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Lightroom CC 2015.12 CPU Performance: Core i7 8700K, i5 8600K, i3 8350K

Written on October 5, 2017 by Matt Bach


Lightroom is an interesting application as it is somewhat divided in terms of what kind of CPU is best. For a majority of tasks, we have found that a lower core count CPU with a high operating frequency gives the best performance. But for exporting images in particular, a higher number of cores can often give decent performance gains. The new Coffee Lake 8th Gen CPUs from Intel have up to six cores (up from the previous generation's four) but the clock speeds have stayed roughly the same. Because of this, these new CPUs should do very well in an application like Lightroom which contains a mix if heavily and lightly threaded tasks.

While Intel is releasing a number of "Coffee Lake" 8th Generation CPUs, in this article we are primarily going to focus on the Core i7 8700K, Core i5 8600K, and Core i3 8350K to see how they perform in Lightroon. If you wish to read one of our other Coffee Lake articles to see how they perform in applications like Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and After Effects, you can view a full list here.

While we have not developed a way to test everything in Lightroom, our current test suite includes the following tasks:

  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

Listed below are the four test platforms we will be using in our testing. The two most important are the Z370 platform with the new 8th Gen CPUs alongside the previous generation Z270 platform with the Core i7 7700K:

To act as additional comparison points, we will also be including four Skylake-X CPUs on the X299 platform and two Ryzen CPUs on the X370 platform. The Ryzen CPUs are an obvious comparison we wanted to make since they are the direct competitors from AMD. The Skylake-X CPUs, on the other hand, are not really competitors but do to the higher core count they excel at exporting images in Lightroom.

On thing we want to note is that we are technically overclocking the Ryzen platform by using DDR4-2666 memory since we are using four sticks of dual rank RAM. According to this blog post - which we have confirmation from AMD that it is still accurate even with the new AGESA BIOS - the highest RAM speed that is officially supported with our four sticks of dual rank RAM is just DDR4-1866. Our previous Ryzen testing was performed with DDR4-2400 RAM, but even then we received a lot of comments about how we were artificially limiting the performance of Ryzen even though we were actually overclocking the platform. As you will see in the results, however, using DDR4-2666 RAM doesn't really make AMD better than Intel so we opted to go ahead and use the faster RAM. We're sure some will say we should use even faster DDR4-3200 RAM, but there is a limit to what we are willing to use considering our testing is first and foremost to ensure that we are offering the right hardware to our customers. Since DDR4-3200 is well beyond what we consider to be acceptably stable for most end-users, it is extremely unlikely to be a part of our testing in the near future.

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 exporting images (and importing to a lesser degree) 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 Coffee Lake Core i7-8700K i5-8600K i3-8350K Overall Benchmark Results

As we expected from the higher core count, the biggest are of improvement was when exporting image. For this task, we saw a 25% performance bump with the Core i7 8700K over the previous generation Core i7 7700K which is a terrific result and much more than you would typically see from one generation to the next. However, the performance for everything else in Lightroom only saw an average 5% performance increase. This is still an OK increase all things considered, but not really a significant improvement. The Core i5 8600K is also a pretty decent performer overall, coming in at just a hair slower than the more expensive Core i7 7700K.

The main users who will benefit from the new Coffee Lake 8th Gen CPUs are those that export a large number of images, but also want the best performance when generating previews, applying corrections, or almost anything else in Lightroom. For this kind of user, the Core i7 8700K in particular is an excellent CPU since you not only get a small performance increase for general tasks, but also a large 25% increase in performance when exporting. Those that are simply looking to get their export times down as much as possible may want to consider a CPU like the Core i7 7820X or even the Core i9 7900X since they are significantly faster for exporting, but we would consider the Core i7 8700K to be the more balanced option for the average Lightroom user.

Overall, these new CPUs are very decent for Lightroom, but most users likely won't see a major benefit from upgrading unless your machine is more than two years old. If you are already in the market for a new workstation, however, these are excellent CPUs and definitely should definitely be used over the older 7th Gen CPUs whenever possible.

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Tags: Lightroom, Coffee Lake, 8th Gen, i7 8700K, i5 8600K, i3 8350K