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M1 Max vs Dell XPS 17 and HP zBook Fury G8

Guest post by Brady Betzel,
awesome online editor

Noise reduction is one of the most taxing processes on computers and without a strong CPU and GPU you may be slowing to crawl when working. Neat Video has been my top noise reduction plugin for a few years now and while it is efficient I am constantly trying to improve its processing power. With so many desktop and mobile computers on the market, it’s hard to know how Neat Video will perform. In this writeup, I am going to run Neat Video on a few computer systems and find out just how powerful of a computer system you need to process Neat Video in real-time inside of Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 17.4.1.

There are 3 mobile computers: MacBook Pro with M1 Max, HP zBook Fury G8, and Dell XPS 17; as well as, 2 desktop computers: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X. I ran identical tests on all systems using a 1-minute, 1920x1080 @ 23.98fps clip that I shot in low light on the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera and a 1-minute 3840x2160 @ 23.98fps shot on the Sony a7iii in low light. I converted both files to high quality - H.264 files. Using Resolve 17.4.1, I exported a DNxHD (or DNxHR HQX 10-bit for the UHD clip) MXFop1a .mxf, a Resolve default H.264, and an RGB 10-bit DPX image sequence. For the MacBook Pro with M1 Max, I also exported a ProRes HQ file.

But before using Neat Video and/or exporting clips, you need to Optimize Neat Video to work with your CPU and/or GPU. To do this you need to apply an instance of Neat Video on a clip, click “Adjust Settings”, go to Tools, Preferences, Performance Tab, and click Optimize Settings. Once inside Optimize Settings, choose the bit depth and resolution you want to optimize Neat Video for and click Start. After a few moments you will get a readout of the fastest processing combo for your system - it could be CPU only, GPU only, or a combo of both. To finalize, click “Accept Best Combination”. What’s funny is when you forget to do this and you get a slow 1fps playback, remember to optimize Neat Video, and then start playing back in real-time. I guess it’s only funny when you aren’t on a deadline, suffice to say - optimize Neat Video! You can find a much tidier explanation here: https://blog.neatvideo.com/post/optimum-performance.

MacBook Pro with M1 Max

Up first is the recently released MacBook Pro with M1 Max. It’s an amazingly-snappy computer that can chew through video footage. But I wanted to know just how well it could handle Neat Video inside of Resolve. Here are the specs to the MacBook Pro with M1 Max used for this test:

  • 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
  • M1 Max chip with 10-core CPU, 32-Core GPU
  • 64GB unified memory
  • 2TB SSD

Using a pre-release version of Neat Video compatible with the CPU and GPU of the new M1 Max based MacBook Pros, I first ran the optimization inside of Resolve on the 1920x1080-HD footage:

Frame Size:    1920x1080 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.9 Pro plug-in for Resolve (MacOS)
Best combination: GPU only (Apple M1 Max): 35.3 frames/sec

Once I built a noise reduction profile inside of Neat Video I applied the result and played back the 1920x1080 footage in real-time. As the results show, Neat Video’s optimization found that the new M1 Max GPU alone was enough to beat any other CPU/GPU combination. It was very impressive, it takes a lot of processing power to playback noise reduction in real-time on HD material. Up next, I ran the same optimization but for a 3840x2160-UHD clip:

Frame Size:    3840x2160 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.9 Pro plug-in for Resolve (MacOS)
Best combination: CPU (3 cores) and GPU (Apple M1 Max): 7.69 frames/sec

I didn’t have high expectations for UHD processing, but the MacBook Pro with M1 Max still kicked out 7.69fps when Neat Video is applied. It’s not real-time but I will say that even that playback is helpful when I need to jump in and re-sample in Neat Video or try and see if the noise reduction is doing enough.

