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Best Laptop For After Effects

By August 6, 2020August 10th, 2020No Comments

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Best Laptop For After Effects

Best Laptop For After Effects – A Buying Guide For Designers & Content Creators

If you are a motion designer or content creator, having the right tools is crucial. As creators, we never want to be limited by our hardware. Thankfully with technology constantly improving, you can have all the portability benefits of a laptop, without sacrificing on performance.

In this article, I will give you my picks for the best laptops for After Effects and video editing in 2020. All the laptops we cover are excellent choices for motion graphics and video editing work in Adobe After Effect and Premiere Pro.

However, the laptop that is right for you could be different to me, or another designer. Everyone has a different use case or workflow. For this reason, I will explain the pros and cons of each. Why you might buy one vs the other. This way, we can cut through the noise, and find the right laptop to fit your needs. Let’s jump in!

Best Laptops For After Effects & Video Editing In 2020

Dell XPS 15 7590 (64 GB)

Best High Performance Windows Laptop For After Effects

SPECS:

  • CPU: Intel Core i9-9980HK (8 Cores)
  • RAM: 64 GB DDR4
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Display: 15.5 Inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160)
  • Ports: 1 Thunderbolt 3, 2 USB 3.1, 1 HDMI, 1SD Card Reader
  • Camera: 2.5mm HD Camera (720p)
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs
PROS
  • Excellent build quality
  • High performance
  • Gorgeous and color-accurate 4K display
  • SD card slot
  • Industry-leading warranty & support
CONS
  • Bottom of screen webcam placement
  • Slightly loud fans
  • Speakers are not that great

Apple 16″ MacBook Pro (64 GB)

Best High Performance Apple Laptop For After Effects

SPECS:

  • CPU: Intel Core i9-9980HK (8 Cores)
  • RAM: 64 GB DDR4
  • GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M
  • Storage: 2TB PCIe SSD
  • Display: 16 Inch Retina
  • Ports: 1 Thunderbolt 3, 3 USB 3.1, 1 HDMI
  • Camera: FaceTime HD Camera (720p)
  • Weight: 4.3 lbs
PROS
  • Excellent build quality
  • Powerful CPU and RAM
  • Amazing screen with slim bezels
  • Improved Magic Keyboard
  • Long battery life
CONS
  • Expensive
  • No touch screen
  • No SD slot

Acer ConceptD 7 (32 GB)

Best For Graphics Acceleration Workflows

PROS
  • High performance
  • 4K display
  • Slim minimal design
  • Powerful GPU
CONS
  • No SD or MicroSD ports
  • No Core i9 CPU version
  • Expensive

SPECS:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H (6 Cores)
  • RAM: 32 GB DDR6
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Display: 15.6 Inch 4K IPS
  • Ports: 1 Thunderbolt 3, 2 USB 3.1, 1 HDMI, 1SD Card Reader
  • Camera: HD Camera (720p)
  • Weight: 4.58 lbs

Dell XPS 15 7590 (32 GB)

Best Mid-Range Laptop For After Effects

SPECS:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H (6 Cores)
  • RAM: 32 GB DDR4
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Display: 15.5 Inch 4K UHD
  • Ports: 1 Thunderbolt 3, 2 USB 3.1, 1 HDMI, 1SD Card Reader
  • Camera: 2.5mm HD Camera (720p)
  • Weight: 6.78 lbs
PROS
  • Powerful
  • Great value for money
  • Sleek design with small bezels
  • 4K display with touch
  • Lots of storage
  • All ports including SD
CONS
  • Average battery life

Dell Alienware m15

Best For Video Editors Who Enjoy Gaming

SPECS:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H (6 Cores)
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
  • Storage: 128GB PCIe M.2 SSD + 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Display: 15.5 Inch HD
  • Ports: 1 Thunderbolt 3, 2 USB 3.1, 2 HDMI, 1SD Card Reader
  • Camera: 2.5mm HD Camera (720p)
  • Weight: 4.85 lbs
PROS
  • Sleek design
  • High performance for gaming & editing
  • Excellent cooling
CONS
  • Only 16 GB RAM
  • Only 1080p display
  • No SD or MicroSD ports

What Laptop Specs Do I Need For Video Editing?

Having used After Effects on several different computers, laptops included, I will say this; what specs and requirements you need for video editing will depend on your use case/workflow. With that in mind, each computer component must be carefully considered. But before that, we should look at what Adobe officially recommends for After Effects System requirements.

