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Lightroom Classic CC 2019: Intel X-series 2018 Refresh Performance

Written on November 13, 2018 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

Over the last few years, both Intel and AMD have been steadily adding more and more cores to their processor lineup. Similarly, the team at Adobe developing Lightroom Classic have been making great strides improving Lightroom's ability to leverage CPUs with higher core counts - especially in tasks like importing and exporting photos.

However, the new Intel Core X-series processors breaks the trend as they don't have any more cores than the previous generation. Intel did decide to drop the odd-ball 6 core model, but the standard lineup still ranges from 8 to 18 cores. Instead of a core count increase, these CPUs just have a slight bump in frequency as well as a few other minor architecture updates. At first glance, these processors are underwhelming, but with Lightroom Classic constantly changing and evolving, it will be very interesting to see how these new models fare in the latest version of Lightroom Classic CC 2019.

One thing we will note is that we currently only have access to the i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, and i9 9980XE models. Because of this, we will be focusing on how much faster these new models are compared to the previous generation. Once we get the full lineup, we will publish a more in-depth roundup article include all the X-series models as well as other CPUs like AMD Threadripper.

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:

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

In our current Lightroom Classic benchmark, we divide the tests into three categories: Bulk Tasks (importing, exporting, etc.), Module Tasks (scrolling through images & switching modules), and Photo Merge. The scores shown in the charts 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 Lightroom Classic CC 2018. 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.

To start, we will look at the result for bulk tasks which is where Lightroom Classic is currently best at leveraging higher CPU core counts. What was interesting here is that while the new X-series CPUs are faster than the old models, we seemed to hit a wall at a score of ~150 points. We are not sure why this is, but it appears that from the new 10-core on up, each CPU performed about the same as the previous generation Core i9 7980XE. This is an excellent result for the i9 9900X (which is 23% faster than the i9 7900X), but not quite so much for the i9 9980XE as it is no faster than the i9 7980XE.

For the Module Tasks and Photo Merge, however, the Intel 9th Gen i9 9900K remains king. The new X-series models close the gap somewhat, but if you are looking for the absolute best performance when working with individual images, these CPUs are still just a hair behind.

Are the 2018 Intel Core X-series Processors good for Lightroom Classic?

If you work with a large number of photos, the new X-series CPUs (and the i9 9900X in particular) are excellent for Lightroom Classic as they give terrific performance when importing, exporting, and generating previews. If you are looking for the best performance when working in the develop module, however, they are still a bit slower than the Intel 9th Gen i9 9900K - but not by much.

Intel Core X-series 2018 refresh i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, i9 9980XE Lightroom Classic Benchmark Performance
Overall, the new 2018 X-series CPUs from Intel are pretty good for Lightroom Classic, but it is definitely the case where more expensive is not necessarily better. In fact, from our testing we saw little reason to use the i9 9920X and i9 9980XE as they were both overall slightly slower than the i9 9900X. Even with the i9 9900X, we only saw at most a 15% performance gain (in bulk tasks like exporting) over the more moderately priced Intel 9th Gen i9 9900K. Due to this, whether you should use the i9 9900X or i9 9900K (confusing naming, we know) is largely going to come down to simple budget constraints.

Compared to the previous generation X-series processors, these new CPUs are definitely faster, but by how much varies quite a bit depending on the model.

Core i7 9800X vs Core i7 7820X for Lightroom Classic

The new i7 9800X is slightly faster than the i7 7820X in Lightroom Classic, but we only measured about a 5% difference which is on the edge of being noticeable. Compared to the less expensive i9 9900K, however, the i9 9800X will be slightly slower so in most cases we do not recommend using this CPU for Lightroom Classic.

Core i9 9900X vs Core i9 7900X for Lightroom Classic

The i9 9900X saw one of the largest performance gains over the previous generation that we tested. Compared to the i9 7900X, the i9 9900X should be about 13% faster on average in Lightroom Classic, or 23% faster in tasks like exporting. Overall, the i9 9900X is our recommendation for the best possible Lightroom Classic performance as it out-performs the higher-end X-series models.

