Digital video editing has long been associated with massive machines packed with the most expensive components on the market, and with good reason. Dark and musty rooms crammed with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment have been par for the course in the realm of high-end editing for decades. However, that’s been changing in recent years as laptops have become much more powerful. No longer are editors lashed to desks while working on a new project. Instead, they can actually join the rest of the world, and edit on the go.
Gigantic towers aren’t the only game in town anymore. But what exactly should an editor look for in a work laptop? The processor, RAM, storage, and display all play an important part of the equation. But more than anything, you need to pick a laptop that fits your specific on-the-job needs. Your budget, your existing workflow, and the needs of co-workers or clients all come into play here. It’s impossible to recommend just one laptop to fit every editor, so here is a selection of four laptops that offer a variety of features at different price points.
Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
The MacBook Pro can make any video editor drool. Available in both 13-inch and 15-inch configurations, the Retina displays are superb. On the smaller model, the screen sports a 2560×1600 resolution (227 ppi), and the larger one jumps up to 2880×1800 (220 ppi). Which ever you prefer, you can edit in 1080p while the user interface of your editing suite stays on screen — incredible clarity packed into relatively small screens.
The display isn’t the only impressive aspect of this laptop though. The highest-end 15-inch configuration ships with a 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 2TB of flash storage, 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and a discrete AMD Radeon Pro 560 GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 all in a thin aluminum case that weighs just 4.02 pounds. Unfortunately, all of that power comes at a cost — a whopping $ 4,199 when you max it out.
It’s worth mentioning that the most recent major revamp is a bit controversial. The top row of the keyboard has been done away with in favor of a dynamic Touch Bar that’s actually quite well-suited for scrubbing through footage. And the ports? Everything but the headphone jack has been removed in favor of four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. On the upside, that’s a ton of bandwidth for accessories to use. The downside? You’ll need specialty cables for anything that doesn’t have a USB-C port built-in.
Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC will work on both Windows and OS X, but Apple’s video editing products are only available for OS X. If you want to use Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor, you’ll need a Mac. Depending on your work environment, a MacBook Pro might be your only suitable option for portable editing.
Dell XPS 15
Not content to let Apple hog all of the spotlight, Dell has really stepped up its game. If you’re looking for a high-res laptop with a slightly lower price point, the 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15 is no slouch. For $ 2,099.99, the suped-up configuration gets you an ultra HD 3840×2160 display, a 2.80GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, a 512GB solid-state drive, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 4GB of GDDR5.
This machine is made out of high-end materials like machined aluminum, carbon fiber, and Corning Gorilla Glass, so it can remain very sturdy despite only weighing about 4.5 pounds. And while this model only sports a single Thunderbolt 3 port, it does have quite a few additional ports on offer. You’ll also find a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, a headphone jack, and an SD card reader.
HP ZBook 17 Workstation
Want a full-fledged desktop replacement? Try out the ZBook 17 Workstation from HP. The top-tier option has a huge 17.3-inch 1080p display, a 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E3-1535M v6 processor, a 512 GB solid-state drive, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and an Nvidia Quadro P4000 with 8GB of GDDR5 for $ 3,309. Keep in mind, this is a huge laptop not suited for heavy traveling. It weighs in at about 6.9 pounds, and has an enormous footprint, so don’t expect to be able to edit on a crowded flight.
However, this is an extremely powerful laptop for video editors, and HP doesn’t skip on the ports. It has three USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, an HDMI port, an ethernet port, and a headphone jack. It also includes a built-in SD card reader, so your import and export options are numerous.
ThinkPad P70 Mobile Workstation
Lenovo certainly isn’t out of the game, and the P70 Workstation proves it. With the top-end configuration, it can go head-to-head with just about any other laptop. Coming in at over $ 4,300, you end up with a 17.3-inch ultra high definition (3840×2160) display, a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Xeon Processor E3-1505M v5 CPU, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB solid state drive, and an Nvidia Quadro M5000M graphics card with 8GB of GDDR5. It does weigh over 7.5 pounds, so that does hamper portability quite a bit. Even so, the performance and outstanding display are worth the additional weight when deadlines are right around the corner.
And if you need lots of external storage or additional displays, you’ll be well-covered with the P70. This model has four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI 1.4 port, a Mini DisplayPort 1.2, an ethernet port, a connector for a dock, a headphone jack, a 34mm ExpressCard slot, and an SD card reader. What else could you possibly need?
The best of the best
Video editing is definitely resource intensive, but laptops have finally become flexible and powerful enough to handle the task with aplomb. Even though these machines are expensive when compared with the average laptop, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. There will never be a single machine that fits everyone’s needs perfectly, but with variety like this, that’s not so bad. And truth be told, we’d be more than happy to use any of these machines to edit.
Now read: Best Laptops for Photo Editing