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Lightroom Classic CC 2019: Intel Core i9 9990XE Performance

Written on February 8, 2019 by Matt Bach


The Intel Core i9 9990XE 14-core CPU is a special, OEM-only, no warranty processor that only select system manufacturers like Puget Systems has access to via a once-per-quarter auction. While that means that availability and pricing may end up being highly fluid, the capabilities of this processor should (on paper at least) be second to none. This is not a product for the masses, but rather a niche offering for those looking to get the absolute best of the best Intel processor.

While specs alone are not a perfect representation of performance (especially across different product families), there are a few interesting things to point out about this CPU before getting into our Lightroom Classic testing. First, it has a max Turbo Boost frequency of 5.1 GHz which means that it should perform much better than any other Intel X-series CPU in lightly threaded applications like Photoshop and many parts of Lightroom. At the same time, even if you are using all the cores, the Turbo Boost frequency only drops to 5.0 GHz which theoretically puts it at about the same performance as the Intel Core i9 9980XE in highly parallel applications. On paper, this makes the i9 9990XE a bit of a golden CPU that should match or beat any other Intel consumer or enthusiast processor regardless of the application.

In order to achieve this feat, however, this CPU draws about 50% more power than any other X-series CPU. While this obviously means that you need a beefy CPU cooling setup, you also need to have a motherboard and power supply that can provide said power.

  Core i9 9990XE Core i9 9980XE Core i9 9940X Core i9 9900K
# of Cores 14 18 14 8
Base clock 4.0 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.0 GHz 3.6 GHz
Max Turbo Boost 5.1 GHz 4.5 GHz 4.5 GHz 5.0 GHz
All-Core Turbo Boost 5.0 GHz 4.1 GHz 3.8 GHz 4.7 GHz
TDP 255 W 165 W 165 W 95 W
MSRP Auction $1,999 $1,399 $499

In this article, we are going to take a look at how the Intel Core i9 9990XE stacks up against the other Intel X-series CPUs as well as against the Intel Core i9 9900K which is currently the king of single-threaded performance. We also have a number of other articles available looking at the performance of the i9 9990XE in a range of other applications that you can view by filtering our recent articles to just show the ones about Processors.

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 Photoshop CC 2019 testing:

To thoroughly test each processor, we will be using Lightroom Classic CC 2019 (Ver. 8.1) with 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

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 Core i9 9990XE Benchmark Performance

In our Lightroom Classic benchmark, our tests are divided into three categories: Module Tasks (scrolling through images & switching modules), Bulk Tasks (importing, exporting, generating previews, etc.), 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, you can see that the Intel Core i9 9990XE's does very well, scoring about 6% faster than the other Intel X-series CPUs or about 11% higher than the Intel Core i9 9900K. However, it is very important to pay attention to the scores for the individual categories since most people value speed and responsiveness when working in the library/develop modules rather than exporting or generating previews.

In the case of the i9 9990XE, it does very well for bulk tasks like exporting and generating previews due to its high multi-core performance. In addition, it also does very well for photomerge which tends to be more single-threaded. Unfortunately, just like the other X-series CPUs it can't quite keep up with the i9 9900K in our "module tasks" benchmarks. Since this is the area we most often hear our customers wanting the best performance, that is a bit of a mark against the X-series CPUs in general - including the i9 9990XE.

Is the Intel Core i9 9990XE good for Lightroom Classic CC 2019?

While the Intel Core i9 9990XE achieved a higher overall benchmark score in Lightroom Classic than any other CPU we tested, that doesn't mean it is an automatic pick even assuming you can get your hands on it. If creating previews or panoramas is a big deal for you, this processor is excellent. If you care more about performance when navigating and using the library and develop modules, however, the Core i9 9900K is still a bit faster - not to mention much more affordable.

Because of the fairly standard performance in our Module tests, the i9 9990XE is definitely more of a luxury item for Lightroom Classic rather than something you should really try to get your hands on. There are likely a number of users who will desire the higher preview generation performance, but most users will likely have a better experience sticking with a Core i9 9900K and spending the large cost savings on more RAM, faster/larger storage drives, or other system improvements.