For the last test, I placed my 1-minute HD clip @ 23.98fps in a matching timeline and exported 4 test files from Resolve, first without Neat Video and second with Neat Video applied:

  DNxHD 175x (HD)
DNxHR HQX 10-bit (UHD)
- MXFop1a .mxf
ProResHQ   H.264
(Resolve default)  
DPX RGB
10-bit  
HD No Neat Video  00:05  00:02   00:05   00:02  
HD Neat Video applied   00:47  00:47   00:47   00:47  
UHD No Neat Video   00:05  00:06  00:06  00:05  
UHD Neat Video applied   03:31   03:01   02:57  02:54  

While $4,299 may seem on the higher side for a laptop, the MacBook Pro with M1 Max is a phenomenal deal for the power you are getting. On top of the power, if you are a MacOS user this is really your only mobile option. But even if you are a Windows user and want to jump ship, the MacBook Pro is a great alternative. Being able to playback 23.98fps footage in real-time with NeatVideo noise reduction applied is amazing, you could be at a local coffee shop doing noise removal all while running on the battery.

  Retail Price Neat Video (HD) Neat Video (UHD)
Apple M1 Max $4,300 35.3fps 7.69fps

Dell XPS 17 9710

Up next is the Dell XPS 17 9710. The Dell XPS 17 9170 is more of a prosumer-level mobile computer, meaning it straddles the line between affordable and powerful. It’s a really great looking laptop for its $2,649.99 price tag. Here are the specs of the Dell XPS 17 9710 that was used for the Neat Video testing:

  • 11th Generation Intel Core i7-11800H (24 MB cache, 8 cores, 16 threads, up to 4.60GHz)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, 6GB GDDR6
  • 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • 1TB, M.2, PCIe NVMe, SSD
  • 17” UHD+ (3840x2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display

Here are the results from the Neat Video Testing:

Frame Size:    1920x1080 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
Best combination: CPU (6 cores) and GPU (NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU): 23.8 frames/sec

Frame Size:    3840x2160 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
CPU Model: 11th Gen Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-11800H @ 2.30GHz
GPU 1: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU (CUDA): 6144 MB total (1143 MB currently available), using up to 20%
Best combination: CPU (8 cores) and GPU (NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU): 6.78 frames/sec

I was really surprised that the Dell XPS 17 9170 was so close to the MacBook Pro with M1 Max when processing Neat Video in UHD resolution. They were only about 1 frame apart, pretty incredible. But HD footage was quite a bit slower on the Dell, about 12 frames slower than the MacBook Pro with M1 Max. All that being said, the Dell XPS 17 9710 is about $2000 less which has to be taken into account.

For the last test, I placed my 1-minute HD clip @ 23.98fps in a matching timeline and exported 3 test files from Resolve, first without Neat Video and second with Neat Video applied:

  DNxHD 175x (HD)
DNxHR HQX 10-bit (UHD)
- MXFop1a .mxf
ProResHQ   H.264
(Resolve default)  
DPX RGB
10-bit  
HD No Neat Video  00:06 N/A  00:05   00:08 
HD Neat Video applied   01:19 N/A 01:19 01:25 
UHD No Neat Video   00:27 N/A 00:18 00:23 
UHD Neat Video applied   05:24  N/A 05:21 05:25

If you are focusing heavily on the budget side of this prosumer-mobile computer, the Dell XPS 17 9710 may be right up your alley with the balance of high power processing and low price point. It’s definitely slower than the MacBook Pro with M1 Max but at almost half the cost, it’s a great alternative.

  Retail Price Neat Video (HD) Neat Video (UHD)
Dell XPS 17 9710 $2,650 23.8fps 6.78fps

HP zBook Fury G8

Lastly in the mobile system category, is the HP zBook Fury G8. The HP zBook Fury G8 is a mobile workstation, a mobile workstation is an official designation that is backed by software and hardware testing. Mobile workstations from HP are also tested against military level environmental elements like dust, water, drops, shocks, and more. It’s an enterprise-level workstation that is made to work 24/7/365 with little to no downtime. The HP zBook Fury G8 that was used for this testing retails for $5,799.50. Here are the specs of the HP zBook Fury G8 that was used for the Neat Video testing:

  • Intel Core i9-11950H vPro (2.6GHz, up to 5.0GHz w/ Turbo Boost, 24MB Cache, 8 core)
  • NVIDIA RTX A5000 Graphics (16GB GDDR6)
  • 32GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • 1TB PCIe-3x4 2280 NVMe
  • 15.6” 4K UHD (3840x2160), 120Hz, UWVA IPS, 600 nits, DreamColor.

