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2017 YugaTech Buyer’s Guide: Video and Photo Editing Laptops

We’ve given you our guide for this year’s gaming laptops so this time let’s move on to the productivity side. If you think gaming was the threshold when it comes to having the most powerful components around, then you clearly haven’t met editing. The reason why choosing a video and photo editing laptop is such a tricky decision to make is that the required power to do editing is almost immeasurable. The specs needed to provide a content creator with a smooth and worry-free experience could range from an average joe to a hulking beast. Not only that but now you even have to consider and prioritize other components more, such as the laptop’s display type, color reproduction, and RAM. Not to worry though, as like before, we are here to give you the necessary knowledge you need to choose your next editing workstation. So for all our content creator friends out there, including aspiring ones, here’s our guide for this year’s Video and Photo Editing Laptops.

Author’s Note: This is a guide and not a list, prices and availability of laptops featured in the article may change without prior notice. Only components and laptops that are available on the market were featured. We strictly stuck to Intel on the processor side as these are more readily available than AMD APU’s. Specs listed are the ones you could expect and doesn’t necessarily mean they are the only ones available. Oh and buckle up, it’s going to be a very long read.

What specs do I need?

Remember the first step we talked about in our gaming guide? Well, this time we’re taking a look at what components you’ll prioritize when looking for a video and photo editing laptop and here they are in order of importance:

  1. CPU
  2. GPU
  3. RAM
  4. Storage
  5. Upgradeability and Expandability
  6. Display
  7. Ports
  8. Personal Preference (Brand, Keyboard, Speakers, Color, Etc.)

CPU and GPU

The most important spec to look at for video and photo editing is the laptop’s CPU or Central Processing Unit. This time it now acts as the unit’s muscle as opposed to the GPU in gaming. It is effectively the main component that will do most of the heavy lifting when you’re creating content. This is then followed by the GPU or Graphical Processing Unit, which functions as the laptops back-up, it also shares some of the heavy liftings albeit not that much and not all the time. That having been said, you’d still want to buy a laptop with dedicated graphics to provide enough support and added performance to the system.

It is advised, if possible, to get laptops with Intel’s Core i7 quad-core CPUs since these processors have better multi-core performance and support Hyper-Threading technology. Hyper-Threading allows a single physical core to appear as two virtual (logical) cores on your operating system, essentially boosting your overall CPU performance. The battle in video and photo editing is in the raw performance and power of your CPU as the processor’s speeds and core count will dictate how quickly you can edit. Modern video and photo editing apps take advantage of your CPU’s multiple cores and threads as these programs generally perform heavy and multiple tasks at once. Having multiple cores means your CPU can better manage and divide the tasks of your video and photo editing programs among its cores.

A few things to keep in mind are that photo editing programs (like Photoshop) are mostly single-threaded applications meaning they will favor higher CPU clock speeds. Video editing programs, on the other hand, are multi-threaded applications, which is why Hyper-Threading boosts your performance. While video editing is faster with multiple threads, higher clock speeds still play a vital role in providing a smoother experience. As a general rule of thumb — higher clock speeds with a good core/thread count, means better performance.

That being said, aim for at least a 6th gen Intel processor with as many cores and threads as your budget permits. Though Intel has already released its 7th gen processors, these offer little performance improvements over the previous generation and sometimes even cost more. As for 8th gen processors, they’re still quite scarce on the market and only a few laptops have them, but these offer a significant boost over the previous 6th gen and even the ULV versions of the processors have quad-cores so keep an eye out for laptops that use these.

Let’s talk about the GPU next. While this component is no longer the main star, it still has an important role to play. Photo editing only really makes use of the GPU when you’re doing intensive color work, like adding complex filters or using Photoshop’s liquify tool. Which is why in most cases, the CPU’s integrated graphics would be enough to provide the necessary performance. However, for video editing, it’s a whole different story. Most modern video editing programs have some sort of GPU accelerated rendering. GPU acceleration is used in tasks such as accelerated playback, GPU accelerated effects, deinterlacing, blending modes, scaling, and even during final rendering and previews.

Nvidia and AMD both have their own flavors of GPU accelerated rendering. For Nvidia, CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) cores will be the defining factor in acceleration, while AMD uses OpenCL (Open Computing Language). As for Nvidia’s GPUs, just like with CPUs, more CUDA cores means better GPU acceleration. Sadly, manufacturers do not include the number of CUDA cores or specify OpenCL support on their laptops spec sheets. Consumers would have to rely on their own research.

