Good question! Actually, it’s actually the CPU that plays the biggest role for video editing.
Most video editing software mainly rely on your CPU, and only use your video card for specific features.
Yes, it is true that a powerful GPU will significantly help on the exporting time.
But for doing actual video editing, having a great CPU is much more important.
Processor / CPU
The CPU is a component very specialized for extreme file processing. And this is exactly what video editing software require.
The graphic card, on the other hand, mostly handles the images rendering, like loading images faster and exporting.
About 60-80% of the time, a powerful CPU will outperform the GPU and allow to do more with your video editor.
A weak CPU will inevitably reduce the performance, and overshadow your GPU’s performance.
Memory / RAM
RAM and CPU work hand in hand. For optimal performance, if you have a strong CPU, you want to match it with at least 16GB. 32GB is even better.
This will let you take full advantage of your CPU’s power.
Basically, having enough RAM will prevent your system from running out of “active memory” and allow for smoother video editing experience.
If you don’t have enough RAM, you will experience significantly lag. Especially for big programs that are actually RAM intensive.
Having that said, having a great CPU and at least 16GB RAM should be your priority for video editing.
Don’t get me wrong, a video card is important for video editing. It improves rendering time and makes video playback play smoothly.
Also, there are many video effects that heavily rely on your video card, like 3D texts, color corrections, transitions, etc.
Basically, the GPU takes care of the “pixels and graphics” stuff of video editing, if that makes sense!
The strength of your GPU is determined by its actual architecture and how much VRAM it has.
The preview playback mostly uses GPU. Thankfully, in most video editing software, you can change the quality of the playback.
So, depending on the strength of your GPU, you will be able to adjust the playback quality.
In general, the more effects your project contains (color corrections, 3D texts, complex transitions, etc.), the more the strength of your GPU will have an effect the performance.
A few exceptions…
There are a few video editing software that break the CPU rule, and actually rely more on your video card than on your CPU.
But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you should go ahead and buy the most expensive GPU.
It just means that those programs might feel slower with a mid-range GPU.
Still, if you want the best performances possible, your best move would be to go on forums, and look for the requirements for a specific video editing software.
What is a good budget video editing setup?
The most budget setup would be a Quad-Core CPU, 8Gb RAM and any mid-range graphic card. Again, it’s the minimum.
It won’t have the best performance, but will acceptably handle normal size video editing projects.
It will run the latest video editing software, and provide you with an acceptable video editing experience.
Though, it will have compromises. Budget setups won’t allow for very big projects to run smoothly. Using After Effects compositions might also make your system laggy.
Before you go ahead and buy a budget setup for your video editing, think about what kind of projects you will produce.
If you plan on using After Effects and Premiere Pro simultaneously, you might reconsider and go with a mid-range $700-$900 setup.
If you plan on only using actual video editing softwares like Vegas Pro, Davinci or Premiere Pro, then a budget setup will do the trick!
Since video editing is a very CPU intensive, having a fast CPU is more important than a fast GPU. And having multiple CPUs is even better!
For the processor, I strongly recommend the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, or Ryzen 7 3700x.
If your budget allows it, go with the Ryzen 9. It has 12 cores, with a total or 24 processing threads.
It’s basically the perfect video editing piece of hardware. It has more threads than any Intel CPU.
The fact that AMD CPUs have more threads than Intel’s makes them more efficient for multitasking and complex workloads (like video editing).
From the newest Nvidia RTX 3000 series, the RTX 3070 or 3080 are solid choices of graphic card for video editing.
Not only they’re the most powerful GPUs on the market, they’re surprisingly cheaper than last-gen GPUs… even at the moment!
For optimal performance, I recommend getting at between 16-32GB RAM.
Having enough RAM is important in video editing, and you don’t want your memory to bottleneck your CPU and GPU’s performance.
Ideally, match the amount of memory with the complexity and size of your projects.
Go with 64 Gb if you plan on producing very long videos (ex: 2-hour long movies) or loading TONS of footage.
Go with 16-32 Gb for normal video editing, like editing entertaining videos.
Even though the minimum would be a 500Gb 7200 RPM hard drive, I recommend you get a 1000GB SSD.
SSDs are extremely faster than hard drive, and will make footage loading a ton faster.
I also recommend 1000GB storage instead of 500 because video editing sometimes requires a lot of footage and file manipulation, like importing footage and rendering a huge, uncompressed file.
You don’t want to run out of space during your editing work.