Benchmark information from AppAdvice.com
If the results of benchmarks run by Tim Chaten at AppAdvice are any indication, anyone looking for a good, fast iMovie workstation for doing editing in the field should take a close look at the app running on an iPad 2.
Chaten wanted to see how iMovie for iOS running on the dual-core A5 iPad 2 would stack up to the Mac OS X edition of the app running on a variety of Macs, so he took a set of files to an Apple Store to run three tests on all of the stock Macs in the store with the exception of the Mac mini. The results were astonishing.
In the first test, copying a two-minute test video shot on a fourth-generation iPod touch to an iPad or Mac, the iPad 2 was the hands-down winner. It copied the files in just 25.5 seconds compared to 56.5 seconds on the fastest Mac -- a Mac Pro.
The second benchmark encoded an unedited movie to 720p. Once again, the iPad 2 bested the rest of the Apple family by speedily encoding the file in 1 minute and 56 seconds. The fastest Mac in the bunch (hardly a portable machine) was a Mac Pro at 2 minutes and 15 seconds, while the fastest laptop was the 17" MacBook Pro; it timed in at 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
The final benchmark was more realistic, adding a title overlay, background music and images to open and close the movie. This was the only situation where the iPad 2 didn't beat the others, but it still rendered the video in a respectable 2 minutes and 5 seconds, close to the 1 minute and 48 seconds achieved by the 17" MacBook Pro.
Now there are some realities to look at. First, iMovie for iOS doesn't have the wide variety of editing features of the Mac version. Second (as pointed out by Gizmodo), the raw video was captured on an iPod touch featuring a chipset similar to the iPad 2, so the video is essentially optimized for the iOS version of iMovie. Finally, the iPad 2 has a built-in H.264 encoder that's similar to the Elgato Turbo.264 HD USB dongle used to accelerate H.264 encoding on the Mac. Add one of those to a Mac and you'll likely see better results for the Macs.
But still, if you're looking for a very portable way to do some limited video editing in the field, the AppAdvice benchmarks show that iMovie on an iPad 2 is an excellent and fast alternative. We'll probably never see an Academy Award-winning movie filmed and edited on an iPad 2, but it's nice to know that it could be done.