There was a time when laptops were only considered for their portability. Whenever we needed more processing power or high-end graphics, we’d turn to the heavy-duty internals of desktops and workstations. Although the most powerful laptop is still no match for the most powerful desktop computer, they have certainly come a long way. As you’ll soon discover, the best laptop for photo editing has shaped up to be a formidable piece of equipment.
Some of The Best Laptops for Photo Editing
Based on the criteria we’ve listed above, these are the best laptops for photography you can currently buy. Bear in mind that manufacturers often make different versions of each model, so it is essential to pay attention to any laptop’s specifications before you make a purchase.
1. Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019)
The MacBook Pro 16 looks sleek despite its hefty 8-pound build. The larger size is welcome as it comes with a 16-inch 4K Retina Display with P3 wide color gamut. Under the hood lies a ninth-generation Intel Core i7 processor, discrete graphics card, an ultra-fast 512GB SSD, 8GB DDR4 memory, and an optional 8GB DDR6 VRAM for enhanced graphics performance.View On Amazon
- 16” 4K (3072 x 1920)IPS Retina Display,
- 6-core Intel Core i7 2.6GHz (turbo 4,5 GHz),
- 4GB AMD Radeon Pro 5300M/Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPUs,
- Thunderbolt 3 (USB type-C) ports,
- Apple TouchBar/TouchID.
The MacBook Pro features a sleek metallic chassis that’s available in elegant gray or silver. It is stylish, reasonably light, and will fit comfortably in most laptop bags. The quality of the materials is, as expected, world-class, although you do have to contend with a lot of dongles if you use older USB devices frequently.
2. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Choosing the Surface Pro 7 might mean dealing with a smaller screen (12.3 inches), but it also means getting a powerful 10th Gen processor, a convertible build, and a much smaller size to deal with if you travel a lot. With 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD storage, it’s a safe bet that this is the best laptop for photo editing on a budget.View On Amazon
- 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB SSD
- 12.3” FHD (2736 x 1824) Touchscreen Display
- 11-hour battery life
By and large, its best attribute is its size. In tablet mode, you can hold it up with one hand and use the other to operate it. The build quality is supremely classy even though it costs way less than some of the options on this list.
Must-have accessories include the detachable keyboard/stand and the stylus, which gives you greater freedom when editing photos.
3. Dell XPS 15 (2020)
The Dell XPS 15 is considered one of the best laptops in existence, especially for tasks like gaming and photography editing. Looking at its 15.6-inch 4K display, its 9th generation Core i7 processor, and its discrete NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, it’s easy to see why.View On Amazon
- 15.6” 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) OLED display
- Intel Core i7-9750H processor
- 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GDDR5 Graphics Card
- 16GB RAM
- Infinity Edge display bezels
The fact that it weighs only four pounds is astounding. Its specs allow it to breeze through the most graphics-intensive tasks, but its gorgeous 4K display is why the Dell XPS 15 is a photographer’s dream.
4. Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon
Lenovo offers a smaller screen with the ThinkPadX1 Carbon (14 inches). Still, it’s a tradeoff between visual real estate and processing power, which it delivers in spades thanks to a 10th generation Core i7 processor. Ultrabooks are not usually known for performance, but the ThinkPad X1 Carbon seems determined to break that stereotype by equipping you with 16 gigs of RAM and a speedy 512GB SSD to boot.View On Amazon
- 14” WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS Display
- Intel Core i7-10510U 1.8GHz – 4.9GHz processor
- 16GB RAM
- 512GB PCIe-NVMe SSD
- Intel UHD Graphics 620
It weighs a comfortable 2.4 pounds, plus it comes equipped with a fingerprint reader, and ThinkShutter automatic camera shutter, and an ergonomic backlit keyboard.
5. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition
The Razer Blade 15 has a sharp 15.6-inch 4K display backed by a 10th generation Core i7 processor, 32 gigs of RAM, and an entire terabyte of SSD storage. Needless to say, this gaming laptop pulls no punches performance-wise.View On Amazon
- Intel Core i7-10875H (Up to 5.1GHz) processor
- 15.6” 4K (3840 x 2160) OLED Touchscreen Display with 100% sRGB color gamut
- 8GB DDR6 NVIDIA Quatro RTX 5000 VRAM
- 32GB RAM
- 1TB SSD Storage
It costs a pretty penny, but any money you spend on a sturdy yet thin and compact laptop built from CNC aluminum is money well spent. It is sleek yet surprisingly durable, and a piece of equipment that shines on the road.
6. HP Spectre x360 15
As far as 2-in-1 laptops go, this is the largest 4K touchscreen tablet/laptop combo you will find anywhere. The HP Spectre x360 excels in all areas, be it aesthetics, raw power, or functionality for creators.View On Amazon
- 8th Gen Core i7-8565U processor
- 512GB SSD
- 16GB RAM
- 15.6 4K (3840 x 2160) Ultra HD Touchscreen Display
- NVIDIA GeForce MX150 discrete graphics
Convertible laptops are almost exclusively small, so a piece of equipment like the HP Spectre x360 is a rare find, especially for professionals who need more freedom when it comes to how they can edit their work.
