We typically see video editing and graphic design work as intensive tasks meant for the high-end desktop computers. A laptop is definitely a bit more limited than an industry-level desktop PC, but this doesn’t mean a portable computer can’t take care of business. Some laptops out there that will do great editing video and photos.
So what is the best laptop for video editing and graphic design? It largely depends on what you’re looking for. We’ve put together a list of our favorite laptops optimized for heavy editing and other graphic design-related work. Editing is a demanding, though, so you will definitely need to find a powerful machine. The key is to strike the right balance between processing power, graphics, RAM and internal storage (preferably a faster SSD).
We know this sounds expensive, and often it is, but we will try to include laptops from different price ranges. Shall we get started?
What to consider when purchasing a video editing laptop.
There is a lot to know when it comes to picking out the laptop that is right for you. Video editing and graphic design professionals likely know all about these considerations, but if you’re still a little new to the game, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping around.
CPU. The central processing unit (CPU) is basically the brains of your machine. Every command goes through the CPU and is directed to the necessary components. When shopping for a video editing laptop, you’re going to mainly see Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. The more powerful of the two is the i7. Essentially, the newer your processor (8th gen is the latest,) the more cores, the higher the clock speed (GHz,) the more performance you will get out of your machine.
GPU. Almost as important to the performance of your laptop as the CPU, the graphics processing unit (GPU) manages all of the graphics-related processes for your machine. Without this chip, your machine wouldn’t be able to render images or video for the screen. Similar to CPUs, the newer and more powerful your GPU, the easier it will be to handle heavy loads which is very common in video editing. A lot of the laptops that you’ll find in this segment will have NVIDIA GPUs ranging from GTX 1050 – GTX 1060. The higher the number in this scenario, the better.
RAM. Hey, look – another three-letter acronym. Random access memory (RAM) is basically the temporary memory on your machine that handles incoming data processes. This is different from storage memory, where data is stored until the user deletes it. The more RAM your video editing laptop has, the more processes it is able to handle at the same time before the computer starts to bog down. If you’re in the middle of a giant timeline, have a bunch of Chrome tabs open, running Slack, and other applications, you’re going to want to have a good amount of RAM. Standard laptops will usually have 8GB of RAM, whereas video laptops will have 16 or 32GB. You might also want to look for video editing laptops that have expandable RAM in case you need to pump it up one day.
Storage. I don’t think you need an explanation about why you should strive to have as much storage as possible. However, given that raw footage, project files, and exported movies will take up a lot of space, this is something you need to take into consideration. Even though you can find a 512GB drive inside of most of these machines, you might even want to look at additional cloud storage, or backup hard drive. The other factor to consider is whether your machine has a solid state hard drive or a traditional spinning disk hard drive. The benefit of having a solid state drive is that saving and recalling files takes much less time. However, SSDs will run you a lot more money.
Screen. Obviously, when you’re editing video, the screen, and the representation of the actual footage on that screen, is a huge factor. You should make sure you’re confident that the laptop you choose has a screen that has accurate color representation, is bright enough to edit in a lit room, is high resolution for the greatest detail, and is the right size for your needs. In the realm of capable laptops in this segment, you’ll find a lot of 15″ screens, but still some 13″. Your specific use-case will determine the right screen size for you.
Obviously, when you're editing video, the screen, and the representation of the actual footage on that screen, is a huge factor.
Battery life. I think this one goes without saying, but if you plan to be editing video on-the-go, battery life is a huge factor. Laptops naturally suck power down extremely fast. In fact, it’s hard to find a laptop on the market that has all-day battery life when just handling everyday tasks. Battery life is hard to judge on numbers alone, as it’s not just about the size of the battery. It also has a lot to do with how the software and hardware work together to manage the power consumption. So, instead of only looking at the spec sheet, make sure you to do some research to see how the battery holds up in real-world applications.
Peripheral support. The idea behind having a laptop for video editing is that you can get the job done on-the-go. However, there will be times when you need to be tethered to one of a few different devices in order to get that job done. For starters, you’ll obviously have to either connect to your camera or offload footage from a memory card. As I mentioned previously, you might need to connect to a backup drive to store your files. For the additional screen real estate, you might also want to connect to an external monitor. This is one area in which the laptops on our best list vary wildly in the ports that they offer. The MacBook Pro for instance only has 4 USB-C ports, where the Dell XPS 15 will have a larger range of support. You’ll want to make sure that you think through the devices you’ll need to connect with before you make your purchase decision.