RAM

Unlike gaming, where you only have to hit the minimum requirement to play a game, RAM in video and photo editing it is a very crucial component. It helps in keeping performance as smooth as possible and even help in render times. While it is one of the easiest components to upgrade, still consider getting a system with a higher base RAM capacity. Especially if you plan on doing editing heavy workloads or multi-tasking right off the bat. Be warned as editing will chew on as much RAM as it can get. The sweet spot for video and photo editing is at 16GB, but its recommended never to go below 8GB, going higher than 16GB will certainly help although you’ll notice only slight performance boosts.

Laptops don’t have unlimited RAM upgradeability though, and this all depends on the number of RAM slots a laptop has, as well as the maximum capacity your system’s actual chipset can support. Some laptops can support up to a max of 32GB or even 64GB, so make sure to look at the spec sheet of the unit you’re eyeing.

Storage

Perhaps the most upgradeable part of a laptop and the easiest to be remedied. Storage will matter more to a content creator than a gamer. While yes, games are increasing in file size nowadays, you don’t typically install one in the same manner as how frequently a content creator deals with gigabytes upon gigabytes of raw media. As we talked about in our gaming guide, Solid State Drives (SSD) certainly help in loading programs and applications faster than the average mechanical hard drive, however, apart from being expensive, these digital drives have fewer storage capacities and shorter life spans than their mechanical brothers. But don’t get us wrong, having an SSD is almost essential for video and photo editors.

Apart from speedier loading times of programs, SSD’s also have faster read and write times, which will effectively boost the transfer rates of your files. This will be particularly helpful when copying large quantities of photos or high-quality videos. Media caching and previews, which a lot of video editing programs do, will be a lot faster when you have a dedicated SSD.

Do take note though, that most of the cheaper laptops out on the market will require you to swap out your HDD in order to use an SSD, as most have no support for M.2 drives. Generally, you’d want at least a SATA SSD with as much storage as you can afford. It is then highly recommended that you pair this with an external HDD that uses the USB 3.0 standard, since you’ll be storing multiple videos and photos. Trust us, if a 1TB drive is not enough for a gamer, what more for a content creator?

There are times when you might encounter laptops with an SSHD, which is a hybrid drive between a Hard Drive and a Solid State Drive. Its performance sits in-between an HDD and SSD. While a good alternative, laptops with this kind of drive are rare.

Upgradeability and expandability

Most of the internal parts of a laptop are upgradeable, save for the CPU and GPU, hence the reason why these two should always be your top priority when choosing a video and photo editing workstation or any laptop for that matter. Other parts like RAM and Storage, in one way or the other, can be upgraded most of the time. which is why after choosing the components above be sure to check which of its other parts can be swapped out for an upgrade. In doing so, you will be able to focus more on spending your current budget on what actually matters, while still having the assurance of an upgrade path. If you are the type of consumer that has a lot of peripherals like monitors, keyboards, and mice then having the right input and output (I/O) ports are also important, especially when you plan on getting an external monitor to fit your video and photo editing needs.

Display

A laptop’s display is very crucial for some content creation workflows, especially those that deal with color. You should care less about low response times and high refresh rates and more about color accuracy and reproduction. Now, for color reproduction, you’ll have to consider the screen’s color gamut which is essentially the subset of colors it can accurately produce. There are currently two widely used color spaces for color gamut — Adobe RGB and sRGB. The latter, jointly created by HP and Microsoft, encompasses roughly 35% of visible colors and is the standardized color space used for monitors, printers, and the internet. While Adobe RGB, created by Adobe, encompasses roughly 50% of the visible colors. Essentially, you’d want your display to produce as much of these color spaces as it can whether you’ll be using sRGB or Adobe RGB as your workspace. Color reproduction for these spaces are measured in percent (%). As for which one to use, that would be for an entirely different discussion as it is a widely debated topic.

Sadly, consumers would have to rely on reviews, user experiences, or manufacturers spec sheets to determine a laptop display’s color gamut reproduction, as there are no means of testing this remotely. Other than that, also consider the screen’s resolution. A 4K display on a laptop might not be of much use for gaming, but it can make all the difference for some creators.

The next thing to consider is display type, of which there are currently two that are readily available on laptops — Twisted Nematic (TN) and In-plane Switching (IPS). TN panels in general, are cheaper but have poorer viewing angles, color accuracy, and color reproduction, while IPS panels have better viewing angles, color accuracy, and natural color reproduction. If budget permits, definitely choose a laptop with an IPS panel for editing, as it is a no contest between the two. However, there will be times, once you reach higher price points, in which high-quality TN panels can almost match or surpass low-quality IPS panels. But then again, at such high price points, you’ll have a wider choice of laptops with IPS screens.