Looking at Adobe’s requirements, the emphasis is on having CPU and memory. But it’s worth pointing out, Adobe’s requirements are very general. If you were to spec out a system only considering these baseline requirements After Effects will run ok. But it might not deliver the performance you need. To find the features that matter the most to you, we need to look closer at what should be considered when buying a video editing laptop.

Mac Or PC For Video Editing:

The first thing to consider should be the operating system. I’m guessing you already have a preference based on what you are familiar with. But if you are open to either platform, I will quickly go over the benefits for both.

Windows is the most common and most versatile. On the flip-side, Mac OS is great for multimedia editing and synchronizing with the iPhone and iPad.

If you opt for Windows, you will have more options and flexibility with hardware. Windows gives you the ability to spec out a professional workstation level video editing laptop with a multi-core processor. Generally speaking, PC laptops are going to be cheaper, and better performance for the money than Mac.

The biggest benefit to Mac laptops for video editing is that Final Cut Pro is only available on Mac. Yes, you can always use After Effects and Premiere Pro on both operating systems. Overall, it will likely come down to your familiarity with the brand/OS regardless of the different benefits I just mentioned.

Form Factor:

The next consideration should be the form factor. Do you need to edit on the go? Or will this laptop be a desktop replacement that you can also take out? The smaller 13-inch screen size would be more ideal for portable use. On the other hand, the 15 to 17-inch screen sizes are better for a desktop replacement laptop. Or if you use your laptop to watch movies

Screen size isn’t the only consideration. If you want a multi purple laptop, some can flip or detach the keyboard to work as a tablet.

Processor (CPU) & Memory (RAM)- The Most Important Components:

When looking at laptop specs for After Effects, you need to make sure it has a powerful processor (CPU) and as much RAM as you can afford. For optimal performance, you’re going to want a multi-core processor. The more cores the better. This allows each core to process threads concurrently, resulting in quicker render times.

Adobe’s official After Effects system requirements states that both on Windows and Mac require a “multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support”. They don’t specify how many cores a processor should have for editing video. To clear this up, a four-core CPU is the bare minimum for a video editing laptop. An example of a good laptop CPU for video editing is the Intel Core-i9-9900K, which has 8 cores and 16 threads.

CPU For Design And Video Editing

In terms of RAM, yes, the more the better. But how much do you really need, and why is RAM important for using After Effects? The minimum recommended from Adobe is 16GB. However, if you can afford it, I recommend 32GB. This will give you the ability to smoothly playback 4k footage, allow for multitasking, and future proof your laptop for years to come.

HDD vs SSD For Video Editing:

Having a fast hard drive will make your laptop feel faster during boot times, application load, and file transfer times. You want to look for a laptop that has an SSD (solid-state drive) as the main hard drive. At this day and age, SSDs are becoming the norm. SSDs are much faster and more reliable than HDDs because they have less moving parts.

It’s important to mention, the hard drive won’t impact video editing and rendering very much. However, a fast SSD hard drive will improve playback speeds and handle large files like 4K much better.

An SSD hard drive isn’t the only thing to look for. There are different ways SSDs are connected/interface internally. You want to look for NVMe SSDs that leverage higher data transfer PCI Express bus type. On the flip side, you want to avoid the slower SATA interface type, which is becoming outdated.

Overall, I recommend a fast SSD as your main drive, with an additional SSD for storage. However, laptops with two built-in SSDs can get pricey. Especially when going for 1TB and above. If a two SSD laptop exceeds your budget, you should look for a laptop that has a Thunderbolt 3 port that can be linked to an external hard drive. This is a more cost-effective laptop storage solution.

What Graphics Card Is Best For After Effects?:

Even though Adobe has been increasing the use of GPU (graphics card) over the past few years, After Effects runs primarily on your CPU (processor). So how good should the GPU be? That really depends on what else you intend on doing with your laptop. If you play games in your spare time, you probably want a higher-end GPU. If not, I still recommend a good GPU with at least 4GB of VRAM, such as a GTX 1060.

Dedicated Graphics Card For Video Editing – Do You Need one?:

While you want to make sure the main GPU is supported by After Effects, having a separate dedicated GPU is probably overkill for most people editing on a laptop. If you are a serious video editor that makes use of GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer, you will get higher performance from a single quality GPU, rather than multiple GPUs.

Is RAM Or CPU More Important For Video Editing?

CPU is more important than RAM for video editing because the processor handled the bulk of the work. That said, you should still try to get 32GB RAM for After Effects use. Overall, if you are spacing out a video editing laptop, you should make sure the CPU is good first. Then make sure you have enough RAM. You can always add more RAM inexpensively down the road if you need more.

