Look for processing power, memory and hard drive space
Last updated: March 2022
Just about any computer these days can edit a simple video, even your smartphone!
For serious movie making, you're going to need to step it up a notch.
Especially with 4K, 6k and even 8k video, you need a computer that can handle and process all that gobs of information. You don't want your computer crashing every few minutes or sitting there locked in the spinning wheel of death every time you make an edit, do you?
If you just need to edit a simple 1-minute home movie, you can do that on your iPad.
But if you plan to be sitting at your computer for 3 months to a year editing your 60-90 minute feature documentary with multiple layers of video, audio and graphics, you've got some thinking to do to figure out exactly what will work best for your particular needs.
One way to choose your video editing computer is to first decide what video editing software you prefer.
Obviously, if you want to edit with Final Cut Pro X, then you'll want to choose a Mac. (Premiere Pro and Davinci Resolve are also good platforms for editing on Mac, though Final Cut Pro X is the most efficient for 4k video playback.) Or if you've got your heart set on Sony Vegas Pro, go toward a PC.
The most important things to consider when buying a computer for video editing is the processing power, storage space and screen size.
Below are a few solid choices to get you started in your search for a video editing computer.
Mac computers are a standard in the video production world, so you can't go wrong with a Mac. But choosing the right one can be a bit tricky depending on your budget and the level of video editing performance you need.
Apple makes a variety of computers including the Mac mini, iMac, Mac and Macbook Pro, and now, Mac Studio.
The long-awaited upgrade to Apple's desktop line houses their boldest innovation yet: the M1 processor. That's right - Mac Studio is the first Apple computer to run on Apple's own processing system.
At an accessible price point of $1,999, the Apple M1 Max chip is built with 10 cores and memory configurable up to 64 GB. Storage on the Max chip starts at 512GB SSD and can accommodate up to 8 TB. For professional editors with greater demands for RAM and storage, Apple offers the M1 Ultra chip at a higher price point.
If you're thinking about upgrading your current Mac, the new Pro Display XDR screen will surely seal the deal.
And after a few initial growing pains, it appears that Adobe software is now up to speed with the M1 system, so, Premiere editors: fear no more.
Still, read on for other great options running on the old standby, Intel.
Note on Apple: All Mac computer models newer than 2019 feature the new Apple-designed M1 processor. However, the below Mac computers still use Intel processors, which are currently preferred by editors who work with Adobe Premiere Pro.
On the higher end, the Mac Pro was last released in 2019 and is Apple's most powerful machine yet: offering (up to) an astounding 28 core-processor with up to 1.5TB of RAM - yes, you read that right - and up to 8TB of SSD storage.
With a price tag starting at $5,999 (without a monitor), a purchase like this is out of reach for most budget-conscious documentary filmmakers, but if you’re looking for massive high speed video editing performance, this is it.
After the Mac Pro, your next best performing mac is the iMac.
With the iMac you get up to 18 core processors, up to 256GB of RAM and up to 4TB of storage. A terrific high performing computer for video editing.
The 27" iMac with 5K Retina Display is another great choice for video editing at a bit more affordable price point.
The base model starts with 8GB of memory, 256GB hard drive, 3.1GHz 6-core i5 processor, a Radeon Pro 5300 graphics card with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and a 5k display.
As budget allows, add additional hard drive space (SSD is best/fastest), another 8 GB of RAM/memory and bump up to the i7 or i9 processor for max performance.
(The i3 processor is NOT recommended for video editing, i5 is okay for lower resolutions, i7 is excellent and i9 is best)
The biggest difference between getting an iMac and the Mac Pro are the rendering times, so if you’re being paid by the hour or are on a tight deadline, the Mac Pro is the way to go. Otherwise, the iMac is our overall best choice in Mac for professional video editing. (For those who need ultimate editing power, consider the Mac Pro)
If you already have a monitor, take a look at the newly upgraded Mac Mini. Make sure to get the Intel model with the i7 processor for best video editing performance (available via Apple). There are six expansion ports at the back for either USB or Thunderbolt external storage.
Final Cut Pro X, Davinci Resolve, Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro (part of Adobe Creative Cloud) are all excellent video editing software options to use with a Mac.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 is a workhorse for creatives at a relatively accessible price point. Starting at $1,900, this computer runs on the AMD Ryzen Threadripper, a top-of-the-line graphics processor that promises rapid-fire exports.
The base model starts with 16GB of memory, 256GB hard drive, and a NVIDIA Quadro graphics card. Got a few hundred extra bucks? Upgrade to the P720 for the 8-core Intel Xeon Silver 4110 Processor and 1TB of storage.
Need a monitor for your ThinkStation? Check out BenQ.
If you prefer editing on a Windows-based computer, the Hewlett-Packard ENVY Desktop line is a terrific choice. Recent models using the i5 processor can be purchased for $700-$1,000. Or pay a few hundred dollars more for the i7 (recommended).
This machine is a great choice for mid-range video editing with stability and speed adequate for any standard documentary project.
With the latest version, enjoy hefty performance with the 11th Generation Core i7 processor. You can start with 16 GB RAM and upgrade up to 32 GB later, whatever your budget will allow. And of course you'll need to budget for a monitor.
In general, laptops are not the best choice as a long-term video editing solution. You tend to pay more for less with laptops and the smaller screen size is not ideal for the detail work involved in video editing. But, if you travel and need a quick video editing solution on the go, here are the top choices.
Again, you can't go wrong with a Mac. Macs are built for multimedia projects and the MacBook Pro is a solid choice.
If you've got the budget, it's best to get the high-end 16-inch with Liquid Retina XDR Display. That model comes with Apple's new M1 Pro chip processor, ultra fast 512 GB SSD hard drive, three Thunderbolt (USB-C) ports and a long list of configurable components.
Heads up Premiere people - some editors have had problems running Adobe Premiere Pro on the new M1 processor.
On the PC side, try the ASUS Zenbook Pro.
For the price, this laptop comes extremely well-equipped with the power needed to complete video editing projects on the go. While it’s not a long-term editing solution, it’s a great machine for a beginner or intermediate filmmaker.
With the 15-inch model, you get the 12th Gen Core i9 processor, 4K touch display monitor, 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD hard drive.
Plus, this laptop transforms with a tilting secondary display - a unique tool that seems made for correcting color and sound on the go.
At just under $1,800, the Dell Precision 7760 Workstation is a great option for filmmakers who don't want to spend a fortune on a laptop.
The standard model offers a wide 17-inch display and 8GB of memory. Plus, you can easily upgrade every aspect of your system as you wish - graphics card, processor, hard drive and more.
The 7760 comes equipped with two USB-C Thunderbolt 4.0 ports, 2 USB 3.2, an HDMI 2.1 and mDP 1.4.