Video editing requires a lot of processing power, especially when you're dealing with large files, higher resolutions, and using heavy applications. So, if you're planning to build a PC rig especially for editing videos, then the first thing you need to get is a powerful CPU with enough cores and threads plus a high clock speed.
What's the best processor for video editing?
In this blog post, I review what I consider to be some of the most powerful processors you can buy. I've also included a CPU buying guide, so if you're confused about whether you should buy Intel or AMD, what specs to look for, take a peek at that section.
|AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-Core, 32-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor||CHECK PRICE|
|Intel Core i9-9900K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.0 GHz Turbo Unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W||CHECK PRICE|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core, 24-thread unlocked desktop processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler||CHECK PRICE|
|Intel Core i7-9700K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 3.6 GHz Turbo unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W||CHECK PRICE|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800X 8-Core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler||CHECK PRICE|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler||CHECK PRICE|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600X 6-Core, 12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Spire Cooler||CHECK PRICE|
A small note on how I made this review:
As always, I try as many products as possible before deciding which to shortlist. For this review, I managed to get my hands on twelve different processors from AMD and Intel. Then, using the same PC rig (except for the motherboards), I tested out each processor for a couple of days, loading up Adobe Premier Pro and doing some video editing and rendering.
Best AMD Processor for Video Editing
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X comes with 16 cores and 32 threads, which is the highest count on this list by far. This meant that it could handle any video editing software that I threw it at with no issue whatsoever. Its performance with Adobe Premiere Pro was highly impressive. For instance, it took just a mere 148 seconds to encode a 4K YouTube video, which means that it's just as powerful as the much more expensive Intel Core i9-9980XE. Granted, I have a powerful Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080Ti as my graphics card but it just goes to show that when you pair it up with the right GPU, the Ryzen 9 3950x can be a beast for video editing.
Before you run the Ryzen 9 3950X, make sure that you've got an appropriate 280 millimeter (or larger) liquid cooler for it. This will help the CPU get very close to the advertised 4.7 GHz max boost clock speed. Unfortunately, a cooler is not included with the purchase.
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X comes with Precision Boost Overdrive which is essentially an automated overclocking mechanism. What it does is track information such as power, current, voltage, and temperature levels and raises limits so that the CPU can function even faster. For instance, the Precision Boost Overdrive might strategically increase the amount of power that is delivered to the CPU, essentially kicking it into turbo mode.
However, you have to keep in mind that engaging Precision Boost Overdrive instantly voids your AMD warranty.
Best Intel CPU for Video Editing
Intel's Core i9-9900K features 8 cores and 16 threads, which, while being a much lower count than the Ryzen 9 3950X, is actually quite powerful for video editing.
This is especially true when you combine the 8 cores with a 3.6GHz base frequency. I ran the same 4K encoding test with it and saw that it took 183 seconds to complete, which isn't bad at all. It's still less than a minute behind the 3950X.
The 'unlocked' version of the Core i9-9900K features Solder Thermal Interface Material (STIM) which is placed between the processor die and the Integrated Heat Spreader. When the processor is pushed and there's more heat build-up, the STIM helps to dissipate it faster. This is great for overclocking because it ensures that the CPU is well protected while more and more heat is generated.
This processor ships with Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 which is Intel's equivalent to the Precision Boost Overdrive. It takes into account current conditions and enables the processor to enter turbo mode when appropriate, pushing the max speed up to 5 GHz. The Turbo Boost technology can manage current, power, and temperature levels and raise their limits. For instance, it can raise power limits so that the processor can draw more power than what its default TDP configuration allows it to. This, in turn, results in a boosted performance.
Like the 3950X, the i9-9900K does not come with a cooler.
With the Ryzen 9 3900X, you get 12 cores and 24 threads to play around with. This means that you can load up and use heavy video-editing applications and also multi-task without bogging down the CPU.
With a max boost of 4.6 GHz, the 3900X is almost as fast as the 3950X which means that it’s well suited for gaming in high resolutions as well. Plus it comes with AMD's Precision Boost Overdrive as well so you can sit back and simply let AI do the overclocking for you. Again, you’ll need to keep in mind that engaging the Boost Overdrive results in your warranty being voided.
