The best video editing computer needs a whole lot of power. There’s simply no way around this. While small compromises can be made here and there – you can, for example, minor design and features that aren’t vital when you’re putting clips together or running the most taxing of video editing software with ease. However, in terms of the components inside, only a PC with powerful enough internal components will do.
When you’re only rendering videos that last only a few seconds or a couple of minutes, you can probably get away with many desktop PCs. However, the longer and higher resolution your video will be, the more power you need. That means that to edit videos and render very large files, you’ll need one of the best video editing computers. That sheer performance will shave a lot of time off your process, and help you focus more on your creative workflow.
What does that mean exactly? Essentially, you’ll want something with a powerful discrete graphics card, plenty of fast RAM, and a multi-core processor inside, so it can see you through more complex editing tasks. We've rounded up the very best video editing computers out there for a range of budgets. And, with our built-in price comparison tool to ensure you get the best deals, you’ll find one that gets the best value for your money.
Also see our guide to the best video editing laptops if you're looking for a travel-friendly alternative.
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The best video editing computer at a glance
- Apple iMac Pro
- iMac (27-inch, 2020)
- Microsoft Surface Studio 2
- Corsair One Pro i180
- Apple Mac mini (M1, 2020)
- Alienware Aurora R10
- Apple Mac Pro (2019)
- Lenovo Legion Tower 5i
- Lenovo Yoga A940
- Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition
The Apple iMac Pro is one of the most powerful PCs that Apple has ever made, and it's easily the best video editing computer money can buy right now. Speaking of money, you'll need quite a bit of it, as this is a very expensive machine. However, for the price you get sublime build quality, plus some of the most cutting-edge components on the market today. The Intel Xeon processor and AMD Verga 64 graphics card will make editing videos fast and smooth, and there's enough horsepower here to be able to preview your edits on the fly. Apple's software is also incredibly popular with creatives and video editors, as it's fast and reliable.
Read the full review: Apple iMac Pro
Even though the iMac 27-inch’s last update was only last year, Apple couldn’t help but step up in the upgrades department with its 2020 follow-up. Specs-wise, this model sports some massive improvements while also upgrading its webcam and microphones for a felicitous update. More people are working from home these days, and this seems like the best all-in-one PC to invest in without being forced to make some considerable space in your existing area. One of the most powerful all-in-one PCs you can buy right now, making it among the best video editing computers for space-saving video editors.
Read the full review: iMac (27-inch, 2020)
Packed with a Kaby Lake mobile processor and Nvidia Pascal graphics, the Surface Studio 2 is a lot more powerful than the original, and is a brilliantly-capable video editing computer. It features a stunning PixelSense display with Surface Pen support, which gives you a whole new way to interact and edit your video. It runs Windows 10, so software support is fantastic, and the 2TB SSD lets you store plenty of video footage in a speedly solid-state drive.
The Corsair One Pro i180 is one of the most powerful PCs out there, which makes it one of the best video editing computers you can buy at present. It comes with an Intel Core i9-9920X, Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, 920GB NVMe M.2 SSD and 2TB hard drive. That’s some seriously impressive and cutting-edge hardware for video editing. Unlike the iMac Pro and the Surface Studio 2 above, the Corsair One Pro i180 lets you upgrade certain components yourself, making this a future-proof PC. It's also got an amazingly compact design that means it can easily sit on or under a desk. It's very expensive, though.
One of Apple’s biggest surprises of 2020 was the update to its smallest Mac. The brand-new Mac mini now touts Apple’s M1 chip, while keeping things the same in its much-loved design. It’s more powerful than ever – with more than decent video editing performance, even at 8K, and can now run iOS apps and games, thanks to this new chip, but it still keeps its title as the cheapest Mac ever – terrific news for budget-minded Apple fans.
Read the full review: Mac mini (M1, 2020)
With AMD’s solid campaign to win the CPU and GPU markets, it’s no surprise that many of the best PCs are switching over Team Red’s cause. Our favorite Alienware Aurora gaming desktop PC line is among them, fitting its R10 models with AMD’s powerful yet affordable Ryzen CPUs. Not only do these deliver brute strength when it comes to gaming, but they also tout affordability, giving budget gamers to partake in what those with souped up rigs experience everyday without burning a hole in their pockets.
Read the full review: Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10
Apple has made the Apple Mac Pro (2019) one of its most modular computers yet. Combined with its raw power, it’s not just one of the best video editing computers currently on offer, but also extremely future-proof, which is only right since you’re spending good money for it. Apple is ushering in that cheese grater look that we’ve come to love since its unveiling, thanks to its unique cooling system that maximizes airflow and keeps the noise down. That’s not all; one look at its specs, and you’ll see that this is a creative professional’s ultimate tool. Video editors will have a hard time throwing a task at this workstation that will slow it down.
