How to choose the right computer for video editing

How to choose the right computer for video editing

The first step to choosing a computer for video editing is to decide if you want to buy a Mac or a Windows PC. Which one you choose will depend on how much you want to spend and what operating system you are most familiar with. Macs are great at editing video and come with iMovie free. You can also edit with Final Cut X, which is Apple only software. However, Macs can be expensive and can often be double the price of a Windows PC. Windows PCs are cheaper than Macs and come in various specifications with many different companies making them. They have just as many editing software choices as Macs but can have stability issues because of the fact there are multiple hardware options inside them. This can often cause conflicts between software and hardware.

If you are going to buy a Windows PC for editing video, make sure you buy one from a company that makes PCs specifically for video production. Macs come with OS X as their operating system and it is reliable and easy to use. Most Windows PCs now ship with Windows 10, which is also a great operating system and has many improvements in comparison to earlier releases. You may have to install specific software drivers though to get it to work correctly with the audio and video cards in the computer.

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A computer, for video editing, needs huge processing power to edit HD video and even more power to edit 4K. So make sure you buy a computer with the fastest computer processor that you can afford. Processors that are faster than 2GHz are best and they should be at least dual core i5 or preferably quad core i7. Remember, you could be doing other work on your computer besides video editing.

Be sure to invest in enough processing power so you can use image programs like Photoshop or compositing programs like After Effects. If you are choosing a laptop for video editing make sure it has plenty of power to edit HD video. Many of the budget laptops struggle with performance to edit HD video. The Apple Mac Book Pro laptop is expensive but is great for mobile video editing and is often the first choice for professionals.


The more programs you have open on your computer, the more RAM you need to run them. If you are working between an image editor, video editor, and digital effects program, you are going to be using a lot of RAM. The more RAM you have the better these programs will perform. You cannot have too much RAM and high-end video editing computers usually come with 64GB. A good starting point is to have at least 16GB of RAM in your computer. This amount should be able to handle most tasks you need to do.

Make sure when you buy a computer what the maximum amount of RAM you can install in it. Remember the minimum is 16GB and you should be able to upgrade your computer to at least this amount. You cannot upgrade new Apple Mac computers; so remember to get the maximum amount of RAM installed when you buy one. No video editor has ever said, “I wish I hadn’t bought all-of that RAM for my computer.”

Hard Drives

HD video uses up a lot of hard drive space and 4K video files use even more hard drive space than HD. Luckily, in recent years hard drives are now more affordable and you can buy a 1TB hard drive for less than $80. How much hard drive space you buy depends on the videos you are making. If you are making a documentary or feature film, you may need a great amount of hard drive space to store all your clips. If you are only making short videos for the Internet, you may not need as much.

Hard Drives come in many shapes and sizes and you should be aware that some are not good for making videos. SATA hard drives, which are the standard in many computers, come in either two write and read speeds. These speeds represent how fast the hard drive can access and copy data. 5400 RPM SATA hard drives are common inside many computers but are unsuitable for video. Faster 7200 RPM SATA hard drives are far better for video editing. You should also have one hard drive for your installed computer software and another for your video clips. This will help to make the computer perform better.

If you decide to buy an external hard drive to store your video clips, make sure it has the right connections to get the fastest transfer speeds between the hard drive and the computer. USB 3 and Firewire are common connections and will give you fast transfer speeds. Thunderbolt, eSATA and USB-C give even faster transfer speeds. Which one you pick will depend on your budget and what connections your computer has. Remember, the faster your transfer speed, the better your computer will perform when editing video.

In recent years solid-state hard drives have come down in price and you can now buy a 500GB SSD drive for under $100. These drives are much faster and reliable than the old disk SATA drives. I strongly recommend that when you buy your computer that you make sure it comes with an internal solid-state hard drive. The internal hard drive is where you store the computer’s operating system and where you install your programs. The difference this makes to performance is huge. Your programs will run lightning fast and your computer will be less likely to crash. Solid-state hard drives also make great hard drives to keep your video clips. If you are editing in 4K the speed of these drives can make all the difference. Solid-state hard drives are more expensive than disk hard drives but the investment is well worth it.


Buying a computer monitor for video editing can be expensive but there are now many more choices available for the budget filmmaker. Desktop editing software can use a great amount of screen resolution on a computer monitor. So when you come to choose a monitor for editing, make sure it has a minimum resolution of 1920 x 1080. This should give you enough room to see all the panels in your chosen desktop editing program. If you have the money, you could invest in a 4K monitor, which will easily give your enough space for your editing software.

Make sure the monitor you choose has plenty of connecting ports to connect your computer. HDMI and DVI ports are best for getting good resolution from your computer. VGA monitor ports are not good enough these days for video editing. Some monitors also come with built in speakers but you should not make this a priority, as they are usually not good enough for any serious sound mixing.


Which computer screen you choose, will depend on how much room you need to place it on a desk. A screen of 22 or 24 inches is a good starting point. You could go larger but remember that a monitor that is too big can be hard work on the eyes. Also, remember when choosing a monitor to pick one that has full image calibration. The Dell Ultra Sharp series of monitors come with full image calibration and this means you can adjust your monitor so you can see all the colours in your video accurately. Other hardware devices like the Datacolor Spyder or X-Rite can also help to calibrate your monitor for video editing.

Graphics Cards

The graphics card in your computer is what powers the image to display your video. I would say that a 4GB graphics card is a minimum these days for video editing. The higher the gigabytes, the more power the graphics card has. Remember though that you should have double the RAM in your computer to the gigabytes of your graphics card. So a computer with 16GB of RAM would be able to power a graphics card up to 8GB. Before you buy a graphics card you should also check the power supply and the motherboard in your computer to see if they can run your chosen graphics card.

If you are in doubt about this you might want to check with a professional at a computer store first before your buy. You cannot change most modern Apple Mac graphics cards. So make sure it has enough graphics power for your needs before you buy. Luckily, nearly all Apple Macs are great at editing video and will handle HD video editing easily.


A good sound mix can be critical to your final video. You audience may forgive you for poor looking video but they will never forgive you for poor sound. A good set of monitor speakers will help you to achieve a decent sound mix of your video.

A pair of budget speakers may be okay for basic Internet videos but if you want to improve your audio mix you will need to invest in some semi-pro monitor speakers. Studio grade monitor speakers can be expensive but there are some companies, like Mackie, that make them for around $100. So there are lower cost choices available.

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