Is CPU Or GPU More Important For Video Editing?

CPU is hands down more important than a GPU for video editing. Even though the final rendering of your video project will be done on the GPU, it won’t matter how fast it is if your CPU itself is slow, as this will bottleneck the entire process.

Most video editing software out there heavily depend on CPU power for peak performance so a high-spec CPU, followed secondarily by your RAM will always equal a smoother and faster video editing experience. 

But note that I wrote MOST video editing software depends heavily on the CPU for video editing. 

There has in recent years been an increase in the popularity of video editing software driven by GPU power. These programs such as DaVinci Resolve depend more on your computer’s graphical processing abilities than traditional editing powerhouses such as Adobe.

So if you use video editing software that is made from scratch to take advantage of graphical processing capabilities, having a powerful GPU might be more important than a powerful CPU.

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Why is the CPU more important for video editing?

Video editing requires a lot of data to be processed very quickly – information like where data is coming from, what data should arrive next, and instructions to render certain elements are managed by the CPU.

Even though the final rendering of your video project will be completed on the GPU, the GPU can’t render if the CPU doesn’t keep telling it what to do next. 

This is why the CPU is the most critical component in a video editing setup.

What CPU is best for video editing?

Selecting the correct CPU for your editing needs can save you a lot of frustration and even money down the line.

While video editing has become more accessible over the years (most laptops these days can handle a moderate amount of video editing) if you want to edit video professionally, you’ll need a dedicated computer with the right components.

When choosing a CPU for your video editing build, make sure it is equipped with a multi-core processor. Most video editing professionals recommend not going below the 6 core count. 

Current generation Intel i3 CPUs only have 4 cores, while i5 and i7 have 6 and 8 cores respectively.

While an i9 is a top-of-the-line option for a video editor, you will also have to dish out the cash (upwards of $400). Any i7 should be a good middle ground in terms of price and performance but if your budget is really tight, an 11th gen i5 processor can be procured for around $200 from the Intel store on Amazon. 

However Intel is not the only competitive player in the CPU market. 

AMD has become a popular choice thanks to their new Ryzen lineup. AMD Ryzen CPUs offer similar if not better performance compared to their Intel equivalents.

AMD Ryzen uses a similar nomenclature as intel to rank their CPUs. Their top-of-the-line CPUs are the Ryzen R9 series. These are the CPU with the highest core count and are the most heavy on your wallet. An R9 is more or less equivalent to an Intel i9. Similarly, R7, R5, and R3 are equivalent to i7, i5, and i3 respectively.

With AMD CPUs, the rule of thumb remains the same. Stick with an R7 or an R5. The latest generation R5 has 6 cores similar to the intel i5. Just stick with the last 2-3 generations and you should be good.

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What other components are important for video editing?

While there is no doubt that CPU has the most impact on your video editing experience, that doesn’t mean the CPU is working in isolation. Things like RAM and storage also affect your PC’s performance during video editing.  

First, let us talk about RAM. 

RAM is important because when you are working on a video editing project, all the work you are doing is stored there.

For video editing, the rule is that you need at least 16GB of RAM. That is the bare minimum. Generally the more RAM you have, the better your set-up will be able to edit videos.

Most professional video editors have computers with somewhere between 32GB to even 64GB of RAM, but having said that, if you are on a budget, 16GB of DDR4 RAM should be able to cope fine for the majority of tasks. 

And just because video editing is CPU intensive doesn’t mean you can get away without a GPU. 

A decent GPU means that you can cut down render times and add special effects or transitions in your edits without slowing down your entire project.

Your storage device, while not as important as the CPU, RAM, and even GPU, can also have an impact on your video editing experience. 

Faster storage will allow you to read that data faster when you are importing footage. But this should be the last thing you should spend money on, especially if you are on a budget.

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The emergence of video editing software that take advantage of GPUs

Now, this may sound contradictory, especially since I spent most of the article talking about how the CPU is more important in video editing. But certain video editing programs are more GPU-heavy than CPU reliant.

So while the rule of thumb is that CPU is more important than GPU for video editing, programs like DaVinci Resolve are an exception to this rule.

DaVinci Resolve has become a popular alternative to video editing programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas Pro. Unlike these two, DaVinci Resolve uses GPU’s processing power during video editing to manage all the processes.

Anything with vRAM of more than 6GB should be pretty good. And now that RTX 3000 series cards are returning to close to their MSRP prices as supply chains begin to fully resurrect themselves, it is a good time to snatch a decent GPU. 

An RTX 3070 would be the best bang for buck and future-proof you for a few good years. Go with an RTX 3060 a go-to if you are on a budget.

Round up

CPU is more important than a GPU for video editing. Most video editing programs are CPU intensive. The faster your CPU, the smoother your video editing experience.

The order of priority goes CPU>GPU>RAM>Storage. So keep this order in mind when selecting parts for your computer. You can’t go wrong with a recent generation i5 or i7. Combine that with an RTX 3060 and 16 GB of RAM and you can get a decently powered video editing rig for a good price.

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