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Lightroom Classic CPU performance: Intel Core X-10000 vs AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen

Written on November 25, 2019 by Matt Bach


Lightroom Classic has been a very interesting application to test recently since not only has Adobe been making some terrific improvements over the last few years, but AMD's recent launch of their 3rd generation Ryzen CPUs brought about some very significant performance gains. In fact, if you look back to our testing when the 3rd Gen Ryzen CPUs launched, they completely removed the need for a HEDT (High End Desktop) processor for Lightroom Classic - even for tasks like exporting.

However, today both Intel and AMD are launching new HEDT processors that have the potential to change what CPU is best for Lightroom Classic. On Intel's side, the new Core X-10000 series processors are not significantly faster than the previous generation, but Intel has cut their prices nearly in half which may potentially be enough to make them worth it over AMD's Ryzen processors.

On AMD's side, the new Threadripper 3rd Gen CPUs are slightly more expensive than earlier models, but their raw performance is expected to be quite a bit better. In the past, Threadripper was not a great choice for Lightroom Classic, but spoiler: these new 3rd Gen Threadripper CPUs are absolutely amazing for many tasks in Lightroom Classic.

Intel Core X-series vs AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen Lightroom Classic Review

In this article, we will specifically be examining the performance of these new CPUs in Lightroom Classic, although on our article listing page, we also have a range of similar posts examining other applications. If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion.

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Test Setup

Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:

AMD Ryzen Test Platform

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X ($749)
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X ($499)
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X ($399)​​​​​​​

CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel 9th Gen Test Platform

Intel Core i9 9900K ($499)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i7 9700K ($385)​​​​​​​

CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z390 Designare
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen Test Platform
CPU AMD TR 2990WX - DLM on ($1,799)
AMD TR 2970WX - DLM on ($1,299)
AMD TR 2950X ($899)
AMD TR 2920X ($649)
CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2
Motherboard Gigabyte X399 AORUS Xtreme
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
Intel X-9000 Series Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 9980XE ($1,979)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i9 9960X ($1,684)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i9 9940X ($1,387)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i9 9920X ($1,189)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i9 9900X ($989)​​​​​​​
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12DX i4
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen Test Platform
CPU AMD TR 3970X ($1,999)
AMD TR 3960X ($1,399)
CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2
Motherboard Gigabyte TRX40 AORUS Xtreme
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel X-10000 Series Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 10980XE ($979)
Intel Core i9 10940X ($784)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i9 10920X ($689)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Intel Core i9 10900X ($590)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12DX i4
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Shared Hardware/Software
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1903)
Adobe Lightroom Classic 2020 (Ver. 9.0)
PugetBench V0.8 BETA for Lightroom Classic

*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of November 11th, 2019

A few notes regarding the hardware and software used in our testing:

First, due to the fact that many of the platforms we are testing support different speeds of RAM depending on how many sticks you use and even whether those sticks are single or dual rank, we have decided to standardize on using four 16GB sticks of whatever the "middle" supported RAM speed is (rounding up when applicable). This means that the latest Ryzen, Threadripper and X-series platforms are using DDR4-2933 while the Intel 9th Gen and previous generation Threadripper/X-series platforms are using DDR4-2666.

The second thing to note is that we are using our (hopefully) soon to be released Lightroom Classic Benchmark. We still have a bit of work to do before we can make it available for you to download, but we hope to have it published within the next few months.

Benchmark Results

While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each test, we also like to provide the individual results for you to examine if you want to. 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 scores that our benchmark calculated.

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.

Intel X-10000 series vs AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen Lightroom Classic Performance Benchmark

Lightroom Classic Benchmark Analysis

A lot is going on in the chart below, so before getting into it we wanted to provide a key regarding the color scheme.

