How to Build a 4K Video Editing PC on a Budget in 2020

How to Build a 4K Video Editing PC on a Budget

Are you looking for a new computer for video editing? You don’t need to drop $53,000 on the highest-end Mac in order to edit 1080p, or even 4K video!

In fact, you can get in the door for under $500, and have a no-compromises editing PC for under $1000! There is always a good argument for spending more on better hardware, but if you’re on a tight budget then this is the way to go! Special thanks to Emmanuel for the photo in the cover image.

Under-$500 Entry-Level Editing PC

Before talking about our 4K system, let’s talk about a potential starting point. If you want to start editing now, and then upgrade later, this is a great budget system with an excellent upgrade path. We’re going to be using some of the main components in the $1000 build too, so don’t skip this part!

This comes in at just about $350, which leaves plenty of money for buying Windows 10 (or just install Windows and never activate it, and you’ll have mostly-full functionality with a small watermark on your screen) and any larger-capacity storage drives you may need to store all of your footage.

This is a great system for getting started. The Ryzen 3 3200G is a 4-core processor that includes impressive integrated graphics. It’s a steal for under $100! It will be able to handle some 3D effects and rendering just fine. The CPU can be overclocked to get even more performance, and the ASRock motherboard we selected has a lot of overclocking headroom for a low-power CPU like this.

Most importantly, the motherboard can support any Ryzen CPU, including one of the insane 16-core models. So the upgrade path is there if you ever need more performance. Notably, this PC is missing a graphics card. The 3200G has solid onboard graphics, and a graphics card can be added later for increased performance in graphics-intensive editing programs. The 3200G also includes its own cooler that is plenty adequate even when overclocking, so there is no need to buy anything else.

Fast RAM is important to Ryzen, and 16GB is the bare minimum you should have for video editing. We went with a 2-stick kit of RAM, which leaves two empty slots on the motherboard. If you wanted to upgrade to 32GB later on, you can just buy another of the same kit. It clocks in at 3200Mhz, which might not mean much unless you’re pretty computer savvy. This is a pretty fast speed that this processor will like, but you’ll need to do some tweaking to make sure it runs at that advertised speed. We went with a high-quality kit of RAM that is no-frills but gets the job done while looking clean in your system.

Picking a case is mostly up to your personal aesthetics, and with RGB fans and a clear side panel, you can make a great gamer-looking PC. But since this is for video editing, we picked something a little more reserved. The Thermaltake Versa H15 is a micro ATX size, so it will be fairly compact, while still offering a lot of features. It does not have a clear side panel, so any mess on the inside will be concealed. It has a hard drive cage that supports three 3.5″ hard drives, for maximum storage. And while a bit outdated, it also has a place for an optical disk drive if that is something you need. Additionally, it comes with a pre-installed exhaust fan, which is all you need for a lower-powered system like this one.

Finally, we’re using a 256GB Silicon Power SSD, which will boot Windows super fast, and has enough space for your OS and some important programs like the Adobe suite. For the technically-inclined among you, it is important to note that this is a DRAM-less SSD, which normally makes it less ideal for Windows, however you’re not likely to run into any problems. If your budget permits it, looks for an SSD with a DRAM cache instead. We didn’t include any storage drives in this budget build, but you may have an external or backup drive lying around if you need some temporary storage.

You will be able to edit 1080p video with no issues, and 4K as well. You might just need to reduce the playback resolution to 1/2 or lower for smoother playback. You should also expect fairly long render times, especially for 4K video.

Under-$1000 4K Editing PC

This PC will shred through any render you throw at it! The Ryzen 7 3700X is an 8-core processor that will do a great job with any video editing program. It also comes with a big cooler with nice-looking RGB lights, so it will stay nice and cool while looking great. Overclocking with the stock cooler may be a bit more difficult with this processor, but you also get a lot less out of overclocking it as it works pretty well right off the bat.

We’re using the same motherboard, which comes with all of the same benefits.

The CPU doesn’t have integrated graphics, so we will be leveraging a graphics card. The GTX 1650 is a lower-end card, but you don’t need much for most video edits. If you’re doing complex 3D work then you might need something more powerful, though. If you have a bit of extra money, consider going with a GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, because this card has special technology that works nicely with Da Vinci Resolve. An Nvidia graphics card may be preferable to an AMD card (even though you pay a little more) because they are better for CUDA-accelerated tasks. This one will get you off the ground – and you can even do some gaming or streaming with this CPU/GPU combination. With a 2020 update to Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Media Encoder, having a graphics card is more valuable than ever. These apps now offer hardware encoding support for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, and GPU rendering is fast. Nvidia claims that render times could be up to 5 times faster with this technology. Having used it myself, I have to say it is quite impressive and takes a lot of load off of the CPU, meaning it’s easier to do other intensive computing tasks while rendering video.

We’ve upgraded to 32GB of RAM, which is perfect for high-resolution video editing. We’ve gone with the same high speed, and a similarly non-flashy look. The case is the same one, for the same reasons, but we have added a set of quiet fans to keep things cool, since we’re working with more powerful hardware that will heat up warmer.

