In this article, we’re going to help you find the best CPU for video editing. Specifically the best choice for you, according to your budget and needs.
We’ve looked at the options available on the market and narrowed down the meaningful choices to just five top picks, each of which picked to address a different price range. These picks range from impressive sub-$100 budget picks for amateurs to monstrous Threadripper chips for those with the most money and least restraint who desire the absolute best performance.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, we’re fairly sure that we’ve caught you within the scope of our research.
In addition to the picks, we’ve also included a detailed buying guide at the bottom of the article, just in case there’s anything you need to learn before making an educated buying decision. We want to be thorough, and that means making sure that you have all the tools you need to pick the best CPU for your needs.
Best CPU For Video Editing
Based on our extensive research we found these to be the top CPUs for video editing. Let’s dive in:
Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Boost Clock: 3.6 GHz | Overclockable?: Yes | Out-of-Box Supported Chipsets: B450, X570, and newer AM4 chipsets (older chipsets may require BIOS update)
The Ryzen 5 1600 AF is a very interesting processor, and for more reasons than just its great performance-per-dollar.
The Ryzen 5 1600 AF is actually a rebranded Ryzen 2600 in terms of architecture, which means its cores are based on Zen+ technology rather than standard Zen used by the non-AF 1600. That makes this more than just a rebranding or refresh- that makes this CPU significantly better than the part its replacing- about ~10% or so in terms of raw performance!
No competition from Intel- or even AMD’s own CPUs in this price range- exists. The Ryzen 5 1600 AF is an unbeatable CPU for those who can’t afford to spend more than $100 on a CPU, no matter what they’re doing. This is the cheapest we would recommend for video editing, though- we wouldn’t recommend bumping down even further to something like the 3000G.
Verdict: Best Budget CPU For Video Editing / Best Video Editing CPU Under $100
#2. AMD Ryzen 5 3600
Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Boost Clock: 4.2 GHz | Overclockable?: Yes | Out-of-Box Supported Chipsets: B550, X570, and newer AM4 chipsets (older chipsets may require BIOS update)
We imagine for most people who are trying to do video editing for, say, YouTube videos and etc, this is an ideal sweet-spot. It’s adequate for 4K, and fairly speedy for 1080p and 1440p alike.
The Ryzen 5 3600 boasts AMD’s current-gen Zen 2 architecture, which offers significant performance improvements over past Zen architectures, and still outstrips current-gen Intel architectures in terms of multi-threaded performance.
If you’re curious as to why we didn’t opt for a 3600X here instead, the answer is there isn’t a real difference. Both chips can be overclocked to the same capacity and perform about the same out-of-box, just with a slight edge to the X version due to a pre-applied OC and slightly better stock cooler. You can go that route if you want, but you’re essentially burning an extra $30-$50 for no real reason.
Verdict: Best Value CPU For Video Editing / Best Video Editing CPU Under $200
Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Boost Clock: Up to 4.4 GHz | Overclockable?: Yes | Out-of-Box Supported Chipsets: B550, X570, and newer AM4 chipsets (older chipsets may require BIOS update)
Of course, we know many of you out there have a desire for more power.
While you don’t need a CPU this powerful for 4K video editing, a Ryzen 7 3700X will definitely come in handy to make the process easier. (So long as the rest of your system can keep up with it, of course- we’ll dive into a bit more detail there later.) For most people, this should be the practical limit for video editing, since video sharing sites are not currently offering streams above 4K and 8K TVs are a luxury reserved for very, very few right now.
Compared to the 3600X, this is a roughly 20% improvement in raw performance in exchange for a roughly 30% increase in price. There are definitely worse value propositions out there in PC hardware, but since that now gets this single component scarily close to breaching the $300 ceiling, we still feel like that’s worth noting.
Verdict: Best CPU For Video Editing / Best Video Editing CPU Under $300
Cores: 12 | Threads: 24 | Boost Clock: Up to 4.6 GHz | Overclockable?: Yes | Out-of-Box Supported Chipsets: B550, X570, and newer AM4 chipsets (older chipsets may require BIOS update)
Now we have the truly high-end option, for those who are perfectly willing to spend extra as long as it’s best for their business or other video editing-related pursuit. The sheer number of cores and threads on offer in the Ryzen 9 3900X means that it should provide somewhere in the range of 50% more raw power than the Ryzen 7 3700X, since most editing applications scale very well across multiple cores. In exchange for this 50% boost, you will need to pay another 60% in price.
