Review: Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium

EventDV by Shawn Lam

CS5.5 Production Premium is the result of Adobe Systems' new product strategy that involves releasing annual fractional .5 update versions on select point products in fast-changing disciplines and full-integer .0 editions for the entire product line every 2 years. Unlike previous point upgrades that were free for registered users via the Adobe updater, .5 editions are not upgrades. Rather, they are full versions-meaning that you will have to pay for the new version. Updates to fix bugs and add support will still be free for registered users. Upgrade pricing for registered CS5 Production Premium users starts at $399; pricing for new users remains unchanged from previous full versions at $1,699. Premiere Pro, Audition (which returns to replace Soundbooth in Production Premium), After Effects, Flash Professional, Flash Catalyst, Device Central, Media Encoder, and Story appear in new 5.5 editions, while Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Encore, OnLocation, Bridge, Dynamic Link, and CS Live will be included in Production Premium CS5.5 in their CS5 versions. In 2012, Adobe plans to release CS6 suite with new versions of all Production Premium applications.

In addition to boxed and download versions, Adobe is introducing subscription pricing for users who want to subscribe on a monthly or annual basis but just pay monthly, rather than purchasing the suite outright. Subscription users can select individual programs or the entire suite, and depending on their contract, they can keep them activated for as little as a month. I can see this being very popular for studios that want to install CS5.5 applications on additional editing systems without the upfront investment, or those who want to activate more advanced programs only when the need arises. Monthly pricing for a 1-year commitment and month-to-month pricing on individual point products ranges from $19-$29 for Dreamweaver to $49-$75 for Photoshop Extended or After Effects. Prices also range from $85-$129 for the full Production Premium suite to $129-$195 for the entire Master Collection. One advantage of choosing the subscription option is that subscribers get automatic updates to the latest version, and that is included with their monthly rates. But enough with the strategy and pricing—let's have a look at the new point products.

Premiere Pro CS5.5
Perhaps the single most important feature of CS5 Production Premium was its new 64-bit Mercury Playback Engine, which delivered incredible GPU acceleration via a handful of supported NVIDIA CUDA cards. In version CS5.5, Adobe has further increased the number of supported NVIDIA CUDA cards to 20. This is good news all around if you are building a new editing system or upgrading an existing one, as it gives you more card options.

For this review, I'm testing two builds. The first is an upgrade from CS5 to CS5.5 on a system that I built in 2010, a first-generation Intel Core i7 920 on Asus P6T motherboard with a GeForce GTX 285 video card. I'm also testing a full new install on my latest build, a second-generation Intel Core i7 2600K on Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard with a NVIDIA Quadro FX4800 workstation graphics card. My upgrade process proved uneventful, which is a good thing, although I had to update my graphics driver in order to unlock the GPU acceleration. I probably should have taken this as a hint of additional performance improvements but, as I'll explain later, I didn't think much of it at the time. read more...

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