One of the best things about buying the 3900x is that it comes with AMD’s Wraith Prism cooler. Not only is it fantastic at preventing thermals from spiking but it's got customizable LED lighting as well.
In summary, if you can’t afford the Ryzen 3950X then the 3900X is a cheaper (but still powerful) alternative.
The Intel Core i7-9700K is essentially a less powerful (but still capable) version of the i9-9900K. It's got the same amount of cores as the i9-9900K but it lacks hyperthreading. This means that its cores can't be split into virtual cores which results in it having just one thread per core.
Due to the lack of hyperthreading, the i7-9700K is around 20% slower than the i9-9900K on average, when it comes to encoding on Premiere Pro. If you're someone who edits long documentaries daily, this can mean an extra couple of hours of rendering time. However, if you just edit short videos most of the time, the difference won't be as significant.
Another thing it has in common with the i9-9900K is the Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. This means that you don't have to manually overclock the processor and instead just let the AI do all the work. With the Turbo Boost, the Core i7-9700K can reach a maximum speed of 4.9 GHz which is more than decent.
The Core i7-9700K comes integrated with Intel UHD Graphics 630 which by no means a top tier VGA. However, it's still great for less graphics-intensive applications like Photoshop or Illustrator. Plus if your own external graphics card stops working for some reason then it's nice to have a decent backup so that you can still get some sort of work done. You can even play certain games on the UHD Graphics 630. For instance, you can load up League of Legends and get a bit above 100 Frames Per Second in the ultra-resolution setting.
As you can tell, we're slowly climbing down the ladder with AMD's Ryzen series. Like the 3900X, the 3800X is also part of Ryzen's Zen 2 series. It's essentially a 3900X with a lower core count.
The Ryzen 7 3800X comes with 8 cores and 16 threads which is still enough for working with 4K video editing. Plus its clock speed can be pushed up to 4.5 GHz when you can't be bothered to wait around the entire day to render something.
Lastly, the 3800X also comes with Precision Boost Overdrive for those intensive video-editing sprints. Just in case, you’re worried about overheating the chip, it comes bundled with the Wraith Prism cooler as well.
Right out of the bat you can tell that the Core i5-9600K isn't as powerful as the other two Intel processors are. It's got six cores with no hyperthreading, which of course means you only get one thread per core. Despite this, it's still a relatively powerful machine.
Unless you're a professional video editor, handling large 4K and 8K files daily, then 6 cores is more than enough. The Core i5-9600K is more suited for people who do editing from time to time and even then, don't deal with lengthy videos. It's also great for people who're just getting into editing but don't have the budget to get a high-end CPU just yet.
The i5-9600K also comes with Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 which can push the processor up to a max speed of 4.6 GHz. This is plenty fast for some basic to mid-tier editing as well as some high-end gaming.
In addition, it’s integrated with the same UHD Graphics 630 VGA as the i5-9600K which is a nice backup in case your primary external GPU breaks down.
The Ryzen 7 3700x is quite similar to the 3800X. For starters, it features the same amount of cores and threads (8 and 16, respectively). It also features the Precision Boost Overdrive for AI overclocking and it comes bundled with the Wraith Prism LED cooler so you don't have to go hunting for aftermarket ones.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the 3700x and the 3800x is the Max Boost clock speed which is 0.1 GHz slower in the former. However, this doesn't translate to a huge gap in speed and there are comparable encoding times with both.
Other than that, the 3700x has a much lower TDP than the 3800X. The former has a rating of just 65W while the latter's is 105W. This means that the 3700X is going to produce cheaper electricity bills.
With 6 cores, the 3600X has the lowest core count out of all the Ryzen Zen 2 processors on this list. While it has the same core count as the Intel Core i5-9600K, the Ryzen 5 3600X has double the number of threads, making it the clear winner when it comes to multi-tasking.
