4K Video Editing PC - November 2016
A few years ago, your PC just couldn't be fast enough for digital video processing. By now every average PC is able to process Standard Definition (PAL 720x576) as well as HD Ready, but technology doesn't stand still. By now just about every smartphone can record in Full HD and the new frontier is Ultra HD, also known as 4K. This resolution and the 'accompanying' codec HEVC / H.265 require seriously powerful hardware.
That's the reason why a powerful PC can still really make a difference. You need a fast processor, lots of storage capacity, and good monitor able to display 4K resolutions.
4K digital video editing requires a hefty amount of processing power, and our video editing PC delivers that in spades. Often overlooked in off-the-shelf PCs is the power supply - a video editing PC will be running longer and more frequently at full load, which stresses the PSU quite a bit. We choose high-end components that will work fine for some years down the road, ensuring stable operation for the rig's entire lifetime.
Please note: the PC Buyer’s Guide is compiled based on independent component tests performed by Hardware.Info. If no new, superior products are released that should replace one or more of the components, then the component(s) will remain the same as the previous month.
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If there's only one use case that's fully optimized for multi-threading, then it's video editing. That's why we prefer the Intel Core i7 6800K above the i7 6700. The latter may have a higher clock speed and can be combined with a less expensive motherboard, but has two cores less.
Intel is the only right choice in this performance segment, because no single processor from AMD comes close. Overclocking is also a possibility, although most editors would rather have their system as silent and stable as possible. However, if you want to speed up the rendering process, you can.
The more memory, the better, is the case with most video editing software. Therefore we put no less than 32 GB DDR4 in this system. As long as it comes from a reliable brand and is covered by a lengthy warranty, the specifics hardly matter. We picked a Crucial set mostly because of its relatively attractive price. So keep an eye on our Price comparison engine and feel free to pick another brand if it is significantly cheaper.
Since the chosen processor can produce a lot of heat under high loads, adequate cooling is necessary. For the past years, different models of the Scythe Mugen coolers dominated our round-up tests. They combined good cooling performance, low noise production and a friendly price again and again. With the introduction of the Fuma, a new model with two fans and two towers, the rule of the Mugens comes to an end. In our review, the Fuma defeated almost all other tested CPU coolers and the Noctuas that sometimes had a little leap, are considerably more expensive.
While the fans have a low minimal speed of approximately 300 rpm, they can spin all the way up to 1,400 rpm for excellent cooling. In short, no matter if you want to have a silent PC or want to get the maximum overclock out of your processor, the Fuma can do it both and is highly recommended.
The MSI X99A SLI Plus is a socket 2011 mainboard with no frills and a friendly price. Two USB 3.1 ports, which you can use to rapidly transfer files, make this motherboard future-proof. MSI equipped the SLI Plus with a M.2 slot and an Intel LAN chip. The audio is taken care of by a Realtek ALC892 codec.
If you have higher requirements when it comes to audio, you could opt for the ASUS X99-E. It has a higher quality ALC1150 codec, but lacks on-board buttons and has two USB 3.0 ports less.
Since the chosen processor doesn't offer integrated graphics, we have to install a discrete graphics card. The better part of the calculations while editing and encoding video will be done by the CPU, but most software also supports accelerating certain effects by the graphics card. This mainly involves effects with many parallel calculations, which can often be much more quickly performed by a GPU.
It'll depend on your editing software and the kind of timeline, to what extent you'll benefit from the GPU. Not all effects can be accelerated, but the chosen card will almost always add value above CPU-only rendering. If you are planning to spend more, it's a good idea to conduct some research on this. The sites of Studio1productions and Pugetsystems are good places to start with.
For this system, we choose a slightly more expensive variant of the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. The fans of the MSI Gaming X stop spinning when your PC is idle, while also staying inaudible under load. Thanks to the excellent cooling, you can do your work without let or hindrance and if there's some time left, you can even play games.
An SSD is essential for a video editing PC anno 2016. The Samsung 750 Evo is not that much more expensive than a value Crucial BX200, but it's a bit faster. 500 GB is enough to install all your programs on and for usage as a scratch disk.
For working with very extensive projects, an Samsung 950 Pro might be a better choice. It's definitely more expensive, but its sequential speeds are unsurpassed.
We would recommend to put video files you're currently working with on the SSD, and storing old projects on a NAS. Local storage space might still come in handy. If you want a lot of storage for a friendly price, the Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB is a good choice, as our big comparison test showed us. We suggest two of these only, but you can also opt for more or bigger drives. You can configure them either in RAID-1 or RAID-0, or use them as standalone drives.
