Choosing A Computer for Video Editing

Look for processing power, memory and 
hard drive space

Video Editing Computers

Updated: November 2017

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Just about any computer these days can edit a simple video, even your smart phone!

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. Or if you've got your heart set on Sony Vegas Pro, go toward a PC. 

"Multimedia computers generally have better processors, more RAM and higher-end graphics cards compared to an everyday desktop."

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.

Desktop Computer for Video Editing

Apple iMac Pro

iMac Pro 27
Apple iMac Pro 27"

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 provides a variety of desktop computers including the Mac mini, iMac, iMac Pro and Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro hasn't ben updated in a while, so our top pick for max performance is the iMac Pro.

With the iMac Pro you get a minimum of 32GB of RAM memory and can go up to an astonishing 128GB in the higher end model. You get state of the art graphics cards starting with the default Radeon Pro Vega 56 (8GB HBM2 memory). 

With a price tag starting at $4,499, it’s not cheap for budget-conscience documentary filmmakers, but if you’re looking for high speed performance video editing, this is it. 

Apple iMac

iMac 27-inch
Apple iMac 27" Desktop with Retina 5K display

The 27" iMac 5K Retina Display is another great choice for video editing at a bit more affordable price point.

Depending on your budget, the base model starts with 8GB of memory, 1TB hard drive, 3.8GHz quad core i5 processor, a Radeon Pro 8GB video graphics card and a stunning 5k display. 

As budget allows, add additional hard drive space and RAM and bump up to the i7 for max performance. 

The biggest difference between getting an iMac and the iMac Pro are the rendering times, so if you’re being paid by the hour or are on a tight deadline, iMac Pro is the way to go. Otherwise, the iMac is our overall best choice in Mac for professional video editing. 

If you're an amateur video editor on a super tight budget, take a look at the Mac Mini. Make sure to get the model with 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU, 1TB hard drive and 8GB RAM. (The entry-level model and it's puny 1.4 GHz processor will make video editing painfully slow)  

Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro (part of Adobe Creative Cloud) are all excellent video editing software options to use with a Mac.

Hewlett-Packard ENVY Desktop Computer

Hewlett-Packard ENVY Desktop Computer
Hewlett-Packard ENVY Desktop Computer

If you prefer editing on a Windows-based computer, the Hewlett-Packard ENVY Desktop Computer is a terrific choice. 

It’s great for anyone that wants their equipment ready, right out of the box, advertised as “...a stylish desktop with included photo and video editing software, and an expandable solid-state drive.”

This machine is a powerhouse with stability and speed for some of the most complex projects.

A monitor will have to be purchased to go along with this one but luckily it isn’t so outrageously priced. In addition, enjoy hefty performance with the 7th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700, Quad-Core processor which hits speeds of up to 3.60GHz.

One of the best parts about this option is that you can choose between 8GB or 16GB of RAM, whatever your budget will allow. Of course, it’s always possible to upgrade later!

Laptop Computer for Video Editing

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 maybe you travel and need a quick video editing solution on the go. If so, here are some top choices. 

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro MGXC2LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop with Retina Display
Apple MacBook Pro Laptop with Retina Display

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 15-inch with Retina Display. That model comes with a NVIDIA GeForce GT graphics card which speeds up rendering times. 

ASUS ZenBook Pro

Dell Precision M2800 Laptop
ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW-US71 Laptop

On the PC side, try the ASUS Zenbook.

For the price, this laptop comes well-equipped with the power needed to complete video editing projects on the go. While it’s not a long-term editing solution for someone hoping for long term work in this field, it’s a great machine for a beginner or intermediate filmmaker.

One amazon reviewer says, “This is a very well made and quality laptop for the price.”

The downsides seem to consist of the small screen, which doesn’t necessarily benefit from the 4k resolution capabilities. Luckily, this fix can be as easy as plugging it into a monitor, so you get the best of both worlds: editing from a large, external screen at home for more detailed work or having the freedom to work from anywhere.

Computer Buying Cheat Sheet

Here are your basic specs to look for when buying a computer for video editing:

  • Memory: 8-32 GB RAM or as much as you can afford
  • Processor: Multi-core Intel i5/i7 models (i7 is best)
  • Storage: At least 256 GB hard drive, 7200 RPM .. buy as much as you can afford, you can always add external hard drives
  • Graphics card: Radeon Pro graphics or NVIDIA Geforce GT or greater (bare minimum 1GB)
  • Operating System: Windows 7 (64 bit edition), Mac OS X, Linux (Your OS will likely determine the editing software you go with)
  • Nice size screen – 19-21 inch minimum
  • Firewire or Thunderbolt Port built in or as an external dock

Build Your Own Computer

If you want to save a bit of money and are technically inclined, it’s not as hard as it may seem to build a customized computer for video editing.

Click here to take a course on Udemy and learn how to build your own computer from scratch.

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