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When Intel launches a new set of CPUs, the main question everyone wants to know is how much faster they are compared to the old CPUs. In this article, we will be tackling this question in terms of Lightroom performance by examining how the new Intel Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K perform compared to the previous generation Intel Core i7 6700K and i5 6600K. In addition, we will also look at a number of "High-End" Core i7 CPUs including the i7 6850K, i7 6900K, and i7 6950X.
There are a wide variety of tasks we could test in Lightroom, but in this article we will specifically be looking at:
- Import images
- Convert RAW to DNG
- Export images to JPEG
- Generate previews (1:1 and smart previews)
- Scroll through images in the develop module (with and without smart previews)
- Generate HDR Photo
- Generate Panorama
You will notice that we are only testing one task in the develop module (scrolling through images). Performance when applying adjustments or using the brush in this module is a common source of frustration for Lightroom users, but are unfortunately also nearly impossible to benchmark. There is simply no feedback provided from Lightroom we can find that can be used to time these tasks accurately enough to be meaningful. If you have any ideas on how we could benchmark these (or other) tasks, we would love to hear them in the comments section. For now, however, we are limited to testing the Lightroom tasks that we can actually benchmark.
If you would rather skip ahead to our conclusions, feel free to jump right to the conclusion section.
To see how the new Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K perform in Lightroom, we used the following configurations:
|Asus PRIME Z270-A
|Asus X99 Deluxe II
|Intel Core i7 7700K 4.2GHz
(4.5GHz Max Turbo) 4 Core
Intel Core i5 7600K 3.8GHz
(4.2GHz Max Turbo) 4 Core
|Intel Core i7 6700K 4.0GHz
(4.2GHz Max Turbo) 4 Core
Intel Core i5 6600K 3.5GHz
(3.9GHz Max Turbo) 4 Core
|Intel Core i7 6850K 3.6GHz
(3.7-4GHz Turbo) 6 Core
Intel Core i7 6900K 3.2GHz
(3.5-4GHz) 8 Core
Intel Core i7 6950X 3.0GHz
(3.4-4GHz Turbo) 10 Core
|4x Crucial DDR4-2133 16GB
|8x Crucial DDR4-2133 32GB ECC Reg. LRDIMM
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB
|Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD
|Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
|EVGA SuperNOVA 1600W P2
|Lightroom CC 2015.8
These test configurations include three different platforms along with seven CPU models. For Lightroom, we typically would recommend a quad core CPU with a high frequency since most tasks in Lightroom can not efficiently take advantage of having more cores. However, we also wanted to include some of the "High-End" Core i7 CPUs with 6-10 cores since Lightroom is sometimes used in conjunction with other applications like Premiere Pro where those CPUs are commonly used.
All of our testing was performed on 18MP images (5184 x 3456) taken on a Canon EOS REBEL T3i camera.
Starting off with simply importing images from a USB drive to the local SSD, both the Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K performed only marginally better than the old Core i7 6700K (a bit under 1% faster). However, it is worth pointing out that the new Core i5 7600K is noticeably faster (by about 6%) than the old i5 6600K. This is mostly a straight file copy task, however, so be aware that having a faster USB drive as your import drive will likely make a bigger difference than having a faster CPU.
Convert RAW to DNG
Converting from RAW to DNG gives us some very interesting results. Both of the new Kaby Lake CPUs were about 4-5% faster than their old Skylake equivalents, although this time the Core i5 7600K was noticeably slower than the i7 6700K. In fact, both of the Core i5 CPUs saw a moderate performance hit, clocking in at roughly 14% slower than their Core i7 counterparts. Some of this may be due to the slightly lower frequencies they run at, but a more likely explanation is that this task benefits from Hyperthreading which the i5 CPUs do not support.
Export Images to JPEG
Exporting images is one of the few tasks in Lightroom that benefits from having a higher number of cores, which is why the "High-End" Core i7 CPUs with 6-10 cores performed so well. For the quad core CPUs, the new Core i7 7700K and i5 7600K were both ~2% faster than the i7 6700K, although there was only a .5% difference between the two CPUs.
When generating previews, the new Core i7 7700K was about 5-6% faster then the old Core i7 6700K. Similarly, the Core i5 7600K was about 4-7% faster than the old Core i5 6600K. Just like converting to DNG, we again saw a decent benefit from the CPUs that support Hyperthreading resulting in the standard Core i7 CPUs performing about 6-11% faster than their Core i5 counterparts.
Develop Module Photo Scroll
The results for scrolling through photos in the develop module changed quite a bit depending on whether smart previews had already been created or not. Without previews, the Core i7 7700K was almost identical to the Core i7 6700K while the Core i5 7600K was about 4.5% slower. With smart previews, however, the Core i7 7700K was a bit more than 7% faster than the Core i7 6700K – although the Core i5 7600K was still about 1.5% slower.
Generate HDR Photo
Creating HDR photos in Lightroom is typically a two step process. First, Lightroom generates a preview for you to verify everything looks right, then it actually creates the HDR photo. Oddly enough, generating the preview actually takes longer than creating the HDR photo itself.
When generating the HDR preview, the Core i5 7600K performed on par with the Core i7 6700K while the Core i7 7700K was about 8% faster. The Core i7 7700K was about the same amount faster when creating the HDR photo as well, but the Core i5 7600K saw a bit of a performance hit dropping to about 8% slower than the Core i7 6700K.
Similar to creating an HDR photo, creating a panorama is also a two step process. This time, both of the new Kaby Lake CPUs was faster than the Core i7 6700K when generating the previews, but only by a fraction of a second. When creating the panorama, however, the Core i7 7700K was a decent 7% faster than the Core i7 6700K although the Core i5 7600K was about 8% slower.
If we normalize all our results to the Intel Core i7 6700K (which until now was our go-to CPU for Lightroom) and sort the CPUs from fastest to slowest, you get a great idea of how well the Core i7 7700K or i5 7600K should perform in Lightroom. Overall, the i7 7700K is about 5% faster than the i7 6700K while the Core i5 7600K is about 2.1% slower which is not very much especially considering the i5 7600K should be about 2/3 the price of an i7 6700K. If you compare the i5 7600K to the old i5 6600K, however, the 7600K is faster by a good 7.5%
While not shown very accurately in the chart above (since the results in that chart are relative to the Core i7 6700K) there is a good amount of performance difference between the two new Kaby Lake CPUs. In fact, the Core i7 7700K is on average about 8.5% faster than the Core i5 7600K.
A 5-7.5% gain in performance over the previous generation CPUs isn't terribly great, although in reality it isn't all that much less than we have come to expect over the last few years. Huge 50% performance gains from new CPUs simply do not happen anymore as we get closer and closer to the limits of current manufacturing technologies. Is this small gain in performance worth upgrading from an i7 6700K to an i7 7700K? That is really only something you can answer for yourself, but probably not. Is it worth using an i7 7700K if you are already planning on purchasing a new system? Considering it shouldn't be any more expensive than the old i7 6700K we would definitely say "yes!"
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