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If you regularly follow our content, you may have noticed that several months ago we published a range of CPU comparison articles looking at Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and many other applications. Unfortunately, Lightroom Classic was not something we were able to test at that time due to two primary factors:
- Our benchmark was not as good as we wanted it to be and we wanted some time to further develop it.
- We discovered an issue with Intel Hyperthreading and AMD SMT that causes low performance for some tasks.
The good news is that we finally have our benchmark updated to the point that we are comfortable resuming testing. Our new test process is just an improvement on the old and adds testing for Sony .ARW along with vastly improved testing for "active" tasks like scrolling through images and brush lag.
On the flip side, the Intel Hyperthreading (HT) and AMD SMT issue are still very much present – you can read the details about it in our support post Hyperthreading & SMT causing low performance in Lightroom Classic. We have reported the issue to all the relevant parties, but we are not sure how long it will take for a permanent solution to be put in place. Since that is up in the air, we decided to go ahead with this CPU roundup article since our testing uncovered some very interesting results.
Because the HT/SMT issue is so dramatic – it almost doubles export times in some cases! – we will be basing the majority of our conclusions with HT/SMT disabled in the instances that it improves performance. Doing this does not improve performance with every CPU, however, so we are going to clearly mark in the charts when the results are with HT/SMT off. In addition, we will have a separate table in the "Benchmark Results" section that has the results with HT/SMT enabled on every CPU that supports it.
In this article, we will primarily be looking at how well the new Ryzen 3600, 3700X, 3800X, and 3900X perform in Lightroom Classic. Not only will we include results for a few of the previous generation Ryzen CPUs, but also the latest AMD Threadripper, Intel 9th Gen, and Intel X-series CPUs.
If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion.
Test Setup & Methodology
Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:
|AMD Ryzen Test Platform|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
AMD Ryzen 5 3600
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U12S|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA|
|RAM||4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)|
|AMD Threadripper Test Platform|
|CPU||AMD TR 2990WX (DLM on)
AMD TR 2970WX (DLM on)
AMD TR 2950X
AMD TR 2920X
|CPU Cooler||Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte X399 AORUS Xtreme|
|RAM||8x DDR4-2666 16GB (128GB total)|
*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of July 2nd, 2019
While most of our PC test platforms are using DDR4-2666 memory, we did decide to upgrade to DDR4-3200 for the AMD Ryzen platform which is different from our past testing where we used DDR4-3000 for Ryzen. The reason behind this is simply that previously, we did not have Ryzen fully qualified as an entire platform and were not comfortable running the RAM beyond the official specifications. Now, however, we have and are currently planning on offering DDR4-3200 for our customers once JEDEC 3200MHz RAM is readily available so we will be doing our testing with that speed of RAM.
We did do some testing comparing DDR4-2666 to DDR4-3200 on both Intel and AMD CPUs, but the only place it measurably increased performance was when importing and exporting images. This does still mean that our testing is a bit biased in favor of Ryzen since we decided to stick with DDR4-2666 for the Intel and AMD Threadripper platforms, but as you will see in the final results, that extra performance in a couple of tests is not really going to change our conclusions so we are not too worried about it.
For each platform, we used the maximum amount of RAM that is both officially supported and available at the frequency we tested. This limits the Ryzen platform to 64GB of RAM while the other platforms had 128GB, but since our Lightroom Classic benchmark never needs more than 32GB of RAM to run, this does not affect performance at all.
The benchmarks we will be using are the latest version of our (as yet unreleased) Lightroom Classic benchmark. Full details on the benchmark are available at:
While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each test, we also wanted to provide the individual results. If there is a specific task that is a hindrance to your workflow, examining the raw results for that task is going to be much more applicable than the total scores.
As a reminder, due to the HT/SMT performance issue in Lightroom Classic, our analysis from this point forward will be done with HT/SMT disabled whenever it results in a higher overall score. If you want to compare the scores between each CPU with HT/SMT enabled when supported, the second image below includes those results.
Feel free to skip to the next section for our analysis of these results if you rather get a wider view of how each CPU performs in Lightroom Classic.
Lightroom Classic Benchmark Analysis
One last reminder: due to the HT/SMT performance issue in Lightroom Classic, our analysis from this point forward will be done with HT/SMT disabled whenever it resulted in a higher overall score.
Overall, the new 3rd generation AMD Ryzen processors are a clear winner. On average, the new 3rd generation Ryzen processors were about 20% faster than a similarly priced Intel 9th gen processor.
However, if you really dig into the results, there are really two primary tasks where Ryzen blows away Intel that is causing the higher overall scores: exporting and building smart previews. In these tasks, the Ryzen 9 3900X is about 80% faster than the Core i9 9900K while the Ryzen 7 3700X/3800X are about 55% faster than the Core i9 9700K. On the "low" end, the Ryzen 5 3600 ranges from 70% to more than 2x faster than the Core i5 9600K! In fact, that means that the Ryzen 5 3600 is faster than even the Core i9 9900K for these two tasks!
These are absolutely amazing results, but it is worth pointing out that for most of the "active" tests, such as scrolling through images and switching between modules, the Intel 9th gen processors are a bit faster than AMD. The only exception to this is our new brush lag test where AMD holds a firm lead. All this means is that if you don't have a problem with longer export times and don't often use smart previews, Intel is likely to still feel a bit "snappier" in Lightroom Classic.
As far as the Intel X-series and AMD Threadripper processors go, there honestly isn't much to talk about. The X-series CPUs did fairly well for the passive tasks, but outside a few specific tests, none of them were able to fully match the Ryzen 9 3900X. If you only use Lightroom occasionally, they will certainly do the job, but definitely not optimal. At the same time, the AMD Threadripper CPUs are just overall not a great fit for Lightroom, especially the higher-end "WX" models, so we would recommend avoiding them if possible.
Are the Ryzen 3rd generation CPUs good for Lightroom Classic?
Absolutely! The 3rd generation Ryzen processors are terrific for Lightroom Classic and were on average about 20% faster than a similarly priced Intel 9th gen processor. And in some cases – primarily exporting and building smart previews – the Ryzen CPUs get close to twice the performance! You may want to skip over the 3800X since the 3700X performs almost exactly the same, but all the other models are great choices.
Whether you are looking for the best performance per dollar, or best overall, the 3rd generation Ryzen processors are currently it. The only caveat is that for many of the active tasks in Lightroom Classic (scrolling through images, switching between modules, etc.), the Intel 9th gen processors do still hold a slight lead. So, if your workflow involves culling through thousands of images, but only exporting a handful of them, there is an argument to be made for using an Intel 9th gen processor.
Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for Lightroom Classic. If your workflow includes other software packages (We have articles for Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, etc.), you need to consider how the processor will perform in all those applications. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles for the latest information on how these CPUs perform with a variety of software packages.