Here are the results from the Neat Video Testing:

Frame Size:    1920x1080 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
Best combination: GPU only (RTX A5000 Laptop GPU): 34.7 frames/sec


Frame Size:    3840x2160 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
Best combination: GPU only (RTX A5000 Laptop GPU): 8.85 frames/sec

For the last test, I placed my 1-minute HD clip @ 23.98fps in a matching timeline and exported 3 test files from Resolve, first without Neat Video and second with Neat Video applied:

  DNxHD 175x (HD)
DNxHR HQX 10-bit (UHD)
- MXFop1a .mxf
ProResHQ   H.264
(Resolve default)  
DPX RGB
10-bit  
HD No Neat Video  00:06 N/A  00:06 00:08 
HD Neat Video applied   01:05 N/A 01:07 01:10
UHD No Neat Video   00:26 N/A 00:19 00:31
UHD Neat Video applied   04:49 N/A 04:46 04:57

 

  Retail Price Neat Video (HD) Neat Video (UHD)
HP zBook Fury G8 $5,800 34.7 FPS 8.85 FPS

Desktops

As you can probably guess, desktop systems should come out on top of the Neat Video processing race. Not only do they allow for larger components such as huge graphics cards and more components, but the cooling effect from the (hopefully) massive airflow will allow the components to run at full speed without interruption losing energy to heat.

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X + AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

Up first is a custom built system that harnesses the power of the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x 12-core CPU and AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT. The 3900x retails for around $600 and the RX 6900 XT retails for $1,700.00, but it can go up to $2,000 depending on where you shop and if you can even find them in stock. The total for this custom-built system was just over $4,000 not including the cost of Windows. Here are some more specs:

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X: 12-core, 3.8GHz (4.6 GHz Max Boost) Socket AM4 105W
  • AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT: 16GB GDDR6,  PCI-e 4.0, 256 bit Bus, 512.0 GB/s Bandwidth

Frame Size:    1920x1080 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
Best combination: GPU only (AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT): 59.7 frames/sec

Frame Size:    3840x2160 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
Best combination: GPU only (AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT): 15.7 frames/sec

  DNxHD 175x (HD)
DNxHR HQX 10-bit (UHD)
- MXFop1a .mxf
ProResHQ   H.264
(Resolve default)  
DPX RGB
10-bit  
HD No Neat Video  00:11 N/A  00:17 00:08 
HD Neat Video applied   00:45 N/A 00:43 00:44
UHD No Neat Video   00:31 N/A 00:23 00:27
UHD Neat Video applied   02:40 N/A 02:38 02:42

 

  Retail Price Neat Video (HD) Neat Video (UHD)
AMD Ryzen 3900X/Radeon 6900XT $4,040 59.7 FPS 15.7 FPS

 

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X + NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090

Second in the desktop comparison is another custom-built system stocked with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970x 32-core CPU and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090. The 3970x retails for around $2,100.00 and the RTX 3090 retails for $2,539.00 -  these are also a little hard to find but if you’re lucky enough to grab one, they are powerful components. This custom-built system cost $6,500 new excluding the cost of Windows. Here are some more specs:

  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970x: 32-core, 3.7 GHz Socket zTRX4 280W
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090: 10496 NVIDIA CUDA Cores, 24 GB Memory, 384-bit/sec memory Bus, 936.2 GB/s Bandwidth, PCI-e 4.0

Frame Size:    1920x1080 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
Best combination: GPU only (NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090): 66.6 frames/sec

