Lightroom 4 Performance Struggles Continue

Despite several new updates to Lightroom 4, Adobe still has yet to make significant improvements upon the dismal performance that we have been plagued with. Working professionals that have moved to Lightroom 4 for its enhanced developing capabilities, have had to deal with substantial reductions in editing efficiency as Lightroom 4 can be 2-3x slower than Lightroom 3.

Software and Hardware Solutions

We have been working hard on finding solutions to improving Lightroom 4’s overall speed throughout the Lightroom 4 A to Z and Workflow System Workshops. We previously discussed 10 Tips on Improving Lightroom’s Speed and Performance as well as a Module Hack, both of which provide tips on improving speed without hardware upgrades.

From our ASUS vs Apple Lightroom 4 Performance Tests, we also were able to see first hand how well Lightroom 4 is able to utilize hardware resources. We learned that while Lightroom 4 can benefit from additional RAM and an SSD, the core speed is primarily dependent on simply the CPU.

Since then, we have been testing different Intel CPUs to see how much performance gain could be had. We figured that if Lightroom 4 was primarily CPU driven, the problem could be solved if enough money were thrown at it. After all, in the end, we could just upgrade to a Dual Intel Xeon system couldn’t we?

Instead, what we found was rather disappointing.

Our Findings

After extensive testing, the performance gains provided from different Intel CPUs was really only noticeable during Rendering Previews and performing Exports. When it came to performance lag during image editing, one CPU was really as good as the next. The lag was still there, and seemed virtually identical. When comparing our desktop built with one of the fastest consumer based CPUs (the Intel i7-3770 @ 3.4Ghz) to our ASUS G75VW-DS73 with a significantly slower mobile CPU (the Intel i7-3630QM @ 2.4Ghz) the image to image develop lag was still present, and still quite noticeable.

So, we thought, let’s just solve our problems, and build a dream machine featuring Dual Xeon processors. The idea was to build a system using 2x business/server-class Intel Xeon E5-2660 @2.2Ghz each. The price of just the motherboard and the two chips would have been over $3,000. But, for larger studios, the savings in efficiency would be well worth the cost.

We begun working with Newegg to stand behind this “dream machine build.” We wanted them to simply build out the unit and allow us to test the machine prior to committing $5k for 4 additional production machines. From our past tests, our primary concern was that Lightroom 4 simply does not have the under-the-hood coding sophistication to completely utilize available resources.

Today, we cancelled the build with Newegg. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with this idea. We found a forum thread on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom forum where Lam of Lam Photography, tried a similar build.

Even with Dual Xeon E5-2630s @ 2.5Ghz each, 64GB RAM, an SSD RAID and a dedicated Nvidia GTX680, Lightroom 4 continued to run quite poorly.


So that’s it folks. Don’t look to expensive upgrades, because the results are going to be disappointing. Our best option is to make our voices heard on the feedback forums. Adobe needs to update the Lightroom core engine to support additional CPU threads, RAM and even GPU acceleration where possible. Hopefully, we aren’t going to be waiting until Lightroom 5 for this problem to be resolved.