The best laptops for video editing – PCWorld

Science & Technology

Video editing is one of the most strenuous tasks you can put your PC through, so when you’re shopping for a laptop for video editing, you’ll want to make sure you’re loading up with some heavy hardware firepower. You don’t necessarily need the absolute highest-end gear, however, and the processor and graphics inside the notebook are just part of the equation. Simply buying a gaming laptop and calling it a day might be enough if you’re just casually streaming or creating videos, but serious video editors will also want to take into account the quality of the display and port selection, among other factors.
A lot of notebooks have crossed our test labs in our quest to find the best laptops. Read on for our picks for the best laptops for video editing, followed by buying advice and information on how we tested. You may also want to check out our roundup of the best laptop deals to scout for discounts on content creation notebooks. We update it daily with the freshest new sales.
We called the Dell XPS 17 “the ultimate content creation laptop,” so it’s no surprise to see this atop our list of the best laptops for video editing. The 8-core Intel 11th-gen Core i7-11800H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 inside deliver plenty of punch for intense edits, while a 1TB Samsung PCIe 4.0 SSD delivers top-notch storage performance for moving big projects around.
The XPS 17 also includes crucial extras coveted by video editors, such as an SD card reader, Thunderbolt 4 ports a-plenty, and a luscious 17-inch panel with 10-bit color depth, 3840×2400 resolution, and a more productive 16:10 aspect ratio. Dell even managed to cram all these niceties into a relatively portable-for-this-class 5-pound design that can run for 10 hours before needing a charge. Well, when you’re not editing videos at least.
Now for something completely different. The Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 15 OLED UX582 packs abundant firepower, including a high-end overclockable Core i9 chip, GeForce RTX 3070 graphics, 32GB of DDR4 memory, and a fast 1TB NVMe SSD. It also has a 15.6-inch 4K OLED panel that shines at a bright 440 nits while covering 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut—a serious screen for serious content creators. But the truly interesting part is the secondary 14-inch 3840×1100 OLED screen situated above the keyboard. Windows counts it as a second monitor and you can use bundled Asus software to put it to all kinds of helpful tasks, such as using it as a trackpad or summoning a panel of touch controls for some Adobe apps.
The Zenbook Pro Duo 15 OLED is basically a portable high-end PC workstation, though the lack of an SD card reader may prove irksome. You can always buy an external SD reader and slap it into one of the laptops dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, though. You should also strongly consider a cheaper version than our review model on sale for $2,400 at Amazon. It switches out the high-end overclockable Core i9 chip for a Core i7 chip, and drops the memory down to 16GB. It should still be plenty speedy for video editing but costs significantly less.
If pure portability is essential, consider the Razer Blade 14. This ultra-thin laptop measures just 0.66-inch thick and tips the scales at a mere 3.9 pounds, making it significantly smaller than most laptops with video editing chops. But Razer didn’t skimp on the firepower, loading the Blade 14 with AMD’s 8-core Ryzen 9 5900HX flagship CPU, Nvidia’s 8GB GeForce RTX 3080, a 1TB NVMe SSD, and 16GB of memory.
You’ll give up some perks in exchange for the Blade’s portability though: The 14-inch IPS-grade screen comes factory calibrated, but tops out at 2560×1440 resolution. 4K video editing is off the table, though the laptop supports the full DCI-P3 color gamut. Razer’s notebook also lacks an SD card slot. But if you need a fierce rig that can chew through edits and renders then slip easily into your bag, the Blade 14 is worth considering.
If you’re looking for the most raw firepower possible, on the other hand, nothing burns through video edits faster than a big, heavy gaming laptop. The MSI GE76 Raider, our favorite gaming laptop of 2021, chewed through the Adobe Premiere test in UL’s Procyon benchmark faster than any other notebook thanks to its burly 8-core Core i7 chip, an Nvidia RTX 3080 tuned for a blistering 165 watts, and ample interior cooling. It even has an SD card reader hooked into the PCIe bus for high-speed card transfers. The one downside is the display. The GE76 Raider was built for gaming, so it comes equipped with an ultra-fast 300Hz 1080p screen, rather than a 4K display with a focus on color accuracy. If you pick up this system, consider pairing it with a nice external 4K monitor for color-sensitive work.
