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Adobe Creative Cloud: Intel Core i9 9990XE vs Xeon W-3175X

Written on February 22, 2019 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

Over the last couple months, Intel has released a couple of very interesting (and expensive) CPUs:

The Core i9 9990XE 14 Core is a high frequency, OEM-only, no warranty processor that only select system manufacturers like Puget Systems has access to via a once-per-quarter auction. While availability and pricing may end up being highly inconsistent, the capabilities of this processor should (on paper at least) be second to none in many workloads - including video and photo editing.

With 28 cores, the Xeon W-3175X 28 Core is the second of these special Intel CPUs that Intel has pushed it to the limit, only with a focus on core count rather than clock speed. In addition to the high cost of the CPU itself (coming in at a MSRP of $2,999), you also need a very specific socket 3647 motherboard and compatible cooler. Motherboards like the Asus ROG Dominus Extreme are expected to cost around $1,800 and will require a chassis that is able to handle its large physical size as it is larger than even standard EATX boards.

Intel Core i9 9990XE vs Intel Xeon W-3175X in Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, After Effects, Premiere Pro

In this article, we are going to see how the Core i9 9990XE and Xeon W-3175X perform in Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, After Effects, and Premiere Pro. In addition, we will be comparing them to the best of Intel's normal X-series and 9th Gen lineup as well as the top AMD Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs to see whether they even make sense for those that do have the budget and reach to afford them. If you are more interested in highly threaded workloads, we also have an article available looking at CPU rendering performance in V-Ray and Cinema 4D.

Test Setup & Methodology

Listed below are the systems we will be using in our Adobe CC 2019 testing:

Intel 9th Gen Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 9900K
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z390 Designare
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1809)
Intel X-series Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 9940X / 9980XE / 9990XE
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12DX i4
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
RAM 8x DDR4-2666 16GB (128GB total)
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1809)
Intel Xeon W Test Platform
CPU Intel Xeon W-3175X
CPU Cooler Asetek 690LX-PN Liquid Cooler
Motherboard Asus ROG Dominus Extreme
RAM 12x DDR4-2666 16GB (192GB total)
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1809)
AMD Ryzen Test Platform
CPU AMD Ryzen 2700X
CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2
Motherboard Gigabyte X470 AORUS GAMING 7 WIFI
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1809)
 
AMD Threadripper Test Platform
CPU AMD TR 2990WX
CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2
Motherboard Gigabyte X399 AORUS Xtreme
RAM 8x DDR4-2666 16GB (128GB total)
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1809)

Listing out the details of our Adobe CC benchmarks would double the length of this article, so we are instead going to simply link out to either our benchmark download page (for Photoshop and After Effects) or a recent article that includes our benchmark process (for Lightroom Classic and Premiere Pro):

Photoshop CC 2019 Results

To start off our testing, we decided to look at Adobe Photoshop CC. Photoshop tends to only be able to use a handful of CPU cores, which means that while the Intel Core i9 9990XE should do fairly well due to its high clock speed, the Xeon W-3175X is unlikely to be one of the top performers.

There results of our Photoshop benchmark is not too much of a surprise. The Core i9 9990XE does very well - essentially matching the Intel Core i9 9900K - due to its high 5.1 GHz maximum Turbo Boost frequency. That obviously doesn't make it very cost effective from a pure performance standpoint given that it is at least four times the cost of the i9 9900K, but the ability to utilize up to 128GB of system RAM could make it an interesting option for some users.

The Xeon W-3175X, however, is definitely not a CPU you should use if you are looking to get the best performance out of Photoshop. While it certainly works and is better than the AMD Threadripper 2990WX, it is still measurably slower than processors that are significantly less expensive. To be honest, this is not really the fault of this CPU. The Xeon W-3175X is intended for workloads that are able to effectively utilize a high number of CPU cores, which is simply not what Photoshop is.

Lightroom Classic CC 2019 Results

Keeping things in the image/photography field, Lightroom Classic CC is definitely much better at leveraging higher CPU core counts than Photoshop, although it really only does so for certain actions like exporting images or generating previews. Because of this, whether a high frequency or high core count CPU is best depends on what you are doing in Lightroom.