We went with a different SSD, this time one that has a DRAM cache, and there is room in the budget for some additional hard drive storage if you don’t have any already.

This is the dream PC for any editor on a budget. The CPU and RAM are the best of the best within reason. You can go further, but there are diminishing returns. This set of hardware will be perfect and will render through projects quickly. And if you want to play some games, you can do that too. The great thing about PCs right now is that a gaming PC and an editing PC are almost the same.

For both of these PCs, the name of the game is upgradability. You’ll be able to reuse all your parts in the future, or easily upgrade individual components. Ryzen 1000, 2000, and 3000 CPUs, any graphics card, any DDR4 RAM, and any storage drives will be compatible with this machine. When buying a pre-built computer or a Mac computer, on the other hand, upgrades are limited.

Building a computer can be a fun task, but can certainly have its frustrations. Watch some in-depth build guides on YouTube, and remember to read all of your manuals, especially the case’s manual. Both precautions will make the building process less painful. PC components are fairly standardized, so any build guide from the last few years will be great. Good luck building, editing, and upgrading!

Read next: The Top 10 Highest Paid Streamers in the World (and How They Make Money)

SEE ALSO – 14 Great Sites to Learn Video Editing

11 Replies to “How to Build a 4K Video Editing PC on a Budget in 2020”

  1. Valerio says:

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    I have one question, can I buy the ryzen 3 3200G instead of the 2200G? Will it be compatible with the set up?

    It is only 3 euros more but a bit faster than the 2200G.

    Cheers

    1. Mason Lindblad says:

      Yes, definitely! This was written before the Ryzen 3000 series came out, but I would definitely recommend it. It will be compatible. Every new B450 motherboard that is currently selling new should come ready to use the 3000 series. And you can get any B450 motherboard that is available, I know that supply and availability is unpredictable right now.

  2. Dylan Howe says:

    Solid choices for an under-$1000 build. However, I would definitely go for a larger internal SSD if you’re editing in 4K. Actually, with this build you can have enough leftover to buy a Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB.

  3. Eric Yu says:

    Can I have Ryzen 5 instead of Ryzen 3? Cuz in future I might even actually upgrade the rest of the parts. For SSD DRAM Cache, I need 500 GB to 1TB storage, any other recommendation?

    1. Mason Lindblad says:

      Yes of course! Just be aware that the Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 won’t have integrated graphics so you will need to purchase a dedicated graphics card as well. I suggested the Ryzen 3 for the budget build because it does not require a separate graphics card. For the SSD, there are some great ones out there. The best of the best is the Samsung 970 EVO but those are quite expensive. Brands like WD, Sandisk, and Crucial are also great options.

      1. Jano says:

        Hi what about resolve? Will it work for basic editing on say a ryzen 5 3400g with the integrated vega 11 graphics

      2. Mason Lindblad says:

        Yeah, definitely! All of the Ryzen processors with integrated graphics are great for getting started with Premiere, Resolve, and every other editor. With 6 cores, the 3400G should do very well, although remember that RAM is important for editing as well, and the Vega graphics reserve a portion of RAM for themselves that is taken away from the overall system memory.

  4. Eric Yu says:

    Can Ryzen 3 GPU be combined with a dedicated GPU? Also, is ADATA ULTIMATE SU800 (512GB) M.2 2280 SATA 6Gb/s 3D NAND SSD better or 2.5inch ADATA SSD? Is 512mb/s writing speed considered slow when transferring a huge video? Let’s say 30Gb size? Or should I get an SSD with 1000mb/s and above transferring rate?

    1. Mason Lindblad says:

      The built-in GPU will not be “combined” with a dedicated GPU, nor would I recommend that. If you want to use a dedicated GPU I would recommend using the Ryzen 3 3100 or Ryzen 3 3300X over one of the Ryzen 3 CPUs that has built-in graphics. Those are going to be 4 cores / 8 threads rather than just 4 cores / 4 threads.
      If you can afford it, you should definitely buy a nicer SSD. Since these computers are based on a lower budget, I didn’t cover more expensive drives. The Samsung 970 EVO is one of the most popular upgrades. If you’re using an X570 motherboard, you can also use a PCI-E 4.0 SSD for even faster speeds.

  5. Jerry says:

    Mason, your excellent article has been a big help for me. I am preparing to buy parts for the “Under $1000” build. Unfortunately, the ASRock MBs are all out of stock, and prices have increased substantially. That got me to thinking maybe the 570 chip set for just a little more $$ could give a performance boost and provide some future proofing. So I am thinking Asus AM4 TUF Gaming X570 ATX (I have ATX case), Ryzen 7 3700X, MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti gpu, and 32GB (2 x 16GB) G. Skill Ripjaws V Series 288 Pin DDR4 3200. Does this combo make sense performance wise? I will be running Vegas Edit 17/18 and editing 4k shorts.

    1. Mason Lindblad says:

      Thank you, I’m glad it was helpful! I have noticed the lack of motherboards lately, it is quite unfortunate. I think that going X570 would be a good idea. Even though you’re spending more money on the motherboard, it will still be cheaper than switching to an equivalent Intel CPU and motherboard. Great build!

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