How to Choose a CPU for Video Editing?

Here are some options:

  • Intel Core 9th Gen
  • Intel Core X-series
  • AMD Ryzen
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper

Edited by Pat Bitton

January 9, 2020

What Is the Best CPU for Video Editing?

There are two reasons it is well worth taking your time to select the best CPU for video editing.

The first, of course, is that you know the indispensable importance of editing your videos to attain the perfection of bringing together all strengths of the filming process to create a masterpiece. And for that, you will be delighted with the power, versatility, and ease of working with the video-editing software from Movavi, including the Movavi Editor Plus.

The second reason is that the performance of your video-editing software will be affected – perhaps considerably – by the computer equipment that you are using at your video-editing workstation. And that is our topic, today.

For example, two issues crucial to your work with video-editing software, whether you use one brand exclusively or several brands for a much larger video-editing workflow, are playback speed and export speed. Both are affected by aspects of your central processing unit (CPU) – and there are many others. Therefore, matching the versatility of video-editing software such as Movavi's should be the capabilities of your CPU. (Usually, we are talking about working with the output of 4K camcorders.) So what exactly is the best CPU for video editing?

Best Processor for Video Editing: What Makes a Difference?

Your CPU, of course, is important to any computer task. It is the foundation of your workstation's capabilities. There also are literally hundreds of choices you can make when it comes to a CPU. As the central processor, the CPU is the brains of the computer where most of the calculations take place.

As the defining feature of any computer, it is complex, with different components, different numbers of those components, different overall architectures (structures), and different related capabilities. All of those can affect the way software, including video-editing software, performs on a given computer with a given CPU.

Intel versus AMD

As you probably know, despite the dominating role of the CPU in virtually all computer technology today, there are only two major U.S. manufacturers of CPUs. One is Intel and the other is Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Their products are near to universal in the innards of the world's computers and all the devices run by computers. It is essentially AMD vs. Intel.

For a look at how these tech giants square off in bringing to market CPUs for the consumer, just look at this comparison of specs for three AMD processors as compared with three Intel processors:

  • The Intel Core i5-9600K is a desktop 9rocessor with 6 Cores, up to 4.6 GHz (related to processing speed).
  • The AMD Ryzen 5 3600X is a 6-Core desktop processor with the now-standard Wraith Spire Cooler.
  • The Intel Core i9 9900K is a desktop processor with 8 Cores, up to 5.0 GHz.
  • The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is an 8-Core desktop processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler.
  • The Intel Core i7-9700K is a desktop processor with 8 Cores, up to 4.9 GHz.
  • The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is a 12-core desktop processor with the Wraith Prism LED Cooler.

Although the number of "cores" (essentially sub-processors within the CPU) correlate with increased computing power, we will see that this does not translate automatically into better performance of your video-editing software.

All of these desktop processors sitting at your workstation would provide the computing power to operate your video-editing software's basic features. Again, as we shall see, whether their differences in computing power and speed really matter depends upon your workflow and, to some extent, the types of things you do most often.

Comparisons of CPUs for their different capabilities, use with different software, and overall quality – and there are many such comparisons – have been made at least slightly simpler of late. That is because both Intel and AMD have launched new, state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line CPUs. Here are two of the best CPUs for video-editing.

One of these is the intel Core X-1000 series. The other is the AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen processors. They are the latest of both brands. They are advertised as the best available and have the performance "numbers" to confirm that. That does not tell us, however, the best processing unit for video-editing – not immediately and decisively. Why?

  1. Video-editing software differs in its capabilities and its requirements. For example, Movavi has spent years testing, refining, and improving the overall performance of its video-editing software and its distinctive features. Different video-editing software will run somewhat differently on different CPUs.
  2. The specifications according to which CPUs are rated "most powerful," "fastest," and "overall best" are not necessarily most important to every feature of performance you will want in your video -editing software.
  3. You pay more for additional power and speed in any CPU, and the sky can be the limit. But beyond a certain point, the speed and other features do not improve video-editing software's performance. In other words, at certain levels of speed and power, you get top performance of the video-editing software and don't need to pay for more processing power.
  4. A consideration is the best CPU for video encoding.

Good Processor for Video Editing: Some Options

With these "ground rules" in mind, we can look at a few options for the best processor for video editing. Fortunately, given the complex differences among processors of different types – and how these differences may affect video editing – many computer companies, independent analysts, and others have run tests of video editing software using different CPUs. In the end, it is the best way to pin down differences; theoretical comparisons are less precise.

Here is one list of four main processor families with the overall right power and other capabilities (but not more than needed, which drive up costs):

  • Intel Core 9th Gen (up to 8 cores, $499 max MSRP)
  • Intel Core X-series (up to 18 cores, $979 max MSRP)
  • AMD Ryzen (up to 16 cores, $749 max MSRP)
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper (up to 32 cores, $1,999 max MSRP)

(Please see reference at the end of this article.)

Let's begin by clarifying some terms.

What does it mean that the "Intel Core 9th Gen" has "up to 8 cores?" For many years, computer CPUs had a single core or processing unit (or "brain"). Today, as computing power capabilities keep mounting, many computers have multi-core processors. Each such core increases the computing potential of the CPU. As Intel puts it: In terms of speed of processing "you might think it's the number of cores, but for the most part desktop Core i5 processors have four cores, just like i7s. Intel Core i7 processors generally have faster base clock speeds" – that means, more gigahertz.

