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Lightroom CC 2015.10.1 CPU Comparison: Skylake-X, Kaby Lake-X, Broadwell-E, Kaby Lake, Ryzen 7

Written on June 30, 2017 by Matt Bach


AMD's launch of Ryzen in March marked the first time in years that Intel was seriously challenged in the enthusiast CPU market. Now, with the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X CPUs officially launched, we get our first taste of Intel's response. It is really just a taste, however, since Intel has only released their 4, 6, 8, and 10 core CPUs so far. According to Intel's E3 press release, there will be a 12 core CPU available in August along with 14, 16, and 18 core CPUs in October. However, one thing to keep in mind is that Lightroom is one of those applications where a higher core count tends to actually be bad for performance, so these higher core count CPUs are actually unlikely to be any good for Lightroom.

Because of this, we won't be able to look at the entire Skylake-X line-up today, but we can see how the CPUs that are currently available compare to Intel's previous generation CPUs as well as AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs.

To see how these new CPUs compare, we tested the following tasks in Lightroom:

  1. Importing images
  2. Exporting images
  3. Convert RAW to DNG
  4. Generate 100 Smart & 1:1 Previews
  5. Scroll through images in the Develop Module
  6. Create HDR image
  7. Create Panorama image

If you would like to skip over our test setup and individual benchmarks, feel free to jump right to the conclusion section.

Test Setup

Since the new processors include two different CPU architectures, our testing platform is less straightforward than normal. Most of the new CPUs support DDR4-2666 RAM, although the Intel Core i7 7740X (Kaby Lake-X) CPU only supports four sticks of RAM rather than eight. In addition, the Intel Core i7 7800X (Skylake-X) only supports DDR4-2400 RAM for some odd reason. We opted to test with the highest officially supported RAM configuration for each CPU, so components used in our X299 test platform requires an entire table just for itself:

To act as a comparison to the new CPUs, we will also be testing AMD's Ryzen 7 1700X/1800X CPUs as well as the Intel Core i7 7700K (Kaby Lake) and Intel Core i7 6850K/6900K/6950X (Broadwell-E) CPUs. Again, we will be testing with the best officially supported RAM configuration for each CPU.

Inconsistent RAM aside, one thing we do want to point out is how much more affordable the Skylake-X CPUs are compared to the previous generation Broadwell-E CPUs. Where a six core CPU from Intel used to cost over $600, you can now purchase an eight core CPU for roughly the same cost. In fact, the i7 7800X is even a hair less expensive than AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs. This means that regardless of any performance gains we may see, Skylake-X is at the very least a big deal in terms of cost.

The images and settings we used in our testing were:

Test Images

18MP (5184x3456)
Taken on a Canon EOS REBEL T3i

HDR settings

5x 18MP RAW (5184x3456)

Auto Align, Auto Tone, No Deghost

Panorama settings

11x 18MP RAW (5184x3456)
Merged to 187MP (48085x3898)

Spherical Projection, No Crop

Benchmark Results

In most of our articles we spend quite a bit of time going through the individual results test by test, but the performance across each of the tasks we tested in Lightroom was remarkably consistent. In fact, only importing and exporting images were greatly different from the other tasks as they tend to favor CPUs with a higher core count.

Feel free to analyze the individual results in more detail if you wish, but due to this consistency we are going to skip straight to our conclusion to examine the results.


Lightroom Skylake-X 7900X 7820X 7800X Overall Benchmark Results

If you simply compare the new CPUs to the ones from the previous generation that have similar core counts, the average performance gains range anywhere from 0% to 17%. At the lower core counts (4 and 6 core), the new CPUs are not much faster than the previous generation. However, the 8 core i7 7820X is about 6-14% faster than the i7 6900K and the 10 core i9 7900X is about 7-17% faster than the i7 6950X depending on which type of task you are primarily concerned about. This large of a performance gain from one generation to the next is frankly unheard of these days and we largely attribute it to the much higher Turbo Boost 3.0 frequency on the new 8 and 10 core CPUs which allow two of the cores to run at 4.5GHz instead of just one core at 4GHz on the old models.

The one problem with the new CPUs is that the (current) top-end i9 7900X is actually slower than the more affordable i7 7820X. This is likely due to the fact that Lightroom is not exceptionally well threaded so it cannot effectively make use of all 10 of the cores in the i9 7900X. Turbo Boost 3.0 makes up for some of this shortcoming, but since the i7 7820X is able to run it's cores at an overall higher frequency, it ends up being a few percent faster. This also explains why the i7 7820X is 5-16% faster than the i7 7800X - the i7 7820X supports Turbo Boost 3.0 at 4.5GHz while the i7 7800X only supports Turbo Boost 2.0 at 4.0GHz.

