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The Best Laptops for Video Editing in 2021 | Digital Trends

Video editing is a task that requires you to have access to a high-quality display and enough computing power to process large video files. Whether you’re a creative who works on professional-quality videos or you want to launch a YouTube channel, investing in the right laptop will make video editing much easier. The Dell XPS 17 is a great choice since it has some of the best components for pretty much everything. 

It’s easy to feel confused if you’re not familiar with performance specs. We’ve compared different laptops to select the best computers you can use for video editing. We’ve put together a few recommendations to help you find the right laptop for your video editing needs.

The best video editing laptops at a glance

The best video editing laptop: Dell XPS 17

Why you should buy this: The Dell XPS 17 looks great, is built incredibly well, and can be configured with some of the most powerful components around.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a fast Windows 10 laptop for video editing — and everything else.

What we thought of the Dell XPS 17:

Dell’s XPS 17 clamshell laptop expands on the excellent XPS 15 that’s been one of our favorite portable workhorses for a couple of years. Literally, the XPS 17 takes the best of the XPS 15 and packs it into a chassis housing a massive 17-inch display, and then ups the ante in terms of performance. The XPS 17 looks a lot like its smaller sibling, with a solid aluminum chassis and a carbon-fiber keyboard deck that makes for comfortable long working sessions, and it’s just as solidly built. It also offers tons of power, with up to Intel’s 10th-gen Core i9-10885H CPU. This superfast, full-power (45-watt) processor is the ultimate CPU for demanding tasks like encoding video and real-time editing. That chip is featured in other laptops, but according to our tests, it’s among the fastest in Dell’s system. The XPS 17 is also available with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU that should help considerably with live editing and encoding performance.

You can configure the Dell XPS 17 all the way from a base model with an entry-level i5-10300H CPU up to the aforementioned Core i9-10885H, up to 64GB of fast DDR4-2933MHz RAM, up to 2TB of very fast PCI-e solid-state drive (SSD) storage, and up to a quality 4K display that offers high contrast and vibrant, incredibly accurate colors to show off your video projects with real grandeur. You’ll get a machine that also provides tons of high-speed connectivity via four USB-C ports with full-speed 40 GBps Thunderbolt 3 support (USB-C dominates this laptop, which forgoes older USB-A connections), along with a solid keyboard and touchpad with the option of a fingerprint scanner for secure login via Windows 10 Hello.

The best portable laptop for video editing: Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1

The Best Laptops for Video Editing in 2021 | Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You need a portable laptop that still provides sufficient CPU power for serious video editing.

Who it’s for: Any user who needs a powerful video editing workstation they can take anywhere.

What we thought of the Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1:

Apple’s ARM-based M1 processor has proven itself to be a tremendous performer, beating out all but Intel’s fastest 45-watt CPUs in demanding tasks like video encoding. If an app is optimized for the M1, then it flies. That makes the M1-based MacBook Pro 13 a great choice for anyone who wants power on the go. The laptop isn’t cheap, starting at $1,300 for 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive, and winding up to $2,000 for 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. But it’s worth it.

Power isn’t the only thing the MacBook Pro 13 M1 has going for it. It’s thin at 0.61 inches and weighs just three pounds, making it a good fit for your backpack. And thanks to the M1 chip, the MacBook Pro 13 M1 lasts a long time on a charge, beating out most Windows 10 laptops and making mincemeat of Apple’s Intel-based version. You won’t be carrying around a lot of weight, and you won’t need to worry about making sure you have a charger handy.

The MacBook Pro 13 M1 inherits its sibling’s excellent display that offers a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, a productivity-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio, 485 nits of brightness (a lot), a high contrast of 1470:1, and 91% of the AdobeRGB color gamut. In short, this is a display that will let you work in comfort and provide relatively accurate results.

The most powerful laptop for video editing: Alienware Area-51m R2

The Best Laptops for Video Editing in 2021 | Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: This laptop provides desktop CPUs and the fastest GPUs to provide the fastest video encoding and live editing in a laptop.