What is "MRSP"? That one isn't technical, of course, and you've seen it when you've shopped for an automobile: Manufacturer's suggested retail prices. (Finally, a simple concept!)

The computers listed, of course, are within product lines with overlapping price points, so these represent not "all" options, but rather suggest the power range (range of cores) and cost range that you are looking at to get what you need. Remember that higher price in computers does not translate automatically into faster processing.

All of these CPUs would be adequate to get good performance out of your video editing software. To some extent, though, that does depends upon your workflow (how many videos, how much playback, how many you will be exporting). These recommendations are aimed at the individual wishing to use professional quality (or business level) video editing software – not international film production companies or other firms in that category.

Narrowing the Options

Let’s narrow down our options for the best CPU for video editing. To get our decision on a processor down to fine strokes, it is relevant to review what a CPU does in video-editing applications. And what features of the CPU are relevant to these applications. To take an example: a computer's CPU can run a graphics processing unit (GPU), a special electronic circuit that rapidly manipulates and alters computer memory to accelerate the creation of images for display in a device – including your workstation.

Thus, a GPU video card can accelerate some tasks. The CPU is still being used but to a much lesser extent. In other video-editing software, the role of the GPU is limited. Therefore, the role of your CPU will be much greater. This is what we mean: within a CPU there are differences that determine how fast it is.

Although the essential specifications are the core count (number of processing units in the CPU) and core frequency (speed), these other factors will come into play:

  • Capacity of the cache (short-term memory);
  • General computer architecture or structure as related to actual CPU performance (Intel and AMD architecture are very different);
  • Which devices, when the computer starts, are plugged into the motherboard: for example, how many video cards you can use, a consideration for very high-end workstations;
  • The best CPU for encoding video.

Real tests of video-editing software in different CPUs still remains the best way to pull all of this together. Here is one analyst's bottom line on the results of rating different computers in performing all the basic video-editing functions most of us will use:

  • For CPUs that are $500 or less, the AMD Ryzen CPUs are best.
  • For CPUs that are more than $500, AMD and Intel are fairly even and when you pay more you get better performance.

For Different Budgets

For more complex video-editing applications, there is more to consider in terms of CPUs. The same analyst reports (see reference end of this post) that for the best possible performance:

  • The AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen CPUs are proving faster than Intel Core X-series CPU – and the difference is as much as 20 percent.
  • The Threadripper 3960X and 3970X, however, are $1,399 and $1,999 (MSRP) respectively. If you are spending less than $1000, then the Intel Core X-10000 series and Intel Core 9th Gen processors are as good or better for overall performance than AMD Ryzen CPUs.

Lastly, if you have the budget and your workflow requires it – that is, marginally better performance is worth the investment, it is not hard to pick the best CPU for video editing. You should keep in mind that just a few CPU models from Intel and AMD can be confidently expected to deliver more performance for more money. They are the "overall best": Intel Core i9 10920X, 10940X, and 10980XE, as well as the AMD Threadripper 3960X. If you can afford these, you really can't go wrong whatever your workflow requirements.

When choosing the best CPU for video editing, the bottom line is that the right CPU for you will depend on the applications you expect to use and exactly what you will do with them. But the information above gives you choices starting at around $500 that will get good overall performance from your video-editing software. Between $500 and $750, a great many models are available, but you can expect the difference in overall speed between these and CPUs at the "high-high end" may be no more than 15 percent. If your workflow is such that 15 really matters, then you are looking at $1,000 and up for the very top of the line.

An article cited here several times by analyst Matt Bach, "What is the best CPU for video editing (2019), published by Puget Systems on November 27, 2019, provides extremely detailed reports on the testing that produced the bottom line results reported here on best CPU for $500, best for $1,000, and best for unlimited budgets.

Movavi Video-Editing Software

Movavi Video Editor Plus is loaded with features and capabilities, but you will find it intuitive to use, freeing your attention for creativity. You have what you need at your fingertips – not under multiple layers of tabs and menus – and means ready to enhance your creative work.

With video-editing equipment of Movavi quality, virtually any video file format can be used in your multi-media project – and improved in quality and color while you are doing it. There is no watermark on the output video if you choose.

And when the task demands a video-editing tool with the special effects, keyframe animation, and ready-made intros, it's all there with Video Editor Plus to bring your ideas to perfection. Our new user interface is easier than ever. There is nothing to learn. And when it comes to file processing and rendering, Movavi Editor Plus is fast, fast, fast.

Check back here regularly for information, insights, and updates on the range of resources – including our entire spectrum of software programs – to lend your multimedia projects professionalism, power, and the perfection that is possible with these outstanding tools.

 

Movavi Video Editor Plus

Your next step in video-making

  • Edit video clips, images, and audio on a timeline
  • Add transitions, filters, titles, and stickers
  • Animate objects using keyframes, use more built-in media
  • Export videos in any popular format

* The free version of Movavi Video Editor Plus has the following restrictions: 7-day trial period, watermark on the output videos, and, if you’re saving a project as an audio file, an ability to save only half the audio length. Learn more