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Lightroom Classic CC 2019 CPU Roundup: Intel vs AMD

Written on December 10, 2018 by Matt Bach


Choosing the right hardware to use in your system can often be overwhelming due to the sheer number of part models you can pick from. Even if you are just trying to decide on a CPU, it can still be daunting to find one that not only fits your budget, but will also give you the best performance for your dollar in applications like Lightroom Classic. In this article, we are going to be benchmarking a wide range of processors from Intel and AMD including the Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, and AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen CPU lines to help you decide which model makes the most sense for your new workstation.

One thing to note is that we will not be including results for any previous-gen CPUs in this article. At first, we were going to include them but the charts and tables soon got out of hand. Instead, if you want to know how these CPUs compare to previous generations, we recommend checking out the following articles:

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:

Shared PC Hardware/Software
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1803)

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


  • Panorama Merge
  • HDR Merge

We are currently working on putting up an alpha version of our benchmark for public download (similar to our Photoshop and After Effects Benchmarks) 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

Lightroom Classic CC 2019 Benchmark CPU Roundup - Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen

In our Lightroom Classic benchmark, our tests are divided into three categories: Bulk Tasks (importing, exporting, etc.), Module Tasks (scrolling through images & switching modules), and Photo Merge. In addition, there is an Overall Score which is simply the average of the three sub-scores. The scores shown in the charts above are relative to the best possible performance for each task when using a Core i7 8700K CPU along with a NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti 8GB in Lightroom Classic CC 2018. In essence, a score of "900" would mean that it gave 90% the performance of the reference system while a score of "1100" would mean it was 10% faster.

If we sort by the overall score, we get a great idea of how each CPU performs in Lightroom Classic CC. While there are some interesting performance distributions with the Intel X-series CPUs, one thing that is clear is that Intel currently has the lead over AMD. While all the AMD Threadripper CPUs performed well in Lightroom Classic, they were all about 10% slower overall than the Intel Core i9 9900X which was the top performer.

Another thing to point out is that the Core i9 9900K does very well for its price as it is quite a bit less expensive than any of the Intel X-series CPUs. If you look at the individual results you will see that it (and the other Intel 9th Gen CPUs) are not as good as the X-series or Threadripper CPUs for tasks like exporting, but it is faster for things like scrolling through images.

Intel vs AMD for Lightroom Classic CC 2019

For Lightroom Classic CC 2019, Intel currently has the lead over AMD with the Intel X-series being around 10% faster overall than AMD Threadripper. At the same time, the Intel 9th Gen CPUs should also give higher performance over the AMD Ryzen CPUs.

Overall, there are really only a couple desktop CPUs that we would currently recommend for a workstation that is going to be primarily used for Lightroom Classic. The most well-rounded CPU is likely going to be the Intel Core i9 9900X. Not only did it perform very well in our Module Tasks, but it was also among the fastest for tasks like exporting where it is almost twice as fast as the Intel 9th Gen CPUs. If the i9 9900X is just a bit outside your budget, the Intel Core i7 9800X also did very well for its cost if exporting performance is a concern of yours.

For even better performance while scrolling through images or switching between the Library/Develop modules, the Intel Core i9 9900K was about 10% faster than the Intel X-series for that kind of work. However, be aware that it (and the other Intel 9th Gen CPUs) are significantly slower than the X-series CPUs for tasks like exporting.

If you are interested in how the latest Intel and AMD processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of articles looking at CPU performance in Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and many other software packages.

Tags: Lightroom Classic, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, 9900K, 9700K, 9600K, 9980XE, 9960X, 9940X, 9920X, 9900X, 9980X, 9800X, 2990WX, 2970WX, 2950X, 2920X, 2700X

Thanks for another great benchmark!

Posted on 2018-12-11 01:08:05

Thanks for this article! Very interesting as usual. Can't wait to have the benchmark available to see what my "old" 6700K can do against the new boys in town.

However, just a small remark about the scores in the table : the global score seems to be an average of the individual Module/Bulk/Photo merge scores... multiplicated by 10. Wouldn't it be more understandable to have the global and individual scores on the same scale ?

