Seven months after Apple revealed its homegrown M1 processor, we’re finally starting to see its true potential as more third-party apps arrive with native support. Now Adobe has updated a batch of longtime staples that, at least according to Adobe, show impressive performance improvements thanks to Apple silicon.
Apple’s obsession with secrecy meant that when the M1 arrived there was very limited support for software outside of what was available in macOS and the company’s own applications. That included Adobe, a company that Apple has worked closely with for decades and which is arguably one of the reasons Apple is still around. Running the Mac version of Photoshop developed for Intel processors on Apple’s new M1 chip through Rosetta 2 still showed performance improvements (Adobe claimed it was up to 50% faster), but back in March when the M1 native version of Photoshop was finally released, it confirmed that Apple’s in-house silicon was as impressive as the company claimed.
Today, the M1 native versions of Photoshop and Lightroom are being joined by other popular Adobe apps, including Illustrator, InDesign, and Lightroom Classic, which no longer require Rosetta 2 to run on Apple’s latest M1 desktops and laptops. To determine just how fast the new versions of these apps are on M1 machines versus Apple’s computers still running Intel processors, Adobe commissioned Pfeiffer Consulting to benchmark the software on a pair of 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops with 16GB of RAM, with one running on the M1 processor and the other powered by an Intel Core i5.
As with any study commissioned by a company to extoll the virtues of one of its products, the results should be taken with a grain of salt, but the benchmarking results on average showed an 83.18% speed advantage for the M1 native apps over the older Intel versions running on Intel hardware. But keep in mind that’s an average, and some features are definitely a lot faster than others running on Apple’s new silicon. In Photoshop, a computational heavy operation like Content-Aware Fill, which was performed on 20% of a 61-megapixel 16-bit image, was completed in just 12.6 seconds on an M1 chip, compared to 37.9 seconds with an Intel processor. In Illustrator, scrolling all the way through a complex vector illustration at 300% zoom took just 5.7 seconds on an M1, and 28.2 seconds on Intel, a 390% performance increase.
According to the report, not a single test that was performed showed the Intel processor machine outperforming the M1 one, but it does point out that there are some cases where it could. “For features that rely heavily on GPU acceleration, however, an Intel Mac with a discrete, powerful GPU can still outperform the current generation of M1 Macs in some areas.” For artists working in 3D, there may not be a reason to run out and upgrade just yet.
The news is especially promising for creative types given Apple’s decision to start including the same M1 chip featured in its laptop and desktop computers in the iPad as well. Adobe has been slowly creating alternate mobile versions of its flagship apps for iPadOS, but with complete cross-platform compatibility of project files between them and the full versions of apps like Photoshop and Illustrator. The use of M1 on a tablet potentially means that photo editing on the go could be just as fast as it is on a computer (assuming Apple isn’t throttling the M1 in the iPad to ensure battery life isn’t destroyed) and that eventually, tablets might replace laptops altogether—even if that’s a long way away given the slow evolution of iPadOS.
Adobe Premiere Pro is available in beta for M1 Macs, and Adobe Audition and Rush are on the horizon.