Software. These days, the majority of video editing software is available for at least the two main operating systems – macOS and Windows. However, depending on your video editing preference and the software you would like to use, some of them may work better with a specific operating system. If you’re trained in Final Cut Pro X, your only option is to pick up a Mac. But if you’re comfortable in Adobe Premiere, you can use either macOS or Windows.
Price. Finally, and arguably most importantly, price is a huge factor you’ll want to take into consideration. When you’re looking at video editing laptops, you’re definitely going to have to put up more cash than you would with a machine with lower performance. There are some laptops that are little more friendly on the wallet, but the majority, especially anything with an Apple on it, will cost you a pretty penny.
Here are the best laptops for video editing
Ok, let’s get down to brass tax. If you’re ready to see what a laptop that is truly worthy of being called one of the best laptops for video editing, let’s take a look.
2018 15″ MacBook Pro
Just a couple of weeks ago, Apple gave it’s most-powerful laptop a major boost in performance with the stealthy release of the 2018 MacBook Pros. It didn’t take long for people to spec out the machine and realize that if you want all the bells and whistles, you’re looking at close to a $7,000 machine. However, even without the best of each individual part, you can make a beast of a machine. However, that doesn’t come without its trade-offs.
All the specs. As I said, Apple gave their new MacBook a crazy boost in performance. Most notably, that came in the form of an 8th-gen Intel Core i9 processor which boast six cores. In any laptop, an i9 processor is impressive, but Apple making this move is quite exciting. On top of that, you can now purchase the laptop with up to 32GB of RAM (double the previous max,) and up to 4TB of SSD storage. Needless to say, with the new chipset, extra RAM and the untouchable marriage of hardware and software, early review suggest this is the one to get if you need to push your machine to the limits.
True Tone display. On top of the crazy internals, Apple made the new MacBook’s already beautiful screen even better by introducing the True Tone display. This is the same technology that’s used in the iPad Pro that automatically adjusts the screen’s white balance to match the light in your surrounding. While you’re editing video, you’ll probably want to disable this feature, but if you’re doing anything else, this makes the screen much easier on the eyes.
Touch Bar. Ok, I know this is going to be a controversial opinion, but the Touch Bar can really add a lot of value to your video editing workflow. From skimming through clips, to selecting tools, picking colors and more, it’s nice to have access to the things you need in one place, all the time. It’s hard to get used to at first, but once you get used to it, and use it often, it’s hard to live without.
Severe lack of ports. Let’s talk about what everyone wants us to talk about – the ports. Yes, the 2018 MacBook Pro still only has four USB-C ports. And, yes it is unfortunate. Looking at the thinness of the machine, you can see why it was necessary, but it doesn’t make things any better when you have hard drives, memory cards, cameras, even phones that you need to plug in, and have to use an adapter for every one of them. Hell, you have to have an adapter to even plug Apple’s own iPhone into the computer. Needless to say, this makes working from remote locations a little more challenging.
Keyboard is meh. Another big point of criticism when it comes to the most recent MacBooks is the keyboard. The butterfly switches that were rolled out first in the non-pro 12″ MacBook have very low travel, are a bit on the louder side, and yes, they have reliability issues. However, having used them for a while now, I can say that you do eventually get used to them.
Super expensive. And finally, the price. The model we’ve spec’d out here with Intel’s i9 processor, 32GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, you’re looking at $3,500 which is a hard pill to swallow. For that money, you can even more impressive internals in a Windows machine, but you won’t’ get the same level of finesse.
Dell XPS 15
If you’re in the market for a Windows machine that is just as powerful as it is good-looking, Dell’s XPS line has fit that bill for quite a while now. Their latest in the lineup offers a 15″ model that takes the top spot with many reviewers in the industry – and for good reason. It has top-of-the-line internals, it’s lightweight for its category, and it’s just hands-down impressive from every angle – figuratively and literally.
