Do You Need a Graphics Card for Video Editing?

No, you don’t NEED a graphics card for video editing. If you are a beginner or even an intermediate level video editor, then you can do just fine without a dedicated graphics card.

However, you cannot deny the performance gains a good graphics card can give you for video editing. A good graphics card can not only help with seamless playback of your footage within the editor and realtime rendering of effects, but can also shorten the final render times drastically.

But as far as question at hand, “do you need a graphics card for video editing?” goes, the answer is a resounding no.

In the text below, I will discuss this topic in detail with references and examples, but first let us clear the confusion between integrated graphics and dedicated graphics.

Integrated vs Dedicated Graphics

It should be noted that ALL computers have a graphics card as without one you would not have a display at all.

There are two types of graphics card: integrated and dedicated. Integrated graphics card or iGPUs are built into the CPU. Dedicated graphics cards, however, are standalone devices that plug into the PCIe slot of your motherboard.

In terms of performance, dedicated GPUs are far more powerful as compared to integrated graphics cards.

Hence, when we ask, “do you need a graphics card for video editing?”, we are actually referring to the dedicated graphics cards.

iGPU vs Dedicated GPU Performance Comparison

The following chart shows how the iGPUs compare with dedicated graphics cards in terms of performance.

The scores are taken from the G3DMark benchmark.

Intel UHD 630 1395 Integrated; As found on 8-10th Gen
Intel CPUs
Intel UHD 750 1684 Integrated; As found on 11th Gen+
Intel CPUs
AMD Radeon
Vega 8
(2018 Version)
1704 Integrated; AMD 2000 Series APU
Intel UHD 770 1928 Integrated; As Found on 12th Gen Intel CPUs.
Intel Iris Pro 580 2044 Integrated; Found on premium laptops.
AMD Radeon
Vega 11
(2018 Version)
2139 Integrated; AMD 2000 Series APU
Nvidia GeForce
GT 1030
2613 Dedicated; GPU
Entry Level
AMD Ryzen 5
Vega 7 Graphics
2639 Integrated; As found on the Ryzen 5600G
AMD Ryzen 7
Vega 8 Graphics
2708 Integrated; As found on the Ryzen 5700G
AMD Radeon
RX 550
2764 Dedicated; GPU
Entry Level
RTX 3080Ti
26,677 Dedicated; High End

You can see that a high end dedicated GPU i.e NVIDIA RTX 3080Ti (26,677 score) is many folds more powerful compared to even the best iGPUs out there i.e the Vega 8 found on Ryzen 7 5700G (2708 score).

But the question remains, do you need a graphics card for video editing?

Also Read: Budget Desktops for Video Editing – Build Guide

Do You Need a Graphics Card for Video Editing?

When answering this question, you have to be clear regarding where you stand as a video editor. Are you a newbie or an expert?

There is a common misconception among newbies that you must have a dedicated GPU for video editing. That is hardly the case though.

If you are a casual video editor who works with simple footages taken with your phone and if the editing work revolves around basic trimming, adding sound tracks or adding very simple transition effects, then no, you DO NOT need to have a dedicated graphics card for video editing.

On the other hand, if you are a professional video editor, YouTuber, VFX expert, who works with professional cameras single or multiple, long timeline with multiple high res footages with countless demanding effects then having a good dedicated graphics card becomes almost a necessity.

You will know you need a dedicated graphics card when either the realtime preview generation, or the rendering of your video starts taking atrociously long time. 

Benefits of Having a Dedicated Graphics Card for Video Editing

There are few very important benefits of having a good dedicated graphics card for video editing and it all has to do with render times. 

A good graphics card can not only drastically improve the rendering time of your video, it can also ensure that the previews of your footage or the real time playback within the editor itself is fast and smooth.

If you have high resolution video footages with multiple effects applied then your PC may take a very long time to render frames for a smooth preview if it does not have a good dedicated GPU.

In addition to that, preview generation during timeline scrubbing whereby you move the cursor across the video footage would also improve with a good dedicated graphics card.

GPU-Based Hardware Encoding Can Accelerate Rendering

Both the popular paid video editing software Adobe Premiere Pro and free video editing software Da Vinci Resolve, offer support for GPU Acceleration decoding (import and live preview generation) and encoding (exporting/rendering) of the popular H.264/H.265 codecs.

For those of you who are unware, most of YouTuber export their videos out to H.264/H.265 codecs.

GPU Based Encoding is More than 5 Times Faster Compared to Software (CPU)

The following is a chart taken from Pudget Systems, whereby they tested the encoding (exporting/rendering) to H.264/H.265.

You can see that encoding with NVIDIA RTX 2080Ti is more than 5 times as powerful as Software based encoding which is done by the CPU.

pudget systems hardware encoding
Image: Performance gains when exporting to H.264/H.265 using GPU-Based Hardware Encoding. Source: Pudget Systems

GPU Based Decoding is Almost Seamless Compared Software (CPU)

Pudget Systems also performed tests for Decoding H.264/H.265 in Adobe Premiere Pro using Software decoding with AMD Ryzen 9 3900X vs Hardware decoding with NVIDIA RTX 3080.

The results can be seen in the video below.

You can see that live preview generation and timeline scrubbing on the RTX 3080 is far smoother as compared to when using CPU (Software decoding).

You can read the entire Pudget System study on GPU-based decoding here.

Most Video Editing Software are Increasingly Getting GPU Bound

It is worth noting that aside from support for GPU hardware-based encoding for certain codecs, most video editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro are increasingly making use of GPU for various aspects.

This is particularly true if you are using GPU accelerated effects on your footage. In Adobe Premiere Pro, the GPU accelerated effects have a dedicated icon next to them.

Budget CPU for video editing single core score

High End vs Mid Range Dedicated Graphics Card for Video Editing

Another very common question asked, particularly by those who have decided to invest in a dedicated GPU, is what kind of dedicated graphics card is sufficient. Do you need a high end graphics cards and if so how much of an improvement do you see compared to mid or low range graphics cards.

The fact of the matter is you DO NOT need a high end dedicated graphics card to experience the best results.

When talking about real time playback/preview generation and export/rendering scores, a high end dedicated GPU is almost as good as a mid range dedicated GPU.

Pudget Systems Export GPU
Here you can see that a high end RTX 3080Ti is only marginally better than a mid range RTX 3060 is terms of export score. Source: Pudget Systems

A high end graphics card may only matter if you have a lot of effects on your footage particularly those that are GPU-accelerated.

Pudget Systems effects GPU
There is a fair improvement with a high end graphics card compared to mid range GPU when processing effects.

Final Words

So do you need a graphics card for video editing? No, you do not NEED a dedicated graphics card for video editing.

However, if you are a professional or as your progress your level to become a professional video editor, then there will come a time that will necessitate having a good dedicated graphics card. 

Also Read: 

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Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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