Finding the right specs for video editing in a computer can be a headache: Which graphics processor is optimal for video editing and rendering? Is it enough to have a 1080p resolution to edit 4k resolution videos? Which processor is best for encoding, rendering and video editing software? Are multiple cores a better option? Are graphics card beneficial for all instances in video editing? Which one to pick: Nvidia or AMD?
That’s not all…
The best laptop or computer for your work will also depend on what kind of software you throw at it and what kind of effects, features and resolution you’ll be working on. Unless you do days of research or get a recommendation from someone in the business, you are not gonna get anywhere finding the best laptop for video editing.
This article will be more than enough to answer all of your questions even if you are a beginner into video editing. It’s divided in 2 parts: A review of the 5 best laptops for video editing as well as a guide showing you how to shop for one yourself regardless of what kind of user you are or the type of work you are involved with.
Top 5 Best Laptops for Video Editing
For those who know already know what to look for and are ready to check out a few laptops, these are the top 5 best laptops for video editing I’ve gathered as of 2017. Alternatively if you are a beginner or if you have any question on what exactly to look out for when shopping for a video editing laptop, you can jump to the guide below with the table of contents.
Best MacBook For Video Editing
CPU: Intel Quad Core Core i7 2.7-3.6 GHz | RAM: 16GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD | GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 455 2GB | Display: 15.6″ Retina Display IPS
Yes this is the old version from 2015 but still has plenty of power for most if not all video editors out there. A few reasons to ditch the new MacBook Pro are the price and the fact that it doesn’t come with USB 3.0 ports which you may need for digital cameras, external storage devices, etc.
However, this model has a dedicated GPU, although not NVIDIA which has Cuda core technology, the AMD Radeon (open CL technology) has the same performance with Adobe Premiere and of course Final Cut Pro since it’s a Mac software.
It also has plenty of RAM at 16GB and its CPU has four cores: perfect for rendering, encoding and previews. While the clock speed goes up to 3.6GHz which is more than enough to give you the fastest workflow when video editing.
A huge bonus is the fact that all Macs use the latest tech on their storage devices, so you will definitely see an increase in all instances of video editing from its PCIe based SSD which is lightning fast compared with most laptops. Plus this model has enough storage for quite a lot of projects and can even be upgraded up to 1TB. Unless you have a lot of 4k video footage and a plethora of full HD videos, you may not need an external storage to store them just for back ups.
Another Bonus from the Macbook Pro is the display. It’s the thing Apple never skimps on. You get the retina display which will support editing in resolutions up to 2880×1880 and allow you to have more tools, interfaces and windows around your editing software as well as an accurate color reproduction (covers 86% of the sRGB spectrum).
Lastly, as long as you stick with this version, you get all the ports you need for video editing: plenty of USB 3.0 ports (x2) and a thunderbolt port for external monitors too.
Best Laptop For Video Editing
CPU: Intel Quad Core Core i7 2.6-3.5 GHz | RAM: 16GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GTX960M GPU | Display: 15.6″ Touch IPS 4K Ultra-HD display
If you are looking for a Windows Alternative to the MacBook Pro for video editing , you can’t go wrong with the ASUS Pro. It’s hard to believe it has nearly every feature needed for video editing on par with the macbook pro while being five hundred dollars cheaper than the MacBook.
Performance wise it has nearly everything you need to boost your workflow in all instances of video editing: applying effects, previews, rendering, etc. A quad Core processor and enough ram which is also upgradeable up to 32GB for an even better performance with video software and rendering.
Although third party testers have seen real difference between AMD and NVIDIA CPU, for those who feel more secure with NVIDIA graphics cards: this one has a pretty powerful card from the GeForce Series (GTX960), it’s not the latest but it’s sufficient for video editing.
The display is nothing short of amazing. If you wanted to see your 4k video footage and final work in 4k, this is it. Apart from that it’s color gamut is higher than the MacBook Pros covering the entire sRGB spectrum (+100%) however it isn’t as color accurate as the Pro.
