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Photoshop beta on Surface Pro X impresses, but don’t make the jump to ARM yet

Photoshop on ARM lacks key features, making it a no-go for professionals -- but hey, it is a beta after all

Photoshop on the Surface Pro X (2020)

Over the weekend, Adobe finally released a version of Photoshop that works natively on ARM-based Windows devices.

The move came shortly after the company released a similar beta for Photoshop on Apple’s new M1 Macs — the M1 chips are also based on ARM. After promising support for ARM devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro X for over a year, Adobe finally delivered. Unfortunately, as great as Adobe software availability is, not everything is good.

I’ve had a bit of time to play with Photoshop on the Surface Pro X (2020) over the last few days. The good news is that Photoshop actually runs really well and works great with the Slim Pen, touch and other Pro X features. Using the pen was smooth and fast, Photoshop launched quickly (once I navigated around an error that crashed the app at startup) and overall performance seemed on par with Photoshop on traditional x86 devices. The bad news is that the Photoshop app is very much a beta, and it’s missing a lot of functionality.

Perhaps the most egregious issue I came across was that the app didn’t play nice with RAW files at all. It seems Adobe’s Camera Raw app, which normally ships with Photoshop, didn’t make it into the beta. The Verge also points out that content-aware fill, the patch tool, healing brush and other in-app features are missing in the beta version.

While not entirely fair to criticize the lack of these items in beta software that most people won’t use, it’s worth acknowledging that without them, anyone who relies on Photoshop still can’t make the full leap to ARM. Unfortunately, that also means my outlook on the Pro X (2020) hasn’t changed much since it still can’t replace x86 Windows machines for me. Regardless, the Photoshop beta is hopefully a sign of things to come.

The surprisingly smooth performance suggests that ARM truly can handle heavier workloads — once they’re optimized for the hardware, that is. Plus, Photoshop likely heralds the transition of more Adobe apps to ARM. Perhaps when the Surface Pro X (2021) drops, or Apple’s M2 chip arrives, Adobe will finally have its software ready and creatives can start adopting ARM.

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