(At least, when both chips are at MSRP- at the time of writing, the 3900X is on a discount that makes it only 30% more expensive than the 3700X. That’s actually a pretty good deal- we hope it’s still available when you read this!)
However, there is more to be said about editing CPUs and their performance than talks of pure performance-per-dollar. You can make money back- that’s what an investment like this should be for, ideally- but you can’t get time back. Even if you aren’t doing super high-end 8K video editing, a chip like this could absolutely decimate lower-resolution footage at a speed completely unfathomable to those other CPUs. If you want to spend more time living your life and less time at a workstation or waiting around for a video to finish rendering, that extra money may genuinely be completely worth it for you.
Ultimately, we’ll leave that decision up to you- you have all of the information you need in order to make that choice in this article. If you read through these reviews first and are confused as to what all this tech jargon means, keep reading to the buying guide below, where we’ll explain all that stuff to you!
Verdict: Best High-End CPU For Video Editing
Want a little boost without dramatically increasing price and changing motherboards? Consider the Ryzen 3950X.
Cores: 64 | Threads: 128 | Boost Clock: Up to 4.3 GHz | Overclockable?: Yes | Out-of-Box Supported Chipsets: TRX40
We’re going to be honest here: this is not a practical pick. But since we’ve titled this article “Best CPU For Video Editing”, we do need to include the CPU that is statistically the best for video editing and … pretty much every other professional workload.
Meet the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X. This is a behemoth CPU offering a whopping sixty-four Zen 2 cores with 128 threads. No way around it: that is a genuinely and completely insane number of cores and threads. Any workload that needs a ton of threads, like video editing, pretty much has all it could ever need to succeed with a CPU like this.
However, it’s important we inform you properly. While this CPU does have over five times the number of cores and threads as the Ryzen 9 3900X, it does not have five times the amount of performance in a video editing workload. It does still offer a performance improvement- all of the Threadripper chips do- but these improvements are comparatively marginal for video editing workloads.
Where all of these cores are actually put to use are in tasks much heavier than video editing, like compiling applications. But for video editing purposes alone…your practical improvements ended somewhere around the Ryzen 3900X, which is why that’s our main High-End pick.
Going with Threadripper over the AM4 processors also incurs some other concerns you’ll need to take into mind, as far as compatibility and performance goes. These concerns are:
- Threadrippers don’t ship with CPU coolers, and require high-end coolers to perform optimally. We recommend high-end air or liquid CPU coolers for the best results.
- Threadrippers can’t use the AM4 socket or chipsets, and instead require a motherboard using the TRX40 chipset. If you don’t want to find your own TRX40 motherboard, we recommend choosing one of the Threadripper+TRX40 bundles on this CPU’s product page.
- Threadrippers require much more RAM in order to reach their full performance- consider 64 GB RAM a minimum, and 128 GB RAM an ideal target.
Verdict: Best No Compromises CPU For Video Editing & Other Professional Workloads
Want some of that Threadripper goodness but this is a little out of your price range? Consider the 24-core 3960X or 32-core 3970X instead. For video editing purposes alone, the differences are very marginal, but you’ll save a lot of money.
Getting The Right Video Editing CPU & FAQ
In this section, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know in order to choose the best video editing CPU for you.
What makes a CPU good for video editing?
While other factors (such as per-core performance) certainly have an impact, video editing and other professional workloads benefit most when a CPU has an abundance of cores and threads to work with. Even if individual core performance is weaker on a given CPU compared to a competing one, it can still get an edge in workloads like video editing if it has more cores and threads to work with. The reason why is that these applications are made to better distribute labor across multiple threads, and are generally much less complex than your typical game engine. Getting a game engine to utilize a bunch of different threads requires quite a bit more optimization than it does for editing software, and this is why games tend to favor single-core performance more than raw core count.
What are cores and threads?
