laptop outdoorsBefore traveling I had a desktop PC that was considered quite powerful at the time. When I decided to go backpacking around Asia I didn’t intend on doing any video editing, but decided that having a laptop would be convenient for several reasons. If I were to go backpacking today without doing any video editing, I’d opt to skip the laptop and just use my cell phone. The model I’d bought back then was inexpensive and under powered, but if I was patient it would do what I was asking it to do. It weighs 3.85 pounds (1.75 kg), has an Intel Pentium dual-core 2.1GHz 4405U processor and 4GB of DDR4 RAM. It has a 14” screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768. With the need to do video editing, this just isn’t going to work for me anymore.

 

Starting the Search
When I started my research into selecting a laptop for video editing I began with a list of features that were categorized into needs and wants. What I found was that there had been a lot of advancements in the last few years, and that there are always more anticipated to be released soon. I kept getting the feeling that I should wait a few months for the release of the next processor, video card, or screen technology. My list of wants was getting longer and more extreme. But the needs remained the same. So I re-grounded myself and started over.

The first thing I did was look into the hardware requirements for the software I intend on using. There are a lot of great non-linear video editing programs available. But I’m just doing short, 10 to 20 minute, videos for YouTube and such. So I don’t need anything powerful enough for broadcast production or the big screen. What I found was that the CPU, and number of cores, is far more important than the GPU. So I knew I needed to keep an eye on this, but would need to discover what my realistic options are after I know what my other needs are, and then see what manufacturers are pairing with those options. For my needs it appears that 16GB of RAM is a good starting point, but 32GB would be better. So I set 16GB as my minimum and hoped for more. The larger the hard drive, the better. That parts obvious, even to me. The more space available, the more raw footage I can keep with me while traveling and the less I need to worry about uploading to a storage server, and also the fewer external storage devices I’ll need. There are different types of internal storage, and those with the same form factor can vary greatly on data transfer speeds. Some laptops can have their storage upgraded by the user, some can’t. I decided that I want to have a Solid State Drive (SSD) that can be upgraded. This way I can increase capacity as technology improves. I would need 2TB as my starting point.

The ports built into the laptop are important too. If it’s light enough and has a thunderbolt port, then my though was that I could use an adapter if necessary, but prefer not to. If it has the other ports I need, then I have no need in a thunderbolt port. A couple of USB 3.0, at least 1 USB-C, an HDMI, and an RJ45 port is what I’m after. I found that not many light weight laptops include an HDMI or RJ45 anymore. A microsd slot would be nice, but not really needed.

Lessons Learned About Screen Options
At first I thought that it would be nice to have a 4K touch screen. However the more I read, the more I realized how wrong I was. Wanting to keep everything I carry as light as possible had an effect on what screen size I select. While it would be nice to do video editing on a 17-inch 4K screen, that’s reaching far beyond my needs. Again, this is for YouTube clips, not broadcast television or movie production. In my efforts to keep weight low and screen size large enough to see what I’m doing while editing, I set my smallest screen size at 13.3-inches. Although YouTube supports 4K videos, I don’t intend to be creating them at this time. This means that my screen resolution only needs to be 1080p, or could even be as low as 720p if need be. My original laptop has a touch screen and I never use it. I don’t use it as a tablet, and so this feature is not needed. The advantage to having a 1080p non-touch screen is the improvement on battery life. I don’t need the battery to last 15 hours, as 5 or 6 is more than enough in my experience. The combination of not needing a screen with a large power draw and not needing an extensive battery life allows for a smaller battery, such as 40Whr rather than 90Whr, which reduces weight even further. However, I do need a screen that’s bright enough to work in a well lit room. I’m not concerned about working outdoors on more than the rare occasion, so I don’t need anything like the 1000 nit screens I’ve seen available. But struggling to see indoors is just not acceptable, and outdoors needs to be doable without difficulty. Thankfully there are not many laptops in those I researched that had screens with a brightness of 200 nits or less, like they used to be. A screen of less than 250 nits is just not going to work, and 300 would be great. At that level I would expect to be turning down the brightness while indoors most of the time, which can help add to battery life as well.

Initial Findings and Determining Minimum CPU and Weight
With this information I started looking at what was available and found that many ultrabooks were a close match. This is when I started learning more about what CPUs are available in these lighter weight machines, and from that I did my research to know more about them. Based on what I found, I decided that the Intel i7-1065G7 was the lowest I wanted to go. This eliminated anything that was only available with the Intel i7-10510U or anything with an 8th generation CPU, thereby eliminating several computers. After doing even more reading I found that what I had hopes of finding was a laptop that met all my other requirements and had an AMD Ryzen 4800U. I would be willing to use an AMD Ryzen 4700U as well, since it still outperforms the i7-1065G7. I also found that there are a lot of laptops that some have classified as ultrabooks that are far heavier than others. In fact some reports include models with 17 inch screens and weights well over 5, almost 6, lbs (2.26-2.7 kg). There are also some lightweight and powerful laptops that aren’t advertised as an ultrabook. So I stopped searching for that subjective term, and just stuck with the hardware specs. I narrowed the list of potential models by reducing the maximum weight to 3 lbs (1.36 kg). Having carried around a 3.85 lb (1.75 kg) under-powered laptop for so long, and thinking it was light already, I was happy to know what was available at an even lighter weight. Settling my maximum at 3 lbs eliminated some very nice options. But I had to set the limit somewhere, and 3 lbs was a logical choice.

