Hardware upgrade question

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I have been using my Thinkpad T420 as my primary machine since around 2011, and was initially thinking about upgrading its drive and OS (W7-64 Pro), but after learning that Lenovo does not support W10 for this model, I have been looking at other options since I do not want the hassle of finding drivers that work properly. I may still upgrade the Thinkpad''s drive to an SSD and leave W7-64 installed, but I could use a bit of a performance boost, especially since the only ports on the machine are USB 2.0.

My budget is a bit limited, and I know that a desktop will most likely provide me with the best performance for my money. I also know that a quad core i5 or i7 CPU is going to help improve my performance for certain actions and the i7-4790 chip, despite being two generations old, is still a favorite for its performance to cost. Both HP and Dell have basic boxes with this chip, or Skylake i5 or i7 chips, in the range of $700-900 USD. Custom PC's from boutique manufacturers run almost double that price, and I have yet to find any middle ground as I just cannot see paying that premium for my level of use.

Alternately, I can assemble an Intel NUC with a 3.1 GHz Core i7-5557U Dual-Core chip and add memory and an SSD (M.2 or SATA) as well as free up some space on my desk and in our office (something my wife would probably appreciate). This outfitted kit would run about the same price as one of the Dell or HP boxes, but I would be taking a big hit in performance for the gain in space. What I am trying to understand is how much performance I would be giving up if I chose a NUC. Right now, my biggest waits are associated with converting to DNG in ImageIngester, copying backup files from an external drive to an external drive and rendering 1:1 previews for imports. I know that USB 3.0 should help with the second issue, but I believe that the first and last would best be addressed by a quad core CPU, something that the NUC cannot offer. I know that either the NUC or a traditional desktop should be faster than my Thinkpad as it is running a second generation i5 chip (with 8GB of RAM), but I would like to understand the gain or loss of performance between the newer chips so I can determine if the loss is acceptable if I choose a NUC.

Any thoughts?

--Ken
 
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Well, after reading more reviews about the NUC, I'm not sure that it is as reliabe as I would like. But, I'm still interested in better understanding how to compare performance between CPU's with respect to LR. Raw benchmark figures just do not indicate the order of magnitude between various options. Any guidance would be appreciated. I tend to upgrade my hardware every four years or so.

--Ken
 
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The problem with asking about performance in lightroom is that "it depends" is always the answer. When doing certain operations it might be best to have a fast GPU, with others the fastest core (but not necessarily a lot of them), with others having more cores. Then there's disk -- lots of processes saturate the disk and the CPU is idle.

My own vague conclusions after quite a bit of experimentation spread out over many versions:

- Have a blend of good performance, i.e. don't have a super fast CPU and really slow disk
- Memory helps but not beyond 4-8GB (for LR, photoshop it matters more, and of course whatever else you have running)
- SSD helps quite a bit in batch processes, not so much insider Develop
- Fast cores matter more than a lot of cores (to me "a lot" is more than 4 for a desktop, never tried 2; a lot of LR stuff is still single threaded, sadly, though it is getting better).
- Hyperthreading doesn't seem to matter (but don't let a hyper threaded CPU fool you to thinking you have twice the cores)
- Spreading the catalog, cache, actual images, and scratch and temp to multiple drives helps quite a bit to avoid bottle necks, but again only in mass update operations like import or building previews, not Develop.

I haven't experimented with GPU's and how much they help -- in my own case I can not tell the difference with an older mid-range card, except the older 2015 version was flakey; I'm trying it again with 2015.3.
 
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Hi Linwood,

Thanks for the reply. You are correct that "it depends". I was assuming the same drive (a Samsung 850 evo Pro) and the same ram in each configuration, and the performance measures were the bottlenecks I initially mentioned in my OP. i know that four fast cores would be ideal, but assuming all other things equal for the sake of discussion, i am still finding it hard to understand how to compare LR performance between two CPU's. A difference of less than 5-10% is not something I would lose sleep over. Something twice, for an exaggerated example, is meaningful. The problem I have is that benchmark site measurements are not easily interpreted, and LR-specific tests are often limited to high end processors.

--Ken
 
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Yeah, Ken, I get it, and don't have any good advice there if you can't find specific tests for them. My GUESS is that floating point and math benchmarks are key, but that's a complete guess, it may by more related to memory movement and L2 cache size. Maybe someone else will chime in with more specific experience.
 
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Glad I'm not the only one in the boat when it comes to sorting out CPU's. I'm not needing every last drop form my purchase, but I don't want to make a bad choice as computers are not easily returnable or exchangeable.

Thanks again,

--Ken
 
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