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Best Photo Editing Laptops For Photographers in 2021

Best Photo Editing Laptops For Photographers in 2021

The best laptop for photo editing has a zippy hard drive, loads of artist-friendly ports, and is packed with powerful components capable of running demanding photo editing software. You should also have enough storage for a large library of photo files and a GPU that can handle all of your graphics-intensive applications.

You will need a display capable of reproducing a wide range of colors if you edit photos. TechHamster has reviewed a swath of the best laptops for photo editors and photographers, so we know which devices are ideal for content creators. In addition, we test important benchmarks for photo editors, such as Delta-E, sRGB gamut volume and graphics performance. Based on these metrics, we’ve compiled a list of the best laptops for photo editors. 

Check out our best graphic design laptops for those who also dabble in video. For more specific recommendations, visit the best touch screen laptops and best 2-in-1 laptops, please.  

How to Choose the Best Laptop for Photo Editing?

Performance

A computer’s random access memory (RAM) is used to run programs and open files. It can retrieve information from hard drives or Internet browsers and then make it available for quick access.

If the amount of RAM is not sufficient, the information must be accessed directly from the hard drive, which slows down the process. After you turn off the laptop, all the information stored in the RAM is erased.

Photoshop, for example, requires at least 4GB of RAM to run properly, but that also assumes a fast processor. Additionally, Photoshop is commonly used in conjunction with other programs, which impacts the amount of RAM available. An ideal amount of RAM is 8GB.

Professionals who handle heavy workloads should have 16GB of RAM. We found that many models on our list include 8GB by default, and many offer the option to upgrade it. By understanding your requirements, you can determine the exact amount of RAM you need.

The processors are also very important. They are the brains of your computer. Therefore, the more power they have, the faster and the faster they are; the better your laptop will perform. For photo editing, it is recommended to have at least an i5 processor.

Screen

A laptop’s screen is the most visible part. People are unaware of its significance when it comes to getting the best images. The number of pixels on a screen is the most important factor.

The most common resolution is 1920*1080 in High Definition (HD). If you want to go even further, choose a 4K Ultra HD with a resolution of 3840×2160.

Once you’ve chosen a laptop based on its performance and screen features, you can then dig deeper into its aesthetics. Here is our list of the best laptops for photo editing.

Top 10 Best Laptops For Photo Editing

1) Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Best laptop for photo editing under $1000

Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
View at Amazon

Microsoft remains king of the hill when it comes to tablet-style “2-in-1” PCs. Surface’s Surface line remains a juggernaut in an ever-expanding market, and the Surface Pro 8 is the latest example of that dominance and this is the best laptop for photo editing on a budget. The Surface Pro 8 combines the performance improvements of the 7 with the modern design of the X, then improves on both.

As soon as you glance at the screen, you can see the leap forward. With the larger PixelSense display, the chunkier bezels of the past are gone. The screen size has not been the only improvement; the resolution has been raised to 2880 x 1920. You already know your screen won’t compete directly with a dedicated laptop, but this sharper display goes a long way towards making you forget that your device is a 2-in-1.

A gorgeous display is enhanced by the 120Hz refresh rate and PixelSense’s stellar track record when it comes to color and brightness. But your eyes aren’t the only ones who are enthused. So are your fingers. Due to the increased refresh rate, every touch moves across the display at the speed of thought. The touchscreen was not improved by this upgrade, and you will notice it.

What you may not notice is that the Surface Pro 8’s weight and thickness have increased with the redesign – and this is a good thing. Compact and light, the Surface Pro has always been a positive in the 2-in-1 space. As a result, Microsoft was able to grow for the right reasons without becoming cumbersome. How does this affect you? More thermal space means better performance. For the Photoshop test using Puget Systems’ PugetBench, Surface Pro 8 scores near the top of the pack.

However, to really reap the benefits of the Surface Pro 8, one must commit to the $1599 model featuring the 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7. Cost-benefit analysis needs to be conducted, especially since Microsoft refuses to include a keyboard by default. The good news is that both the keyboard cover and Slim Pen are wonderful to use. Unfortunately, you will have to pay almost $300 more for the pleasure (or necessity, as it were).

Those in the market for a Surface have probably come to peace with these realities already, and the title here is “Best Detachable 2-in-1”, not “Best Budget 2-in-1.” The Surface Pro 8 is a truly stunning device from the industry leader.  Microsoft’s next-to-newest Surface Pro 7 is the best option outside of the newest Surface Pro. The Pro 7 is due for a discount with the introduction of the 8.