Another interesting thing we discovered in our results is how the AMD vs Intel dynamic has changed. When we first tested AMD's Ryzen CPUs back in March, we found that they were slower than the 6-10 core Intel CPUs, but faster than the Intel Core i7 7700K 4 core for exporting. Oddly, even though Ryzen has seen overall performance gains since then (due to driver/BIOS and software improvements), the changes to Lightroom itself appear to have given the i7 7700K an even greater performance gain. If you compare the raw numbers between our old testing and the numbers in this article, the Ryzen CPUs actually are about 7% faster at exporting in Lightroom today than they were in March. It's just that the i7 7700K saw an even higher performance gain when exporting - over 30% in fact!

Before today, the Intel Core i7 7700K has been our recommendation for Lightroom since it gives a great balance of performance across most Lightroom tasks. However, there are two CPUs in the new lineup that we feel are an even better match. For power users or those with a bit larger budget, the i7 7820X is only about 5% slower than the i7 7700K for general tasks, but around 40% faster for importing and exporting images. If you are on a tighter budget (or don't care about import and export speed), the i7 7700K is still a solid choice but you might also consider the i7 7740X. You will end up spending a bit more money on the system overall since X299 motherboards are more expensive than Z270 boards, but the cost difference for boards with similar features is usually only about $60-100. In exchange for that slightly higher price point, you get a small 2% gain in performance but more importantly you get an upgrade path. With the i7 7700K you are already using the fastest CPU available on that platform, but with the i7 7740X you have the opportunity in the future to upgrade to the i7 7820X if you choose.

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Tags: Lightroom, Skylake-X, Ryzen 7, Broadwell-E, Kaby Lake-X
Ian Zhang

for me, 7800x is a clear winner. With only $50 more expensive than 7700k or 7740x, it offers you 10% more overall performance. If you think other actions are more important than exporting, use $100 for a watercooling and overlock the 7800x, then you easily get 7820x's performance and still $100 cheaper.

Posted on 2017-07-03 05:42:12

The difference in the motherboard alone for the 7700K and the 7800X is $230 by itself ($170 vs $400).

Posted on 2017-08-23 23:09:25
Ian Zhang

The article suggest 7820x over 7700 and 7800, and that is where my comments come from. In addition, 7700 is the cheaper option. But $200 for fast I/o is worth for me, and if you want better performance and ever thinking about update, 7800 leave u with the option.

Posted on 2017-08-24 11:27:08

For performance yes. Saying "...7800x is a clear winner. With only $50 more expensive than 7700k..." is misleading however.

Posted on 2017-08-24 19:15:43


the real question that should be asked: did Intel's chips magically get a big boost (a 30% change is huge) in results from the "drivers" in just a couple of weeks. Or, did Intel do what it has done so often in the past: get a couple of key lines of code in the the benchmarks changed to favor their chips and/or slow down AMD. Intel, and NVidia for that matter, have been caught cheating on benchmarks many times......

Posted on 2017-07-03 16:38:42

I don't think anyone other than the Lightroom devs could truly say, but it definitely isn't that Intel got "a couple of key lines of code in the the benchmarks changed". This isn't a synthetic benchmark or something that can be artificially changed to make one CPU look better than the other. Any changes Adobe makes to code will have concrete, real world performance benefits for Lightroom users. So even if Intel did work with Adobe to make exporting better on Intel CPUs, I don't see anything wrong with that since all they are doing is working with the software developer to make their application run faster for the end user.

Remember that not only Intel saw this performance gain - the AMD Ryzen CPUs also saw a 7% performance gain when exporting. My guess as to what happened with the i7 7700K is that there was actually a bug or some other problem with Lightroom 2015.8 that caused lower than expected performance with the i7 7700K. In that version, the i7 7700K (4 core) was almost half the speed of the i7 6850K (6 core) which really doesn't make much sense given the specs of each CPU. So the 30% performance gain for the i7 7700K when exporting probably isn't that that CPU got magically faster, it is more likely that a performance bug got fixed allowing it to export at the speeds it should have in the first place.

Posted on 2017-07-03 17:29:53

No guys. The results is trash as Adobe's import exporting engine just a load of crap. They didn't even utilize the GPU power nor maximize the CPU power. If Ryzen CPU utilization is that low, it means it's not using the right API. Fuck Adobe's crappy engine. Probably it's being made using Intel's biased compiler/API.

