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Apple vs ASUS – Lightroom 4 Benchmark and Hardware Tests

By Pye Jirsa on December 11th 2012



As many of you know, we recently announced that we just received the latest versions of the editing machines that we use within the studio. We showed them all off within our previous article titled Our Favorite Laptops for Creative Professionals. On the Windows side of things, we have the ASUS G75VW-DS73, a gaming laptop that we have turned into our primary image editing machines. On the OSX side of things, we have the Apple MacBook Pro 15″ Retina.

They are both top of the line machines, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to do some real life benchmark tests comparing their overall image editing performance within Lightroom 4. Not only to see which machine is quicker overall, but also to see how the slightly different setups in hardware impacted image editing speed. I think you will find the results quite interesting, so read on!

Testing Limitations

Note that the following tests are real life comparisons designed simply to test the computational power of each machine within Lightroom 4. Performance in other applications will vary (especially in video intensive applications).

17″ ASUS G75VW-DS73 Primary Hardware Specifications

Processor: Intel i7-3630QM CPU @ 2.4Ghz
Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M w/ 3GB Dedicated Video Memory
Hard Drives: Dual Crucial M4 512GB SSDs in RAID 0 (striping/performance configuration)
OS: Windows 8 (64 bit)
Cost: $2,360 (Online no taxes paid, price after upgrading to new M4 HDs and after selling the factory HDs)

15″ Apple MacBook Pro Retina Primary Hardware Specifications

Processor: Intel i7-3820QM CPU @ 2.7Ghz
Video: NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M w/ 1GB Dedicated Video Memory
Hard Drives: 768GB Flash Storage
OS: OSX Mountain Lion
Cost: $4,058 (Online paid California Sales Tax, unit fully factory upgraded)

Testing Procedures

For both machines, we transferred the same exact test catalog of 400 RAW 10 Megapixel images shot from a Canon 5D Mark III to the Desktop.

On both machines, we set the default Lightroom 4 Cache folder to 50GB in size, and placed the Cache folder within the test catalog folder as well.

Both systems were running with operating system + Lightroom 4 installations only to maximize performance.

Once the machines were setup, we proceeded to run timed tests in the following areas for all 400 images within the catalog.

1. Rendering of 1:1 Previews
2. Export of print resolution images
3. Export of web resolution images

Once each set of actions were completed for the entire batch, we took the total amount of time for each action and divided it by the number of images (400) to determine the average speed per image.

What We Were Expecting

We know that Lightroom 4 is a processor driven application. It really doesn’t use any form of graphics card acceleration. In addition, it doesn’t really take advantage of installed RAM beyond the “recommended” amount of 4-8GB (as per Adobe’s Optimize Lightroom’s Performance web page).

The ASUS came with a 3rd generation Intel i7 2.4Ghz processor. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to upgrade that chip further at the time of purchase. We upgraded the MacBook Pro to a 3rd generation Intel i7 2.7Ghz processor. So, we knew that we would see a performance increase on the processor side of things given that the MacBook Pro has a beefier processor. However, given that the ASUS has dual Crucial 512GB Sata 3 SSD drives in a single drive RAID 0 performance configuration, we were expecting that it would make up for the slightly slower processor.

Testing Results


What We Discovered

Our final results were actually quite surprising. The overall difference in the performance RAID 0 setup on the ASUS didn’t make a single bit of difference when it came to Lightroom 4. We discovered that beyond a standard SSD, Lightroom 4‘s bottleneck is simply going to be the processor itself.

This was a major bummer since this basically means that Lightroom 4 really isn’t optimized to utilize extra RAM, any form of 2D graphics acceleration, RAID setups, etc. Beyond the standard “recommended” setup, the only thing that is going to really boost performance is simply a faster processor.

We noted that benchmarks comparing the Intel i7-3630QM vs the Intel i7-3820QM from common sites like CPU Benchmark and Notebook Check show a performance difference from 10 to 18% depending on the computations performed. This is the exact amount of difference we noted in overall performance between these two machines through the various Lightroom 4 tests performed.

