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 iMac 27-inch. 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 MacBook Pro 16-inch. 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.
Table of Contents
- Why Trust Me for This Guide
- Best Mac for Video Editing: How We Picked
- Best Mac for Video Editing: Our Top Picks
- Other Good Mac Machines for Video Editing
- Other Gear for Video Editing
- The Computing Needs of a Video Editor
Why Trust Me for This Guide
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.
Best Mac for Video Editing: How We Picked
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.
Here are our recommendations:
- CPU: 8th generation Quad-core Intel i5, i7 or i9, or Apple M1 or M2.
- RAM: 16 GB for HD video, 32 GB for 4K.
- Storage: 512 GB SSD.
- GPU: AMD Radeon Pro.
- VRAM: 2 GB for HD video, 4 GB for 4K.
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 Video Editing: Our Top Picks
Best Mac for 4K Video Editing: iMac 27-inch
The iMac 27-inch 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.
At a glance:
- Screen size: 27-inch Retina 5K display,
- Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended, 64 GB maximum),
- Storage: 256 GB / 512 GB SSD,
- Processor: 3.1GHz 6-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5,
- Graphics Card: AMD Radeon Pro 580X with 8 GB of GDDR5,
- Ports: Four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, Gigabit Ethernet.
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.
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.
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.
But while it’s an excellent choice for video editing, it’s not for everyone:
- Those who value portability would be better served by the MacBook Pro 16-inch, our winner for those who need a laptop.
- Those interested in a similar computer with even more power (and a significantly higher cost) should consider the iMac Pro or Mac Pro, though they’re overkill for most video editors.
Best Mac for Portable Video Editing: MacBook Pro 16-inch
If you value portability, our recommendation is the MacBook Pro 16-inch. 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 21-hour battery life keeps you productive for a whole day working outside of the office.
At a glance:
- Screen size: 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display,
- Memory: 16 GB (64 GB maximum),
- Storage: 512 GB SSD (up to 1 TB SSD),
- Processor: Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max chip,
- Graphics Card: Apple 16-core GPU,
- Ports: Three Thunderbolt 4 ports,
- Battery: 21 hours.
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.
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.
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 three Thunderbolt 4 ports that allow you to plug in USB-C peripherals and one USB-A port.
Other Good Mac Machines for Video Editing
1. MacBook Air
Video editors on a budget may be tempted by the tiny and affordable MacBook Air (13-inch), 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.
At a glance:
- Screen size: 13.3 inch Retina display, 2560 x 1600,
- Memory: 8 GB,
- Storage: 256 GB SSD (512 GB or more recommended),
- Processor: Apple M1 chip,
- Graphics Card: Up to Apple 8-core GPU,
- Ports: Two Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports,
- Battery: 18 hours.
The MacBook Air doesn’t come close to meeting our recommended specs. It has an M1 chip 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 13-inch MacBook Pro 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.
At a glance:
- Screen size: 13-inch Retina display, 2560 x1600,
- Memory: 8 GB (up to 24 GB maximum),
- Storage: 256 GB or 512 GB SSD,
- Processor: Apple M2,
- Graphics Card: Apple 10-core GPU,
- Ports: Two Thunderbolt 4 ports,
- Battery: 20 hours.
While the 16-inch MacBook Pro meets all of our recommended specifications, this one doesn’t. It offers a powerful Apple M2 chip and plenty of storage.
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.
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 21.5-inch iMac 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.
At a glance:
- Screen size: 21.5-inch Retina 4K display, 4096 x 2304,
- Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended, 32 GB maximum),
- Storage: 1 TB Fusion Drive (configurable to 1 TB SSD),
- Processor: 3.0 GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5,
- Graphics Card: AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4 GB of GDDR5,
- Ports: Four USB 3 ports, Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, Gigabit Ethernet.
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 Mac mini is small, flexible, and deceptively powerful. It had a huge spec bump and now offers enough power to do basic video editing.
At a glance:
- Screen size: display not included, up to three are supported,
- Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended),
- Storage: 512 GB SSD,
- Processor: 3.0 GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i5,
- Graphics Card: Intel UHD Graphics 630 (with support for eGPUs),
- Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, two USB 3 ports, HDMI 2.0 port, Gigabit Ethernet.
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.
5. iMac Pro
If you see your computing needs significantly growing in the future, and have money to burn, the iMac Pro 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.
