Graphics processors are something that most people, including myself, overlook! They’re commonly called video cards, as these little chips are responsible for putting all that color onto your monitor. It should be known that just like the CPU, not all are created equal and this technology is always improving.
The GPU is in charge of rendering all that you see on your screen. It aids in making your operating system look pretty, function smoothly (without graphically stuttering– a graphic easter egg for you OS X users, try holding SHIFT while minimizing or maximizing a window), and also processing information for your viewing pleasure.
If you have a super high resolution monitor, like the new 4K monitors, your CPU and GPU may struggle to produce things smoothly. The 4K monitors demand a lot of juice from the GPU, and if your GPU isn’t fast enough, you may experience some stuttering, some jagged animations, slower response by your mouse, and/or your monitor may not even work on the highest resolution that it is capable of.
The same symptoms may be experienced also if you’ve got multiple monitors hooked up to a GPU, as you’re now doubling or tripling the amount of information that your GPU needs to produce for those displays. An upgraded GPU can definitely impact the performance of your computer when it comes to the easiest of work: It is hard to edit when your mouse is trailing a second behind while you’re moving across two different screens.
Many of these new photo and video editing programs, such as those in the Adobe Creative Cloud, are able to utilize the GPU to help supplement the load that the CPU takes through something called Hardware Acceleration (GPU Acceleration)! That means, a dedicated and supported graphics card will help speed things up and pump things out by partnering with the CPU!
Previous stand alone versions like CS6 have supported GPU acceleration, but only with a limited list of graphics cards. Now with Creative Cloud, the supported list has grown! You’ll gain a great amount of time back when it comes to applying filters and rendering frames and also reduce some frustration. Mainly though, your experience will become snappier with your graphics card helping out the CPU with all the artsy craziness you put it though! Head over to Adobe for more information about which model/series of graphics cards are supported in the current and previous versions of Photoshop and Premiere Pro.
Lightroom 6/CC also supports GPU acceleration, but only in the Develop module and more specifically only on the Main window (meaning if you have a secondary window open for thumbnails, that one will not be accelerated). It’ll usually help out with adding brush adjustments and gradients. Lightroom will not leverage more than one GPU at this current time– which means, make sure you’re using the best video card you have as your primary graphics card if you have more than one– the system usually handles that pretty well without you having to configure anything, but doesn’t hurt to double check.