Pros
  • Gorgeous 14.4-inch, 120Hz display
  • Long battery life
  • Excellent speakers
Cons
  • Thick chassis
  • Not enough ports

Related: Best Laptops For Game Development & Design


2) Dell XPS 15 7590

Best Dell laptop for photo and video editing

Dell XPS 15 7590
View at Amazon

The XPS 12 7590 is one of the smallest high-performance laptops, but this 15.6″ laptop packs a powerful punch!

Of course, this laptop boasts the now widely known InfinityEdge Display, which provides near-perfect visuals, so necessary for photo editing or graphic design.

XPS 15 7590 is powered by Intel processors ranging from i5-9300H up to i9 9980hk 4.1 GHz. It comes with up to 64 GB of RAM and 256 GB – 2TB of SSD storage, depending on the configuration.

Its integrated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card (except for the cheapest model, which offers UHD Graphics 630) along with 4 GB of GDDR5 RAM makes it capable of running even the most demanding programs, so all you need to do is pick this bad boy up and start working!

Pros
  • good battery
  • high-quality display
  • powerful processor
Cons
  • Expensive

Related: Best Laptop For Beginners in [2021]


3) Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch)

Best Apple laptop for photo editing

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch
View at Amazon

Sure, the new MacBook Pro is an obvious choice as the best laptop for photo-editing, but it’s hard not to be thoroughly impressed with what it has to offer. With a maximum of 16GB RAM, the original (13-inch) M1 MacBook has yet to beat the older Intel-powered MacBook Pro as a true image/video-editing powerhouse. No more! Apple has addressed these concerns significantly.

With its new M1 Max processor, which can be ordered with 64GB RAM, the 2021 MacBook Pro not only smashes any RAM limitations, but it also boasts a 16-inch display, which is significantly more comfortable for long editing sessions than a 13-inch panel. Liquid Retina XDR display boasts an insane 1,600-nit peak brightness, which makes HDR content come to life, and DCI-P3 color space coverage for accurate video editing.

Alternatively, if you want to save some cash, a 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip (rather than an M1 Max) is available, though the RAM capacity is restricted to 16GB or 32GB, and its speed is slower.

Despite all this power, the M1 chip architecture, together with a large 100-watt-hour battery, ensures a battery life of up to 21 hours.

No matter how you configure it, the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro is far from cheap, but you’re getting one of the most technically advanced laptops on the market at the moment. The MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is a less expensive alternative.

Pros
  • Awesome M1 Pro and Max chips
  • Supports up to 64GB RAM
  • Sensational screen specs
Cons
  • Hugely expensive
  • Some may miss the Touchbar

Related: Best Laptops For After Effects in 2021


4) HP ZBook Studio G5

Best HP laptop for photo editing

HP ZBook Studio G5
View at Amazon

HP is known for bringing us some of the best high-end notebooks on the market, and the ZBook series is no exception. The G5 model offers incredible performance and features.

The G5 comes with an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM (upgradable to 64 GB! ), and a 256 GB solid-state drive. The processor frequency is 2.3 GHz, but you can increase its speed to 4 GHz.

The integrated Intel 630 UHD Graphics is a bit weak, but it offers a nice 4k resolution that is great for both professional and gaming purposes.

The HP SureView feature prevents your device from being hacked, making it one of the most secure workstations on the market when it comes to malware protection.

Pros
  • 4k resolutions
  • elegant design
  • possibility of installing xeon processors
  • sturdy chassis
Cons
  • 4k screen reduces battery time

5) Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Best Lenovo laptop for photo editing

Lenovo ThinkPad X1
View at Amazon

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga returned in 2021 with a few internal updates, including Intel vPro 11 processors.

The battery life upgrade on the Gen 6 model is even more attractive; it lasts for nearly 15 hours on a charge. ThinkPad X1 Yoga, dubbed the best 2-in-1 laptop for professionals, continues to be a great option for photo editors.

Alternatively, you can choose the model with a stunning 4K display. We suggest the latter for photo editing. A 4K display covers 133% of the sRGB color gamut. With 488 nits of brightness, you can edit on bright, sunny days without struggling to see the screen.

Pros
  • Fantastic keyboard
  • Speedy performance
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • Heavier than some competitors
  • No SD card slot

6) ASUS ZenBook Duo 14

ASUS ZenBook Duo 14
View at Amazon

A big selling point of the ZenBook Duo is its large, touch-sensitive secondary screen above the keyboard. The ScreenPad Plus from Asus can be used as a secondary screen to display another app alongside the main screen, or it can be divided into two or three columns, each displaying a different open app. You can even spread a single app across both screens with the screen extension function.

