The need for video is exploding, and more people are getting in on the action. Fortunately, the gear is becoming more affordable, and at the center of your setup will be a powerful computer. Creative people love Macs: they’re dependable, look amazing, and offer little friction to the creative process. But some are better at video than others.
All Macs can work with video. In fact, Apple’s iMovie will come preinstalled on every Mac you buy. But as you get more serious about video, some models will quickly reach their limits and leave you frustrated.
Video editing is tedious and time-consuming. It will try your patience and tax your computer. So make sure you choose a Mac that can handle the job. It’s going to need some serious specs—a powerful CPU and GPU, plenty of RAM, and lots of fast storage.
Out of the current models we recommend the . It offers everything you need for editing 4K video without breaking the bank, and its components can be upgraded as your needs grow. A more portable alternative is the . It offers similar power in a smaller package, though it’s not as easy to upgrade and you’ll need an external monitor to view 4K video in full resolution.
Of course, they’re not your only options. An iMac Pro offers considerably more power (at a price) and can be upgraded well beyond what normal mortals need. And there are less expensive alternatives like the iMac 21.5-inch, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro 13-inch, but they come with considerable compromises. Read on to learn what to look out for.
Why Trust Us?
My name is Adrian Try, and I’ve been giving people advice about the best computer to buy since the 1980s. I’ve set up (and taught classes in) computer training rooms, managed the IT needs of organizations and offered tech support to businesses and individuals. I recently upgraded my own computer and chose the iMac 27-inch recommended in this review.
But I’m not a video professional and haven’t experienced the frustration of pushing my hardware to the limits of what it’s capable of. So I paid special attention to those who are more qualified and quoted them where appropriate throughout this review.
What Are the Computing Needs of a Video Editor?
The needs of video editors vary widely. Some work on entire movies and television shows, while others create shorter commercials or crowdfunding campaigns.
While the length and complexity of your video will influence your computing needs, the resolution of that video will affect it even more. The Mac you choose for 4K video needs to be significantly more powerful than one for HD.
Your time will be the biggest loser if you choose the wrong Mac. It may technically do the job, but you’ll hit bottlenecks that will cost many hours. How tight are your deadlines? If you can afford to wait, you may get away with a less powerful Mac. But ideally, you’ll choose one with the RAM, storage and graphics card to keep you working productively.
The Space to Create
Creatives need a system that stays out of their way to give them space to create. That begins with a computer they’re familiar with that can offer a friction-free and frustration-free experience. And that’s what Macs are famous for.
But their need for space doesn’t end there. Video is all about pixels, and you need a monitor big enough to show all of them. Here are some common video resolutions:
If you edit 4K video, a 27-inch iMac or iMac Pro can display your footage with room to spare for your on-screen editing controls. A 21-inch iMac has a 4K display so you can view your footage in full resolution, but your controls will be superimposed. MacBook Pros (either 16- or 13-inch models) provide more than enough room to view Quad HD, but you’ll need an external monitor for anything more.
You’ll also need space to store your videos. Your older projects can be archived to external media, so you need at least enough room for your current projects, and a good ballpark is to allow for three or four times as much space as the final video will use.
Ideally, you’ll use a solid-state drive, and many people will find 512 GB sufficient. If you would like more, here are the maximum configurations of each current Mac model:
Speed and Reliability
Video editing is time-consuming. You need a computer that will minimize that time by eliminating bottlenecks and being reliable every time. Having enough RAM and the right graphics card will make the most difference.
How much RAM will you need? That depends primarily on the resolution of the video you’ll be editing. Here are some guidelines:
You can use that information to start eliminating some Mac models from your shortlist. Here is the maximum amount of RAM each model can accommodate:
That means the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are only suitable for basic HD (and Full HD) editing. Everything else has enough RAM to handle 4K, though you’re likely to have to upgrade from the base configuration.
Rendering the finished video is the most time-consuming part of the editing process, and the choice of graphics card will make the biggest difference here. Cheaper Macs offer a reasonable integrated graphics card (for example, the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s Intel Iris Plus), but you will get significantly better performance from a discrete GPU with dedicated video RAM.