  • Light blue = Intel consumer CPUs (9th Gen)
  • Dark blue = Intel HEDT CPUs (X-9000 series)
  • Dark blue with glow - NEW Intel HEDT CPUs (X-10000 series)
  • Light red = AMD consumer CPUs (Ryzen 3rd Gen)
  • Dark red = AMD HEDT CPUs (Threadripper 2nd Gen)
  • Dark red with glow - NEW AMD HEDT CPUs (Threadripper 3rd Gen)

If there is one thing that is abundantly clear, it is that AMD simply dominates when it comes to performance in Lightroom Classic. While the drop in price for Intel's new X-series CPUs is great, the fact that the AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen CPUs are simply faster at an even lower price point pretty much makes them moot for a workstation that is optimized for Lightroom Classic.

On top of this, for users that regularly have to process huge numbers of photos, the new AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen processors are almost absurdly fast. They are only about on par with the Ryzen CPUs when it comes to active tasks like scrolling through images and switching modules, but they shine when it comes to exporting and other "passive" tasks. In fact, for exporting and building smart previews, the Threadripper 3960X is more than 2x faster than the new X-series CPUs, and 5-6x faster than the previous generation Threadripper 2990WX!

To get across how significant this is, let's take a close look at the results from the "Exporting 50x JPEG - 42MP .ARW" test:

AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen 3960X 3970X Lightroom Classic Export Performance

Keep in mind that this chart is showing the raw result in seconds, so a lower result indicates better performance.

Looking at this individual result, it really starts to hit home just how impressive the new Threadripper CPUs are. Where the Threadripper 3960X takes just 30 seconds to export 50 .ARW images, the Intel X-series 9980XE/10980XE as well as the AMD Ryzen 3950X take about twice as long, coming in at about a minute to complete the same task. The Core i9 9900K is another doubling in time (a little under 2 minutes), while the previous generation Threadripper 2970WX takes about 2.5 minutes. Now imagine if you were not exporting just 50 images, but 500, 1000, or even more at one time. At that point, waiting for the export to finish no longer means taking a "go out to get lunch" break, but rather a "go pour a cup of coffee" break.

The only odd thing with the new Threadripper CPUs is the fact that the 3960X 24 core ended up being consistently faster than the 3970X 32 core. This isn't a typo or erroneous data either, we spent quite a bit of time verifying these results to make sure there wasn't a stealth Windows update that was applied between tests, or that we didn't accidentally change the RAM speed or other aspect of the system. This is something we definitely want to look into more, but as it stands, the Threadripper 3960X is absolutely terrific for Lightroom Classic, but there is no reason to spend more money on the Threadripper 3970X.

Are the Intel X-10000 Series or AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen CPUs better for Lightroom Classic?

For Lightroom Classic, it is all about sticking with AMD right now. The new Intel X-series CPUs will certainly get the job done, but the AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen processors are overall faster and less expensive. And while the higher price point of the new AMD Threadripper CPUs will put them out of reach for many users, their frankly absurd performance when exporting and generating smart previews will likely make them well worth the investment for many of Lightroom Classic's "power" users.

The only bad thing we can say about the new Threadripper CPUs is that there is no reason to spend more money on the 3970X 32 core model. The 3960X 24 core is simply faster in Lightroom Classic, not to mention its obviously lower price tag.

It is rare that our CPU recommendations are as clear-cut as this, but whatever the magic is between AMD and Lightroom Classic, we want to see more of it! Even without picking out individual tests, the overall massive leap in performance from AMD's 3rd Gen Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs is impressive. When we end up running our benchmark over and over trying to figure out how the results could possibly be accurate, that just goes to show how impressive AMD's new Threadripper CPUs are.

Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for Lightroom Classic and the relative performance will vary widely between different applications. If your workflow includes other software packages (we have similar articles for Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, and many others), you need to consider how the processor will perform in all those applications. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles to keep up to date on how all of these software packages perform with the latest CPUs.

Looking for a Lightroom Classic Workstation?

Puget Systems offers a range of workstations that are tailor-made for your unique workflow. Our goal is to provide the most effective and reliable system possible so you can concentrate on your work and not worry about your computer.

