Best Laptop for Video Editing


Many laptops today are powerful enough to

edit video. Analyze your needs and do your

homework before you buy.


Choosing which laptop is best for video

editing starts with understanding your

current and future needs and

considering the best options in your

target price range.






1 Assess the complexity of your usual


2 Explore different software options.

3 Decide on the peripherals you need.

4 Review the specs of your top few choices.

Diving into video editing for the first

time? Trying to figure out which is the

best laptop for video editing? Here’s some

advice. Don’t begin with the laptop, begin

with you.

Before you even start looking into

microprocessor clock speeds, internal vs.

external memory, and all the other

specifications with which you can

compare one laptop to another. Analyze

your specifications. What kind of video

will you be editing? What finished product

do you want?

If you’re shooting a documentary for the

Sundance Film Festival*, that’s one set of

requirements. Documenting your

daughter’s first swimming lesson and

editing out the bit where your thumb was

the star of the show? Now, that leads to

different prerequisites.

What Do You Really Need?

You should think about your upcoming

video editing projects first for one simple

reason: Cost. Higher-end specifications,

such as high-resolution screens, fast

processing speeds, and larger memory

capacity may be preferable, but they are

also more expensive. If you think ahead,

you can buy what you need now and plan

for future expansion. Here are some

specific areas to consider:

Your content. Your laptop choice

will be heavily influenced by the

video you want to produce. For

example, if you’re making social

videos to promote your business,

you’ll want the ability to create

text overlay on some clips.

Sophisticated audio editing

capabilities and good speakers will

make a big difference when editing

footage from your band’s latest

gig. Art projects, on the other

hand, place a premium on accurate

color representation at high


How you plan to work. Will you be

working under time pressures?

Then speed matters most. If

you’re constantly on the road, you

may find weight and battery life to

be more important.

External gear. External gear, such

as a monitor, input device, or extra

storage, has to plug into your

video editing laptop. You have to

make sure your choice has the

right kind—e.g., HDMI—and

number of inputs.

Software. Your editing experience

depends on matching the software

you need to the hardware it

requires. Not all software runs on

all laptops. Consider your video

editing software preferences before

you’ve made any hardware


Navigating Specifications

With your needs in hand, you can start

shopping. You’ll face a bewildering array

of specifications. The tests used to create

these specifications are not only

complicated, but often controversial.

Finding the best laptop for video editing

isn’t about specs; it’s about fit. Keep that

in mind as you peruse the specs.


Speed is your friend when it comes to

processors for video editing. Figuring out

what is actually fastest is not as simple

as comparing the 0-60 times for cars.

Deciding which processor is best means

deciphering how much processor design

matters to your work. Do you need a six

core? A quad core? Or will a dual core

meet your needs? What about hyper-

threading? Even if you don’t want to get

into that level of detail, here’s easy

shorthand to follow: The higher the

processor clock rate in any given

processor family, the better. Right now,

the clock rate for top candidates ranges

from roughly 2.8 GHz to 3.6 GHz, but the

numbers change on a regular basis.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

RAM is important because it’s the place

where your CPU goes to get the data it

uses to make your video edits. The faster

that data exchange happens, the faster

you can edit. Most experts agree that you

need a minimum of 12 GB, and 16 GB is

better. Also, there are three types of RAM

—SDRAM, DDR, and DRAM. SDRAM is the

oldest technology, and it will slow you

down. Finally, systems may have one,

two, or three channels connecting RAM to

the CPU. Three is obviously the fastest,

but tests related to gaming (which has

similar challenges to editing) indicate that

the number of channels doesn’t have a

big effect. And again, the sheer amount of

RAM far outweighs other considerations.

