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lightroom-4-performance News & Insight

Lightroom 4 Users, Don’t Go Upgrading Your Hardware Quite Yet

By Pye Jirsa on March 20th 2013


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.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Nice article.

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  2. Luc Thibau

    I just tried LR5 in combination with LRTimelapse from Gunther Wegner to make a timelapse movie from my 6 weeks visit to Iceland. I have about the “fastest” iMAc on the market ( 27″ – 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 and 16GB of RAM in it ) and the rendering of the jpg’s takes forever…

    It’s really NOT understandable that Adobe doesn’t take the Timelapse community serious on this matter. On the contrary, they “forgot” to put in the render option in the develop module !!!!!!!! ( CAN U IMAGINE ???)
    Good that Gunther is a smart guy and solved the problem by creating a plug in in his software that takes over this procedure, BUT with an UNSEEN BETTER quality !!!

    Check out ;

    Adobe still has to come from far. So the ussue entered by you guys here is STILL UNSOLVED in LR5 !

    All the best,

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  3. ksmith517

    So glad I found this article. I’m already frustrated with the lag in Lightroom 3 and the drain it creates if I am using it and Photoshop simultaneously. No way am I going to give myself more frustration!

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  4. Julie

    Thanks for the article! I was/am so frustrated with the lag using LR4 that I have been thinking of upgrading but I will just wait now and deal best I can.

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  5. Mate

    That’s True. Code needs to be changed. I am running dual Xeon CPU on SSD with 24GB RAM and still there is only a few % utilization of CPU and RAM. No need to pay big$ for LR4 is still slow as on my old MacBook Pro

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  6. rob

    Lightroom 3 not good enough? if its 2 to 3 times faster , then is Lightroom 4 worth it.

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  7. rickster21

    Great article, I spent significant funds on my windows desktop and macbook pro, and was disappointed with no real performance gains on either. I thought maybe the RAM sticks were bad, or my SSDs weren’t good enough, but this clears things up.
    I even tried running LR4.4RC and still no real improvements.
    Really hope this gets Adobe’s attention.

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  8. Sam Jost

    I’ve just upgraded my computer to a modern System sporting a Xeon E5-1650 and it just made about 10-20% difference from the previous one.
    I’m so not impressed! Lightroom is not able to use all CPU cores and Adobe would be well advised to revamp the Image processing engine. I don’t care about exporting images speed, I just want to work fluently.
    But being a computer programmer myself I do know that proper multicore usage is a tough challenge, so I don’t really expect this to happen until LR5 (and I’m not even sure about then).

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  9. Janne Hämäläinen

    I’m using double Xeon machine and while the performance boost is obvious compared to my old Core Duo machine, I was hoping that all the tools would work smoothly. Most of them are fine, but still there are hickups and lags. To me most notable and usable boost came to image exporting (NEF->Jpeg). Anyway I agree with others that this kind of software shouldn’t be this performance hungry.

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    • Janne Hämäläinen

      Oh and I rather take dull UI (compared to lightroom’s gray custom one) if that helps to boost performance.

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  10. Joey Duncan

    I stopped using LR4 because of it’s uhhhh “performance issues.” To me it comes down to bad code. And it very well may be performance VS compatibility on Adobe’s part, which i can’t fault them for. But still I feel like it’s 2004 and I’m trying to use Pinnacle software to edit video. Its obvious when you use the program, HW performance is not the issue, and “throwing money” at the HW isn’t a solution, and should have been concluded so early on. When you have code that makes things run slow, faster HW won’t fix it. Also, I’m wondering what HW this is able to utilize in the first place? What are the RAM limits, how many cores and will it USE HT, just because you have it doesn’t mean it will use it. What about GPU processing and cache VS memory placement. if there is a 2GB scratch disk like in PS, how much memory is it really using. I realize this is a “retail” software so they set these limits for compatibility but maybe they need to have a “PRO” version that specifically sets high requirements like a full dedicated GPU, 64 BIT OS, At least this many cores and memory etc. (as well as recommendations like SSD) So that the “adults” can play.

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    • Tam Nguyen Photography

      I really don’t understand the idea of using scratch disk as a replacement for RAM if we have more than enough RAM. If I recall correctly, HDD access is around 6 million times slower than memory access. And yes, I agree with what you said there.

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    • kenyee

      Sometimes code is written to write to temp files. If you tell the software to write to a ramdisk for the temp directory, it’ll go faster.

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  11. Tam Nguyen Photography

    Dammit I was gonna upgrade my rig to having 24 GB. I mean, I have an Intel i7-960 that runs at 3.8 GHz (OC), 12 GB of triple-channel RAM, SSD, and nVidia GTX 275. So I guess no need for more?

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    • Pye

      beyond 8GB RAM and a basic SSD, there won’t be much performance difference. Even with that upgrade, the speed boost will be modest. Lightroom isn’t built to handle large amounts of RAM, doesn’t have GPU acceleration, so anything beyond a basic dedicated card won’t make a difference.

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    • Tam Nguyen Photography

      I love that Adobe’s been completely ignoring this issue that we’re a bunch of crazies talking nonsense.

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    • Joey Duncan

      No, this is also a horrible way of thinking. Your system is pretty much maxed out. Almost NO program you buy is going to use 24GB. Or a “rig” as you call it.

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  12. PaulJay

    Lightroom needs processing on GPU power. On the moment this is not the case. It’s code needs to be rewritten if you ask me.

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    • Tam Nguyen Photography


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    • Joey Duncan


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    • PaulJay

      English is not my mother language. You show your colors. And your portfolio is boring.

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    • Joey Duncan

      Agreed. Today, with the way code is and the way system hardware is there is NO reason for a program to run slow on a “decent” spec system. It’s obvious from the start that it’s a coding issue on Adobe’s part. People are still thinking WAY too far behind for how much technology we have. The lack of GPU utilization is just a perfect example of this.

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  13. S.M.C. Photography

    Any word on when LR5 will be released?

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  14. gerald m

    Excellent article Pye, i don’t know how many times we continue to see people been handle like puppets by THESE companies. I have a ton of friends who are mentally disable when it comes to rational thoughts and emotional intelligence, make not mistake about it, they are very well educated with several college degrees, but when it comes to stuff like this they’re as dumb as they come.

    And let’s not talk about the MAC guys, they’re the cream of the crop, trust me.

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  15. Tru Nguyen

    i was thinking of getting the new iMac with the “Fusion” drive because $900 for SSD from apple is way too much.

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