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I currently have a 2.2GHz dual-core macbook pro (2007) and it doesn't seem to work very well with HDV 720p real-time playback. I am looking into buying a new iMac this or next year. What would be a good processor speed for rendering and real-time playback in FCP 6 or 7? They currently have quad-core 2.5, 2.7, and 3.1 GHz.

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generally the advice is "get as fast as you can afford" but any of the quad cores should handle real-time playback in FCP just fine. Maybe better asked in the audio/video production SE site though to get more personal experiences with different configurations. – lemonginger Sep 9 '11 at 21:08
I must agree, and also comment that realtime playback usually makes use of video card acceleration, meaning its not just a matter of getting a good processor, but a good video card that is optimized for video production. – kevin9794 Sep 9 '11 at 21:37
New iMacs coming out in november/december, just sayin'. – AMomchilov Nov 6 '12 at 5:02

Certainly get the fastest you can afford, but processor speed is only part of the equation. You should also get as much RAM as you can afford.

It is a fallacy that higher processor speed = shorter task completion times. A fast processor helps, but RAM is more important than processor speed. More RAM means the processor can handle more tasks at once.

A MacBook Pro tops out at 8GB currently. For video editing, I always max out RAM on a laptop. For a desktop, I might go to 16GB or more if I was planning to work with multiple uncompressed tracks.

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Of note, FCP 6 and 7 don't use more than 2.5 GB of RAM and don't properly use more than two cores outside of a handful of exceptions. Hard drive speed is often times more crucial. – Chealion Jan 12 '12 at 17:34

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