Unlike in Photoshop, the Intel Xeon W-3175X does reasonably well in Lightroom Classic. In terms of the overall benchmark score it still falls behind the Core i9 9980XE and 9990XE, but it was easily the fastest CPU we have tested for bulk tasks like exporting and generating previews. Whether a 10% increase in performance for those tasks is worth the much higher cost and heat generation is something to be decided by each reader, but for most users the W-3175X is likely not the best choice as its performance everywhere else in Lightroom Classic is mediocre.

Even the Core i9 9990XE is a bit of a mixed bag. It also does very well for bulk tasks, but it falls behind the much less expensive Core i9 9990K when culling images or working in the Develop module. Since that is where we tend to hear the most demand for greater performance from our customers, the i9 9900K 8 core CPU is still our go-to recommendation for Lightroom Classic.

After Effects CC 2019 Results

Moving on video and motion graphics, Adobe After Effects is a bit similar to Photoshop in the fact that the vast majority of the software is only able to utilize a handful of CPU cores. There are some aspects (the C4D Renderer in particular) that can benefit from a higher core count CPU, but even there it is more about a balance between frequency and core count.

Starting with the Intel Core i9 9990XE, this processor is really an ideal CPU for After Effects. The high clock speed makes it terrific for the single threaded aspects of Ae (which is most of it), while the high core count also makes it great when utilizing the C4D renderer. It only ends up being about 3% faster than the i9 9990K in our After Effects benchmark, but that technically makes it the fastest CPU we have tested for After Effects.

As for the W-3175X, we didn't expect it to do particularly well in Ae but we were a bit surprised at how poorly it performed. The standard and tracking results are to be expected given the nature of this CPU, but we expected it to do better in the Cinema 4D renderer tests. The W-3175X does well in the stand-alone version of Cinema 4D (as we discuss in our i9 9990XE vs W-3175X rendering article), but it appears that the lightly-threaded overhead from Ae means that it is very important to have a balance between core count and clock speed.

Premiere Pro CC 2019 Results

The last software we will be looking at is Premiere Pro CC 2019. Out of the Creative Cloud applications we tested, this is likely to be the best case scenario for a CPU like the Xeon W-3175X since you can often get better performance out of higher core count CPUs - especially when exporting.

Interestingly enough, both the Core i9 9990XE and the Xeon W-3175X did well in our Premiere Pro benchmark. Typically, the i9 9990XE does best when clock speed (or a balance between clock speed and cores) is important, while the W-3175X is best for highly threaded workloads. Premiere Pro is apparently right on the line between those two scenarios which allows these two CPUs to do very well. If you are looking for the best possible performance in Premier Pro (regardless of price or the ability to actually get your hands on it), these processors are certainly what you would want.

Unfortunately, the performance gain isn't a particularly large one - you are only looking at about a 2.5% increase over the Core i9 9980XE. Considering the much lower cost and power draw (which means less heat and noise), along with the fact that you can readily procure a Core i9 9980XE, most users are going to be pretty hard pressed to justify using one of these special processors. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you would likely get better overall system performance with a Core i9 9980XE and spending the cost savings on something like more RAM or faster storage.

Is the Core i9 9990XE or Xeon W-3175X better for Adobe CC?

Before we get into our final conclusions, we want to again point out that both the Core i9 9990XE and Xeon W-3175X are not processors you are likely to be able to get your hands on. The i9 9990XE is only available to a handful of system integrators via a once per quarter auction which means that supply, availability, and even price is going to be highly inconsistent. The Xeon W-3175X should be more readily available, but again only system integrators are intended to be able to purchase not only the processor, but the special motherboard it needs as well. Due to the limited availability, high cost, and specialized system requirements, Puget Systems is not planning on offering either of these CPUs in our workstations at the current time.