Overall, we noted that in rendering 1:1 Previews, the Apple was approximately 18.5% faster than the ASUS completing the entire set in 9.8 minutes compared to 11.6 minutes. We noted that in exporting for print sized images; the Apple was approximately 12.5% faster than the ASUS completing the set in 10.8 minutes compared to 12.1 minutes; and lastly in exporting for webs sized images the Apple was approximately 14.35% faster than the ASUS completing the entire set in 7.9 minutes compared to 9.1 minutes.

Regarding actual image editing performance, it was very difficult to notice an actual speed difference when it came to editing the photos in the Develop Module. Both machines felt equally responsive when moving and editing from image to image.

Overall Conclusion

The Apple MacBook Pro Retina was indeed quicker with its faster i7 processor. However, given the tests that were performed, it is safe to assume that both machines would have performed equally well in this situation if they simply had matching CPUs (or if we simply hadn’t upgraded the MacBook Pro‘s CPU). We found that all of the additional hardware in the ASUS made no difference in overall performance since Lightroom 4 was unable to utilize it. A very unfortunate and disappointing finding.

For most people, a 15% difference in speed will not be extremely noticeable. To put it into perspective, what would normally take 10 minutes for the Apple to process, would take around 11.5 minutes for the ASUS to process. When it came to image-to-image editing in the Develop Module, the speed differences in the machines was not noticeable by our test users. The overall processing difference was only noticeable and measurable when performing timed batch functions over large amounts of images.

It is certain that Apple was the faster machine in this test. However, most of us exporting or rendering previews over large amounts of images (1000+) aren’t going to wait around for our machine to complete the task. These tasks are generally performed at night, during lunch, on a spare machine, etc. Hence a modest 15% difference in speed wouldn’t be noticed as the user wouldn’t generally be waiting for these actions to complete.

Either way, both machines are extremely fast. For overall value, we use the ASUS machines for image production. At around $2k – $2.2k per unit, filling the office with 7 of these machines has only cost us around $15,000. With that same number of workstations, we would be looking at around $25,000 – $30,000 using Apple MBPs.

Of course, there are other benefits and drawbacks to each of these platforms. All of which are beyond the scope of this article (and some are highly debatable). In the end, each individual will have to decide on their preferred operating system and whether or not it is worth nearly double the price for the modest boost in performance. I use both my ASUS and my Apple laptops on a daily basis and I love both machines, each for different reasons.

Hope you all enjoyed!

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Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Agenious

    Thanks for testing lightroom performance, not many do. How about doing another one with the 13″ MBP versus 13″ MBA

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  2. JimmySchaefer

    first off I don’t know where you guys are getting your prices cause i have the asus g75 and it only cost me $1500.00. Also the Ram can be expanded by the user for $50.00 more to 32 GB cause it has 4 ram slots in it.  Oh and for 150 bucks more you can pop in a SSD 250GB in the second hard drive bay. lol    I love how these photography sites don’t know shit about computers and their specs let alone cost.    The only Issue I’ve ever had with the Asus is, ITS NOT CLASSIFIED as a laptop, ITS A DESK TOP Replacement.  It only gets about 2 hours on battery and is meant to be plugged in the entire time.   The second thing is you will get a better screen on the Mac. Apple knows how to make their screens good. Im not saying the Asus Screen is bad, but images wont pop like they do a Apple screen, Maybe because the screen is build for gaming and 3D gaming on the Asus.  

