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Adobe Lightroom CC 2015.8 Intel Core i7 7700K & i5 7600K Performance

Written on January 5, 2017 by Matt Bach


When Intel launches a new set of CPUs, the main question everyone wants to know is how much faster they are compared to the old CPUs. In this article, we will be tackling this question in terms of Lightroom performance by examining how the new Intel Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K perform compared to the previous generation Intel Core i7 6700K and i5 6600K. In addition, we will also look at a number of "High-End" Core i7 CPUs including the i7 6850K, i7 6900K, and i7 6950X.

There are a wide variety of tasks we could test in Lightroom, but in this article we will specifically be looking at:

  1. Import images
  2. Convert RAW to DNG
  3. Export images to JPEG
  4. Generate previews (1:1 and smart previews)
  5. Scroll through images in the develop module (with and without smart previews)
  6. Generate HDR Photo
  7. Generate Panorama

You will notice that we are only testing one task in the develop module (scrolling through images). Performance when applying adjustments or using the brush in this module is a common source of frustration for Lightroom users, but are unfortunately also nearly impossible to benchmark. There is simply no feedback provided from Lightroom we can find that can be used to time these tasks accurately enough to be meaningful. If you have any ideas on how we could benchmark these (or other) tasks, we would love to hear them in the comments section. For now, however, we are limited to testing the Lightroom tasks that we can actually benchmark.

If you would rather skip ahead to our conclusions, feel free to jump right to the conclusion section.

Test Setup

To see how the new Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K perform in Lightroom, we used the following configurations:

These test configurations include three different platforms along with seven CPU models. For Lightroom, we typically would recommend a quad core CPU with a high frequency since most tasks in Lightroom can not efficiently take advantage of having more cores. However, we also wanted to include some of the "High-End" Core i7 CPUs with 6-10 cores since Lightroom is sometimes used in conjunction with other applications like Premiere Pro where those CPUs are commonly used.

All of our testing was performed on 18MP images (5184 x 3456) taken on a Canon EOS REBEL T3i camera.

Import Images

Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K Import Benchmark

Starting off with simply importing images from a USB drive to the local SSD, both the Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K performed only marginally better than the old Core i7 6700K (a bit under 1% faster). However, it is worth pointing out that the new Core i5 7600K is noticeably faster (by about 6%) than the old i5 6600K. This is mostly a straight file copy task, however, so be aware that having a faster USB drive as your import drive will likely make a bigger difference than having a faster CPU.

Convert RAW to DNG

Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K Convert to DNG Benchmark

Converting from RAW to DNG gives us some very interesting results. Both of the new Kaby Lake CPUs were about 4-5% faster than their old Skylake equivalents, although this time the Core i5 7600K was noticeably slower than the i7 6700K. In fact, both of the Core i5 CPUs saw a moderate performance hit, clocking in at roughly 14% slower than their Core i7 counterparts. Some of this may be due to the slightly lower frequencies they run at, but a more likely explanation is that this task benefits from Hyperthreading which the i5 CPUs do not support.

Export Images to JPEG

Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K Export Benchmark

Exporting images is one of the few tasks in Lightroom that benefits from having a higher number of cores, which is why the "High-End" Core i7 CPUs with 6-10 cores performed so well. For the quad core CPUs, the new Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K were both ~2% faster than the i7 6700K, although there was only a .5% difference between the two CPUs.

Generate Previews

Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K 1:1 Smart Preview Benchmark

When generating previews, the new Core i7 7700K was about 5-6% faster then the old Core i7 6700K. Similarly, the Core i5 7600K was about 4-7% faster than the old Core i5 6600K. Just like converting to DNG, we again saw a decent benefit from the CPUs that support Hyperthreading resulting in the standard Core i7 CPUs performing about 6-11% faster than their Core i5 counterparts.

Develop Module Photo Scroll

Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K Develop Module Scroll Benchmark

The results for scrolling through photos in the develop module changed quite a bit depending on whether smart previews had already been created or not. Without previews, the Core i7 7700K was almost identical to the Core i7 6700K while the Core i5 7600K was about 4.5% slower. With smart previews, however, the Core i7 7700K was a bit more than 7% faster than the Core i7 6700K - although the Core i5 7600K was still about 1.5% slower.

Generate HDR Photo

Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K HDR Benchmark

Creating HDR photos in Lightroom is typically a two step process. First, Lightroom generates a preview for you to verify everything looks right, then it actually creates the HDR photo. Oddly enough, generating the preview actually takes longer than creating the HDR photo itself.

When generating the HDR preview, the Core i5 7600K performed on par with the Core i7 6700K while the Core i7 7700K was about 8% faster. The Core i7 7700K was about the same amount faster when creating the HDR photo as well, but the Core i5 7600K saw a bit of a performance hit dropping to about 8% slower than the Core i7 6700K.

