Configure a MacBook Pro for Video Editing [u]

speed201[UPDATE 3: In Nov, 2019, Apple released the 16″ MacBook Pro. While these specific recommendations refer to earlier MacBook Pros, my general suggestions in terms of where to spend money remain the same. UPDATE 2: In July, 2018, Apple updated MacBook Pros again. While the technology has changed, my general recommendations remain the same for these new units. UPDATE 1: In June 2017, Apple updated their MacBook Pro laptops with new processors, more SSD storage and renamed, but not changed, GPUs. ]

A frequent email request from readers is help in configuring a computer for video editing. There are many options and, sometimes, it is hard to decide the best place to spend your money.

Yes, the launch of the new MacBook Pro has had its share of controversy. But, what if you still need to buy a laptop for video editing? What do you really need? How much do you really need to spend?

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get the right system. Let me help you decide what you need to buy.

NOTE: Here are three other configuration articles you may find useful:

There are many reasons to buy a laptop, with portability leading the list. However, the MacBook Pro has enough power that you can reasonably consider it for your principle editing system, especially when you combine it with an external 5K or 4K monitor.


I recommend 15″.

Whether you are running Premiere or Final Cut, larger screen sizes help. Both these interfaces work better on larger screens.

Second, while Apple has expanded – and vastly improved – the speed and storage capacity of the MacBook Pro, I still recommend storing projects and media on an external drive. While there is a benefit to storing everything on the internal hard disk – portability and speed being two of them – using a second drive allows you to move projects between computers, as well as access to your data in the event your computer goes into the shop.

However, for best results, you would be well-advised to consider an external SSD if you want speed, or a RAID if you need more storage space. Single hard disks will work, but don’t equal the performance of the laptop itself, or these other two options.



I think it does. I found it increasingly helpful as I worked with the unit.

NOTE: Here’s an article that explains how the Touch Bar works in Final Cut Pro X.


I think the current battery controversy will be resolved quickly through software. However, even more than that, video editing burns through batteries, regardless of how long they are supposed to last.

For me, all my editing – even on the road – is done when I’m attached to wall power; excepting only the very tiniest projects. Since I’m never on battery power for editing, how long the batteries last is not an important consideration for me.

UPDATE: The battery issue was traced to a bug in the OS. This is no longer an issue.


This depends.

If you are principally doing video editing, you can save money by purchasing the 2.6 GHz processor. Both Premiere and Final Cut heavily leverage the GPU and, while the CPU is important, if you are on a budget, you can conserve dollars here.

UPDATE. As the processors and speeds have changed, read this now as: Editing does not require as fast a processor as video compression. The base level processor will be fine for most editing, while a faster processor will benefit compression.

However, if you are principally doing transcoding and compression, then the faster CPU makes sense as both of these tasks use the CPU much more than the GPU.

NOTE: Keep in mind that all the new MacBook Pros use hardware acceleration for H.264 compression, which makes creating videos for the web extremely fast even on slower processors.

UPDATE: And, the 2017 versions now support hardware acceleration for H.265 video.

If budget is driving this decision, selecting the slower processor will be fine, the differences between the two are not significant enough to warrant the extra cost.



The internal SSD storage of the new MacBook Pro is the fastest I’ve ever measured. It is SERIOUSLY fast!

If you plan to store your media and projects on an external drive of some sort, then get the 256 GB SSD. The operating system and all your applications will take less than 30 GB, leaving plenty of room for temp files and general work space.

However, if you need to have everything stored on the laptop itself, buy the most storage you can afford. SSDs have continued to increase in storage capacity. If you plan to store media externally, you don’t need a very large SSD. Again, the OS only takes about 30 GB of storage.

UPDATE: Here’s an updated article on storage speeds and media requirements that will help you put your storage needs into perspective.


This is the opposite side of the CPU question. A GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is specifically designed for rendering bitmapped images very, very quickly. For the first time, all MacBook Pro laptops include both the “built-in” GPU from Intel and a discrete (meaning “separate”) graphics system from AMD called “Radeon.”

