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Will a graphics/video card improve Photoshop performance?

My home desktop (HP Pavillion a6057c with w2207 Widescreen Flat Panel LCD) was a pretty decent setup when I first purchased it four years ago. However, compared to my quad-core laptop purchased last year it doesn’t compare. Recently it has been giving me problems, especially when I try to do photo or video editing. Just looking at photos could be a slow process.

Finally, the colors went funky on me and no amount of rebooting could get things back to the way they were. The a6057c comes with on-board video, meaning there isn’t a separate video/graphics card so I thought that may be the problem. Researching what video card would work well for someone who isn’t a gamer but who uses Photoshop showed that the consensus was that a video card wouldn’t help with Photoshop or viewing images. A dedicated graphics card would only improve performance for games. I found that hard to believe so I purchased a Sapphire ATI Radeon HD3850 PCI-E 512MB DVI/VGA graphics card for under $50 anyway.

It turns out that Photoshop CS5 performance (and just scrolling through photos in Windows Photo Viewer) is improved dramatically with a dedicated graphics card like the HD3850. The color problem wasn’t fixed with the new graphics card; I needed to reset the monitor to the original factory settings to solve that problem, but the speed with which I can view and edit photos now is incredible. Don’t believe those who say Photoshop performance is entirely based on your CPU. If your computer lags and you have on-board graphics, do a cheap upgrade to an dedicated graphics card to extend the life of your PC several years.

P.S. One other item to note is after installing the graphics card my sound no longer worked. To solve that problem I went into the BIOS (by pressing the F10 key when I started my computer) and changed the on-board audio setting from Auto to Enabled.

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