Mac vs PC – Choosing a laptop to edit HD video on.

Yeah I know, it’s the age old debate. But just lately I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a new laptop later this year and have been evaluating both options. My current laptop is still an old Dell 5150 from January 2004. It has a 3.06ghz Pentium 4 CPU with multi-threading. It’s been a reliable computer, but there are some things like editing HD video it just can’t handle. For that reason alone it’s been neglected, along with the thought of using a laptop at all to edit HD video.

But things have changed a lot over the past 6 years and it seems laptops have caught up and are now powerful enough to edit HD video on. Another factor to take into consideration is that Macs can now run Windows too. Considering all the key Programs I run including Vegas, Acid Pro etc are all strictly Windows only, then I most probably wouldn’t bother with OSX at all if I had a MacBook Pro with Boot Camp running on it. And I’ve actually heard of a few Windows video guys who edit on MacBook Pro’s running Windows. So that’s definitely an option, and a MacBook Pro is something I will be evaluating here.


Alright, so first up lets go to the Australian Apple website and see what they have on offer. I’m looking at machines priced under $3000 Australian. I see a 15″ MacBook Pro listed at $2999, so what does that offer? It has an older Intel 2.8ghz Core 2 Duo cpu. Fair enough, I’ve got a 2.4ghz Core 2 Duo desktop machine I can edit HD video on. It also has 4gb 1066mhz DDR3 ram which is ok too, a 500gb hard drive and a 1440×900 pixel LED display. Now I like the LED part, but 1440×900 resolution? Are they serious? It’s hard to believe Apple still haven’t increased their screen resolution after all these years. My 6 year old Dell has a 1600×1200 resolution screen, and to be honest, anything less would be a compromise.

So speaking of Dell, lets see what they have on offer in the same price range. After spending a few minutes browsing their site and seeing what’s on offer I’ve configured a machine for the price of $2849.80. Roughly $150 less than the Apple. The machine I’m looking at is the Studio 16 XPS, a classy looking computer that I’m sure I remember seeing ‘Chloe’ use on an episode of Smallville a month or so ago. The computer has an average user rating of 4.4 out of 5, so it can’t be that bad. Straight to the specs, here’s what the machine I configured comes with. Firstly it has an Intel® Core™ i7-820QM CPU. Now any geek who knows their CPU’s will agree this is a nice CPU to have in a laptop. Next up the display. I’ve configured it with an Ultrasharp 16″ 1080P (1920×1080) RGBLED display which is what increased the price to $2849.80. Perfect for editing HD video! With that display and CPU, the Dell is already a clear winner in my book. But it also has 8gb 1333mhz DDR3 ram, which is faster and double what the Apple comes with. The hard drive has a 640gb capacity which is more also, and even it’s video card has double the capacity of the MacBook Pro. Lastly the OS that ships with this Dell Studio is Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit, the current top of the range Windows operating system.

So there we have it, for less than $3000 Australian, the Dell Studio 16 XPS is clearly the winner for a laptop that can edit HD video. I’m sure many people will say Dell are rubbish, but I need look no further than my wife’s little Dell 2ghz Centrino which is nearly 5 years old. She uses that little computer daily for writing stories and takes it to work, the beach and everywhere inbetween. That thing is still very reliable, even with the amount of sand under the keys from the trips to the beach, the scratches and peeling paint around the corners. Many current Mac users will probably argue that they need a MacBook to run OSX. Well, that’s no longer the case either. I visited a website recently where they have this software I think, that will let you run OSX on a net book! And most other modern laptops actually. Sorry, I can’t remember what site it was, but the truth is that you can run OSX on most PC’s these days. A Google search may provide you with the info you’re looking for.

5 Responses to “Mac vs PC – Choosing a laptop to edit HD video on.”

  • Mark Alan Thomas on February 22, 2010

    You wouldn’t believe how close I came two weeks ago to getting this exact Dell XPS model, and for the same reasons you mentioned — chiefly the RGB LED backlights and the i7 — but in the end, after much debating, research, and back-and-forthing, I went with the 17-inch MacBook Pro.

    Going with the Mac came down to a few things. I’ve been using Macs for over twenty years and all of my familiarity and software is with this platform. The true benefits of the RGB backlight on the DELL are somewhat…unclear and unproven — deeper blacks probably, and a theoretically wide color gamut, but the Mac Books have killer color already, so I dunno. The i7 seemed like the most obvious, provable benefit, but then I checked out an XPS in person and it was huge, plasticky, very loud with its fans racing constantly, and just not very beautiful or elegant. Compared to the MacBook Pro — which is sleek and finely machined and whisper quiet — the Dell seemed very arcane and clunky — superficial concerns for sure, but hey. So for me, like a lot of Mac users, build and style were enough to boot the i7 to the back of the line. For now.

    Which means, of course, that now that I’ve laid down the cash for this model, new MacBook Pro models will come out next week with RGB backlights and i7s. But hey — it’s always like that.

    I will say that after two weeks I’m not regretting getting this thing, although text sure is freaking microscopic.

  • Mark Alan Thomas on February 22, 2010

    Incidentally, the 1440 x 900 screen resolution of the 15-inch MacBook Pro makes perfect sense…for a Mac. Because the Mac display resolution is 72 dpi, an HD screen on a 15-inch MacBook Pro would make type on the display damn near impossible to read. PCs are 96 dpi, so fonts are considerably larger for the same type size. For example, 12-point type on a Mac is 12 pixels tall — there’s a 1:1 ratio between pixels and points. This is deliberate, since it correlates to the standard typographic (PostScript) measure of 72 points per inch. On the PC, 12-point type is 16 pixels tall. That’s a very substantial difference. So where the Mac is concerned, you really don’t want to pack an HD screen into a 15″ panel. It’s even pushing it on my 17-inch model. Good thing I’ve got extremely good eyesight! For now.

  • avene on February 22, 2010

    That’s interesting. I never thought they would be that noisy, although those models do have a sub woofer built in apparently. I’ll have to visit a local Dell kiosk some time and have a look. Probably by the time I get around to buying one later in the year there most definitely will be new models from both companies. Since writing this I’ve discovered that the Dell actually has real leather wrapped around part of the screen. Skin from a dead cow! That’s not good. Might be best to wait and see.

    My concern about the monitor resolution is more a case of being able to render something at 1080P and view it back at that exact resolution. Still, even with the font differences, I would still be running Windows on there. In which the fonts would still be 16 pixels tall. That’s interesting though, I never knew about that before.

  • Mark Alan Thomas on February 22, 2010

    Yeah, if you went with a Mac, you’d have to get the 17-inch model as I did. That’s the only Mac laptop that’ll do full 1080p.

    That’s right — I remember reading about the leather trim on the XPS! But wasn’t it a build-do-order option?

  • Glenn Thomas on February 24, 2010

    Yes, the 17″ model. That would be nice, but is still a bit pricey. Around $1600 (Australian) extra for the faster model. Maybe if they release a new model with updated specs, it might be an option.

    I went and had a look at that Dell today. It’s not too bad actually.. The LED backlit screen I definitely like. And the sound with the built in subwoofer. By far the best sounding speakers I’ve heard on any laptop. You can clearly hear the extra bass.

    The leather part looked dodgy. I don’t know what they were thinking putting that on there. I would find some way of removing it for sure.

    The plastic feel of it, I know what you mean. It doesn’t feel as solid as a MacBook Pro I agree. That’s probably how they able to keep the price low. Lydia’s old 13″ model Dell is a lot more solidly built with metal panels.

    Anyway, once I can afford it, I’ll check again what the best option is. In fact, I’ll probably have a iPad by then :)