If you are a passionate photographer who’s searching for a good little laptop computer, then you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available out there. Unfortunately, unless you are a bit of a computer geek, you might not be able to know the difference between a $800 multimedia laptop and a $800 photo editing laptop. There are some aspects of a photo editing laptop that are really important to take into consideration when you are buying one, because there are many features that differentiate it from a conventional, all-rounder laptop that you can buy for the same price. Those features are primarily the storage, RAM, processor and display. Of course, you also need to consider the type of external ports you are getting on your brand new image editing workstation, as the wrong ports can lead to you not being able to transfer data between your laptop and an external storage medium, this could bring your image editing workflow to a halt before it even begins.
There is no need to worry however, as we did all the research for you, and came up with the best laptops you can buy for the job. The pros and cons of each laptop are mentioned along with their overall features and specifications. You don’t need to be a geek in order to make the right decision, as we have simplified everything down to a point where all you have to do is choose which laptop fits under your budget. Choices also depend upon personal preferences such as battery life, which is super important if you are going to be doing most of your photo editing on the move. Display quality and resolution also matter, but not as much as the type of hard drive installed. Solid state drives are always a better choice than mechanical hard drives, even though they don’t hold nearly as much data. Here are the best laptops for Photoshop, photo editing and photography whatsoever.
Best laptops for Photoshop, photo editing and photography UNDER BUDGET
Apple MacBook Pro 15.4 Inch
This is an older model of a MacBook Pro with all the basic tools that you need to get started. It has a rather passable display, with a slightly low 1440×900 resolution, which is on the brink of the minimum display resolution that a photo editing laptop is expected to offer. The machine is a MacBook, so you will find the usual top notch build quality and excellent battery life that most of us have come to expect from MacBooks, this one has an average battery life of 7 hours, which should last around 5 hours while working. The hard drive is extremely slow at 5400 revolutions per minute, however you will still be able to edit photos on it, just be prepared to see that colorful little spinning wheel a little more often than usual.
The quantity of RAM provided is borderline insufficient, and it is highly recommended that you upgrade to 8GB whenever you get the chance, 4GB RAM modules are not that expensive these days. If you wish to stick with the four gigs, just remember that you should not open more than 2 applications at a time, as it will instantly eat through all your RAM and your system will spiral into slow mode. The processor is a Core 2 Duo, something that has not been seen a lot since the age of the Core-i series, but it should still be more than enough to edit that occasional birthday or party photo that you captured on your phone. Just try not to edit any DSLR or 13MP digital camera photos on it, or else you will be in for a big surprise.
Newest Dell Inspiron 15 5000
If the display on this laptop was any better, we would have been thrilled. But unfortunately, Dell only gave us a resolution of 1366×768, which is just bad if you want to edit and process photos in Lightroom or Photoshop. You can connect it to an external display, but the resolution will be limited to 1920×1080, as the displayport on this machine is an HDMI 1 port. Okay, enough with the bad things, now let’s tell you why you should buy this laptop despite its crappy display.
The amount of performance you are getting for such a cheap computer is simply too good to pass up, it packs an AMD A-8 Quad Core CPU running at 2.5GHz, this processor is amazing for image editing, as well as light gaming and video streaming/playing. It also has amazing on board graphics, in fact the on board graphics from AMD is so good that you can do all your image editing work just by using the on board graphics of the A-8 7410 CPU. It will save a ton of battery life, and you will be needing battery life if you plan to work unplugged most of the day. This CPU beats most of the Intel Core i3 processors out there, as well as matches the performance of some entry level Core i-5 processors, which is simply ridiculous for this price. The hard drive is slow, but offers 1 TB of storage, which might come in handy if you plan to use your laptop as your workstation/primary photo storage device. That allows you to save some money as you won’t have to buy an external hard drive, at least not any time soon. The dedicated graphics is a Radeon R5, more than enough for editing photos, and even capable of light video editing if you are into that sort of stuff.
Just remember – do not try to edit any high resolution photos on this machine, like RAW photos from a DSLR, or panoramic photos with HDR and stuff. It can handle the photos from your digital camera and phone just fine, but don’t begin to throw in images captured on your professional grade camera, as the laptop’s hard drive and RAM just cannot keep up with that kind of workload.
