Hardware Recommendations for Lightroom Classic CC
Like most software developers, Adobe maintains a list of system requirements for Lightroom Classic CC that can be used to help ensure the hardware in your computer system will work with their software. However, most "system requirements" lists tend to cover only the very basics of what hardware is needed to run the software, not what hardware will actually give the best performance. In addition, sometimes these lists can be outdated, show old hardware revisions, or simply contain sub-optimal hardware.
Because of how inconsistent these lists can be, here at Puget Systems we run and publish our own set of extensive hardware benchmarks to ensure that the systems we sell are perfectly tailored for Lightroom. Even better, you don't have to take our word for what to buy, you can browse and examine all our testing in detail in our Lightroom hardware articles. Based on all our testing, we have our own list of recommended pc hardware for Lightroom.
The processor (or CPU) is one of the most important pieces of a Lightroom Classic workstation. While GPU acceleration is gaining traction, right now your choice of CPU is usually going to make a much larger impact on overall system performance. However, be aware a CPU that is theoretically more powerful is not always better since there is a limit to the number of cores that Lightroom Classic can effectively take advantage of. In many cases, spending more money can actually result in worse performance so it is more important to get the right CPU over a more expensive one.
What CPU is best for Lightroom Classic?
Currently, the best all-around CPU for most Lightroom Classic tasks is the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X. Especially for tasks like exporting images, this CPU is significantly faster than any processor available from Intel.
However, if performance when culling (scrolling through images, switching between modules, etc.) is a primary concern, the Intel 9th gen CPUs like the Core i9 9900K is slightly faster. For users in this situation, we can configure an Intel-based system by request.
Do more cores make Lightroom Classic faster?
With the launch of Lightroom Classic CC, Adobe made great strides in being able to effectively utilize higher core count CPUs. However, having a high number of cores (more than ~8) typically only helps with a few tasks like exporting and generating previews. In most cases, the CPU frequency and underlying architecture makes a bigger impact than the raw number of cores.
Does Lightroom Classic work better with Intel or AMD CPUs?
At the moment, AMD's Ryzen processors have a lead in terms of overall performance. The Intel 9th gen CPUs can be faster for culling (scrolling through images, switching between modules, etc.), but AMD CPUs are significantly faster for tasks like exporting and builting previews.
Should I use a Xeon CPU for Lightroom Classic?
In the past, Xeon CPUs were more robust than their Core series counterparts. Today, however, there is very little functional difference between the two Intel product families for workstations. In addition, Xeon CPUs are almost always clocked slightly lower than the Core i7/i9 CPUs which means that you will be giving up a small amount of performance to gain a set of features that are typically only useful for servers.
Full testing results available in our article:
Lightroom Classic CPU Roundup: AMD Ryzen 3, AMD Threadripper 2, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series
Recent Lightroom Classic CPU articles:
Adobe has been making increasing use of the GPU over the last several years, but currently it is not a major consideration for Lightroom. 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 as it is extremely likely that Adobe will increase GPU acceleration support in Lightroom in the future
What GPU (video card) is best for Lightroom Classic?
Lightroom Classic cannot effectively utilize a high-end GPU at the moment, but we still recommend a mid-range GPU as many other related application like Photoshop do use the GPU more heavily. For most users, a GTX 1060 or RTX 2070 are a solid choice. The exception to this is the "Enhanced Details" feature which can greatly benefit from having a more powerful GPU.
How much VRAM (video card memory) does Lightroom Classic need?
Since Lightroom Classic does not heavily use the GPU, VRAM is typically not a concern. If you have a 4K display we recommend having at least 4GB of VRAM, but all the video cards we currently offer for Lightroom have at least 6GB of VRAM.
Does Lightroom Classic need a Quadro card?
Lightroom Classic can use a Quadro card, but for most users a GeForce card is the better option. Not only are GeForce cards much more affordable, they are able to match or beat the performance of the Quadro cards at a fraction of the cost. Typically, the main reason to use a Quadro card is to get support for 10-bit displays, but Lightroom does not currently support that feature.
Can Lightroom Classic use the new RT and Tensor cores that are on the RTX cards?
RT and Tensor cores are extremely new for the consumer market, and at the moment Lightroom Classic cannot leverage either of them. The RT cores (which are designed specifically for ray tracing) are unlikely to be used in the future since Lightroom Classic does not have much ray tracing capability. The Tensor cores (which are designed for AI & machine learning), however, may eventually be used based on the Adobe Sensei technology.
How do I get 10-bit display support for Lightroom Classic?
10-bit displays are unfortunately not supported in Lightroom right now. If you want to add your voice to requesting this as a feature, you can vote for the feature request at Lightroom: Add 10-bit/channel color display support.
How much RAM does Lightroom need?
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.
While the CPU may be what does all the processing, if your storage isn't able to keep up it doesn't matter how fast it is. What makes storage complicated is the fact that not only do you have to deal with the various types of drives available today, you also want to have them configured in a way that will maximize performance in Lightroom.
What type of storage drive should I use for Lightroom Classic?
There are three main types of drives you might use for a Lightroom workstation: SSD, NVMe, and the traditional platter drive. Of these three, traditional platter drives are the slowest but are extremely affordable and available in much larger capacities than SSD or NVMe drives. Due to this, they make excellent long-term storage drives, but depending on the size and resolution of your images, they may not ideal to work directly off of.
SSDs are several times faster than a platter drive but are also more expensive. These drives are excellent for a wide range of tasks such as holding your OS and applications and storing photos and projects you are actively working on.
NVMe drives come in two flavors (M.2 and U.2), but either one will be significantly faster than even an SSD drive. They are about 30% more expensive than an SSD, but in return are up to five times faster! However, in most cases you will not see much of a performance increase with an NVMe drive since a modern standard SSD is already fast enough that it is rarely a performance bottleneck. These drives can be used as an OS and application drive to make your system boot and launch programs a bit faster, but in most cases they are a luxury item for Lightroom.
What storage configuration works best in Lightroom Classic?
While you could get by with just a single drive, we recommend at least a two drive configuration depending on your budget and desired performance level:
- Primary Drive - OS/Software (SSD) - Includes your operating system and the base Lightroom installation. An SSD is highly recommended as it will greatly improve how fast the OS and programs startup, but there is usually not much of a performance benefit to upgrade to a faster NVMe drive.
- Secondary Drive - Project Files (Platter/SSD/M.2 NVMe) - If possible, it is a good idea to keep your photos and catalogs on a secondary drive. For most users even a platter drive should be more than fast enough, although a SSD tends to be snappier and will often smooth out your workflow.
Can you work directly from an external drive?
Technically, you could keep your photos on an external drive and edit directly from that drive. However, this is one of the most common causes of performance and stability issues we hear about from our customers. We highly recommend having a large enough internal drive so that you can copy all your files to a local drive before working on them. External drives are terrific for backup and archiving, but not ideal to work off of.
Full testing results available in our article:
Lightroom 2015.8 Storage Performance Analysis
Recent Lightroom storage articles:
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.