Film school can be tough. But it doesn’t have to be.
With a decent laptop, you can pretty much breeze right through most of the work.
After spending countless hours of research looking for the best laptops for filmmakers in college, the Apple MacBook Pro emerged at the top beast for any film student for the following reasons:
- it has an agile SSD performance
- its retina display is great for color correction
- it’s a durable laptop that lasts long
If MacBooks are not your cup of tea (either in terms of price or performance), don’t sweat it. You can check out the new Alienware m15 R1 by Dell which features a monstrous 1 TB of hard disk storage, a
I go into detail with 7 other options to chose from on my list.
Be sure to also check out the buyer’s guide for tips on picking the best laptop if you are a film major.
Acer Aspire S 14 Touch
To kick us off is the Acer Aspire S 14 Touch. This laptop is a clear demonstration of how Acer is taking direct aim at Apple. Just like the MacBook Air, this laptop offers amazing performance in a lightweight system that makes it a good choice for film students looking for power and portability.
One of its most outstanding features includes a 13-inch non-reflective touch screen. Personally, I find this quite helpful while working on set during the day in the full glare of the sun.
The non-reflective touch screen does not only makes it easy to see the display in the daytime but also makes navigation a breeze. Even when in the dark, this laptop still gives you an easy time editing or writing screenplays thanks to its Backlit Keyboard. Furthermore, you get consistent color viewing with Acer’s BlueShield feature that is perfect for color grading.
Rocking the 7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor with 8 GB RAM, the Acer Aspire S 13 provides the necessary horsepower for any heavy lifting required for video editing or light animations with Adobe After Effects. Need more battery juice? Well, Acer gives you a 4810mAh Battery capable of lasting up to 13 hours.
Fortunately, I have been able to use this machine before and While editing and performing some lightweight typing, I manage about 10 hours which is not a huge gap in comparison to the company’s estimates.
Granted, the Acer Aspire S 13 features a rather cheap plastic exterior when compared to its competitors. However, if cutting back on the exterior design leads to more performance at an affordable price tag under $1000, am all for it.
Apple 13″ MacBook Air- ideal pick for portability
Even though it has been 8 years since the release of the MacBook Air, the Apple 13″ MacBook Air is still the closest you will get to experience Apple’s macOS High Sierra under the $1000 price. If you didn’t already know, the macOS High Sierra is scheduled to support virtual reality headsets by spring of 2018. This is not only exciting to VR and gaming enthusiasts but also a great adventure for filmmakers.
One of the most outstanding features that the MacBook Air has been known for is its durable aluminum build. Granted, it does not come with the infinity edge displays that are common with new models, however, this laptop makes up for it in its small and lightweight footprint that is simply convenient.
With its 1.6 GHz, dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with turbo boost up to 2.7GHz not to mention 3MB shared L3 cache, this laptop is well able to handle film and video editing required by most film students. It also has the Intel HG Graphics 6000 that can give a boost to your render time. The keyboard on the MacBook Air has a decent amount of travel with a good feel while writing screenplays and organizing storyboards. Additionally, the trackpad is smooth and precise giving you an easy time navigating.
The only downside to the MacBook Air is the fact that its screen resolution is not as impressive as the newer models such as the 2018 i9 Mac Book Pro with true tone display. But hey, at least you won’t have to break the bank by over $6,000 bucks right? Well, at its price tag, MacBook Air’s 1440 X 900 glossy widescreen display struggles to compete. To be honest, it has a seemingly washed out display that looks pixilated. Of course, you can compensate for this by simply connecting your laptop to an external monitor if you need to work on color-accurate work.
Surprisingly, however, the MacBook Air speakers are still pretty dope with a decent amount of base that is loud enough for personal use. Overall, this is one of the best laptops for film editing if the display is not a deal-breaker for you. After all, the MacBook Air is the last of Apple’s laptop that comes with two USD 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt 2 port, an SDXC card slot. That should count for something, right?
HP Pavilion 15.6-inch
The HP Pavilion 15 is by far one of the best last tops for film editing under $700. Evidently, HP is pushing the limits of just how powerful an entry-level video editing laptop can become. The laptop is an evolution of both its predecessors and makes a perfect pick for amateur film and video editors learning the ropes.
If you are serious about editing videos and making films, you might have outgrown the HP Pavilion 15. However, that is not to say that this is not a solid video editing laptop for film students.
To begin with, it comes with a 7th generation Intel Core i7 processor that can be turbo boosted to 2.7GHz. With a 12 GB DDR4, SD RAM not to mention a 1TB hard drive. That alone tells you that editing with this laptop can reduce your rendering time dramatically.