You’ll need to spend up for heftier hardware if you want the fastest possible video edits and renders, but not everyone can afford to. If you want a solid, basic content creation laptop that won’t break the bank, check out the HP Envy 14. The entry-level GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU and Core i5-1135G7 processor aren’t barnburners, but they’ll get the job done, and at roughly $1,000 the price is certainly right. The 14-inch 1900×1200 display features a 16:10 aspect ratio for improved productivity, along with factory color calibration and 100-percent sRGB support (though not DCI-P3). Better yet, the HP Envy 14 includes crucial SD card and Thunderbolt ports, and it runs surprisingly quiet too.
The most important thing to look for in a laptop for video editing is its CPU and GPU. The faster your hardware, the faster your edits, essentially. In addition to subjecting all of the laptops above to our usual battery of benchmarks, we also ran the UL Procyon Video Editing Test on several high-powered laptops to see which hardware performs best for this sort of work. The benchmark tasks Adobe Premiere with importing two different video projects, applying visual effects such as color grading and transitions, and then exporting it using H.264, H.265 at both 1080p and 4K.
Right-click and select “open in new tab” to see in full resolution.
Gordon Mah Ung / IDG
The best performance came from big, heavy laptops running Intel’s latest 11th-generation processors, though notebooks with AMD’s beefy Ryzen 9 processors came in just behind, with 10th-gen Intel chips still putting up a respectable score. The best-performing laptops all paired modern Intel CPUs with Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPUs, which isn’t surprising as both companies have invested a lot of time and resources into optimizing their Adobe performance.
The GPU matters more than CPU in Premiere Pro, though things reach a point of diminishing returns very quickly. Notebooks wielding top-tier RTX 3080 graphics are indeed faster at video editing than laptops with more modest RTX 3060 graphics, but not by that much. If you look at the scores from the Dell XPS 17 9710, its GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU is maybe 14 percent slower than the fastest RTX 3080 in the MSI GE76 Raider. That’s not a lot, especially when you consider how big and thick the GE76 Raider is compared to the Dell laptop.
In general, having any sort of discrete graphics is preferred, with at least an RTX 3060 recommended for serious video editing.
Video editing is very workflow dependent however. Your particular task and tool might be more CPU intensive, or lean more on the GPU than Premiere. If so, adjust your priorities accordingly. The selections above should all be great well-rounded options, however. Intel and Nvidia have spent years building up tools like Quick Sync and CUDA, respectively, and many video editing apps can see significant speed boosts because of it. AMD hardware does fine for video editing, but we recommend sticking to Intel and Nvidia unless you have a strong reason otherwise, especially if your workflow relies on their vendor-specific software optimizations.
If you’re transferring video from a camera, an SD card port (like this one on the Dell XPS 17) is essential, unless you’re comfortable plugging an SD card adapter into a high-speed USB or Thunderbolt port.
Gordon Mah Ung/IDG
It’s not all about the internals though. PCWorld video director Adam Patrick Murray stresses that an ideal laptop for video editing includes an SD card reader for grabbing video off a camera. He also recommends opting for a notebook with a 4K, 60Hz panel over the ultra-fast 1080p panels often found on gaming laptops that would otherwise be ideal for video editing. You need a 4K panel to edit 4K videos well, and blazing-fast refresh rates don’t mean anything for video editing like they do for gaming. If color accuracy matters to you—it might not if you’re only creating casual videos for your personal YouTube channel, for example—then support for the full DCI-P3 color gamut is also a must, along with Delta E < 2 color accuracy.
You won’t often find those sorts of specs listed for (or supported by) gaming laptops, but dedicated content creation laptops should include that information. That said, if you want the fastest possible laptop for video editing that can also satisfy your gaming proclivities, you can always pair that burly gaming laptop with a color-accurate external monitor for creation tasks.
If you’re looking for a more general purpose notebook, be sure to check out our guide to the best laptops for picks for every budget. You may also find solid laptops for video editing for cheap in our roundup of the best laptop deals, which we update daily with the latest sales.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
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