The main monitor is a 14-inch display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. Although that’s a little low by today’s 4K standards, it’s enough to keep images looking crisp on a screen of this size. Asus has also downgraded the screen in other ways, which is even more disappointing.

Unlike the larger, sadly discontinued 15.6-inch ZenBook Duo, which could be equipped with a 4K OLED display and 550 nits of peak brightness, this 14-inch ZenBook Duo can only cover 100% of the more restrictive sRGB color space and has a maximum brightness of 400 nits.

Even the quad-core Intel Core i7 options are powerful enough for some intensive image editing, and you can specify up to 32GB of RAM – a healthy amount for most scenarios. There are dual Thunderbolt 4 ports as well as one USB Type-A port, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack.

Pros
  • Light weight for its performance
  • Innovative ScreenPad Plus
  • Good CPU/RAM choice
Cons
  • No OLED or wide-gamut screen option
  • Screen not 4K

7) Dell XPS 17

Dell XPS 17
View at Amazon

For photographers looking for a large-screen laptop for photo editing, the Dell XPS 17 (2021) is the best 17-inch laptop and a great Windows 10 alternative to Apple’s MacBooks.

The 17-inch screen is bright and vibrant with a 16:10 aspect ratio screen that’s ideal for photographers because it offers more vertical space than 16:9 widescreen displays, and it can be configured with a 4K Ultra HD+ resolution of 3,840 x 2,400. 

Additionally, the screen supports 100% Adobe RGB and 94% DCI-P3 color gamuts, which means it offers accurate colors as well, and that makes it an excellent choice for professional photographers who wish to edit their photos in the best working conditions. 

Moreover, it’s equipped with some of the best mobile components, and can even be fitted with a powerful graphics card. Moreover, it is thin and light for a 17-inch laptop.

Pros
  • Great performance and powerful configurations
  • Gorgeous design
Cons
  • Lack of port variety

8) Acer Aspire 5

Best budget laptop for photo editing

Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
View at Amazon

This laptop is part of Acer’s Aspire line of best budget notebooks for photo editing under $500. A515 has quite a few things going for it, as well as a couple of flaws.

A515’s design is slick and stylish with backlit data and well-organized ports. Under the chassis, you’ll find a 128 GB SSD, AMD’s Ryzen 3 3200U dual-core processor overclocked to 3.5 GHz, and 4 GB DDR5 RAM.

In terms of graphics, this model features AMD’s Vega 3 graphics card, which easily allows HD resolutions – useful for photo-editing, video-editing, and overall design work.

Battery life is solid at 7.5 hours, though it drains quickly when performing more demanding tasks.

Pros
  • excellent graphics
  • slim and light
  • stable and solid performance
  • cool backlit keyboard
Cons
  • small capacity ssd
  • battery drains easily

9) Razer Blade 15

Best laptop for gaming and photo editing

Razer Blade 15
View at Amazon

Razer’s brand is focused on gaming, and the Blade 15 4K is predominantly a gaming laptop, but the styling doesn’t shout about it like many gaming laptops. Aside from the illuminated green Razer logo on the front and the colour-changing backlit keyboard, the game is virtually undetectable. The latter, however, can be muted for a more sober appearance. 

Among the best features of the Blade 15 is its 15.6-inch 4K screen, which is now an OLED panel in the Blade 15 Advanced model, giving it stunning color vibrancy and contrast. Also, it’s touch-sensitive with a 300Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth gaming, if that’s your thing.

Blade 15 configuration also comes with a GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics card. Gaming at 4K resolution will benefit from the extra power, but apps like Photoshop won’t use it. Despite its solid build quality and excellent heat ventilation, as well as the three standard USB ports, there is no SD card slot, which is a pity.

We’ve listed the prices for all Blade 15 models here, and not just the flagship Advanced model, but even a ‘base’ Blade 15 will still be a powerful image editor.

Pros
  • Quality display and well made
  • Healthy performance
Cons
  • Fast graphics card not that useful for photographers

10) Huawei Matebook 13

Huawei Matebook 13
View at Amazon

Huawei excels not only when it comes to smartphones, but also when it comes to laptops. Look at this beauty!

This model is smaller than the rest on this list in terms of size. In spite of this, his 13.2″ does make him lighter and more portable than them.