Posted on 2017-07-23 18:20:46

"Third, GPUs aren't best for everything. For example, decompressing sequential bits of data from a file -- like most raw files, for instance -- sees little to no benefit from a GPU implementation."

If you haven't already read this post, I think you probably should: https://forums.adobe.com/th...

Posted on 2017-08-04 17:49:12

Does that actually matter? If purchasing a CPU for Lightroom, would one purchase a "better" CPU if it's Lightroom performance was worse? It would be like purchasing a sports car for the snow and complaining that it was the roads fault for it's poor performance....

Posted on 2017-08-23 23:19:38
Lars Passic

"In fact, the i7 7820X is even a hair less expensive than AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs."

This is a little bit misleading because the most expensive Ryzen CPU is $499 MSRP vs. the i7-7820X at $599 MSRP.

Posted on 2017-08-02 16:57:24

Thanks for pointing out that typo, we fixed it to say "7800X" instead of "7820X".

Posted on 2017-08-04 16:13:18

The most expensive, non-Threadripper Ryzen...just saying...

Posted on 2017-09-19 21:27:10

Do you have any tests varying RAM, and keeping the CPU constant? The four systems with the slowest import and export performance have 64GB of RAM instead of 128GB. I'm curious if that's the bottleneck.

Posted on 2017-08-05 04:17:19

We checked to make sure we weren't anywhere near the RAM limit, but didn't test with different RAM amounts with the same CPU.. I don't recall exactly what it was, but it was somewhere around a peak RAM usage of 20GB or so. So RAM capacity shouldn't affect our test results.

Posted on 2017-08-05 05:26:20
Kevin Jacome

how much if at all will this change with threadripper?

Posted on 2017-08-13 04:26:47

Probably not much.

"The one problem with the new CPUs is that the (current) top-end i9 7900X is actually slower than the more affordable i7 7820X. This is likely due to the fact that Lightroom is not exceptionally well threaded so it cannot effectively make use of all 10 of the cores in the i9 7900X."

Posted on 2017-08-23 23:10:28

When you next update this, perhaps use faster RAM for Ryzen - and only two sticks? Ryzen IPC appears to be positively affected by RAM speed and negatively affected if all 4 slots are used.

Posted on 2017-08-24 19:14:32

So following your thought i can't put more than 2 slots because i can't use overclocked ram...

Posted on 2017-09-19 23:26:40
St Ooges

is there any way we can do this tests ourselves, to compare our system to yours? i run an overclocked 6600k (4.5ghz) and never know how it compares to other systems

Posted on 2017-08-25 23:58:03

I'm really curious to see how the 8700K stacks up against the 7820X in these Lightroom tests.
I'm guessing their performance will be fairly similar.

Posted on 2017-09-18 05:02:57

Yes you are right, the only problem is the 8700k with a price of $420 now while a 7820x is $500 and the 8700k is slower on many tasks.

Posted on 2017-11-30 09:14:06

Where's Threadripper...?

Posted on 2017-09-19 17:47:23

Hey Micah, our Threadripper testing for Lightroom got pushed back due to a bunch of different things going on. It started with the update to LR 2015.12 then a host of other testing took priority. I actually do have results for TR right now, but just haven't had the time to get an article up. https://www.pugetsystems.co... If you want to take a look at the summary chart. Overall, Threadripper is decent, but surprisingly the 1920X is faster than the 1950X for everything other than importing and exporting. Not a huge difference, but around 5% or so.

In the end, we feel that the Intel Core i7 7820X is likely the strongest choice for most users as it is overall faster than Threadripper and at a lower price point. The Core i9 7900X is technically even a hair faster, but a few percent for $400 likely isn't worth it. This is just for pure Lightroom usage, however. If you do something in conjunction with Lightroom that can utilize the high core count of Threadripper or do a lot of multitasking I think Threadripper is a perfectly good choice.

Hopefully that will tide you over until I can get an article up!

Posted on 2017-09-19 18:10:03

I have a 1900x still sitting in it's box, so I was curious. (also RAM that's 50% faster than what you tested)

Much that I do is heavily multi-threaded, and I'm just waiting to see if AMD pops out something with more cores in the next year. Despite the expensive board, that upgrade path was more attractive to me than socket AM4. That and the 8 dimm slots. (And the chip alone was $100 less than the 7820x.)

Thanks for the response!

