop performance: hard disk speed, the processor(s), the number applications running, the cleanliness of the OS installation, offering PS its own hard disk for the scratch disk, etc. Then there’s the RAM which is now a LOT cheaper than it was back in the PS2.5 days when 128mb RAM was something most folks only dreamed of. I think it cost around $100/MB.(yes, that’s $12,800 for 128 MB)

Now that RAM is so cheap (relatively speaking) I have to wonder in what situations does anyone need more than 2 GB of RAM? What kind of file size will benefit from the additional memory and what kind of improvement will it really make if only PS and Bridge are running?

It’s nice to brag that you’ve popped 4-8-16 GB RAM in your system and perhaps even run XP64 or Vista64 so all that RAM can be available for use. But how much Photoshop performance gain can be expected from that additional RAM? Do filters process 2x faster? Are color mode changes 3x faster? Or can we expect improvements only in the 5-10% range (or less)?

Has anyone done (of seen) any timings comparisons on a system that’s otherwise well optimized for Photoshop?

Thanks,

Russell

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CH
clifford_hager
Jul 26, 2007
All of that really depends on the size of the image (file size, not page size) illustration you are working on (and the amount of filters, effects, etc. are involved).

Assuming your system can utilize all of the RAM on an average sized image, you might not notice any differance. If your combined programs and project do not exceed the amount of ram, everything should move along just great. Bbut if you routinely work on huge files, when the RAM gets full, the program goes to the scratch disk. A seperate scratch disk helps with speed because both disks can write information simultaneously. the main drive looking for program information and the scratch disk writing buffer information. (one disk has to do bnoth tasks and the system slow down.

Even with a seperate scratch disk, once the size of all combined processes exceed ram, the disks start grinding. The more thay have to write and retrieve, the slower your processes. So, if you can load up on enough RAM to always exceed the size of your programs and projects, and your system can actually read and use it all, you will notice a huge increase in speed (or more accurately, a lot less slow down) on those big projects, but not much differance on smaller ones.
RP
Russell_Proulx
Jul 26, 2007
All of that really depends on the size of the image (file size, not page size) illustration you are working on

Agreed. But how large of a file will start putting a dent in things and how big will the dent be?

100mb image? 500mb image? 2GB image?

To get more specific with my musings: How much difference will 2MB -> 4MB RAM really offer when working on 200MB files? Has anyone done any real tests with timings of various PS processes?

Russell
H
Ho
Jul 26, 2007
I routinely work with files that weigh in at 200MB and larger. Additionally, I often am jumping back and forth between InDesign, Illy and PS. I ran my computer for several months with 2GB of RAM before I upped the total to 4GB, and I can tell you that I would not go back to working with only 2GB voluntarily.
RP
Russell_Proulx
Jul 26, 2007
Hi Ho.

Are you using the /3GB switch?

Russell
H
Ho
Jul 26, 2007
Yes.
RP
Russell_Proulx
Jul 26, 2007
Hi Ho.

Ya, me too (re /3G switch). But I wonder how much is real and how much is an illusion. Just like 100$ bottle of wine seems to taste better than plonk because we expect it to. But has anyone *really* run tests and recorded the numbers to prove the point scientifically?

If I did a test what do you think a good test would be? But since I don’t have access to a 64bit OS (Vista beta expired) I can’t know what improvement that environment offers. As you know PS CS3 is still a 32 bit app.

Just wondering how much performance the OS, processor(s) and hard disk configuration and speed are responsible for? If it’s found that going from 2->4 GB RAM offers only a 1-2 second advantage on a 10 second operation, and adding more RAM in a 64 bit environment offers even less, then one might wonder why bother.

Russell
H
Ho
Jul 27, 2007
Ya, me too (re /3G switch). But I wonder how much is real and how much is an illusion.

If you’re using the 3G switch with only 2G, then it really is an illusion. As far a testing, there are numerous benchmarks available. I used the ones from Driver Heaven and Retouch Artists. I don’t remember the numbers now, but the decrease in times was more than a little bump. What you really gain is breathing room before RAM is saturated and everything starts being swapped out the the Scratch file (the proverbial wall). I think it’s worth the money, especially given the relatively low prices of RAM.

