Like most software developers, Adobe maintains a list of system requirements for Premiere Pro that can be used to help ensure the hardware in your system will work with their software. However, most "system requirements" lists tend to cover only the very basics of what hardware is needed to run the software, not what hardware will actually give the best performance. In addition, sometimes these lists can be outdated, list old hardware revisions, or simply outright show sub-optimal hardware.
Because of how inconsistent those lists can be, we've taken the time to perform testing to determine what hardware runs Premiere Pro the best. Based on this testing, we have come up with our own list of recommended hardware for Premiere Pro. If you would rather watch a video instead of reading text, we also have copy of our NAB Show Thought Gallery Webinar: Choosing the right hardware for your Premiere Pro Workstation that you are welcome to view.
When it comes to CPUs there are two main specifications that define the capability of a CPU:
- The frequency directly affects how many operations a single CPU core can complete in a second (how fast it is).
- The number of cores is how many physical cores there are within a CPU (how many operations it can run simultaneously).
Whether a high frequency or high core count CPU is better depends on how well a program is designed to take advantage of multiple CPU cores (often referred to as multi-threading). While Premiere Pro is often touted as being excellent for high core count CPU configurations, our testing has shown that with the newer 10 core Intel CPUs, there is no longer any need to use an expensive dual Xeon configuration in order to get the best performance. Not only are they rarely any faster than using a single CPU, in many cases it is actually slower!
To give you an idea of the performance you might see across the Core i7 CPUs included in our recommend systems - and how they might compare to a dual Xeon workstation - below is a chart taken from the conclusion of our Premiere Pro CC 2015.3 CPU Comparison article:
In the chart above, the Intel Core i7 6700K is a fairly standard CPU that can be found in a variety of workstations form various manufacturers. It is a great CPU, but Premiere Pro can benefit greatly from the High End Core i7 CPUs found in our Compact and Standard Premiere Pro workstations. Depending on the choice of CPU, we found an average performance gain ranging from ~23% to ~52% compared to the i7 6700K.
This chart is also great proof that you no longer need a dual Xeon workstation in order to have the best experience in Premiere Pro. While a dual Xeon system using CPUs that have a high operating frequency (such as the E5-2643 V4) can perform decently, on average they still only match the Core i7 6900K and are outperformed by the Core i7 6950X.
Video Card (GPU)
Adobe has been increasing support for GPU acceleration in Premiere Pro through their Mercury Playback Engine, but not everything has GPU acceleration quite yet. Adobe maintains a list of GPU-accelerated effects in their help files that you can view to judge how much of your work is accelerated.
Not only will a good GPU improve the time it takes to encode a video, it can also drastically improve the amount of your timeline that can be viewed without needing to generate previews first. However, depending on what you are doing and how many accelerated effects you are using, a more powerful GPU may not always translate into better performance. In general, we recommend a mid-range GPU like a GeForce GTX 1070 for 1080p footage and a GeForce GTX 1080 or Titan X for 4K and higher resolution footage.
One big consideration when choosing the correct GPU is to ensure that you have enough VRAM (video card memory) for the resolution of projects you work on. In general, the amount of VRAM we recommend is:
|Footage Resolution||Recommended VRAM
Note that this is only a standard recommendation. If you use a very heavy amount of GPU accelerated effects or render a large number of video streams at the same time, you may want to use a video card with more VRAM than what we list above.
NVIDIA Quadro cards can be used in Premiere Pro, although for the latest versions of Premiere Pro they are only necessary if you want to be able to use a 10-bit display. Previous versions (CS6 and older), however, only have official support for Quadro video cards and there are many reports that the new GTX 1000 series cards do not work properly on those older versions. Performance-wise, GeForce cards will always give you much higher performance for your dollar in Premiere Pro CC, although a Quadro video card can be a bit more reliable over the long term.
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on the length, codec, and complexity of your particular projects, for Premiere Pro we generally recommend a minimum of 32GB. Memory usage in Premiere Pro can quickly shoot up, however, so it is important that you ensure you have enough system RAM available. The exact amount you need will depend on exactly what you are doing, but we do have a general guideline depending on the different resolutions you work with:
|Footage Resolution||Recommended RAM|
Keep in mind that these only basic recommendations, and only cover the amount of RAM needed for Premiere Pro by itself. If you often work with other programs in addition to Premiere Pro at the same time, you may want to have even more RAM in your system as each program will need its own chunk of RAM.
For Premiere Pro, ECC memory (which can automatically detect and fix minor memory errors) is not technically required, although using registered ECC memory is often the only way to achieve higher RAM capacities.
Storage (Hard Drives)
With the falling costs associated with SSDs, we almost always recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that will host your OS and the installation of Premiere Pro. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive.
In our testing, we have found that many tasks (especially importing media) can greatly benefit from having at least one other SSD in your system. Relocating the media cache onto this drive is extremely important, but it is a good idea to have your project files and scratch files also located on this drive. If your budget allows for three SSDs, you may also consider a dedicated SSD for your project files and a dedicated drive for the media cache and possibly scratch files as well. This does not have any significant performance advantages, but makes it extremely easy to periodically clean out all the temporary files you may no longer need and helps offset the relatively small capacities currently available for solid state drives by dividing your files across two separate drives.
Since SSDs are still more expensive than traditional drives per GB, for long term storage we recommend using a traditional hard drive (or two if you need even more storage!). Using a SSD can be useful in some situations, but most of the time the high performance of an SSD is simply not required for a storage drive.
Often overlook, quality audio is a critical part of any video editing workstation. Depending on the quality and number of audio channels you need, there are three types of audio devices you may want to use:
- Onboard Audio - Included on most motherboards, the quality of onboard audio has improved dramatically over the years. However, since the audio chip is on the same PCB as the rest of the motherboard there can sometimes be issues with signal noise which can degrade the audio quality. This is not a factor if you use digital outputs for stereo or 5.1, but if you use headphones or analog speakers the quality may not be as good as what other dedicated audio devices can provide.
- Internal Sound Card - A common choice in workstations that need high quality audio, internal sound cards can often deliver excellent sound quality for a relatively low cost. The downside to many of these devices is that the required software is often bloated and geared more towards gaming than audio/video production. We have also had a number of instances where the drivers for internal sound cards have caused performance issues in Premiere Pro so we recommend avoiding these devices unless they provide a function that you absolutely need.
- USB DAC - Currently our top recommendation for Premiere Pro workstations, external DACs are an excellent option for high quality sound. Not only is the quality excellent, but there is rarely any driver conflicts with Premiere Pro and there are a wide range of options to choose from. While the DAC that is right for you will depend on the inputs and outputs you need along with any special capabilities, we have a number of USB DACs on our configure page if you simply need high quality stereo output for either headphones or speakers.
Recommended Systems for Premiere Pro
Utilizing an Intel Core i7 CPU with up to 10 cores, this workstation provides the best possible performance for Premiere Pro in a compact package.
While physically larger than the Compact Workstation, this system allows for up to 512GB of RAM and a wider range of storage options.