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Laptop for college & video editing

figmentPez

Staff member
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#1
I have a friend who is going off to college soon. She hasn't finalized her budget (she's waiting for financial aid to come in) but when she does I'd like to be able to offer her some advice. She vlogs so she'd like to be able to edit videos well. So, questions:

1. Are there good, free video editors out there? Which would you recommend?

2. Do said video editors make use of a GPU and how would you weight that against CPU in choosing a laptop? (i.e. If you're comparing two laptops with the same price, do you get the faster CPU with Intel HD graphics, or a slower CPU with an nVidia/AMD GPU? (She's not a gamer.)

3. Is a Core i7 worth it over an i5 for video editing? I know it's generally not for budget gaming, but I don't know about laptops and video editing.
 

GasBandit

Staff member
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400 81 0
#2
I have a friend who is going off to college soon. She hasn't finalized her budget (she's waiting for financial aid to come in) but when she does I'd like to be able to offer her some advice. She vlogs so she'd like to be able to edit videos well. So, questions:

1. Are there good, free video editors out there? Which would you recommend?

2. Do said video editors make use of a GPU and how would you weight that against CPU in choosing a laptop? (i.e. If you're comparing two laptops with the same price, do you get the faster CPU with Intel HD graphics, or a slower CPU with an nVidia/AMD GPU? (She's not a gamer.)

3. Is a Core i7 worth it over an i5 for video editing? I know it's generally not for budget gaming, but I don't know about laptops and video editing.
As much as it pains me to say, get her a macbook and pony up the 300 bucks for Final Cut Pro.

I could tell you this that and the other about how a windows laptop can be just as good as long as you do X, Y, Z and have a firm grasp of concepts like getting cracked executables, but if your friend isn't tech savvy enough to be her own IT, it's just going to be hours of headaches for her the first time she has a problem. I mean, I'm using a PC here, I've cracked Adobe Premiere, and I don't have any problems, but I've been pirating software since before your friend was alive, probably (if "about to go to college" means she's <20 years old).

But if you're DEAD SET on getting a windows laptop, make sure it has at least 8 (preferably 16) gigs of ram, and DEFINITELY get the BIGGEST BADDEST CPU you can. While Premiere can use the GPU in the editing process, the final mixdown rendering is all CPU. Whenever I render the final upload file for a video, it cranks all 4 of my cores to 100% immediately and keeps them there. CPU>GPU for video rendering.

As far as editors go, Adobe's now got their cracksmoking subscription model in place, which is a no-go for me, so I pirated premiere... but if all she's gotta do is snip out gaps to make jumpcuts in her vlogs, Windows Movie Maker is free and will perform excellently. Just bear in mind, it can't do things like chroma key, masks, mattes, or on-screen text that doesn't look like garbage. To give you an idea of the difference, I did the first 5 days of HFA2 in Windows Movie Maker, and starting with episode 6, switched to Adobe Premiere. That'll let you see the differences.
 
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#3
To answer your questions in order:
1) There are free video editors out there that are easy to use and which are comparable to iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. There are also free video editors out there that are very useful but not as easy to learn such as...Blender, surprisingly.

2) Some use CPU, some use GPU to accelerate specific functions (either natively or through plug-ins), but GPU usage is not a standard thing across all NLE (Non-Linear Editors). On top of that, different GPUs have varying levels of what they can accelerate AND different levels of quality of doing so, so just having "GPU-accelerated" on the box should not be enough to automatically lock in that choice.

3) Yes an i7 is most definitely worth it over the equivalent i5 model...IF it's one of the i7's that support hyperthreading (not all do). In many cases, the biggest difference between the equivalent i7/i5 model is that the i7 can run twice as many threads as the i5. E.g., a quad-core i5 can run 4 concurrent threads, while (most) quad-core i7's can run 8 concurrent threads (4 full speed, 4 reduced speed), which often translates to a total of about a 30% increase in performance, but that also means springing for an i7 is probably not worth it unless you can get it for only 30% more money (or less).

Reluctant as @GasBandit might be to admit it, he's probably not wrong. You can get a 13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for $1800* minus whatever her student discount can cut off the price, but as far as getting Final Cut for $300...well, because she's a student Apple will throw in full versions of Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X, Motion, Compressor, and MainStage...all 5 together for just an additional $200. That's almost like paying full price for the apps and getting the computer for only $1300. Apple is being SUPER aggressive in the "I'm entering college" market right now, but yes, she may have to buy a couple adapters because of the new USB ports not working with older hard drives, etc. If she wasn't going to be doing video editing, then there would be a lot more more (cheaper) models of Windows laptops to choose from, but that app bundle almost makes it a no-brainer, especially since Pages, Numbers, and Keynote** are also included for free with every new Mac now.

