Best laptops for video editing in 2021


Included in this guide:

Best laptops for video editing: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Asus

ROG Zephyrus G14

Best laptops for video editing: MacBook Pro with M1

MacBook

Pro 13-inch (M1, late 2020)

Best laptops for video editing: Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

Dell

G5 15 SE

Best laptops for video editing: Asus Zenbook 13 OLED

Asus

Zenbook 13 OLED

Best laptops for video editing: macbook air with m1

Apple

MacBook Air with M1

Best laptops for video editing: Dell XPS 15

Dell

XPS 15 (2020)

Best laptops for video editing: Alienware m15 R4

Alienware

m15 R4

Best laptops for video editing: razer blade 14

Razer

Blade 14

Best laptops for video editing: Alienware m17 R2

Alienware

m17 R2

best laptops for video editing

The best laptops for video editing are the ones that are powerful enough to handle big edit jobs and light enough to carry all day, with a screen bright and accurate enough to let you do your best work. It helps to have enough battery life that you don’t need to lug a charger around, either.

Luckily, you have more options than ever thanks to recent advances in the state of CPU development. Intel, AMD, and now Apple have met consumer demand for smaller, more powerful laptops with some beefy laptop CPUs (or SoCs, in the case of Apple’s remarkable M1 chip), so if you’re chiefly interested in doing recreational video editing and plan to stick to 1080p resolution, there are lots of thin and light laptops powerful enough to get the job done. Just make sure you’re using the best video editing software for your needs.

However, if you plan to be working in 4K and/or editing video files with high bitrates, you’ll want a beefy laptop with a performant CPU, speedy hard drive, lots of RAM, and a discrete graphics card. The best gaming laptops often satisfy these requirements, though they tend to eat up battery when working at full capacity.

Read on for our curated list of the best laptops for video editing, which should help make your buying decision a little easier.

What are the best laptops for video editing?

Right now, we recommend the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 as the best all-around video editing laptop for most people. While it’s technically a gaming laptop, that means it has plenty of power for most video editing projects thanks to its beefy AMD Ryzen 9 CPU and discrete GeForce GPU. The 11-hour battery life is frankly incredible for a gaming laptop, plus its easy to carry, has a great screen, and is remarkably affordable to boot.

If price is no object, we recommend the Alienware m17 R2 because it has a big, beautiful 17.3-inch screen and plenty of power to tackle even the toughest video editing tasks. However, if you plan to do a lot of 4K video editing, we recommend the Alienware m15 R4 instead. It was a little slower than the m17 R2 in our Handbrake video transcoding test, and it has a smaller screen, but the vibrant 4K display that will help you keep track of every little detail in your next project.

If you prefer macOS over Windows, we recommend the MacBook Pro with M1 as the best video editing laptop you can buy. The older, Intel-based 16-inch MacBook Pros are still incredible video editing platforms thanks to their discrete GPUs, but Apple’s latest round of 13-inch MacBook Pros are surprisingly good thanks to the power of Apple’s M1 chip. If you want a Mac for video editing and don’t expect to be doing much 4K work, the MacBook Pro with M1 is a great choice because it’s capable, long-lasting, and remarkably lightweight.

However, don’t buy one right now, because on October 18 Apple unveiled the new 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 and 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021. They both ship with an improved version of the M1 called the M1 Pro, and they can be upgraded to an even beefier piece of Apple silicon branded the M1 Max. Apple claims these devices will make it easier than ever to tackle big video editing jobs on the go, so stay tuned for our full review of each model to get the lowdown on whether they’re right for you.

The best laptops for video editing you can buy today

1. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

The best all-around laptop for video editing

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is that rare gaming laptop that manages to be both powerful and portable without sacrificing battery life. The unit we reviewed achieves this thanks to its AMD Ryzen 9 processor, a very capable CPU that comes with AMD’s latest tech to deliver power without draining your battery in a matter of hours. Factor in the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU and you’re looking at a very powerful 14-inch laptop. 

This gaming laptop is powerful enough to handle big edit jobs yet svelte enough to throw in a bag and forget about, but the real reason it tops this list is its excellent 11-hour battery life. That kind of battery life is almost unheard of in a high-performance laptop, and at a price that ranges from $1,049 – $1,999 the Zephyrus G14 is pretty affordable to boot. Sure, you don’t get a webcam and the keyboard backlighting has some issues, but depending on how you feel about privacy the lack of a built-in camera could actually be a positive thing. Don’t let the fact that it’s a gaming laptop dissuade you — the Asus ROG Zephyrus 14 is an excellent all-around video editing laptop.

2. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, late 2020)

Best laptop for video editing

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The aging 16-inch MacBook Pro will always be a good laptop for video editing, but Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 is a fantastic upgrade because it’s light, long-lived, and powerful enough to handle the lion’s share of editing jobs. You’ll feel the lack of a discrete GPU on some big projects, but the efficiency and performance of Apple silicon should help this M1-powered MacBook Pro punch above its weight.

Plus, its Retina display is both bright and colorful, so the video you edit on the MacBook Pro will look excellent (as will the next Netflix show you binge). We just wish Apple would update its design or give you more Thunderbolt ports — the 4 USB-C port config is currently limited to older Intel-based MacBook Pros. Still, it’s amazing to see how Apple’s own processors have obliterated the performance seen in its old Intel-based MacBooks. It all adds up to why the 13-inch MacBook Pro is one of the best laptops for video editing. Its incredible 16-hour battery life is pretty handy to have in a pinch, too. 

3. Dell G5 15 SE

Best video editing performance for the price

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

If you’re after an affordable but powerful gaming laptop that can handle some serious video editing, the Dell G5 15 SE 2020 is well worth your consideration. The remarkably forgettable name belies the fact that this is a very capable machine clad in a neat, unassuming chassis for less than $1,000. And despite its price, it can keep up with some of the more expensive gaming laptops, especially at 1080p. 

Dell has opted to go with an all-AMD configuration, so the G5 15 SE sports a Ryzen 5 4000-series CPU and a Radeon RX 5600M GPU to deliver some graphical muscle. With up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD space, the Dell G5 15 SE 2020 is a very capable video editing laptop — it actually completed our Handbrake video editing test a smidge faster than any other laptop on this list. You’ll have to pay $1,049 for the best specs, but that price also gets you a colorful display with a 144Hz refresh rate. The G5 15 SE’s plastic build might not scream ‘premium’, but it still looks pretty sharp on a desk. More importantly, it’s got it where it counts.

4. Asus Zenbook 13 OLED

Best video editing laptop when portability matters

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The AMD-equipped Asus Zenbook 13 OLED is a capable laptop for video editing that offers excellent value, delivering an eye-catching 1080p OLED display and exceptional battery life in a slim, lightweight package for less than a thousand bucks.

Sure, the speakers aren’t amazing, the webcam leaves something to be desired, and there’s no headphone jack, but these are stumbling blocks you can work around. The AMD Ryzen 7 5000-series CPU and 8 GB of RAM give you enough power to handle simple video editing, especially if you keep it to 1080p, and the OLED display is a joy to look at. The 15-hour battery life is pretty nice to have, too, especially on those long days. If you need a small, portable laptop with a great screen that can handle video editing and last you all day long, you can’t do better than the OLED-equipped Asus Zenbook 13 at this price.

5. Apple MacBook Air with M1

The other best MacBook for video editing

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Apple’s powerful M1 chips punch above their weight, rendering the 13-inch MacBook Air with M1 a remarkable effective lightweight laptop for video editing. Yes, we’re living in a world where you could do serious creative work on a MacBook Air. We’re as surprised as you are.

It’s not quite as effective as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1, or the 16-inch MacBook Pro with its Intel CPUs and discrete GPUs, but the M1-equipped MacBook Air can still get most video editing jobs done — and it’s lighter and cheaper than a Pro.

On top of that, you get stronger sound than you’d expect from a laptop this small, since it support Dolby Atmos audio. And the bright, vibrant 2,560 x 1600-pixel Retina display should be easy on the eyes during those long editing sessions.

6. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

Best 15-inch video editing laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Don’t let its slim and stylish design fool you — the Dell XPS 15 2020 is an absolute workhorse, and its immersive 15.6-inch InfinityEdge 4K display is a joy to work on. It’s powerful enough to handle some pretty serious video editing work too, thanks to its 10th Gen Intel Core processors and the optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU you can configure it with. 

Factor in a pair of impressively loud speakers and solid battery life for a 4K laptop, and the new XPS 15 is one of the best 15-inch laptops you can buy for video editing. You can get similar performance, value, and screen quality out of its siblings, the pint-sized Dell XPS 13 and the big XPS 17, but we think the XPS 15 delivers the perfect balance of screen size and portability for video editors on the go. 