Selecting the Operating System
I use several Windows only applications that eliminates the use of Apple products as an option for my purposes. I like using Linux, but unfortunately can’t be without Windows entirely. Most would work well enough using Wine on Linux to run my Windows programs. But I can do without Linux, if needed. The best option would be to dual boot both Windows and Linux, but that’s not a requirement. In the end I decided to find a Windows machine, and could decide later if I want to set it up to dual boot.

The List of Top Contenders
In no specific order, with maximum specs available at the time I looked:
(disqualifying items highlighted)

• Acer Swift 3 (AMD) (SF314-42-R0FR)
  ◦ 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9
  ◦ AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
  ◦ 16GB RAM (onboard / cannot upgrade)
  ◦ 1TB SSD (upgradable)
  ◦ Weight: 2.65 lbs / 1.2 kg

• Dell XPS 13
  ◦ 13.4-inch touchscreen (1920 x 1200) 16:10
  ◦ Intel Core i7-1065G7
  ◦ 16GB RAM (onboard / cannot upgrade)
  ◦ 2TB SSD (upgradable)
  ◦ 2.8 lbs / 1.27 kg

• HP Envy x360 (13-ay0021nr)
  ◦ 13.3-inch touchscreen (1920 x 1080) 16:9
  ◦ AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
  ◦ 16GB RAM (onboard / cannot upgrade)
  ◦ 512GB SSD (I think it’s upgradable)
  ◦ 2.92 lbs / 1.32 kg

• HP Spectre x360 (13-aw0020nr)
  ◦ 13.3-inch touchscreen (3840 x 2160) 16:9
  ◦ Intel Core i7-1065G7
  ◦ 16GB RAM (onboard / cannot upgrade)
  ◦ 512GB SSD (upgradable)
  ◦ 2.05 lbs / .93 kg

• Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
  ◦ 13.5-inch touchscreen (2256 x 1504) 3:2
  ◦ Intel Core i7-1065G7
  ◦ 16GB RAM (onboard / cannot upgrade)
  ◦ 1TB SSD (upgradable with a 2230 drive only, a 2280 will not fit)
  ◦ 2.84 lbs / 1.28 kg

Well, those were the top contenders and there are some really nice options here. They all have 16GB of RAM soldered to the board. All models can have the SSD upgraded (with some limiting stipulations). I could spend some time discussing the pros and cons of each model, and then tell you why I would select one as being my model of choice. But after all this research I found another laptop that has eliminated the point in doing so.

The Slimbook Pro X AMDslimbook pro x t
I read an article about a laptop released in Spain, by a company called Slimbook, that was a special edition for supporting and promoting KDE (Linux). I was very impressed with everything I was reading, so I went to their website to see what else they offer. I had to do a little bit of digging, because they don’t really advertise everything they sell on their main page. After reading all their product information, I went into their online store. That’s where I found the best machine available, based on my needs.

It’s called the Slimbook Pro X AMD . If you read about the Slimbook Pro X on the product page, it only shows the Intel version. However, in the store you can click on the Pro X version and then select between the Intel and AMD options. The Intel version comes with the i7-10510U CPU, and does not meet my requirements. However, the AMD version has a very nice surprise included. It’s equipped with the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, which is better than the 4800U I had hopes for but never found, and far better than the 4700U I did find. It’s so far beyond the i7-1065G7 that it’s difficult to find comparisons online due to being in different classes.

The Intel i7-1065G7 has 4 cores / 8 threads, while the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H has 8 cores / 16 threads. The 1065G7 has a base and max frequency of 1.3 & 3.9GHz, compared to the 2.9 & 4.2GHz of the 4800H. The DPT/up/down for the 1065G7 is 15W/25W/12W, and the 4800H is 45W/54W/35W. This combination of factors equals to significant performance improvements.

Here are the basic numbers of what’s offered:

 

Slimbook Pro X AMD

  • 14-inch non-touch (1920 x 1080) 16:9
  • AMD Ryzen 7 4800H
  • 64GB RAM (upgradable, but 64GB is maximum already)
  • 2TB SSD (upgradable)
  • 2.4 lbs / 1.1 kg

Slimbook left

That’s a bigger screen than all but one of the other laptops (and it has 300 nits of brightness, which is fantastic), a much faster processor, an amazingly higher amount of RAM, the largest storage, and a lighter weight than all but one. They also offer either Windows or several different choices of Linux, or you can get it set up to dual boot into both. It also has a great selection of ports, with 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB-C, 1 USB 2.0, an HDMI, and an RJ45, all without the need of using any adapters.

Slimbook right

The NVMe M.2 2280 SSD is user upgradable as well. So if I wanted to have the largest capacity possible, I could always buy a Sabrent Rocket Q 8TB NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 and quadruple the space available.

Finding the Slimbook Pro X AMD has been such a great end to a very long search. I hope this information is helpful to you as well.