With the rise of YouTube, ever more intuitive editing software, and a quality camera at the hands of most thanks to the wide-spread adoption of smartphones, video editing is one of the most in-demand skills.
While all this means more people than ever can get into video editing, the demands remain steep, requiring in most cases a beefy rig. In particular, video editing places a heavy demand on the CPU as one of the most processor-intensive tasks out there. A better CPU can prove vital in cutting down rendering time and inject some much-needed flow into the creative process of chopping and slicing video.
Whether you are a budding content creator, a professional piecing together high-quality marketing material, or simply want to save life’s precious moments for posterity, you’ll need a CPU up to the task. But, which CPU is best suited for video editing? Today, we’ll be answering that very question as we zero in on the very best CPU to bring your cinematographic visions to life.
How We Picked
Mirroring virtually all other PC components, the range of CPUs suitable for video editing looms large over anyone burdened with making a choice. This is particularly true if you are only just making the jump into video editing, notably those who are more used to standing in front of the camera than dealing with the production process behind the scenes. Therefore, we aim to break down the process to save you time, effort, and frustration.
Due to video editing inherent intensiveness, our search for the best CPU very much centered on finding the processors that pack the most power, rapid rendering, as well as price-to-performance value. In many ways, video editing’s demands aren’t dissimilar to those of high-end gaming, meaning there is generally a lot of crossover, and the CPUs below will invariably have a home in a gaming setup worth its salt.
Ultimately, we settled on five CPU models that, in our estimation, offer stellar video editing performance. As always, budget also played a considerable role, and we’ve tried to provide an option for everyone regardless of how much money you plan to spend.
Best CPU For Video Editing in 2021
Top-tier video editing performance
Most powerful retail CPU on the market
Core and thread count
Hands-down, the best CPU available for video editing is the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X. With a place of honor atop AMD’s retail CPU family, there’s virtually nothing else on the market to compete unless you dip into AMD’s high-priced Threadripper line-up, which costs considerably more. It is no wonder that it proudly sports the crown as the best consumer-grade CPU on the market today, even ousting Intel’s most powerful 10th-Gen Core chips.
Under the hood, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X consists of AMD’s 7nm Zen 2 architecture, 16 cores, 32 threads, a base clock speed of 3.5 GHz, a boost clock speed of 4.7 GHz, and a 105 W TDP. These specifications, notably the high core and thread count, will tear through any video editing task you throw its way, whether that’s in the encoding/decoding or rendering fields, including 4K/8K footage.
We highly recommend this excellent chip for anyone who edits professionally and wants an option that offers a smooth and fast workflow. It also doubles as a decent gaming and even streaming CPU, perfect for anyone that plans to use their setup for games and streaming alongside video editing.
Looking to the negative, there’s nothing in a technical sense that weighs down AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, but it does come with a hefty premium, which means it is reserved for those with a sizable budget.
Lowest-priced high-end video editing CPU
Excellent editing and gaming performance
Not quite as suited to video editing as the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
Coming in second to the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is our runner-up best CPU for video editing, the Intel Core i9-9900K. The Intel Core i9-9900K features 8 cores, 16 threads, a 3.6 GHz base clock speed, 5.0 GHz boost clock speed, a 95 W TDP, and if it weren’t for the Ryzen 9 3950X would have easily featured as our best CPU for video editing.
Intel’s injected its single-core know-how into the Core i9-9900K, meaning it excels at video editing tasks and gaming, making it an ideal best of both worlds option for those using their rigs for different CPU-intensive tasks. While the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X trumps it overall, Intel Core i9-9900K remains a video editing powerhouse capable of handling complex timeline editing, encoding/decoding, and rendering at lightning-fast speeds.
It may have been superseded by Intel’s new batch of 10th-Gen Core processors, but it long stood as the company’s premier chip and with good reason. The fact it is no longer top of the Intel pile means that discounts are slowly trickling down to retailers, making this a great value option if the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is out of your budget range.
Fantastic task handling capabilities
Video editing performance not too far below the top-tier CPUs
Lags behind Intel when it comes to single-core-favoring tasks
If the above two CPUs are out of your price range, our next top pick is the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, one of the most popular ‘Performance’ CPUs released by AMD in recent years. It strikes a nice balance between video editing performance and price, ideal for those that want a reliable chip without dropping more than $400.
The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X oozes the multithreading performance found in AMD’s products, allowing it to throw its weight around when it comes to intensive tasks, smoothly juggling footage within a timeline, and excellent rendering speeds. The rendering times naturally fall behind the top-tier options, but we are talking a matter of a few additional minutes in most cases rather than adding hour upon hour to the process.
Powering this is AMD’s 7nm Zen 2 architecture, 8 cores, 16 threads, a 3.6 GHz base clock speed, 4.4 GHz boost clock speed, and a 65 W TDP. You’ll note these aren’t far off the Core i9-9900 K’s specifications, so picking an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is a bargain with a much lower price in comparison.