7. Acer Swift 3 14-inch
The Acer Swift 3 comes in the perfect compact package that features a crisp 14-inch Full HD IPS panel, a 10th generation processor, eight gigs of RAM, and 256GB of SSD. That’s plenty to be excited about even without factoring in the backlit keyboard and stellar build quality.View On Amazon
- Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor (1GHz – 3.6GHz)
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB SSD
- 14” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS display
Despite being very affordable, it is well-equipped to handle some intensive photography editing. Other features worth noting include the fingerprint reader and backlit keyboard.
What Makes a Laptop Capable of Photo Editing?
Modern photography requires more than just a good camera and a good eye. Many award-winning photographs would not exist if not for the help of photo editing software. Crucial as it is to the photographer’s workflow software like these tend to demand lots of computing resources. Needless to say, choosing the best laptop for photo editing is just as important as picking the right camera for the job.
Intel and AMD-manufactured processors are the two main types of processors to consider. Intel processors are better suited to resource-heavy tasks like photo editing, although AMD processors are marginally superior in graphics-intensive tasks.
Here’s a quick guide to picking out a laptop with a processor that matches your needs. As a template, we will use the Intel Core i7-7820H processor.
- The core version: Intel processors are often marked with “i” followed by a digit (i3, i5, i7, i9, etc.). This number indicates the core version. The higher the number, the faster the processing speed of the laptop.
- The generation: Processors that succeed older versions are considered to be in a new generation. The generation number is represented by the number immediately after the hyphen. In our case, the i7-7820H is a 7th generation processor.
- The speed: The digits after the generation number, in our case, the i7-7820H,indicates the processor’s speed. An i7-7600U, for instance, is slower.
- The processor type: Most 7th, 8th, and 9th generation processors, plus a few 10th generations, have a letter at the end. This letter indicates the type of processor installed. “H” stands for high performance, so these processors are standard in high-end computers. “U” means ultra-low power, so these computers trade-off performance for power. “Y” means extremely low power; such processors can be found in budget computers with a fan-less design, which means they produce very little heat.
Screen Type, Size, and Resolution
When it comes to the display, here’s what you should focus on:
- The display type
Laptop screens are often built using different technologies, each of which has different attributes. There’s the TN (twisting nematic) panel, the VA (vertical alignment) panel, and the IPS (in-plane switching) panel. TN is the most affordable, and while more expensive, IPS is the best type of screen for photo editing because it has the most accurate color rendition.
- Screen size
Most laptop screens fall in the range of 11 inches to 17 inches diagonally. A larger screen offers more viewing real estate, but it makes the laptop heavier and consumes more power. A smaller screen may be more energy-efficient, but it may be harder to see your pictures’ finer details if the screen is too small.
Screen resolution refers to the number of physical pixels a screen can display. For photo editing, a high definition screen (1920 x 1080 or 1080p), which displays over 2 million pixels, is the bare minimum recommended.
A screen’s gamut is the range of colors it can display. For photo editing, you should have a screen that shows over 90% of the sRGB color gamut. Higher is better, but a lower range may not accurately reproduce the colors captured by your camera.
Random Access Memory (RAM) is where the computer stores data that’s in use at any particular moment. If the laptop has too little RAM, it will perform sluggishly and stutter through resource-intensive tasks like photo editing. For a smooth experience, the minimum recommended RAM your computer should have is 8GB. You can always upgrade this to 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB if your workload demands it.
Type of Hard Drive and Storage Capacity
The hard drive, hard disk, or hard disk drive (HDD) is your laptop’s internal storage mechanism. There are two types to consider: traditional HDDs (comprised of moving parts) and Solid State Drives (SSDs), which are similar to flash memory cards. SSDs are quicker and less likely to fail, but they’re often available in smaller capacities. HDDs, though larger, are more prone to damage and failure. They’re also comparatively slow.
The best laptop for photo editing on a budget may have an HDD as the primary storage device. However, some have both an SSD (for faster operations) and an HDD (for larger storage capacity).
Graphics cards come in two variations: integrated and discrete. Integrated graphics cards tend to be part of the processor, while discrete graphics cards exist as separate dedicated GPUs (graphics processing units).
Although people get dedicated GPUs to improve their gaming experience, many photo editing tools take advantage of the increased graphics capabilities of computers to accelerate or enhance certain functions. It might be necessary to spend a little more to get a laptop with a discrete graphics card if you dabble in high-quality photography editing.
Even though most professionals edit their work using high-powered desktops, it’s not always an available option, especially for those constantly on the go. The best substitute is a powerful laptop. If your search for the best laptop for photo editing has led you here, rest assured that you’ve come to the right place.