My First Series: My First Editing Laptop

Buying a laptop is simple. Buying a mobile workstation takes a bit more thought.

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Buying computers is pretty straightforward. Head to the local big box store, choose the laptop with the shiniest screen, plunk down some dough, and head home. Buying a portable computer or laptop for editing can take a bit more thought. Factors such as processing speed, memory, video memory, display resolution and what ports the machine has, all play a large role in ensuring the machine will be suitable for editing for some time to come.

So what kinds of things should be considered when buying a laptop for editing? For one, it’s not a desktop, so expansion and upgrades aren’t likely in the cards. Buying a machine that has the power and flexibility to edit video straight out of the gates is going to be the best bet.

So which specs should we be scanning the fine print for when shopping for a video editing laptop?

To start, let’s establish that for some video editing, just about any new laptop will do the trick. If the bulk of your videos are going to be shot on a smartphone and uploaded to YouTube without a lot of editing or graphics, a powerhouse machine isn’t necessary. If you plan on using Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015, Sony Vegas Pro, HitFilm 3, Avid Media Composer or another pro-quality editing platform, performance is a must.

Processor or CPU

The heart of the computer. When looking for a higher end laptop for video editing, it is recommended to shop for machines with an i7 processor, and the more cores the better.

Current high-end laptops, such as the top of the line Apple MacBook Pros have up to a quad core i7 option. If budget is a big factor and a machine with an i7 is out of reach, opt for an i5. The newer generation processor, the better.

Graphics Card or GPU

For video editing and motion graphics the video card can be the most important component of the machine.

More and more video applications are relying on the GPU to carry the processing load with high-resolution video and graphics. Look for a laptop with at least 1GB of video memory, and preferably more. As is the case with all of the components we’re shopping for here, more is better.

Memory or RAM

Memory is going to allow the machine to run more quickly and efficiently, and, like the other features we’re hunting more, more is better. For light-duty editing, a minimum of 8GB of RAM is recommended, though for working with newer cameras that can shoot HD or better footage, 16GB or more is really recommended.

Monitor, Screen, or Display

Well, this one is kind of obvious. We have to stare at a monitor for hours when editing ​and a better monitor will help a lot. Debate rages on about whether a matte or glossy display is better, but generally, editors opt for a matte display to ease eye strain. Higher resolution is always better, and luckily there is no shortage of beautiful displays available today. 1920 x 1080 (1080p) is a good starting place, but slightly less than that is ok, and higher is definitely better. Many of today’s really high-end laptops feature screens that are so dense with pixels the human eye cannot differentiate between them.

This is most definitely the case with Apple’s Retina Display. While they were early to market with this ultra high-resolution displays, other manufacturers have matched and even exceeded Apple’s displays in many of their high-end laptops.

Ports, Inputs, Outputs, etc.

This feature can vary on laptops from Apple's latest single-port Macbook to some PCs that feature huge numbers of ports. When shopping there are a few big ones to ensure exist on potential purchases. The USB ports should be USB 3.0 now, at least for the most part. USB 3.0 is much faster than it's 2.0 predecessor. Thunderbolt 2 ports are very fast and useful as well.

A card reading slot can also be a huge time-saver.

Try to buy something with each of these boxes ticked off, and add a solid-state hard drive (SSD) or even a high-speed flash drive for lightning fast storage and access, and fast, efficient editing is just around the corner.