Another huge bonus comes it’s storage device, it’s a blazing fast SSD with the same technology as the MacBook Pro (PCIe flash storage) with the maximum storage capacity you can get from them as far as mainstream laptops go.
Lastly, it has nearly every port you will need for video editing: 1x Thunderbolt 3, x1 USB 3.1 Type C, x3 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and a SD Card reader, you couldn’t really ask more ports from a video editing laptop.
CPU: Intel Quad Core i7 up to 3.5GHz | RAM: 16-32GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB SSD NVme | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M | Display: 15.6″ UHD TouchScreen IPS Glossy
CPU: Intel Quad Core i7 | RAM: 8-32GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD + 128 SSD PCIe | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M | Display: 15.6″ full HD IPS
You can never leave out Lenovo for any serious work. This particular model suits the needs for almost every video editor out there plus remaining at a really affordable price.
Plenty of power from it’s quad core processor and 8GB RAM (up to 32GB). Although it does come with 8GB, it’s upgradeable to 32GB. It’s graphics card (GTX 960M) isn’t the latest but it isn’t oldest or worst either, it’s actually pretty powerful for all instances of video editing even 4k footage and the same as the ASUS Pro. As long as you don’t rely on accelerated effects and features from video editing software, which most video editors don’t anyways, you don’t need to go higher than that.
The storage is actually a hybrid: 1TB HDD for your projects, footage and any other old files and 128 SSD drive(PCIe based flash storage) for the fastest performance with your OS/Editing Software to get the best out of both worlds.
It’s got a full HD definition display which comes with 1080p and IPS panel . The resolution isn’t on par with the MacBook Pro but it’s more than enough for all purposes, should you happen to deal with 4k footage you can always downsize the resolution, work on it and render it back to 4k resolution. However you will not see the full glory of your work at 4k resolutions in which case a 4k display is what you may need but do note that they will increase the price significantly.
Best Budget Laptop For Video Editing
CPU: Intel Quad Core i7 2.6GHz-3.5GHz | RAM: 16-32GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M | Display: 15.6″ Full HD IPS Matte Display
Lastly if you are a tight budget and you are still looking for a laptop that can match the capabilities of the ones mentioned above, as long as you can ignore the huge gaming tag on it, the ASUS ROG is the best deal you can get for video editing.
Like every laptop here, it has a quadcore i7 processor with the same clock speed (up to 3.5Ghz) and 16GB RAM upgradeable to 32GB, more than enough to blaze through all video editing software. It comes with plenty of storage as well (1TB HDD) enough for most of your footage and current projects although it’s not a SSD, having one it’s not a top requirement for video editing. RAM and CPU is where it’s at and this one matches what the most expensive ones have.
I’m happy to tell you it has the exact same graphics cards as all the best windows laptops shown above (GTX 960M). However, it doesn’t have 4k video resolution but only full HD which again for most purposes is fine. Again, If you wish to see your work in 4k resolution then you can always get an external display.
Connectivity wise it has all the ports the above laptops offer with the exception of thunderbolt 3 support and they include an HDMI connection for external displays and USB 3.1 Type C connection for high data transfers.
You couldn’t really ask for more from a high performance laptop at this price, it’s got nearly everything a video editor should look for while being nearly half the price of the most popular and best laptops for video editing out there.
How To Buy The Best Laptop For Video Editing
If you are a beginner and still not sure which specs are best for laptops, try your best to go through it so you can end up with the right purchase regardless where you buy your laptop or which one you buy.
There are two features you need to worry when choosing the right CPU: base frequency (speed) and number of cores. Not all software out there use all cores effectively and this includes video editing software.
Multiple cores are not beneficial when editing since it’s always been and always be a single threaded task. You aren’t likely to see huge boost in performance whether you choose a dual core or a quad core as far as editing goes, in which case, the base frequency (GHz) or the clock speed is what really matters.
Rendering, encoding and Previews
Rendering, encoding and generating previews however do benefit greatly from multiple cores.
