If you are a photographer or graphic designer you might already know the importance of having a good photo editing software to tweak your photos. For most people the go-to industry-standard software is Adobe Photoshop.
However, editing photos on Photoshop can be frustrating if you are working with a machine that just cannot handle its power intensive resources. Photoshop and other well-known photo editing apps tend to eat up a lot of your RAM and make your overall system run very slow.
Having a powerful desktop might seem like a good solution but if you want a more portable option, a good quality laptop will take care of all your creative needs and let you work on the go. But, before you go ahead on a shopping spree there are some important factors you have to look out for when choosing the best laptop for photo editing and running Photoshop.
How to Choose the Best Laptop for Photo editing and Photoshop
Photoshop and other photo editing apps tend to be power-hungry so a powerful laptop is a must-have for any photo editor.
Here are some key components you should look out for when choosing to buy a laptop for photo editing.
The CPU or central processing unit is the brain of the computer and is responsible for carrying out all the tasks that are done on the computer. Most CPUs are made by AMD or Intel. For MacBooks, Apple had recently launched their M1 processor moving away from Intel.
When choosing a laptop that can handle advanced photo editing you need to have at least an Intel Core i5 processor with a 2GHz or more clock speed. I would recommend settling for an octa-core 10th gen Intel i7 processor to have optimal speed when editing photos and using Photoshop.
If you plan on getting an Apple MacBook you should opt for their advanced M1 processor that was specifically designed for MacBook giving you optimal performance speed, and responsiveness.
A GPU or graphics card is responsible for displaying everything you see on your computer. There are two types of graphics card – integrated and discrete.
An integrated graphics card shifts most of the heavy lifting on the CPU so if you have a good processor this would be an ideal option.
A discrete graphics card is much more powerful and separate from the CPU. These are usually made by NVIDIA or AMD and used in gaming computers.
For Photoshop users having a discrete graphics card might not be necessary if you don’t work on projects that require heavy graphic rendering such as, 3d modelling. Here’s a helpful chart by Puget Systems comparing different GPUs and as you can see there isn’t much difference.
The RAM or random access memory is where your files are stored for later use. This allows the computer to quickly respond to tasks from the user. Photoshop eats up a lot of RAM and having more of it can drastically improve your workflow and make your photo editing process much more efficient.
For photo editing you should have at least 8GB of RAM and recommended is 16 to 32GB of RAM.
Hard Drive or Storage
The hard drive is the second type of internal storage that is used to keep your files. Unlike RAM, this is a permanent storage for all your files. There are two types of hard drives for a laptop – HDD and SSD.
We’ll only focus on SSD or solid state drive as that is much faster and more efficient than a HDD. A 256GB SSD is the least you would want for your photos and editing software as they take up a lot of space. I would recommend having a 512GB SSD as that would be good enough for even advanced photo editors.
Top 10 Best Laptops for Photo editing & Photoshop
Below I compiled a list of the 10 best laptops for photo editing and Photoshop in 2021 to satisfy your creative soul.
2021 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, Apple M1 Pro chip with 10‑core CPU and 16‑core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD) – Silver
2021 Newest Dell XPS 7590 15.6″ 4K UHD Display, Intel Core I7-9750H, NVIDIA GTX 1650, 32GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD, Webcam, Backlit Keyboard, FP Reader, Windows 10 Home
ASUS ZenBook 14 Ultra-Slim Laptop 14” Full HD NanoEdge Display, Intel Core i5-1135G7, 8GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD, NumberPad, Thunderbolt 4, Windows 10 Home, AI noise-cancellation, Pine Grey, UX425EA-EH51
Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop 2020: Intel Core i7-10750H 6-Core, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, 15.6″ FHD 1080p 120Hz, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, CNC Aluminum, Chroma RGB Lighting, Black
Apple MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip (13-inch, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage) – Space Gray (Latest Model) Z124000FK
Latest Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 14″ FHD+ Ultrabook, 11th gen i7-1185G7, 16 GB DDR4,512 GB SSD, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, Fingerprint Reader, Win 10 Pro (20XW003KUS), Black
Lenovo Legion 5 Gaming Laptop, 15.6″ FHD (1920×1080) IPS Screen, AMD Ryzen 7 4800H Processor, 16GB DDR4, 512GB SSD, NVIDIA GTX 1660Ti, Windows 10, 82B1000AUS, Phantom Black
HP Spectre x360 GEM Cut 13.3″ FHD Touch Laptop, Intel i7-1065G7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Bang & Olufsen, Fingerprint Reader, HP Stylus, Nightfall Black, Win 10 Pro, 64GB TechWarehouse Flash Drive
NEW Microsoft Surface Book 3 – 15″ Touch-Screen – 10th Gen Intel Core i7 – 32GB Memory – 1TB SSD (Latest Model) – Platinum
1. Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Best Overall Laptop for Photo editing)
Apple has been considered the industry-standard by many creative professionals due to its powerful capabilities and display features.