Core i9 9920X vs Core i9 7920X for Lightroom Classic

The i9 9920X saw a very reasonably 9% performance gain over the i9 7920X. However, the lower-end i9 9900X is actually faster than even the i9 9920X so for most Lightroom users this model is not worth it's increase in price.

Core i9 9980XE vs Core i9 7980XE for Lightroom Classic

At the top of the Intel X-series stack, the i9 9980XE is only about 1.5% faster than the previous generation i9 7980XE in Lightroom Classic. Once again, compared to the i9 9900X, the i9 9980XE is not really any faster so in most cases the 9980XE won't be the best choice.

If you are interested in how these new Intel Core X-series Processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of articles for Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and many other software packages.

Tags: Lightroom Classic, 9900K, 8700K, 7820X, 7900X, 7920X, 7980XE, 9800X, 9900X, 9920X, 9980XE
Jakub Badełek

Hi Matt, it was cool to see you in Smarter Everyday video ;) I have a question about the Bulk Task results. How come 9900K has such (relatively) poor results? especially when comparing to X-series 8-core process from Intel, which have same number of cores/threads but lower clocks (and older architecture, I think?)?

Posted on 2018-11-14 10:49:33

That is a really good question, and I wish I had a solid answer for! I'm honestly not sure, but I can make a few educated guesses. The big thing the i7 9800X and i7 7820X have going for them is more memory channels (4 vs the 2 on the i9 9900K), but that doesn't seem like something that would impact things like export times. We do always max out the memory on each platform as well, but again I can't imagine how that would make a difference since we shouldn't be using anywhere near even 64GB of RAM.

The only other thing I can think of is that the 7820X/9800X (and every other X-series CPU) support the AVX-512 instruction set while the consumer i5/i7/i9 CPUs like the i9 9900K don't. If Lightroom is able to take advantage of AVX-512 for exporting and generating smart previews, that would explain most of the performance difference since AVX-512 theoretically allows for about twice the performance of AVX2. We didn't see exactly twice the performance with the X-series CPUs, but given that the 9900K is higher frequency than the 7820X/9800X, it actually lines up pretty well. So I can't confirm that that is what is causing it (the Lightroom developers would have to say for sure), but that is my best guess.

Posted on 2018-11-14 17:58:33
Jakub Badełek

Thanks for the reply. I did some digging and noticed interesting thing on Intel's Ark website: https://ark.intel.com/produ... - 7820x has 16MB L3 cache while 9900K has 16MB <smartcache>. Now, I'm not sure what exactly SmartCache means and how different it is from typical L3 cache... but maybe Cache subsystem has some meaning here. Would it be possible for you to do some tests at same clock speeds? this would require down-clocking of the 9900K purely for curiosity purposes :D

Anyway, you explanation makes much sense and is very interesting!

Posted on 2018-11-15 12:37:25

I'm pretty sure all the Intel CPUs are "smart cache" these days, Intel just isn't consistent in their labeling on the Ark page.

We likely won't do any downclocking testing since, like you said, it would just be for curiosity sake and we already have a big list of resting we want to do that has much more real world implications

Posted on 2018-11-15 15:09:22
Jakub Badełek

Makes sense, keep up with a good and useful ;) work!

Posted on 2018-11-15 15:40:37
Matthew Fitz

From a value proposition I'm curious to see the results for the 9700k and 9600k. It seems looking at mhz and core count like those CPU's combined with similar hardware (memory, GPU, drives) would be very competitive and allow you to save even more money off the 9900k and 8700k. However it's hard to really account for loss of hyper threading without benchmarks as some cases its slightly negative and others its a decent boost. Performance per $ is relevant even if you have plenty of money to spend as your upgrade cycle can be shortened with the saved money compared to spending $2000 on a cpu and extending the time you need to use the system to recoup the investment.

Posted on 2018-11-18 18:40:08

We have results with the 9700K at https://www.pugetsystems.co.... We are also planning on doing a big CPU roundup once we get all the new X-series models in that will likely include all the "k" varients of the 9th Gen line. Not exactly sure when that will be, but likely sometime in early December.

Posted on 2018-11-18 18:45:33