Configure a System!

Tags: Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, Intel vs AMD, AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, Intel X-10000, Lightroom CLassic
Камал Гаджиакаев

omg! amd stop plz! stooop! (no)

Posted on 2019-11-25 18:54:00

Love your reviews. I'd be great to be able to download those results (as a table) to open in Excel so that they can be filtered. I find that the results are skewed for the work I do. I never export images out through Lightroom or create HDRs; both of which greatly benefit the high core count CPUs. So it'd be great to separate those out to see the results of what remains. Thanks for your hard work!

Posted on 2019-11-25 23:57:49

Sure: https://drive.google.com/fi... . We have some really cool plans for how to make examining the individual results much better, but probably won't have that implemented for 6 months to a year. For now, an image is the best way we've found (formatting for mobile pretty much breaks any sort of large table), but I completely agree that it isn't that great. Soon, though, it will be awesome (I hope...)

Posted on 2019-11-26 00:04:56

Thanks heaps Matt for the link. I just requested access as the link isn't public. Yeah a table that large on a mobile would be a challenge. Looking forward to see what you guys create! David.

Posted on 2019-11-26 01:57:25

You should be able to download it, or just make a copy of it (file, make a copy). Rather not give out write access just so that if anyone else wants to use it, it stays the same for them.

Posted on 2019-11-26 02:02:21

Yeah I understand Matt. The thing is, I can't download it at all, even as a guest because Google asks for permission. It does that with me logged into my Google account or not.

Posted on 2019-11-26 02:08:27

Huh, actually looks like I can't set it to share outside of our organizations for some reason. Went ahead and manually approved your access.

Posted on 2019-11-26 02:08:35

Legend Matt! Thanks a lot.:)

Posted on 2019-11-26 02:09:31

Super helpful reviews here, thanks a ton.

Are the "Export 50x JPG" results comparable to saving RAWs directly from Camera Raw (opened from Bridge, if it matters)? That's my only real bottleneck that ever causes me to sit around and wait right now on my 7700K. It seems like the same functionality but I don't want to draw conclusions based on that if I'm way off.

Posted on 2019-11-26 17:17:31

Lightroom Classic should be using the same Camera Raw as bridge, but I don't know if it is a truly 1:1 comparison. The Lightroom team has made some pretty crazy multi-threading improvements for exporting, and I don't know if those are Lightroom-specific or if they made their way to bridge as well.

Posted on 2019-11-26 19:06:20

Thanks for the info. From looking at this and other previous benchmarks it looks like a 3960X would be almost 5x as fast as my 7700K at exporting, which is bananas.

Posted on 2019-11-26 19:35:17

Yea, it is pretty nuts how good AMD is for exporting. We're still not 100% sure why either - there is not a clear reason why they should be as much faster than Intel than they are. I'm a bit worried that it is actually a bug with Intel that will get patched - although in that case both Intel and AMD will end up with terrific performance which is a win-win!

Posted on 2019-11-26 19:37:44

That would definitely be the ideal case. I'm probably not going to bother upgrading until mid-2020 so maybe the landscape will be different by then.
It's also interesting how much better the 3960X is compared to the 3970X. Curious if an update from Adobe would improve that comparison (or with the mighty future 64c/128t flagship surely on its way).

Posted on 2019-11-26 19:48:10

This is absolute bananas! Holy Moly!
However i wonder, compared basically to 9900K(s), i've read that 9900 are more snappy, due to higher clock speeds propably.
What happens to other tasks that are not pushing the cpu to 100%, but do take time?
Some of them are applying lens corrections or other adjustments to a batch of photos. For example try to make changes in the develop module to 10.000 raw-photos at the same time, it does take a while and cpu is not even at 15-20%. In photoshop, try to apply mass scripts to 10.000 psds, and it takes hours while cpu is not pushed at all.

