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DaVinci Resolve 15: Core i7 9700K & i9 9900K Performance

Written on October 19, 2018 by Matt Bach


DaVinci Resolve is known for its ability to leverage the power of your GPU to improve performance, but it is still very important to have a CPU that is able to keep up. Our recent AMD Threadripper 2990WX & 2950X Performance Testing was a great example of this as with a single GTX 1080 Ti there was very little difference between each CPU we tested, but adding more GPUs made it more important to have a powerful CPU as well. In that testing, the Core i7 8700K lagged behind the Intel X-series and AMD Threadripper CPUs, but with Intel's new 9th Gen CPUs seeing an increase in both core count and frequency, it may be enough to overcome the performance gap.

It is worth noting that one of the biggest issues with these new CPUs is not their performance, but rather the fact that the Z370/Z390 platform they use can only effectively handle up to two GPUs. So even if they do well in our tests, they are not going to be a good choice for a high-end professional color grading workstation since having three or more GPUs is fairly common for DaVinci Resolve.

If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark result/analysis sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion section.

Test Setup & Methodology

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

While benchmarking the i7 9700K and i9 9900K against the i7 8700K is likely the most direct comparison we could make, we also wanted to see how these new CPUs stack up against a number of other processors. AMD vs Intel is always a popular discussion, so we included the Ryzen 7 2700X - which tends to be cheaper than either of these new CPUs - as well as the Threadripper 1920X which is similar in price to the i9 9900K. To get an idea of whether or not purchasing a more expensive Intel CPU would give you a notable increase in performance, we also include the i7 7820X and the i9 7900X.

Our testing for DaVinci Resolve primarily revolves around the Color tab and focuses on the minimum FPS you would see with various media and levels of grading. The lowest level of grading we test is simply a basic correction using the color wheels plus 4 Power Window nodes with motion tracking. The next level up is the same adjustments but with the addition of 3 OpenFX nodes: Lens Flare, Tilt-Shift Blur, and Sharpen. The final level has all of the previous nodes plus one TNR node.

We kept our project timelines at Ultra HD (3840x2160) across all the tests, but changed the playback framerate to match the FPS of the media. For all the difficult RAW footage we tested (CinemaDNG & RED), we not only tested with the RAW decode quality set to "Full Res" but we also tested at "Half Res" ("Half Res Good" for the RED footage). Full resolution decoding should show the largest performance delta between the different cards, but we also want to see what kind of FPS increase you might see by running at a lower decode resolution.

Codec Resolution FPS Bitrate Clip Name Source
H.264 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 80 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
H.264 LongGOP 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 150 Mbps Provided by Neil Purcell - www.neilpurcell.com
DNxHR HQ 8-bit 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 870 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
ProRes 422 HQ 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 900 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
ProRes 4444 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 1,200 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
XAVC S 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 90 Mbps Provided by Samuel Neff - www.neffvisuals.com
XAVC Long GOP 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 190 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
Blackmagic RAW 4608x1920 24 FPS 210 Mbps A001_08122231_C008 Blackmagic RAW
RED (7:1) 4096x2304 29.97 FPS 300 Mbps A004_C186_011278_001 RED Sample R3D Files
CinemaDNG 4608x2592 24 FPS 1,900 Mbps Interior Office Blackmagic Design
[Direct Download]
RED (7:1) 6144x3077 23.976 FPS 840 Mbps S005_L001_0220LI_001 RED Sample R3D Files
RED (9:1) 8192x4320 25 FPS 1,000 Mbps B001_C096_0902AP_001 RED Sample R3D Files

With the addition of the "Fusion" tab in Resolve, we are also going to be including some basic tests for that tab as well. At the moment these are relatively easy projects that specifically test things like particles with a turbulence node, planar tracking, compositing, and 3D text with a heavy gaussian blur node. These projects are based on the following tutorials:

If you have suggestions on what we should test in the future, please let us know in the comments section. Especially if you are able to send us a sample project to use, we really want to hear from you!

Color Tab FPS - Raw Benchmark Results

Color Tab FPS - Benchmark Analysis

To analyze our benchmark results, we are going to break it down based on whether we used one or two RTX 2080 GPUs and the three different levels of color grading we tested. The easiest level of grading - a basic grade with 4 power windows - is not too difficult and every CPU we tested should be able to give full playback FPS in everything but RED 6K/8K. However, each level up should show more and more of a difference between the different processors.

The "Score" shown in the charts is a representation of the average performance we saw with each GPU for that test. In essence, a score of "80" means that on average, the card was able to play our project at 80% of the tested media's FPS. A perfect score would be "100" which would mean that the system gave full FPS even with the most difficult codecs and grades.