The Apple MacBook has a beautiful 16” display with 120Hz refresh rate. Its liquid retina XDR display gives you richer color contrast and much more detail in shadows. It is extremely bright with up to 1000nits sustained brightness and 1600nits peak brightness which makes colors appear more vibrant.
Inside the laptop is Apple’s own M1 10-core processor chip along with a 16-core GPU which will give you quicker graphics rendering making your Photoshop workflow faster. The 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD is also an ideal internal storage for all your photo editing needs as it will make your laptop much more responsive and enable you to store all of your photos and software comfortably.
Putting all these great features aside a 16” display might be a bit overwhelming for some people so it might be better to stick to the other more portable options below.
- Color rich display
- Powerful CPU and GPU
- Capable RAM and SSD
- Too big for some
2. Dell XPS 15 (Best Windows Laptop for Photo editing)
Dell is a very well-known brand and the Dell XPS 15 laptop is one of the best non-apple laptop that you’ll find for photo editing.
It has a 15.6” 4K UHD touchscreen display which is a great portable size and makes your photos come alive. The Adobe RGB 500nits display would also make sure you have the highest picture quality on a laptop.
The Dell XPS 15 has a powerful 9th gen hexa-core Intel i7 processor which can handle power-hungry photo editing apps and a NVIDIA GeForce 1650 graphics card which is good enough for the Adobe suite.
The 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD top it off by making the XPS a blazing fast computer for photo editing and a suite for all your creative needs.
- 4K UHD picture quality
- Great audio quality
- Highly capable RAM and SSD
- Weak GPU compared to other brands
3. ASUS Zenbook 13 (Best Budget Laptop for Photo editing)
The Zenbook is an ultra-slim and stylish laptop developed by ASUS and weighs only 2.7lbs. The laptop is lightweight and portable but packs a punch. It has a 13” FHD 1080p IPS display with a 100% sRGB gamut coverage giving you accurate color and resolution for your photos.
It has a 10th gen Intel i7 processor with integrated IrisX graphics, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD which makes this the perfect budget laptop for professional photo editing.
- Lightweight and portable
- Great display for 13”
- Complicated trackpad
4. Razer Blade 15 (Highest Performance for Photo Editing)
Razer is a brand with a reputation in the gaming industry but the sheer performance their Razer Blade 15 offers can be utilized by photographers and graphic designers as well.
The Razer Blade 15 base laptop features a 15.6” 4K OLED display which gives you sharp color contrast and higher levels of detail.
A 10th gen Intel core processor with up to 5GHz clock speed and a NVIDIA GeForce 1660Ti graphics card makes this laptop a performance powerhouse and run Photoshop as smooth as butter.
It has a 16GB RAM with a 256GB SSD which I would recommend you upgrade to 512GB or 1TB so you have enough storage for your photos.
It has a RGB backlit keyboard but on a downside it heats up quite a lot which may make longer work sessions difficult.
- High-quality specs
- 4K OLED sharp 1080p display
- Up to 5GHz processor clock speed
- Overheats on prolonged use
5. MacBook Air (Highest Rated Apple Laptop)
The Apple MacBook Air is a great laptop for anyone wanting to buy a Mac without breaking the bank.
It has a nice portable size with a display of 13.3” with 2560 x 1600 pixels resolution.
It features the powerful 8-core M1 processor with Apple’s 7-core GPU giving you maximum performance to run Photoshop and render 4K graphics. The 16GB RAM makes everything super responsive and speeds up the photo editing process.
The 256GB SSD might be limiting for some professional photographers and photo editors but overall I don’t think anything beats Apple when it comes to making the best laptop for photo editing purposes.
