September 4, 2015 at 7:09AM

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Best laptop for video editing

Hi there, I am an aspiring filmmaker looking to buy a first-time laptop for video-editing. I have narrowed my choices down to:

1) Macbook Pro 13-inch retina display (i5, 2.7GHz and 16GB RAM and 128GB built in memory)
2) Lenovo Y50 (i7, 2.4GHz processor, up to 16GB RAM and 256GB built in memory)
3) DELL XPS 15 (i7, 3.3GHz processor, 16GB RAM and 512GB memory).
I know memory can always be upgraded externally, but does one of these laptops have the edge in terms of performance and endurance?

15 Comments

What's the graphics card like for each of these laptops ?

Most of the newer video editors will use the graphics card ( if it's powerful enough ) to speed up the display and processing of your video footage.

September 6, 2015 at 1:11PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32512

What NLE do you plan to use? FCPX runs only on Mac. DaVinci Resolve 12 looks to be a powerful, low-cost alternative, but their configuration guide strongly encourages 4GB GPU RAM as a minimum--more than most laptops offer. Laptops can be wonderful for editorial review, but are not necessarily the best for actual editing.

September 7, 2015 at 3:15AM

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I don't know how you can do video editing on 13". I think 15" is minimum, 17" is better. You can find a few very capable gaming laptops from Asus and MSI, video cards with 2 - 3GB of video memory and i7 plus 12 - 16GB of RAM for $1000 - $1500. It is heavy machines usually around 6lb. I am talking about Windows, of course.

September 7, 2015 at 6:43AM, Edited September 7, 6:43AM

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Vladimir Pcholkin
BeekeeperStories
420

Hi Jamie!

Just some thoughts. For video, you probably want to lean more towards a workstation laptop rather than a gaming laptop. It really depends on how serious you are about film making but workstations give you lots of advantages over gaming laptops. First off they are more reliable and last long but if you go with Dell or HP, most of their workstation lineups will also allow you to install up to a 10-bit display. Most laptops have a 6-bit display.

Also they all have up-gradable Quadro/FirePro video cards which is very important IMO as most programs require a dedicated OpenCL or Cuda card these days for full acceleration. And Quadro/FirePro cards will tend be faster at these applications then a Geforce will be. They also are more reliable. Most laptops such as the 3 you mentioned do not offer up-gradable video cards, let alone Quadro's.

I have done serious work on a 15", but a 17" is definitely better. The main reason is not only the screen size but also has to do with cooling & up-gradability. There are video cards that you simply cannot not put in a 15" laptop, they simply will not fit and were only made for 17" workstations and those cards tend to be the ones you need for serious video production. Also the cooling tends to be much better in a 17" and therefore will increase the longevity of the laptop.

If your on a budget like many, a second hand Dell Precision 17 or HP Elitebook/zBook 17 would definitely get you where you need to go at a fraction of the price. I can tell you first hand, the latest and greatest is definitely not always the best answer :-).. Many times with workstations, new is also not the best answer when it comes to price vs performance because workstations like Dell's and HP's are made to Military grade spec so even second hand they keep ticking like they were new at a fraction of the price..

If you want more info, just leave me a message and I'll get back to you.. Hope that helps!

September 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

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Jakob Woodruff
Director of Photography, Editor & Colorist
79

please explain what this relates to and when/how this benefits a user: "most of their workstation lineups will also allow you to install up to a 10-bit display. Most laptops have a 6-bit display."

November 16, 2015 at 12:00PM

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and how it may apply to 20" external monitors i may want to hookup to it

November 16, 2015 at 2:25PM

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Hello Jakob, I appreciate your elaborate and practical explanations, but how can one get to buy these specifications. I need one ASAP as a surprise for my husband on his birthday.

January 3, 2016 at 11:29AM

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Hi Jakob,

I would really appreciate your advice with buying a new laptop if you have a moment. I am a total amateur (only got a very basic tin-can camcorder at present) and have made a couple of simple, low quality short films using my (now stolen) MacBook Pro with iMovie.

I am looking for a new laptop, but don't want to jump on the Apple bandwagon unless it's adviced. I feel they are overprice and I really didn't enjoy using my mac previously (I found it kept freezing and jolted the videos, perhaps this was because I was using iMovie?!).

Any advice on which laptop to go for, bearing in mind I am just doing this for fun, and need to use it for life too... But then I am likely to become more geeky about film editing down the line! I have read the thread you commented on before but I don't understand half of the jargon used!

