With so many options on the market, it can be a tough and sometimes frustrating task to buy a new laptop. And, when you have a very specific requirement for your new device, such as video editing software, it can be even harder to find “the one”.
With more and more video editors needing to be flexible, laptops are overtaking desktops when it comes to buying kit. Laptops have, in the past couple of years, become faster and smoother and can keep up with you no matter how complex your project. Every major brand has at least one model on offer that claims to be ahead of the pack when it comes to its video editing capabilities, so how do you cut through all the noise and figure out which one you should choose?
- Processor – If you plan on multitasking and opening several programs at once, you’re going to need a powerful processor to keep up with you. You’ll need at least an i5 or i7 processor to guarantee speed and smoothness whilst editing. The i3 is more suitable for gaming. The i5 and i7 also come more equipped for video rendering or 3D.
- Memory (RAM) – The more RAM you have, the more space there is for the temporary files that are created while you work. Plenty of RAM will ensure that your laptop keeps up with you when you’re performing tasks such as video playback. 4 GB of RAM is the minimum you should be looking at in a laptop that will need to complete complex tasks, but if you plan to edit 4K footage it would be better to aim for at least 8 GB.
- Storage – Think about both size and speed when looking at storage. Size is important as you’ll most likely want to back up footage whilst out and about. Of course, you can buy an external hard drive, but that’s just one more piece of kit to carry around.
- Speed is something to look out for, as you’ll notice a lag when exporting footage or opening software if yours is slow. SSD hard drives are the ideal choice for video editors, so seek them out for them when shopping around.
- Battery life – If you’re buying a laptop over a desktop, it’s likely that you’re planning to work on the road. With that in mind, you might not always have access to mains power so you’ll want to make sure your chosen device has plenty of staying power. Eight hours is ideal, but it really depends on how you’re going to use it to say how important a long battery life is.
- Graphic card – This is hugely important for video editors, as this is the device that will transform your footage from data into pixels. NVIDIA and AMD are both brands that are worth looking out for to ensure your laptop can keep up with you. The latest generation Nvidia GPUs are either from the 900 or 1000 series. Enthusiast level starts at 970 or 1070 and up.
- Screen – Consider size and resolution. Obviously, the bigger the screen, the better the view, so you’ll ideally not want to drop below 13”. In most cases a Full HD resolution will suffice, but if you’re working with 4K footage or want to future-proof yourself you might want to consider investing in 4K resolution. But bear in mind that this comes at a huge cost to your battery life.
The 5 Best Laptops for Video Editing
1. Apple MacBook Pro – Best All Rounder
“Once you go Mac, you never go back” is the mantra of Apple fans around the globe, and it seems that it’s with good reason. Considered by many as the video editing laptop of choice, this compact powerhouse will keep up with even the most complex projects.
If you’re after performance and portability (and we’re sure that you are), choose the highest spec and get ready for the smoothest ride of your life.
With an Intel Core i7 processor and an AMD Radeon Pro graphic card, there’s little lag, and up to 16 GB of RAM provides real-time rendering and more. The quad-core option is also able to power up to four 4K monitors, providing the starting point of the best setup imaginable. Up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports also give you plenty of connectivity options.
The 15.4” Retina screen gives stunning clarity to your work, and the innovative Touch Bar which replaces the function keys at the top of the keyboard puts you in complete control. And, with up to ten hours of battery life, this mighty machine will be ready to power up when you are.
The only real downsides to this option are the limited options for expansion, and the price, which comes in much higher than most other options on the market. But, you get what you pay for, right?
2. Dell Precision 5510 – Best for PC Users
If you’re not into Apple, then this is a brilliant alternative. Dell is a trusted brand to look at for professional spec laptops, and they’ve been delighting their customers with innovative and reliable technology for years.
With the Precision 5510 they’ve done it again: Dell does not disappoint with this 15.6” innovator. Whereas the XPS 15 zoned in on casual users, this beauty is wholly focusing itself on the professional “workstation” market.
Whereas the XPS 15 zoned in on casual users, this beauty is wholly focusing itself on the professional “workstation” market. 8 GB of RAM and a 2.8-GHz Intel Core Xeon E3-1505M processor really pack a punch, so you’ll experience less slowdown; no matter how hard you work it. The lightning fast 512 GB SSD gives you a decent amount of room for assets and renders, without needing to resort to external storage.
Dell’s InfinityEdge technology shrinks the bezel to almost nothing, giving you a nice side of style with your substance. The screen within it is 4K and will give you all the clarity you need to achieve pinpoint precision.
The downsides? Well, the webcam is in an awkward place at the base of the screen, but that’s not really a deal breaker. The battery life might be though: don’t expect to get much more than five hours out of it if you’re working at full pelt.
