DIY Systems, How-To Articles, Tech Tips
We get asked all the time about what laptops we recommend for video editing. This is a more difficult question to answer, because unlike a desktop, you are very limited in what upgrades and changes you can make after you buy it. So we are not going to recommend any specific models, but rather what brands of laptops we recommend and the model family they fit into.
Before we get into the Laptops, lets talk about the specs we look for:
- Quad Core i7 processor
This is the most important feature that will have the biggest impact on your ability to smoothly work with and edit HD footage. Today’s advanced video editing apps all tap into multiple CPU cores, especially 64 bit apps like Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 or Sony Vegas. Avid has announced that the next version of Media Composer will be 64-bit.
- Quadro Mobile GPUs
The Adobe Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro CS5.x is amazing. When you combine it with a mobile Quadro card you will be able to edit multiple layers of assorted HD footage formats in real-time. Avid recommends an NVIDIA Quadro card for use with Media Composer as well. Here is a link to NVIDIA’s Quadro Mobile Worktation products. We recommend you select a GPU with at least 1GB of memory and 192 CUDA cores such as the new Quadro 3000M.
- 15 HiRes or 17 inch screen size.
If you are going to edit on a laptop, you need the screen real-estate for your timeline, preview windows and tools. For me I simply can’t get everything I need on the screen with a smaller screen.
- Get as much RAM as possible
Today’s NLEs need RAM, the more the better. While most laptops come with 4GB by default, this si not enought for video editing. You want a minimum or 8GB, and for best results you really want a laptop that will go up to 16GB.
- USB3 is mandatory!
Make sure your new laptop has at least 1 USB3 connection for your external storage. For the fastest possible connectivity for your external storage, we recommend Thunderbolt, but the next best choice is USB3. USB3 is more than 1.5 times faster than eSata, and 6x faster then FireWire800. Unlike USB2, the new USB3 is a very reliable and stable connection that is 100% up to the demands of post production work.
If you plan on adding the fastest possible storage and perhaps I/O hardware for your HD workflows, then you need to be able attach them to your laptop via Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt I/O devices like the AJA IoXT, Io4K & T-Tap are excellent choices. Videoguys recommends G-Tech Thunderbolt RAIDs for HD editing.
August 2015 update: This article is pretty old. We just posted an article to our blog that does a great job answering this question. We will be posting our own update to this article in the fall.
Vlady over at 4K shooters has done a great job looking at the features and specs of six powerful laptops, all suitable for HD and even 4K video editing. Videoguys top laptop recommendations are still the Macbook Pro with Retina Display or HP zBook. After reading this great article we are going to give a much closer look at the Dell XPS, MSI Dominator Pro G, Asus Zenbook and Toshiba Satellite. They are all good choices. read the blog post here…
June 2013 Update:
- Looking to do your video editing on a laptop? Our first and top recommendation is the 15″ Mac Book Pro with Retina display and NVIDIA GPUs. This is by far and away our favorite. The new ASUS G74SX is a sweet machine. You get an Intel i7 Quad-Core processor, GTX 560M GPU w 3GB RAM and up to 16GB of RAM. At NAB we got a sneak peak at the next generation of HP Laptops, and all I can say is WOW! I can;t tell you anything else, but I could have sworn I saw Thunderbolts whene they fired it up 😉
- Apple Mac Book Pro
Yes, we recommend a MacBook Pro as our top choice. They deliver outstanding performance and they now include Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is the new hi-speed connector that delivers blazing fast throughput that will allow you to attach an external I/O device and a screaming fast external RAID stack to your laptop. While Thunderbolt peripherals are just starting to ship now, by the end of 2012 we expect to see all our hardware vendors offering Thunderbolt options or dedicated Thunderbolt products.
There is a downside to Mac Book Pros. You can’t get them configured with an nVidia GPU, meaning that you can’t get any CUDA benefits. You also need to know that only the 17″ Mac Book Pro models have an Express34 slot for expansion, the smaller models do not.
- HP Elitebook 8560/8740/8760w
HP Elitebook is our #2 recommendation and our top Windows recommendation. These machines are blessed by Avid for Media Composer 5.x, and they will run Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 with the Mercury Playback Engine, as well as all of our other video editing software. I really like the fact that HP gives you a nice variety of options and configurations to choose from.These HP Elitebooks truly are mobile NLE workstations. They aren’t light and they aren’t as sexy as a Mac Book Pro, but they are loaded with features and performance. You’re going to spend $2499 or more, about the same as a Mac Book Pro, but you’re getting a mobile workstation that’s got all the power you need with rock solid stability. You also get a ton of options when you are configuring it and the only real limit is your budget.
- Apple Mac Book Pro
- Asus G74SX
This laptop is designed for gamers, but it will do just fine for video editing. The nVidia GTX 560M (3GB GDDR5 memory and 192 CUDA cores) will light up the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine. You can also load it up with 16GB of DDR5 RAM. The main reason I include this laptop on the list is that it is readily available at retail. You can find Asus laptops in your local computer/ electronics superstore and most on-line retailers. Just take the time to make sure you’re getting it with the specs you need, even if you have to special order it.
Tech Note: There is a downside to the current Asus G74SX: they do not have an Express Slot. It does include a 3-in-1 card reader and 1 x USB3 port.
- Toshiba Qosmio
Back when Adobe first shipped CS5, the folks at Toshiba gave us a Qosmio laptop to test and evaluate. We love it. We’ve been running Adobe Production Premium CS5.x, Avid Media Composer 5.x, Sony Vegas 9/10 Pro & Edius 6 on it and they all run great. We’ve also run Avid Studio on it and for an affordable video editing software, it delivered some pretty amazing results when it’s running on a powerful machine like a Qosmio. They don’t offer Quadro graphics, but the nVidia 560M is the next best thing and with 1.5GB GDDR5 memory and 192 CUDA cores it will light up the Mercury Playback engine.
Tech Note: There is a downside to the current Qosimo 7xx series: they do not have an Express Slot. This means you can’t use an external I/O device like the MXO2 Mini.
- Dell Precision M6600
The M6600 is a workhorse. I really can’t figure out why Avid has not certified it yet. (Update: Dell M6600 is now certified for Media Composer 6!) My guess is that they simply haven’t gotten around to it, or their partnership with HP is so strong it limits other vendors from getting certified. Regardless the Dell M6600 is a good choice for all of our Windows based NLEs including Media Composer. We have editors using them with Avid all the time. You can configure one with an i7 Quad-core, Quadro3000M and 16GB of RAM for a little over two grand. That’s a 15-20% savings over a similarly configured HP.
There you have it.
Videoguys’ list of recommended laptops for video editing.
We will update this list as we learn about new models and technology developments. For now, we’re pretty confident you’ll have a very good editing experience with any of the above choices. For professional work, on a deadline, that requires the very highest levels of stability and support, stick with either Apple Macbook Pro or HP Elitebook. If you’re looking for value, and performance that goes beyond video editing and includes multi-media and gaming then the Toshiba Qosmio or Asus G74SX are excellent options for you. If you’re stuck in the middle, then take a good look at the Dell M6600, it delivers close to the same specs and performance as HP at a significant savings.
Note: We offer these recommendations as guidelines for running the video editing software we carry. We did not test the laptops mentioned in this article, other than a Qosimo over a year ago. We used our vendors recommendations, feedback from our customers, and research we did on user groups, tech blogs, magazines and other sites on the internet.