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Lightroom CC 2015.12 CPU Performance: Core i9 7940X, 7960X, 7980XE

Written on September 25, 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 is best. But for importing and exporting images, a higher number of cores can often give decent performance gains. The difference between a quad core CPU and a 12 core CPU is only about 20% when importing and exporting images, but it will be interesting to see how much faster the new Intel Core i9 7940X 14 core, Core i9 7960X 16 core, and Core i9 7980XE 18 core CPUs are for these tasks.

If you are interested in how the new CPUs perform in a number of other applications, you can view our full list of Skylake-X articles here.

While we believe importing and exporting images is going to be the main scenario where these CPUs may be useful, we decided to run our full suite of Lightroom testing which includes:

  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

Our test platforms for the Skylake-X and Threadripper CPUs are listed below, but we did want to point out that the RAM configuration changed a little bit depending on the CPU. For the majority of the CPUs we used DDR4-2666 RAM, but since the Core i7 7800X only natively supports DDR4-2400 we tested with that RAM instead.

As we hinted at in the introduction, there are a number of tasks in Lightroom that actually perform best with a lower core count, high frequency CPU so these new 14, 16, and 18 core CPUs (or any of the above CPUs for that matter) are unlikely to be the absolute best in terms of raw performance. To see how they compare against what is currently the fastest CPU for these lightly threaded tasks we also decided to include the Intel Core i7 7700K in our testing.

Intel Core i7 7700K (Z270) Test Platform
Motherboard: Asus PRIME Z270-A
CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K 4.2GHz
(4.5GHz Turbo) 4 Core

RAM: 4x DDR4-2400 16GB
(64GB total)
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 8GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Software: Lightroom CC 2015.12

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 Core i9 7940X 7960X 7980X Overall Benchmark Results

The last time we tested Lightroom was when the highest core count CPU available (that was not a Xeon) was the Core i9 7900X 10 core. At that time, we saw some decent gains when exporting images with the 8 and 10 core CPUs, and this trend actually continued with the Intel Core i9 7920X 12 core. Oddly enough, however, the new 14, 16, and 18 core CPUs saw a pronounced drop in performance when exporting so clearly there is a limit in the number of cores Lightroom can effectively utilize.

Overall, these new CPUs are not so great for Lightroom. Whether exporting images is a bottleneck for your workflow or you just want better general performance in Lightroom, pretty much any of the other 8+ core CPUs from Intel or AMD are going to be faster. This is the unfortunate reality as we get into higher and higher core counts - most software out there is not able to effectively utilize a high number of CPU cores. Since a higher core count typically means lower operating frequencies, this unfortunately doesn't even mean that you simply are not getting your money's worth, but rather that you are actually getting worse performance than if you had purchased a less expensive CPU. As a workstation provider we have had to deal with this for years on dual and quad Xeon systems, but this is now something that has to be taken into account by a much broader range of users.

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Tags: Lightroom, Skylake-X, Threadripper, 7980XE, 7960X, 7940X
Jakub Badełek

There are rumors that Adobe is about to release Lightroom 7 - I think we can expect improvement in core "scalability". Can't wait for your tests once new LR is here!

Posted on 2017-09-25 07:54:48

Entirely possible, although given what we've seen from Lightroom and other Adobe products over the last few years, I actually somewhat doubt it. I could be completely wrong, but lately it seems like the focus is on GPU acceleration. This is actually a good thing and has resulted in some pretty tremendous performance gains, but the flip side is that many of the actions that are relatively easy to multithread get moved onto the GPU which makes the software as a whole actually worse for CPU scaling (since only the lightly threaded stuff is left on the CPU).

That said, I think there is some low hanging fruit that they could go for. Things like exporting and generating previews all they should have to do is to divide things up so if you have 10 previews to generate, it spits it up to be one preview per CPU core rather than doing them in series. Of course, I'm not a programmer and I have no idea how Lightroom works under the hood, so that might not be quite as easy as I think it is. But we'll just have to wait and see!

Posted on 2017-09-25 17:30:18
Chris Giles

You're pretty much on the money Matt.

Posted on 2017-10-06 13:27:57

Matt, thanks for all the reviews. You have enough to benchmark as it is, but i'm finding capture one to be very well threaded and giving way better performance than Lr at the moment, it was really a big shocker for me in terms of editing performance.