Starting with the results with a single RTX 2080, the i7 9700K did a bit worse than we expected. In fact, it was just a hair slower than the i7 8700K and about 5% slower than the Ryzen 7 2700X. The reason for this is likely the fact that the i7 9700K does not support Hyperthreading, which appears to be fairly important for DaVinci Resolve.

The Core i9 9900K, on the other hand, did fairly well and ended up being up to 10% faster than the Core i7 8700K. That may not sound like much, but it puts it right on par with the much more expensive Core i7 7900X and Threadripper 1920X CPUs.

With dual RTX 2080 GPUs, the i7 9700K was almost exactly the same as the i7 8700K, but both of these CPUs were about 4% slower than the more affordable Ryzen 7 2700X. Once again, however, the Core i9 9900K did fairly well, coming in at about 8% faster than the Core i7 8700K.

Since we have more GPU power available to the system, the i9 9900K was no longer able to quite keep up with the more expensive CPUs from Intel and AMD. This time, it was up to 10% slower than the Core i9 7900X - although considering the i9 9900K is less than half the price, that is still a very respectable performance.

Fusion Tab FPS - Raw Benchmark Results

Fusion Tab FPS - Benchmark Analysis

Fusion doesn't scale well with multiple GPUs (at least not with our test projects), so while we do have dual GPU results available in the previous section, we didn't feel it was necessary to spend time analyzing both the single and dual GPU results.

Fusion is relatively new to our DaVinci Resolve testing, but so far it looks like it is a completely different beast than the rest of Resolve. Where higher core count CPUs can help in the Color tab (assuming you have the GPU power to match), in Fusion it appears to be all about the per-core performance from each CPU. In fact, these results are very similar to what we saw in Adobe After Effects.

One thing is clear: if you want the best performance in Fusion, these new 9th Gen CPUs are the best you will be able to get. Relative to the i7 8700K, we saw a 6-10% performance increase depending on whether you use the i7 9700K or the i9 9900K. Compared to something that is otherwise great in Resolve (like the AMD Threadripper 1920X), these CPUs end up being 23-28% faster.

Are the 9th Gen Intel Core Processors good for DaVinci Resolve?

The i7 9700K and i9 9900K CPUs range from being decent to great depending on exactly what you are doing in Resolve. For color grading the i7 9700K is a bit lackluster, but the i9 9900K is able to keep pace with much more expensive CPUs. If you use the new Fusion tab, however, either of these CPUs should outperform everything else currently on the market.

What we found interesting in our testing was not how good the i9 9900K is, but rather how mediocre the i7 9700K is. In much of our other 9th Gen testing the 9700K handily beat the 8700K, but at least for color grading the i7 9700K was only able to just barely keep up. While we haven't done any specific testing to verify, our best guess is that the lack of Hyperthreading on the i7 9700K is what is holding it back in DaVinci Resolve.

The i9 9900K, on the other hand, did very well. If you are just using a single powerful GPU, it should be able to easily keep up with the much more expensive Intel X-series and AMD Threadripper CPUs while giving the best performance we've seen yet in the Fusion tab. The main issue with this CPU is really that it will likely start to fall further behind as you add more GPUs. However, since Resolve relies so heavily on the GPU you are probably better off with an i9 9900K and two GPUs than an i9 7900X and a single GPU. Another issue is that like the i7 8700K and Ryzen 7 2700X, these new CPUs are limited to 64GB of RAM which may be an issue for heavy Fusion users. It has been reported by Anandtech that the i9 9900K may support 128GB of RAM in the future, but we will have to see if it ends up being stable or if the 32GB RAM modules will be at all cost effective.

Core i7 9700K vs Core i7 8700K for DaVinci Resolve

In most cases, the i7 9700K will perform almost the same as the i7 8700K. The main area where this CPU should give you a performance increase is in the Fusion tab where the i7 9700K is about 6% faster than the i7 8700K.

Core i9 9900K vs Core i7 8700K for DaVinci Resolve

The Core i9 9900K is about 20% more expensive than the i7 8700K, but in exchange for the higher price you can expect a 10% increase in performance in both the Color and Fusion tabs. This may not sound like much, but it is enough to allow the i9 9900K to keep up with much more expensive Intel and AMD CPUs if you only use a single GPU while giving the best performance we've seen yet in Fusion.

If you are interested in how the 9th Gen Intel Core Processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of other articles for looking at the i7 9700K and i9 9900K.

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Tags: DaVinci Resolve, 9700K, 9900K, 8700K, 7820X, 7900X, 2700X, 1920