A good CPU is one of the most crucial PC components you can purchase when working with high-resolution photographs in Photoshop or Lightroom. High-end CPUs now provide astounding speed compared to their predecessors from years past, enabling Photoshop and Lightroom to operate quicker and better while also improving your workflow.

But which CPU performs best with Photoshop and Lightroom? The best option isn’t always to get the most costly processor, but there are certain circumstances in which you could favor one CPU brand over another.

What Exactly Do Photoshop & Lightroom Need?

The only minimal system requirements for Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom are an AMD or Intel 64-bit CPU with a clock rate of at least 2GHz. Any processor purchased in the last almost 20 years would be able to meet that requirement.

But we’re interested in finding out which CPUs work best with Photoshop and Lightroom, so we need something more powerful.

You may notice a significant gain in Photoshop and Lightroom speed through using processors with more cores, as newer games have become much better at using modern multi-core CPUs. However, the benefits are decreasing.

For many of its most crucial functions, Adobe Photoshop makes good use of up to 8 cores, but after exceeding that amount, you won’t notice any significant speed improvements.

The picture export and preview features of Lightroom are a bit different in that they may use a lot more cores. The sweet spot seems to be about 24 cores, while certain workloads experience a modest advantage with as many as 64 cores on top-end AMD Threadripper CPU. It often only outperforms a 16-core choice overall by around 10%.

Think about the architecture

Your processor’s architecture, or generation, is the second most crucial component in determining how quickly your picture editing computer will operate. One of the most recent generation processors from 2020 or 2021 will be much faster than an eight-core CPU from 2017.

The performance of picture editing is sometimes more impacted by faster clock speeds and more instructions per clock than by core counts in newer architectures (especially once you have six or more).

Choosing a processor from 2020 forward will generally ensure that you have the finest photo-editing performance for both Photoshop & Lightroom. Still, you don’t necessarily need to purchase the quickest and most costly. There are quite a few compelling reasons to choose a more mid-range alternative.

AMD Ryzen 5900X is the ideal CPU for Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom.

The AMD Ryzen 5900X CPU included in the Chillblast Image Pro Zen Editing PC provides the highest overall performance in Photoshop and Lightroom while keeping expenses down.

Due to simultaneous multithreading, it can handle up to 24 threads and has 12 Zen 3 cores. It has a single-core speed rating of up to 4.8GHz, while all-core boost rates are often far over 4GHz. Additionally, it has some of the greatest instructions per clock scores of any CPU ever produced, thanks to the Zen 3 design.

The Ryzen 9 5950X is a more powerful option if you often export photos from Lightroom since its 16 cores offer an edge in that specific activity. However, the price is somewhat higher, and programs like Adobe Photoshop, in particular, don’t gain much from the extra cores.

Even higher core count CPU alternatives are available if you also edit video in addition to photos, such as the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X in the AMD Chillblast Fusion Photo OC IX.

It is an amazing beast of a CPU with 24 of the same Zen 3 cores. It can easily do specific tasks in Lightroom and most popular video editors quicker than any standard Ryzen processor (and any Intel CPU). However, it runs at a slower frame rate than the Ryzen 5950X and 5900X. Thus, Photoshop performance will suffer as a result.

The 11700K and 5800X 8-core Darlings

Even if the 5900X is excellent, its price is high, and its 12-cores may be more than enough for most Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom tasks. Eight core processors with performance that rivals even the finest Photoshop CPUs, such as the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X and Intel’s new Rocket Lake Core i7-11700K, are considerably more economical possibilities.

Both processors can handle up to 16 threads simultaneously and have very high clock rates since they both allow simultaneous multithreading. The AMD 5800X can stabilize 4GHz+ clock rates across all cores while concurrently boosting up to 4.7GHz on a single core.

The Intel 11700K can achieve 5.0GHz on a few cores concurrently and 4.6GHz throughout all cores simultaneously, making up for its lower instructions per cycle with a higher clock speed.

For greater performance, both CPUs may be overclocked a little bit more. Be sure to question your Chillblast sales agent about overclocking if you’re thinking about purchasing a computer that has one of these CPUs in it. We provide this service for all custom PCs, and although we can’t guarantee that you’ll get much higher performance, we’ll be able to squeeze out everything your chip is capable of. Your warranty won’t even be void as a result.

You won’t significantly save money either way since the prices of the two CPUs are almost equal, but you will need to budget for a large cooler for the Intel 11700K because it gets hot yet operates best at temperatures lower.

