Choosing the right video editing laptop can be complicated. Crunching videos literally stretches your system to its limits. And many new laptops only work with the most basic editing software.
Finding the best one for this task is all about balancing the non-negotiable performance needs for the job, with the nice-to-have benefits that fall within your budget.
The best video editing laptop provides optimal performance for running professional editing programs. And gives you the power to process reams of information.
Knowing your budget and what equipment you need to get the job done will go a long way to help you make the right decision.
What Makes a Good Video Editing Laptop?
While a designated desktop is ideal for this intense computer application. It’s not always convenient to lug a huge desktop around. Especially if you’re a mobile filmmaker.
You’re going to need a portable computer that provides adequate processing power, system memory, and hard drive space.
From most to least important, here are the 9 features to think about that will lead you to the perfect video editing laptop.
A video editing laptop will require a lot of horsepower. Multimedia laptops are built with better CPUs, more RAM, and higher-end graphics card than mainstream laptops.
Since Macs are built for multimedia projects. They’re the laptop standard in the video production world, which is why you can’t go wrong with a Mac. It’s literally a matter choosing a model with customizable options.
PC laptops, on-the-other-hand, are available in a wide range of hardware features and specifications. So, it’s critically important to know what’s offered to ensure you’re buying one with higher-end levels of hardware.
Content creation software are well-optimized for multi-core processors. And, if you like working with many applications open. A multi-core CPU that offers hyper-threading technology will blaze through heavyweight tasks in record time.
If you embrace AMD, the FX Series is the only way to go. These CPUs come with up to eight cores. But, since they’re built using an old manufacturing process. They create a lot of heat (up to 220W), which requires an efficient cooling system to dissipate.
Intel CPUs are widely regarded as better performers. For a similar price. You get faster stock Clock Speeds, power consumption, and better overclocking. The Core i5 and i7 series are competitive models that help editing software run at top speed.
Hyper-Threading is a feature used extensively by nearly every new and popular content creation program. It makes a quad-core CPU work as if it has eight processor cores. One of many benefits includes better responsiveness when running multiple programs.
Your laptop needs a place to put all the temporary work files created as you edit. The fastest CPU on the planet won’t make a difference if your laptop doesn’t have enough space to put files.
For editing 1080p footage, digital filmmaking programs will perform adequately with 8 GB of RAM. 16 GB is better for a faster laptop.
We highly recommend 16-32 GB of system memory when working with professional programs, like Media Composer or Premiere Pro which run alongside complementary editing applications. You’ll get real-time playback without dropped frames. It will also come handy as more 4K content is produced.
And don’t worry about the raw speed of the memory you choose. Even slower memory is only going to drop a couple of percentage points in terms of speed compared to faster options. You’ll also need to designate portions of RAM for the programs you work with. (You’ll see these preferences in your NLE of choice.)
Get as much RAM as your budget allows, for now. Most laptops make it fairly easy to upgrade memory down the road. Before buying memory, check the size and amount the motherboard supports so it won’t be maxed-out.
There’s often a trade-off between speed and size when it comes to storage. A slow hard drive makes opening software and exporting footage take longer than it should. And since the hard drive is where all your programs are stored. Speed is also important.
New laptops combine a fast, solid-state drive (SSD) with one or more high-capacity hard disk drives for local data storage. You can place the OS and video editing software on the SSD (get the M.2 form-factor for a performance bump). Then store large video files on a 7200 RPM HDD. This will result in a noticeable performance boost.
In addition to staggering speeds, SSDs are less prone to failure than HDDs and Fusion Drives. But they have small capacities, and they’re more expensive.
To prevent footage loss resulting from drive failure. Experts recommend using multiple HDDs in a RAID configuration. A hardware RAID solution puts less strain on CPU resources, which are needed for running the editing software. Also, consider RAID-0 SSD sub-system for applications and RAID-1 for data.
To implement backup and restore plans. Here’s the difference between software RAID vs hardware RAID.
A graphics card is the hardware in your laptop that translates footage from data into pixels. A lightning-fast, discrete graphics card is always better than trying to use onboard graphics for editing, which will eat up system memory.
Adding a desktop video card accelerates the rendering process. But unless you’re doing professional work for clients, you only need a mid-range GPU to edit video.
NVIDIA and AMD both make amazing and not so amazing cards. You’ll need to do some research to get a good deal. Start with the recommendation page from your NLE of choice.
Editing programs like Premiere Pro and After Effects are designed to utilize Nvidia’s propriety CUDA framework, therefore GeForce video cards tend to work very well.
In addition, newer graphics cards make video editing application such as Photoshop CC more responsive. By performing complex mathematical calculations at blistering speeds to accelerate certain operations. 3D transitions and other special effects. get faster manipulation and filter performance.
And the capacity of the Video RAM affects the display resolution. You need:
- 2 GB for editing 1080p footage displayed at 1080p
- 4 GB for editing 1080p footage displayed at 4K
- 4 GB for editing 4K footage displayed at 1080p
- 6 GB for editing 4K footage displayed at 4K
All HD video is captured digitally, mostly on a video camera’s internal hard drive, or removeable media card. It makes it relatively easy and fast to transfer raw footage to your editing laptop.
A video editing laptop receives all the video data through a USB port. New video capture devices can recognize when a USB cable is connected to a laptop, and set up the transfer process automatically.
But a firewire port-also known as IEEE 1394 and iLink-provides the fastest way to edit video by connecting the laptop to the video camera. Or, you can buy an external hard drive with a firewire port for storing video footage.
A USB 2.0 port will work in place of firewire. They’re not as fast. And don’t provide as many options for connecting external devices to the laptop. But here’s a list of other ports for your video editing laptop.
Two or more screens will improve your productivity, significantly.
Modern graphics cards offer dual-display capabilities, which enable your video editing laptop to drive more than one display at a time.
You can maintain one display for editing. And a second for your pallet boxes, web browser and email. For professional work on your laptop and on the external monitor. Look for one that’s IPS or VA based. Both offer technologies for superior color reproduction.
The more affordable 24-inch monitors provide a 1920 x 1080 resolution, but tend to be TN based. Get the largest widescreen LCD monitor compatible with your graphics card.
Many LCD monitors start at 21-inches, and go up to 27-inches diagonally, and beyond. A 27-inch monitor may seem like overkill. But with all the space taken up by multiple windows open, and video playbacks. A widescreen monitor is a practical necessity.
Accessories for a Video Editing Laptop
Extra features one your video editing laptop will make your life much easier once you sit down to edit.
- an SD card slot is helpful for dumping pictures or audio
- a bigger or extra battery is handy since video editing tends to kill them
- a DVD-burner (preferably a Blu-Ray version) is great for burning and sharing
- an ergonomic mouse is a good idea since trackpads tend to get uncomfortable during long editing sessions
- and, nothing beats a normal keyboardand mouse combination except a tablet, which feels more natural for touching up images with precision
Video Editing Software
One way to choose your video editing laptop is to first decide what video editing software you prefer. Obviously, if your editing with Mac. You go with Final Cut Pro X. If on a PC laptop, then it must be Sony Vegas Pro.
There are a lot more choices for intermediate and professional video editing software for PC laptops than Macs. But the editing programs available for Macs are great quality. And many users claim Macs are more stable.
Ideally, you’ll know what type of software you’ll be using to edit video on your laptop. And if so, you can look at the minimum system requirements and buy a laptop that at least meets those needs.