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Lightroom Classic CC 2018: Core i7 9700K & i9 9900K Performance

Written on October 19, 2018 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

Lightroom Classic CC is much better at using a higher number of CPU cores than its predecessor, but for many tasks the speed of each core is often more important than the total number of cores. With the launch of the new 9th Gen Intel Core Processors, Intel has made a number of improvements including a small frequency bump and an increase in core count. Where the current top-end consumer Core i7 CPU (the Core i7 8700K) has only 6 cores and a max Turbo of 4.7 GHz, the Core i7 9700K and i9 9900K both have 8 cores and a 4.9-5.0 GHz max Turbo frequency. Since Lightroom tends to value both core count and frequency, these new CPUs should do great but the only way to know for sure is to actually benchmark them and find out.

If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark result/analysis sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion section.

Test Setup & Methodology

Listed below are the systems we will be using in our testing:

While benchmarking the i7 9700K and i9 9900K against the i7 8700K is likely the most direct comparison we could make, we also wanted to see how these new CPUs stack up against a number of other processors. AMD vs Intel is always a popular discussion, so we included the Ryzen 7 2700X - which tends to be cheaper than either of these new CPUs - as well as the Threadripper 1920X which is similar in price to the i9 9900K. To get an idea of whether or not purchasing a more expensive Intel CPU would give you a notable increase in performance, we also include the i7 7820X and the i9 7900X.

To thoroughly test each processor, we will be using two sets of images: one set of 22MP.CR2 RAW images taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a set of 45MB .NEF RAW images taken on a Nikon D850.


While our Lightroom testing is still evolving, we are currently able to accurately benchmark the following tasks with both sets of images:

Bulk Tasks

  • Import
  • Export to JPEG
  • Build Smart Previews
  • Convert to DNG

Module Tasks

  • Library Module Loupe Scroll
  • Develop Module Loupe Scroll
  • Library to Develop switch

Photomerge

  • Panorama Merge
  • HDR Merge

We are currently working on putting up an alpha version of our benchmark for public download (similar to our Photoshop Benchmark) which will have a much more in-depth description of each of these tests. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks (or months)!

Benchmark Results

While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each type of task, we also wanted to provide the individual results in case there is a specific task someone may be interested in. Feel free to skip to the next section for our analysis of these results.

Benchmark Analysis

The scores shown in the chart above are relative to the best possible performance for each task with a Core i7 8700K CPU and a NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti 8GB GPU. In essence, a score of "90" would mean that it gave 90% the performance of the reference system while a score of "110" would mean it was 10% faster.

In the module tasks (scrolling through images and switching between the Library and Develop modules), there was surprisingly little difference between all the Intel CPUs we tested, although the AMD CPUs lagged behind just a bit. The new Core i9 9900K was at the top, but it was only a few percent faster than the i7 8700K which is likely within the margin of error for those tests. However, both the i7 9700K and i9 900K were definitely a bit faster in photo merge tasks, coming in at 4-6% faster than the i7 8700K

The bulk tasks like exporting and generating smart previews are where we expected these CPUs to shine and while they were ~10% faster than the i7 8700K, we honestly thought we would see a larger difference. They certainly compare favorably against the more expensive i7 7820X, but if exporting is a major consideration at this price point than you may be better off with the AMD Threadripper 1920X.

Are the 9th Gen Intel Core Processors good for Lightroom Classic?

The new i7 9700K and i9 9900K are certainly good for Lightroom Classic CC, but they are only about 5% faster than the i7 8700K on average. In fact, for most users there is little reason to use the more expensive i9 9900K as the i7 9700K is only a tiny bit slower.

9th Gen Intel Core i7 9700K & i9 9900K Lightroom Classic Benchmark
If you are looking for a new workstation at roughly this price point, there is no reason not to use the i9 9700K over the i7 8700K, especially considering how well it performs in other applications like Photoshop. However, unlike Photoshop, there is probably no reason to upgrade if you already have an 8700K since you are unlikely to notice a difference unless you are actively benchmarking Lightroom.

Core i7 9700K vs Core i7 8700K for Lightroom Classic

On average, the Core i7 9700K is about 4% faster that the Core i7 8700K in Lightroom Classic. You should notice the biggest difference in tasks like exporting and generating previews, but when navigating around the Library and Develop modules there is very little difference.

Core i9 9900K vs Core i7 8700K for Lightroom Classic

The Core i9 9900K is approximately 20% more expensive than the Core i7 8700K, but we only saw about a 6% performance increase in Lightroom Classic. It is technically the fastest CPU we have tested for navigating around the modules and photo merge tasks, but if you are looking for the best export performance you may be better served with a Threadripper 1920X or a Core i9 7900X or higher CPU instead.

If you are interested in how the 9th Gen Intel Core Processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of other articles for looking at the i7 9700K and i9 9900K.

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Tags: Lightroom Classic, 9700K, 9900K, 8700K, 7820X, 7900X, 2700X, 1920X
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