Cores refer to the physical processing cores present inside your CPU, and threads refer to these cores as seen by the operating system. Thanks to a technology called SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading, also known as Hyper-threading from Intel), some processors are able to present one physical core as two threads, rather than just one, to the operating system. For gaming workloads, this doesn’t really do much, but for productivity purposes, this gives a significant boost to performance. CPUs with SMT are ideal for productivity, streaming, and video editing for this reason.
What are base and boost clock speeds?
Clock speed describes the speed at which a CPU core runs at, measured in Gigahertz. Base clock speed is a guaranteed base clock the CPU can always reach, and a boost clock speed is one the CPU can reach in ideal conditions- the right motherboard VRMs, CPU cooler, and etc. The higher the clock speed of your CPU, the higher the overall performance, at least when it comes to per-core performance.
Boost clock speeds should not be confused with overclocking, though. Overclocking is when the user decides to manually increase clock speed (as well as voltage and other elements) in a CPU in order to achieve higher speeds, at the risk of system instability and cost of increased power consumption and heat.
For the purpose of video editing CPUs, you don’t really need to worry about clock speeds and the such after you’ve purchased the right CPU. This particular workload is more dependent on core/thread count than raw per-core speed.
Why all the AMD CPUs?
Even though Intel processors may have slightly higher per-core performance than AMD, which gives them a slight edge in many gaming scenarios, AMD is the king of multi-threaded CPUs. The sheer density of cores and threads on offer by AMD, in addition to their generally-better performance-per-dollar, made their CPUs shoo-in picks for this article. If you would prefer stronger gaming performance alongside great multi-core, you can still get that with Intel: just expect to spend more on an i7 or i9 series Intel processor.
Note: For all compatibility-related concerns with Threadripper processors, consult the Threadripper product review above, where we’ve discussed those. The sections below apply to the rest of the CPUs, which are mainstream Ryzen chips.
Will my motherboard be compatible with these CPUs?
As long as you’re using a B550 or X570 motherboard, yes. If you’re using B450, that will largely depend on your motherboard manufacturer, but most B450 boards on the market should work. If you want some piece of mind while shopping for an appropriate non-Threadripper Ryzen motherboard, check out our article on AM4 Motherboards– sans one pick, every motherboard in that article is known to be out-of-box compatible with Ryzen 3000 Series CPUs.
Does my CPU include a cooler?
Yes, all AMD Ryzen CPUs include a fairly respectable stock cooler, except for Threadripper chips.
As long as you don’t plan on overclocking and you mount your cooler correctly, then all of the included CPU coolers should serve you quite well, though we would still consider opting for a high-end CPU cooler when using a Ryzen 7 or Ryzen 9 CPU. Getting a higher-end cooler will allow these CPUs to more comfortably reach their rated Turbo frequencies and, of course, enjoy lower overall temperatures. If you can afford a Ryzen 7 or Ryzen 9 chip, chances are you can also afford an aftermarket cooler to make it just that little bit better.
Is my CPU overclockable?
Yes! All AMD Ryzen CPUs are overclockable, so long as you’re using a B350, B450, B550, X470, or X570 chipset. Only the super-budget A-series chipsets aren’t capable of overclocking.
Should I overclock my CPU for video editing?
Realistically, you aren’t very likely to see a big difference. Overclocking most benefits single-core performance, which is more of a gaming concern than an editing one. If you do opt to overclock, just make sure that the rest of your components- CPU cooler, motherboard, power supply- are sufficiently high-quality to match. For the purposes of editing alone, though, we wouldn’t recommend pushing an overclock here.
What about the rest of my system?
While we can’t really fit a full build guide in this section, what we can do is give you some pointers on the rest of your components for a video editing-centric PC build.
- Motherboard: Compatible B450/B550/X570-based AM4 motherboard.
- RAM: 16GB or more of DDR4 RAM.
- Storage: More is better, but if dealing with particularly high-fidelity footage, opting for an NVMe SSD may be wise.
- Video Card/Graphics Card: For video editing purposes, you don’t actually need too much raw power here- something like the EVGA RTX 2060 KO should serve you perfectly. (Especially if you’re willing to do some tweaking.)
And that’s it!
We hope that this article helped you find the best CPU for video editing, at least for your particular budget. If you have any remaining questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below!