Affinity Photo is one of the best alternatives to Photoshop especially for people who can’t justify the $10 a month subscription for Lightroom and Photoshop CC. On Affinity Photo’s website, they advertise that their software is built on rock solid foundations with principles of performance, stability and lack of bloat. I did some quick tests to see how Affinity Photo compares to Photoshop performance-wise. So is Affinity Photo faster than Photoshop? Let’s find out.
I’ll be testing the software on two computers. One is a mid-range laptop with an Intel Core i5 5200U processor, 8GB of RAM, an SSD, and an Intel HD 5500 integrated graphics with 128MB of dedicated VRAM and 4GB of shared VRAM.
The second system is a high-end desktop with an Intel Core i7 6700K processor, 64GB of RAM, an NVMe SSD, and a Nvidia 980TI video card with 6GB of dedicated VRAM.
Let’s start off with the startup times. On both systems, startup times were faster for Photoshop by a couple seconds. It’s not much and you probably won’t notice the difference unless you’re purposely looking for it.
On a test where we opened 20 files, Photoshop was faster by 6 seconds on the mid-range laptop. On the desktop, Affinity Photo was faster by 2 seconds.
Something I noticed was that in Affinity Photo, it looks like it’s frozen but it’s not. It’s just not showing the images as they’re loaded. And unlike Photoshop, you can’t press the ESC key to cancel the loading. In fact, if you try doing that, it’ll give you a popup message saying that you’re not allowed to cancel or close Affinity Photo until all the photos have been loaded.
The interface performance on both is great and I don’t experience any lag or slowness. But Affinity Photo feels snappier. I use that term because it’s not actually faster – it just feels faster. In Photoshop, things like the menus and zooming in and out are animated. In Affinity Photo, it has no animation – things appear instantaneously which makes it feel more snappy and I personally prefer that more.
You’ll also notice that Affinity Photo renders the photo from the center outwards while in Photoshop it does it row-by-row from the top-left to bottom-right. Affinity Photo’s way of rendering makes more sense because objects are more typically in the middle than it is on the top-left corner.
Now all these things seem small and minor… and I have to admit it is. But I just you to show you what Affinity Photo does to make the interface feel a little bit snappier.
In most cases, filters in Affinity Photo are noticeably faster than Photoshop. A lot of filters already render very fast in both software. But there are some filters with huge differences such as the zoom or radial blur filter. In Affinity Photo, it renders the effect immediately while in Photoshop, it takes quite awhile.
The biggest difference where I see Photoshop performing better is with the raw editor. On a fast desktop, the Develop persona in Affinity Photo works great and you don’t really notice much of a difference compared to Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter. But on a slower mid-range laptop, the difference is big. For example, when adjusting the exposure, Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter renders the effect instantly and it feels very smooth. While with Affinity Photo’s Develop Persona, you can see it struggling to keep up.
Affinity Photo uses significantly less ram than Photoshop. On a fresh start with no documents opened, Affinity Photo used 285 MB of RAM while Photoshop used 865 MB. With 20 files opened, RAM usage increased significantly for both but again with Affinity Photo using less RAM than Photoshop.
Both Affinity Photo and Photoshop support GPU acceleration. VRAM usage in Affinity Photo is significantly less than Photoshop.
If you don’t know what VRAM is, here’s a quick overview. VRAM is the memory for your GPU and it’s different than the RAM on your motherboard. You can have the fastest CPU, plenty of system RAM, and a solid state drive, but things will get laggy when you don’t have enough VRAM. And this is the main reason why people blame Lightroom, Photoshop, or whatever app they’re using for being slow and laggy. They have a nice computer but the GPU only has 1 or 2 GB of VRAM which is very easy to use up.
So as you can see, the performance difference between Affinity Photo and Photoshop really depends on what you’re doing and how fast your computer is. Startup times, opening files, and interface performance are about the same.
The interface feels snappier in Affinity Photo and many of the filters render significantly faster than Photoshop. It also uses significantly less RAM and VRAM than Photoshop making it a great choice for slower computers.
Photoshop still excels with their Camera Raw filter and even though it has a lot more features than Affinity Photo’s Develop persona, it still performs faster.
Stability-wise, I have to give the upper hand to Photoshop. I’ve been using Affinity Photo for a couple weeks and it has crashed a lot more than Photoshop. I’ve even seen it crash when I’m not doing anything at all – I’m just looking at the interface and it’ll close by itself. Affinity Photo does auto-save your documents and keep in mind that this is for their first non-beta release for Windows so I think we have to cut them some slack… at least until their next update.
Update (March 31, 2017): The latest Affinity Photo update has resolved many bugs and is significantly more stable.
I recommend Affinity Photo if you’re using a lower-end computer especially if you only have 4 or less than 4 gigs of RAM. It will be noticeably faster. But if you’re on a fast computer with at least 8 gigs of RAM, I wouldn’t even consider performance as a deciding factor because they’re both fast enough. Instead, you should probably make choices based on the features, pricing, and how they fit your workflow.