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    • Pye

      Jimmy stop trolling please, you are spreading very incorrect information. Also if you curse, your comments will be moderated/deleted, no need for that here. The G75VW-DS73 (this particular model) retails for at least $1,857 from any reputable dealer (Amazon, B&H, NewEgg, etc). Whether you paid less cause you got it from eBay, second hand, a non-reputable dealer, or are just talking about a different version of the machine, I have no idea. Second, just because the computer has 4 slots, does’t mean you can expand to 32GB. ASUS’s own website states the motherboard supports up to 16GB. Third, we don’t use 250GB SSDs because they are too small for still/video editing, hence we used dual Crucial M4 512s at $380 a pop. Last, in our previous article we already talked about the ASUS being a mobile workstation/desktop replacement. The only part of your comment that is accurate is that the Apple does indeed have a better screen when it comes to image editing/resolution. Thanks

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  3. Dmitry Dulepov

    I do not see any surprises here. When doing these tasks, CPU is what matters. SSD or not will matter to some degree but computational power is needed to actually process images. RAM would not play a big role (unless the system starts swapping out). As soon as you have enough RAM to fit Lightroom, it will not use more than it needs for an image. What do you expect Lightroom to do with more RAM? It is not Photoshop, which needs more and more RAM with each layer.

    So get the fastest CPU. If you got that, get SSD. Get enough RAM to fit Lightroom into it. That’s all.

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  4. rose55

    Where do you purchase the Asus from where you can upgrade it? It looks like on their site that they don’t sell it directly but other sites that I’m seeing it on there are not upgrade options and the specs are lower than what you described here.

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    • Pye

      Hey Rose, to get specific specs you need to look at the exact model number. The G75VW comes in several different versions. The highest end version of the machine, the one that we tested, is the DS73. We linked to all of the G75VW models available on Amazon so people can choose the version with the specs they want. 

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    • rose55

      when I look at the DS73 on amazon it doesn’t have the 16GB of RAM, it only has 12 and it has slower processor than what you posted here.

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  5. Mark

    $4000 for a laptop.  That’s quite a price premium for a very modest performance gain!  Seriously, for the same money (or less) you could buy a REALLY well-equipped Windows desktop (which you could overclock the hell out of) AND one of your ASUS laptops.

    And, this is coming from someone who owns a 15″ MBP Retina.

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    • Dmitry Dulepov

      It depends on your goals. I used Windows for 10 years and than went for Mac. I am on Mac for the past 4 years. I never needed to tune, overclock, clean up, reinstall or anything like that. It just works and allows me to concentrate on my job instead of fighting Windows all the time.

      I think going Mac was the best investment I made for my work during all these years. May be yours is different.

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    • Mark

      I have no strong bias for either platform — I actually own and use both Windows and Mac OS platforms, and they are both effective tools for my purposes.  

      Based solely on the test results, which showed what I consider to be a very modest performance benefit on the Mac, I felt the price differential was more than I would be willing to pay for that additional level of performance.  That’s just my opinion; others may have a different perspective on price-performance.  All I was saying was this — for a heavy compute-intensive problem, especially one that benefits from parallelism (which I believe this is), an overclocked Windows desktop with a lot of cores is a very cost-effective way to produce lots of compute power.  If I also needed portability, I could use the leftover cash on one of the Asus laptops.

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  6. Arunkumar

    You are also comparing between windows and mac os… try installing windows in the macbook and perform the same….. i believe it will be slower….

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    • Pye

      Yeah, we will try that in a later test after we get bootcamp on there. Thanks for the suggestion =) 

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    • Omar Sierralta

      Overall, Windows is still a VERY SLOW contender for OSX… And because of that I think this test needs a deeper testing baseline. Also you need to test the exact same configuration the Retina MBP has in a Windows enviroment. But just seeing the price, meh, a windows laptop/machine will always win because of budget. PC fanboy for gaming, MAC fanboy for work here, and sometimes I feel I work faster on my gaming PC than in my macbook pro :P

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  7. JesseDavis

    I understand this may have been a ‘whats available’ test, but equal processors should have been tested.

    It looks to me that they would have been equal. It would all fall down on money at that point.

