This review is part of the overall Mac Mini (2012) review.
Importing huge video files is breezy with USB 3, SD card slot, SSD and Fusion Drive.
Fusion Drive is helps save time during file importing but after that it doesn't really impact the performance during video editing.
My videos are usually 1080P at 25FPS so the comments below are regarding those settings.
I use both iMovie 11 and Final Cut Pro X. Both are snappy on the Mac Mini. Scrubbing 1080P videos through the timeline updates the viewer instantly.
I've also tried editing with the original video files on USB 3 and Firewire 800 external drives (Western Digital My Passport 5400RPM) and there's no lag or stutter while skimming. There's no difference when choosing to edit video off either USB 3 and Firewire 800. The difference is only speed when you're transferring files.
Depending on what applications you use, you might not get the multi-core advantage to rendering. For example, iMovie doesn't maximize the use of all cores while rendering video.
Final Cut Pro X makes use of multi-core when exporting so it's faster than iMovie. The only time I feel the fans speeding up is while Final Cut is encoding.
Just for comparison against my old Mac Pro quad 3Ghz, I downloaded these two videos below, imported and then exported them using Final Cut Pro X.
Chinatown Mid Autumn Festival Sketchwalk (2m15s video at 1920 by 1080, 25fps):
Mac Pro: 14m07s
Mac Mini: 7m37s
Kampong Glam Sketchwalk (2m16s video at 1280 by 720, 25fps):
Mac Pro: 6m15s
Mac Mini: 3m35s
The 2012 Mac Mini is almost twice as fast as the 2006 Mac Pro when it comes to rendering videos. Impressive! And at less than half the price.
And Final Cut Pro X is about two times faster than iMovie. From the Activity Monitor, I see that it actually uses around two cores for rendering as compared to one for iMovie, which is about 40% vs 25% CPU usage. Even Final Cut Pro X does not use all 4 cores. Final Cut's usage of processing power really varies, and I don't know according to what criteria.
Using other applications while rendering affects the overall export time.
When it comes to running effects on Final Cut Pro X, things get slower. You'll want to check out barefeats.com tests that compare this Mac Mini to the iMac with a dedicated GPU.
Importing huge files
But importing huge files, I mean importing more than 4GB of files. It seems after the first 4GB is imported (using the SSD), the speed of import slows down drastically afterwards. OSX will take its time to readjust the Fusion partition for best use of the SSD and slow hard drive, and during this period of time, even copying files to USB3 drives are limited by the hard drive speed.
Editing 4K video is quite a challenge. Scrubbing the video isn't that responsive but it's not surprising given that 4K video is really data-heavy. It still can be done though, slowly. The main problem is I cannot get the Mac Mini to export 4K video. That option is not available when exporting.
I can't confirm whether the Mac Mini is good enough for professional video editing because I don't have cameras that shot at 1080P at 50FPS or 60FPS. But what I can say is it's definitely powerful enough for general purpose video editing, such as videos for events, friends' parties.
The best Mac Mini to get for video editing is the middle model with 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7.
Video encoding is very dependent on processor so it might be worth to upgrade to 2.6Ghz quad-core. However, the counterpoint is, if Final Cut is not using all the cores, then why bother upgrading?
If you go for the standard 4GB RAM, the video RAM is only 512MB. If you top up to 8GB RAM total, the video RAM increase to 768MB.
Editing off either USB 3 and Firewire 800 has no difference in terms of performance even when the hard drives are 5400RPM. Firewire drives are usually more expensive and in this case price does not equate to better performance.