Thank you,

Charley

September 1, 2016 at 8:17AM

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Charley
Amateur illustrator, photo taker and film maker
155

I agree with the other comments about going with something with an actual GPU/a mobile workstation. I've got a 2015 13" Macbook Pro, and I use it for Photoshop without issue, but I wouldn't dream of using it for serious video work.

But in general: If you aren't going for a workstation, get the fastest i7 you can. A lot of computation is being off-loaded to GPUs these days, but there's still plenty that stays on the CPU. The hyperthreading in the i7s is critical. You'll want the fastest speeds and the most threads you can get.

I recently upgraded my desktop's CPU to a hexa-core from a quad-core and saw essentially a 50% reduction in render times. The addition of hyperthreading may not affect you that dramatically, but it'll definitely help. So, from that list, the XPS 15 would definitely be the best. I'm not convinced that those are the best options, though. (See Jakob's points.)

September 8, 2015 at 4:46AM, Edited September 8, 4:46AM

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Alec Kubas-Meyer
Writer/Director/DP
147

Hello to everyone. I'm asking myself same question as OP. Does anyone render with MSI GS60/GS70 ? I'm looking forward to buy one. I know it is more gaming computer as it is workstation, but I'm a student and I need lightest/smallest possible powerhouse for photography and film...

October 17, 2015 at 3:13PM, Edited October 17, 3:13PM

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I use a 17" ASUS gamer laptop when I need to edit short videos, or if I have to edit somewhere other than home. It's heavy, though.

I use Adobe Premiere Elements on the laptop. Not as crude as it sounds, particularly if you need to be mobile. Disclaimer: I'm mainly doing short videos for a nonprofit right now, not something that will be on TV.

At home I use Premiere Pro on a Mac.

October 18, 2015 at 11:47AM

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laptops are usually good enough for rough work by itself. whenever im on a laptop i just end up connecting a 17 or 24" monitor and a better keyboard/mouse.
tho i like the hp zbook a lot.

November 16, 2015 at 9:28PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1676

Proxies.

Not the optimum workflow, but it will save your ass (and computer) every time.

January 15, 2016 at 1:43AM

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I know I'm resurrecting an old thread here but I can see there were questions asked and I didn't realize this forum didn't have an email notification system therefore I had no idea. Sorry guys!

This is for those who asked questions and for future readers. I'll answer the second question first:

You can find laptops with those specs second hand on eBay all the time. For instance there are Dell Precision's including the M6700, M6800, M4700 & M4800 that depending on the configuration can handle 4K with relative ease and definitely HD, even RAW workflows. Also the 15" & 17" HP zBook's are excellent choices, again depending on the configuration.

Concerning display bit depth. Most camera's shoot 8-bit, even consumer ones. If you consider that a lot of laptop screens have been or are 6-bit or 6-bit + FRC (simulating 8-bit) then you can see why that having at least a true 8-bit screen would be hugely helpful to see all the colors you have captured. Would be quite silly to capture at 8-bit and view/work at 6-bit. Even 6-bit + FRC doesn't quite cut it but it's better.

Now higher end camera's capture at 10-bit, typically 10-bit 4:2:2. So as you can imagine, the visibility difference between the 10-bit footage and the 6-bit display has become even greater.

Now just consider if your working in 12-bit RAW.. You can see the comparison.

Now if a person intends to hookup an external monitor, the problem is the same, it needs to be at least 8 or 10-bit IMO. Now if you have a Quadro in a laptop, they have 10-bit outputs and if you also have a 10-bit external monitor, then you can monitor externally in 10-bit, even if the internal LCD is only 8 or 6-bit. So that can be helpful.

Hopefully this clears up any questions or thoughts. I may check back on this thread in a few days to see if there are any replies.

April 20, 2016 at 11:09PM

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Jakob Woodruff
Director of Photography, Editor & Colorist
79

I read that where a powerful multi-core CPU, such as an i7 processor, with at least 16gb ram and fast storage was necessary for 4k video editing and that the gpu only becomes significant if you are adding special effects or performing 3D rendering tasks. High end GPUs don't help with the editing and playback functions of video editing. So if you are making documentaries or dramas you may only need onboard Intel graphics in a laptop to be able to successfully edit your work in 4k.
There is a free utility called GPU-Z that will show you how your GPU is being utilized in real time and if you run it while you are editing and rendering your videos you will see just how significant the GPU is.

September 29, 2020 at 6:09AM, Edited September 29, 6:11AM

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