Posted on 2017-09-26 18:06:00
Steven Kornreich

So as of today if you are a heavy LightRoom user, is it best to stick with a i7-7700K system? or can you make a case for upgrading?
It would;d seem until Adobe re writes the code for LightRoom there is little to be gained from upgrading?

Posted on 2017-09-26 20:01:19

I think it depends on the kind of performance you need. For us at least, our customers tend to divide into two categories: those that export a TON of images and need the fastest export times possible, and those that want Lightroom to be overall more responsive while they are editing/grading images.

If exporting isn't a bottleneck for your workflow, then the i7-7700K is really the best CPU at the moment. But if exporting is a big headache, then you could argue for the Core i7 7820X or Core i9 7900X depending on your budget. Those CPUs are slightly worse for overall Lightroom performance, but a little less than twice as fast for exporting. It really comes down to what you do and what your time is worth. If upgrading to a 7900X somehow lets you take on an extra job or lets you get a specific job in the first place due to the faster turn-around time, then it might well be worth it.

One thing to be aware of is that Intel has announced the new "8th Gen" Core i7/i5/i3 CPUs and on paper they look pretty attractive. At the top end, the i7-8700K has 6 cores (versus the 4 on the 7700K) while still maintaining a really high Turbo clock of 4.7GHz. Those CPUs are launching on October 5th and we should have articles up right around then.

Posted on 2017-09-26 20:37:43
Steven Kornreich

Matt, It's the import - 1:1 previews, smart previews. It's killing me.
I also agree with your assessment on the upcoming LR7, I'm sure some speed improvements here and there, but having much better use of multiple cores I doubt it, I am not a programmer either, yet I think LR would have to be completely re written which probably does not make sense at this point.

Posted on 2017-09-26 20:51:43

For previews at least, it seems to me that they should be able to to divide things up so if you have 10 previews to generate, it spits it up to be one preview per CPU core rather than doing them in series. But I only do pretty basic programming and have no idea how Lightroom is coded, so that is probably much more difficult than it seems. We'll just have to wait and see I suppose.

Posted on 2017-09-26 20:59:54
Joe Geske

It looks like 2015.12 may have seen a massive improvement for AMD in LR, is there any chance that you have retested Ryzen CPUs with the latest updates? Debating a new system and really hoping to get back to AMD after all of these years. My gut tells me that a Ryzen 1800x should potentially be one of the best LR choices out there with its balancing clock speed and core count quite well. Also anxious to see how coffee lake will stack up. Export and import are my number 1 time sucks so seeing threadripper competing with an i9 here has me questioning if LR or AMD made some improvements. Thanks!

Posted on 2017-09-27 16:32:08

We have actually, we just didn't include Ryzen in this article since it starts to get up to a pretty ridiculous number of CPUs in the charts. I'm still trying to figure out the right balance between having relevant data versus having all possible data. Here's a quick chart I pulled from our full data set that included Ryzen: https://www.pugetsystems.co...

I also did a quick comparison between the results we just got for 2015.12 versus what we had on file for 2015.10.1 . Looks like Intel CPUs ranged from between a few percent slower to a few percent faster in the new version - probably just from normal testing fluctuations so no real difference. The AMD Ryzen CPUs did see a 10% performance gain overall but things like exporting and generating previews was closer to 20% (which means most other things were no faster or actually a bit slower).

One difference between the two tests is is that in the newer testing we upped the RAM speed to DDR4-2666 instead of DDR4-2400 which that probably accounts for about half that performance gain. So 2015.12 is a bit faster for the things we tested, but not significantly. However, I think a lot of the performance gains are in things we haven't figured out how to properly test like applying effects with a brush so the actual "feel" of Lightroom might very well be better in the newer version than straight benchmarks show.

Keep in mind that Intel is launching the new 8th Gen Core i5/i7 CPUs on October 5th which will include the Core i7 8700K which is basically the Core i7 7700K only with 6 cores instead of 4. We'll have to wait until launch to see actual performance, but given that the i7 7700K is only 5-7% slower than the Ryzen CPUs for exporting I would imagine the Core i7 8700K will be pretty good for Lightroom.