Generate Panorama

Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K Panorama Benchmark

Similar to creating an HDR photo, creating a panorama is also a two step process. This time, both of the new Kaby Lake CPUs was faster than the Core i7 6700K when generating the previews, but only by a fraction of a second. When creating the panorama, however, the Core i7 7700K was a decent 7% faster than the Core i7 6700K although the Core i5 7600K was about 8% slower.


Lightroom CC 2015.8 7700K 7600K Benchmark

If we normalize all our results to the Intel Core i7 6700K (which until now was our go-to CPU for Lightroom) and sort the CPUs from fastest to slowest, you get a great idea of how well the Core i7 7700K or i5 7600K should perform in Lightroom. Overall, the i7 7700K is about 5% faster than the i7 6700K while the Core i5 7600K is about 2.1% slower which is not very much especially considering the i5 7600K should be about 2/3 the price of an i7 6700K. If you compare the i5 7600K to the old i5 6600K, however, the 7600K is faster by a good 7.5%

While not shown very accurately in the chart above (since the results in that chart are relative to the Core i7 6700K) there is a good amount of performance difference between the two new Kaby Lake CPUs. In fact, the Core i7 7700K is on average about 8.5% faster than the Core i5 7600K.

A 5-7.5% gain in performance over the previous generation CPUs isn't terribly great, although in reality it isn't all that much less than we have come to expect over the last few years. Huge 50% performance gains from new CPUs simply do not happen anymore as we get closer and closer to the limits of current manufacturing technologies. Is this small gain in performance worth upgrading from an i7 6700K to an i7 7700K? That is really only something you can answer for yourself, but probably not. Is it worth using an i7 7700K if you are already planning on purchasing a new system? Considering it shouldn't be any more expensive than the old i7 6700K we would definitely say "yes!"

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Tags: Adobe, Lightroom, CPU, Processor
Avatar Graeme Finlayson

Thanks for a really thorough set of tests and a very enlightening article. I'm about to upgrade my ageing AMD FX8350 based system and have been bewildered by the choice of Intel platforms available. From your results here, the new i7 7700K is the overall winner. However, the i7 6850K is very close in most respects, except in export where it outperforms the 7700 by a substantial margin. As a wedding photographer, exporting hundreds of images at a time from 36MP D800 files is slow and painful. Price aside, is the 6850K a sensible option to consider here or are there really good reasons not to? In terms of RAM, I'm thinking 64GB - with the 8650K is there any real difference between 8x8GB and 4x16GB?

Posted on 2017-01-18 18:23:13

If exporting is one of you pain points, the 6850K is a great choice I would say. A bit slower for other Lightroom/Photoshop tasks, but not by much so you probably wouldn't even be able to tell the difference. As for the RAM, I would encourage 4x16GB if you can. Performance won't be any different, but it will leave you room for easy expansion in the future if you need it. It is rare for Lightroom to need more than even 32GB, but if you work with really high resolution images in Photoshop (>80MP), 64GB is a good choice. It is really a good idea to go a bit over on the RAM anyways - more doesn't really help, but not having enough can really slow things down.

Posted on 2017-01-18 19:16:46
Avatar Graeme Finlayson

Thanks Matt. Looks like the 6850K is the way to go for me then! On the memory front, pano stitches and exposure blends are the killers. I've seen most of my current 32GB hoovered up doing those. 64GB should be enough, but I may just go for all 8 slots at 16GB in one kit and be done with it. That way I avoid any potential mismatches down the line from trying to add more. It's going to be an expensive build once a decent X99 board and a couple of NVMe SSDs are added in, but I should be future-proofed for the next few years at least....

Posted on 2017-01-19 19:05:03
Avatar Jon Hellier

It would be interesting to test the new Ryzen 1700X vs i7-7700k vs i7-6800k. I am considering upgrading my 5 year old i5-3570k rig to a Ryzen system and overclocking the CPU to 3.9ghz with a good Noctua cooler (e.g. D15s/C14s). But I will have to wait for more Noctua coolers to support the AM4 socket. I frequently use Canon DPP to export .CR2 (Canon raw format) to 8bit .TIF which takes approx. 10 seconds for a single 22MP file!

Posted on 2017-03-02 01:34:38

We definitely will once Ryzen is launched. It will probably take a few weeks to finish all the testing, though. Longer if there are any launch day product availability issues.

Posted on 2017-03-02 01:41:53
Avatar Dmitri

Lightroom doesn't use ram well. Many tests show less than 1% gain jumping from 16gb to 32gb ram. let alone 64gb! Photoshop does uses it,but not for wedding photographers who do basic editing...

Lightroom is all about CPU and CPU power/clock speed and i7-7700K is the best out of these for editing in LR. Who cares about export?! Going image to image and general editing in LR is what in the end slows you down!

