Like most software developers, Adobe maintains a list of system requirements for Lightroom that can be used to help ensure the hardware in your system will work with Lightroom. However, most "system requirements" lists tend to cover the required hardware, not what pc hardware would actually give the best performance. In addition, some lists can be outdated, list old hardware revisions, or simply outright list sub-optimal hardware.
Because of how inconsistent those lists can be, we've taken the time to perform testing to determine what hardware runs Lightroom the best. Based on this testing, we have come up with our own list of recommended hardware for Lightroom.
When comparing two CPUs that use a similar architecture, there are two main specifications that define the capability of the CPUs:
- The frequency is how many operations a single CPU core can complete in a second (how fast it is).
- The number of cores is how many physical cores there are within a CPU (how many operations it can run simultaneously).
Whether a high frequency or high core count CPU is better depends on how well a program is designed to take advantage of multiple CPU cores (often referred to as multi-threading). In the case of Lightroom, the only actions we have tested that benefits greatly from having a high core count CPU is exporting photos to a disk and generating 1:1 previews. Tasks like importing photos can only utilize a single CPU core while everything else is somewhere in the middle. Facial recognition and creating panorama images are only very lightly threaded while converting to DNG, creating HDR images and generating Smart previews are moderately threaded. Because of this, a CPU with 4-6 cores and a high operating frequency should give you the best overall performance in Lightroom.
Due to the moderate multi-threading efficiency of Lightroom, a Dual CPU system is not recommended. While most actions simply will not show any benefit from having two physical CPUs, there are some actions like creating HDR and panorama images that will actually take ~5% longer with two CPUs compared to one.
Video Card (GPU)
Lightroom CC and Lightroom 6 are the first versions of Lightroom to support GPU acceleration although currently this support is only for performing image editing actions in the Develop module. Adobe has also been adding more and more GPU acceleration support to their other products, however, so while a high-end GPU is not required to get the benefits of GPU acceleration in Lightroom it may be a good idea to get a slightly faster GPU than you think you need to help future proof your system.
Lightroom is also very light on VRAM requirements, so a card with more than 2GB of VRAM should be more than enough. However, if you work with large images in Photoshop or use a 4K monitor it is a good idea to use a card that has 4GB of VRAM if possible. Workstation video cards are not required for Lightroom, although if you will be using a 30-bit monitor you will need a NVIDIA Quadro video card as GeForce cards currently do not support 30-bit display output.
Although it is likely that Adobe will increase GPU acceleration support in Lightroom in the future, the current demand on the video card is actually relatively light. We recommend either a GeForce GTX 960 4GB or GeForce GTX 970 4GB.
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on the size and number of images you will be working with, we generally recommend a minimum of 16GB for all our systems. In our experience Lightroom rarely, if ever, will need more than 16GB although if you use the machine for other things like editing large images (750MB+) in Photoshop you may need 32GB or more of system RAM.
For Lightroom, ECC memory (which can automatically detect and fix minor memory errors) is not required. ECC is almost never a bad idea but ECC memory has a small amount of overhead that makes it very slightly slower than standard RAM and also requires an Intel Xeon processor.
Storage (Hard Drives)
With the falling costs associated with SSDs, we almost always recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that will host your OS and Lightroom itself. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot and launch applications many times faster than any traditional hard drive. However, SSDs are still more expensive than traditional drives per GB and do not greatly impact image import or export times so for image and long term storage we recommend having a secondary traditional hard drive in addition to a primary SSD.
In our testing, the speed of your image storage drive does not have an impact on the time it takes to import or export images. For exporting images to a disk we tested hard drives that had write speeds ranging from 80MB/s all the way up to 1200MB/s and the time it took to export the images only varied by about 2% between the fastest and slowest drive. Even the fastest system will be limited by the CPU when exporting images long before it is limited by the hard drive.
While testing the time it took to import images to Lightroom, we found that the speed of the drive only made a difference when the images were being imported from a very fast (120MB/s) USB 3.0 drive. Even then, it only made a significant difference when we were using an old Western Digital Raptor drive that was only capable of write speeds of 80MB/s. Using any modern drive (which ranged in performance from 172MB/s to 1200MB/s) the time it took to import the images was pretty much identical. Really, what makes the difference when importing images is not so much the speed of the drive you are importing to, it is the speed of the drive/card you are importing from. So save money by using a traditional hard drive to store your images and spend that money on a new, faster SD card for your camera.
Recommended Systems for Lightroom
High-powered, quiet system
- High frequency Intel Core i7 CPU
- Supports up to 64GB of RAM
- NVIDIA GeForce/Quadro video card
- Default of 10 total USB ports (1 USB 3.1, 1 USB 3.1 Type-C, 8 USB 3.0)
Based on the Puget Systems Serentiy, this quiet system has the fastest CPU available for the majority of Lightroom tasks and supports up to 64GB of RAM.