Help Me, LAPTOP: Which MacBook Should I Get For Video Editing?

If you're set on buying a MacBook, you don't have a ton of different models to choose from, but even those couple of configurations can be daunting. User Christian plans to edit video with his next notebook, but wonders if he should go for the ultra-slim MacBook Air or the heavier Macbook Pro. He writes:

I need a laptop for some heavy video editing and i wish to have a Mac. Will the new 13-inch MacBook Air do the job by using iMovie or Final Cut Express? Will the system be snappy enough to do the job or it may lag? Or should I wait for the new line of MacBook Pros presumably with the new generation of Intel processors? Do you think it will be long before I see an updated MacBook Pro?

Without a doubt, the MacBook Air 13-inch is one of the sexiest systems on the market and its blazing-fast SSD certainly makes it one of the most responsive for everyday activities such as booting, task switching, and opening apps. There's no question that the Air is fast enough to open and use Apple iMovie or Final Cut Express, but it will probably not run well with professional grade programs such as Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro. The Air's low-voltage 1.86-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU will take a while to save HD videos and, depending on the video and software, you may also notice some lag when applying effects.

If you plan to do more than casual video editing, you need a MacBook Pro of some type. Unfortunately, right now, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has quite a few compromises. It has only a Core 2 Duo CPU, which is a little faster than the fastest processor in the 13-inch Air but still an older-generation chip. It also has a lower-resolution screen than the the Air (1280 x 800 versus 1440 x 900), which will make it more difficult to fit all your video editing toolbars on the screen.

Therefore,  if you can handle the extra weight and cost, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is the ideal choice for video editing right now. It features a much faster Core i7 CPU that is ideal for video editing and a generous 1440 x 900 resolution screen.

If you can wait a few months, however, we expect Apple to refresh the MacBook Pro 13-inch in the near future. Apple is very cagey about its update plans, but we know that the previous model came out last spring so we predict that a new, faster configuration will ship sometime in Q2. Hopefully that 13-inch MacBook Pro will have a second-generation Intel Core Series CPU that allows for better video editing.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.