Posted on 2017-09-27 17:23:21
Joe Geske

Thank you so much for your response! You really helped me choose the direction I will go with my new system. I am surprised to see threadripper be that much faster than the 1800x, both cpus have a 4ghz turbo boost, and the benefit of 10 or 12 cores in LR doesn't seem that dramatic. I wonder if the x399 platform offers that much of an improvement. I do keep hearing that memory speed and timings have an insane impact on some tasks with Ryzen and Threadripper. I don't ever expect you guys to do this test, but it would be interesting to see how memory speed affects LR. I know that a lot of tests indicate as much as a 20% fps boost for Ryzen when going from 2400 to 3200 memory which is unheard of on an intel chip, not sure how that would translate to LR.

Coffee Lake does like like the LR chip to beat when it comes out on the 5th, its likely going to be the chip I choose as much as I wanted to give AMD a shot. Its just tough to beat the crazy single threaded performance that LR so thrives on, plus it sounds like they may easily OC to 4.8ghz which for a 6 core cpu could be amazing. Couple that with the eventual launch of LR 2017 and I may be able to see a a huge improvement for some tasks over my i7 4790k.

Thank you again, these reviews are amazing!

BTW do you offer up the raw images you test with so that we can compare our own systems to your results? Would love to see how system stacks up so I could see what exact differences I might see.

Posted on 2017-09-27 22:47:40

Right now we aren't offering the raw images for download, but that is something I want to work on over the next year or so. It is a mix of making sure we have permission from different people who have supplied us with test images and writing up step-by-step directions for testing. We try to have most things documented in the test setup section, but small things like making sure people are exporting with all the same settings. Otherwise, it wouldn't really be a valid comparison. Definitely on my to-do list though.

Posted on 2017-09-27 23:14:57

Can dual E5-2687W v2s keep up with these chips?

Posted on 2017-10-01 23:03:18

In Lightroom, probably not. We haven't done extensive testing with dual CPUs in Lightroom for quite a while, but at least in the past I remember there being performance issues with dual CPU setups. Unless an application is really optimized for dual CPUs and is highly parallel, you will almost always see lower performance with two CPUs versus just a single CPU. Lightroom isn't terribly parallel and I haven't seen any indication of Adobe optimizing for dual CPUs so I can't imaging a pair of Xeons (especially ones three generations old now) performing very well.

This is a complete guess based on no hard facts, but I wouldn't be surprised if on the conclusion chart a pair of E5-2687W V2 scored somewhere around 100% on exporting and 80% on everything else.

Posted on 2017-10-02 17:48:32
Obi-Chad Kenobi

These graphs are not as clear as the new ones you just did for the 8700K review. In this article, they all say: "Performance Relative to Intel Core i7 7800X - Higher is Better". That's not very clear and it's inaccurate. Let's look at the "Develop Module Scroll." It once again says, "Performance Relative to Intel Core i7 7800X - Higher is Better", but the 7700K is actually the fastest coming in at 13.1 and 18.1 seconds (Lower is better). I don't want to sound like I am nitpicking. I love and appreciate everything you guys do and it appears that with the newest review of the 8700K, this is all resolved, but I just wanted to point this out in case you did not catch it in this article. Thanks again!

Posted on 2017-10-07 20:29:17

Oh, shoot. The individual result graphs should be in seconds, not a relative score. I must have forgotten to update the axis text when making the charts. I'll get that fixed right now. Thanks for pointing it out!

Posted on 2017-10-07 22:03:46
Steven Kornreich

I can't wait to see these same tests run on the just released Lightroom CC Classic
Adobe is claiming it utilizes more cores now. Have to wait and see your new tests. If true this could be the one thing that brings me over from a Mac over to Windows 10

Posted on 2017-10-18 22:38:56
Steven Kornreich

I just did a test importing 151 RAW files from my Sony A9 into both Lightroom CC 2015.12 and then upgraded to Lightroom CC Classic. Building 1:1 previews and smart previews. My system is kind of old. Intel Xeon E5 1650 V2 6 core, with 64GB Ram and a older Nvidia Geforce GTX Titan w/h 6gb vram. My results are very encouraging.
Old LR 9:41
New LR 5:28

That's a pretty good improvement at least on the import / build preview which for me is always the biggest bottleneck.
What I don't know is how much faster the newer Multi Core Intel processors will be over the Quad Core I7700K/I7800K processors will be.

On a side note, I also have a Hackintosh running an I7700K dual boot WIndows 10 machine and running the exact same test using the new version of Lightroom CC Classic, the same import process is still faster running under OSX 10.12.6 vs Windows 10, maybe 30 seconds faster under OSX

Posted on 2017-10-20 21:01:32