Only consider buying laptops with high-quality TN panels if you also plan to game on it. That being said unless you are a competitive gamer, we suggest you stick with IPS panels. The beauty in this though is that, should the need arise, you can easily just hook up an external monitor that’ll meet your editing or gaming needs.

Ports

Ports are usually one of the last things you should consider when choosing a video and photo editing laptop, but it’s still important to have the right ones. Since you’ll probably be transferring a lot of media files, look for a laptop that has at least two to three USB ports with at least one USB 3.0. Apart from USB ports, also look for a laptop with a dedicated SD card reader to save you from using an external one. Other than that, it’s best to look for a laptop with an updated Display Port and/or HDMI port that can support most of the monitors available on the market. These ports would allow you to have more choices when it comes to buying an external monitor.

Personal Preference

For video and photo editors, the laptop’s brand, color, built-in speakers, trackpad, and keyboard are the last things to consider, since numerous peripherals such speakers, headphones, keyboards, and mice, are readily available on the market.

Budget

The next step would be setting and meeting your budget. To help you meet your budget let’s discuss the specs you can expect from laptops at certain price points.

But before we continue, we’d like to once again kill a long-standing misconception. This time, it’s about the difference between gaming, and video/photo editing laptops. While it’s true that powerful gaming laptops are also great video and photo editing workstations, a laptop geared more towards editing isn’t necessarily going to see the same success in gaming. Take the Macbook Pro, for instance. Good gaming laptops, right off the bat, are packed with powerful CPU and GPU combos, which again, is great for editing.

Sidenote: For editing performance, we checked the processor’s rendering capabilities. Top picks are base on the price to performance ratio of the laptops.

Under Php 15k

Laptops at this price range are powered by Intel’s Pentium or Celeron mobile processors. While Intel’s Pentium processors are not necessarily weak they are still too underpowered to sufficiently provide a good video editing experience. Light photo editing, though, is possible since that doesn’t require much power. Although, you will be faced with the problems like having to settle for a TN panel, as most, if not all, laptops at this price point rely on those panels to keep costs at a minimum.

All hope is not lost, however, as with gaming laptops and any other devices, there will be times when a unit capable of better editing performance will reach this price point perhaps during sales or warehouse clearances. However, we strongly advise that you wait a little longer and try to increase your budget.

16-25k

Specs to expect
Display13-15.6" HD (1280 x 720) displays, most probably TN
ProcessorIntel Pentium Quad Core Series
5th gen to 6th gen Intel Core i3 Series (ULV versions)
GPUIntel HD internal Graphics cards
Entry-level Radeon R5 M330 and R5 M430 discrete GPU's
Entry-level Nvidia GT920 and 930MX discrete GPU's
RAMup to 4GB, some are upgradeable
Mostly one slot
Internal StorageHDD up to 1TB 5200rpm HDD, upgradeable
M.2 SSD slots are rare
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

You’ll have a bit more oomph at this price point as you’re now entering the range of Intel’s Core series of processors. Although, smooth video editing is still not possible as laptops here are still too underpowered. You can try if you want, but we assure you it’ll be a very bumpy ride. Light photo editing, on the other hand, will be a breeze unless you’ll be editing multiple photos at once. If you are, then look for a laptop with upgradable RAM, so you’ll at least have the option to boost your performance for heavy workloads. Sadly, you’re still stuck with TN panel displays for most of the laptops in this price range, so color accurate work will be difficult.

It is recommended that you aim for a Core i3 here if you can, as they have Hyper-Threading.

Top pick for this price range: ASUS X441UR-GA020T @ Php 23,990.00 (Dynaquest) 
Quick Specs:
14.0in (16:9) LED-backlit HD (1366×768) 60Hz Glare Panel with 45% NTSC
Intel Core i3-7100U 3.90GHz
NVIDIA GeForce 930MX, with 2GB VRAM
4GB DDR4 RAM
500GB 5400RPM SATA HDD
Windows 10 Home

25-35k

Specs to expect
Display14-15.6" HD (1280 x 720) or FHD (1920 x 1080) Displays, mostly probably TN
Processor6th to 7th gen Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 Series (ULV versions)
GPUEntry-level Radeon R5 M315, R5 M330, and R5 M430 discrete GPU's
Entry level Nvidia 920MX, 930MX, 940M, and 940MX discrete GPU's
RAMup to 4GB, some can be upgraded
Mostly one slot
Internal Storageup to 1TB 5200rpm HDD, upgradeable
M.2 SSD slots are rare
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

