When you’re shopping for a laptop capable of video editing, there are several variables to consider. Whether you're a professional video editor or just getting started, a machine that can provide the kind of performance you need is essential. Video editing itself is extremely resource intensive and having a laptop with serious processing power will make your workflow much smoother and save you hours in the long run. The goal of this guide is to help you get a better idea of what specs will matter the most when you’re choosing a laptop for video editing.
Performance (CPU, Memory & GPU)
The best video-editing laptops have specs that prioritize performance, first and foremost. Ideally, you want a machine that's capable of running industry-standard programs like Adobe Premiere Pro or DaVinci Resolve smoothly. CPU, RAM, and hard drives are all possible areas in which a laptop can bottleneck, so we'll take a look at each category, why they're important, and how they factor in to performance.
Your laptop's processing power is a huge part of the equation for editing video. You've probably heard the expression that a CPU translates more or less into your computer's "brain" and for good reason. A CPU's number of cores equates directly to faster processing. For example, a quad-core CPU is going to perform exponentially faster than a dual-core, and so on. Meanwhile, the CPU is responsible for tasks like generating previews, encoding and exporting videos, and shares the heavy lifting of rendering video with the GPU. The speed at which your CPU processes is measured in GHz. In terms of editing content, if you're working with 4K video, you’ll be better served with a higher core-count CPU than a laptop with a dual-core one. Intel®-based CPUs are pretty common and can be found in many laptops on the market. Even Apple's MacBooks were powered with Intel® chips until the brand made the switch to its own proprietary chips. Regardless, CPU performance is something you're going to want to maximize if you want to get the best video-editing performance from your laptop.
For high-res video editing, more RAM is always going to be the better choice. Large video files can cause your computer to run slowly, especially if you're trying to run other programs in the background. Having more memory allows your laptop to run smoother playback and do more simultaneously in the background, such as editing multiple streams of high-resolution video at once. Generally, you don't want to skimp in this category and, at a bare minimum, 16GB of RAM is a safe floor for anyone who's just getting started in their editing journey. If you're editing 4K video or higher, anywhere in the realm of 32GB and upward allows your laptop to perform smoothly in tandem with background apps and limits potential bottlenecks.
Having a powerful GPU is essential for rendering parts of a video through which a CPU would take significantly longer to chew. That's an oversimplification, however, because ultimately, both the GPU and CPU do the heavy lifting when editing video, depending on the complexity of your scene. While a dedicated GPU isn't technically essential for simple video-editing tasks, a GPU is better suited to handle certain tasks in the video editing process. The creation of proxy files, or adding 3D effects/VFX to a video are examples of tasks that are GPU reliant. If we go back to the "CPU cores" example, GPUs have significantly higher core counts, which means they can handle certain processes significantly faster. For example, while Apple's latest MacBook has a 12-core CPU, its GPU can be configured all the way up to a whopping 38 cores. Ultimately, determining how much GPU you need can also vary depending on the software you're running. An example of this is Adobe Premiere Pro, which tends to be more CPU and RAM intensive, while another industry standard program, DaVinici Resolve, leans more heavily on GPU performance. Having more GPU performance at your disposal can only help speed up the sometimes lengthy process of rendering but, if you're keeping things simple and not handling complicated files, it’s potentially an area on which beginners can afford to compromise.
SSDs, which are newer and faster, have all but replaced traditional HDDs in laptops. Despite that, getting a ton of internal storage can get expensive rather quickly. That's where external drives come in and while most of the time you're probably going to be editing via an external device, it's recommended you have a comfortable amount of local storage on your device to avoid potentially bogging down your laptop. And like we said before, video files are massive, especially if you're working with 4K footage, so even a 512GB SSD can fill up extremely quickly. A 1TB SSD, for example, is a comfortable amount of storage on your device that allows you to have proxy or render files on your laptop, which are lower-res versions of your footage that you create using your editing software. They'll help to ensure that your playback isn't sluggish and when it’s time to render your footage, those proxies are replaced with the true video files and rendered out. Because you're most likely going to be working on an external device, feel free to check this guide on some of the best external hard drives and SSDs available, with a focus on portability, or this one for a more an even more in-depth breakdown.
Our goal when narrowing down what we want in a display is to make our videos look as lifelike and accurate as possible. Having a display that's bright, color accurate, and in ultra-high definition is a key tool for video editors. A high-resolution display is going to deliver more detailed, sharper images and save your eyes a lot of strain in the long run. Such a display makes it much easier when you're working with a ton of windows as well as multiple layers and their toggles. You've probably seen the phrase "color gamut" thrown around, and that refers to a range of colors within a spectrum, or a color space, that can be reproduced on a display or monitor. Ideally, a display that covers as close to 100% of the sRGB spectrum will deliver the most accurate results. It's also important to consider whether you'll be editing primarily on your laptop or on a separate external display. Ultimately, with a display or monitor, consider your budget and your level of investment because while professionals will want the best performance possible, there are plenty of budget-friendly options that will get the job done if you're a newcomer to video production. To read more about color-accurate displays check out this guide.
Ports and Connectivity
While expanded connectivity is always an option, thanks to USB hubs, having the ports you need is going to save you some hassle in the form of cable management. A dedicated SD slot, for example, is almost essential for anyone serious about editing. There are other factors to consider too, like Thunderbolt™ support for fast file transfers or external displays, as well as additional USB ports for external drives and other peripherals. Some laptops also have dedicated display outputs like HDMI 2.1. or DisplayPort built in, which are great additions if you'll be using a separate display regularly.
Some Recommended Laptops
We decided to include a few recommendations that will be reliable regardless of whether it's your first laptop or you're replacing an aging machine. For example, it's so easy to recommend this year's 16" MacBook Pro because it checks all the above boxes and then some. Sure, it's going to be pricey, but you're getting a phenomenal 16" display with a 3456 x 2234 resolution, an SD card slot with three Thunderbolt™ 4 ports, and plenty of speed and performance, thanks to Apple's M3 chipset. It also has solid 22-hour battery life and the same fantastic build quality that anyone who has used an Apple device will recognize.
Alternatively, gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 18 serve double duty as excellent tools for video editing because the spec requirements for gaming and demanding video editing overlap. High frame rates, efficient power usage, and high-end graphics all require capable CPUs and GPUs. Game-friendly laptops can power through demanding video projects and content creation with ease, too. The 18" display on the Blade 18 is also huge and a definite plus for those looking to edit right on their laptop. Another Windows based device worth checking out is the Zbook Studio G9 from HP, which has the specs to be a reliable workhorse laptop with a great selection of ports, as well. These are just scratching the surface when it comes to video editing-ready laptops, but don't let those limit your search. Now that you have a better idea of what components to prioritize, there are plenty of other options available.
Which laptop do you rely on for editing? Let us know in the Comments section, below, whether you're researching something to replace your current setup or if this is your first editing laptop.