3. Microsoft Surface Pro – Best for Portability
If you spend most of your time editing on the go, being able to easily stash your laptop in your bag is going to be one of the biggest selling points for you. Microsoft’s Surface Pro is the last word in combined power and portability, and is, in our opinion, the first 2-in-1 to offer a viable alternative to editing laptops.
The Surface Pro has also been known to convert even the most hardcore Apple fans with its Mac-like promise of style and substance, and it really does offer some stiff competition.
The highest spec model boasts an Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and a huge 1 TB SSD, providing smooth, responsive operation and enough storage for videographers wanting to back up their work on the go.
The battery provides up to 13.5 hours of life, so you can work all day long without needing to plug in, and with every version weighing in at under 800 grams you can take it anywhere without it slowing you down.
Being dual purpose, you’ll get the best of both worlds. Stick to laptop mode for editing, or switch to tablet mode for playback. You can take advantage of the ten-point multi-touch screen and make annotations with the Surface Pen, too.
The 12.3” screen is a compromise that needs to be made for better portability, and the lack of a USB C port bugs some people. The highest spec model is also pretty pricey when compared to other options on this list, but we think it’s worth every penny.
4. ASUS Zenbook Pro – Best Value for Money
Maybe you’re an amateur editor looking to upgrade, or maybe you’ve just recently gone pro and don’t want to shell out for more expensive kit yet. Whatever your reason for wanting a cheaper option, you won’t regret going for the ASUS Zenbook Pro.
The highest spec model has the Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 Ti graphics and 16 GB of RAM that we love to see in an editing laptop, and the 1 TB SSD provides super-fast read speeds.
Pretty impressive for a “budget” option.
The pin-sharp 15.6” 4K display is truly spectacular, and the NanoEdge design makes for a gorgeously slim bezel. The ten-point multi-touch screen is also compatible with the ASUS Pen, which is brilliant for making notes or sketching storyboards with your best animation software.
The four speakers bear the Harmon Kardon name, which speaks volumes for their quality: they provide impressive surround sound and negate the need for external speakers. All of this is wrapped up in a precision-engineered solid aluminium body, which really looks the business.
ASUS claim that the Zenbook Pro can manage up to ten hours of Full HD video playback on a single charge, but despite the 96 Whr battery experience puts that number closer to five hours. Either way, with a battery this big, you’re looking at around two hours of charging time to get it back to 100%. This could make portability a bit of a problem, so it isn’t the best option for anyone that’s always on the go.
That being said though, at around $1,000 less than the Macbook Pro, potentially poor battery life is a small price to pay for such a big saving.
5. Lenovo ThinkPad P70 – Best desktop replacement
The final laptop on our list is our pick for editors wanting all that a desktop has to offer, but in a more portable package. Taking the plunge and switching from your trusty desktop can be a little unnerving, as it’s assumed that you’re going to lose out on some of the best features of a desktop (power, connectivity and display being just three of those features).
Lenovo has kindly come up with a solution to this problem though, and that solution is the ThinkPad P70.
The massive 17.3” 4K display gives you a brilliant view of your projects and files, and the optional X-Rite Pantone calibrator will keep your screen accurate. ThinkPads are renowned for their ergonomically satisfying keyboards, and this model is no exception. The iconic TrackPoint is, of course, present too.
Intel’s 6th Gen Core I and XEON processors pack a real punch, and with the highest spec model offering NVIDIA Quadro M5000M 8 GB graphics and 16 GB of RAM, you’ll always be at your most productive. There are loads of connectivity options, so you can link up to additional monitors, speakers and hard drives, and with expandable storage options there’s plenty of space for all of your projects.
Portability is the obvious downside of the ThinkPad, and with the lightest model in the range coming in at 3.43 kg it’s probably not the best option if you spend the majority of your time editing on the go. But, if you’re looking for a laptop that provides all the benefits of a desktop, this Lenovo is worth its weight in gold.
Wrapping it up
So, this might be a little predictable, but our top pick is definitely the Macbook Pro. Apple really know what they’re doing when it comes to creating a machine that’s powerful, innovative and stylish in equal measure.
The price tag is always going to be a sticking point for some people when it comes to Macs, but we really do think they’re worth every penny.
Dell’s offering is a very close second thanks to its gorgeous design and all round impressive credentials, and it’s our favourite choice for anyone who doesn’t love Apple.
We really were impressed with how much the Zenbook offers for a relatively low price, and it’s the perfect option for anyone that can’t or doesn’t want to spend a small fortune on their set up.
But, with its brilliant Touch Bar and all round powerhouse credentials, the Macbook Pro is an unbeatable option for professional video editors.