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Premiere Pro CC 2019 CPU Roundup: Intel vs AMD vs Mac

Written on December 13, 2018 by Matt Bach


Across all the workstations we configure, sell, and support, Premiere Pro is one of the more difficult software packages to design a system for. Not only does the resolution and codec of the media you work with affect how much raw performance you need, it can also vary based the kind of effects you use, the number of video layers, etc. In addition, there is no single piece of hardware that is the most important. The CPU is the biggest single piece, but the choice of GPU, RAM, and storage are also critical to having a well-tailored and efficient video editing workstation.

In addition to being one of the more important choice, getting the right CPU is also one of the more complicated decisions. Unlike applications like Photoshop and After Effects where there is a relatively clear "best" CPU, in Premiere Pro there are reasons to use a wide range of processors depending on your budget and what you are doing. To help you decide which CPU to use for Premiere Pro, today we will be looking at a wide range of processors from Intel and AMD including the Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, and AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen CPU lines. In addition, we will be comparing them to a current Mac Pro 12 Core and iMac Pro 14 Core for those that are curious about how much faster a PC workstation can be compared to a Mac.

One thing to note is that we will not be including results for any previous-gen CPUs in this article. At first, we were going to include them but the charts and tables soon got out of hand. Instead, if you want to know how these CPUs compare to previous generations, we recommend checking out the following articles:

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:

Shared PC Hardware/Software
Video Card: 1-2x NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1803)
Mac-based PC Test Hardware  
System: Apple Mac Pro (12 Core) Apple iMac Pro (14 Core)
CPU: 12-core
2.7GHz 30MB of L3 cache
14-core Intel Xeon W
2.5GHz Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
RAM: 64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC
Video Card: Dual AMD FirePro D700, 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM Radeon Pro Vega 64, 16GB of HBM2 memory
Hard Drive: 1TB PCIe-based SSD 1TB SSD
OS: MacOS Mojave (10.14.1)

To thoroughly benchmark Premiere Pro CC 2019 (ver. 13.0.0) on each processor, we used a range of codecs across 4K, 6K, and 8K resolutions:

Codec Resolution FPS Bitrate Clip Name Source
H.264 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 80 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
H.264 LongGOP 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 150 Mbps Provided by Neil Purcell - www.neilpurcell.com
DNxHR HQ 8-bit 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 870 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
ProRes 422 HQ 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 900 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
ProRes 4444 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 1,200 Mbps Transcoded from RED 4K clip
XAVC S 3840x2160 29.97 FPS 90 Mbps Provided by Samuel Neff - www.neffvisuals.com
RED (7:1) 4096x2304 29.97 FPS 300 Mbps A004_C186_011278_001 RED Sample R3D Files
CinemaDNG 4608x2592 24 FPS 1,900 Mbps Interior Office Blackmagic Design
[Direct Download]
RED (7:1) 6144x3077 23.976 FPS 840 Mbps S005_L001_0220LI_001 RED Sample R3D Files
RED (9:1) 8192x4320 25 FPS 1,000 Mbps B001_C096_0902AP_001 RED Sample R3D Files

Rather than just timing a simple export and calling it a day, we decided to create six different timelines for each codec that represent a variety of different type of workloads. For each of these timelines we tested both Live Playback performance in the program monitor as well as exporting via AME with the "H.264 - High Quality 2160p 4K" and "DNxHR HQ UHD" (matching media FPS) presets.

Lumetri Color

Heavy Transitions

Heavy Effects

4 Track Picture in Picture

4 Track MultiCam

4 Track Heavy Trimming

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.

Live Playback - Benchmark Analysis

The "Score" shown in our charts is a representation of the average performance we saw with each CPU for that test. In essence, a score of "80" means that on average, the system was able to play or export our projects at 80% of the tested media's FPS. A perfect score would be "100" which would mean that the system gave full FPS even with the most difficult codecs and effects.

Premiere Pro CC 2019 Live Playback CPU Roundup - Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro

Live playback in Premiere Pro is one of those times where there is great benefit to having a more powerful CPU, but there is also a clear point of diminishing returns. With a modern CPU, this appears to happen right when you get up to a ~$350 processor. After that point, you are only talking about a ~10% difference in live playback performance even if you go up to the highest-end CPUs currently available. Because of this, there are really only a handful of things we want to point out:

First, if you are considering Threadripper there is little difference between the current models for live playback. There is a slight advantage to using the 2950X over the 2920X, but no reason to use the more expensive 2970WX or 2990WX. Both the 2920X and 2950X fare pretty well against the similarly priced Intel CPUs, although there is minimal difference between the 2920X and the less expensive Core i9 9900K.

