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Photoshop 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 Photoshop 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. 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:

For the testing itself, we will be using Photoshop CC 2019 (ver. 20.0.2) along with version 18.10 of our Puget Systems Photoshop CC Benchmark which is currently available for public download. This benchmark tests a range of general tasks (open/save, resize, content aware fill, etc.), filters, as well as panorama photomerge. Full details on the benchmark are available on the benchmark download page.

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

Photoshop CC 2019 Core i9 9990XE Benchmark Performance

Our Photoshop benchmark (which is available for public download) tests a large number of tasks that we split into 4 categories: General, Filter, Photomerge, as well as GPU-accelerated which contains results from both the general and filter tests. With the exception of Photomerge, we also run each test in both 8 bits/channel and 16 bits/channel mode. These results all combine into a single "Overall Score" that represents the overall performance of the system in Photoshop.

If we sort by the overall score, you can see that the Intel Core i9 9990XE's out-performs the other Intel X-series CPUs by about 10% - likely due to its high maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 5.1 GHz. A 10% increase may not sound exciting by itself, but it is enough to allow it to effectively match the Intel Core i9 9900K which is the current king in terms of raw Photoshop performance.

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

In terms of raw performance, the Intel Core i9 9990XE is easily one of the fastest processors currently available for Photoshop CC 2019. The (much) less expensive Core i9 9900K is technically a fraction of a percent faster, but the i9 9990XE has a number of advantages that might make it worth the effort and higher cost for some users.

First, it allows for 128GB of system RAM which can be extremely useful for Photoshop users that work with especially large projects. There are new 32GB RAM modules coming that are should allow for 128GB of system RAM even with the Core i9 9900K, but general availability is still unknown at this time.

Second, while the i9 9900K is an excellent CPU (and one of my personal favorites at the moment), it can fall behind the X-series processors in software that can effectively utilize the higher core counts. If you are one of the people who regularly use not only Photoshop but applications like Premiere Pro as well, the i9 9990XE should be able to give you top performance no matter what application you are using.

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 Photoshop 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 Lightroom Classic, as well as a number of other applications.

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