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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