There are three different Radeon GPUs: the 450, 455 and 460. The distinctions between them are the number of compute units – 10, 12, and 16, respectively – and the amount of VRAM – or RAM attached to the GPU itself. The 450 and 455 have 2 GB of VRAM, while the 460 has 4 GB. More compute units means more processing power, while more VRAM means faster performance.

NOTE: You can read more about these Radeon GPUs here.

UPDATE: With the 2017 upgrade, all GPUs were renamed, but not change. So, the Radeon 450 is now 550, 455 is now 555, and 460 is now 560. Performance and recommendations have not changed.

If you are principally doing video editing or motion graphics work, purchase the 455 or, if you can afford it, the 460.

If you are principally transcoding and compressing, the base-level 450 GPU will be fine.


All 15″ laptops have 16 GB of RAM. My tests have shown this is more than sufficient for virtually all video editing.

NOTE: Here’s an article that goes into editing performance on the MacBook Pro in much more detail.


Yes. The MacBook Pro only has USB-C ports. If you have existing devices, you’ll need a converter cable for Thunderbolt 2 devices and a second cable for traditional USB devices.

NOTE: Apple also realizes that we are in a transition phase between ports, so they’ve extended their promotional prices on Apple USB-C adapters (specifically, USB-C to USB-A, Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2, and USB-C to Lightning). Plus, the reduced pricing on the new LG 4K and 5K monitors have been extended to March 31, 2017.

Also, if you have a lot of devices, consider a dock, which takes a single USB-C cable from the computer and splits it into a wide variety of separate ports.


speed203The base level 15″ MacBook Pro is $2,399 (US). This will be fine for all SD and general HD editing that is not effects-heavy.

Adding a higher performance GPU to this system will improve effects and color grading performance and be adequate for virtually all HD editing, even multicam work. This raises the price to $2,599.

If you are working in 4K or higher resolutions, do lots of effects work in After Effects or Motion, and are principally focused on video editing, the higher end laptop with 512 GB of storage and a top of the line GPU will be a better choice. This raises the price to $2,899.

And, for those of you who believe that money is no object, the top of the line system complete with all the storage Apple can cram into it, will set you back $4,299.

If it were my money, I’d go with the $2,899 system:

As always, I’m interested in your opinions.

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148 Responses to Configure a MacBook Pro for Video Editing [u]

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  1. Jeff Madden says:

    Hi Larry,

    I’m editing with Premiere Pro CC on a Macbook Pro:
    2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor
    Solid state 1TB internal hard drive
    Graphics: Radeon Pro 460 4096 MB
    Intel HD Graphics 530 1536 MB

    With everything I edit using both HD AVCHD files as well as 4K h.264 mp4 files from a Canon C200, I can rarely playback the video in my timeline without constant freezes of the image. It seems like the system can’t handle any of my footage.I’ve tried changing the render settings to OpenCl, Metal and software only and I’ve tried to playback at 1/8 resolution and still have the same problem. Is my system missing something, or do I need to have the laptop serviced? Thanks so much for your time.

    • Larry says:


      You didn’t tell me which version of the macOS you were running. But, assuming it is recent:
      * Set render settings to Metal.
      * Make sure your storage is fast enough to play back the 4K files
      * Try creating proxies to see if they play better. 4K AVCHD is REALLY hard for most computers to process in real time.
      * Make sure your storage is fast enough to support 4K
      * The Intel GPU won’t be fast enough.

      Adobe is continually improving H.264 performance. Make sure you are running the most current version.


  2. Robar bund says:

    Hi Larry,
    Thanks so much for a lovely article.
    I’ve been a long time follower of your articles/videos and have much to credit you for all my editing abilities.
    I mostly edit HD videos and I am anticipating working with 4K videos in the future (and getting into colour grading and more). I plan to buy the new 2018 MacBook Pro.
    Between 2.2 GHz and 2.6 GHz, which one should I buy? It seems like there isn’t much of a difference.
    Also, is 16GB RAM enough or should I go for 32GB?
    And finally what GPU would you suggest?