At a glance:
- Screen size: 27-inch Retina 5K display, 5120 x 2880,
- Memory: 32 GB (256 GB maximum),
- Storage: 1 TB SSD (configurable to 4 TB SSD),
- Processor: 3.2 GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W,
- Graphics Card: AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics with 8 GB of HBM2 (configurable to 16 GB),
- Ports: Four USB ports, four Thunderbolt 3 (USB‑C) ports, 10Gb Ethernet.
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.
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:
- Silky-smooth video playback,
- Render times are cut significantly (from five hours on an older iMac to 3.5 on a top-end iMac to just two hours on an iMac Pro),
- General improvements when working with images in Lightroom and Photoshop.
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 Mac Pro 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.
At a glance:
- Screen size: monitor not included,
- Memory: configurable from 32 GB to 1.5 TB,
- Storage: configurable from 256 GB to 8 TB SSD,
- Processor: configurable from 3.5 GHz 8-core to 2.5 GHz 28-core Intel Xeon W,
- Graphics Card: configure two MPX modules with up to four GPUs, starting with AMD Radeon Pro 580 X with 8 GB of GDDR5 (configurable to 2 x 32 GB),
- Ports: configurable using up to four PCIe slots.
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 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.
Other Gear for Video Editing
Video production requires lots of gear. For recording, you need a camera, lenses, light sources, a microphone, a 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.
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.
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.
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-enabled external graphics processor (eGPU) will make a huge difference.
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.
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:
- HD or 720p: 1280 x 720 pixels,
- Full HD or 1080p: 1920 x 1080 pixels,
- Quad HD or 1440p: 2560 x 1440,
- Ultra HD or 4K or 2160p: 3840 x 2160 (or 4096 x 2160 for commercial digital cinema),
- 8K or 4320p: 7680 x 4320.
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:
- MacBook Air: 1 TB SSD,
- iMac 21.5-inch: 1 TB SSD,
- Mac mini: 2 TB SSD,
- MacBook Pro 13-inch: 2 TB SSD,
- iMac 27-inch 2 TB SSD,
- iMac Pro: 4 TB SSD,
- MacBook Pro 16-inch: 8 TB SSD,
- Mac Pro: 8 GB SSD.
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:
- 8 GB: HD (720p). 4K editing would be unbearable.
- 16 GB: Full HD (1080p) and basic Ultra HD 4K video edits.
- 32 GB: Ultra HD 4K, including long videos. This is the optimal amount of RAM for 4K video editing.
- 64 GB: Only needed for 8K, 3D modeling, or animation.
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:
- MacBook Air: 16 GB RAM,
- MacBook Pro 13-inch: 16 GB RAM,
- iMac 21.5-inch: 32 GB RAM,
- Mac mini: 64 GB RAM,
- MacBook Pro 16-inch: 64 GB RAM,
- iMac 27-inch: 64 GB RAM,
- iMac Pro: 256 GB RAM,
- Mac Pro: 768 GB RAM (1.5 TB with a 24- or 28-core processor).
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:
- iMac 21.5-inch: 4 GB GDDR5 or HBM2,
- MacBook Pro 16-inch: 8 GB GDDR6,
- iMac 27-inch: 8 GB GDDR5 or HBM2,
- iMac Pro: 16 GB HBM2,
- Mac Pro: 2 x 32 GB HBM2.
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 are 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.
- Apple Final Cut Pro X: 4 GB RAM (8 GB recommended), Metal-capable graphics card, 1 GB VRAM, 3.8 GB disk space. 27-inch iMac with Radeon Pro 580 graphics or better recommended.
- Adobe Premiere Pro CC: Intel 6th Gen CPU, 8 GB RAM (16 GB recommended for HD video, 32 GB for 4K), 2 GB GPU VRAM (4 GB recommended), 8 GB disk space (SSD for app and cache recommended, and additional high-speed drives for media, 1280 x 800 monitor (1920 x 1080 or greater recommended), Gigabit Ethernet (HD only) for network storage.
- Avid Media Composer: 8 GB RAM (16 or 32 GB recommended), an i7 or i9 processor, a compatible GPU.
- Wondershare Filmora: 4 GB RAM (8 GB recommended), Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, graphics card with 2 GB VRAM (4 GB recommended for 4K).
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.
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.