If you rather have a Western Digital drive, the WD Desk Blue 4 TB is a good, but somewhat more expensive alternative.
The supply of DVD and Blu-ray burners has shrinked a lot because of the low demand, but as a video editor, an optical drive is still a must-have. We recommend the chosen Samsung SH-224FB as an internal DVD burner, even though the LG GH24NCS0 burned faster and quieter in our tests. The quality of the DVDs burned by the Samsung drive is simply much higher.
An external burner can be more practical, since you can also use it with other devices. The LG GP70NS50 scored very well in our tests and has a handy slot-in mechanism.
If you want to have an internal Blu-ray drive, you should buy the LG BH16. That's a burner, but the read-only drives are just slightly less expensive: we can't justify saving a few bucks on that. For an external Blu-ray burner, the ASUS SBW-06D2X-U is the best choice.
A video editor can't do without a cardreader, of course. Not only cameras use memory cards, but also many smartphones are upgradeable with microSD. We recently tested a number of cardreaders, of which the Kingston FCR-HS4 turned out to be the fastest, while not even being expensive. It's an external model, but we think that's nothing more than handy.
The Define series from Fractal Design are famous for their high-quality finished and whisper quiet cases. The Define R5 is no exception and is able to accommodate up to eight 3.5" disks, so you can always extend your storage.
550 watt is quite enough for a i7 6800K and a mid-range graphics card. The Corsair RMx series is an excellent choice in every respect, as our review has proved us. We also tested the 550W model since then and again, it offers an attractive mix of performance, silence and price. The Cooler Master V-Series is a good alternative, but a bit more expensive at the moment.
The MX Master mouse from Logitech went home with gold in our review. The unique features keep coming: the ergonomical design, the flywheel mode, the horizontal scroll wheel, the possibility to switch between three wirelessly paired devices - via Bluetooth, by example. Its price has dropped a bit since its launch, and while it still is an expensive rodent, we think it's worth it.
Some video editors really love an extra tool like the Contour Design ShuttleXpress, others can't do without a pen tablet and some even prefer a gaming mouse for the best precision. The best choice hugely depends on your own preferences.
We can't call the Cherry MX-Board 3.0 feature-rich, but this keyboard brings the type comfort of mechanical keys to a really low price level. MX Red switches from their own factories are used to detect your key strokes. Lighting, a palm rest and media controls (except for volume) aren't available, but if you want all of that in a mechanical keyboard, you'll have to spend a lot more.
Some video editors like to have frequently used actions as macro's. If you prefer that, a typical gaming keyboard with dedicated macro keys could be a good solution.
A Video Editing PC doesn't need to have a surround speaker set, but decent stereo speakers can definitely be useful. The M-Audio BX5 D2s offer a neutral and clear sound that covers most of the frequency spectrum. The bass is modest, but the equalizer can add a little to it. The mids and highs are excellent, especially for this price segment. Their only drawback is that they take up a bit more space than your average standard PC speakers.
Be aware that you should buy cables yourself.
If you are producing 4K videos, you should of course be able to watch them in full resolution. The LG 27MU67 is an interesting monitor if you take a look at the specs, and luckily it lived up to those high expectations in our review, especially with its relatively friendly price in mind. The test results were always between more than sufficient and very good, while likewise performing competitors cost much more.
Since video editing software takes up much screen space, we recommend getting a multi monitor set-up of two. If you are okay with only one screen, you can save yourself quite a few bucks.
|Processors||Intel Core i7 6800K Boxed||$396.99|
|Memory modules||Crucial Ballistix Sport LT Red 32GB DDR4-2400 CL16 quad kit||–|
|CPU coolers||Scythe Fuma||–|
|Motherboards||MSI X99A SLI Plus||$184.89|
|Graphics cards||MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X 4GB||$164.99|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Samsung 750 Evo 500GB||–|
|Hard disks/SSDs||2x Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB||$267.98|
|Optical drives||Samsung SH-224FB||–|
|Card readers||Kingston FCR-HS4||$17.98|
|Cases||Fractal Design Define R5 Black||$104.99|
|Power supplies||Corsair RM550x||–|
|Mice||Logitech MX Master||–|
|Keyboards||Cherry MX-Board 3.0 Red (US)||$79.98|
|PC speaker sets||2x M-Audio BX5 D2||–|
|Monitors||2x LG 27MU67||–|
|Save as your own wish list||Average total price:||$1,217.80|