Posted on 2018-12-11 08:29:04

Yea, that 10x multiplier is on purpose. Mostly just to get across that that is the main score that most people should look at unless they have specific needs. We do this on all our other benchmarks as well and making the main/overall score a bigger number is pretty common across a bunch of other benchmarks as well.

Posted on 2018-12-11 17:12:27

OK, fair enough :)

Posted on 2018-12-12 11:00:36
Patrick Lafont

so Ryzen 2700x is still beaten by Intel because its clock speed is behind... I thought they optimized the use of multiple cores, I guess some operations don't benefit from it...

Posted on 2018-12-11 10:15:51

It is not just clock speed or cores for that matter. The underlying architecture of the CPU makes a bigger difference than most people realize, which is honestly why we feel so strongly about running these kinds of benchmarks. Without seeing how each CPU performs in reality, it is really almost impossible to try to guess how two CPUs from different product lines will actually compare.

Posted on 2018-12-11 17:18:29
Patrick Lafont

I agree when comparing AMD and Intel CPUs, I'm oversimplifying it but I'm convinced it's definitely part of the answer, at least with the consumer CPUs. If we compare the way LR behaves compared to some other applications, we don't see the performance scale with the number of cores (unlike video encoding for instance).
But it's somehow very difficult to understand, as you said. In the past, a quad core CPU that would be easy to overclock around 5ghz would beat 6 or 8 cores CPU. It might not be the case anymore...

Posted on 2018-12-11 19:48:29

It seems that the new 7 ┬Ám Ryzen 3 architecture, to be announced in January, is going to have a great jump of IPC and could therefore be much closer to Intel on the single core performance. Which would be great for Lr and Ps.

Posted on 2018-12-12 11:02:59

I hope it is (competition is always a good thing!), but to be honest I'm a bit skeptical about the single core performance rumors. We'll just have to see what it can do once it launches.

Posted on 2018-12-12 17:14:21
Mark Harris

Yep is the usual AMD hype followed by disappointment but we shall see.

Posted on 2019-01-09 22:10:09
Michael Marti

Every CPU on the list seems to stop scaling at ~10-cores.

16-core ryzen scores 13% faster than 8-core
32-core ryzen scores 1% faster than 16 core

Intel has 8, 10, 12 cores on the list, so we can see the expected 12-15% improvement from 8->10 cores if you adjust for clock speed. 8->10 gives 15% improvement per clock, then 10->18 is like 5%

The 9900K's 8 cores are turbo clocked 20% faster than the 9820x's 10-cores, so if we expected 15% more out of core count for 10>8, but then 20% more out of higher clocks, we end up expecting the 9900k just barely beating the 9820x, which is what the data shows. (I'm thinking turbo means temporary all core turbo before thermal throttling, I could be mistaken)

If this application seems to stop scaling at 9-10 cores then the best price/performance should be the Ryzen 1920x for 399$ lol

If you wanted a good price/performance CPU for this and other tasks the 2920x looks amazing, 100$ more than 9900k and +50% cores/threads and it does 6% worse on THIS benchmark and 30% better on some others, ECC RAM, PCI slots galore.

Its a shame that 2000$ CPUs do 10% better than 400$ CPUs

Posted on 2018-12-19 16:20:39

I have a 9900k that just about matches Matt's benchmark scores in PS, so reasonable to believe similar performance for LR. No sign of throttling on PS bench with adequate cooling, so I suspect the differences with the 9800 and 9820 from the 9900k are related to twice the RAM or AVX (or both). Also, the mesh behaves differently from the ring bus. Details, details.

Posted on 2018-12-30 00:26:51

disqus_YjLIrVqrQx 5+

Posted on 2019-01-01 19:14:35

I suspect there are two underlying issues:

1. Lightroom is likely not NUMA aware (GUESSING), which is a shame. NUMA is used mostly on multi-processor systems but AMD also uses it to hook up the multiple dies on all of the Threadripper and EPYC CPUs (up to four dies on the 32-core model).
2. High core count systems start throttling and reducing clock speeds due to TDP limits when all the cores are pegged.