A well-powered machine with an affordable price might be what you need if your gaming appetite isn’t approaching the competitive sphere. Many gamers don’t really need the priciest and mightiest gaming rig, and the Lenovo Legion Tower 5i proves this, delivering plenty of power without forcing you to go broke. Nothing especially stands out with this gaming desktop, but it also offers a great gaming experience with the latest AAA titles right out of the box, which is really all that matters.
Read the full review: Lenovo Legion Tower 5i
Lenovo’s latest all-in-one offering may not be as powerful as the latest Mac Pro or even Apple’s premium AIO, the iMac Pro. At this point, the 8th-generation chips and Radeon RX 560 graphics are a bit dated. However, it is still plenty powerful to meet the needs of creative professionals out there who are not entirely impressed by Apple’s pricey machines. On top of that, the Lenovo Yoga A940 has a few aces up its sleeves, including 100% Adobe RGB support and Dolby Vision, a set of Dolby Atmos speakers, a port offering that’s more generous than Apple’s all-in-one, and a stylus included in the box.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga A940
The Dell XPS Special Edition desktop PC is an excellent option for budget-conscious buyers especially at its lower builds. Though even its kitted-out configurations are relatively affordable, especially for videographers looking for a creative workstation that is powerful and won’t rob you blind. Touting similar specs to premium workstations, this one comes at a cheaper price so you can spend that extra money you saved on one of the best monitors for editing. That clean new aesthetic it’s sporting is just a bonus.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition
How do you choose a video editing or rendering computer?
We put this question to James Higuchi, Lighting Supervisor at Monsters Aliens Robots Zombies (MARZ), a Toronto-based VFX studio.
Nearly every machine for use in production requires its own specifications to meet the needs of the artist using it. For example, editorial requires fast I/O, lots of RAM and now that most editing suites are making use of some form of GPU acceleration, having a decent GPU can go a long way. Lastly, high clock speed CPUs are a must to help keep encoding/transcoding times down. Typically you're going for clocks over cores in this situation.
Rendering is not too dissimilar depending on what application you're rendering in. CPU-based rendering requires as much processing power and RAM as you can fit into a single chassis. Obviously, there is a level of diminishing returns, but I don't think I've ever heard "it has too much RAM."
On the other hand, GPU rendering is dependent almost solely on the specs of the GPU/GPUs in the system and relies on CPU for specific processes (texture processing, compression, I/O, etc). Another consideration for rendering, regardless of the processing unit, is parallelity. Since render processes are typically broken down to a per frame basis, the more frames you can have processing at one time, the better.
So typically we're looking at setups with more cores, more GPUs and more machines in general. At the end of the day, the biggest consideration is cost effectiveness. You could throw $50,000 into a machine that can do everything, but that’s just not practical or cost effective.
We typically try to tailor the machine for the task - balancing a mixture of processors (CPU and GPU), RAM, I/O, scratch and static storage depending on the need. This allows us to target the hardware in a more efficient manner and have a more straightforward hardware-upgrade path. It also keeps driver/software overlaps to a minimum, as there are cases in which some driver/firm compatibility conflicts can prevent you from running some processes on the same box.
What are the different types of workstations?
- TechRadarPro Q&A with Anu Herranen, Director of New Product Introduction, Advanced Compute and Solutions at HP Inc.
There are two main categories of workstation: desktop workstations, and mobile workstations. Within both, there will be different levels of performance which is defined by each manufacturer. Mobile workstations typically come in the form of a laptop and are designed for users who need flexibility to work from the office, home or in the field. As the name suggests, desktop workstations are a computer tower on or under a desk, requiring a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse. Although extremely powerful in performance, they aren’t portable like a mobile workstation.
There is a third category that people might be less familiar with, and that is the centralized workstation. If you have a team of people, but not all need access to high performance computer power all the time, this can be a very cost-effective option. Say you have a team of 30 people, of which 10 need constant access to workstation performance, you would give them their own workstation. For the other 20, who need it occasionally, you can install a centralized workstation in your office. These are usually stored in IT rooms, rather than sitting on the end user’s desk.
This is a rack-mounted desktop workstation that can take care of intensive workflows for any user, anywhere. Centralized workstations are also known as virtual workstations, as team members can connect to the centralized workstation with their standard issue desktop, laptop or notebook using the appropriate software, whenever they need to access high-performance computer power.
The user can then access workstation power performance to complete compute-intensive tasks from anywhere. The centralized or virtual workstation takes care of the heavy lifting, allowing the user to get the job done on almost any device from anywhere. Usually, only the encrypted pixels are sent over the network, so company data remains highly secure at the source with the racked centralized workstations.
During the pandemic as a result of increased virtual collaboration, users who relied on high performance computing via a desktop workstation needed a solution that provided the same capabilities and experience they were used to having in the office, at home. In the future, this is likely to be a continuing trend as workforces spend more time working remotely.
- While you’re at it, we’ve also found the best gaming desktop PC you can buy