Gear Roundup: The Best Laptops for Video Editing
If you’re in the market for an editing computer but need something that’s portable, your best bet is a solid video editing laptop.
In the past, you could really only edit video on a desktop computer — laptops just weren’t up to speed in the editing realm. They didn’t have the horsepower to get renders out in a manageable fashion, and trying to edit on them was (and still is for underpowered laptops) a complete hassle. But, with the advent of new, more powerful computer parts available to consumers — such as implemented SSDs and slimmer GPUs — laptops are now a viable option for professional editors.
So, we’ve compiled a list of laptops that can expedite your rush edits, or even plug into a monitor to create a portable workstation. This list includes laptops across the entire spectrum of price range, including some of our favorite choices for different types of editors. Let’s dive in!
Things You Should Look for in an Editing Laptop
(The intro part of this video will explain all you need to know about computer components.)
If you’re unfamiliar with what you need to look for in a computer before purchasing, here’s a few things you need to know:
- The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brains of the operation. It performs most processing tasks within your PC, so you should prioritize it for editing computers. Performance is measured by Hz and core-count, so the higher the number on each of those, the more power it has (Ex: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor).
- The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is important in its own right for rendering and processing graphics. GPUs are measured in Graphic Memory, from 4GB-12GB. The higher the number, the more powerful the GPU (Ex: MSI Radeon RX 580 8 GB ARMOR OC Video Card). If you work in After Effects or DaVinci Resolve a lot, look for a good GPU in your laptop.
- Always buy SSDs (Solid State Drives) over HDDs (Hard Disk Drives). They can access information ten times faster than HDDs, and they can increase your editing speeds by accessing the footage seamlessly.
- RAM is not going to technically “speed up” your PC. Certain programs use a certain amount of RAM, so more RAM in your computer lets you open more programs at once.
These are all of the specs you need to look for in a laptop, along with what type of monitor it comes with. If you’re editing 4K footage, you should probably invest in a 4K laptop. A helpful tip you should remember is when you’re looking at laptops, if it’s marketed as a “gaming” laptop, odds are the specs will prioritize CPU/GPU power over peripherals — like a touchscreen or “tablet” functionality.
Now if you’re looking to build your own, get your literal hands on these items, here’s a comprehensive list for you. This helps you have a better understanding of what you need to edit a film.
The Budget Problem
So, if you’re thinking of buying a new laptop for video editing, budget is probably the first thing you think of. Now, of course, the more money you spend, the better laptop you’ll get. When buying an editing laptop, you might have to stretch your budget in the range of $1K-3K, which seems like a huge investment. But, trust me, it’s worth it. Unlike a PC you build yourself, you aren’t able to switch out your components as the years go by, with programs requiring more computing power and updated parts. That means it’s good to over-estimate your power requirements because in a few years, you don’t want your laptop to be underpowered once certain parts become obsolete.
Low-Budget Recommendation: Lenovo™ Legion® Y7000P Gaming Laptop — $1,069
If you’re looking for a laptop for around $1K that can perform all the tasks you need, I can’t recommend the Legion Y7000P enough. It’s got an incredible grouping of components that rivals laptops in higher price ranges — such as an i7 processor and 8GB of RAM. It’s only got a 1080p display, but hey, we’re on a budget here. A great feature of this laptop is the split storage: 1TB of HDD space for your video files and 256GB of SSD space for your OS and programs.
- GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1650 4GB
- Processor: 9th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-9750HF (2.60GHz, up to 4.50GHz with Turbo Boost, 6-Cores, 12MB Cache)
- Display Type: 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, 60Hz, 250 nits
- Memory: 8GB DDR4 2666MHz
- Hard Drive: 1TB HDD 7200 RPM + 256GB SSD PCIe
Mid-Level Budget Recommendation: Alienware m15 Gaming Laptop — $1,349
I haven’t been the biggest fan of Alienware in the past because of the sometimes-overinflated prices on their desktop computers, but the Aliendware m15 Gaming Laptop is a solid purchase for video editing. While it only had a 4-core processor and 8GB of RAM, the GPU makes up for the slack it’s missing with a 6GB 1660 Ti included. This would be a great laptop for anyone using DaVinci Resolve, since the program utilizes the GPU more than the processor.
- 9th Generation Intel® Core™ i5-9300H (4-Core, 8MB Cache, up to 4.1GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
- Windows 10 Home 64-bit English
- NVIDIA® GeForce GTX® 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6
- 8GB DDR4 2666MHz
- 256GB PCIe M.2 SSD
High-Budget Recommendation: Used 15″ MacBook Pro (2019) — $1,749
For creatives, the go-to laptop purchase seems to be the MacBook Pro, and for good reason. They perform well with editing programs, offer incredible displays, and last an incredibly long time. We’re buying used here since there’s a significant price decrease from a new one. If you want the performance of an i7 and 16GB of memory, all under 2K, your best bet is buying your Mac used from a reputable dealer.
- 2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
- Memory: 16GB of 2400MHz DDR4 onboard memory
- Storage: 256GB SSD
- Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory and automatic graphics switching
Best-in-Category: The Specialist Laptops
After our budget recommendations, we realized that we left out a lot of good laptops that are specialist-based — meaning they’re good for certain types of editors. Here’s a few we thought you should know about.
Best for Designers Who Edit: Microsoft Surface Book Pro 2 — $2,599
If you’re a designer who needs both a tablet and a powerful laptop, I’ve heard great things about the Surface Book 2 from Microsoft. While it’s in laptop mode, it functions as a normal laptop, but you can remove the display to turn it into a fully functional tablet. If you need to draw up Illustrator files for your work before you start editing, you can do it all-in-one with the Surface Book.
- 16GB of RAM
- Intel i7 8th Gen
- 512 GB of SSD Storage
Best Rugged-Ready Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad P73
I’ve always been a big fan of Lenovo’s ThinkPad series for one reason: they last forever. These laptops are built like tanks, and they have incredible battery life for editors on the move. There’s an incredible amount of customization you can get with the ThinkPad by adding either 16 or 32GB of RAM, or even going big and maxing out the CPU to an Intel i9, 8-core processor. If you’re an editor who may be in tumultuous situations — such as editing on set — the ThinkPad is a solid option.
- 9th Gen Intel® Core™ or Intel® Xeon® multi-core processors
- Most powerful NVIDIA® Quadro® RTX graphics
- 4K UHD and Dolby Vision™ display option
Also, the channel Matt WhoisMatt Johnson is an incredible resource for anybody looking to build or customize their editing rig, as well as how to approach exporting.
Cover image via Suradech Prapairat.
Looking for more on video gear? Check out these articles.