Intel Xeon W-3175X in Asus ROG Dominus Extreme with Asetek 690LX-PN Liquid Cooler

Intel Xeon W-3175X installed in a Asus ROG Dominus Extreme with Asetek 690LX-PN Liquid Cooler

With that said, here is the summary of our Adobe Creative Cloud testing with these two processors:

Core i9 9990XE vs Xeon W-3175X for Photoshop CC 2019

In most cases, neither of these CPUs are going to be the best choice for Photoshop. The i9 9990XE performs well, but is still a hair behind the much less expensive Core i9 9900K 8 Core CPU. The Xeon W-3175X does not fare nearly as well, coming in at about 30% slower than the Core i9 9900K.

Core i9 9990XE vs Xeon W-3175X for Lightroom CC 2019

While neither of these CPUs is better than the lower cost i9 9900K 8 Core CPU when culling images or working in the Develop module, they are both excellent at bulk tasks like importing, exporting, and generating previews. Be aware that the performance gain even in these tasks is relatively minor with the i9 9990XE being about 1% faster than the i9 9980XE while the W-3175X is about 10% faster.

Core i9 9990XE vs Xeon W-3175X for After Effects CC 2019

After Effects cares a lot about single-core performance, which automatically makes the Xeon W-3175X a poor choice. Overall, the W-3175X ended up being about 25% slower than the Core i9 9900K 8 core. On the other hand, the Core i9 9990XE does well, coming in at about 5% faster than the i9 9900K.

Core i9 9990XE vs Xeon W-3175X for Premiere Pro CC 2019

Premiere Pro is the one instance where both of these CPUs do well. In fact, they performed almost identically to each other and beat the next fastest CPU (the Core i9 9980XE) by a small 2.5%. This isn't a very large increase in performance - certainly nowhere near the relative price increase - but if you are looking for the best of the best regardless of any other consideration, these CPUs tie for that crown.

If you have read any of our other articles looking at Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, After Effects, or Premiere Pro, you likely are not too surprised that the Xeon W-3175X did relatively poorly in our Creative Cloud testing. To be frank, given the nature of this software and the workloads this CPU is designed for, we were actually a little surprised at how well it ended up doing in Lightroom Classic and especially Premiere Pro. So if anything, the Xeon W-3175X exceeded our expectations.

The Core i9 9990XE, on the other hand, is pretty much the ideal type of CPU for the software we tested. In most cases, raw performance per core is what matters most in Adobe applications, but there are also many situations where having a higher number of CPU cores helps. Since the i9 9990XE has both a high clock speed and a reasonably high number of cores, it ends up at the top our charts in pretty much every Adobe package we tested.

To be fair to the Xeon W-3175X, we do want to make it clear that in the situations it is designed for, it is a pretty decent processor. For example, it should do well in scientific workloads like NAMD and in CPU rendering applications like V-Ray and Cinema 4D it beats every other CPU we have tested to date. If nothing else, this article simply goes to show how important it is to get a CPU that is right for the software you use rather than just getting the most expensive CPU possible.

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Tags: Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, Ryzen, Threadripper, 9990XE, W-3175X, 9900K, 9980XE, 9940X, 2700X, 2990WX
William Robert Feltner

Wonderful Article. Would it be possible to add Price/Performance at the end? Great to see raw differences, for budget minded buyers bang for buck is another category I would love to see. Thank you :)

Posted on 2019-02-24 06:16:47

We actually used to talk about price/performance, but it always devolved faster than you would expect. People got upset when we used MSRP since there are often sales, but when we used sale prices, people complained because that sale price wasn't available at the time they were reading the article, etc. Plus, something like value is super subjective. Do you go on the price of the CPU by itself, or the cost of the entire system? Going from a $500 CPU to a $1000 is twice the cost, but in a $5,000 workstation that isn't actually that big of a price jump.

What I can say is that typically if budget is a concern, stick with the Intel 9th Gen CPUs rather than going up to the X-series. With the 9th gen (like the i7 9700K or i9 9900K) you at least get a pretty solid bump in performance for each model up you go. Once you hit the X-series, it very quickly gets to diminishing returns. AMD Ryzen can work too - generally once you get down to the Intel i3/i5 level, AMD and Intel tend to be roughly the same in terms of performance in Adobe apps.

