Richard Lackey

The Best Budget Laptops for DaVinci Resolve in 2021 with Thunderbolt

Buying a laptop to run DaVinci Resolve on a $1500 to $2000 budget is easier than you’d think. I’ve selected a few excellent options.

Article Last Updated: January 2022

Any of the choices I suggest below represent great value for money, and while a year ago I did not include a Mac in this list, that’s changed now with the Apple M1 powered Macs. DaVinci Resolve has a few important minimum system requirements that need to be met, and in this price range the M1 Macbook Pro 13″ is an excellent choice. However, if you have more to spend, the M1 Pro and M1 Max Macbook Pro’s should be top of your list.

Below is a summary of what to look for in an affordable 2020 / 2021 model gaming laptop to run DaVinci Resolve. It’ll be good for HD and most 4K work on a budget.

  • The 10th generation Intel i7-10750H is a common processor to the laptops I investigated in this price and performance range. Since May 2021 I’m starting to add 11th generation options such as the 2021 ASUS TUF Dash F15 with the i7 11370H, configured with 40GB RAM and RTX3060 which is amazing value at the $1700 point. Nothing changes faster than computer specs, so I’ll do my best to update the info here and my selections at least every couple of months.
  • At least 16GB system RAM, but as you’ll see in my selections below, if you look carefully you can find 32GB in this price range also. When it comes to Apple’s new M1 processors 16GB RAM goes an awful lot further than with an Intel or AMD x86 system. I argue that the 16GB Mac M1 or M1 Pro systems are plenty powerful enough for the average content creator working with a mirrorless camera, or even high resolution RAW video from most cinema cameras.
  • A decent GPU. Below you’ll see GeForce RTX 20-series and even RTX 30-series. Any of these will be perfect for HD and 4K use in Resolve and Resolve Studio with most common AVC/H.264 mirrorless camera files, Blackmagic BRAW, ProRes, ProRes RAW etc.
  • All of the below has SSD storage, some have SSD + HDD. In any case you’d likely want to consider fast external video storage as well.

I highly recommend you buy DaVinci Resolve Studio rather than use the free version of Resolve. DaVinci Resolve Studio enables H.264/H.265 decode and encode hardware acceleration using the GPU and this will make a world of difference if you’re working with any AVC/H.264 or H.265/HEVC media. The alternative is to transcode these camera files into high quality Avid DNxHR files before you start editing for better performance. The files will be larger, but require less system resources to play back, and are much more post production friendly.

Top Five Best Windows Laptops for DaVinci Resolve Under $2000 in 2021

Below are a few good budget laptop choices for DaVinci Resolve. In fact, they will be suitable for any video post production software. Most of these are well under $2000. These are Amazon affiliate links. It’s also worth taking a look at the “other products related to this item”. If you click on “see more product details” you can also check “compare with similar items” as well. You might find something slightly different that suits you better, or even at a better price but I would encourage you to make sure you choose a laptop with at least one Thunderbolt 3 port. The ASUS TUF Dash F15 even has a Thunderbolt 4 port (and a RTX 3060 GPU). Products on Amazon change all the time, but I’ll add links to others as and when I find good deals.

Apple M1 Macs for DaVinci Resolve

Apple have really turned the historical ideas of minimum hardware requirements for Resolve upside down with the M1 Macs. If you’re performing common color correction processes, using compressed video codecs, or even RAW, at 4K resolution, it’s now possible to run Resolve very well on a 13″ M1 Macbook Pro, or even a M1 Macbook Air with only 8GB of system RAM. This is counter intuitive to everything I’ve written before about minimum system requirements for Resolve, but Apple Silicon is just different.

My only hesitation with the first generation M1 Mac laptops is the small form factor. I’m holding out my own upgrade cycle for the upcoming Apple Silicon powered 16″ Macbook Pro. Nevertheless, the M1 Mac’s deserve the mention, and deserve your consideration.

Best Laptops for DaVinci Resolve for $1000 in 2021

Below I’m listing the best laptops for DaVinci Resolve that I can find around the $1000 mark. I’ll add more as I research what’s available and update them as often as possible. There is no Thunderbolt 3 on these, so expanding via a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU won’t be an option. For an extra $600 you can get a lot more performance looking at the list above, so I recommend trying to stretch if you can.

Expand DaVinci Resolve Performance with an eGPU

One important thing to consider when selecting a laptop for DaVinci Resolve is if it has Thunderbolt 3. This makes it possible to use an eGPU to expand performance.

All laptops now come with USB Type C ports. It can be confusing because both USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 use the USB Type C connector. However, just because a laptop has a UBC Type C port, doesn’t mean it has Thunderbolt 3. Be careful and check the technical specs of the laptop carefully. Don’t assume that because you see a USB Type C port, that the laptop must have Thunderbolt 3, it may not be the case.

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