Frame Size:    3840x2160 progressive
Neat Video 5.4.7 Pro plug-in for Resolve (Windows)
Best combination: GPU only (NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090): 21.2 frames/sec

  DNxHD 175x (HD)
DNxHR HQX 10-bit (UHD)
- MXFop1a .mxf
ProResHQ   H.264
(Resolve default)  
DPX RGB
10-bit  
HD No Neat Video  00:05 N/A  00:14 00:04
HD Neat Video applied   00:35 N/A 00:33 00:34
UHD No Neat Video   00:13 N/A 00:18 00:10
UHD Neat Video applied   01:58 N/A 01:52 01:52

 

  Retail Price Neat Video (HD) Neat Video (UHD)
AMD Ryzen 3900x/Radeon 6900XT $6,500 66.6 FPS 21.2 FPS

Bottom line

Looking at pure numbers, the desktop systems clearly beat the mobile systems. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper combined with the RTX 3090 was clearly showing off with its HD speed test result at 66.6 fps and its UHD speed test result at 21.2fps. We are almost to the point where we can play UHD footage in Resolve in real-time with noise reduction applied, that is really incredible. It starts to eliminate the technical delay for the artists working. The lower the delay, the more fluid our creativity becomes. Check out the chart below which compares all of the systems in this write-up:

  Retail Price Neat Video
Speed (HD)
Neat Video
Speed (UHD)
DNxHD 10-bit
Render Time (HD)
DNxHD 10-bit
Render Time (UHD)
Apple M1 Max  $4,300 35.3 FPS 7.69 FPS 00:47 03:31
Dell XPS 17 9710  $2,650 23.8 FPS 6.78 FPS 01:19 05.24
HP zBook Fury G8 $5,800 34.7 FPS 8.85 FPS 01:05 04:49
Custom built desktop with
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and
AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT
$4,040 59.7 FPS 15.7 FPS 00:45 02:40
Custom built desktop with
AMD Ryzen 3970X and
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090
$6,500 66.6 FPS 21.2 FPS 00:35 01:58

For the mobile workstations, the HP zBook Fury G8 is about $1,300 more than the MacBook Pro with M1 Max and over $3,000 more than the Dell XPS 17 9710 - so it’s quite a bit more expensive. Most of that is spent on the RTX A5000 GPU (over $3,000). Considering that Apple builds this M1 Max-based system internally, where Dell and HP are building systems with tried and tested Intel and NVIDIA-based hardware, it’s an amazing achievement to match and exceed speeds. So points to Apple for really crushing the competition with their first offering out of the gate at a decent price point. That being said, HP can technically classify their system as “workstation” because it is built with enterprise-level components made to run 24/7/365 and if they don’t they will have your system back up and running fast. The Apple M1 Max-based MacBook Pro is a workstation-level computer but without MIL-SPEC testing and ISV certifications it technically isn’t a “pro” level classification. That usually only matters to enterprises and large corporations, so if that isn’t you and you love Apple, the MacBook Pro with M1 Max seems to be the overall best deal.

Desktop systems are usually going to win the race. Desktop cases aren’t usually trying to find creative ways to manage heat and airflow - desktops allow for a much cooler running system without losing energy to heat (as long as you buy the correct case and fans to support it). All that being said it comes at a desktop real-estate cost as well as energy consumption. As an Online Editor, sometimes referred to as a Finishing Editor or Technical Editor, I constantly use Neat Video to remove noise and flicker from my work. Sometimes I even use Neat Video to remove unwanted noise from my family videos. The best part is, Neat Video does not usually over-de-noise. The auto-profile builder will reduce the bad noise in your footage leaving you with a pleasing image. And if you need to push it further you can manually adjust it. The usual drawback is noise removal is VERY taxing on your computer. If you have never heard your fans in your system turn on, try playing back an unrendered UHD RED clip with Neat Video applied. But systems like the new MacBook Pro with M1 Max chip are starting to get so fast that noise removal isn’t so tedious. Once you understand how to build a profile, you can continue working without having to render thanks to modern CPUs and GPUs.