Posted on 2019-11-26 21:11:31

The problem with clock speed is that you really can't compare between Intel and AMD, or even even between different generations of processors from the same brand. As an example, Photoshop is very lightly threaded so the max Turbo clock is pretty much the most important thing, yet the AMD Ryzen 3900X (4.6GHz max Turbo)is technically about 1% faster than the 9900K (5.0GHz max Turbo). Comparing clock speeds is really only valid if you are looking at CPUs within the same brand and family.

The 9900KS has the exact same max Tubro as the 9900K, so in those tasks you described, it is probably going to perform pretty much the same. Maybe a bit higher since some things will be able to use 2-3 cores rather than just 1, but I wouldn't expect more than a few percent which is going to be hard to tell in the real world.

Posted on 2019-11-26 21:42:27
bill bane

I continue to hope you might add a benchmark for "roundtripping" large images from Lightroom to Photoshop (and perhaps using, say, a Luminar or topaz add-in as a smart filter/object), and then returning to Lightroom for its DAM functionality.
This presents very different system requirements since the two apps share cache memory, and since LR and/or Photoshop also seem to have memory leaks associated with roundtripping.

With my 32GB system on Windows, I have found frequent and severe problems clearly related to memory usage and easily correlated in Window's Resource Manager.

In particular, I am unclear how the 3960x vs 3950x would perform with roundtripping.

Posted on 2019-11-30 16:07:16
David Lake

Hey Guys,

I always appreciate reading your reviews. As a photographer and a system builder for the last twenty-seven years, your information has been valuable to help me make decisions. I typically upgrade every other year, often picking up stuff on Black Friday sales. Then rotate my old machine down to one of my other two workstation uses. Currently using a delided and overclocked 7820x @4.8GHz all cores locked.

Just a note... I've been reading on the new ryzen 3000 Series chips, which it looks like I may be moving to for the first time in about 20 years of using Intel exclusively. You guys used really slow RAM for what those chips need. AMD recommends 3600 at a minimum and possibly a little bit faster based on their Infinity Fabric, which is the connecting part between the cores. Considering how well those chips are outperforming their Intel counterparts (dollar-for-dollar) already with 'slow' RAM, it would be interesting to see what kind of bump they get from faster RAM.

Posted on 2019-12-03 01:32:57

Hi David! RAM is a messy and confusing situation at the moment, across many CPUs - but AMD's in particular. They have shown performance with 3600 and even higher speeds of memory in their marketing materials, but their official specs for memory support are as follows:

1 DIMM per channel (single or dual rank): 3200MHz
2 DIMMs per channel (single rank): 2933MHz
2 DIMMs per channel (dual rank): 2666MHz

This applies on the new "3rd Gen" processors in both the Ryzen and Threadripper families, just with Ryzen having two memory channels and Threadripper having four. Some of our earlier benchmarks included multiple speeds in that range, to see what sort of difference it made to performance, but for this last round we settled on the middle of the road (2933MHz) as a solid speed to test at. Going up or down from there, as needed to hit the official supported speeds for any given number of memory modules, would only have a slight impact on real-world performance.

As a system builder we choose to stick with manufacturer specs for things like this to ensure the best stability and reliability for our users, but for folks who build their own systems and are comfortable with added risk and/or cost then certainly running at higher RAM speeds could boost performance a little more :)

Posted on 2019-12-03 17:17:18
David Lake

Thanks for the detailed response. My 3900x parts should be here next week with 2x16GB approved GSkill Neo 3600c18 RAM. I will run a few tests and report back. Curious to see how it performs at say: 2800, 3200, & 3600. Upgrading from 7820x to get gains in smart previews and export - which is where the new Ryzens really shine.

I tried to download your LR Classic benchmark utility as listed on your website, but it says it is not available. Any idea when that will be made available? Would be nice to run that on this new build and compare it to your results using faster RAM. My system will have all Samsung EVO NVMe (separate program and data drives), and a 1080ti.

Posted on 2019-12-04 15:02:17