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Desktops

Can I buy a cheap video-editing PC?

What components do I need for a cheap video-editing PC?

Hi, I'd like to buy a PC for video editing but I don't have an awful lot of money and I've heard they can work out very expensive. I'd like to spend no more than £700. What sort of components should I have inside the PC?

Michael Dickens

You're right -- PCs designed for video encoding are typically very expensive. That's because video encoding is one of the most demanding things you can do with a PC and it requires a monster of a PC to do it properly.

Fortunately there are some budget PCs that can do a great job of video editing -- you just have to ensure you have the right components. Firstly you'll need to buy a PC with as fast a processor as you can afford. If you're looking for a PC that's in the sub-£1,000 price bracket we'd recommend you opt for one that uses a dual-core processor.

You'll also need to get as much RAM (Random Access Memory) as you can afford -- at least 1GB is recommended. When video encoding, the computer puts chunks of data into RAM where it can be manipulated with greater speed. If there's not enough RAM, then data chunks are processed more slowly.

Other hardware you may need include video-capture cards or video-encoding cards. The former is an additional card that fits into a PCI slot and provides a port for capturing video from a camcorder or VHS recorder. Some have sockets for both analogue (S-video input/composite) and digital (DV or digital video) camcorders.

Video-editing cards have special hardware that is dedicated to rendering and MPEG encoding. They tend to be quite expensive, but some can encode video in real time, instead of frame by tedious frame. Ordinary graphics cards have very little to do with video editing, so don't worry about splashing out on a PC with a fancy 3D gaming graphics card.

Your final major consideration should be a large hard drive. What size depends entirely on the amount of video you intend to store, but as a rough guide, 1GB of hard drive space is enough to store around 1 hour of high-quality video footage.