Another year, another version of Adobe Photoshop, the de facto must-have image-editing program for graphics professionals. Over the years, some Photoshop iterations have been revolutionary, altering the way we work. Others have been evolutionary, offering incremental changes. The new Photoshop CS4 is in the latter category, with some significant under-the-hood recoding that hints at interesting things to come. In the meantime, a handful of improved features and functionality offer enough of an advantage for frequent users that may make upgrading worthwhile. However, you may wind up having to buy a new computer in the process.
Okay, we all know that Photoshop (PS) is expensive; that’s simply the cost of doing business in professional graphics and photography. And, yes, it has always been a resource hog. But PS CS4 is an order of magnitude more power-hungry than any other version—so much so that you’ll probably want to buy a new system.
First of all, you’ll need a graphics board that supports OpenGL and Shader Model 3.0, and has at least 256MB of onboard RAM (512MB or 1GB works better). Choose your graphics board from the list of those Adobe has approved for working with PS CS4.
Secondly, Adobe’s official system requirements are unrealistically conservative. One gigabyte of RAM? Who are they kidding? You’ll want at least 4GB, though 8GB is preferable. That means a 64-bit Vista system if you’re running Windows.