The Ryzen 5 3600X has the same max boost speed as the 3700X and also comes with Precision Boost Overdrive for overclocking. However, despite having a lower number of cores, it has a higher TDP than the 3700x.
The Wraith Prism LED cooler comes included with the Ryzen 5 3600X.
If I had to pick the best CPU for video editing, I’d go with the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X. Editing on this processor was a breeze. Thanks to the large number of cores, I was able to render and encode videos fast while also multi-tasking with other data-intensive applications. Thanks to the Precision Boost Overdrive, I didn't have to bother manually overclocking the CPU. Whenever I needed extra power, I just received it automatically.
If you're not a tech nerd, then you understandably might have some trouble discerning which CPU specs to pay attention to. In this section, I'm going to walk you through what's important to look at and what factors to consider when you're buying a processor for video editing.
'Cores' are where the actual processing takes place inside a CPU. The number of cores dictates how many tasks a processor can handle at any given time. We've come a long way from the single-core days and now we have multi-core units that can multi-task heavy applications. If you're into video editing, then I recommend going for a CPU that has at least four cores.
Most modern processors use a processor called simultaneous multithreading or hyper-threading which involves splitting a core into two virtual cores or 'threads'. This then allows each core to handle two tasks simultaneously.
Hence, in summary, the more cores and threads a processor has, the better it will be at handling heavy applications.
While the number of cores and threads indicates how many tasks a processor can handle at any one time, the clock speed dictates how fast those tasks can be completed.
When reading product specs, you'll often come across two different types of clock speeds: base and turbo. The former is the default clock speed that the processor runs at while the latter is the theoretical maximum that it can achieve. When you're running heavy video editing applications like Premiere Pro, the processor automatically detects that you need more power and kicks into its turbo clock speed. In addition, you can also manually 'overclock' the CPU to try to get even more speed out of it.
Simply put, the memory speed determines how fast the CPU can read and write information from the memory. How does this impact video-editing? Fast memory speeds mean that, first of all, the software is going to boot up faster. Also, it means that it will take less time to import large files and also to export them once you're done with the editing.
You can check the power consumption of a CPU by looking at its thermal design power or TDP. The higher the TDP, the greater the number of watts it uses up. While more watts do translate to better performance, CPUs with higher TDP can eat up your battery life much faster. This can be a problem when you're using a laptop and you want to edit on the go.
Cache memory is temporary storage that's integrated into the processor. This allows the CPU to access and retrieve certain data faster. Typically, the CPU stores data and commands that are used over and over in the cache. For example, if you want to check the recently opened files in your video editor, then that data is retrieved from the memory cache. Also if you wanted to undo an action and revert to a previous step, this is done by retrieving cache data.
The larger the CPU cache, the more data can be written into it which in turn means that retrieval is going to be faster.
In this section, I’m going to answer some of the commonest questions about the best hardware for video editing.
Video editing builds come in all sorts of price ranges. If you’re just starting, I’d recommend limiting your budget to around $1000 first. With that, here’s what I recommend in terms of components for your budget video editing PC build:
And there you go – a nice video editor workstation without having to break the bank.
Depending on who you ask, you might get a different response for the ‘AMD vs intel for video editing’ debate. I prefer the Ryzen line of processors when it comes to video editing. You typically get more cores and as long as you aim for the Zen 2 line, hyper-threading is guaranteed.
With Intel, as we’ve seen, the cheaper models sometimes don’t have hyperthreading. While this doesn’t mean that you can’t do video-editing, it certainly reduces the CPU’s capacity for multi-tasking.
However, the Intel processors have one thing over the AMD models: integrated graphics. However, if you already have a powerful graphics card, then this might not factor into your buying decision.
It depends on the type of editing you plan on doing. As mentioned above, I recommend a minimum of four cores if you just plan on doing some basic editing and don’t plan to go beyond 1080p videos. If you’re using Adobe Premiere Pro and you’d like to do large 4K videos daily, then I’d recommend having a CPU with 8 cores or more. The absolute best processor for 4K video editing would be the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X.
Here are the minimum and recommended computer specs for video editing if you plan on using the latest version of Adobe Premiere Pro.