One caveat. Don’t assume you’ll be able

to upgrade the amount of RAM down the

road. Some laptops allow this, but some


Graphics Card

Unless you’re planning to do only very

low-end video editing, you’ll want a laptop

with a graphics card. For technical

reasons, systems for even mid-level

editing offload graphics processing from

the CPU to a graphics card with a GPU

(graphics processing unit). You should

avoid any laptop that doesn’t take this

approach. It will be too slow. Beyond

that, be aware that some video editing

software programs recommend (or even

require) a specific graphics card or range

of cards within a brand, and some

graphics cards are only compatible with

certain CPUs. It pays to check this out.

The key top-level specifications for

graphics cards are GPU clock speed and

frames per second (FPS) per dollar.

However, graphics cards are very

complicated and these specs need to be

taken in context of the whole laptop. For

example, a slow CPU will bog down any

graphics card, no matter how fast that

card may be.


Laptops for video editing vary

significantly in the number and types of

ports they have for external devices like a

monitor or a hard drive. It is very

important to think ahead about what

items you’ll need or may need down the

road, because if there’s no port for them,

you’re out of luck.


If your content involves music or

important ambient sound, accurately

hearing what you’ve got is obviously

important. The speakers in some laptops

are dramatically better than others. You

don’t need specifications to evaluate

them; your ears will do just fine. Many

editors prefer to listen with headphones,

which are nearly always superior to laptop

speakers. For videos where audio is

primary, consider adding external

reference speakers.


As a rule of thumb, you’ll need about

twice as much hard drive capacity as the

size of your source file—even three times

more if you’re doing anything fancy, like

lots of special effects. But don’t forget,

you not only need to store source files for

editing, you have to store the finished

video as well. Video files take up a lot of

room; 500 GB is probably the minimum,

and 1 TB is an even safer bet.

Luckily, you don’t have to depend solely

on the storage available inside your

laptop. External hard drives can help

maximize storage capacity while keeping

costs in line. For the hard drive itself, you

can choose between standard hard drives

(HDD) with spinning discs, and solid state

drives (SSD), which are faster and have

no moving parts. SSDs, however, are

more expensive. A hybrid solution can

give you the best of both worlds: A fast

onboard SSD to handle working files with

and a large external HDD for storage.

You also have to think about the interface

between an external hard drive and your

laptop. You don’t want to be put on hold

every few minutes while you wait for a file

to transfer. There are several options,

ranging from a low of 6 Gbps (USB 3.1)

to a high of 40 Gbps. ( Thunderbolt™ ). The

more files you’re going to be pulling up

from your hard drive, the more important

this number becomes.

Christopher St. John, an

independent creative director.

“When you edit

video, there are a

ton of elements

fighting for space

on the screen.”

LCD Panel

There are three types of LCD panels, and

the type you choose makes a big


TN (Twisted Nematic) panels are

common and cheap, but you get what

you pay for—a bad choice for video


IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels are

the preferable choice

IGZO (Indium-Gallium-Zinc Oxide) are

rare, expensive, and the highest

quality option for the professional



Resolution is a fairly straightforward

specification with several levels available,

all defined by the width by height (WxH)

in pixels. The most common are:

High Definition: 1920×1080. This is

also known as full high definition

(FHD) or 1080p

Apple Retina*: 2880×1800

4K: 3840×2160. This is sometimes

referred to as Ultra High Definition or


The majority of laptops have much lower

resolution than the 1920×1080 that most

videographers would agree is the low end

of acceptability.

Color Fidelity

There are several scientific definitions of

the “color space” offered by laptop

screens, but it’s easiest to think of it this

way: The color space is the number of

different colors a monitor can display.

The most common is sRGB, (standard

Red, Green, Blue) although Adobe RGB*

runs a close second. Manufacturers often

express color fidelity as a percentage of

sRGB, and it’s usually over 100% because

sRGB doesn’t cover all the colors the eye

can perceive.

Looking into the Future

One thing is certain about the future of

video editing: The files are going to get

bigger. With 4K cameras becoming more

common, and virtual reality on the way,

when it comes to capacity and processing

power, today’s luxury will be tomorrow’s


Key Specifications to


Use this chart to start your search.

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