You may have captured the best footage ever on film, but what if your computer can’t handle video editing and the processing power it requires?
While you may be aware of the various programs video editors use on a regular basis, you may start to feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to evaluating processor speed or SSD storage.
We’re here to help with a guide that includes our picks for the best video editing computers and the technical specs required to get your work done. We also made sure to include desktops in a variety of price ranges so you can find one that meets your budget, too.
Why choose a desktop computer?
We get it. You may enjoy the portability of a laptop, but working on a larger display makes editing video content a whole lot easier unless, of course, you’re connecting your laptop to multiple displays.
But even using the option for multiple displays, you can often find better specifications at a lower price point with a desktop. If you’re using a laptop as a desktop solution or thinking about doing so, it makes fiscal sense to choose a PC.
Long story short, a desktop makes things easier on the video editor. With that in mind, here are our picks for the best desktop computers for video editing.
The HP ENVY is an affordable option for the video editor looking to supplement their day-to-day laptop. The desktop is effective for video editing and gaming as well. It comes with Windows 10, which includes Hello Windows and Cortana to make life easier.
The HP ENVY’s Intel® Core™ i7 processor brings plenty of power to the table, and its 16GB of RAM allows you to run multiple programs at once without any lag in performance.
This HP desktop also includes a large 1TB hard drive for storing your work and Intel® Optane Memory, an acceleration solution that adapts to your usage habits by combining memory and storage into one unit to boost responsiveness.
On top of all that, the HP ENVY is one stylish machine. If you opt for the all-in-one for your video editing workstation, you'll get a complete unit with a 32-inch monitor perched on a sleek metal stand.
Despite its ominous name, the HP OMEN is a gaming PC that also works great for multimedia projects such as video editing. Because this computer was designed to support serious gamers, editors are bound to be impressed with its performance, too.
The PC can run games at a whopping 100+ frames per second without overheating. Just think what it can do with your video projects. It comes loaded with 8GB of RAM and an Intel® Core™ i7 processor, which keeps complex programs humming along smoothly.
On top of that, the HP OMEN offers plenty of storage in its 1TB hard drive, so you can store videos, photos, and your favorite tunes without issue. It also includes an NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 1070 video card, ensuring you won't miss any key details during the editing process.
The HP Z1 G3 All-in-One workstation is a solid video editing desktop that provides a nice blend of speed and stability. Since it's an all-in-one system, this is a great option for those low on space.
But the HP Z1 G3’s service mode is what makes it such a unique option. This feature lets the monitor lay flat so you can easily access all the ports and internal components. In addition to transferring projects to an external HDD or USB drive, you’ll have no trouble making upgrades or adding external plugins.
No matter what kind of video editing project you’ve got on the books, the HP Z1 G3 comes with a range of processor and GPU options. You can opt for as much storage and power as you need. And the 23.5-inch 4K UHD display allows you to view your work in large and clear detail.
The HP Z2 Mini G4 desktop workstation is compact but mighty. Unlike the all-in-one options we’ve mentioned so far, you will need to buy a monitor to accompany this unit. But since it’s fast as lightning and offers plenty of RAM, it may be best PC for video editing if you prefer to edit in Final Cut Pro with a million different tabs open at a time.
The HP Z2 Mini G4 comes loaded with Windows 10 Pro, but you're able to order Linux or Windows 7 if desired. The computer is really a star across many industries, because it’s certified to work with Avid, Solidworks, and Siemens, among others. It’s also recommended for CAD designers or those working with photo and video editing software.
Additionally, the HP Z2 Mini brings the Quadro GPU and Xeon CPU to the table, which allows this little guy to power up to four 4K monitors using its display ports for an incredible number of pixels.
You may or may not need all that, but it’ll look pretty cool and give you lots of editing firepower. And despite its smaller size, the HP Z2 Mini G4 comes with 1TB of onboard storage. That’s expert-level packing - you don’t have to sacrifice speed or storage to get a compact editing tool.
The HP Z2 Mini G4 is about as portable as a desktop computer gets, easily slipping into even the most crowded home office. This makes it a nice alternative for editors who would rather keep things streamlined.
How many cores does a video editing PC really need?
The answer to this question can get a little complicated.
First, it’s important to know that while computers have a single processor chip, that chip typically has anywhere from one to eight cores. Dual and quad cores are the most common options, although specialist PCs such as the HP Z8 G4 workstation can have up to 56.
Generally speaking, more cores means faster processing, but that’s not always true. More cores are faster only if programs can split up the tasks for the cores, and not every program can do this.
Clock speed also makes a difference. For example, a newer dual core with a high clock speed is usually faster than a quad core from a previous generation. It’s also important to keep power consumption in mind. With more cores, you’ll be consuming more power, which means higher heat levels and the need for additional cooling solutions.
What’s most crucial here is knowing specifics about the software you’re using for editing, because the best programs are often developed to maximize multiple processors. Look into your software of choice to help determine how many cores you need.
What about RAM?
Too little RAM is a big problem when it comes to selecting a computer. That being said, most digital filmmaking software performs perfectly fine with 8GB or 16GB of memory if you’re editing in 1080p.
RAM is a major consideration for film pros who plan to use this computer as their main workstation. For example, if you’re using a few editing tools at a time, you’ll want to opt for more memory like 32GB, especially if you’re working in 1080p or 4K.
Most of the options we’ve listed start at 8GB, but you can upgrade to get more RAM. For example, with the HP ENVY, if you increase your budget from $549 for 8GB to $899, you’ll get 32GB.
Our recommendation? Opt for the extra RAM, and also consider upgrading to Intel® Optane™ memory. When you’re operating close to capacity, the whole system slows down, and when you’re working in a medium such as film, the lag can really impede your workflow.
RAM doesn’t necessarily affect the rendering speed of your film projects, though. Instead, the CPU and GPU are the components responsible for speed, responsiveness, and ensuring visual representations like color adjustments and layer blending meet your expectations.
Is SSD storage a big deal in a video editing computer?
A solid-state drive features no moving parts and can read and write data faster than a traditional hard drive. An SSD takes some of the pressure off of other components, like your graphics card and your RAM, making for better all-around performance.
If you upgrade to an SSD, you’ll notice a big difference when you first open a program. For example, Adobe software won’t take an extended period of time to load up, so you’re no longer left waiting every time you sit down to get some work done.
Generally speaking, SSDs are not available in units over 2TB. You also want to avoid units that offer less than 256GB of space - it’ll fill up fast if you’re editing video content.
We understand if you’re approaching your next computer purchase with value at the forefront of your decision-making process. However, if you’re looking for performance, you’ll want to look for the equipment that best meets your needs. Narrow your search by reviewing the software specs of the programs you plan on using.
Your best bet when it comes to selecting a video editing computer is one that exceeds the minimum requirements needed to support the software you plan on working with. If it can’t even do that, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.
Start your search by looking for computers with a multi-core CPU, plus plenty of RAM. That said, you don’t need to go wild and buy more capacity than you need. Browse our selection of HP desktops, and if you plan ahead, you can keep your eye out for a sale on the desktop that works for you.
Dan Marzullo is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dan produces strategic marketing content for startups, digital agencies, and established brands. His work can be found in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, YFS Magazine, and many other media outlets.
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