Intel Core i9 9990XE
With the very limited availability and power/cooling requirements of this CPU, there is no question that the i9 9990XE is a very niche product. The fact that only select OEMs can even get their hands on it should be an obvious indication that Intel doesn't intend for this processor to be used by mainstream users. This is intended for those who want the best of the best processor, no matter the hurdles they have to jump through in order to get it. And the fact is, this really is one of the highest performing all-around processors available right now.

While we only tested Lightroom Classic in this article, we highly recommend checking out our recent processor articles where we look at (or will be looking at) the performance of the i9 9990XE in Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop as well as a number of other applications.

Tags: Lightroom, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, 9990XE, 9900K, 9980XE, 9960X, 9940X, 9920X, 9900X, 9980X, 9800X
Galen Brown

Hi guys,
Just wondering about the discrepancies in the 9920x results between the 8.0 benchmark and this 8.1 benchmark. The 9920x was previously the #2 overall performer behind the 9900x, and now it's dropped behind even the 9900k? This seems like a suspiciously large change in performance compared to the change in scores of the 9940x, 9960x, and 9980x between benchmarks. Can you confirm this result? -Thanks

Posted on 2019-02-09 06:36:58

Things shift around a bit from version to version, and even Windows updates can alter the results. That said, I'm pretty sure the main difference in the results is from the module tests. To be honest, that is probably one of the most inconsistent tests since it is trying measure things that take a fraction of a second. Any sort of background task that decides to do something can throw off those results extremely easily. We try to combat that as much as we can by running those tests hundreds of times and taking the average, but even then it can fluctuate a bit.

To be honest, I'm temped to just remove those tests altogether. Unfortunately, what it tests (scrolling through images and switching between modules) is some of the most requested kinds of testing we get asked for. Right now I'm of the mind that any information is better than no information, but I'm still trying to tweak things to make the results more reliable.

Posted on 2019-02-11 21:12:21
Galen Brown

That makes sense, and good luck with the tweaks. Thanks for taking the time to respond Matt, I appreciate it.

Posted on 2019-02-11 21:33:43

You should use a larger batch of images. The errors would be far less pronounced. I also think that the i9 9900k is less powerful for bulk tasks because of the only 64GB of RAM supported. It would be interesting how a 9900x/9800x would fare against a 9900k with both having 64gb RAM. This would help me decide which route to go. In the last updates, Lightroom became very dependent by the amount of RAM. Thank you for providing such informative benchmarks. Just tweak the the test a bit and the result would be much more consistent. I wouldn't even consider less than 100 images for the test.

Posted on 2019-02-28 12:07:04

I have tried a larger batch of images, but it hasn't changed the results much. It is very strange since if I repeat those tests over and over, I get very consistent results. But if I close and re-open Lightroom, I suddenly start getting different results. Still completely consistent within each run (which is why I don't think more images will help), but inconsistent between full tests. I think it has something to do with previews or some sort of caching that isn't completely consistent. It might be as simple as previews being generated inconsistently in the background, but I have no idea why it would behave that way.

As far as RAM size, it really depends on how large your catalog is and how many changes you make in the Develop module. The testing we do doesn't need even 16GB of RAM, so from a pure performance standpoint having more RAM wouldn't do anything. RAM is really one of those things where if you need it, you absolutely need it, but having extra doesn't change much.

Posted on 2019-02-28 19:34:13

How much did ya pay for this nice 9990XE?

Posted on 2019-02-15 05:12:45

I don't know how much we are allowed to talk about the auction itself, but we paid somewhere around a 15% price premium over the Core i9 9980XE.

Posted on 2019-02-15 05:14:10
Lou Hamilton

I see that you are using 2666 memory. Would 3000 or 3200 not perform better in this system?

If it doesn't matter, then I would love to save some money and go with the 2666 memory cards.

Posted on 2019-03-27 00:11:52

Higher frequency RAM doesn't improve performance all that much - especially with Intel CPUs. AMD is a bit different and can show some performance gains, but the thing to keep in mind is that reliability tends to go down as you get into the higher frequency RAM. In our experience, if you use RAM that is above what the CPU is rated for (DDR4-2666 on most modern CPUs), reliability takes a nose dive.

So for us, we never go above what the CPU is intended to use since you don't get much in the way of real-world performance, but you increase the chances of system bluescreens.

Posted on 2019-03-27 16:44:33