Gone are the days where you needed a desktop computer to have enough processing power for photo editing projects. Now the best laptops are not only sleek and portable, but crazy powerful to handle even the most intensive of editing projects.
What makes a good laptop for photo editing?
A good photo editing laptop will have better components than your average daily driver. When looking for a laptop worthy of photo editing, here are some things you should consider:
Display – It starts with the display. Anything less than 1080P won’t cut it, but thankfully all the options below have incredible display technology.
Memory and storage – You’re going to want something with at least 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Raw files can take up a lot of storage on a computer and working with a lot of filters and tools in Photoshop can really crank on your computer’s RAM and processing.
Build – Are you team Mac or PC? It used to be that Macs were the only way to go for photo or video editing, but that rhetoric is just silly now. Both provide great options for photo editing, it’s just a matter of what OS you feel more comfortable using.
Below you’ll find our recommendations for the best laptops for photo editing available. But even when you’re not editing photos, any of these laptops will also be great as your daily driver for work and school.
1. MacBook Pro M1
The bread and butter of the newest MacBook is the M1 chip. These computer chips are lightning-fast even during intensive projects — like photo editing. While the M1 does all of the heavy lifting, the Retina display helps photographers see the nitty-gritty details of each photo. The touch bar is also incredibly helpful to switch between tools and colors in photoshop. Finally, you’ll be able to edit for hours on end thanks to the new and improved battery life.
2. Dell XPS 15
You can configure the Dell XPS to be an absolute photo editing machine, although configurations like a 4K display and 16GB of RAM can start to get pricey. Regardless, the XPS 15 provides a large display and a slim profile combining maximum utility and portability. There’s plenty of connectivity along the side of the XPS including a Thunderbolt 3 port, USB-C as well as an SD slot, which is a godsend for many photo and video editors.
3. Razer Blade 15
When you look past the idea that this is just a gaming laptop and realize that this machine can be configured to have a 15.6-inch 4K OLED display as well as an Intel Core i7 chip and 16GB of RAM, you quickly realize this can be a photo editing laptop powerhouse. Sure, it’s a little bulky for travel, but it does provide plenty of connectivity including a handful of USB ports for external hard drives and additional hardware. And if you also happen to be a gamer when you don’t have your photography hat on, you’ll be especially pleased with the gaming capabilities.
4. Acer Concept D 7
Acer created a mobile photo editing laptop that is as sleek as it is powerful. It starts with a 15.6-inch 4K display that is expertly calibrated to be Pantone-validated (Dr. Suess rhyme unintended), meaning it is specifically designed to provide accurate color depiction for photo editing. Beyond the display, it has a great array of ports for additional hard drives and hardware connectivity. Although it’s definitely on the pricey side, it’s an impressive combination of size and power.
5. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 might seem more like a business computer, but it is also a great laptop for photo editing. It’s compact and lightweight, so taking it from one photoshoot to another won’t be a burden. Beyond being portable, it’s also powerful. It rocks an 11th gen Core i7 processor and can be juiced up to 32GB of memory. There’s a handful of display configurations, but even the base level provides a 1920 x 1200, 400 nit touchscreen which is great. Oh, and the battery life is equally impressive, too.
6. MacBook Air M1
BEST DEAL FOR MAC
While the MacBook Pro M1 is slightly more powerful, there is a lot to like about the MacBook Air M1, especially for photo editors. It’s incredibly slim and quiet thanks to the M1 chip that doesn’t require a cooling fan. Speaking of — the M1 turns the once somewhat meddling Air into a processing juggernaut, turning intense projects into light work. Whether you travel from shoot to shoot, or you’re a stay-at-home editor, the Air is a solid choice for a laptop for photo editing.
7. Acer Swift 3
If you’re been perusing our recommendations and thinking “holy cow, these laptops are expensive,” consider the Acer Swift 3 as your laptop for photo editing. Beyond the less painful price tag, its 8GB of RAM paired with a quad-core i5 or i7 processor gives photo-editing-worthy power. The 14-inch display provides a decent amount of real estate to work with while there’s a great amount of connectivity on the side of the laptop. Not a bad option for the budget-conscious.
8. LG Gram
This laptop for photo editing is all about overall portability, which is surprising for a laptop with a 14-inch display. It’s incredibly lightweight and has an insane battery life of 18 plus hours. Yeah, that’s not a typo. When you combine that with two USB-A ports, USB-C, a micro SD card as well as an HDMI port, you’ll see it’s a rather impressive laptop for photo editing, especially if you’re a photographer that is constantly on the go.
9. MacBook Pro 16-Inch
OLDIE BUT GOODIE
While this isn’t necessarily a new laptop, the MacBook Pro 16-inch might be an even better choice for some over the M1. For starters, the 16-inch display is bigger than the M1 which currently maxes out at 13 inches. It has the same touch bar for additional utility in photo editing programs, plus an incredible Retina display with True Tone technology for precise color editing. On top of all that, the keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook is a joy to use.
10. Microsoft Surface Book 3
The big thing here is the ability to detach the touch screen, and when paired with a stylus, you can truly get hands-on with your editing. You can draw or edit with a stylus or you can snap it back onto the base for a more traditional style of editing. The versatility is something most photo editing laptops in our recommendations can’t provide. If that wasn’t enough, you can also max out specs to have an incredible 15-inch display and tons of processing power.
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