On the Intel side, things are a little bit confusing due to how good the Intel 9th Gen Core i9 9900K is for live playback. Even though it is much lower cost, the i9 9900K beats or matches the Intel X-series 9800X, 9820X, and 9900X models. In fact, you would probably need to go up to the Core i9 9940X before you really noticed much of a difference for live playback. However, the higher-end Intel X-series CPUs like the 9960X top the chart, so if you are looking for the best possible performance, the Intel X-series is the way to go.

The Apple-based systems did about as well as we expected. The aged (but still current) Mac Pro 12 Core is way at the bottom of the chart and is out-performed by even the Intel Core i5 9600K. The iMac Pro 14 Core did better as long as it was in OpenCL mode, but even then, it was still slightly slower than the Intel Core i9 9900K. To be fair, the GPU used in the Mac systems is significantly less powerful than the RTX 2080 Ti we used in our other tests, but we are using the highest-end GPUs currently available in both the Mac Pro and iMac Pro.

AME Export - Benchmark Analysis

Premiere Pro CC 2019 Exporting CPU Roundup - Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro

Moving on to the exporting results with Adobe Media Encoder, the results are slightly different than they were for Live Playback, but are overall very similar.

Again, starting with AMD Threadripper, the 16 core 2950X was actually the fastest model, beating the more expensive 2970WX and 2990WX models by a slight margin. Surprisingly, the 2920X actually dropped a bit with both the Core i9 9900K and iMac Pro 14 Core now slightly beating it.

For Intel, things are largely the same with a couple of exceptions. This time, the Core i9 9900K firmly out-performed the 8/10 core Intel X-series CPUs by 6-23%. On the less positive side, however, the i5 9600K did quite a bit worse than we expected and was beat by even the Mac Pro 12 Core. Still, Intel continues to top the chart with the i9 9960X and i9 9980XE beating the top Threadripper models by about 13%.

On the whole, the Mac systems fared a bit better in this test. The Mac Pro 12 Core still does poor, but the iMac Pro 14 Core was right in the middle of the pack. Of course, you are paying a hefty premium for the iMac Pro so it certainly is not a very cost-effective solution. Just as an example, the iMac Pro we are using costs $8,000 while one of our workstations with an Intel Core i9 9980XE and otherwise similar specs costs about $6,000 while being ~30% faster. Of course, the iMac Pro includes a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but for $2,000 you can easily get a very nice monitor (or pair of monitors) and still have plenty of money left over.

Intel vs AMD vs Mac for Premiere Pro CC 2019

For Premiere Pro, there is no clear winner as far as Intel vs. AMD goes, although in many ways Intel has the edge. At the lower-end, the Ryzen 2700X and Core i7 9700K are pretty even both in terms of cost and performance. Across most of the rest of the pricing stack, however, Intel tends to have the price/performance lead with the exception of the ~$900 CPU mark where the AMD Threadripper 2950X beats similarly priced - and several more expensive - Intel CPUs.

PC vs Mac, however, is a much easier question to answer. Compared to the iMac Pro we tested, you can easily up to 16% higher performance at a much lower cost with a PC. Against the aged (but current) Mac Pro, you are looking at a 75% increase in performance with a Core i9 9980XE which, in even our high-end workstations, would still come out to being the less expensive option.

Premiere Pro CC 2019 Benchmark CPU Roundup - Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro

Overall, choosing the right CPU for Premiere Pro is a bit of a complicated topic and depends heavily on how much CPU power you both need and can afford. Of course, there are other factors such as Thunderbolt support (which is not officially available on AMD), but in terms of pure price and performance, our current CPU recommendations are:

  • <$500: Intel Core i7 9700K 8 Core or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 8 Core (~33% faster than the Mac Pro)
  • ~$500: Intel Core i9 9900K 8 Core (14% faster than <$500 CPU)
  • ~$900: AMD Threadripper 2950X 16 Core (8% faster than ~$500 CPU)
  • ~$1,400: Intel Core i9 9940X 14 Core (1.5% faster than ~$900 CPU)
  • ~$1,700+: Intel Core i9 9960X 16 Core (5% faster than ~$1,400 CPU)

To be honest, we almost skipped the $1,400 price point entirely since a 1.5% performance gain with the i9 9940X over the TR 2950X is pretty trivial. However, there are two reasons why we decided to keep it in. First, there are some relatively common instances where the i9 9940X does better than the overall score indicates - particularly with 4K H.264 150mbps media. Second, Threadripper doesn't fare well in other Adobe applications like After Effects and Photoshop. Because of this, you could see much better overall system performance with the i9 9940X if your workflow also includes those (or similar) applications.

If you are curious how the latest Intel and AMD processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of articles looking at CPU performance in Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, and many other software packages.

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Tags: Premiere Pro, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro, 9900K, 9700K, 9600K, 9980XE, 9960X, 9940X, 9920X, 9900X, 9980X, 9800X, 2990WX, 2970WX, 2950X, 2920X, 2700X