Best laptops for Photoshop, photo editing and photography UNDER $800
Acer Aspire V3771G-9809
This is one of those laptops that doesn’t really impress, but isn’t really bad either. It is a bit on the bulkier side due to its 17.4″ display size, so take that into consideration if you plan to use this machine outside of home or office. It also happens to have a really poor battery life. Even though the company states it is 4 hours, many users have claimed that it is actually about 2 hours under intensive load. Also, the display is a pretty average 1600×900 resolution LCD panel, which is okay but not good enough if you are a professional photographer or image editor. It comes with an HDMI port, so you can connect it with your full HD television, or any external display if you have one. Max resolution will still be limited to 1920×1080 as it is a HDMI 1 port. The processor is an Intel Core i7, if you didn’t know, Core i7 processors are the flagship models of Intel, the latest and greatest they have to offer.
Of course this is not the most powerful i7 out there, but it packs more than enough CPU to process sharp photos, although we seriously doubt you will be doing any of that with the display that you are getting. The amount of RAM provided is 8GB, which is the minimum these days for multitasking because let’s face it, you’ll probably have a few tabs open on Chrome while working on an image in Photoshop, and possibly you will also be downloading something and running antivirus in the background. All of that requires precious memory and 8GB is the bare minimum that you need. It is also worth noting that the laptop has two hard drive bays installed, which means if you want to upgrade to a solid state drive in the future, you can do so without throwing away the factory installed 1 TB mechanical hard drive. And like we told you before, solid state drives make a HUGE difference in image editing workflows.
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition
This is a great all-round machine, which also makes it quite good at image editing and Photoshop work. It’s the first laptop on the list which doesn’t suffer from a bad display. In fact its full HD panel is really good for all sorts of photography work. This Acer notebook sports a full HD display, and the best part is that it has an IPS panel. The IPS panel is what you will find on all professional graphics and photo editing workstations. IPS panels ensure correct and vibrant colors on your display, ensuring that the rest of the world sees your photos the exact same way that you do on your screen.
The laptop itself has a premium finish, and is portable at just under 5 pounds. The battery life is not great at just 5 hours, but that is partly due to the fact that it’s designed to be a desktop replacement laptop, as indicated by its powerful 4th generation i7 processor and gaming grade Nvidia GTX 860M graphics card. The laptop packs more than enough power to process any image or photo you throw at it, however you might want to upgrade your RAM and hard drive for that. The hard drive is still a mechanical hard drive and the RAM is only 8 GB. Good news is that, on most modern laptops, the RAM and hard drive are easily replaceable, but if you have never done that before, then any laptop servicing center, or geek friend of yours will happily help you out.
MSI GL72 6QD-001 17.3″
This is a gaming laptop from MSI that blends all things great about gaming laptops with what you expect from a good medium grade machine, such as amazing value for money, and good build quality. It is equipped with a fast 7200rpm hard drive, and has a full 1080p, IPS display. Also, it comes with the latest 6th generation “Skylake” series processor from Intel. All of the four things that you must prioritize in a good photo editing machine – storage, good amount of RAM, fast processor and a good display – all of those features are present in this photo editing beast. It also comes generously equipped with a variety of external ports, such as USB 3.0, HDMI, Mini-displayPort and Gigabit ethernet port. Although the RAM is still a little limited at just 8GB, it is DDR4 RAM, and is a lot faster than DDR3 which is found on most laptops. And, it can be upgraded to 32 GB, which should be more than enough for any photo editing task in the world. The hard is still a mechanical hard drive, but for a few dollars more you have the option of getting a configuration with a 128GB solid state drive alongside the normal 1TB hard drive. Although, the included hard drive is a 7200 rpm version, so it is faster than the more common 5400 rpm hard drives.
Being a gaming laptop, it is an energy guzzler, and the battery will be depleted pretty fast. It is also because of the giant 17.3″ screen and power-hungry GTX950M graphics card. This laptop is definitely great for video editing, but if you are a professional, you might want to upgrade that RAM and hard drive first. Also, it is not very portable and carries a low battery life. Other features include a brilliant surround sound system, gaming specific booster mode which sends your laptop into a sort of overdrive frenzy, brilliant and extremely tactile keyboard, which is also backlit. Although these are all gaming related features, it doesn’t really hurt to have them, and you might even like a lot of them someday.
PROFESSIONAL laptops for Photoshop, photo editing and photography
Gigabyte P37WV4-BW1 17.3″ Inch
While it is definitely a machine intended for gaming, this beauty from Gigabyte is an engineering marvel, as they somehow managed to cram all that hardware inside a package that is less than 1 inch in thickness. It is almost exactly as thin as a Macbook Pro, and packs the processing power of the top end Macbook Pro, at half the price. It is big nonetheless due to its huge 17.3″ screen, but some of you might actually prefer a larger, full high definition display, besides that it is an IPS panel, and produces brilliant colors.
