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Photoshop on Apple M1 MacBook 50% faster than on Intel models, Adobe says

Adobe releases a version of its photo-editing software that runs natively on Macs powered by Apple's own processor.

Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro uses the company's M1 processor.
Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro uses the company's M1 processor. Adobe released a version of Photoshop built for the new machines.
Dan Ackerman/CNET

Adobe on Wednesday released Photoshop for Apple's M1-based Macs, a key software package for the new family of computers, and it runs 50% faster than on Intel-powered equivalent laptops.

"Our internal tests show a wide range of features running an average of 1.5x the speed of similarly configured previous generation systems," Photoshop Product Manager Pam Clark said in a blog post Wednesday about the release of the M1-native Photoshop software. Those tests included opening and saving files, applying editing filters, and using automated tools for filling in regions and selecting subjects, "which all feel noticeably faster," Adobe said.

The results reinforce the strong performance and battery life advantages that reviewers have reported for Apple's new Macs -- and the serious challenge Apple poses to Intel after years of delays modernizing its manufacturing. Making a chip transition in computing product line is a massive endeavor, but so far it appears Apple has managed the change well.

Good Photoshop performance is important for the creative professionals who are a core Mac customer set. Even before the native Photoshop version arrived, CNET photographer Andrew Hoyle declared M1 Macs to be a "safe bet." Photoshop is widely used for editing and compositing photos but also many other design and publishing tasks.

M1 processors are more powerful siblings to Apple's A14 chips in new iPhones, and they take advantage of the circuitry miniaturization lead that TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.) has on Intel.

Adobe ran its tests on 13-inch MacBook Pros with 16GB of RAM, 2TB SSDs and Mac OS 11.2.2. The Intel-based machine used a Core i7 processor, though Macs don't ship with the latest models from Intel. Budget buyers should note that the M1-based MacBook Air likely offers similar performance. It lacks the Pro's larger battery, slightly brighter screen, cooling fan for sustained heavy work and, in low-end Air configurations, a bit of graphics processing performance.

Apple has yet to release larger, more powerful MacBook Pro laptops, iMac desktops and Mac Pro tower computers using its M series of processors. There, it's expected to offer chips with more processing cores than the M1's four powerful cores and four power-efficient cores. In that market, though, processors from Intel and AMD are more competitive.

For its part, Intel in February offered its own set of speed tests showing where its newer 11th Gen Core chips, code-named Tiger Lake, outdo M1 Macs. (Apple's Intel-based MacBooks use 10th Gen Core chips.) One specific test involved Photoshop's content aware fill technology, one of the tests Adobe cited. On Intel's test, its Windows machine using a 3GHz quad-core Intel chip was 1.5 times faster than an M1 Mac. On that test, though, M1 was running Photoshop through Apple's Rosetta 2 translation software, which isn't as fast as running native software built for the chip.

A few newer Photoshop features aren't yet in the new M1-native version, including the ability to edit documents stored in the cloud and to synchronize presets, Adobe said. Customers who need those can use the Intel version of Photoshop running on M1 Macs through Rosetta.

There are no Windows PCs using M1 processors, although it's possible Apple's success with the M1 could spur Arm-family chip PC progress from Qualcomm or other chip designers.

Also on Wednesday, Adobe announced a new Photoshop feature that uses AI to quadruple photo sizes. The feature will soon come to Lightroom, too.