    Much gratitude.
    Thank you!

    • Larry says:


      First, if you have the money, buy the most of everything. That is always the ideal choice. However, if you have to prioritize, and you need portability, buy a 15″ MacBook Pro. If you DON’T need portability, you will get more power for less money by buying an iMac. Laptops don’t have the same power as a desktop.

      With that first decision out of the way, prioritize:
      * GPU – get the fastest you can afford. Much of video editing is moving to the GPU.
      * RAM – more RAM helps as you start to edit 4K and RAW
      * CPU – CPU speed is not as critical as it used to be, but still makes a difference in video compression.

      Just my thoughts.


  3. Ryan says:

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for all the great info you provide. How do you think this would handle small (under 15 min) projects in premiere at 1080 and also 4k? It’s the top end 2018 macbook pro 13 inch with 16g ram?


    Touch Bar and Touch ID
    2.3GHz Quad-Core Processor
    256 GB Storage

    2.3GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor
    Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
    Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
    16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
    256GB SSD storage1
    Retina display with True Tone
    Touch Bar and Touch ID
    Four Thunderbolt 3 ports

    • Larry says:


      The duration of your projects is, basically, irrelevant. Much more important questions are:

      * What codec?
      * What frame size?
      * What frame rate?
      * How effects heavy?
      * Are you doing multicam editing, if so, how many cameras?
      * How tight are your deadlines?
      * How heavily will the system be used?

      Your system will totally work. The bigger question is whether it will work FAST enough to meet your deadlines, given the media it is editing. If you aren’t creating 4K projects, or 6-camera multicam work, on a daily deadline, this is a nice system.


      • Ryan says:

        Thanks for the reply Larry. I would mostly be using 1080 h264 files at 30 fps but would like to start to getting into 4k ( maybe proxie files would be the way to go). No multi cam but effects like titles, color adjustments and tracking. Also some AE compositing. I would rather have the Imac but don’t want to spend the money on a 2017 machine.

        Also I’m wondering about a lack of GPU power in 13 inch.

        Thanks again,

        • Larry says:


          This is basically a fine system, my biggest concern is that a 13″ screen is going to feel small for video editing.

          What a faster GPU gets you is NOT higher quality, but faster render times. You have a good amount of RAM and a fast SSD, so, overall, your system will edit quickly.

          256 GB is not a lot of storage, so plan to get some external storage as the number of your projects expands.


  4. Ryan says:

    Thanks for the help Larry.


  5. Micah williams says:


    Thank you for the helpful article. I am getting ready to purchase a 15” MacBook Pro and have a limited budget and will have to make some choices.

    Right now I am using a MacBook Air with Final Cut, most recent version, and it barely does it.
    I shoot 4k, color grade, usually two or three cams, and other effects. I usually shoot 24fps but sometimes 60.
    Deadlines aren’t tight but I am tired of a machine that barely does the job.

    I am currently looking at the newest model 15” MacBook Pro
    2.2GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz
    Retina display with True Tone
    Touch Bar and Touch ID
    Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
    16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory
    256GB SSD storage
    Four Thunderbolt 3 ports

    My question is first will this work for what I am suggesting and second if I was going to upgrade in one area, which is all I can afford, where would you upgrade.


    • Larry says:


      I like all these specs. If you can only invest in one thing – AND assuming you have sufficient high-speed external storage, because 256 GB won’t be enough for the media projects you contemplate – then buy the best GPU you can afford.

      ANY GPU will work – what you are spending your money on is more speed. FCP X and Premiere both highly leverage the GPU for effects and export. If you don’t have a fast RAID, spend your money on that before buying a better GPU.