Again, the amount of video RAM to choose depends on the resolution of the video you are editing. 2 GB is fine for editing HD video, and 4 GB is better if you’re editing 4K. Here’s the maximum video RAM that can be configured for each Mac model that offers a discrete GPU:
Any of these are ideal. Other Mac models don’t have a discrete graphics card and are not as suitable for video editing, but you can significantly enhance their performance by adding an external graphics card (eGPU). We’ll link to some options under “Other Gear” at the end of this review.
A Computer That Can Run Their Video Editing Software
There’s a number of excellent video editing applications available for the Mac. Make sure you choose a configuration with the specifications needed to run your video app. Here are the system requirements for a number of popular apps. Remember, these are minimum requirements and not recommendations. You’ll have a better experience choosing a configuration with even higher specs.
Note that each of these apps requires a discrete GPU with 4 GB of VRAM for 4K editing. The choice of CPU is also important. Here are some guidelines from proMAX:
Presently, you will not find a better option than a laptop running Intel’s i9 processor for video rendering and it can do wonders with 4K video editing. Though the Intel i7 range with hyperthreaded 4-core, 6-core, and 8-core processors do serve a solid powerhouse.
Ports That Support Their Hardware
Additional gear can make a huge difference to video editing, and we’ll cover some common options in “Other Gear” later in the review. These include an audio interface and monitor speakers, external hard drives or SSDs, control surfaces for transport control and color grading, and external GPUs to enhance the performance of Macs without a discrete graphics card.
Fortunately, all Macs include fast Thunderbolt 3 ports that support USB-C devices. Desktop Macs also have a number of traditional USB ports, and external USB hubs can be purchased if you need them for your MacBook.
How We Tested
Having gone through everything a video editor needs from a computer, we decided on a list of recommended specifications to test each model of Mac against. These specs promise to give you a frustration-free experience with most video editing software.
The winners we chose comfortably meet those recommendations without offering costly extras. We’ll compare the other Mac models with those winners to explain who might be able to make use of the higher specs of iMac Pros and Mac Pros, and what compromises will be made when a more affordable Mac is chosen for budget reasons.
Best Mac for 4K Video Editing: iMac 27-inch
The is ideal for editing video all the way up to 4K (Ultra HD) resolution. Its large, gorgeous monitor has more than enough pixels for the job, and it’s so thin it will take up little space on your desk—and it houses the computer as well. It offers plenty of storage space and a fast graphics card with more than enough video RAM.
Despite all of that, it’s also relatively affordable, though there are obviously less expensive Macs available. But while the iMac 27-inch involves virtually no compromise for video editors, you can’t save money and avoid compromise. How those compromises affect you depends on the type of editing you do.
The great news for video editors is that this iMac has a 5K (5120 x 2880 pixels), allowing you to edit 4K video in full resolution with room to spare. That extra room means that your on-screen controls won’t overlap your playback window, and that’s an advantage that you don’t get with a smaller monitor.
Fix the Photo
points out how good the color rendition and high contrast of this monitor are. They say, “It almost fully reproduces the DCI-P3 color space used in the movies.” If you’re a sucker for multiple monitors, you’re able to add a 5K external display or two 4K displays to this Mac.
The configuration you’ll find with the Amazon link above exceeds our recommendations in most ways. It has an incredibly fast 6-core processor, the latest version of Intel’s i5. The Radeon Pro graphics card offers 8 GB of GDDR5 video memory, which will easily handle any rendering software. This Mac gives you plenty of room to grow.
Unfortunately, Amazon’s configuration doesn’t exceed all of our recommendations. They don’t offer an iMac with the amount of RAM we recommend, or an SSD drive. Fortunately, RAM is easily upgradable (all the way to 64 GB) by placing new SDRAM sticks in the slots near the bottom of the monitor. You’ll find the specifications you need on this page from Apple Support.
You may find the Fusion Drive fast enough, but if you prefer an SSD it may be better to purchase your Mac elsewhere. It is possible to add an SSD later, but it’s a job better left to a professional.
