Built new fast computer for Lightroom

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jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 12,170
Built new fast computer for Lightroom

I was interested in upgrading from my 5 year old i7-3770 computer that I use Lightroom on to something that could really speed up my workflow.

After reading all the excellent articles and benchmarks at Puget Systems combined with all the general experience here, it seems pretty clear that Lightroom cares mostly about fast single core speed and fast memory, though it will take advantage of multiple cores for some operations such as import, export or bulk preview building. As I'm sure everyone appreciates faster import/export and preview building, the speed I cared most about in my workflow was just working through each image in both Library and Develop modes in Lightroom.

Puget themselves offers a range of systems that are purported to be very good with Lightroom and Photoshop. The system I was most interested in consists of an i7-9700k, 32GB RAM, 500GB M.2 SSD drive for the OS and a mid-range Nvidia 1060 graphics card (which is really all LR can take advantage of). I have another M.2 drive (for LR catalog) and other hard drives from my current build that I would move over to the new build. As configured from Puget, such a system would cost $2446 and it comes with a 1 year warranty.

So, I got curious what it would cost if I built a similar system myself (order the parts, assemble it, test it). I've done this a few times before and, if you have the inclination to do this sort of thing, it can be a fun project.

I priced things out on http://www.pcpartpicker.com and ended up getting my whole system for about $1800 by leveraging some Black Friday deals (including taxes and rebates). If you're looking for high performance memory (memory that is certified for over clocking to at least 3600MHz), then I found prices vary a lot from week to week and it pays to keep an eye on it daily, know when a better deal is available and jump on it. I don't know why that is, but my theory is that there must be a varying supply of tested overclockable memory and that causes price fluctuations.  Some of the other parts (like the motherboards, power supplies and SSDs) do occasionally have special deals on them, but don't vary as much as the memory did. Right now pcpartpicker shows my build at about $1980. You can perhaps do a bit better than that if you know what you want, watch prices for several weeks and buy a given component when there's a deal. I could imagine there being some post holiday deals after Christmas on some components.

So anyway, I got my computer for about $500 less than a Puget Systems. The Puget Systems option comes with a 1 year warranty. With mine, each component has its own warranty - some as long as that, others not that long. The biggest difference with my build is that I have a higher level motherboard that is capable of significant overclocking, has one more M.2 SSD slot on board and has more SATA ports. My build is air cooled, the Puget Systems build is water cooled. As water cooling tends to require some maintenance over time and I didn't see any reason to need water cooling, I went with air cooling.

You can see my build here: https://pcpartpicker.com/user/jfriend00/saved/#view=2HsgwP.

You can configure a similar build here on Puget Systems https://www.pugetsystems.com/nav/deluge/A2/customize.php.

My build was this:

Intel i7-9700k Processor

Noctua NH-D15 Air Cooler

ASRock Z390 Taichi Motherboard

G.Skill Trident Z 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4-3733 Memory

Samsung 970 EVO 500GB M.2 NVMe SSD

EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB super clocked Video Card

Fractal Design Define R5 USB-C ATX Mid Tower Case

Corsair RMx 750W ATX Power Supply

Microsoft Windows 10 Home

One could build this in a somewhat smaller case if that was relevant to you. I selected the larger case because I wanted the large air cooler, wanted very good case ventilation, but wanted it to be quiet and wanted the ability to hold 3-5 hard drives plus a couple SSDs. I currently have two M.2 SSDs and three hard drives in it.

One other significant thing. I bought a motherboard that allows me to overclock and has a power sub-system for stable overclocking. While I'm not expert on overclocking, I had previously overclocked my i7-3770k from my previous build and felt comfortable doing basic overclocking (nothing extreme or pushing the envelope). Since Lightroom is so dependent upon single core speed, if I could overclock some, it might make a meaningful difference.

I was able to overclock my DRAM to it's rated speed of 3733MHz (that was trivial in the BIOS since it was already XMP rated for that) and with some more research, it would probably go to at least 4200 and this should really help Lightroom a bunch.

With some tweaking and lots of testing, I was able to overclock the processor from 3.6GHZ to 5.1GHz and I have a stable overclock of all 8 cores at 5.1GHZ under full stress test (Prime95/blend stress test) while maintaining adequate temperatures. Because the i7-9700k already has a turbo boost mode for a single core at a time to 4.9GHz, the overclock to 5.1GHz of all cores helps most when engaging more than one core or doing an operation that lasts longer than the turbo boost would normally stay engaged. I didn't take the time to benchmark the system before and after overclocking to understand its full benefit. I might be able to do that sometime in the future.

When I was all done, I was able to compare an export to JPEG of 100 24MP images in Lightroom. An operation that took 2:56 on my prior overclocked i7-3770k computer takes 1:27 on my new overclocked i7-9700k system using the exact same drives. That's a bit more than twice as fast. The feel in the Develop mode in Lightroom is significantly faster too. Building previews is a lot faster. Overall, I'm quite pleased with my build. The performance might be appreciated even more if you were dealing with 54MP images.

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