Who it’s for: Anybody who wants the fastest possible workflow without investing in a boring portable workstation.

What we thought of the Alienware Area-51m R2:

The Alienware Area-51m R2 is an upgrade to the Area-51m first-gen machine that we reviewed in 2019. The CPUs have been upgraded to Intel’s 10th-gen desktop models up to the Core i9-10900K, and the GPU options top out at the amazingly fast NVIDIA GeForece RTX 2080 Super. Add in up to 64GB of fast DDR4-2933MHz RAM and the option of 4TB of RAID via two 2TB SSDs. These components guarantee that the Alienware Area-51m R2 will be the fastest performing laptop for creative professionals, whipping through encoding and live editing tasks. The laptop sports a 17.3-inch 4K display with 500 nits of brightness and 100% AdobeRGB color gamut support, which will ensure you can get your videos produced with high fidelity.

Crazy enough, the Alienware Area-51m R2 is also upgradeable, providing the ability to swap out the CPU and GPU, giving you room to grow — as if you’d need it any time soon. Of course, this isn’t a highly portable laptop, weighing in at over nine pounds and with it’s being a whopping 1.7 inches thick at its thickest point. But if you need to carry it from one work location to another, you can if you’ve been keeping up with your exercises.

Ports include Thunderbolt 3, USB-C and USB-A, and HDMI. Wi-Fi 6 is also on hand for fast multiplayer performance.

The best budget video-editing laptop: MacBook Air M1

Macbook Air M1

Why you should buy this: It provides a lot of power at a relatively low cost.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs fast components to churn through their video projects but has less money to spend.

What we thought of the MacBook Air M1:

Apple’s MacBook Air M1 uses the same CPU as the MacBook Pro 13, but it’s fanless and so is expected to be slower than its fan-filled sibling. In our testing, though, the MacBook Air M1 fell only slightly behind the MacBook Pro 13, for example, it was just 11% slower in Cinebench R23. That’s while running completely silently and without generating significant heat. Amazingly, the MacBook AIr M1 is faster in many native applications than Intel Tiger Lake laptops and it competes with Intel’s faster H-series CPUs.

The MacBook Air M1 makes this list because it comes in at $1,000 for the M1, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 2,560 x 1,600 IPS Retina 16:10 display that doesn’t quite live up to the same quality as the MacBook Pro 13’s but is ahead of most Windows 10 laptops at this price. And you get the same excellent Magic Keyboard, a large and responsive touchpad, and a very thin and light chassis that won’t weigh you down. One weakness is connectivity, where you get just two USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, but wireless connectivity is fast with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 support.

Research and buying tips

Are gaming laptops good for video editing?

Yes, gaming laptops can be great for video editing because they tend to utilize faster CPUs, GPUs, and RAM that creative applications can leverage for superior performance. It’s no coincidence that our pick for the most powerful video editing laptop is a gaming system, the Alienware Area-51m R2. Gaming laptop displays, though, are aimed at different objectives than you’ll find on the best video editing laptops — they’re tuned for speed rather than color accuracy and depth. And so you’ll need to keep that in mind when you make your purchasing decision. One alternative is to add an external high-quality display, to leverage the performance of the laptop and still have the display quality you need for final production work where you’ll want to see your video in all its glory.

How much RAM do you need to edit 4K video?

The short answer is: as much RAM as you can add to your laptop. Most likely, you’ll want at least 32GB of RAM for 4K video editing in order to ensure an efficient workflow. If you can add 64GB, then that’s even better. But the absolute minimum you’ll want is 16GB.

Do you need a 4K laptop to edit 4K video?

You don’t have to have a 4K display to edit 4K video. You can do the editing and rendering without one. Where 4K becomes important is in your ability to view your video in 4K to ensure that it meets your standards and that all effects and changes are applied appropriately. Again, adding an external 4K display can overcome any limitations in your laptop’s display — like our MacBook picks on this list that aren’t quite 4K resolution.

Editors’ Recommendations




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