7. Alienware m15 R4

The best 4K laptop for video editing

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Alienware m15 R4 is a sleek and functional gaming laptop that’s plenty powerful enough for 4K video editing, thanks (in part) to its impressive Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU. While this machine can easily run you $2,500 (or more), in return, you’ll get a streamlined and relatively lightweight device with a slick white chassis that looks good on a desk. With a fast CPU, lots of hard drive space and a beautiful 4K display, the m15 R4 is a surprisingly great laptop for video editing.

Of course, like most Alienware laptops (and gaming laptops in general), the m15 R4 has pretty meager battery life, managing barely 4 hours of web surfing on a full battery. The fans get remarkably loud under heavy workloads too, but if you’re editing video with headphones on you’ll barely notice. 

8. Razer Blade 14

The best 14-inch video editing laptop when price is no object

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The first 14-inch Razer laptop in years, the Razer Blade 14 offers powerful components and excellent performance in a compact and lightweight package. The Asus ROG Zephyrus 14 offers slightly better value, but if you’re willing to spend up to $3k for a fully kitted-out Razer Blade 14 you’ll get a beefy video editing laptop that’s svelte and easy to carry.

Of course, the catch-22 of the Razer Blade 14 is that while it’s remarkably slim and easy to carry, it also eats up battery, lasting barely 90 minutes under heavy load. That means you’ll need to worry about carrying a charger if you expect to do a lot of video editing on the go. But if you can stomach the high price and low battery life, the Razer Blade 14 is an excellent gaming laptop that doubles as a great laptop for video editing.

9. Alienware m17 R2

Best laptop for video editing at a desk

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Like all Alienware gaming laptops, the Alienware m17 R2 is expensive, and the battery life is nothing to write home about. However, if you need a beefy laptop with a big screen for video editing, shelling out for a kitted-out m17 R2 makes sense: you’ll get top-of-the-line GeForce RTX GPUs, Core i9 CPUs, a big 17.3-inch display, and more storage space than a U-Haul facility. It’s one of the oldest laptops on this list, yet it still managed to earn one of the fastest times in our Handbrake video transcoding test.
However, we clocked the battery life of the m17 R2 at about 4 hours on a full charge; that’s actually pretty good for a gaming laptop, but it does mean you shouldn’t invest in an M17 R2 if you expect to be working away from an outlet for extended periods. But if you just need a powerful big-screen laptop to sit on a desk and edit videos, the m17 R2 is a great choice that won’t let you down.

How to choose the best video editing laptop for you

Performance: If you want good performance when editing video, you should get a laptop with at least a Core i5 CPU, 8 to 16GB of RAM and a 256GB to 512GB SSD. That will be enough for most 1080p projects, but for working in 4K or on big projects you’ll want to try and upgrade to at least a Core i7 CPU, 16 to 32 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB SSD.

Graphics: Most mainstream laptops feature integrated graphics, which can handle lightweight video editing at 1080p but aren’t ideal for big videos, especially those in 4K. For that, you’ll want a laptop with a discrete graphics card, ideally something on the higher end of the Nvidia GTX 3000-series.

Size: Consider how mobile you want your laptop to be. Ultraportables like the Asus Zenbook 13 OLED and Dell XPS 15 are slim and light, while gaming notebooks such as the Alienware m17 R2 are big and bulky — but offer big power in exchange,

Operating system: If you want to use the most common video editing software, you’ll want to stick with a relatively recent version of Windows or macOS — Linux and Chrome OS laptops don’t have what it takes to excel at video editing. Right now you’ll want a laptop with the latest version of Windows 10 or macOS Big Sur, though Windows 11 and macOS 12 Monterey laptops are right around the corner.

How we test the best laptops for video editing

To find the best laptops for video editing, we run every machine we review through a rigorous suite of benchmarks and real-world tests to gauge how it will perform during everyday use. 

We measure the average brightness and color quality of each laptop’s display using our in-house light meter and colorimeter. For general performance, we run laptops through a series of tests that include Geekbench 5 (CPU performance), as well as various 3DMark tests to measure graphics capabilities. We also run a file transfer test to measure how fast a machine’s hard drive is, and a custom battery test that has the machine browse the internet over Wi-Fi until it runs out of juice.

Most importantly for video editors, we also benchmark the video editing capabilities of every laptop we review by timing how long it takes them to transcode a 4K video down to 1080p in Handbrake. Most laptops accomplish this in 6-20 minutes, and for the purposes of this list we only included laptops that could do it in less than 10.

Finally, when testing dedicated gaming laptops we also run benchmarks for popular games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Far Cry: New Dawn.

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.