In an ideal world, the more cores your CPU has the greater the increase in performance. However this isn’t true, while your software may utilize (or try to) all the cores your CPU for these tasks, you won’t see an increase in performance past 6 cores according to one of the most reputable studies done with Adobe Premiere.
If you were thinking of buying an octacore workstation or a Xeon Processor thinking that the number of cores would multiply your performance with these features, think again.
Luckily for laptops we don’t have to worry much about them since quad core is usually the limit we get from them today and is actually an optimal number.
A quad core processor with the highest clock speed you can get your hands on will be ideal for all intances during video editing: editing, rendering, encoding and previews. Or if you are a multitasker while doing video editing you will need a quad core processor as well.
Go for an i7 4XXX/5XXX/6XXX HQ or greater. Stay away from laptops with a processor ending with the letter U. If you skimp on a quad Core CPU , you’ll also have trouble with high resolution raw files especially from cameras like the GH4 since they are compressed in different code formats.
8GB RAM is the minimum you should aim for but an 16GB RAM laptop is highly recommended for both multitasking and reducing rendering times.
Regardless of what storage you decide to go for, get at least 500GB or higher. If you deal with 4k files, you’re gonna need even larger capacities than that. You will find they will quickly deplete your storage if you don’t.
For 4k video files or a large number of full HD files, you would need to go for 1TB and even get an external Hard Drive for back ups.
An SSD isn’t really necessary for video editing, but if you want to see an increase in overall performance (not just booting up your system, launching your apps and accessing files) when applying effects that rely on memory, invest on an SSD after you’ve maxed out RAM and CPU.
HDD: Good for storage capacities & Backs up
For most purposes you don’t really need an SSD. The performance may not be worth it in computers (desktops) but when it comes to laptops do realize that they’re not near as powerful as desktops and every bit of performance boost helps and the difference from having an SSD is quite noticeable.
Their only downside is the low storage capacity but you can always dump all of your current projects and files that you are editing on your SSD and leave the rest of your completed projects and old files on your external hard drive (used for backs up as well) or an internal HDD.
This is going to be a huge section but most of your budget will depend on the kind of GPU you pick, so go through it as much as you can. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.
How to Choose a GPU
Choosing a GPU for Video Editing may seem tricky, we usually come to the conclusion we needed the latest and most expensive GPUs to have the best performance with video editing overall since after all we are dealing with videos.
But that is far from the truth. According to third party testers the following conclusions were set using Adobe Premiere:
- OPEN CL or CUDA Acceleration(AMD or NVIDIA cards) give about the same performance when exporting video files in 1080p (the same format). The faster GPU or which brand did not affect the time it took to export significantly.
- Better GPUs did have a great impact on exporting times when the source’s resolution was higher than the export resolution.(4k to 1080p)
- Different GPU Models did have an impact on generating previews for 1080p resolution footage, all other resolutions did not see an increase in performance.
What we can conclude from those studies is that:
- The GPU technology, speed doesn’t really matter when it comes to exporting and generating previews. Just get one.
- The World isn’t ready for 4k videos and that includes software and hardware too. Not many benefits from the better & latest GPUs.
- We are still stuck with 1080p resolution if we want to see improvement in performance for encoding/rendering when using a GPU.
Accelerated and Special Effects
You will also see an improvement in performance with special effects that are accelerated with a beefy GPU ( here’s a list of special effects from Adobe Website). However if you are not an avid user of special effects for your edits, you may not see an improvement when encoding if you don’t include those effects within your projects.
For simple cuts, transitions, and simple edits/effects in general a GPU may not be necessary to improve encoding times.
You need a GPU anyways
Regardless, a GPU is always useful for : color grading, smoother video playback, better resolution, etc. It will improve your rendering times by a significant amount (GPUs act as additional cores to your CPU) but you don’t need the beefiest and latest to get the most out of them as long as you have a decent GPU, you’ll be alright.
vRAM , Cuda Cores and Architecture
If you are wondering which part of the graphics cards is better to look out for when buying a video card for video editing. You would have to use benchmarks and tests because it’s not an exact science. For example. we may think that the higher the number of CUDA cores , the greater the benefits in rendering times but this is not true all the time. Vram and architecture do play a role too. Sometimes a graphics card with less number of CUDA cores will out perform one with a higher number of cores.