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  8. Jan Erik Edvartsen

    I currently own a five-year old Win 7 machine, that I bought just to play a very demanding game, waaay back in 2007, named Crysis. But since grown up a bit (or DOWN hehe) – I’ve moved to the Nintendo Wii instead for gaming.

    I’m thinking of switching to an 27″ iMac. I’ve been a closet Mac fan my whole life, really. Feels really good to come out and admit it. I’m too scared to tell my parents yet though :P

    To me, it’s the look and feel of the system that’s so aesthetically appealing. Windows looks less refined and more cluttered and uneven. For instance, some icons haven’t been updated since Windows 98. Like the Task Manager I think.

    Also I love the minimalistic design and the fonts better on OS X than on Windows. You know, preferential stuff like that.

    Everything is much better integrated, in my opinion. It’s a seamless ecosystem – albeit a non-proprietary closed one at that.

    Love how iCloud seamlessly syncs between the iPhone, iPad, iMac and so on :)

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  9. steven

    Factor money into the analysis now.  Cost per image (during this test) of the Asus is $5.90, vs. $10.15 for the MBP.  Even factoring the saving of time @$100/hour, you would have to process 96,000 images to make the cost benefit pan out.  And this is coming from a Mac fanboy.

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    • Pye

      Yeah, as a studio, for overall efficiency we are better off having 2 producers on 2 machines vs 1 faster producer on a slightly faster machine. Cost is indeed a very large factor.

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    • Jens Melgaard

      That is however only factoring the clearly measurable…

      I am no Mac fan in any sense, but I got to hand it to them this time, the Retina display does really make a difference in productivity in my field, but that is in “application development”. I am not sure what the higher resolution means to one dealing with photos.

      Visual Studio (yup running Windows on mine) takes up a great deal of screen space, on regular Dell 24″ 1920×1200 monitors, I have to use 2 panels. I actually use 3 for web-development.

      Obviously in this case, the ASUS + external monitors will still be somewhat cheaper, however that isn’t really portable.

      But I really hope that the rest of the industry catch up on how important the monitor and it’s resolution can be to some, only being able to choose mac right now doesn’t sit well with me…

      Unfortunetly, measuring how much more productive you get as a person on different setups isn’t an easy task, it also differs far more with the task and the person.

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  10. Max Leitner

    still OSX has a better creative workflow. the OS is just better designed.

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    • Pye

      I think that is definitely an arguable point. I use both systems, for workflow I still prefer Windows, and Windows 8 has been pretty awesome so far. Very nicely refined. I think this really just comes down to preference and experience. 

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    • Mike Penney

      I have used both too…. mac wins in every category, period….

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    • Bryan Curtis

       really poor comparison. Your are paying a premium for the retina display but yet you don’t mention image quality. I realize this was about speed but you got money tied up in that retina. Also why factor in California sales tax on the mac book but online no sales tax for the Asus. Me thinks your price difference is not as great as you’d like to convince yourself

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    • YSL

      I’ve yet to see that to be true in any capacity. Mac laptops are rugged, and the added cost for their quality of construction make sense in that regard.  I’m all for Mac laptops.  But OSX’s superior workflow efficiency is advertising-driven drivel. That Mac fanboy attitude is so outdated and 2003, it’s actually laughable.   

      Can I ask, though, Pye, why you don’t use desktops?  I understand the desire to have a couple of mobile machines for tethering and such, but if you’re supplying an entire office, you could build equivalent PCs for around 1/2 of that.  And then tack on some 27″ IPS panels that are actually color-accurate and still be cheaper than those laptops.  This is a sincere question, I assume that I’m missing some aspect of your workflow that requires laptops.    

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  11. Bryan Peabody-Pumpernickel Gia

    Why compete when you can COMPLETE?

    Introducing the Asus Mac.Is that a 17″ Mac with 32gigs ram, 3gigs nVidia 560m & an intel Hexacore processor @ 3.2ghz? Yes. Yes it is.

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