The only real downside is gaming performance, which falls behind Intel’s options. We can only recommend the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X for those using it purely for video editing and possibly some light gaming.
Superb 1080p/2K video editing performance
Affordable for an Intel chip
Performance declines at 4K and above.
If you prefer Intel to AMD but are on a budget, you’ll find a lot of great video editing performance in the Intel Core i7-9700K, which is why it’s nabbed the spot as our best value Intel CPU for video editing. Specifications-wise, Intel Core i7-9700K shows its video editing capabilities with 8 cores, 8 threads, a 3.6 GHz base clock speed, a boost clock speed of 4.9 GHz, and a 95 W TDP.
It’s not the most beefed-up CPU out there, but it more than stands its ground for most video editing tasks thanks to high boost speeds and value proposition compared to other Intel options, and is well worth considering.
It’s worth noting that the Intel Core i7-9700K does tend to stumble when it comes to 4K or higher video footage. Nevertheless, it performs beautifully for 1080p and even 2K, whether that’s providing a fast workflow conducive to creativity, encoding/decoding, or rendering. AMD chips are generally lower priced: as with all Intel products, you pay a premium for the name.
Top of the pile when it comes to price-to-performance
Performance is limited compared to more expensive CPUs
The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X is without a doubt a perfect all-round entry point into video editing that won’t break the bank. Because of this, it was difficult to find another CPU that deserves a berth as our top budget CPU for video editing other than this nifty little chip. The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X packs in AMD’s 12nm Zen+ architecture, 6 cores, 12 threads, a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz, a 4.2 GHz boost clock speed, and a 95 W TDP.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t expect the performance or rendering times of the CPUs above, nor is it particularly suitable for those that want to future-proof their builds, but for the price, we can overstate how much the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X offers to users. Video editing workflow is respectably smooth, rendering won’t eat into your precious time too much, and the chip can handle resolutions up to 1080p without a hitch.
Things To Consider
The Importance of a Good GPU
The CPU is the centerpiece of any decent video editing rig, but if you plan to spruce up your videos with complex post-production flair and effects, then you’ll need to make sure your other components are up to the task.
While most of the rendering work falls to the CPU, software developers are increasingly in the habit of offloading some processes to the GPU, notably Adobe Premiere Pro.
The bottom line is that if you plan on rinsing After Effects for all its worth and include numerous effects in your rendered video, then ensure you’ve got a quality GPU to match the CPU. Doing so will significantly improve rendering times.
If you plan to produce a straight video with next to no additional instances, then the GPU doesn’t play such a vital role, and we recommend investing in a better CPU.
Time is money, or so the adage goes, and this is extremely pertinent when it comes to video editing, specifically rendering. A good CPU will do wonders to reduce the amount of waiting involved as software transforms your carefully constructed edits into a viewable video. If you edit professionally and a quick turn-around is a crucial part of the job, then biting the bullet for a better CPU will invariably prove beneficial in the long run.
On the other, if video editing is a hobby you do in your spare time, you don’t have any looming deadlines, and you don’t mind leaving a PC on overnight, then rendering times are far less critical, which gifts you some leeway when it comes to choosing a CPU.
PCs are expensive, and it’s in everyone’s interest to save money where they can, so while rapid rendering times are desirable, they aren’t vital to all editors, so buy accordingly to save a bit of cash.
With most smartphones now able to capture footage in 4K, there’s a good chance your editing work will invariably involve this crystal clear but this resource-intensive video quality. There’s no sense in beating about the bush here: 4K requires a workhorse CPU. Otherwise, it’s all frustration, waiting, and ultimately, a pretty dire video editing experience. Nothing kills the flow of a project like a choppy timeline and snail-paced rendering. Naturally, the same applies to higher resolutions, such as 8K, which require even more resources from a CPU.
If 4K or higher footage is your bread and butter, we can’t stress the importance of opting for the very best high-tier CPUs. They offer a much smoother active work experience and reduce rendering times considerably. Look for higher core and thread counts rather than higher clock speeds if you are handling high-resolution footage.
Of all the CPUs out there, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X stands tall as the best CPU for video editing. It requires an investment, so it is geared towards those that want the very best performance and for whom money is no object. It’s an excellent CPU from the folks at AMD and fully deserves its reputation as the best consumer-grade chip on the market today.
Jumping across the battle lines, we have the Intel Core i9-9900K. Despite a dip in video editing task handling, it’s still one of the best out there and will more than handle anything you can throw its way. For those looking for a mid-range option, both the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X and Intel Core i7-9700K are versatile CPUs offering a seamless editing experience.
Round-off our selection of the best CPUs for video editing is the extraordinarily affordable yet surprisingly capable AMD Ryzen 5 2600X, a perfect entry point to editing for newcomers and amateurs alike.
With that, our guide to the best CPUs for video editing comes to an end. We hope you’ve gleaned some useful information and now feel comfortable about making that all-important choice. Drop us a line in the comments section below with any questions or comments.