This is where the bare minimum for video and photo editing really starts. You’ll now be able to buy laptops with marginally capable CPU performance, and some even have a discrete GPU. Light video editing is now possible. Video program and application operations are now smoother thanks to the added performance of a dedicated GPU, but you’ll still encounter a few hiccups when doing heavy editing work. Rendering times are a bit faster but still not amazing. Light photo editing is no longer a problem even when working on multiple photos, and medium photo editing (intense color work, liquefy, etc) is now possible.

Aim for a laptop with a U-series Core i5 processor, even if it only has integrated graphics. You will now occasionally see laptops with IPS panels here, but most of the options are still TN. Color gamut reproduction of screens are also still quite low here, so take note of that.

Top pick for this price range: ASUS VIVOBOOK X442UQ-FA005T @ Php 30,990 (PCWorx)
Quick Specs:
14.0″ (16:9) LED-backlit FHD (1920×1080) 60Hz Anti-Glare Panel with 45% NTSC
Intel® Core™ i5 7200U Processor
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
4GB DDR4 RAM
1TB 5400RPM SATA HDD
Windows 10

35-45k

Specs to expect
Display14-15.6" HD (1280 x 720) or FHD (1920 x 1080), mostly TN, some IPS
Processor6th to 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 series
GPUEntry-level Nvidia 940MX and MX150 discrete GPUs
Mid-range Nvidia GTX 950M, GTX 960M, and GTX 1050 discrete GPUs
RAMup to 8GB, upgradeable
up to 2 slots
Internal Storageup to 1TB 7200rpm HDD, upgradeable
up to one M.2 SSD slot
Operation SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

Video and photo editing will now be smoother here and you’ll no longer have to restrict yourself to low-quality content. Laptops equipped with Intel’s Core i7 processors and a dedicated GPU will start popping up now, and upgradability is almost certainly guaranteed. A few of these laptops will have M.2 SSD slots and two RAM slots. Slightly heavier video editing at 1080p is now possible and operation should no longer be a problem, render times will also be sizeably shorter, depending on what CPU+GPU combo you’re able to snag. Photo editing is now a breeze at this point, even with heavy operations such as applying complex filters or using large brushes. Thankfully, IPS panels are now readily available, so you’ll only have to worry about their color gamut reproduction.

We have to, once again, give props to ASUS for having the cheapest laptop with a Core i7 and 16GB of RAM at this price point, or quite frankly, in the entire guide. Truth be told, this laptop hits the sweet spot and is actually more than enough to provide most users with a smooth experience in both video editing and photo editing. The only downside of this laptop would be the display. Though not a bad one, it’s still not nearly enough for color accurate work. We’d still recommend hooking it up to a good external monitor if you really have to.

Top pick for this guide: ASUS FX550VX-DM609T @ Php 44,995 (Pc Corner)
Quick Specs:
15.6″ 16:9 Full HD (1920 x 1080)
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.80GHz Processor
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
16GB RAM
1TB HDD
Windows 10

45-55k

Specs to expect
Display15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080), Mostly IPS, some TN
Processor6th to 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 Series
GPUEntry-level Nvidia MX150 discrete GPU
Mid range Nvidia GTX 950M, GTX 960M, and GTX 1050 discrete GPUs
Entry-level Top Tier Nvidia GTX 1050Ti discrete GPU
Top tier Nvidia GTX 1060 discrete GPU
RAMup to 8GB, upgradeable
up to 2 slots
Internal Storageup to 1TB 7200rpm HDD, upgradeable
up to two M.2 SSD slots
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

You’re now at the price point where Intel’s Core i7s are more readily available and dedicated GPU’s are way more powerful.  Units with separate SSDs will also start showing up here, which is a huge plus for anyone who can afford them. Upgrades are now guaranteed, as laptops will have one to two 2.5″ SATA drive bays, two RAM Slots, and maybe one M.2 slot. Same with the previous price point, heavy video and photo editing is no longer a problem and video render times are faster. Color accurate work is no longer that hard to do since IPS Panel display’s here get a boost in quality and have better color gamut reproduction.

You’ll probably only encounter hiccups when working with 4K footage, but an i7-7700HQ paired with a GTX 1050 should be able to just barely scrape by for this. We’ll have to jump to machines equipped with full-on desktop processors tailored to fit on laptops to be able to comfortably edit anything we want, but laptops equipped with those are sure to make wallets cry.