Posted on 2019-01-30 17:00:44

Thanks for the look at those CPUs. Were these results on a machine updated against Spectre and Meltdown? Your (very interesting) look at the improvements in going from 7.1 to 7.2 earlier this year had a comment on the M&S BIOS changes to the effect that "So at the moment we are continuing testing without the "fixes". In our internal testing the performance difference was minimal with the fix so I don't expect them to impact Lightroom users very much in most cases." - but I haven't seen anything else from you guys on the subject. Given how heavily LR depends on disk IO, I'd expect the impact to be substantial. Did that turn out to be the case?

Posted on 2018-12-13 07:10:45

Yea, we have all the Meltdown/Spectre patches applied at this point. We didn't really see any performance change with the patches so I wouldn't be too concerned about them at this point.

Posted on 2018-12-13 16:58:55
Mark Webb

Thanks again for the benchmarks! Do you ever overclock for these tests or does that add too many variables? I tested exporting 24 D850 images with my 9900k overclocked to 5Ghz on all cores and ended up with a time of 1:06. Still surprised to see the 9900x pull so far ahead.

Posted on 2018-12-13 20:27:30

Overclocking isn't something we do for our customers since in our opinion the relatively small performance gain isn't worth the increased risk to system stability. If you are someone building their own system and are willing to mess with the BIOS every once in a while overclocking can be relatively safe, but we've found that the type of customers we tend to get, that is something they have no desire to mess with. Because of that (and the fact that our testing is first and foremost to help our customers), we tend to not mess with overclocking for the majority of our articles.

I totally hear you on the 9900X export performance - the export times with the X-series surprised us as well! At first, we thought it might have to do with the AVX-512 support on those CPUs, but then we saw similar performance with the AMD Threadripper CPUs. So now I have no explanation for why the X-series/Threadripper are so much better than the Intel 9th Gen/Ryzen processors. The only thing I can think of is the quad channel memory (capacity shouldn't be a factor at all).

Posted on 2018-12-13 20:36:46
Mark Webb

Thanks for the insight! In my head I thought the performance would be much closer or even surpass the 9900x with the higher clocks on the 9900k. (They need to change these names to avoid consumer confusion lol) There must be some secret sauce in those x299 chips that helps them pull ahead. Then again it could also be another one of those Adobe optimization bugs. It's been a rough year for Microsoft and Adobe on that end.

Posted on 2018-12-13 20:51:43

Yea, the naming schemes are weird. From my understanding, the idea is that the bigger the number, the better the performance of the CPU in general. So in Intel's eyes, the 9900K and 9900X should perform about the same in general or the 9900K should out-perform the 9800X. Of course, like we've seen that falls apart pretty quickly when looking at specific applications, but in general I would say it holds up fairly reasonably.

Posted on 2018-12-13 20:56:38

While Lightroom seem to use no more than 10 cores for exporting, it would be very interesting to do a scrolling test while exporting. I think this is where 9920x+ will shine over the 9900x. And also how much exporting speed drops while scrolling. I'd love to see thise new tests! A lot of photographers would appreciate to edit with no lag when exporting in the background.
Thank you for illuminating us!

Posted on 2018-12-13 23:17:21

That kind of testing is something we really do want to tackle,but right now our testing methodology in Lightroom is a bit too... finicky I suppose is the right word. We are getting assistance from the Lightroom dev team to see if we can smooth things out, and I do have a couple of ideas to make it more polished, but right now I'm not sure our testing could handle something like that.

Definitely that is something we want to do in the future, however,

Posted on 2018-12-17 17:31:16

Piggybacking on the previous comment to say I would just be thrilled if the LR team could give you guys some insight on testing Develop module sliders (or preset selection/application times), even without the multitasking/simulataneous export aspect. I know it's super difficult to establish benchmarks for these things, and different sliders seem to have dramatically different performance too (e.g. white balance adjustments tend to lag vastly more than, say, exposure). For me this stuff is the bread and butter. For a lot of bulk tasks, yes I want them done fast, but the difference between 5 and 10 minutes isn't material for me when it means I'm walking away from the computer to get a tea either way. Of course, I don't run a commercial business, so my priorities aren't everyone's. All I know is I'm most concerned with the develop module because 95% of my active LR use is spent there.

Posted on 2019-01-02 00:56:55