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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