  6. Luke says:

    Larry this is supremely helpful. I am just starting out in the video editing field. I will be editing videos for my YouTube channel. I would love to be able to edit in 4k at 60 fps but from what I have been reading here and else where it sounds like this is irrefutably out of the question. So I will be mostly editing 1080p at 60 fps. Most of my ‘editing’ consists of just trimming clips, maybe adding some audio. I am currently looking on Apple’s ‘refurbished’ page, as they have some great deals right now. Tax refund comes in a couple days. What setup do you recommend?

    • Larry says:


      There is extremely limited value in posting 4K media to YouTube – 1080p is more than adequate.

      As for buying refurbished gear, my recommendations remain the same in terms of how to prioritize spending money.


      • Luke says:

        Okay thank you! This is what I’m currently looking at:

        15″ MacBook Pro
        2.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7
        16GB of 2400MHz DDR4 onboard memory
        256GB SSD
        Radeon Pro Graphics 560X

        I have a 2TB Seagate external hard drive so I’m not too worried about the 256GB. Let’s say I want to err on the side of extreme caution. Hypothetically i’d like to be able to edit with Final Cut, edit music with Logic, have browser tabs open, run photoshop and be able to play videos at the same time. Do you think the 16 GB RAM is sufficient or should I jump to 32? Thank you again for your insight!!


        • Luke:

          FCP X, Logic, and Photoshop are all applications that demand as much RAM as you can give them.

          If you truly do want to run these all at the same time and you want decent performance, then 32 GB of RAM is a good choice.

          Also, keep in mind that storage capacity (2 TB) is only part of the equation, how the storage is connected determines its bandwidth. If this is a single, spinning hard drive, you’ll only be able to get about 150 MB/second from it. This is enough for HD, maybe enough for 4K, but not enough for HDR, 10bit media or multicam work. Even if you connect via Thunderbolt 3, one spinning drive is not very fast. An SSD is about 400 MB/second, while the latest NVMe solid state drive are up to 2.8 GB/second. Just FYI.


          • Luke says:

            Thank you so much for all the useful information! I feel like I am making a much more informed decision now. All the best,


  7. Naveen tomar says:

    Hlo i have a confusion .i have my mac book pro i5 with retina display.2012 model.
    Plz tell me should i use leatest version of fcp and its leatest plugins in it..plzz reply as soon as possible..

    • Larry says:


      If you can run the latest version of macOS on your laptop, you can run FCP X.

      Whether you will get the performance you expect is an entirely different matter. Personally, I think you are reaching the end of life for upgrades for that gear. At some point, I would stop upgrading it and start saving for a new computer. Just use it with the software you currently have on it.


  8. Swapnil Bhartiya says:

    Hi Larry
    Thanks. I am a journalist and do multi-cam video interviews. (Two Panasonic GH5 for Subject and One Sony A73 for a host). I record audio on MixPre. I have the 2018 MacBook with Vega 20. The new MacBook with 8 Core is out. I am considering upgrading to it. Since my camera shoot in compressed do you think it makes sense to upgrade to the new MacBook? I prefer a MacBook over iMac Pro as I am on the road most of the time. So what is your advise? Will it be more efficient. I still can’t edit 3 clip shots in 4K on my MacBook 2018 – lots of stuttering. Will 8 Core CPU help?

    • Swapni:

      Will the new MacBook Pro help edit 4K multicam? Maybe.

      Three things control performance here:
      * The speed of your CPU
      * The codec you are editing
      * The speed of your storage.

      Stuttering points first to the speed of storage. Multicam 4K requires a minimum bandwidth of 200 MB/sec from storage. Depending upon what you are using currently, this is always the first suspect.

      Second, some codecs, such as H.264 and, even worse, HEVC, are very hard to edit and highly CPU intensive. Even fast storage may not be enough to edit multiple streams of these codecs.

      My recommendation is to shift to proxy editing with your current storage and see if that helps. You can easily do the edit using proxies, then, with a single click switch to high-quality master files without changing any settings, titles or effects.