Furthermore, Huawei Matebook 13 has some pretty impressive tech specs. There are two variants, one with Intel’s 8th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 processors, their 1.8 GHz overclockable up to 4.1 GHz, and 8 GB of RAM.

The Matebook 13 comes with a 512 GB SSD, which provides a solid amount of storage with excellent speed. Also worth mentioning is NVIDIA’s GeForce MX150 graphics card, which is great for both photo editing and casual gaming.

A new feature of the Matebook 13 is its Shark Fin 2.0 cooling system! We achieve 25% better airflow at 8000 rpm than with commonly found cooling systems!

Pros
  • excellent cooling system
  • powerful configuration
  • descrete nvidia graphics
  • full core processing
Cons
  • solid amount of ram, though it could’ve been higher

11) HP Spectre x360 

HP Spectre x360
View at Amazon

The new version of HP’s Spectre model is a significant improvement.

Gemcut is equipped with Intel’s 8th generation Core i7 1.8 GHz quad-core processor, overclockable up to 4 GHz, and 16GB of RAM.

It boasts a 512 GB SSD (upgradable to 2 TB), as well as 34 GB of Intel Optane memory!

A graphics card is integrated, but there is no need to worry: it is still capable of more demanding editing, and the 13.2″ screen has a touchpad with active stylus support, which is a great bonus for all graphic designers.

Pros
  • full hd display with high-quality power-saving mode
  • excellent overall performance rate
  • excellent sound quality
Cons
  • touchpad is not as top-notch as the rest of the hardware

12) Microsoft  Surface Pro 6

microsoft-surface-pro-6
View at Amazon

A 12.3-inch pixel sense display screen and a light weight make this one of the lightest and most portable laptops for editing photos and videos.

Due to its versatility, it can be used as a laptop, tablet, or studio.

Screen resolution of 2736*1824 pixels and Intel UHD Graphics Card 620 provide a bright and clear image.

Pros
  • versatile with several modes of use (studio, tablet, and laptop mode)
  • includes windows 10 home
Cons
  • surface pen and surface dial are sold separately

Best Laptops For Photo Editing Buying Guide

In the HP Spectre name, x360 refers to the touchscreen’s ability to rotate through 360 degrees, so the laptop can be converted to a tablet. Microsoft Windows 10 automatically detects the position of the screen and adjusts the interface to be more touch-friendly. This feature is useful if you frequently use your laptop on the go and can’t always rest it on a surface. Even though a 1.92kg weight is appropriate for a 15.6-inch laptop, it’s too heavy for a tablet, so the Spectre isn’t a replacement for a conventional tablet.

HP has switched to an AMOLED screen for its flagship 2021 Spectre x360 15t-eb100 touch model. It still sports a 4K resolution (3840 x 2160), but you now get 100% DCI-P3 color space coverage and an impressive peak brightness of 400 nits. Corning Gorilla Glass anti-scratch coating further enhances the x360’s usability in tablet mode.

A single USB Type-A port is present, along with two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, an HDMI 2.0b port, and a Micro SD card slot. A quad-core 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM provide ample editing power, though there is no dedicated graphics card, so don’t expect this to be a gaming monster. Nevertheless, the automatic facial recognition for Windows Hello sign-in is a useful feature.

Tips for photographers to choose the best Photo-Editing laptop

Screen quality matters

With appalling contrast and viewing angles, laptop screens used to be more eye-sore than eye candy. Thankfully IPS displays solve this problem, and you shouldn’t settle for anything else. 

Speedy storage 

Any new laptop should have a solid state drive (SSD). All of our options include one, but don’t settle for a small capacity if you’re working with 4K video. Check out our guide to the best internal SSDs.

Graphic novelty

Although dedicated graphics cards are great for gaming, they aren’t necessary here. They can be replaced by today’s processors, and they are powerful enough for photo editing.

Which processor (CPU)?

Model numbers of laptop processors are nearly impossible to decipher. Focus on the ‘base frequency’ (speed, measured in GHz), and the number of processing cores (two, four, or six). 

Mac or PC? 

Many photographers prefer the MacBook, and for good reason. However, don’t discount comparably priced laptop PCs, which can offer more bang for the buck and better upgradeability. 


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Edward Connelly
By Edward Connelly

I’m Edward, and I am a passionate tech writer who loves to try new gadgets. I work as the blog editor at TechHamster where I write about everything from how to use technology in your business, to what apps you should download for your next vacation. I also test out all of the latest and gadgets that come along!

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