There are plenty of ports for your peripherals: four USB and three Thunderbolt 3 ports. Unfortunately, they’re all on the back where they’re difficult to get to. You might consider a USB hub that faces you, offering easy access. offers a quality aluminum hub that mounts to the bottom of your iMac’s screen and offers an attractive hub that sits conveniently on your desk. Other reviewers share our opinion of the 27-inch iMac. MacWorld also chose it as their winner and gave it this assessment: “We would generally say that the best Mac for professional video editors is the 27in iMac with Retina 5K Display. Here you get the 5K 27in Retina display, a fast processor, dedicated graphics card, and lots of other features that will be ideal for video editors.“
But while it’s an excellent choice for video editing, it’s not for everyone:
Best Mac for Portable Video Editing: MacBook Pro 16-inch
If you value portability, our recommendation is the . It has the largest screen of the current range of Mac laptops, and it’s deceptively larger than the older 15-inch displays. It meets all of our recommended specifications, and its 11-hour battery life keeps you productive for a whole day working outside of the office.
If you need a Mac laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the only one that meets our recommended specs, and the only one we recommend. Your other options have serious compromises, primarily the lack of a discrete graphics card.
Across the board the MacBook Pro range offers powerful processor chipsets and, in the case of the 16in models, decent discrete graphics, making it a solid choice. (MacWorld)
It offers the largest screen on a MacBook, and it has more than enough pixels for editing HD video in full resolution. However, that’s not true for 4K (Ultra HD). Fortunately, you can attach a more capable external monitor in your office. According to Apple Support, the MacBook Pro 16-inch can handle two 5K or 6K displays. One good choice would be the LG 27MD5KB-B UltraFine 27-inch monitor, which is plugged into one of the high-speed Thunderbolt ports. It also features an impressive sound system for when you’re not using your studio monitors or headphones. It has six speakers with force-canceling woofers. It offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports that allow you to plug in USB-C peripherals, but no USB-A ports.
You could purchase a dongle or different cable for those devices, but a better option may be Purgo’s aluminum USB-C hub adaptor. It’s designed specifically for MacBooks, looks great, and offers additional connections, including USB-A.
1. MacBook Air
Video editors on a budget may be tempted by the tiny and affordable , but need to have realistic expectations of what it’s capable of. If you already own one, or can’t afford anything more expensive, it’s a reasonable place to start, but it won’t take you far.
You can edit video on a MacBook Air, but it’s not an ideal choice. It can edit basic HD video, but for anything more, it will become a frustration or an impossible dream. This laptop’s strength is its portability, long battery life, and low price.
The MacBook Air doesn’t come close to meeting our recommended specs. It has a dual-core processor that’s suitable for basic HD video editing, and the best configuration you can purchase on Amazon offers very little storage and 8 GB of RAM, which is also suitable for HD.
Better configurations are available (though not on Amazon), and since you can’t upgrade the components after your purchase, you need to choose carefully. The maximum configuration has 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD, which will take you beyond HD to Full HD (1080p) and very basic 4K editing.
The supports videos all the way up to Quad HD in full resolution, but not 4K (Ultra HD). Fortunately, you can plug one 5K external monitor or two 4K displays into the laptop.
But the lack of a discrete graphics card will mean that performance will be limited. This can be rectified somewhat by the purchase of an external GPU, and the Apple website lists the Air as being compatible with “Thunderbolt 3–enabled external graphics processors (eGPUs).” Under “Listed accessories” they include the Blackmagic and Blackmagic Pro eGPUs, and we’ll list further options in the “Other Gear” section of our review.
While the MacBook Air isn’t the best Mac for video editing, it can do it, and it’s highly affordable and very portable.
2. MacBook Pro 13-inch
Another portable option, the isn’t much thicker than the Air but is much more powerful. However, it’s not as suitable for video editing as the larger 16-inch model.
While the 16-inch MacBook Pro meets all of our recommended specifications, this one doesn’t. It offers a powerful Quad-core i5 processor and plenty of storage, but it lacks a discrete GPU.
