DaVinci Resolve is the NLE and color grading software of choice for many creators. Find out more about DaVinci Resolve’s minimum system requirements.
As with all things tech, change comes quickly. We’re already on Resolve 16.2, and I originally started compiling this guide in 2015 with Resolve 11. However, most of the emails and comments I receive are from would-be Resolve users that don’t have the budget to build a monster workstation. The questions I get are from people that want to know more about DaVinci Resolve’s minimum system requirements rather than the ideal system we would all have if money was no object.
I’m a CSI (Colorist Society International) colorist and have been involved with Resolve both as a user, and consultant to post production companies for many years. I deal with high-end systems all the time. However, I feel there’s not a lot of information available about DaVinci Resolve minimum system requirements, yet that’s what many new users and content creators want to know. So while I started this article in 2015, the general points are just as valid as they were years ago.
First things first, you can download the latest DaVinci Resolve 15 configuration guide here. It’s getting a bit outdated and unfortunately Blackmagic Design haven’t updated it yet. However, it’s worth looking at the recommended configurations listed in the guide as a starting point.
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DaVinci Resolve Overview
DaVinci Resolve is available for MacOS, Windows and Linux, and will run on a mid to high level gaming laptop as well as a desktop workstation. You can buy or build depending on your budget and level of tech proficiency. The truth is, whether you want to build a custom PC workstation, or buy a laptop, it doesn’t even have to cost too much.
There are two versions of Resolve. DaVinci Resolve is the free version, and DaVinci Resolve Studio adds collaborative workflow features, enables all the plugins without watermarks, and supports timelines and exports above UHD resolution. If you’re an individual creator just starting out, there isn’t really a lot of functional difference between Resolve and Resolve Studio. However, if you’re a Windows user, investing $299 in a Resolve Studio license is worth it just to enable hardware AVC / H.264 / H.265 GPU acceleration. Hardware acceleration is available in the free version of Resolve for Mac.
DaVinci Resolve is an amazing and powerful piece of software, however just installing the software doesn’t constitute a workable system. Resolve is one of the most resource intensive video applications you can use and will bring any unprepared system to its knees. It’s not safe to assume that because you run Premiere Pro, or FCPX, or another NLE, that Resolve will be happy. DaVinci Resolve wants more, and it will use everything you give it. This being said, some things are more important than others depending on what work you will be doing. You may be able to meet DaVinci Resolve’s minimum system requirements with an existing PC just by upgrading your GPU, adding some RAM, and using some of Resolve’s built in media optimization tools.
If you’ve arrived here just looking for some good GPU options, I’ve put a DaVinci Resolve GPU list with purchase links (updated 2020) at the end of this article. I’ve also compiled a complete list of the best Nvidia and AMD GPU options for DaVinci Resolve listed together and ranked by performance.
If you’re looking for a laptop rather than a desktop, I’ve also assembled a list of the The Best Budget Laptops for DaVinci Resolve In 2020 with Thunderbolt 3 in a separate article. The list comprises some great choices under $2000, all with Thunderbolt 3 so you can add an eGPU and fast external storage. I’m starting to list some laptops around the $1000 mark also, although at that price point they don’t have Thunderbolt 3.
A lot depends on what kind of camera files you need to work with. Highly compressed AVC / H.264 codecs have become the norm. Whenever anyone asks me about DaVinci Resolve system specs, or how to optimize Resolve’s performance, I always assume they must be working with H.264 camera files. These codecs are resource intensive for real-time playback, and not ideal for post production in the first place.
DaVinci Resolve Minimum System Requirements
Below is a summary of some minimum and recommended DaVinci Resolve system requirements in 2020 you need to be aiming for.
|Component||Minimum Requirement||Recommended Requirement|
|CPU||Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7||Intel Core i9 or AMD Ryzen 9|
|GPU||4GB VRAM||8GB+ VRAM|
|Media Storage||SSD or RAID||SSD, Direct Attached RAID or NAS RAID (10GbE)|
- A decent Intel Core i7 CPU is a minimum, but Core i9, AMD Ryzen or AMD Threadripper are the best choices. If you plan on using H.264 / AVC and HEVC camera media, your CPU may be doing the decoding before your GPU even gets involved.
- As long as you have a compatible GPU, invest in a $299 DaVinci Resolve Studio license so you can take advantage of GPU hardware acceleration. Hardware acceleration is available in the free version of Resolve only for Mac at this time.
- You need at least 16GB system RAM for any laptop or desktop you are considering. I recommend 32GB.
- Invest in your GPU, it’s probably the single most important component for Resolve (as long as the above points are met). I would recommend looking for a GPU with at least 4GB dedicated memory, whether it’s a mobile GPU in a laptop, or a desktop card but 6GB or 8GB is preferable.
