Can You Edit a Video Without a Graphics Card?


If you’re looking into getting a new setup for video editing or evaluating one you have, you might have questions about the necessary computer components. Can you edit a video without a graphics card?

You can edit a video without a graphics card, as any functioning computer could. The only question is, how much time do you have? Although integrated graphics can do the job, expect longer processing times, more crashes, less software compatibility, and slower exporting.

Fortunately, there are some solutions, regardless of your budget. Whether you’re looking to build a bare-bones system or max out your next video editing rig, keep reading for more tips.

Is There Any Alternative?

If a dedicated graphics card isn’t in your budget right now, there’s another viable alternative to editing with integrated graphics alone. AMD has a line of APUs or Accelerated Processor Units such as the AMD Ryzen 2700U that are considered a step up from standard integrated graphics.

What is an APU? Essentially, it’s AMD’s version of integrated graphics. However, since AMD makes graphics cards as well as processors, they know how to incorporate more superior graphics into their chips. Check the benchmarks, and you’ll see that Team Red’s performance is vastly better than Team Blue.

Why Should I Invest in a Better Graphics Card?

While the graphics card, or lack thereof, might not be the most important component in your system, there are a few reasons why spending a few extra bucks to get a dedicated GPU might be worth it:

  • For intensely CPU-heavy processes, the GPU Acceleration aids the CPU by taking over some responsibility, particularly when rendering in high resolution.
  • The GPU and CPU work together to produce 3D and other VFX.
  • A dedicated GPU is necessary when working with DaVinci Resolve. The software heavily relies on the graphics card for playback, as well as rendering.

The general wisdom on graphics cards for video editing is that they can boost performance, but only to an extent. Investing in a high-end card probably won’t net you much more performance boost than a mid or even low-end card might.

Although some benchmarks might show otherwise, Studio1 Productions ran some of their tests using Adobe Premiere in more realistic scenarios. Their results showed that the higher-end cards were only a modest improvement over budget cards.

What Other Components Are Important for Video Editing?

While your graphics card’s quality has the most impact on video editing, this is not the case when it comes to other components in your system. The CPU is also an important factor, but other parts can still be valuable, particularly for compatibility. Here are some of the things to look for:

  • CPU or processor: This component is the real workhorse behind video editing. Whether you decide on getting an APU processor to save on the graphics card or opt for a CPU and dedicated GPU, a processor with higher core counts and thread counts will make editing faster and smoother. At least 6 cores are recommended for running Adobe Premiere, but more cores are recommended if you work with very complex timelines.
  • RAM: 8 GB of RAM is essential for video editing, and 16 GB is recommended. The performance boost from additional RAM is fairly linear, so investing in more RAM makes sense if you have the funds.
  • Storage: Options here will likely depend on your budget. SSDs will always be superior, but HDDs can offer affordable options for some types of storage. Some of the advantages to certain storage setups are practical, and others affect performance, particularly when importing/exporting media. 

Puget Systems has a great video explaining in detail the ideal way to manage storage for video editing, but here are the highlights:

  • An SSD is always better than an HDD.
  • 2 SSDs are better than 1. The object here is to separate your OS and software from your project files and media.
  • The best-case scenario is 3 SSDs: the first drive contains the OS and editing software, the second drive houses your working projects and source media, and the third drive is devoted to your media cache and storage.

Ultimately, your storage setup will depend on how many active projects you plan to run at any given time. How much storage does 4K video take up? Many factors can influence that. Check out this article for more details on calculating your own storage needs.

Motherboard

There aren’t any major concerns regarding a choice of motherboards, other than the obvious compatibility issues: if you’re building, make sure the motherboard supports all of your components. Besides those mentioned above, check:

  • Sound quality or ports for a soundcard, if you’re concerned about high sound quality.
  • Consider your storage needs: does it have enough SATA connections for extra hard drives?
  • Check to make sure it has enough USB 3 ports for your externals.

Power Supply

While the power supply won’t affect your editing performance, you certainly want a quality unit that ensures your system won’t break down. Here are some things to look for:

  • Power requirements: How much power do you need? Of course, it depends on your system setup. Luckily, Newegg has a convenient calculator that helps you determine your power needs.
  • Efficiency rating: Power supply with a higher efficiency rating will waste less energy drawn from the wall. To qualify for Energy Star status, PSUs must be 80% efficient or greater. More efficiency also means a cooler system and longer lifespan.

What Are Some Good Budget Graphics Cards?

If you decide to go with dedicated graphics, there’s good news: data shows that performance plateaus with graphics card quality fairly quickly, so that high-end cards won’t be much of an improvement over a mid-range or even budget card. Here are a few recommendations:

Both of these cards are in the $150-200 range. It should be more than enough to handle all but the most complex timelines without dropping frames.

What Would a Good Budget Setup Look Like for Video Editing?

If you’re looking to build your own video editing rig and don’t want to break the bank but still want quality, Linus Tech Tips will not steer you wrong. Check out this video he made of a budget system capable of smooth 4K editing: 

Here’s the system he recommends as the bare-bones for a smoothly-functioning video editing setup:

His build comes in at $926.26, but of course, component prices will fluctuate.

What Are the Most Important Components to Upgrade?

If you want better performance and can afford to spend a little more, focus on your GPU and RAM. Most editing software is also CPU-dependent, and more cores and threads will result in faster editing and processing. Likewise, although 8-16 GB of RAM is a recommended minimum, 4K editing can easily take advantage of 2x or even 4x more RAM.

Conclusion

The bottom line for 4K video editing is that while integrated graphics can get the job done, everyone has better things to do than stare at barely-moving progress bars. You’ll save yourself much time and frustration by investing in higher-quality components for your video editing computer.

My Current Video Editing Setup and Favorite Products

Apple MacBook Air M1 512GB Ram (Waiting for the new 16in pro)

https://amzn.to/3BEJLP3

LG 27MK400H-B Full HD Monitor with FreeSync 27″ (I literally have 4 of these) 

https://amzn.to/3n2idiK

Razer Holiday Bundle Cynosa Chroma Gaming Keyboard, Abyssus Gaming Mouse, Goliathus Chroma Mousepad

https://amzn.to/3kWummJ

KTRIO Large Gaming Mouse Pad with Stitched Edges

https://amzn.to/3jJRqW4

Panasonic LUMIX G7 Digital Camera – Great Entry Camera for Shooting and Streaming

Neewer Ring Light Kit — A Must Have

https://amzn.to/2Yusl9P

Emart Green Screen Backdrop with Stand Kit – Affordable and Lots of Uses! 

https://amzn.to/3thLRkX

Elgato Stream Deck Mini – I only need the 6 keys

https://amzn.to/3yGJFVq

Sources

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