Help Me, Laptop: What's the Best Budget Video-Editing Laptop?

Video editing can cost hours of your time if you don't use the right specs, but because those specs can also cost you a ton of money, the trade-off is a hard decision to make — and that's where we come in. A fellow Tom's Guide forum user recently asked us to find a high-quality video-editing laptop that they could afford on a budget.

maloneg6 writes, "I am trying to recommend a laptop to my friend for high-level video editing (maybe even in 4K). From his price range ($1,000-1,500), what I have seen as the best is the Dell XPS 15 4K with i7-7700HQ, GTX 1050 and a 512 GB SSD. Someone from his college recommends a MacBook Pro with i7-4850HQ, but I am not sure what is actually the best to go with."

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First things first, maloneg6, toss that MacBook Pro out of the window. It's five years old and will probably drive your friend crazy. And while the Dell XPS 15 you mention is a great choice for video editing, we're going to stick with some of this year's models (but feel free to check out our review from last year).

Apple 15-Inch MacBook Pro (2018)

If you really want a MacBook Pro, then we suggest getting the most recent model. But that's going to destroy your budget, since we tested it at $4,699 and the starting price is $2,399. Our unit had an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD and an AMD Radeon Pro 560X GPU with 4GB of VRAM.

The latest MacBook Pro was able to transcode a 4K movie to 1080p on the HandBrake benchmark in 10 minutes and 16 seconds. The MacBook Pro also has a vivid, 15.4-inch, 2880 x 1800 panel that hit 117 percent of the sRGB spectrum and had 354 nits of brightness.

Dell XPS 15

We tested the recent XPS 15 at $1,549 (starting at $999), a configuration that came outfitted with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU with 4GB of VRAM. This machine got through the HandBrake test in 10 minutes and 12 seconds, which makes it both cheaper than the MacBook and faster for video editing.

The XPS 15's 15.6-inch panel we recommend isn't 4K, but the laptop can be configured with such a display for $2,099. The 1080p panel hit 115 percent of the sRGB gamut and had 371 nits of brightness, while the 4K panel reproduced 164 percent and 447 nits. We couldn't find our model on Dell's website anymore, but the company sells a similar version with a beefer 512GB SSD for $1,699, as well as a cheaper one with 8GB of RAM for $1,399.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Special Edition

If you're willing to sacrifice portability (especially due to size and lack of battery life), the Acer Predator Helios 300 Special Edition is a steal for $1,399. It's packed with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM.

The Helios 300 was slower than the MacBook Pro and XPS 15 on our 4K video transcoding test, at 10 minutes and 30 seconds, but it's still well within range of what they got. And this machine's 15.6-inch panel is pretty solid for the laptop's price, covering 113 percent of the sRGB color gamut and hitting 312 nits of brightness.

Bottom Line

Getting a good video-editing laptop on a budget, even one of $1,500, can be tough, but the Helios 300 satisfies most of those needs. If you're a fan of macOS, then getting your preferred brand is going to cost you some change. And if you want the best display with the fastest video-converting speed, then the XPS 15 is the way to go. We hope that these suggestions helped you and your friend. Let us know what you decided to go with!

Credit: Laptop Mag

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.