Graphics Cards and Photoshop CS6 on Hackintosh

As most of my readers know, I use a Hackintosh as my main workstation. That means that I build my own computer from parts (motherboard, cpu, ram, power supply, drives, etc) and then use a bit of magic from to make it run the latest version of Mac OS. Which currently is 10.8 Mountain Lion. Early last year I built a new and very fast machine based on the top-of-the-line Intel 3770K CPU, 32GB of RAM, 240GB Intel 520 SSD and the rest of it. State of the art and very fast. The only part of the machine that I kept from my old box was the Radeon 5770 video card. At the time running Snow Leopard and Lion this card worked just fine. Especially for what I need it to do. Mostly 2D work in Lightroom and Photoshop. And it should work well since it's the the stock card (STILL!) in the Apple Mac Pro.

For some reason though, the combination of my new computer, old GPU, Mountain Lion, and Adobe CS6 Suite just doesn't work all that well. If I leave on all of the GPU acceleration in the Performance tab of the PhotoShop Preferences, I get weird effects. The mouse lags a little bit behind my Wacom tablet cursor for example. And using things like a fairly small healing brush lock-up the computer for a quarter second with each stroke. Little weird things like that. Certainly not the kind of stuff that should be happening with a computer at this level.

I found that if I turned the acceleration down to 'Basic' that performance got smoother, but then I was losing some of the functionality inherent with Adobe's inclusion of GPU acceleration in the first place. Needless to say, a little frustrating. After a bunch of setting changes and reboots, I've narrowed the problem down to the 5770 card. Not sure exactly what the problem is, but I'm not going to spend any more time fighting it. Time to move on.

So I started doing a little research into possible options. Apparently Apple as moved to Nvidia GPUs in their latest generation of machines, which is great because then there are native drivers for almost all of the latest 6xx series of cards. The move to Nvidia also means that I'd be able to enable CUDA acceleration in Premiere CS6 as well. Which apparently has drastic speed benefits in render times and such. TonyMac even has a list of natively compatible cards here on his site.

The problem is price. The card I had been looking at for the last month was the GTX 660ti. It's basically the GTX 670 with one of the cores turned off. 88% of the performance for 75% of the price of the 670. The problem is that it's still $300, and that's a LITTLE too much for me to spend on a video card. Especially since I do little video editing and zero 3D gaming.

So I spent a few minutes this morning doing some extra research and found this page on Puget System's site. Now Puget builds custom Windows workstations for higher-end clients and I trust their opinions. Basically they ran some Photoshop benchmarks with a bunch of modern GPUs and the results came out that the far cheaper GTX 650 gives me almost all of the performance of the high-end cards for what I use it for. And for only $120. SOLD.

The thing is that Puget was running the benchmarks in Windows and I'll be using it in Mac OS, but I think that the underlying OpenGL code in the Adobe products is likely very similar, so I'm hoping that I just made out like a bandit. By the way, I ended up ordering the Gigabyte brand version of the 650 with 1GB of RAM from NewEgg. I love me some NewEgg and I get free shipping from right across the river in NJ with no sales tax.

It should be here on Monday at which point I'll take the afternoon to do my planned reinstall of the OS and apps with the new card. Will let you all know how it goes.