Editing 4K Footage with a MacBook Air - Is it Possible?

MacBook Air 4K Editing
Tips from one videographer on how 4K editing on a baseline MacBook Air actually works.

Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Yet, here we have video proof that not only can a 15.6mm thin MacBook Air edit 4K footage, but one Youtube videographer actually prefers it! (Here's No Film School's coverage on Apple's new Macbook Air and the rest of Apple's new line.)

Let’s look at Kraig Adams‘ crazy experiment and see how you too can push the limits of just how high of quality footage you can work with on the thinnest of laptops.

Base Model MacBook Air 2018

MacBook Air 2018
This video really comes down to a case study in what the bare minimums of modern processing technology can accomplish. Adams points out several times in the video that his 2018 MacBook Air is the “base model”, which basically means it’s at the lowest offered price point without any upgrades to storage and RAM - which Apple does offer. Here are the stats on this base model 2018 MacBook Air:

  • 13.3” Retina display

  • 1.6GHz processor

  • 8GBs memory

  • 120GB SSD

  • 2.75 pound

  • 15.6mm thin

Price: $1,199.00

External SSD

Adams also points out that the one non-base model addition to his workflow is an external 1TB SSD as the Air’s 120GB SSD is hardly enough for most 4K video footage and assets. He uses a SanDisk 1TB SSD, which is a very solid and durable option, but you can use your best option as well. (Here’s a great article on getting the most out of your external drives.)

Render and Export Times

4K Render Export
Now, obviously, if you’re editing 4K footage on a bare minimum build out, as compared to say - a more powerful MacBook Pro which Adams shows in his video - you’ll notice some drastic differences in render and export times. Adams uses Final Cut in his video and compares a 10-minute vlog export between the machines to show about a 2x difference in speed, but that could possibly grow exponentially with longer renders and exports.

Watch and Decide

While this is definitely a great case study, it really comes down to your own personal workflow needs and preferences. It’s good to know that it is, in fact, possible to edit 4K footage on a base model MacBook Air 2018, but the real questions will always be why? And do you really have to?     

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Your Comment



November 6, 2018 at 1:50PM, Edited November 6, 1:50PM

Nathan Presley

I'd throw it in the freezer for rendering and still have a fire extinguisher standing by. My MacBook Pro is no wimp and I always fear it's going to burst into flames on big renders.

November 9, 2018 at 12:31PM, Edited November 9, 12:31PM


I rough-cut 4K footage on my OS 10.6.8 iMac Intel 2 (4GB only) using iMovie HD.

November 11, 2018 at 2:21AM

Barri Hitchin