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I need to purchase a new Mac to run Final Cut Pro X.

  • We plan to use FCPX to edit video of our weekly church service shot by 3 cameras.
  • Sound will come directly from the sound board.
  • I don't expect we'll use much in the way of filters/effects, etc. (This is new territory for me so I don't know for sure if that's accurate.)
  • The final videos will be high definition.
  • The video will be posted online and in the future we intend to stream the video live to a remote campus and are considering the possibility of using a QuickTime server.

Based on my research, I understand the importance of hardware components for this workflow to be in this order:

  1. Video card/Amount of VRAM
  2. Storage speed
  3. Processor speed
  4. Amount of system memory

It seems obvious the "best" setup would be a Mac Pro (currently $2999+ without a display). But with a not-for-profit budget, if I don't have to spend $4000 for a complete setup I'd rather not.

Assume an an iMac with these specs:

  • 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz)
  • 8GB (two 4GB) memory, configurable up to 32GB
  • 1TB Fusion Drive
  • AMD Radeon R9 M390 with 2GB video memory

Would FCPX used as I describe above on these specs of an iMac make for a lot of waiting on the system while editing? Should I be looking at something different in hardware?

  • I'm not entirely qualified to answer the question as I haven't owned either (thus a comment instead of a proper answer), but I've done much of what you're considering (except live streaming) on a 2012 non-Retina Macbook Pro. I suspect either machine would be overkill, but I'll let someone qualified answer. – Undo Dec 9 '15 at 16:34
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The RAM is probably the main change I would make to your proposed specs.

Narrowing Down the Options

If you're going to want an iMac, especially for video editing, you're going to need a fast hard-disk, enough RAM, and definitely a good GPU. This immediately narrows down the selection to a 27-in 5K iMac. Why? The 5K iMacs are the only ones offering discrete graphics. The 21" iMac offers only a 5400RPM hard disk which is much too slow for video-editing.

The Optimal Specs

I'm going to assume you're editing 1080p video. 1080p video directly out of a camera can is around 300MP, for 10 minutes. OS X tend to use around ~4GB for the system, running Final Cut, live streaming video, and handling audio, 8GB might run out quickly. At the least 16GB what I'd say is the minimum RAM for your case. 32GB would be best.

What I'd Recommend

I'm going to recommend the 27" 5K iMac with:

  • 3.2GHz quad-core i5 (base CPU)
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1TB Fusion Drive
  • AMD Radeon R9 M380 with 2GB video memory (base GPU)

With 16GB of RAM, this comes out to $1,969.00, and with 32GB $2,329.00

Alternative RAM Option

If you're comfortable with manually upgrading the RAM (yes, 27" 5K iMac has user-upgradable RAM). You can purchase an 8GB model and use a OWC RAM upgrade kit (only $129-$249).

This brings your total price for a 16GB to $1,918 and for 32GB to $2,038

| improve this answer | |
  • Excellent detailed answer. I'm purchasing a 27" iMac with specs similar to those you've proposed, including the 1 TB Fusion drive. I also purchased an external USB 3.0 SATA dock and a 2.5" SSD to copy the video to and edit from in order to get good disk I/O without having to pay so much for an SSD system disk. – I say Reinstate Monica Dec 15 '15 at 14:39

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