Building a 4K Video Editing PC vs. Buying a 5K Retina iMac for $1, 500

First, I’d like to say that this article isn’t meant to imply any conclusions regarding which one of the suggested custom build PC or the 5K Retina iMac is the better editing workstation. I’m sure all of you have personal preferences leaning toward one or the other of the two systems. The point here is to find out which computer configuration will give you better upgrade options along with more editing power for the same money. The final decision of course always will be yours. So, here is the suggested 4K video editing workstation from Roberto Blake who share his experience on building a custom PC and having an iMac at the same time. Ahead you will also find all the components you will need to build this particular editing Windows-based system on your own.

Apparently, at $1500 this PC build comes with 4 to 6 drives (both conventional spinning drives and SSDs) with upgrade capacity for more, a true high-end video card with the option of a secondary video card for even more power, and up to 32GB of Ram. According to Blake, for high-end 4K video editing, 3D artwork, motion graphics, and animation, a custom build video editing PC is just going to be more practical and cost-effective in the long run. The tech nerd is also convinced that raw power does matter, especially when it comes to editing and compositing, so having the top hardware at the proper specs is going to make a difference.

On the other hand, if you had the money, and you want to spend them on a Mac Pro or iMac Retina thus having a better user experience and more convenience while working you are free to go. Just keep in mind that for that price you won’t be able to come close to that level of video editing power of the PC even if you spend twice as much money. So, the main question you need to answer yourself is which one is the more practical option for your daily workflow.Undoubtedly, either system will serve you well, but the most important thing is what would be the benefits from your personal perspective.


Meanwhile, if you decide to take the PC route, here are all the components you will need to build this particular PC system.

Display Options (Not Included in Pricing)

Blake concludes that as someone who uses both Mac and PC on a day-to-day basis, he finds that if he wanted to edit 4K video on the go, he would probably choose a Macbook Pro 15″ at this point for that task. But when it comes to picking a workstation for the editing bay, building what he wants to get the job done just makes the most sense.

Which one of the two systems would you pick for yourself, guys? Feel free to share in the comments below.

[source: Roberto Blake]

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  • Very similar to the rig I built 5 months ago, PC station is definitely the better value.

  • Dale Ryan Leckie

    I edit on FCPX, so the choice is clear.

    • doubledark

      The editing in DaVinci 12.5 is pretty damned good compared to earlier versions. I would suspect many will soon make the switch and be done with XML issues that arise going from round-tripping.

      • Dale Ryan Leckie

        I have read plenty of success stories about round tripping to Resolve from FCPX and back, but I have had little success. Not that I have spent a lot of time on it. But, I’d take the editor I like over easy third party functionality. This can always be fixed, with a bit of work. So, I’ll edit on FCPX, and if need be, I’ll find a way into Resolve. But, I do agree, Resolve is kicking ass. I’d chose it over PP or AVID.

      • Martin Karel

        I am actually coming from a pretty low powered Mac mini to a relatively powerful PC (Quad Core i7, 16 GB RAM, GTX 1080, 2 Samsung SSDs…), and I used to use FCPX, so I had to switch to Resolve on the PC. I cannot believe this, but the Mac mini is smoother for 4K editing than the PC. If you have any suggestions, please let me know, but I am certainly starting to appreciate the Apple approach as I am beginning to edit videos on the PC.

  • Jared Ba

    Would the latest hdmi out to 4k tvs be a problem to add on to this?

  • RSIlluminator

    Either platform will be okay for video editing. As far as heavy 3d graphics goes, PC is a much better choice.

  • The Dude

    I’m thinking of making the switch from fcpx to resolve. So what would I need to add for Color grading?

    • Do you really understand what Resolve is? If you would switch the other way around I would understand the question.

      Resolve is superior in the grading department to fcpx in every way.

      • The Dude

        Not sure what it is you don’t understand. Resolve has editing features now right? I already own the top iMac. So if I switch to Windows I’ll be editing with resolve. So maybe the I’d have to upgrade a few components for the grading side of things, or would this suggested build be enough?

        • Misunderstood, my bad. You were talking about hardware, I was thinking about software features between apps (so I was thinking: What could you mis for grading inside resolve if you come from fcpx?).

  • Ronn L. Kilby

    Might want to include the cost of an OS.

  • Jimmy Goodwood

    Is this PC running on OS X or Windoze? The OS is more important than the Hardware. Whats the point in working faster if you lose your work due to random crashes and the blue screen of death?

    • Leo Waldock

      Random crashes on Windows 10? most unlikely. Follow the software you want to use by all means but Windows 10 is solid.

    • tonybot3

      i’m guessing you’ve just come out of a coma from 1999.

  • billpryor

    About a year and a half ago I set up an editing station at home. Even though I’d always used Macs at work, I didn’t want to spend that much for home. I also wanted portability. I went with a gaming laptop, the Toshiba Qosmio (no longer sold, but similar ones are everywhere). It cost me about half what the equivalent Mac would have been. The system has been flawless.

    Then at work one of the Mac Pros died so I switched that one out to a Workstation PC (Dell), built out to my specs. Total cost of the system was less than half the equivalent Mac Pro. It took me a few days to get accustomed to a PC, but Windows 10 is very similar to working on a Mac. Somethings are better in Windows, some things in Mac. For cost, reliability, and future expansion, the PC was the better route for us to go at work. And when the next Mac Pro dies, it will also be replaced by a PC system. In my experience, all the Mac Pros I’ve been involved with (8-10) have died not long after the extended warranty. Conversely, the iMacs and Airs I’ve used or been around seem to last forever. And at work the PCs also seem to last forever.

    • PeterBlood

      Total opposite for me. All my Macs have lasted forever and PC’s I’ve owned have always died an early death, I still have my 2007 Mac Pro and my 2005 G5 Mac Pro just died (after 11 years of service) and needs a replacement meaning my 2007 Mac Pro will be the standby and buying a new PC or Mac (in addition to my 2014 MBP).

      Not happy with 2013 Mac Pro pro offerings though right now, a little long in the tooth and fewer options. Me likes a big upgradeable tower and not donuts or trash cans so much. Pro market likes a quiet machine but not so much an over-designed machine with no PCIe 3 16X slots and cables running from it all over the place.

  • Joel Harding

    DONT BUY A iMAC 5k Retina for any video editing that you want to have semi-professional performance with!!! They are bad! They can not handle multi-camera editing. I have had to render out a 30min wedding video, watch it in quick time player, because I can not play back the footage within the editing program, it just lags to bad…. anyway! If you do want to know more reason why i would NEVER recommend any video editor who wants to edit more than just a home movie, let me know.. I am happy to show why!