- If you are looking at a laptop to run Resolve, you can expand your GPU power by plugging in an external eGPU over Thunderbolt 3.
- Storage bandwidth is important. Check the data rate requirements of the media you plan to use with Resolve and make sure you’ve got storage fast enough to deliver those data rates in real time. SSD’s are great, and you can consider a direct attached RAID, or shared NAS storage server on 10GbE ethernet.
- Your desktop screen or monitor is not the best way to monitor for color. When you’re ready to step up your grading game, you should consider a separate video output interface (this can be a card, or an external Thunderbolt interface) and a calibrated reference monitor.
Choosing a CPU for DaVinci Resolve really depends on the balance of the other components in your system. It’s not as critical as it used to be to have a workstation class dual Xeon setup, and if you’re only using a single GPU, then even a mid range CPU will meet DaVinci Resolve’s minimum system requirements.
At the high-end, the AMD Threadripper CPU’s are outperforming most everything else. The 10th gen Intel Core i9 follows closely behind, before the AMD Ryzen 9 CPU’s, and then the 9th gen Intel Core i9 and i7’s. The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is only a little slower than the other Ryzen 9 CPU’s in Resolve and most of the 10th gen Intel Core i9’s. It represents excellent performance for the price at just over $400. You really have to jump up to a AMD Threadripper 3970X to see a significant difference in DaVinci Resolve.
You’ll need a minimum of 16GB RAM to run DaVinci Resolve well. However, I recommend 32GB RAM, especially if you’re going to use Fusion. If you’re choosing a laptop or building a desktop PC, make sure you can install more RAM in the future. Upgradability is a key factor in keeping a particular system useable for as long as possible.
In any entry level Resolve system, your GPU is everything. It is more important than your CPU or system RAM (both of which should be up to the task too). I’m assuming a single GPU for the purposes of looking at minimum requirements. However, the more GPU’s are in the system, the more benefit you’ll see from a faster CPU also.
DaVinci Resolve offloads intensive image processing to the GPU. It also employs YRGB 32-bit floating point processing for exceptional color precision.
Ideally, in a desktop PC, this should be a dedicated GPU just for image processing in addition to the graphics card running your desktop GUI (user interface). In the case that you are using a laptop or any system with a single, or integrated GPU, of course you can still run Resolve, but performance may be compromised compared to a system with a separate GPU for the desktop GUI.
If you’re investing in a laptop, I highly recommend making sure you choose one with Thunderbolt 3 ports so you have the option of running an external GPU. Read more about this in my article The Best DaVinci Resolve eGPU Options.
I’ve listed some purchase links to some good GPU options at various budget levels at the end of this article. The Nvidia GPU’s listed are all the latest Nvidia Turing architecture and will give you GPU decoding of AVC / H.264 / HEVC media in DaVinci Resolve Studio. Hardware acceleration has recently been extended to the free version of Resolve on Mac. If you’re on Windows or Linux, you’ll still need to buy a Resolve Studio license for hardware accelerated AVC/HEVC decoding and encoding.
You might also want to check my complete list of the best Nvidia and AMD GPU options for DaVinci Resolve listed together and ranked by performance.
GPU Memory is Full
Of course GPU cores matter, but GPU memory matters more when looking at minimum requirements. If you’ve been a victim of the dreaded ‘GPU Memory is Full’ error, the below may help.
- 512MB – Forget about it
- 1GB – You’ll be okay with basic HD ProRes work, checking RAW files but avoid noise reduction and optical flow.
- 1.5GB – Approaching the absolute minimum to use Resolve with some level of complexity in HD. Noise reduction and optical flow will still be problematic. I’ve made a 1.5GB Intel Iris Pro GPU work well on a iMac and Macbook Pro, and manage to render a full 4K delivery.
- 2GB – A comfortable HD experience, limited 4K work.
- 4GB – Minimum for comfortable 4K work.
- 6GB – You can tackle pretty much everything a project is likely to require.
- 8GB+ – You can actually tackle everything any project is likely to require.
Bottom line, if you’re looking at a new system on a budget and you’re working mostly in HD, I’d recommend an absolute minimum of 2GB GPU memory, really 4GB is a more realistic minimum. The more plugins you want to use, the more GPU memory you need. Performance also depends on the resolution of your media, the resolution of your timeline and the codecs of the media you are using.
The next biggest issue is how fast Resolve can read media from your storage. Expecting real-time playback performance with heavy high res media stored on a single internal or external spinning hard disk just isn’t going to work. In my experience a typical single hard disk is capable of delivering about 80MB/sec which may be enough for a single stream of compressed video, but it will be a bottleneck for anything more.
If you’re considering a laptop, make sure it has NVMe flash storage, or connect fast external media storage via Thunderbolt or at least USB 3.
