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DaVinci Resolve 15: Intel X-series 2018 Refresh Performance

Written on November 13, 2018 by Matt Bach


Unlike most other applications used in the video post-production process, DaVinci Resolve relies much more on the power of your video card(s) than it does on your processor. This isn't to say that your CPU doesn't matter, but rather that it is typically better to spend more of your budget on more powerful or multiple GPUs instead of a more powerful CPU.

However, it is still a good idea to know just how much faster a new line of CPUs may be especially since there are still some aspects of Resolve (like the Fusion tab) where the CPU is more important. In this article, we will be looking at the 2018 refresh to Intel's Core X-series line. What is different with the new X-series CPUs is that they break the "more cores!" trend by having the same core counts as the previous generation. Instead of a core count increase, these CPUs just have a slight bump in frequency as well as a few other minor architecture updates. At first glance, these processors are underwhelming, but we have been surprised before so we decided to put them through their paces with our DaVinci Resolve benchmark.

One thing we will note is that we currently only have access to the i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, and i9 9980XE models. Because of this, we will be focusing on how much faster these new models are compared to the previous generation. Once we get the full lineup, we will publish a more in-depth roundup article include all the X-series models as well as other CPUs like AMD Threadripper.

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:

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!

Raw Benchmark Results

Our DaVinci Resolve testing includes quite a bit of data, which you are free to go through individually if you wish. If you would rather skip ahead to our analysis, however, you can go straight to our Color Tab or Fusion Tab sections.

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 Ti 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 with everything but RED 6K/8K media. 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 system 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 using a single RTX 2080 Ti, there actually isn't too much of a reason to get a very high-end CPU since you will quickly become limited by the performance of your GPU. Because of this, there also isn't too much of a performance gain with the new X-series models. At most, we saw about a 1% performance gain which really means that they are effectively the same.

With dual RTX 2080 Ti GPUs, there is a bit more of a reason to use a higher-end CPU. However, even in this situation there was little performance improvement with the new X-series models. In fact, the Core i9 9920X was the only one that was significantly better than the previous generation, and even then, it was only 4% faster at most.

Fusion Tab FPS - Benchmark Analysis

Fusion doesn't scale well with multiple GPUs (at least not from what we have seen), so while we do have dual GPU results available in the raw benchmark data, 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 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.

Since the new X-series CPUs didn't see a core count increase but rather a per-core performance bump, this is actually somewhat of a good thing for Fusion. Where we saw virtually no improvement in the Color tab, here we saw a 3-6% improvement with the new CPU models. This isn't terrific by any means, but it does line up with what we have seen in other applications like Premiere Pro and After Effects. Keep in mind, however, that since Fusion likes more per-clock performance, something like the Intel 9th Gen i9 9900K is going to be both faster and cheaper than any of the Intel X-series CPUs.

Are the 2018 Intel Core X-series Processors good for DaVinci Resolve?

DaVinci Resolve is much more about the power of your GPU than your CPU, and it shows in the fact that the new Intel X-series CPUs give (in most cases) the exact same performance as the previous generation. There is a slight gain in the Fusion tab by about 3-6%, but for color grading there is little to no performance advantage with the new models.

Intel Core X-series 2018 refresh i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, i9 9980XE DaVinci Resolve Color Benchmark Performance

Intel Core X-series 2018 refresh i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, i9 9980XE DaVinci Resolve Fusion Benchmark Performance

Overall, the new 2018 X-series CPUs from Intel are not going to be much of an improvement for most DaVinci Resolve users. Even those who use the Fusion tab (which is where we saw the biggest gains) are only going to see about a 3-6% performance improvement. There is no reason not to use them, of course, but they certainly are not worth a direct upgrade.

However, since most of our readers end up on our articles via search, we decided to go ahead and go through each model comparison one by one:

Core i7 9800X vs Core i7 7820X for DaVinci Resolve

For most users, the new i7 9800X will not be any faster than the previous generation i7 7820X when color grading. However, in the Fusion tab the i7 9800X will be a small 3% faster.

Core i9 9900X vs Core i9 7900X for DaVinci Resolve

When color grading, the i9 9900X and i9 7900X will be almost identical. The i9 9900X will be a bit faster in the Fusion tab, although only by about 6.5%.

Core i9 9920X vs Core i9 7920X for DaVinci Resolve

The i9 9920X actually saw the largest performance gains over the previous generation in our Resolve testing, coming in at 2.4% and 6.5% faster than the i9 7920X in the Color and Fusion tabs respectively. Even in this case, however, you are unlikely to notice the difference much in the real world.

Core i9 9980XE vs Core i9 7980XE for DaVinci Resolve

At the top of the Intel X-series stack, the i9 9980XE is less than 1% faster than the previous generation i9 7980XE in the Color tab and about 3% faster in the Fusion tab.

We do want to point out that since DaVinci Resolve is so much more about the GPU than the CPU, we never expect to see much of a performance gain with new CPU models. This, combined with the fact that these new X-series processors are really a relatively minor refresh, makes it unsurprising that we saw little to no performance gains with the new models.

If you are interested in how these new Intel Core X-series Processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of articles for Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and many other software packages.

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Tags: DaVinci Resolve, 9900K, 8700K, 7820X, 7900X, 7920X, 7980XE, 9800X, 9900X, 9920X, 9980XE