Furthermore, with its backlit keyboards, a 1920X1080 display HP Pavilion 15 can pretty much go head to head with the big editing machines and still come out among the top. If you are on a budget, there is no better machine for video and film editing than the HP Pavilion 15.
Dell Inspiron i5577-7342BLK-PUS,15.6″ Gaming Laptop
Built as a gamer’s laptop, the Dell Inspiron i5577 boasts of powerful performance at affordable rates making it a great pick for heavyweight editing and animation as well. For film students, this video editing laptop provides impressive hardware including a 6-megabyte cache and a massive 3.8 GHz turbo mode capable of cutting your video editing and animation time by half.
As you would expect from any gaming machine, the Dell Inspiron i5577 comes with a 7th generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and 16 GB of DDR4 SDRAM gives you enough juice to not only multitask but also run programs like DaVinci Resolve, Premiere Pro, and Adobe after effects among others.
Featuring a new generation of hard disk drives, this laptop has 512 GB Solid State hard drive that is 15 times faster than the older generations. This means you can export and store your footage with ease while powering through your film projects.
Although the Dell Inspiron i5577 comes with a dedicated graphics card that is recommended when going for the best laptop for video editing, gamers will have to compromise with its lower quality 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX1050.
However, videographers and filmmakers will definitely enjoy working on this machine as it goes above and beyond what most editing suits require. The only downside that this laptop has to film students is the fact that it is much heavier. At about 5.7 pounds, the Dell Inspiron i5577 is not much of a portable device.
Additionally, its battery life is a bit weak and will mostly last about 6 hours on a full charge.
Overall, this laptop still presents a solid choice for film students looking to get some intense editing and animation going. With the right programs, this machine will make your work way easier.
ASUS VivoBook S Thin & Light Laptop –best bang for the buck
For film students planning to travel and create short films while on the road, the ASUS VivoBook makes a good companion. This is one of Asus’ slim portable machines and comes with a 14-inch screen that features narrow bezels in a 2 cm thick silver chassis that weighs about 3 pounds.
Unlike most portable laptops that sacrifice the ports when going for snazzy premium slim designs, the ASUS VivoBook S 410 gives you up to 4 USB ports for attaching peripherals. You get two USB 2.0 ports, 1 Type C 3.1 port, and one USB 3.0 port.
With an SD card reader and an HDMI port, this thin laptop goes all the way to make sure you have options in terms of the display while also giving you fast reading and copying speeds of footage from your memory card.
The laptop also features a backlit keyboard that is surprisingly evenly isolated considering it is a 12-inch machine. With a Full HD screen resolution, the ASUS VivoBook S 410 presents a nice, sharp image that is just right for editing videos.
When it comes to performance, the ASUS VivoBook S rocks 8GB of DDR4 SDRAM with an Intel Core i7 chipset clocked at 1.8 GHz. This means you can smoothly multitask and run other power-hungry tasks like editing videos or even animation with Maya, Flash or After Effects
The only downside is that although this laptop comes with a dedicated graphics card, its graphics card RAM size is only 2GB. This can be a bit lower for those looking to edit 4k footage at high frames per second back play.
MSI GS63VR-Stealth Pro-230 – Ideal for animators
Any film student or professional video editor looking for a suitable replacement to their desktop editing suite will find the MSI GS63VR-Stealth Pro-230 quite remarkable. With its slim attractive chassis not to mention the overall performance of its VR capable Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 GPU, this notebook is undoubtedly one of the best laptops for filmmakers.
It has a brushed aluminum lid that almost gleams in anticipation of your touch making the Stealth Pro-230 look great. Hold your horses though, as you might just need to restrain your fingers form the inky metal that will show fingerprints. You get a decent amount of ports for your peripherals including a USB 2.0 and 3.1 port, a Thunderbolt port, and an HDMI port no name a few.
This machine also boasts of an impressive 1920 x 1080 matte display that is great for long hours of editing without leaving your eyes fatigued. Plus the gorgeously vivid colors will draw anyone’s eyes to the nitty-gritty details at a full-color gamut even while in the full glare of the sun.
If you are planning to do a lot of typing on this machine, you will love the bouncy feedback of its island-style keyboard that delivers a nice firm feeling with a decent amount of travel. Furthermore, this laptop boasts an impressive multicolored backlit keyboard that lets you assign specific colors to three zones of the keyboard for easy shortcuts to your tools while working.