Like the MacBook Air, the configuration available on Amazon only has 8 GB of RAM, which is suitable for HD and Full HD video, but not 4K. Configurations with 16 GB are available, but not on Amazon. Choose carefully, because you can’t upgrade the RAM after purchase.
MacWorld also warns against choosing the 13-inch model over the 16-inch. “We’d tend towards recommending the 16in over the 13in models due to those discrete graphics (Radeon Pro 5300M or Radeon Pro 5500M) but the 13in models are a lot more powerful than they were previously – and as with the Mac mini above, you could add a separate eGPU.”
As I mentioned when covering the MacBook Air, an external GPU and monitor will allow you to do much more with the laptop. This Mac supports one 5K or two 4K external displays, and we’ll list some eGPU options under “Other Gear” later in the review.
3. iMac 21.5-inch
If you want to save some money or some desk space, the is a capable video editing machine. It’s a reasonable alternative to the 27-inch model, but you won’t be able to upgrade it in the same way as you can the larger machine.
Configurations of the 21.5-inch iMac are available that meet all of our recommendations, but unfortunately not on Amazon. You can configure the machine all the way up to 32 GB of RAM, but Amazon’s maximum is just 8 GB, which is not suitable for 4K. They only offer this model with a Fusion Drive, not an SSD.
Unlike the 27-inch iMac, you won’t be able to add more RAM after your purchase. So choose carefully! You can have the storage upgraded to an SSD, but doing so isn’t cheap and you’ll need the help of a professional. Alternatively, you can consider using an external USB-C SSD, but you won’t achieve the same high speeds as an internal SSD.
The 21.5-inch monitor is 4K, so you will be able to watch Ultra HD video in full resolution. However, the video will take up the full screen, and your on-screen controls will be in the way. External monitors are supported: one 5K or two 4K displays can be attached.
The USB and USB-C ports are on the back, and difficult to reach. You may like to consider an easier-to-reach hub, and we mentioned a few options when covering the 27-inch iMac above.
4. Mac mini
The is small, flexible, and deceptively powerful. It had a huge spec bump in 2018 and now offers enough power to do basic video editing. Geekbench tests at ProToolsExpert show that it scores higher than a 2013 Mac Pro! But like the 21.5-inch MacBook, it has one serious flaw: the lack of a discrete graphics card.
Most of the Mac mini’s specs compare favorably with the 27-inch iMac. It can be configured up to 64 GB of RAM and a 2 TB hard drive and is powered by a fast 6-core i5 processor. While it doesn’t come with a display, it supports the same 5K resolution that comes with the larger iMac.
Unfortunately, that configuration isn’t available on Amazon, and upgrading components later is not easy. The RAM can be upgraded at an Apple Store, but the SSD is soldered to the logic board. Your only option is an external SSD, but they are not as fast.
It doesn’t come with a keyboard, mouse, or display. The positive here is that you can choose the peripherals that suit you. That’s particularly handy with the display. If you only edit in HD, you can purchase a less expensive monitor. The maximum screen resolution supported is 5K (5120 x 2880 pixels), which, like the iMac 27-inch, gives you enough pixels to view 4K video full-screen with space to spare for your on-screen controls.
However, the lack of a discrete GPU is what really holds this Mac back for video editing. But you can significantly boost the mini’s performance by attaching an external GPU.
Aside from the Intel graphics it’s a great video-editing machine, and even with its slow graphics it’ll still assemble videos with ease. It’s a good value choice for amateur or less demanding video editors looking for a capable but cheap machine. You’ll need to find a monitor and mouse, but chances are you have them anyway. (MacWorld)
5. iMac Pro
If you see your computing needs significantly growing in the future, and have money to burn, the is a significant upgrade over the iMac 27-inch. This computer starts where the iMac leaves off, and can be configured way beyond what most video editors will ever need: 256 GB of RAM, a 4 TB SSD, a Xeon W processor, and 16 GB of video RAM. Even its space gray finish has a premium look.
