The computational performance of graphical processing units (GPUs) has improved significantly. Achieving speedup factors of more than 50x compared to single-threaded CPU execution are not uncommon due to parallel processing. This makes their use for high throughput microscopy image analysis very appealing. Unfortunately, GPU programming is not straightforward and requires a lot of programming skills and effort. Additionally, the attainable speedup factor is hard to predict, since it depends on the type of algorithm, input data and the way in which the algorithm is implemented. In this paper, we identify the characteristic algorithm and data-dependent properties that significantly relate to the achievable GPU speedup. We find that the overall GPU speedup depends on three major factors: (1) the coarse-grained parallelism of the algorithm, (2) the size of the data and (3) the computation/memory transfer ratio. This is illustrated on two types of well-known segmentation methods that are extensively used in microscopy image analysis: SLIC superpixels and high-level geometric active contours. In particular, we find that our used geometric active contour segmentation algorithm is very suitable for parallel processing, resulting in acceleration factors of 50x for 0.1 megapixel images and 100x for 10 megapixel images.