Posted on 2017-05-03 15:08:42

RAM is really more like hard drive storage than CPU or GPU really. Having more than you need shouldn't affect performance a significant amount, but if you don't have enough that can cause major performance issues. This is because one you run out of RAM, the application will need to use the page file on one of your hard drives as an overflow. So it isn't that more RAM is faster but rather that not enough is slower.

As for exporting vs editing tasks, that really depends on the user and how they use Lightroom. I agree that for most people better performance in the develop module is more important, but we do have a number of customers that export a large amount of images with only basic corrections so for them export speed is a bigger deal than performance in the develop module. The difficulty for us in our testing is that the develop module is terrible to try to benchmark. Scrolling through images in that module we can test, but for things like how laggy a brush is there is almost no feedback from LR so it is extremely difficult to benchmark precisely. Every time we do LR testing we try a few new techniques but so far we haven't had a huge amount of luck.

Posted on 2017-05-03 19:32:51
Avatar Mathew

As always, a review on a very high level. Respect!
Im considering to buy a new system in the next month and so im researching for the best LR CC Options. Your review form last Year showed that more then 8 Cores realy wont change anything to the better. And only Exporting benefits from 8 Cores at all. That aside it seems like LR only acres for Corespeed, am i right?
So the new 8/16 Core CPU's from AMD realy shouldn't change anything if im right. The short and dirty answer should be: Get the 7700K with 32-64GB 2400 RAM and get happy or?
If Adobe would finaly improve the multicore performance of LR CC dreams would come true... -> AMD 1800X at 4GHz for 600$

Posted on 2017-02-24 14:14:23

Excelent work as ever. I hope you're planning to acquire a AMD Ryzen 1800x, as that's going to offer a serious amount of 8 core power for far less cost than Intel. Be fascinating to see how the performance stacks up.

Posted on 2017-02-25 22:45:51
Avatar dosporuno

This is so helpful, thank you. Especially with Lightroom requirements sitting right in the middle of the expanse between multi-core bonuses (Cinebench, video encoding) and frequency (gaming, most "everyday" computing). Interesting to see the 6 core 6850K mostly hang with the 7700K while creaming it in exporting. My biggest LR pains are 1:1 previews and exports, so I definitely am someone who wants it all. Not sure that's possible yet, but I'll wait to see what the 6 core Ryzens can do for the price of the 7600K. I look forward to you adding Ryzen results to this analysis as products become available. Thanks again!

Posted on 2017-03-03 00:14:21

Just letting you know we get our initial results for Ryzen in Lightroom up a few minutes ago: https://www.pugetsystems.co... The 1800X results are placeholders for now since we were not able to get a unit in for testing prior to launch. Our estimated results should be pretty close but we will be updating it with actual 1800X results sometime next week.

Posted on 2017-03-04 00:06:23
Avatar g33kyw0man

How does my 2500k overclocked to 4.8ghz compare to the other CPUs in this article, especially on Develop photo scrolling with smart previews? It lags quite badly when I browse my a7rii (42mp) raws, even with smart previews, as well as applying local adjustments even though I'm on a GTX1060.

Posted on 2017-03-19 06:32:52

You might want to check out our "How Much Faster is a Modern Workstation for Adobe Lightroom CC 2015.8?" article: https://www.pugetsystems.co... . Since you are at 4.8GHz, that is roughly a 25% overclock compared to the i7 2600K we tested in our January 2011 system. A 25% increase in frequency doesn't mean a 25% increase in performance (it's probably closer to 20%), but since you have a newer GPU lets just stick with 25%.

So if your system is 25% faster than the 2011 system we tested, that is roughly equivalent to the 2013 system in that article with a i7 4770K. And that system can scroll through photos in the develop module about half as fast as a system with a i7 7700K if you have smart previews (but only around 25% slower if you don't). One thing you could try is to turn off GPU acceleration. I have heard quite a few people report that turning off GPU acceleration actually improves performance so it might be something to try. That should be under preferences -> performance.

Posted on 2017-03-20 17:45:35
Avatar Ylletroja

Turning off GPU performance only helps if one work with lower res files. That it is some sort of 'magic bullet' that some claims (you don't) is one of these pesky myths that has been going around. The ones having performance issues seldomly work with low-res files anyway.

I also work with A7r II files and turning GPU acceleration off is basically a non-option for when in the develop module.
The combination of a 4k screen + uncompressed RAW's @ 42MP demands a bit extra out of LR.

It would be interesting to see more articles dealing with the development module since that is where most of the slowdowns are. That export takes 10 minutes instead of 8 just isn't as important... :)

Posted on 2017-03-22 10:04:26
Avatar Raymond

The shortcut to bypass the preview generator for HDRs is shift+alt+m. I have noticed, by the way, that performance starts to drastically drop through consecutive merges.

Posted on 2017-04-16 12:42:59