5600X and 11600K: Six Cores Is Enough

Six cores are more than plenty for outstanding performance in either program, and eight cores areare around the point at which extra cores stop significantly influencing many Photoshop & Lightroom operations (apart from exporting and seeing pictures previews).

This is especially true with the most recent CPU versions from Intel and AMD. The Rocket Lake Core i5-11600K and the hexacore Ryzen 5 5600X are absolute powerhouse processors with incredible all-around performance and very high clock rates.

They can address up to 12 threads at once since they both enable simultaneous multithreading, as the 5800X and 11700K do. When given enough thermal headroom, the Intel 11600K can reach speeds of up to 4.9GHz, while the AMD 5600X can improve its single-core performance to 4.6GHz.

Often, newer equals faster.

These processors’ near-comparable performance to those of this generation’s far more costly CPUs is astounding, but what stands out about them is how far they have come since their forerunners. These processors outperform their predecessors in Photoshop and Lightroom, but they also outperform almost every CPU from the previous generation.

In Lightroom and Photoshop, the Intel Core i9-10900K, a ten-core CPU with a maximum frequency of over 5.0GHz, is outperformed by the AMD 5600X & Intel 11600K. Additionally, they outperform the eight-core AMD 3800XT and even the 18-core Intel Core i9-10980XE, a CPU that cost over $1,000 only a few years ago.

The 5600X and 11600K approach the best of the best while being much less expensive. They may not quite offer market-leading performance with Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom.

They are available as an optional feature in the Picture Core Editing PC or in budget-friendly photo editing PCs like the Chillblast Photo Zen (just ask a Chillblast system expert about an 11th-generation upgrade).

Please Recall Memory

You should also pay for some high-quality RAM whether you get the best CPU for Photoshop & Lightroom or choose one of the more cost-effective solutions.

Although how many photographs you’re editing at once will determine how much memory you need (more images need more memory), you also need to ensure that you’re getting fast memory. Modern CPUs, notably AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, significantly benefit from quicker memory in terms of performance. Chillblast provides RAM kits up to 3,200MHz to enable you fully use the power of newer CPU generations.

Even faster RAM may modestly boost performance, but anything beyond 3200MHz requires bespoke overclocking, and the benefits aren’t necessarily worth the trouble. Although it’s not a common service, Chillblast can always do an extensive overclock and quicker memory; just be sure to inquire.

Every photo-editing PC must have at least 16GB of quick DDR4 memory. However, 32GB is a fantastic option if you’re working with several photographs simultaneously. 64GB or more is recommended for the heaviest users, particularly if you choose a Threadripper-based workstation.

You can get a personalized guide on what your picture editing PC requires from a Chillblast sales specialist if you’re unsure how much or what speed is best for you.

Do You Require a Strong Graphics Card as well?

Photoshop & Lightroom have gradually improved their ability to use the incredible parallel processing capability of graphics cards for various tasks.

A powerful graphics card on your picture editing PC can greatly speed up several effects and transformations in Photoshop. GPU acceleration is another tool that Lightroom may use for some picture editing activities, including cropping, aligning, and applying certain filters. Additionally, dealing with RAW picture files may greatly benefit from the job acceleration offered by a dedicated graphics card.

In light of this, Adobe specifies that any GPU with at least 2GB of video RAM is required as a minimum to use GPU acceleration in Photoshop and Lightroom. Technically, you could utilize a GPU many decades ago and still have significant advantages over integrated graphics. However, you’ll get even bigger speed gains while utilizing a recent GPU if you employ the kinds of jobs that benefit from GPU acceleration.

Despite this, the processor continues to be a much larger factor in Photoshop and Lightroom performance, and there is little real-world performance difference between the top-of-the-line RTX 3080 and RX 6800 XT cards and much more modest (and reasonably priced) mid-range alternatives, such as the RTX 3060 Ti and RX 6700 XT.

What About Photoshop and Lightroom Storage?

Storage is the last component of any picture editing PC. Modern SSDs are far faster than conventional hard drives at almost everything, including loading photographs in Photoshop & Lightroom so you can access your files more quickly. However, unless you often move enormous volumes of huge data, you may not require cutting-edge NVMe storage.

However, an NVMe drive is a terrific choice since it offers the best performance for operating system upgrades. If you install Photoshop and Lightroom on that disk, they will both launch quickly.

However, storing your photographs on a different internal disk when it comes to storage is preferable. Although the speed difference between NVMe & SATA is small, using an SSD will allow you to access them more quickly, particularly when actively editing from them.

A multi-terabyte hard disk is still the most inexpensive option for the long shelf life of large quantities of images and any other material. Just remember to transfer any photographs you’re currently working onto speedier SSD(s) before anything else.