Assessing which is the best laptop for photo editing can be a confusing task. It's simpler from the Mac side, but the choice of PCs can be overwhelming.
We've gone for a broad selection here, offering up a couple of more powerful models with Intel's beefed-up Iris graphics. If you're into pro editing you'll probably need a laptop with dedicated Nvidia or AMD graphics on board.
We've also covered which is the best laptop for photo editing under £1,000 as well as the best laptop for photo editing under £500.
Be warned though, at the lower of those price points you're looking at distinctly amateur rather than pro photo editing. If you're after a laptop for professional use, you'll need something with power – and yes, that involves spending more money.
Putting this buying guide together did raise more than a few questions – such as: what's the minimum spec you need for a decent photo editing laptop?
The answer is that you definitely need to be looking for 4GB of memory, as well as at least an Intel Core i3 processor (preferably Core i5 or i7).
You want plenty of on-board storage, too. Many laptops now have solid state drives (SSDs) but these tend to have lower capacity than traditional hard drives. Either way, we don't recommend less than 256GB.
If you're going to be pro editing your photos, you want a top notch processor as well as 8GB of memory plus some fairly capacious storage. Again, no less than 256GB .
Right, let's check out our list of the best photo editing laptops.
The 5 best laptops for photo editing
01. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch
The best MacBook Pro ever, now with Apple's Touch Bar on the premium models
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, (2560 x 1600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 1TB PCIe 3.0 SSD
Go into any coffee shop and you'll see a MacBook. They're pretty ubiquitous. The 13-inch version with Touch Bar is the one to have, although we're typing this very article on a 13-inch without the Touch Bar and very good it is too.
The MacBook is now so thin and relatively light that it will give pretty much any ultraportable laptop a run for its money. Of course, the key difference is the Touch Bar – a thin OLED display at the top of the keyboard that can be used for any number of things, flicking through photos or paying for stuff with Touch ID.
The drawback is that the MacBook Pro is an expensive choice. But you do get a tremendous laptop for your money. Be warned that the new MacBook Pros all have USB-C ports (with Thunderbolt 3 support), so you need adaptors for old devices. There is no microSD card slot, either.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro with touchbar (2017)
02. Dell XPS 13
Without question, the best ultraportable laptop
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) – QHD+ (3200 x 1800) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
This is the best laptop for portability and so is our choice for on-the-go photo editing. It's not one for pro editors, but it is a super machine for everyone else and Dell has just updated it with Intel's latest processors to boot. The 13.3-inch touchscreen display has such a slim bezel (Dell calls it 'Infinity Edge').
The best thing is the size of the chassis; it's extremely compact. There's a Thunderbolt 3 multi-use Type-C port as well as standard USB 3.0 and a micro SD card slot, too.
The most expensive versions have QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800 pixel) screens plus Core i7 processors while others have Core i5 and Full HD displays. Put simply, it's a brilliant laptop.
03. Asus Zenbook UX310UA
The best mainstream choice
CPU: Intel Core i3 – i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch up to QHD+ (3200 x 1800) | Storage: 256GB SSD
This is for those who want something like the XPS 13 above, but need to plump for something a little cheaper. But you don't compromise that much for something that's around £450 less. For one thing, the Zenbook isn't as portable. It also isn't so powerful, with a Core i3 processor, but there is a Core i5 option.
So it's not as svelte, but all the essentials are there and you won't have any issues getting your photo editing done on it.
Asus is a formidable brand to look at for a photo editing laptop under £500. And if this is a little too expensive, then the Core i5-toting Asus VivoBook is a great choice.
Read the full review: Asus Zenbook UX310UA
04. Apple MacBook
Flawless, if you look past the limitations
CPU: Intel Core M3 1.2GHz - Intel Core i5 1.3GHz | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 12-inch (2304 x 1440) IPS 16:10 | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Forget about the ageing MacBook Air, the MacBook is where it's at. There are a few issues, though – the base level processors aren't quite good enough for Pro work and there's a single USB-C port. Aside from the processor, the spec is actually pretty good, but then you should expect that for this kind of money.
The screen size will also be an issue for some creatives doing photo work on the move, but it's still a thing of beauty. If you're willing to sacrifice almost anything in favour of portability, this is the laptop for you.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook review
05. HP Spectre x360
If you're after a convertible, this is the best
CPU: Intel Core i7-7500U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS UWVA WLED-backlit multi-touch - Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) | Storage: 512GB SSD
Although the awesome Surface Book is really rather superb, it's also very expensive. That's why we'd plump for the HP. It's super thin and light, but will perform a full 360 (clue's in the name) and convert to a tablet. You're then able to use it with a stylus to make Windows 10 really sing (and Windows Ink is a big part of that, of course).
As with the XPS 13, it comes with a Full HD display by default, but a 4K one is also available as an upgrade – both are excellent for photo editing on the go. Naturally, performance is also on the money. It's a terrific package.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360