It feels like more than decade since Adobe had launched Lightroom (now known as Lightroom Classic), and it feels even longer since we’ve asked for better software support to take advantage of our hardware … well, that’s because it has been 12 years. GPU Acceleration was added back in 2015, but it didn’t provide much of a boost for most people.

GPU accelerated editing has finally come to Lightroom Classic. Although I haven’t had a chance to put it to the test, it’s supposed to help out with responsiveness across Lightroom Classic’s rendering, editing panels and so forth. The previous version struggles a bit on higher resolution monitors, so the opening for GPUs to create a great experience is quite large.

What does GPU acceleration mean?

By using a GPU, known as graphics processing unit, Lightroom can offload some of work that your CPU would normally need to do. The GPU is there to help boost mathematical drawings related to what is shown on your screen, so little tweaks that you do within Lightroom Classic that are manipulating images (like using the clone tool or the healing tool within that) or viewing images would be much quicker. This enhancement could technically improve the overall experience within Lightroom Classic — from how it renders previews to actual edits that you do on the image, to merging a panorama.

Suggested graphics cards from Adobe

Graphics cards released in the year 2014 or afterwards that meet the minimum system requirements (listed below) should work.

  • 1 GB of VRAM (Video RAM, or RAM on the video adapter). 2 GB of dedicated VRAM is suggested for large, high-resolution (such as 4K and 5K) monitors.
  • OpenGL 3.3. If you’re not sure if your card fully supports OpenGL 3.3, contact the card manufacturer.
  • AMD: For AMD cards, consider using the Radeon R9 series of cards, such as the R9 270 through 290.
  • NVIDIA: For NVIDIA cards, consider using a card from the GeForce GTX 760+ line (760, 770, 780, or later) or from the GeForce GTX 900 series.
  • Intel: For Intel cards, Intel HD Graphics 4400+, 5000+, 510+, P530, P630, Iris Pro Graphics 5200, 6100+, P6300, P580 or later are required.

Get those fans running

While desktop computers will have no problem working with this performance boost, some laptops may encounter some minor issues relating to heat.

Most laptops that have a discrete/dedicated GPU (like a NVIDIA GeForce 650, 750, 850, 1050, 1060, 1070, 1080 or RTX 2050, 2060, 2070, 2080; or AMD Radeon or Vega cards) will take find that their laptop’s fans may spin up and become louder and their batteries may drain faster. This is to be expected and is considered normal behavior.

Like the CPU, the GPU also requires more power to work harder and generates heat while it does so, and if that heat can’t be dissipated well enough, the computer will slow down the CPU and/or GPU to prevent damaging itself and to work within its thermal limits.

The heat pipes that are used to help cool down the CPU are often shared with the GPU so the system will be quicker to spin up the fans and spin the fans faster than usual to compensate for the rise in temperature.

So in general, if you’re working on something pretty CPU and GPU intensive, it isn’t a bad idea to invest in additional cooling options like a cheap laptop cooling pad for you portable pixel pushers, or a laptop stand such as the SVALT Cooling Dock that has active cooling or TwelveSouth BookArc that allows for heat to dissipate faster for those so primarily pixel push at home.

Dance break to break up text

Laptops with integrated graphics (Intel HD Graphics, Intel Iris or Iris Pro will not typically hit the same thermal limits that discrete/dedicated graphics cards do, so they won’t get as hot as quickly. Integrated graphics cards also don’t provide as much performance as discrete cards (this is often a very large differentiator when it comes to laptop price), so battery life won’t be impacted as much.

Although I personally don’t see Lightroom Classic being one to really cause your laptop to stress out a whole lot, you absolutely will experience the above. In most situations, the laptops will perform to its best ability to keep temperatures regulated and you shouldn’t see a slowdown. Just remember that the extra processing power does comes at the cost of power, so you might notice a bit less battery life than usual.

More speed!

Lightroom Classic has had previous bumps in performance in years past, and they were extremely welcomed. This specific feature is one that I’ve personally wished for several times (along with better multicore support), so I’m happy to know that it’s available.

Hopefully, we’ll have some good hands-on experience soon. Those who are more concerned about bugs and stability or those who are a little more constrained and are in the middle of editing a gig or something may not want to update until the patch has been tested by a bunch of us until the bugs are vetted out.

Knowing Adobe, end users wouldn’t need to do anything besides update the software in order to take advantage of this new feature. It should be automatically turned on — and I’m sure Adobe will have a list of compatible GPUs that Lightroom Classic will take advantage of.

So if you’re looking for better performance, check it out.

Thanks, Adobe … you’re moving back up on my list.

Not sure how to update your Adobe Lightroom Classic? Check out this link for instructions, Adobe: How to update Creative Cloud apps

UPDATE: We asked Adobe about the compatible GPUs. Here’s what they had to say:

“We have a set of cards that we’ve proactively tested the feature on which are enabled by default. These cards are based off of the most commonly used graphics adapters by the photographers working within Lightroom Classic, Lightroom desktop and Adobe Camera Raw. We will continue to test and add additional cards into the list of supported adapters over time. Cards that aren’t automatically supported yet can be enabled in the preferences to select the Custom setting in the performance tab.”