      I would recommend proxies first. If that fails, try optimizing your media. If that fails, then look at getting a new computer.


  9. Emiliano Rodriguez says:

    Hi Larry, quick question here. I need to replace my old MacBook Pro, wich I use for jobs outside my editing bay. So Im thinking about getting a new MacBook Pro. Looking at this specs right now:

    2.3GHz 8‑core 9th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz
    16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory
    Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
    512GB SSD storage

    I don’t use a lot of effects or transitions, but I do a lot of color grading (FCPX or RESOLVE). Also I don’t get involved in super tight deadlines very often. It happens sometimes, but generally speaking, I don’t do that kind of work.

    The only situations in which I have to deliver a lot of videos very fast, are always very short videos without a lot of effects or graphics (simple social media stuff). But, in general, in that situations you get footage from various different cameras, drones, gopros, etc., and you don’t have the time to optimize or make proxies. (You have to ingest, edit, and export in a rush). So, the main goal is to be able to edit HD and 4k, in as many codecs as possible, without the needs to compression/conversions/proxies.

    I know that you recommend to prioritize the GPU over RAM for video editing, but just a minute ago I read a response from you saying that “FCP X, Logic, and Photoshop are all applications that demand as much RAM as you can give them”. That made me think about what would work best for me.

    If you have to choose, would you upgrade to 32GB RAM (US$400), or the GPU to the Radeon PRO VEGA 20 (US$350)?

    PD: My actual main editing system is a 27-inches Late 2012 iMac, 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7, 24GB Ram, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX 2GB. The idea is that the new MacBook Pro could become my main editing system for a while, so I can sell the iMac before it gets to old. Do you think this MacBook Pro would do a better job than my current iMac?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Larry says:


      I’d get the extra RAM. Given your work and the deadlines, if things get tight, you can always add an eGPU. You can’t add more RAM. And, yes, this could be a good transitional editing system when the time comes to upgrade your iMac.

      I also like your choice of the i9. Very, very powerful.


      • Emiliano Rodriguez says:

        Hi Larry, thanks for that quick response! Another question now. What do you think about the 2.9GHz 6-core Intel Core i9 processor from the 2018 models? How does it compares to the new 2.3GHz 8‑core Intel Core i9 processor that comes with the 2019 models? I was looking at the refurbished Macs, and from the same amount of money I could get the 32GB RAM plus the Radeon Pro VEGA 20, but with the old processor. Wich one would you recommend?

        BRAND NEW 2019 MODEL

        2.3GHz 8‑core 9th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor,
        32GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory
        Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
        512GB SSD storage


        2.9GHz 6-core Intel Core i9 processor
        32GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory
        Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory
        512GB SSD storage

        Thanks again!

        • Emiliano:

          I have not tested the two side-by-side, however, in general, I think it would be a wash. What you “lose” with the 6-core CPU you more than gain with the faster GPU.


  10. Matthew says:

    Hi Larry,

    I’m about to edit an independent feature film on Adobe Premiere Pro shooting in 4K on the Arri Alexa and I’m considering if my MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016) can hack it, with the following specs:

    2.7GHz Intel Core i7
    16 GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3
    Radeon Pro 455 2048 MB
    Intel HD Graphics 530 1536 MB

    Running Mojave and will most definitely be using a big RAID 5 array via Thunderbolt (think 24TB should cover it?)

    Do you think I’ll need to spend the time to make proxies or will I be able to edit native without any hiccups? Speed and turnaround is key since I’ll be editing on-set as they shoot each day so proxies are not optimal but neither is choking the machine and stuttery playback/crashing!

    Also hope to be running it out to a 4K monitor via an HDMI adapter, fyi.

    Thanks for whatever you can tell me!

    • Larry says:


      The Arri Alexa shoots a variety of different video formats. Check with the director to see which one they’ll be using. 4K Arri RAW, for example, would need to be converted into something editable, which is VERY processor intensive.

