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My wife bought a GoPro Hero3 for some simple home video: kids, holidays, etc.

The problem is that some videos are not playing very well on our old PCs. We want to buy a new one for video editing. As far as I understood, such a computer should have as strong of a CPU as possible and plenty of RAM. It seems that the video card also has some role, but it's not as important as CPU/RAM in general. Is this assumption correct?

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It depends on if the software you are planning to use for editing has gpu acceleration. The graphics card can be the most important part. Have you decided on an editing software yet? –  AJ Henderson Mar 15 at 18:06
    
Oh, one other observation, while a GoPro is a great camera for the price, keep in mind that it is highly targeted at the action sports area and has no zoom so you may find it limiting for general home use since it is always wide angle. –  AJ Henderson Mar 15 at 19:02
    
@AJHenderson, we have samsung camera for 'real family things'. But we decided for GoPro as we, as our children like to do active things. –  Jevgeni Smirnov Mar 17 at 6:22
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Dealing with HD video has two main components. The first is the ability to decode the highly compressed video (which is computationally intensive) and then is the ability to deal with the large uncompressed data (which is bandwidth intensive).

The fastest encoders/decoders use the GPU on the graphics card to improve performance as a GPU is far more capable at attacking the problems related to rendering and compression than a traditional CPU is. So if you have one of these, then the GPU is by far the most important piece. If you don't however, then the CPU becomes by far the most important piece as encoding/decoding on a CPU is very, very intensive.

As far as dealing with the uncompressed data, the relatively small compressed files will be decompressed into memory and then played out of memory, so it is important to have high speed RAM, but not necessarily the need for a lot of it for play back. For editing on the other hand, quantity becomes a bigger factor since the more video that can be stored in memory, the smoother your editing experience will be.

Finally, you have the hard drives. It is very helpful if these are quick for loading videos (particularly for editing) and also for working as scratch disk (where editing stores temporary files that don't fit in memory), however it is probably the least critical part. This can change though if you start working with higher quality, less compressed video where the file sizes start getting larger.

So, to summarize, GPU is highest priority if your software can use it, otherwise CPU and then speed of memory, quantity of memory and speed of hard drive in that order. CPU is still second most important if you do have GPU processing support. If you don't, then GPU is of almost no importance at all.

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I'm using a GoPro Hero 3+ too

Even on my fast MacPro Westmere (mid-2012) setting your GoPro to resolutions above 1440 will slow playback and rendering. Going up to 2K and 4K might not even work at all.

Also, if using the ProTune setting on your GoPro, make sure you utilise the free GoPro Studio conversion tool to get vastly improved picture quality from the native MP4 files GoPro creates; otherwise the videos can look a bit flat.

Hope this helps

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For playing and editing video I'd suggest the following criteria are the most important:

  • the graphics card is the single most important thing
  • then CPU, but any recent processor will be fine
  • then fast hard disks
  • then RAM

For particular needs you may vary this, but it's a pretty good list.

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