Performance-wise, this laptop features an Intel Core i7 -6700HQ processor with 16 GB of RAM. This makes it more than capable to handle hefty tasks that include video editing and animation.
However, all that power comes at a cost. The MSI GS63VR-Stealth Pro-230 has a subpar battery life and the machine tends to heat up pretty fast when you run power-hungry programs and games.
In my opinion, the poor battery life and the high temperature while working demanding programs on the MSI GS63VR-Stealth Pro-230 are a small price to pay. Basically, any bona fide video editing laptop with blistering performance, will heat up fast and eat through battery life. This machine, however, can be ideal for those looking for a stationery workhorse.
Razer Blade Stealth 13.3″
Built as the ultimate laptop for gamers, the Razer Blade Stealth packs a stealth performance that can easily impress anyone looking for the best laptop for filmmakers. With an outstanding 13.3-inch QHD Touch Display, the Razor Blade Stealth gives you one of the widest and brightest displays for editing in our list.
Razer claims that each Razor Blade Stealth is cut out from a block of aircraft-grade aluminum for sleek beauty and durability. Well, judging from its overall thin lightweight design, the Razer Blade Stealth actually rivals the MacBook with a solid and professional look that flies off the shelf.
In terms of performance, the Razer Stealth packs a 1.8GHz, 7th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U processor with a Turbo Boost that speeds up to 4.0GHz. This basically means you can run power demanding video editing programs with no problem especially considering its 16 GB Dual Channel RAM.
On the other side, if you love to store all your files on the onboard storage of your laptop while you edit, the Razor Blade Stealth comes with options ranging from a 256 GB of storage to a 1TB hard drive. You also get a VR ready NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card that makes editing 4K videos smooth and easy.
But even with all the complements of this gaming machine, there are some downsides. The battery life on this machine is pretty short and will disappoint anyone looking to perform power-hungry tasks on the go. Additionally, unlike its rivals, the Razer Blade Stealth 13.3 doesn’t have a 4 K display.
Apple MacBook Pro – Best Pick for film and photo editing
Lastly on our list is the MacBook Pro. Without a doubt, Apple has been in the game for years and one of the best qualities of their laptops is the fast and reliable performance that most creative professionals love. When it comes to editing video or working on tasking film projects, the Apple MacBook Pro is hard to beat at its price range. With a remarkable retina True Tone display, this laptop is easy on your eyes not only for its external features but for what’s inside as well.
Truth be told, there are only a few options available in the markets that are able to compete with the MacBook Pro when it comes to finding the best laptop for film majors. This machine packs a retina display that is just as good as its predecessors. The 2018 MacBook Pro covers a good 119 percent RGB color gamut making it stand out from competitors. Also, MacBook Pro comes with a crazy fast performance thanks to16 GB RAM, a quad-core Core i7 processor, and a powerful Radeon Pro 460 GPU.
Furthermore, the touch bar on the MacBook Pro is built to adapt to the app you are using meaning you can easily navigate applications like Final cut Pro X at the single touch of a button. For instance, I find it quite useful when adding audio fades to a clip-on FinalCut Pro. To put it simply, it’s just much faster and more convenient than using your mouse or keyboard shortcuts.
However, there are still many updates you will have to wait for especially with apps like Premier Pro and After Effects.
Since film students are bound to be creative pro power users anyway, the MacBook Pro makes a perfect choice. Granted, its expensive and does have a poor battery life plus you will have to deal with dongles for USB and microSD connectivity but, you can connect up to two 4K monitors with the Thunderbolt ports that it comes with. I don’t need to tell you just how amazing that could be for a video editor, do I?
Buyer’s Guide: Features to look out for in the best laptop for film majors
When buying a laptop, film students, in particular, have to pay attention to a number of specifications to make sure their purchase is worthwhile and useful in the long run. From a laptop’s portability, processing speed, and display quality, here is a breakdown of what you will need to look out for.
When it comes to choosing the best laptop for filmmakers, a machine with a dual-core processor is the minimum requirement for any creative work. However, to get the best performance, while also future-proofing your machine, a quad-core processor is a safe choice. Since you will be putting your machine through a lot of video rendering, it is best to either go with a minimum Intel Core i5 CPU or a 7th generation Intel Core i7 CPU.
Basically, any processor with a U in its name such as the Intel Core i7-8550 U processor that comes with the 13 inch Razer Blade Stealth, for instance, is the market standard for processors. The Y model, on the other hand, is a bit lower in terms of power while the HQ model is the powerful model used for peak performance. If you are going for more cores, the Intel ‘Kaby Lake’ is the best you will find with 8 or more cores.