My advice to you would be to buy memory from a vendor with a liberal return policy. Install it and test it out for a few days to see if you think it’s worthwhile.
RP
Russell_Proulx
Jul 27, 2007
If you’re using the 3G switch with only 2G, then it really is an illusion.

I already have 4GB RAM installed on an E6600 and running fine with the /3G switch … and a Raptor system drive and an empty 15k Atlas SCSI drive on an Adaptec 39160 for PS’ scratch disk and another Atlas for work in progress. And I’m now replacing the E6600 with a Q6600 because I can. I won’t be surprised if that does not offer much real performance improvement, but we’ll see.

My question was because I am seriously wondering just how much difference that extra 2GB ram really makes with XPPro. I have not found there to be any earth shaking ‘wow’ result and wondered if serious comparison tests had ever been published. I’d prefer to not spend a lot of time putting RAM in/out and mucking with my boot.ini to remove/restore the /3G switch etc.. if tests have already been done.

I do know that CS2 works a lot better with even 2GB RAM than did CS and CS3 seems even better. That would suggest that PS memory management has improved and that has nothing to do with quantity and more to do with efficiency.

Russell
RP
Russell_Proulx
Jul 27, 2007
I used the ones from Driver Heaven and Retouch Artists.

Ho,

I already knew about the Retouch Artists test but not Driver Heaven at <http://www.driverheaven.net/photoshop/> Thanks:-)

I just ran the Driver Heaven one and my timings are from 20% faster to 300% faster depending on the test. My overall was 154sec. with an E6600 core 2 vs the P4 posted result of 204sec. That’s a 32% gain.

Since no one seems to have done much real testing with 2GB vs 4GB I’ll try to do it myself next week when the Quad core 2 is installed. I’ll do it with the test’s 60MB image and then create 120mb and 240mb versions to see how the results vary with 2 vs 4GB RAM and then repeat the same test with a some other apps open in the background (ex: Bridge + Illustrator + a Seamonkey [my Web Browser]).

I have no idea what I’ll find out. The added RAM might not add all the benefit that one would predict according to the age-old theory that more RAM is *always* MUCH better for Photoshop. Then again it might be compelling enough to leave the RAM in and put up with the small system bugs that are created as a result. One example: Window’s simple audio recorder no longer records with 4GB installed -> <http://support.microsoft.com/kb/284893/en-us>

The little bugs are not a big bother and there are workarounds. But I’d like to know just what I’m getting with 4GB RAM to know if it’s worthwhile.

Russell
T
thoughtstorms
Jul 30, 2007
and perhaps even run XP64 or Vista64 so all that RAM can be available for use.

Oh what you said! I bought XP64 (wish i’d gone for the superior COMADORE 64!!) thinking i’d be a happy PS camper (pronounced puh-SCAMPER, btw)! Yikes can a well-intentioned man be dead wrong. I have been unable to get ANY of CS2 to work on this new system. I now have to use Corel Photopaint (once my preferred ‘gun’) PaintShop Pro and Gimp to do any work at home! NO ONE warned me about the XP64 pitfall: practically NOTHING works, and when you call Adobe (or Shockwave… the list is damn near endless!) they say – "We do not – nor WILL not support your (allegedly ‘superior’) operating system. Please buy a large set of Crayola Crayons and markers." Well, that wasn’t their exact phrasing, but you get the subcontinental drift!

So. BEWARE the ides of XP64!!!

(And if anyone knows how i can resurrect my dreams of running PS CS2 on it, please reply!)
I
ID._Awe
Jul 30, 2007
The only problem I had with Vista64 was that Illustraitor CS would not run and there is no Acrobat printer for x64.

Bit of a drag, but all my other apps ran without any screeling, so I just have to wait a few months before I can update to Vista 64.
LH
Lawrence_Hudetz
Jul 30, 2007
Processing speed is like money…there is never enough!

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