Posted on 2019-02-25 17:50:52
Slapstick Noir

Thank you for your work!
The general impression I've got so far from all of your tests is that there is no clear CPU winner when it comes to Adobe CC. More cores give significantly better results in one app whereas more GHz per core shine in other. The inevitable question is: are Adobe aware of their mess?
I'm having a very difficult time with the upgrade decision because I do both photo and video.

Posted on 2019-02-24 15:14:58

I agree it is a mess, but I don't think it is Adobe's fault. Some things are simply easier to run on multiple CPU cores while other things are either difficult or impossible to run on more than one or two cores. For example, in much of Ae the calculations have to be done in serial since each successive calculation relies on the result of the previous calculation. Other things, like exporting in Lr, can be done in parallel relatively easily. It really just comes down to the nature of what the software is doing which varies from one software package to the next.

Something else that is complicating things at the moment is the steady move towards GPU acceleration. Technically, this makes the software less efficient at using multiple CPU cores, but that is because most tasks that are good at using a high number of CPU cores are going to be several times faster on the GPU. The end result is much better overall performance, but it means that these super high core count CPUs are not as useful. Some dev teams are further along then others (either due to resources or the nature of the software), which is why each package is at a different point in the process of migrating to the GPU.

Posted on 2019-02-25 18:00:05

Always appreciate the work you guys put into these performance benchmark comparisons. Unless l'm unaware of a Xeon CPU with a really high clock, wouldn't the i9 9900XE be the fastest CPU for AE to date?

Posted on 2019-02-25 22:00:39

Yea, the 9990XE is really is the fastest CPU we've tested for Ae - at least at stock speeds. Once you get into overclocking it can be completely different since you could likely push a 9900K to higher Ae performance than the 9990XE at stock. Probably wouldn't result in the most stable of systems, but it should be possible.

Of course, good luck actually getting your hands on one. The OEMs who have access to them are probably going to hoard them pretty tightly and stick them in really overpriced systems. Or, they will be like us and decide it isn't worth the huge hassle to deal with quarterly auctions.

Posted on 2019-02-25 22:38:12
MixCreativeSoftwares

Hi,

What are your CPU recommendations if you want to use both Adobe CC softwares and Avid Media Composer in the same system ?
Media Composer utilize well dual processors and many cores, but of course a mix of high CPU speeds and cores is better.
When using Avid Background Services to perform Consolidation/Transcode/Render, 2 CPU's with many cores make even more sense, but not for Adobe, so what to do ?

Thanks!

Posted on 2019-03-13 14:30:48

Avid isn't a package we target at the moment, although it is on the list once we free up some of our time bandwidth. So, take this as professional guesswork rather than fact:

I know Media Composer is supposed to work well on dual CPU systems, but I'm not really sure that is true with modern hardware. Premiere Pro also used to work really well on dual Xeon workstations, but that has changed dramatically over recent years. It wasn't really that the software changed (although the migration to GPU acceleration may be helping things along), but rather that CPUs have changed dramatically. Where you used to need to use dual Xeon to get more than 4-8 CPU cores, you can now get 18 or even 32 cores out of a single CPU.

Plus, mid/high-core dual Xeons tend to have relatively low operating frequencies, while the Intel/AMD single socket CPUs are able to run at a pretty good speed thanks to their more aggressive Turbo profiles. Even with software that is almost perfectly suited for high CPU core counts (like rendering in VRay/C4D), we tend to sell a lot more single CPU systems than dual Xeon these days. You just have to get up to such a high price point to get any more performance from dual Xeon than a single CPU that it becomes unfeasible for most people. Plus, dual Xeon is always going to be worse for more lightly threaded tasks, and those tend to be the more "user interactive" tasks that people are constantly doing every day.

I really, really want to get into Media Composer here in the future. I'm hoping that maybe we can sometime early next year, but it is really hard to estimate when we will have the bandwidth to take on another software package in our testing.

Posted on 2019-03-13 17:41:23
MixCreativeSoftwares

Thank you Matt!
Here a little reading for you:
http://www.avidblogs.com/ho...

Posted on 2019-03-13 18:30:24
JD Langton

This is valuable information but it only tells half the story. I would never pay for any one of those chips and not overclock it. Would be curious to see who the real winner is... ;)

Posted on 2019-05-19 20:15:22