Internal and external SSD drives and desktop hard disk RAID arrays are all great solutions. A internal NVMe SSD will give you as high as 3500MB/sec throughput. An external NVMe SSD over USB 3.1 Gen 2 (USB Type C connector) such as the Sandisk Extreme Pro Portable 1TB SSD can give you over 1000MB/sec. External SATA SSD’s such as the popular Samsung T5 1TB SSD and Sandisk Extreme Portable 1TB SSD are slower (but cheaper) and will give you about 530MB/sec. The Samsung T5, Sandisk Extreme and Extreme Pro Portable SSD’s are available up to 2TB capacity. However, SSD’s are still not cheap, and you’ll have limited total capacity unless you have a lot of money to spend.
When buying external hard drives, keep in mind just because an external hard drive has a Thunderbolt or USB 3 interface, does not mean the actual drive inside supports the full data rate of the interface. If you buy a cheap consumer USB hard drive, it’s going to be slow, even if it has a fast interface.
New RAW codecs such as Apple ProRes RAW and Blackmagic RAW promise raw quality at lower bit rates. This is exciting, but regardless of codec improvements, fast storage is your best friend.
External desktop Thunderbolt RAID arrays are perfect solutions for a single system, or you can configure a RAID internally as long as your system chassis has at least four drive bays free and you have a motherboard supporting hardware RAID, or a PCIe slot free for a dedicated RAID controller card.
- Read more about how to set up the best video storage, workflow and backup strategy for video editors and colorists.
Monitoring and Color Management
Monitoring and color management is another very important part of any color grading setup. While I don’t consider this an absolute minimum requirement for DaVinci Resolve, I’ve compiled a guide to building your own color managed and calibrated monitoring pipeline based around the excellent LG OLED TV’s. They can be perfectly calibrated for Rec.709 color correction and grading work.
You can add precision calibrated monitoring to your Resolve system for only $2200 – $3000 depending on whether you need to monitor in HD or UHD 4K. If you’re just starting out, or you work mostly on a laptop creating videos that will be viewed online, you can get away working from your laptop screen. When you want to step up your game, investing in monitoring is one of the best things you can do to improve your workflow, and the quality of your work.
- Read more about Resolve monitoring in my article The Best Low Budget Resolve Monitoring and Video Color Management.
Getting the Most from Resolve on Limited Hardware
If you’re working to a budget, it’s important to consider your expectations and real world needs rather than your ideal setup if money was no object. After all, this is about looking at DaVinci Resolve’s minimum system requirements, not how to build a post production supercomputer. For most of us there is little real need for real-time 4K playback unless you’re monitoring in 4K. Even if your media is 4K or higher and you intend to render at 4K, you can easily edit in an HD resolution timeline and make far more efficient use of your system resources where real-time playback is essential.
Of course 4K monitoring is becoming more of a trend if you’re system is up to real-time 4K output. I’ve put together an article outlining exactly how you can put together calibrated and color managed external monitoring for DaVinci Resolve in HD or 4K on a budget using a LG C9 or LG CX OLED TV.
Proxies and Timeline Resolution
One of the most useful features of Resolve is how quickly you can change timeline resolution non-destructively. For example, as long as your source media is UHD, you can drop your timeline resolution to HD for editing and your clips will be resampled down to HD for better playback. You can switch your timeline resolution back to UHD at any time and the clips will read at the full native UHD resolution. In addition, for RAW media formats you can change decode or playback debayer resolution. This means you can drop your resolution and debayer quality temporarily to ensure playback performance while you’re editing, and then ramp it back up for grading where real-time playback is perhaps not so critical.
Resolve Optimized Media and Render Cache
In situations where dropping debayer quality and/or timeline resolution still doesn’t result in real-time playback on a particular system (most likely a laptop), there are a couple of ways to handle it. One way is to have Resolve create Optimized Media. Optimized Media files are lower resolution, compressed proxies (copies) of your high resolution camera source files. These temporary files are entirely handled by Resolve and can work very well for your edit, you can then relink to your original full res camera files for grading and delivery.
Resolve’s Render Cache is also a very useful tool enabling a background render of a particular shot, sequence, or even an entire timeline to a intermediary codec to ensure real-time playback. You may also want to consider transcoding AVC/H.264 or HEVC/H.265 camera media into a more post friendly codec before you start working.
DaVinci Resolve Minimum System Requirements FAQ
Below you’ll find answers to some common questions I get asked all the time.
The first thing you should consider is your GPU. Other components might be limiting your playback performance, or how quickly you can export videos but your GPU, and GPU memory will determine if Resolve will run at all on your system, and how complex your color correction can be.
When considering minimums, and building on a budget, the most important specification to look at first is how much memory the GPU has. Regardless of how many processing cores, it’s video memory that limits the resolution you can work in, the number of correction nodes, and memory intensive plugins and effects such as noise reduction.