The top pick for this price range is a perfect example of how prioritizing components work. As a refresher remember that our top priority is the CPU followed by the GPU and then RAM. We did say never to go below 8GB of RAM but in order for laptops at this price point to increase in base RAM capacity, manufacturers tend to swap out the CPU (ex. From Core i7 to Core i5) to balance out the cost, sometimes they even put in a more powerful GPU. However, our first priority is the CPU which is why we stick with the Core i7 even though other laptops may offer 8GB of base RAM and a GTX 1050Ti. Luckily, RAM nowadays are easily upgradeable and relatively cheap, so if you are getting the Legion Y520 we suggest that you bump its RAM up to at least 8GB.

Top pick for this price range: Lenovo Legion Y520-15IKBN 80WK0025PH @ Php 52,300 (PC Corner)
Quick Specs:
15.6″ (16:9) IPS FHD (1920×1080) 60Hz Anti-Glare Panel
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.80GHz Processor
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB DDR5 VRAM
4GB DDR4 RAM
1TB  HDD
128GB SSD
Windows 10

55k and above

Specs to expect
Display15.6"-21" FHD (1920 x 1080), QHD/2K , 4K displays with G-sync, Mostly IPS with good to great color gamut reproduction or TN respectable color gamut reproductions
Processor6th to 7th Gen Intel Core i7 mobile and desktop series
processors
GPUTop tier Nvidia GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 discrete GPU's
Top tier desktop Nvidia GTX 1070, and 1080 discrete GPU
Some in SLI (Multiple GPU Setup)
RAMup to 64GB, upgradeable
up to 4 slots
Storageup to 2TB 7200rpm HDD, upgradeable
up to 1TB SSD, upgradeable
up to 2 M.2 SSD slots
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

If you truly need a portable workstation with enough power to edit 4K content and above, this price point is where you absolutely need to be. While the 55-65K laptops here will top the performance of the previous price point the true show will start at 65K and up. At that higher price range, you’ll be able to find units with desktop CPUs, insane amounts of RAM, beastly GPUs, and 2K or 4K resolution displays with good to great color gamut reproduction.

As for performance, video and photo editing will only keep getting better as you step up in price. Laptops with Intel’s Core i7 are now everywhere and we now have access to those with desktop-grade CPUs. SSDs, high base RAM and high-quality IPS panel displays are almost certainly guaranteed. Laptops will now also be equipped with high-tier Nvidia 10-series GPUs — The 1060, 1070, and 1080. These are guaranteed beasts and will make sure your editing experience is the best that it could be. Really, anything you buy from here on out will most certainly handle your content creation needs for at least 3-5 years. It will now all come down to personal preference. Yes, my friends, you can now be choosy.

Top pick for this price range: Any laptop with Intel’s 6th or 7th Gen Core i7 processors (either desktop or mobile), Nvidia’s 10-series GPU, and 2K or 4K resolution displays.

Special Mention: Apple MacBook Pro

The only reason why we do not recommend Apple’s MacBook Pros is that they sell at a higher base price point than most of their Windows counterpart. However, that doesn’t change the fact that these devices are true kings when it comes to editing content. So if you have the money, then you should consider adding these to your list as they are portable editing powerhouses. The best one to get is the 15-inch MacBook Pro priced at Php 163,990.00 that is available over at Apple’s PH website.

And that’s about it. In the end, it will still come down to what your budget permits and what kind of content you are editing. Remember that this article only serves as a guide to educate and help you on your decisions, not to control or dictate them in any way. As always, keep your eye out for sales or special discount events. Your next portable workstation may be among those to be featured.

If we missed out on a few things or got anything wrong, do give us a heads up in the comments section below. We will update this article as soon as new laptops get released.


Zen Estacio is a Multimedia Producer for YugaTech. He is the team's laptop guru and one of their resident gamers. He has a monthly column compiling the latest and greatest the Nintendo Switch has to offer. Aside from that, he regularly writes gaming news, reviews, and impressions. You can hit him up at @papanZEN

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3 Responses

  1. JoeyB says:

    You should have a back-to-the-top hyperlink after such a long article. ? Great recommendations! Thanks.

    • Edel Tomines says:

      They do have that in desktop browser mode just scroll to the very bottom. I’m not sure if it has in mobile.

  2. Edel Tomines says:

    Such a great recommendations! It definitely helps me choosing my future laptop for video editing. Thanks YUGATECH!

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