Unless you plan to seriously upgrade your iMac Pro, you’ll save a significant amount of money by choosing an iMac instead. That’s because the real strength of the Pro is its upgradeability, and it makes it an excellent choice if you need to edit 8K video. According to Digital Trends, 8K is the real reason to purchase a Pro:
If rendering 8K video is part of the task, the 10 cores and extra graphical power of the iMac Pro might be tempting. For most everyone else, one of the mid-range iMacs should give you all the processing power you’ll need to accomplish your goals. It might not come in space gray, but it’s a far more practical option.
But there are reasons to buy it other than 8K editing. PC Magazine lists some of the benefits they saw when testing an iMac Pro:
But while it is possible to upgrade many of the iMac Pro’s components, the Mac Pro takes upgradeability to another level.
6. Mac Pro
The is the most expensive, most powerful, and most configurable Mac available. Ever. You may never need one, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
When the Mac Pro was first introduced, Appleinsider wrote an editorial titled “The new Mac Pro is overkill for nearly everybody.” And that really sums up this machine. They conclude:
The new Mac Pro is total overkill for us in every regard, and probably not for practical for you either —and that’s okay. The new Mac Pro is intentionally the biggest, and beefiest computer that Apple has made since that IIfx, and that’s a good thing overall.
The Verge describes it as a supercar: extreme power that looks glamorous and enticing. Like a Lamborghini or McLaren, it’s designed purely for performance. It’s still relatively new and is not yet available on Amazon.
Apple designed a new, highly-specced monitor for this computer, the 32-inch Pro Display XDR with Retina 6K resolution, and (optionally) you can mount it on Apple’s very expensive Pro Stand. Alternatively, you could pair your new Mac Pro with a huge 8K display like Dell’s UltraSharp UP3218K 32-inch 8K monitor. So, who is this computer for? If you don’t already know you need one, you don’t. I’ll leave you with a thought from MacWorld:
The Mac Pro is without a doubt the most powerful Mac you can buy so if it is the ultimate Mac you need for video editing – perhaps you are working on the next Hollywood blockbuster – then the Mac Pro might be what you need.
Video production requires lots of gear. For recording, you need a camera, lenses, light sources, a microphone, tripod, and memory cards. Here’s some more gear you may need for video editing.
External Hard Drive or SSD
Video editing will quickly eat up all of your internal storage, so you’ll need external hard drives or SSDs for archiving and backup. See our top recommendations in these reviews:
When editing, you may prefer to listen to the audio using better quality speakers than your Mac provides. Studio reference monitors are designed not to color the sound you’re hearing, so you hear what’s actually there. Here are a few to consider:
An alternative is to used quality, wired monitor headphones. (Bluetooth headphones introduce too much delay.)
To make the most of your monitor speakers you’ll need an audio interface. These produce higher quality audio than the headphone jack on your Mac. They’re also useful if you need to plug a microphone into your Mac for voiceovers. Here are a few to consider:
Video Editing Controllers
Control surfaces can make your life easier by mapping the knobs, buttons, and sliders of your editing software to the real thing. This gives you finer control, and is better for your hands and wrists. They can be used for color grading, transport and more. Here are a few examples:
External GPU (eGPU)
MacBook Airs, 13-inch MacBook Pros, and Mac minis don’t include a discrete GPU, and you may find yourself hitting performance-related bottlenecks as a result. A Thunderbolt 3-enabled external graphics processor (eGPU) will make a huge difference. Here are a few options:
For a full list of compatible eGPUs, check this article from Apple Support: Use an external graphics processor with your Mac. Another option is to purchase an external enclosure like the Razer Core X and buy the graphics card separately.
Thanks for sharing. Personally, I use iMovie and Joyoshare Media Cutter for video editing on my Mac. As we all know, iMovie is a built-in free video editing in the Mac system. I think it can satisfy me very well. As for the latter video editor, I also get it for free. Its official recently rolls out back-to-school promotion offers, which let anyone have the chance to get multimedia software free of charge. After trying, I have to admit that it is indeed an easy-to-use and all-purpose audio and video editor on both Mac and Windows.
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