It’s been about a few months since I upgraded to Adobe’s Creative Suite CS3 suite of graphic & design applications, and am running them all on a PowerMac G4 (dual 1.25 processors, 2 Gb RAM). I thought I would share my experiences with anyone out there contemplating upgrading to CS3 with an older Macintosh. I also have one of the original MacBooks, so there’s a decent comparison with CS3 running on an Intel processor Mac.
In short, I would recommend waiting to upgrade your Mac to at least a G5 or an Intel based Mac before going to CS3, but that said it’s still usable.
I should point out that I am a shareware junkie, and over the years I have demoed (and kept or bought) many freeware and shareware applications for my Macintosh machines. The positive thing is that some of these independently developed software applications can be very handy and speed up your workflow and productivity (and I will be posting some reviews on the best ones in the future). The potential negative side to these add-ons are the increased load on your Mac, as well as apps that might not be engineered the best, and might be causing overall system performance degradation. That said, I have tested CS3 out on a clean user account, and the performance seems about the same. So, to some degree this can all be read with a grain of silicon, but keep in mind CS1 was running just fine before the upgrade, and really I am basing performance issues on that comparison.
And to clarify — this will not be a review per se of the Creative Suite CS3 software, but rather the performance on a G4 PowerMac compared to CS1.
The first (and worst, for me) issue was with Adobe Illustrator. Things seemed OK after the install, but I noticed over time that the Mac was becoming dead slow, and after looking at the Activity Monitor, I saw Illustrator was sucking up almost 35—40% of my CPU usage just sitting idle. That was a red flag. After a lot of research on the Adobe message boards, user Wade helped out with a suggestion to delete the “Settings” files (found in Users/Username/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator CS3 Settings) , which are separate from the Preference file in the Preferences folder (and a standard troubleshooting step for any application: “delete the prefs”). That cleared things right up. After a week or so I finally got a response from an Adobe tech with a generic support answer. I was pretty disappointed with Adobe’s tech support, especially compared to those Adobe Forums demigods who seem to always have the answer (and keep up on the posts). Thanks again Wade!
So I was back to a usable level with Illustrator, expect for the fact that things just seemed sluggish overall — slight delays when dragging objects, both in Illustrator and InDesign were the biggest culprits.Even using the keyboard arrows was giving me a lag. Photoshop brushes, with the Wacom tablet & pen, were juuuust a tad bit behind where I would draw, and this was a basic brush with no fancy settings applied.
Everything works fine — no crashes, decent launch times (usually). But the general usability in relation to everything running just a bit slower is, to be honest, kind of annoying and a bit unproductive. Since most of my projects are “low overhead”, I have been sticking with CS3 just to get a feel for it and try out some new features (which I really haven’t had the time to do just yet). I have an annual toy catalog design project coming up very soon, and I am debating if I should even bother using InDesign CS3 for the project or not. I have a feeling it’s going to choke on the 36-page layout.
I’m going to give it a shot though, as almost every new feature in InDesign CS3 I like, and have become very handy — except for the new way keyboard resizing works on objects. I hate it! Why they can’t make it a user-configurable option is beyond me. The new method of resizing the container box only is not very cool, at least not all the time. Needs to allow for another modifier key to resize both the container as well as the contained object. Anyways…
Illustrator seems fast enough when working on basic vector art, but as I have not delved into a really complex object yet, I am not sure how it will handle things. I was using some simple drop shadows for a project, and it was unbearably slow moving vector objects around. Things are much snappier on the Intel MacBook 1.83 Core Duo (2 Gb RAM).
As mentioned before, using a Wacom tablet and brushes in Photoshop is just a bit too slow in the response time compared to CS1. You notice you are working on a computer in CS3, as opposed to CS1 where the computer and software became transparent as you worked, which is the desired working situation. Again, things are much more fluid on the MacBook.
I realize that my old G4 just barely meets the requirements for CS3, but I really expected the optimized code to run better on even a G4 machine than it does for me. And part of me wonders if running dual flat-screen monitors on the stock video card (with 64 MB RAM) is also an issue. If I knew that was the cause, I would get a new video card this second. Otherwise, I’d rather put that cash towards a new Mac Pro.
Overall, CS3 is usable on the G4 but I would really have to say that anyone with a similar setup to mine might want to consider waiting until they have upgraded their Mac before making the jump. Me, I am going for a mid-range Mac Pro. I was considering one of the new aluminum iMac 24 inchers (they seem to have decent power and the cost is lower), but after this experience I realized what I want is a powerful machine that will also last me a few extra years with that added power and expandability. I’d also be paying for a monitor that I don’t really need. The extra cash for the Mac Pro will more than pay for itself in the productivity benefits alone.