Posted on 2017-09-19 21:23:15

FWIW, with my older, non M2 SSDs (one for OS, one for cache), I found the 1900X to be 50% faster for just saving straight out of ACR in PS/Bridge. I dropped my existing Win7 drive into a new system, just for an apples to apples comparison. I'll report back on a fresh install of Windows on a M2 drive when it happens. (got parts, but no time atm...soon though!)

I was disappointed to see that the ACR engine still wasn't utilizing more than 4 threads at a time.

Oh, RIGHT! Hardware I'm comparing to!: 970GTX in both instances and the old processor I compared to was (wait for it...) an AMD 8150FX OC-ed to 4.4ghz. H105 used on both. I thought I would need a new cooler for the TR chip, but so far it maxes out at 51C while running Prime95. DDR3 1333 4x8gb in old machine, DDR4 3000 2x16gb in the new (@3gHz with the included XMP profile).

So for me, it was clearly time for an upgrade!

Posted on 2017-10-02 20:36:05

Did you have a chance to check if the i5 - 7600K got the same performance boost than the i7 - 7700K, compare to the tests you did in January ?

Posted on 2017-10-19 09:42:38

What size are the raw files?

Posted on 2017-10-20 00:38:05

Regarding this test, it is better to use intel cpu which has high speed.
Thanks for good test.

Posted on 2017-11-19 07:41:25
Alfonso Ianniello

So, what is the best storage configuration for Adobe Lightroom?
Standard SSD (Samsung 850 EVO/Pro) for OS and Lightroom or is better to locate catalog and preview files in a Secondary Drive (SSD/M.2 NVMe)? Thanks

Posted on 2018-01-17 21:27:40

We did some testing on the topic of storage a little over a year ago: https://www.pugetsystems.co... It was on the previous version of Lightroom, but I don't think Lightroom Classic will be much different. Basically, if you have your catalog, previews, and camera RAW cache on an SSD you should be getting pretty much peak performance. Doesn't matter if that is the same SSD as your OS drive or a secondary drive. NVME drives didn't really give any benefit from what we could see, however, so probably better to spend your budget on a larger SSD than a NVMe drive.

Honestly, for Lightroom I think it is more about how you want to organize your files. If you like the thought of having all your previews and cache files on a secondary drive, go for it. Prefer a single larger SSD with everything? That's just fine as well.

Posted on 2018-01-18 00:31:32
Alfonso Ianniello

Thanks for the reply!

I finished assembling my workstation just yesterday

Intel Core i7-7820X (overclocked to 4,5GHz)
Asus WS X299 Pro Motherboard
Samsung 960 Evo NVMe PCIe M.2 500GB (for OS, Software, Lightroom catalogs and preview files)
32 GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000
Nvidia Quadro M2000
4x HDD 4TB WD Caviar Black in Raid10 for storage

I have also a Samsung 850 EVO/Pro, maybe for previews and cache files, it's worth it?

Posted on 2018-01-18 21:42:21

If you have it, I think that would be a good idea. 500GB for a primary drive might end up being a bit tight for all your software, previews, and misc files. Depends a lot on how clean you keep your system, but for myself I like having a good amount of free space on my primary drive. Also, if you have your catalog and previews on the primary drive and ever need to do an OS reinstall you would lose all that data. Better to have it on a secondary drive IMO.

Posted on 2018-01-18 21:45:46
Alfonso Ianniello

Maybe is better if I proceed in this way:

Samsung 850 Pro 250 Gb for OS and Software
Samsung 960 Evo NVMe PCIe M.2 500GB for Lightroom catalogs, preview files and cache
Raid10 for Lighroom Backup and Original files

what do you think about it?

Posted on 2018-01-18 21:52:54

Some of it depends on how much space you need for preview files and such. If it was me, I would do:

Samsung 960 Evo NVMe PCIe M.2 500GB for OS and Software
Samsung 850 Pro 250 Gb for Lightroom catalogs, preview files and cache
Raid10 for Lighroom Backup and Original files

Only because 250GB seems really small for an OS drive. Also, using an NVMe drive as your primary drive will give some benefit to Windows and application launch times, but using it as a preview/catalog/cache drive won't give much if any benefit. I don't think it will be a very noticeable difference, however, so I would just use the larger drive where you think you'll need the space.

Posted on 2018-01-18 21:55:35
Alfonso Ianniello

Relatively to GPU Nvidia m2000,
what do you think about it?

Seems that Lightroom with GPU acceleration active don't use it ...

Posted on 2018-01-18 22:07:38