How much RAM do I need video editing?

8GB RAM is all you need for After Effects. BUT! This is a low-end minimum for the program to run. If you want your editing to go smoothly, you need more than 8GB RAM. Read on to learn my recommended RAM in the next section.

Is 4GB RAM Enough For After Effects?

No 4GB RAM is not enough for After Effects. Adobe recommends a minimum of 8GB RAM for After Effects video editing. While 8GB is the minimum, Adobe does recommend 16GB. I personally recommend a minimum of 32GB, preferably 64GB RAM. Having worked in After Effects, on large files while multitasking, more RAM keeps your whole system running smoothly.

Is 8GB RAM Enough For 4k Editing?

8GB RAM is not enough for 4K video editing. You need 32GB if you work with large 4K files. However, I still recommend 64GB or more for professional workstations. This is because After Effects loads 4K frames into RAM, during playback. If your RAM fills up, your playback won’t be smooth leading to frustration. Overall, when editing 4K or greater, the more RAM the better.

What Processor Do I Need For Video Editing On A Laptop?

As stated by Adobe, any multi-core Intel processor will suffice for video editing in After Effects. Intel i5 is good enough. However, if you need to do more heavy editing and rendering, you should try to get a laptop that has an i7 or i9.

What makes a good CPU for After Effects, is more cores and more threads. How many cores and threads you get will depend on your budget and use case. Entry-level video editing laptops, and those on a budget, an Intel Core i5 processor will work just fine. More advanced video editors will want an i7, i9, or Xeon.

How Many Cores Do I Need To Edit 4k Video?

For basic video editing, 4 cores are the minimum amount of cores you need. Stepping up to 6 cores would be better, in terms of general performance and render times if you can afford it. For 4K video editing, an 8 core processor with 16 threads is widely considered the minimum. In order to handle the amount of data in 4K video, you need more cores, threads, and higher clock speeds.

Is 512GB SSD Enough For Video Editing?

Yes, a 512GB SSD is enough for video editing. However, whether you should get a 512GB SSD will depend on your use case. You should understand what you plan on storing on your SSD before determining the ideal capacity.

First of all, your hard drive stores data from the operating system and other programs you have installed. After that, it’s all about how you use and manage files. If you store lots of files and don’t remove those files, you are going to fill up a 512GB SSD quickly. If this is the case, you could opt for an external hard drive, keep the internal drive from filling up. For a video editing laptop, 256GB internal, paired with a 2 – 4TB external is a cost-effective option that I frequently recommend.

Is The MacBook Air Good For Video Editing?

The short answer is no. The MacBook Air is not good enough for video editing. The most common spec dual-core CPU, and only 16 GB of RAM simply won’t cut it for video editing in After Effects. The Macbook Air is great for general office type work such as typing, email, web browsing, etc. If you want a Mac laptop for video editing, you should be looking at a MacBook Pro.

Are Gaming Laptops Good For Video Editing?

As a generalization, yes. Gaming laptops are good for video editing. However not all gaming laptops are made equal. You should make sure the gaming laptops’ components are good enough for editing videos.

Gaming laptops tend to prioritize graphics, in the form of an ultra-capable GPU. Whereas non-gaming laptops, that are good for video editing, will have a quality CPU and lots of RAM. As long as the gaming laptop has an adequate CPU (6 Cores and 8 Threads or more), and 32GB or more RAM, you are good to go.

Oh, one more point to mention is that most affordable gaming laptops don’t come with high-quality displays. Gaming laptop displays, usually HD 1080p, have fast refresh rates. But they are not the most color accurate.

Final Thoughts

Overall, when buying a laptop for After Effects, going off the baseline Adobe recommendations will not cut it. On the other hand, any of the laptops I recommend here will get the job done for video editing. But, what’s best for you will depend on your use case, and budget.

The main points are to prioritize getting a quality CPU with as many cores as you can afford. In addition, you will want 32 GB of RAM minimum. 64 GB of RAM is preferred for more heavy video editing workflows. If you need a color-accurate display, opt for either one of Dell’s with 4K, or the MacBook Pro’s Retina display. On the other hand, if you prioritize GPU performance and you are into gaming, the Dell Alienware M15 is great value for money.

Camden Taylor

Author Camden Taylor

Camden is Arturth's founder. A Senior Graphic Designer from the Pacific Northwest, he has a passion for art, design, and bringing people together through the creative process.

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