Impressive internals. On par with what you will find in Apple’s 2018 MacBook Pro 15″, the new Dell XPS 15 comes loaded with so much horsepower if you can cough up the coin. At the price point that we’ve highlighted here, you’ll find an 8th-gen Core i9 processor from Intel, NVIDIA-powered graphics with the GeForce GTX 1050, 32GB of RAM, and a whopping 1TB of storage. In terms of a video editing laptop, it’s going to be hard to beat this option.
4K Infinity Touch Display. Sure, the MacBook Pro has the Touch Bar, but it doesn’t have a touch-enabled screen like the new Dell XPS 15 does. Outside of being touch-enabled, this 4K display is hands-down gorgeous. The MacBook’s screen slightly edges it out in terms of color reproduction, but this screen is bright, vivid and flat-out enjoyable to look at.
Plenty of ports. For power users that are going to be cutting together videos on this machine, you’ll find ports galore here. You’ll find 2 USB-A 3.0 ports, a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI, SD Card slot, and headphone jack. So, unlike the MacBook Pro, you won’t need nearly as many adapters in your bag if you plan on taking this laptop to the coffee shop to get some work done.
Still expensive. As you can see, the price is still a major point of contention here. However, you have to pay to play. For this price, you are getting top-of-the-line specs, great build quality, and a laptop that drop jaws when you see how fast you can get things done. Not to mention it’s a gorgeous piece of hardware that will have your friends a little jealous. But, at the end of the day, if video editing is more of a hobby than a profession, you might want to consider something that’s a little easier on the wallet.
Camera placement is bad. Aha – my favorite one. Remember that thin-bezeled, bright, sharp and beautiful screen? Well, to make that happen, Dell had to make some sacrifices. One of those being the webcam placement. While you won’t need to use the webcam much when you’re editing video, having the camera in the bottom bezel of the screen at keyboard-level just isn’t flattering for anyone. Get ready to see the bats in the cave.
Microsoft Surface Book 2
Microsoft has been putting out a lot of great hardware over the last couple of years, including their newest member of the family, the Microsoft Surface Go. Since the beginning of their foray into the hardware space, things have continuously improved. Their flagship portable computer is the Microsoft Surface Book 2. Not only is this thing a beast when it comes to internals, but it’s versatility also helps land this laptop a spot on our list of the best laptops for video editing.
Plenty of power. When you start looking at the spec sheet for the Surface Book 2, there’s no doubt there is plenty of power inside of there to get your video editing done. At price point we’ve highlighted here, you’ll get an 8th-gen Core i7 from Intel, a NVIDIA GTX 1060, and a 512GB SSD. All of this combined means you should have no issue powering through your clips and rendering out your videos.
2-in-1. The obvious draw to this device is that it functions well not only as a laptop but as a tablet as well. The 15″ display disconnects from the keyboard base so you are free to operate using touch alone. So, after you’ve cut together a video of your weekend family getaway, you can lounge back and watch it in tablet mode.
Incredible build quality. When compared to Apple, it’s pretty much impossible to find a PC manufacturer that has the same, or even similar build quality. However, Microsoft has done a great job of creating a piece of hardware that’s hard to look away from. The Surface Book 2 has one of the most unique designs around with its hinge and flat grey color scheme, and the magnesium body feels so good in the hand.
Doesn’t include Surface Pen. The Surface Pen is the second biggest draw towards this device. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come included with the laptop. For video editors, the pen isn’t going to be as useful to you as it might be if you are a graphic designer, though there are plenty of ways you can find use in it. It has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt support, and palm rejection to make drawing and writing feel very natural. If you want to pair this with your new laptop, you’ll have to scrounge up $100 more.
No i9 Configuration. Yes, I know I said that this laptop has plenty of power for your video editing needs, but it’s unfortunate that there is no i9 configuration available for the Surface Book 2. There’s certainly a chance that we could get this in the next Surface Book iteration, but if you want that newest and the fastest processor on the market, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Razer Blade Stealth 13″
Alas, this is one of my personal favorites. Razer is known almost exclusively for gaming hardware. From controllers to headsets, mice to keyboards, and accessories like mouse pads. They have it all. However, they also have a superior line of laptops with one of their newest being the Razer Blade Stealth 13″. If you want a device that is just straight-up fun to use and also powerful, this is what you need.