A 32 GB of RAM would be the ideal amount of memory for a 4K video editor or a 3D modeler working with large files repeatedly. However, most editing programs like Adobe after effects, Final cut Pro X, and Premier Pro recommend 8GB of RAM for a seamless performance. Just like the processor, the more ‘RAM juice’ you have the better your experience.
Dedicated graphics card
A laptop with a dedicated graphics card comes with an extra processor and memory that ultimately boosts the overall processing of images and graphics on your computer. It is for this reason that you will realize a huge support for a dedicated graphics card while researching for the best laptop for video editing. The same applies to any creative task that requires manipulation of images and footage (am looking at you animators). If you plan to get a machine that will allow you to edit 4K videos, or perform some 3D rendering of your animation, it goes without saying that a dedicated graphics card with larger memory will do a better job. To be safe in this department, I found that going with an NVIDIA 900 or NVIDIA GTX 1050 series of cards is a reliable choice. AMD’s graphics cards are also a good alternative.
If you only need a laptop that will help you create storyboards and screenplays while you organize your film projects, a 250GB hard drive will be more than enough. However, I am pretty sure you will need this and more if you plan to take on filmmaking as your career. Somewhere along the path, a video editing machine will be necessary so how about going all in? Well, you will need a laptop featuring a solid state drive(SSD) instead of the conventional hard drives. Basically, an SSD reads and writes data to and from the editing application much faster than traditional hard drives. Eventually, an SSD will speed up your video editing process and shorten your render period. Plus, your laptop will consume less power and emit less heat. Obviously, the amount of storage you need depends on the footage you are working with. 4K and 8K footage will eat through large storage amounts while standard HD footage and other media files will work well with a 1TB storage SDD and above. In case your choice doesn’t come with sufficient storage on its hard drive, you can add an external storage although this will come at a cost.
Apart from having powerful performance and sufficient storage on your video editing laptop, another important quality, especially for film students, is the display and playback capacity. As a filmmaker or a film student, you will need to constantly watch movies and short films to learn. With this in mind, having a laptop with a decent media playback capacity is a no-brainer. However, flawless playback goes hand in hand with an eye-catching, color accurate display. 4K resolutions should be your ultimate pick if you have the budget to back it up. However, a minimum standard HD at 2880 x 1800 resolutions will do just fine for editing and manipulation footage and images on your machine.
Even though having a powerful and portable machine can be convenient when looking for the best laptop for college, hardly do these two features go together. You either get a bulky but powerful machine or you get a thin lightweight design with a compromise on performance. However, as a filmmaker and a technology enthusiast, I find that most of my work is done in a fixed position. As a result, I have grown to prefer larger displays even when it means I have to compromise on portability. At the end of the day, a laptop’s portability pretty much depends on your needs.
What Features can I skip on to save money?
Great question! Well, it goes without saying that choosing the best configuration for your laptop without breaking the bank is a must for any film student. As a result, you should be looking to splurge a bit on the important features while compromising on the features that make little difference to your overall experience ( the 80/20 rule). Here are some tips on features you can save money on.
Yes, a good laptop for film majors should be able to retain power for a couple of hours while unplugged. However, the reality is that most of your work will be done at a fixed location anyway. For this reason, a laptops battery life is a good place to compromise if you are a film student. The exception obviously is if you plan to work on your laptop while on the move from one set to the other which is highly unlikely.
A laptop’s speakers are another area where you can easily skip to save some money. Granted, shoddy laptop speakers can be frustrating, however, rarely do film and video professionals use laptop speakers while editing videos. A good alternative to you’re the speakers on your laptop would be video editing headphones or studio monitors.
Sure, a touch screen on your laptop can add a bit of convenience while working, however, it easily gets distracting when you have to move between your mouse, keyboard and laptop screen. On a Smartphone, a touchscreen works perfectly but even with a decent responsive touchscreen on a laptop, it is highly unlikely that you will use the feature regularly. Besides, the touch digitizer will be on all the time resulting in a poor battery life for those looking to work on the go.
Basically, the best laptops for filmmakers are bound to be expensive. This, however, does not mean you need to break the bank to find the right specifications. For instance, Adobe recommends a multi-core processor, a Windows 7 or higher OS, a minimum 8GB RAM, a dedicated GPU and at least 1280 x 800 display. Obviously, to get more seamless performance, you would need to go above these basic requirements. My best pick for any film student would have to be the MacBook Pro even though it sits on the pricey side.