The little brother to Apple's professional-level video-editing application, Final Cut Pro HD, Final Cut Express HD offers a professional look and feel in a midrange video-editing tool, with only marginally reduced features.

Upside: Final Cut Express HD comes loaded with many extras, including nondestructive drag-and-drop editing (meaning the original clip is not altered during the edit), multiple undos, compositing, limited keyframing, support for Adobe After Effects and LiveType title animation tools, alpha channel support, and support for High-Definition Video (HDV). It also comes with professional tools such as razor blade, named after the sharp-edged old-school celluloid editing tool, and a good set of transitions that you can preview in real time. The interface is clean, comprehensible, and not at all dumbed down. In addition, Apple provides an easy upgrade route from Express to the Pro edition so that you don't have to relearn everything if you decide to buy the big guns.

Downside: Final Cut Express HD and Final Cut Pro HD don't always process tasks the way other Mac OS X applications do, so Final Cut Express HD may bog down all but the most powerful computers when working on complex projects. And Final Cut Express HD doesn't support all video formats (for example, Express doesn't work with uncompressed 8- and 10-bit video), doesn't edit to tape, doesn't do batch capture or export, and doesn't have some advanced color-correction features. While these are key capabilities to professionals, amateurs probably won't miss them.

Outlook: No other application at this price level works with HDV, making Final Cut Express HD the first prosumer application to make the leap to the high-quality standard. If you're operating on a tight budget, we predict it'll be a great deal. Check back soon for our full review.