- Powerful Apple developed processor
- Color rich display
- Long battery life
- Limited storage
6. Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (Best Portable Laptop for Photo editing)
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop is great for on the go photo editing thanks to its 2.4lbs lightweight design. The ThinkPad’s display is a 14” FHD+ 1920 x 1200 IPS display with 97%sRGB coverage and a 400nits brightness. These features give you a sharp resolution with vibrant colors breathing life into your photos.
It has the latest 11th gen Intel i7 processor with integrated IrisXe graphics which makes the CPU do the heavy-lifting and easily manage power-hungry photo editing apps. The 16GB fixed RAM and 512GB SSD will also help manage the internal storage of the laptop with ease.
- Latest processor
- Irreplaceable RAM
7. Lenovo Legion 5 (Best Gaming Laptop for Photo editing)
Another great laptop from Lenovo is their legion 5 gaming laptop. The 15.6” FHD display will give you a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and higher color clarity which will make your photos pop.
Under the hood, it has an Octa-core AMD Ryzen 7 4800H CPU with a dedicated 6GB NVIDIA GeForce 1650Ti graphics processor which will satisfy all your photo/video editing needs.
The powerful processors partnered with the 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD will make demanding tasks like 3d modelling and rendering much more responsive.
Being around 5.41lbs the Legion 5 does weigh on the heavier side and compromises on the battery lasting only around 5hrs.
- Powerful CPU
- 6GB graphics processor
- Great color clarity
- Short battery life
8. HP Spectre x360 (Best 2 in 1 Laptop for Photo editing)
The HP Spectre x360 is an outstanding laptop for photographers and graphic designers that can double as a tablet. It has a sleek stylish design with a stylus included and weighs only 2.80lbs making it portable and easy to carry around as a tablet.
The 13.3” FHD (1920 x 1080 PPI) display with thin bezels is great for photo and shadows detailing. It has a 10th gen Intel i7 processor with integrated IrisXe graphics giving you super-fast booting times and fast file transfers for your photos.
A 16GB RAM with 512GB SSD internal memory with such capable processors is great for a laptop in this price range.
- 2in1 convertible laptop
- Fast loading and transfer speeds
- Stylus included
- Limited connectivity options
9. Microsoft Surface book 3 (Most Premium Laptop for Photo editing)
The Microsoft Surface Book 3 has an innovative design as the screen can be detached from the keyboard and be used separately as a tablet.
Microsoft really out did the display and keyboard with this one. The display is a 3240 x 2160 PPI 15” touch screen with great color range competing with the latest MacBooks. The backlit keyboard is also precise and extremely comfortable to use.
It has a 10th gen Intel i7 processor with a discrete graphics card and 32GB RAM making the laptop quick to respond to power-hungry apps such as, Photoshop and Lightroom. It also allows for quick file transfers and loading times which will greatly improve your workflow.
The 1TB SSD will be your best friend allowing you to store huge amounts of photos without the fear of maxing your storage.
- Great display and keyboard
- Powerful processor
- Discrete NVIDIA GTX graphics card
- Small trackpad
10. LG Gram 17 (Best Colorful Display for Photo editing)
The LG Gram features a 17” FHD IPS display with DCI-P3 99% color expression. Even with such a large screen it is surprisingly lightweight weighing around 2.98lbs making it a great portable option.
It runs on an Intel EVO platform with an 11th gen i7 processor and integrated IrisXe graphics giving you great performance for photo editing and content creation.
The LG Gram is developed with photo editors in mind as the technical specs with the large colorful display is ideal for photographers and graphic designers.
The 4266MHz 16GB RAM combined with the 1TB SSD will give you fast speeds and abundant storage. It boasts a 19 hour battery life on a single charge and has features such as a backlit keyboard, HD webcam, and Amazon Alexa built-in.
- DCI-P3 99% color expression gives you stunning color vibrancy
- Long battery life
- 17 inch display might be too large for some
- Resolution could be improved with 4K
Photo editing software such as Photoshop and Lightroom require a high-quality laptop for optimal performance and workflow. You would also need a lot of space to keep your photos and custom resources. A laptop with a capable processor, RAM, and SSD can give you an edge on your photo editing process.
The best laptop for photo editing is the Apple MacBook Pro with the M1 processor. If you are not a fan of Mac OS, the best non-apple laptop for photo editing is the Dell XPS 15 and if you are on a budget the ASUS Zenbook will do you well.