The RAM is a little limited at 8GB, but is upgradable up to 32GB, so not a whole lot of issues there. The hard drive is mechanical, but at 7200 rpm, one of the fastest mechanical hard drives. Also, there is room for 3 more hard drives in this marvel of a laptop, which is pretty weird considering its slim profile. Also, both the dedicated graphics unit NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, and Intel i7 processor are extremely powerful, allowing you to edit photos and videos without breaking a sweat. It has the latest 802.11 A/C Wi-Fi and comes with display port out, as well as USB 3.0 and ethernet ports.
Dell XPS 15
Dell calls this the “world’s lightest 15″ performance-class laptop”, and for good reason. It is 59% slimmer than a MacBook Pro, at just 11mm in thickness. It is lighter as well, weighing less than 4lbs, and packs more performance than a MacBook Pro, thanks to its 6th generation Intel Core i7 6700HQ processor, paired alongside a Nvidia GTX 960M dedicated graphics chip. The hard drive is a PCIe solid state hard drive, with speeds that are going to ensure you go through your entire photo editing session in record time.
It has 8GB of RAM, which is upgradable, but only to 16GB. This may be a bottleneck 2 years in the future, but for now it is absolutely fine. The battery life is absolutely stunning, and the display is just gorgeous. It comes with Thunderbolt 3.0 ports, a feature rarely found in Windows machines, and it’s bold, sleek looks ensure it doesn’t look like a jacked-up spaceship of a laptop while you are sitting in your office, nor does it look too boring for use at home. All in all, one of the best mobile computers a professional photographer can buy.
HP Zbook Studio G3 Workstation
Pro: Crystal clear 4K Ultra High Definition Display, full metal body crafted from magnesium and aluminum.
Con: Rather limited RAM.
This is a laptop custom built for creative professionals, and its sleek profile and sharp edges are just as striking as its crystal clear ultra high definition display. Images come to life when you view them on the display of this brilliant laptop and its interiors house professional grade hardware in the form of a 256 GB PCIe solid state drive, a Nvidia Quadro professional grade graphics card and an Intel Core i7 processor.
All Adobe applications such as Photoshop and After Effects support the Nvidia Quadro brand of graphics cards, ensuring you will always have the competitive edge whenever you are working on your craft. The RAM is a little limited and needs to be upgraded to 16GB, but that is about the only flaw we could find in this marvelous machine.
Apple MacBook Pro MJLT2LL/A
One of the best laptops for photo editing, the MacBook Pro has long been a favorite of studio professionals and hobbyists alike. It is due to the amazing 2880 x 1800 pixel Retina display, which has only been getting better over time. The contrast ratios are superb and the quality of images is just crystal clear. This version comes with one of the best Intel Core-i7 processors and boasts a 9 hour battery life. It also includes a super fast PCIe solid state drive, which is more than 2 times as fast as normal solid state drives, and over 22 times as fast as a mechanical hard drive.
That difference will be clearly visible when you set out to edit your photos on this machine, as the images will load almost instantly, and any edits made will be processed within seconds. The RAM is a generous 16 GB, and all of this hardware comes sealed in a body that is under an inch in thickness and weighs less than 4.5 pounds. The body is a traditional Apple aluminum unibody, tough and very lightweight. You get 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2.0 ports, and mini display ports on this bad boy. If you didn’t know, Thunderbolt 2.0 is capable of transferring data 4 times faster than the USB 3.0 ports. Which means you can transfer data between your laptop and external storage at lightning fast speeds. Overall, it’s the No.1 weapon of choice for seasoned professionals, who want a reliable, lightweight and powerful workstation for their daily photo editing needs.
Microsoft Surface Book
The Surface Book series is Microsoft’s attempt to unite the laptop and tablet into one portable device. This is one of their best Surface Books yet, sporting an extremely high resolution display and a powerful Intel Core i7 processor. Also, the battery life exceeds 10 hours, and the screen segment which contains all of the hardware and the processors, is just 1.6 pounds after you detach the keyboard. It is one of the best 13.5″ screens in the market, a direct response to Apple’s Retina display. This screen on the Surface Book has a whopping 3000 x 2000 resolution, delivering an effective 267 ppi pixel density. And it is an IPS screen, which results in brilliantly vivid colors and the touch experience is magnificent, to say the least.
It also comes with Windows 10 Professional edition installed, and has a wonderful 1TB solid state hard drive, along with 16GB of RAM, making it the perfect choice for professional photographers and Photoshop experts who want a premium, highly portable and powerful device to carry out all their creative work. If you are not a professional, or if you don’t really need the kind of processing power that this machine offers, you will be better off buying a cheaper machine with adequate processing power to suit your photo editing needs.