When will I need the best and latest graphics cards?
Depends on the software you’ll be using and what kind of videos you’ll be dealing with, if they tell you to specifically go for specialized cards they you should go with them otherwise mainstream cards will do just fine. But if you are editing 4k video files and doing heavy editing on them or dealing with multiple displays with high resolution then you would need a workstation card like Quadro/FirePro series or the latest 10xx GeForce Series.
If your software uses a lot of 3D accelerated effects and features and you actually use them on a regular basis for your edits, then it may be beneficial to invest on specialized cards such as the Quadro GPUs from Nvidia or cards that have quite a lot of vRAM(latest 10xx Nvidia Series).
However for 1080p editing, entry level graphics like the Geforce GT 720 or 730 is sufficient and even integrated graphics card might be enough. For 4k editing without heavy edits, you may be OK with something more powerful like the GTX 960.
Stick with fairly recent models GTX 870 or higher but be careful with the latest graphics cards on the market as they may not be fully supported for the software we currently have in video editing. Do your research before buying a GPU, don’t mindlessly buy one.
Display size and resolution isn’t really important at the end its a matter of preference when for laptops. You won’t really match the displays for desktops so you could settle here with whatever size you are comfortable carrying around (the higher the better obviously).
Resolution wise, however, you should at least stick with 1080p for both your video playbacks and a more productive performance with your editing software(you’ll have more room for tools, interfaces and your timeline, etc).
If you edit files that are in 4k resolution, it’s not necessary to go for 4k display laptops. You can always edit your files at 1080p resolution and play them back in 4k resolution. However if you would like to see your work at that same resolution in your laptop, then obviously you would need a 4k resolution laptop but you could also invest on an external monitor for this.
Most laptops for video editing in general come with sufficient ports for external displays, external storage, etc. Just for reference:
USB 3.0: Useful for just about anything (cameras, external hard drives). Most laptops come with at least one or two, so don’t worry about this one.
Thuderbolt 3: It’s not necessary but if you want the fastest data transfer from your external device, check if yours has it.
HDMI: High end laptops usually come with a port for external displays, it’s not something to worry about either.
4k Video Editing
Mostly depends on the type of software you’ll be using.
Adobe Premiere & Final Cut Pro
For 4k video editing with simple software like Adobe & Final Cut Pro, the highest end laptops shown on this article will be enough.
Any Video Editing Software
If you are interested in 4k Video Editing with your laptop (without having to scale down to 1080p) and with any video editing software even the most demanding ones (not just the usual Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro), then you would need the latest and more powerful features you can afford.
Ideally, you’d want to use a desktop for serious editing in 4k resolution but if you must use a laptop for 4k editing do consider you’ll have a hard time replicating the power of a desktop unless you spend a lot of money. We are talking several thousands of dollars which I am sure you aren’t attracted to it. I don’t have any recommendations for them.
- Quad Core for encoding, video editing and rendering: The highest frequency is far more useful than the number of cores for a smooth workflow with video editing software while a decent number of cores (no more than 4) is enough to boost performance substantially in rendering and encoding.
2. 16GB RAM to 32GB RAM especially for rendering & encoding.
3. Full HD Display for video editing even for 4k editing long you use proxy files and use offline mode then switch back to 4k resolution to finish your work.
4. 4k video editing with adobe premiere and final cut pro require a high end laptop such as the ones recommended above.
5. Serious 4k video editing with heavy software (davinci) may be out of the scope for today’s mainstream laptops but possible on workstation laptops.
6. Thunderbolt 3 port for highest data transfers. Plenty of USB ports for connections. 960M or the latest 10×0 Cards is sufficient for video editing. Higher cards (Quadro & FirePro) may give you about the same performance but are more reliable and get better support from software manufacturers, not many benefits from them.
If you have any questions or suggestions, let us know in the comments below.