Beautiful screen. As with the previous 13″ Stealth, you have the option of either getting a 1080p display or, if you’re sensible and have the money, you can upgrade to a QHD display that is touch-enabled. Though it’s not full 4K, this screen produces great color, it’s bright enough to work in any environment and it’s incredibly sharp. The touch gestures can come in handy when you need to scrub through your timeline as well.
Quad-core performance. With this latest iteration in the Stealth lineup, you’ll find a pleasant boost in performance with Intel’s Kaby Lake R, i7 processor. This isn’t a 6-core beast i9 like you will find in the 2018 MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 15, but this chip has 4 cores, compared to the 2 of the previous model. The added cores help tremendously when you’re performing heavy tasks such as exporting video.
OMG, that keyboard. I think what I love most about this laptop is the keyboard. I mean, how could you not love it? All modern laptops have backlit keyboards, but only the Razer Blade Stealth has the Chroma keyboard with individually-backlit keys. If you’re a fan of Razer’s standalone keyboards, you will love how you are able to custom program light displays on your keyboard and even create reactionary effects to the stroke of keys. It’s awesome.
No discrete GPU. The one trade-off with the Kaby Lake R chip, and the fact that this laptop is so small and portable is there is no discrete GPU. Most of the graphics processes are handled on the CPU itself, so if you’re trying to use this for gaming in addition to video editing, you’ll run into some issues. However, if that’s something you’re concerned about, the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port enables you to connect the Razer Core external GPU to the laptop – turning this into a gaming-class PC.
Not the best battery life. These ultra-portable machines are great for taking work on the go, but the small size paired with that QHD screen, in addition to the video editing that you’ll be doing, means that your battery won’t take you very far. Fortunately, the USB-C charing works quite rapidly so you can top off before you leave the house.
Lenovo Yoga 720 4k
Lenovo is another serious player in the performance laptop space. Though the Yoga 720 has been out for some time now, it’s still a great option for those looking for a budget video editing laptop. It’s got great internals, it’s got a great screen, and its design is nothing to scoff at.
4K touch display. The Yoga 720 has a beautiful 4K touch display option which is an upgrade to the standard 1080p option. Not only are the colors vivid, and the details sharp, but the display has a very thin bezel which makes you feel much more immersed in your work as your editing. Of course, the 4K display will be a little more taxing on the battery than the 1080p option.
Discrete graphics. If a dedicated graphics card is something that is a must for you with the video editing work that you are doing, you will be happy to find one here. If you’re willing to pay for the better model, Lenovo will cram an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 into the machine which is still impressive for laptops of 2018.
2-in-1 versatility. Similar to the Surface Book 2, the Lenovo Yoga 720 is a 2-in-1 machine. The screen can’t be detached from the keyboard base, but you can still fold the device backward completely to use the touchscreen exclusively. You can also stand the screen up with the keyboard behind for viewing videos that you’ve just finished up.
7th-gen Intel chip. Where the Lenovo Yoga 720 shows its age is in the 7th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU. Though it’s technically an outdated chip, it still clocks in at 3.8GHz which is enough to the get the job done – albeit a little slower than a newer chip.
Down-firing speakers. A good video editing laptop should have speakers that produce great sound. After all, sound is pretty important when you’re editing. The Lenovo Yoga 720, unfortunately, has speakers that are located on the underside of the keyboard, firing down at whatever surface the laptop is sitting on. If you’re working from a desk or table, this isn’t too much of a problem. But, for those times you’re wanting to use the laptop on, well, your lap, you can expect muffled sound.
When you’re shopping around for a video editing laptop, there are a number of things to keep in mind. As you can see with this list, there are some clear standouts in terms of performance, with the 2018 MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 15. There are also standouts when it comes to portability and affordability with the Razer Stealth 13″ and the Yoga 720 respectively. Before you pull the trigger on one of these laptops, you need to consider what’s most important to you. Is it the price, the performance, the portability or the versatility? Regardless of which of these you pick, you’re sure to be pleased.
What would you consider to be the best laptops for video editing? Let us know in the comments below!