The best PC for Photoshop and photo editing looks completely different every year. With new technology, increasingly powerful processors and with the prices of certain components dropping all the time, it might surprise you to learn that you don't have to spend a fortune to be able to run the world's favourite photo editing application. We've come a long way in terms of affordability when it comes to professionally editing photos, and it's crazy to think that buying a PC that could run Adobe Photoshop back in 1993 would cost around £1250 (£2,499.87 in today's money).
Today, for a photo editing PC, you will need to start with a budget of £1,193.99. The difference is quite incredible.
You'll also need to factor in the cost of a good quality monitor if you don't have one already, and you can find more information on the best monitors for photo editing here.
So... what goes into a photo editing PC?
There are a few important components when you're photo editing. There are no compromises here, as you'll see, but if budget is a factor for you, then you can make some allowances in specification. We've lined up the best PCs available for photo editing enthusiasts and professionals, and we've allowed for different budgets. For now, here are the components we need to focus on: -
I looked at around ten articles about photo editing PC specifications, and I only saw three articles mention the motherboard. This is a shame, considering the motherboard will play a huge part whether you are hobbyist or a professional. Connectivity is paramount when you're photo editing, because chances are you are going to be transferring large files via USB or sending files across networks - in which case fast Wi-Fi or Ethernet is important. Besides that, you will need fast interfaces on the motherboard itself, with your storage and graphics card needing to communicate with the processor quickly and efficiently.
PCIe 4.0 is an absolute definite requirement here, as is USB 3.0 connectivity if you're a photo editing professional.
Selecting the right processor for photo editing relies on benchmarks. Not all CPUs are created equal when it comes to processing large images and files, multi-tasking and working with Photoshop in harmony. When it comes down to AMD vs Intel - the story is much different than if we were talking gaming or 3D modelling. Puget Systems, a USA computer systems builder, put various systems through their paces in a benchmark test with Photoshop and using PugetBench (a tool that scores a hardware specification based on Photoshop performance).
Right now, the best processors for photo editing in Photoshop are: -
- AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
- AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
- AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
- Intel Core i9 11900K
The results of the PugetBench test for these processors were as follows: -
PugetBench Results - Best Processor for Photoshop
Memory is not to be overlooked with Photoshop, and the minimum requirement is 8GB. If you are going to be making use of filters, effects and editing large images, however, 16GB is the minimum professionals recommend and 32GB is the perfect specification. Having 32GB at your disposal will ensure you don't have any problems with Photoshop freezing or hanging, which is every editor's nightmare. Our experts here at CCL agree, and the price difference between high performance 16GB and 32GB DDR4 RAM is only around £40. It doesn't make a lot of sense not upgrading to 32GB at this price, considering how much faster your workflow would be.
Granted, you can get away without "hardware acceleration" when working with Photoshop, but a graphics card with at least 2GB of onboard VRAM will speed up image processing immensely if you're working on a 1080p monitor. Anything larger than this and you will need a dedicated GPU with 4GB or more VRAM.
Whilst it might not seem like storage is important, having Photoshop dumping temporary files and loading images from a fast SSD storage device (referred to as a scratch disk by Adobe) is actually critical for smooth workflow. A SATA hard drive will of course be sufficient if you're using a 7200RPM drive - but SSD will beat SATA in a drag race any day of the week, and having Photoshop stored on the same drive will make things very easy for you.
A large capacity hard drive is also recommended for storing archived photos, as some PSD and PSB files can rack up the gigabytes pretty quickly.
Best PCs For Photo Editing (Photoshop 2021)
Depending on budget, there are two PC systems that will be ideal for Photoshop work, no matter what your requirements are. Each PC is able to make full use of the many tools and effects in Photoshop 2021, and you'll ensure a faster and smoother workflow with optional upgrades (which we've recommended below for each system).
Best Value Photo Editing PC
- GameMax Kamikaze Pro Gaming Case - Black
- MSI B550M PRO-VDH WIFI AMD Socket AM4 Motherboard
- AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 3.7GHz 6 Core (Socket AM4) CPU
- 16GB CCL Choice 2666MHz DDR4 RAM
- MSI GeForce RTX 3060 GAMING X 12GB OC GPU
- Western Digital Blue SN550 500GB M.2-2280 SSD
- Seagate BarraCuda 1TB SATA III 3.5" HDD
- Corsair CX650F RGB 650W Modular 80+ Bronze PSU
- MSI MAG CORELIQUID 240R CPU AIO Cooler
- 3 Year On-Site Warranty Upgrade (UK Mainland only)
Perfect For Enthusiasts and Semi-Professional Photo Editing
Ideal for most levels of experience, this system is available to purchase as a custom built PC from CCL. Incredible value for money and high performance here, with adequate 16GB DDR4 RAM, a solid multi-tasker in the Ryzen 5 5600X processor and powerful graphics card to handle anything Photoshop demands. You have all the storage you need in the Western Digital 500GB M.2 SSD and Seagate 1TB SATA HDD pairing, with fast access speeds that ensure your images load and save fast. The MSI B550M PRO-VDH WIFI has USB 3.0 sockets, so transferring files will be swift and reliable.
Whilst this system is absolutely perfect for anything you can throw at it with Photoshop, there are changes you can make to the specification to bring down the price, without sacrificing Photoshop performance. You can do this easily in our PC customiser before purchasing.
- Swap MSI GeForce RTX 3060 GAMING X 12GB OC GPU for MSI Radeon RX 6600 ARMOR 8GB GPU (-£115.00)
- Upgrade 16GB CCL Choice 2666MHz DDR4 RAM to 32GB Kingston FURY Beast 3200MHz DDR4 (+£75.00)
December Price: £1,193.99
Professional Photo Editing PC
- Corsair iCUE 4000X RGB
- MSI MAG X570S TOMAHAWK MAX WIFI
- AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 3.7GHz
- 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO SL, 4 x 8GB, 3200MHz
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080Ti 12GB
- 1TB - Seagate Firecuda 510 SSD
- 4TB Seagate BarraCuda HDD
- Corsair iCUE H100i Elite Capellix AIO Liquid Cooler
- Corsair iCUE SP120 RGB ELITE
- 3 Year On-Site Warranty Upgrade (UK Mainland only)
- Windows 10
The Ultimate Professional Photo Editing PC
With a processor that tops the charts as far as performance, and enough memory to handle the largest format images on any display, the Nazare 9134 iCUE RTX PC is a workhorse that has been built to withstand the most demanding games, therefore it has the highest possible performance for multi-tasking jobs in photo editing, massive hardware acceleration from the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080Ti 12GB graphics card, and superior storage in both the Seagate 1TB SSD and 4TB HDD in this system spec.
When the workload is heavy and the processor begins to drill down on the tasks, the extra cooling in the excellent Corsair 4000X RGB case will have you covered, with the Corsair iCUE H100i Elite liquid cooler and extra Corsair iCUE SP210 RGB fan for case airflow.
December Price: £3,407.99