--Patrick
*The base model should be fine, if she wants to spend any extra her first priority should probably be the $200 extra to go from 8GB to 16GB RAM. There is an i7 option, but this is one of those that's really just a faster i5 with an i7 label slapped on it, not worth a 17% price increase for only a 10% speed increase, IMHO. And if she is going to be doing a lot of video/audio editing, she will definitely want the touch bar. Having one-finger access to being able to scrub the playhead is worth it right there.
**Apple's versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
 
Last edited:

figmentPez

Staff member
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#4
I don't know for sure, but I'd expect a budget under $1,000, considering she'd had to do without her own computer for the past couple years. I wouldn't be surprised if her budget is under $800. Spending $300 on a video editing program is right out.
 

GasBandit

Staff member
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400 81 0
#5
I don't know for sure, but I'd expect a budget under $1,000, considering she'd had to do without her own computer for the past couple years. I wouldn't be surprised if her budget is under $800. Spending $300 on a video editing program is right out.
Hrrmmm... that's tight. I might could figure something out on a desktop that would do well for under 800, but a laptop is a magnitude of order more expensive for less power.
 
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#6
Yes. If she's going to be doing video editing on any laptop under $1000, she's going to have to make a lot of compromises.
There's always the discount/refurb stores to go through, such as this one. Just remember that on most used laptops, RAM and hard drive are usually low priority because they can (almost) always be upgraded later.

--Patrick
 
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#7
If she's just doing a vlog, then iMovie is plenty. iMovie doesn't need a lot of power, it can run on any Mac or a newer iPad. A used MacBook from the last five years with iMovie would be more than enough for a vlog.

If she needs customizable graphics rather than the pre-generated titles in iMovie, she can get Apple Motion for $50 and export Motion projects as video clips to import into iMovie. Motion is slow on my seven-year-old MacBook Pro, but still usable. iMovie can't use the Final Cut title generators from Motion, so if she needs a lot of motion graphics Final Cut would definitely make life easier, but it's still usable with iMovie with a little extra work.


Only if she needs something that the iMovie/Motion combo can't provide should she upgrade to Final Cut. Or if she can get it at an awesome student discount. But Final Cut is overkill for a simple vlog.
 
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#8
Or if she can get it at an awesome student discount.
One of the great things about that $200 deal I mentioned is that these are not "student" versions of the programs, they are the full versions, and you get to keep them (and all their future updates) on your purchase record for the rest of your life. The bundle is almost worth it for Compressor, which is sort of like a prettier version of Handbrake.

--Patrick
 
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#9
I realize that this is an older thread, but how does Apple define "student"? I'm enrolled in a program for a second professional designation, which I am obviously taking an extended break from while I am unwell. Would that deal apply to me as well or do I need to be young and entering college for the first time?
 
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279 17 0
#10
I realize that this is an older thread, but how does Apple define "student"? I'm enrolled in a program for a second professional designation, which I am obviously taking an extended break from while I am unwell. Would that deal apply to me as well or do I need to be young and entering college for the first time?
I believe the definition is "enrolled," but I think it also applies if you yourself are an educator. Maybe @Tress or @MindDetective can shed more light?
(Apple's website just says, "College students only. Verification required.")

--Patrick
 
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#11
This isn't a college, it's a professional association and I'm working on a second professional designation. Boo :(

I do train our co-op students! I could write a creative letter to them lol.
 
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#12
I believe the definition is "enrolled," but I think it also applies if you yourself are an educator. Maybe @Tress or @MindDetective can shed more light?
(Apple's website just says, "College students only. Verification required.")

--Patrick
My understanding is that teachers don't count, but I've never really dug into the question.
 
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#13
Educators have a different program, but you usually have to go through your educational institution, and if it's not very big they may not even support apple's educator discounts.
 
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#14
I realize that this is an older thread, but how does Apple define "student"? I'm enrolled in a program for a second professional designation, which I am obviously taking an extended break from while I am unwell. Would that deal apply to me as well or do I need to be young and entering college for the first time?
When I was in school you just needed a .edu email address. If you have that it's easy enough to try and get into the education section of their store.
 

fade

Staff member
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160 1 0
#15
I bought two separate macs straight from the Apple store with a faculty ID. It said "FACULTY" in huge letters on it, so the clerk would've had to have been blind. They gave me the same discount I got as a student.
 
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