Welcome to the Summer 2016 version of this guide.
We get asked all the time about what laptops we recommend for video editing and live video streaming. In the past we would only get asked about editing, but today more and more people want to start producing live video streaming to YouTube Live, Ustream, Twitch etc. They want to create productions with lots of on screen value like graphics, lower thirds, transitions and multiple camera angles. The good news is that you need the same power, performance and features for live streaming as you do for editing.
Picking and recommending the right laptop is a more difficult question to answer than finding the right desktop. Unlike a desktop, when you buy a laptop you are more limited in what upgrades and changes you can make after your purchase. In this guide we will recommend some specific models (the Videoguys' Tech Selects) and some additional brands and model families that would fit the bill. Before we get into that, let's go into the key configuration parts you are going to want to make sure your laptop gives you.
Key Configuration Parts
Quad Core i7 or Quad Core Intel Xeon processor
Your processor is the most important feature that will have the biggest impact on your ability to smoothly work with and edit HD footage. Today’s advanced video editing apps all tap into multiple CPU cores. Without 4 or more cores, you're simply not going to have a good time editing HD footage, especially footage from DSLR cameras, GoPros or AVCHD. These video files are super compressed and you need multiple cores to share the load of the CODECs.
If you plan on using your Laptop for live video streaming using software like TeleStream Wirecast or vMix, you'll need 4 or more cores as well. These apps run significantly better with 4 cores vs. dual cores.
Fortunately HP and Dell are doing more to build quad core machines into smaller, lighter machines. In fact, the Videoguys' Tech Select HP zBook Studio is the world's first quad-core workstation Ultrabook. This is HP's thinnest and lightest full-performance workstation ever!
Quadro Mobile GPUs
All of today's NLEs tap into the GPU for additional performance. Think of the GPU as a secondary computer within your computer that can be sent specific tasks to offline them from the CPU. We strongly recommend NVIDIA GPUs with CUDA technology. NVIDIA just launched a new line of mobile Quadro GPUs, the M Series. You can see a quick comparison chart of them here:
- These are a must have if you are going to be running your NLE on Windows. No NLE taps into GPU performance more than Adobe Premiere Pro. Trying to run Premiere Pro without a powerful GPU is a recipe for disaster. Avid recommends an NVIDIA Quadro card for use with Media Composer as well. For Grass Valley EDIUS, we recommend you select a GPU with at least 2GB of memory and 500+ CUDA cores.
Hi-Res 15" or 17 " screen size
If you are going to edit on a laptop, you need the screen real-estate for your timeline, preview windows and tools. When you go with a 17" screen you get more real estate, but you also get a machine that is heavier and less portable to lug around. Fortunately you can get 15" screens that are incredibly sharp and you can run them at resolutions that deliver the real estate you need for editing within a limited screen size.
So for us, it's a trade off that is your personal decision. We do not recommend getting a 17" laptop with lower resolution screen vs a 15" with higher res. While we like touchscreens we don't want to trade off resolution to get it. If you can afford a 17" with hi-res screen, plus a touchscreen and you don't mind the extra bulk, go for it. You won't regret it.
I think touch screens will become much more popular in the next year or two. You are going to see content creation and live production software become more and more touch screen friendly. Eventually I think you'll even see them optimized for touch screens. Something to keep in mind for your next laptop.
All HP zBook workstations are available with optional touchscreens and the 17" models are also available with HP Dreamcolor displays for advanced color correction capabilities. Call the Videoguys at 800-323-2325 to customize your next mobile workstation with these options.
Get as much RAM as possible
Today’s NLEs need RAM, the more the better. While most laptops come with 4GB by default, this is not nearly enough for video editing. You want a bare minimum or 8GB, and you'll get dramatically improved performance when editing on a laptop with 16GB. For us we recommend going with 32GB if you can afford it.
USB 3 is mandatory!
Make sure your new laptop has at least 1 USB 3 connection for your external storage. For the fastest possible connectivity for your external storage, we recommend Thunderbolt, but the next best choice is USB 3. USB 3.1 is a dual purpose connection that supports both USB 3 and Thunderbolt! Unlike USB 2, the new USB 3 is a very reliable and stable connection that is 100% up to the demands of post production work.
Many of our customers want to use their laptop for live streaming and video editing. You want to make sure your laptop has multiple USB 3 ports and that they are more than one bus. That way you can use a pair of frame grabbers like the Epiphan AV.io for multi-camera streaming.
If you plan on editing 4K footage or working with VR footage down the road then you are really going to want at least one Thunderbolt port on you laptop for adding the fastest possible storage possible. You also need Thunderbolt if you intend to attach HD or 4K I/O for wither ingest or playback. USB 3.1 is a dual purpose connection that supports both USB3 and Thunderbolt! Videoguys recommends G-Tech Thunderbolt RAIDs for HD editing.
Windows 10 Professional
Videoguys recommends that any new Windows based laptop you purchase is running Windows 10 Professional. Windows 10 is designed for mobile devices as much as desktops and for your screaming-fast new laptop, it's the right choice to deliver the features, performance and stability you demand. Especially if you go for a touchscreen.
Videoguys Top Laptop Recommendations
When it comes to getting the best possible laptop for video editing and streaming, we have 3 brands that stand out above all others. HP zBook Mobile Workstations, Dell Precision Mobile Workstations and the Apple MacBook Pro. The machines listed below are all capable of handling HD and up to 4K editing, as long as you configure them correctly. There are also some high-end gaming machines that will have more than enough horsepower to handle your video editing needs but you need to carefully review all of the specs before settling on one of these machines from Asus, Toshiba or others.
# 1 - HP zBook Mobile Workstations
What sets these puppies apart from all others and puts them at the top of our list? The combination of performance, reliability and configuration flexibility. We worked with HP to come up with 4 Videoguys Tech Select HP zBook
configurations that are optimized for video editing, live production and streaming. They all include Intel Xeon Quad Core processors, NVIDIA Quadro M series GPU, 16GB of RAM or more, and the HP zTurbo PCIe boot drives for the very fastest operation.
Videoguys Tech Select ZBook Mobile Workstations
#2 - Dell Precision Mobile Workstations
With the introduction of the Precision 5510 (and the 3310) Dell has leap-frogged other laptop vendors and we proudly recommend them along with HP. They really did their homework here, delivering incredible configurations and performance in a sleek, sexy and lightweight configuration. Once you take a good look at one of these, from all angles, you'll quickly realize that they look as good as a MacBook Pro, but they deliver the performance of a customized Windows laptop.
#3 - Apple MacBook Pro
In the past we recommended the MacBook Pro at the top of the list but we don't anymore, unless you are an FCPX editor. FCPX and the MacBook Pro are each optimized for each other and they are a super combination. Unfortunately the reality is that Apple isn't making the effort to help Adobe or Avid optimize for their hardware, and when it comes to laptops this really shows. Avid and Adobe will run significantly better, with far more power, zip, and stability on a similarly configured and costing HP zBook
or Dell Precision Laptop.
If you are in a Mac shop, production house, or school, or are simply loyal to Apple computers, then the minimum recommended configuration available on the Apple store (as of June, 2016) is :
- 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
- 2.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz
- 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
- 512GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
- Intel Iris Pro Graphics + AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory
- Force Touch trackpad
Looking for a Desktop Solution?
Check out our newly configured HP Z Desktop Workstations here