The number of GPU cores will determine how quickly a GPU can process image data. When considering a GPU under 4GB, memory is a more important factor than GPU cores. For GPU’s with more than 4GB memory you can consider memory and number of GPU cores equally when making a decision which GPU to buy. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super is an excellent balance of performance vs price.
This is a tough choice because in this case, really you should do both. If you can only afford to buy more RAM or a new GPU then the best decision depends on your existing GPU. If your existing GPU has at least 2GB video memory then it’s better to buy more system RAM. However if your GPU has only 1GB or 1.5GB video memory, or is a integrated GPU that shares your system memory than a new GPU is the best decision. Either way, whichever one you don’t upgrade right away should be your next upgrade.
The most likely reason your video files aren’t playing smoothly is because they are H.264 / AVC or H.265 / HEVC encoded files. DaVinci Resolve may be relying on your system CPU to decode these complex video files before handing over uncompressed image data to your GPU. Read more about this in my article XAVC / XAVC-S / H.264 / HEVC and DaVinci Resolve. It’s likely that your CPU is the bottleneck if these video files are not playing back smoothly. The solution is to decrease the timeline resolution to HD if you are working with 4K video files, and to create optimized media or use render cache on your timeline.
If you’re on a Mac, I recommend choosing HD resolution Apple ProRes 422 for both optimized media and render cache. If you’re using a Windows PC, I recommend choosing HD resolution Avid DNxHR HQ for your optimized media and render cache. Both of these codecs are high quality and far less complex to decode. Choose a fast internal or external hard drive as the destination for your optimized media and cache files.
DaVinci Resolve 16 On A 2015 Macbook Pro
I have Resolve 16 running on a 2015 Macbook Pro with 16GB system RAM and integrated Intel Iris Pro graphics that has access to 1.5GB of shared system memory.
However, I wouldn’t recommend it.
So far, it’s still working well enough on HD resolution timelines, even using both the FilmConvert OFX plugin and Neat Video OFX plugin. I have yet to see a GPU out of memory error, however I keep my grades fairly simple and straightforward. I could definitely provoke an out of memory message without much effort.
On this system I’m making use of either optimized media or render cache for everything, every clip on the timeline. This is time consuming but the only way I have real-time playback of H.264/AVC media on this aging laptop.
Many creators are just starting out with Resolve, learning to color grade, and working with what they have, so I want to put it out there that this older Macbook Pro is running Resolve 16, even with some OFX plugins and still chugging along.
Buying a GPU for DaVinci Resolve
If you’re interested in purchasing a new GPU for your PC. I’ve listed some good options below (as of 2020) at different budget levels. I have also created a complete list with the best Nvidia and AMD GPU options for DaVinci Resolve listed and ranked by performance.
To give you an idea, a Titan RTX is around $2400, a RTX 2080 Ti is about half that at $1200. The sweet spot for performance vs price in my opinion is the RTX 2060 Super at well under $500. These are Amazon affiliate links, and prices can change but they are listed most expensive to least expensive. Deals change quickly, so scroll down a bit on any of these product pages and take a look at the “other products related to this item” as you might find something suitable at a better price.
The NVIDIA GPU’s listed below are all NVIDIA Turing architecture and will give you GPU decoding of AVC / H.264 / HEVC media in DaVinci Resolve Studio on Windows. This is a big enough reason alone to purchase Resolve Studio. Make sure you’re using the latest NVIDIA studio drivers rather than the gaming drivers.
- Nvidia Titan RTX 24GB
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super 8GB
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super 8GB
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super 8GB
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 8GB
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super 6GB
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 6GB
Buying a Laptop for DaVinci Resolve
If you’re looking for the best value for money, you’ll be looking at a Windows laptop, not a Mac. I’m a Mac user, and I prefer MacOS to Windows, but unless you have some extra money to spend I would recommend going for a decent mid level gaming laptop.
I’ve assembled a list of five good 2019/2020 laptops to run DaVinci Resolve that meet DaVinci Resolve’s minimum system requirements. These can easily be upgraded with more RAM, and all have Thunderbolt 3, which opens the possibility of using an eGPU.
- Read more about the The Best Budget Laptops for DaVinci Resolve In 2020 with Thunderbolt 3
- Check my complete DaVinci Resolve GPU list with the best Nvidia and AMD GPU options for DaVinci Resolve listed and ranked by performance.
- Read more about using an eGPU in my article The Best DaVinci Resolve eGPU Options
- Read more about Resolve monitoring in my article The Best Low Budget Resolve Monitoring and Video Color Management
- Read more about storage in my article The Best Storage for Video Editing | Post Workflow Strategy & Backups
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