      Before buying storage, find out which format they are shooting, what it needs to be converted into, and allow 2X room for work files and proxies. While proxies may not be necessary, it won’t hurt to plan to use them in terms of sizing storage. 24 TB SOUNDS like a lot, but 4K HDR 12-bit video formats can take 1 GB per second, or more. If the director starts to create high shooting ratios, your storage will disappear quickly. Also, find out if multicam shooting is involved. That will DEFINITELY require a proxy workflow.

      (As a side note, a RAID-5 containing five drives, will only deliver about 500 MB/second of media. This won’t be fast enough for many 4K HDR video formats. You may need to use an 8-drive RAID or an SSD RAID. Again, video formats vary, but 4K HDR requires extremely high bandwidth. Even if your computer is fast enough, your storage may not be.)

      Can your laptop handle the editing? Most likely, yes. Can it handle the deBayering to convert the ArriRAW files? Yes, but it may be slow.

      The GPU in your laptop is underpowered, but, as long as you are using it for dailies review and rough cuts, you’ll be fine. If you are creating lots of color grading and effects, you’ll still be fine, but it will be slow. Adding an eGPU at the end of the editing process will speed things up.

      Before you commit, get some test footage in the format they expect to shoot and test your system. Always better to find out if there are any problems BEFORE the deadline clock starts ticking.


      • Matthew says:

        Larry — thank you so much for your detailed reply!

        So it turns out we’re only shooting ProRes 2k in a 1.65 aspect ratio so not nearly as huge as 4k RAW. My understanding is that its about 2Hr/TB AND I think I will be given ProRes LT converted files every day with LUT already applied coming out of Resolve. Given this information do you believe:

        1) my GPU is still underpowered for the job
        2) That Raid 5 or even a 2-Bay Thunderbolt Raid (set to RAID1) would be okay?
        3) a 10TB Raid would be sufficient – the director thinks we’ll have an 8-to-1 shooting ratio for a 2 hour movie, so 16 hrs of footage even at the full ProRes quality estimates out to 8TB total, but like you said we want to have some cushion. (needless to say cost is a factor, we are lowish budget).

        If you could reccomend an exact model/brand RAID for my use that would be greatly appreciated. I’m getting some slightly larger test footage (since we’re using this odd aspect ratio) to try out as well but I think it seems like we’ll be in good shape as-is.

        Thanks again for your input and speedy reply! We start shooting on the 18th!


        • Larry says:


          In general, you always want to leave 20% free space on any storage media. So, if you think you’ll need 8 TB, then a 10 TB RAID is too small, because you’ll ALWAYS need more storage than you expect. I would recommend 12 – 15 TB. Remember, also, that in RAID 5, which I strongly recommend, you lose the storage capacity of one drive. So a 5 drive RAID 5 has the storage capacity of 4 drives. (The 5 is a “reserve” to protect you data in case one of the main drives dies.)

          I am a fan of OWC ThunderBay drives, but there are many good vendors out there.

          Based on what you’ve written, your laptop should be fine for the edit. As you are doing, get some test footage and make sure.


          • Matthew Weiss says:

            Thank you so much Larry. Only thing I’m not finding is a 5 drive RAID 5 from OWC, they seem to all be 4 Drive in Raid 5 form. Can you point me to a specific one you might have in mind, or would say, the 16TB in Raid5
            OWC ThunderBay 4 do the job?

            Thanks again!

          • Larry says:


            OWC makes 4-, 6- and 8-drive RAIDS. A few other companies make 5-drive systems. For your needs, a 4-drive Thunderbolt RAID 5 with, say, 16 TB of storage should be fine. (By the way, a 6-drive system will be about 40% faster than a 4-drive system.)

            Make sure to get a Thunderbolt RAID that matches the ports on your laptop. I can’t remember if your version is Thunderbolt 2 or 3.


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