DECEMBER 2, 2020

What's the Best Computer for Video Editing?

best computer for video editing

Choosing the best computer for video editing is a bit like buying a high-end sports car. Sleek, flashy aesthetics are all well and good, but it’s what’s under the hood that counts.

Speed and performance are essential to maintaining a professional video editing workflow. It takes a lot of horsepower to process 4K and HDR video, multicam projects, and complex effects on multiple tracks of video and audio, never mind 8K and 12K media.

Buying a new computer is always a balancing act between what you’d like to have and how much money you have to spend. That said, there are some universal specs to keep in mind regardless of whether you’re shopping for a supercharged desktop workstation or a mobile laptop for editing on the go.

1. Processing Power

First up is the Central Processing Unit, or CPU. Think of it as the main “brain” of the computer—it does all the thinking and processing. A fast brain that can multitask is essential for editing, particularly when it comes to processor-intensive activities like video encoding.

Early CPUs contained a single core that ran one program at a time. Today’s CPUs have multiple cores and what’s known as threading, which allows computers to run multiple programs and tasks at the same time. For you, this means greater speed and processing power.

Lean on a multicore CPU for video editing. A six-core processor is suitable for most video work, and one running at 3.0 GHz or faster will likely match the performance you need.

2. Random Access Memory

Another key component is Random Access Memory, or RAM. Think of this as the computer’s short-term memory—where it temporarily stores data from the applications it’s actively using.

In video editing, consider footage resolution and bit depth when you decide how much RAM to buy. The main use of RAM in video editing is caching preview files for use during playback. The larger the frame size of the media, the more space that’s required to store those files while working with them.

Aim for a minimum of 32 GB of RAM for a video editing workflow involving 1080p to 4K footage. More intensive workflows, such as those using 8K footage in 10-bit, may require 64 GB of RAM or more to get smooth performance.

The amount of RAM your computer offers is only half the equation, however; the other half is access speed. Look for computers with DDR4 memory, the highest-performing RAM available as of the time this article is being published.

3. Graphics Processing

Next up is the Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU. It’s the creative part of the computer—responsible for producing the graphics, textures, and images you see on your screen. While the CPU and RAM do most of the heavy lifting, some tasks are offloaded onto the GPU.

A midrange AMD or Nvidia unit with at least 4 GB of VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) will be enough for most video editing. (Caveat: make sure it is dedicated memory and not shared, which borrows from the CPU.) However, editors who work with a lot of complex effects, color grading, and 3D rendering should get the fastest GPU they can afford. Faster GPUs don’t provide higher quality, only faster render times. If you’re working with large amounts of high-resolution files—particularly 4K or 360-degree video—a high-end GPU will expedite the process and transcode the files at a reasonable speed.

4. Internal Storage

Finally, there’s internal storage. Think of this as the computer’s long-term memory—where applications and files are stored until needed.

Video editors will always need to rely on external drives to store footage. Media files are massive, and keeping them on a separate drive from the operating system works double duty to enhance the system’s speed and offer a layer of protection in case of computer failure. That said, ensure there’s enough space on the internal drive to store current project assets and run applications smoothly. A solid state drive (SSD) with at least 1 TB to 2 TB of space is ideal.

Ultimately, the best computer for video editing depends on how it will be used, how tight the deadlines are, and your budget. Any modern computer can edit video—the key difference is how quickly and efficiently it does so. Time is money in the post-production world, so buy the best you can afford.

  • Cindy Burgess Headshot

    Cindy Burgess is a Toronto journalist, educator, and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experiences working with video.

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