Finding the best laptop for photo editing doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive model on the market. You don’t need a powerful computer to make basic edits to photos, such as cropping, resizing and applying simple filters. Making small changes to images captured with a mobile phone camera or downloaded from the web usually won't particularly slow down any modern computer.
But having lots of computing power comes in very handy when it’s time to take your photography to another level, making use of some of the really complex functions and advanced plugins in professional-grade tools such as Adobe's Creative Cloud suite. Perhaps you’ve bought a powerful DSLR and have started working with massive uncompressed images at ultra-high resolutions. The extreme file sizes you’ll be working with will need as much computer power as possible.
Crucially, when working with photos, you’ll want a laptop with a good screen. Thankfully even the most affordable laptops now use screens with IPS technology, which means brighter, bolder images, wider viewing angles and better colour reproduction.
What laptop is best for photo editing?
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. But like a lot of creative kit, some of these machines don't come cheap, so if you're in the market for a shiny new device, it's worth keeping your eye out for upcoming best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
Right, let's check out our list of the best photo editing laptops.
The 6 best laptops for photo editing
01. HP Pavilion 14" Laptop
Everything you’ll need for easy image manipulation
CPU: Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 | Display: 14-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 / Nvidia GeForce MX 130 / 150 | Memory: 8GB-16GB | Storage: 128GB - 512GB SSD | Ports: 3 x USB 3, 1 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1x DisplayPort | Size: 22.5 x 32.6 x 1.8cm; W x D x H) | Weight: 1.6kg | OS: Windows 10 Home
HP’s all-rounder Pavilion laptop is a perfect choice for beginner photographers as it has all the computing hardware you’ll need to run photo editing software really well.
There’s an entry-level Core i3 version, but if your budget can stretch a bit further to the next tier, we’d absolutely recommend it for a significantly better photo editing experience. The Core i5 version has a much faster quad-core processor, which will provide a noticeable speed-up when applying modifications and adjustments to your image, and the IPS-backlist 14-inch display has a superior FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution.
The Pavilion 14 also has a great looking silver design, and 128GB of solid-state storage comes as standard, with 8GB of memory. While this is more than enough to get by, once you start working with higher resolution images, you’ll probably want an upgrade and additional storage.
02. Lenovo ThinkPad P1
The best laptop for professional photographers
CPU: Intel Core i5, Core i7 or Core i9 or Xeon | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro P1000 / P2000 | Storage: 256 - 4TB SSD | Size: 36.1 x 24.8 x 1.8cm; W x D x H) | Weight: 1.7kg | OS: Windows 10 Pro
The newly launched Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is one of the best laptops we’ve ever used, with some features that make it an absolute dream for any kind of graphics work, including image manipulation and photo editing. It’s a real powerhouse, with graphics and processor performance that can go head-to-head against any desktop computer.
It does all this while still being remarkably small - the chassis measures just 18.4mm thick and it weighs just 1.7kg, dimensions far closer to an Ultrabook or mini laptop than you’d expect from a computer that offers this much performance. It can be configured with a four or six-core Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor, an Nvidia Quadro P1000 or P2000 graphics card, up to 64GB of memory and up to 4TB of internal solid-state storage.
That alone would be enough to earn it a recommendation, but we’ve saved the best feature for last. The ThinkPad P1 can be configured with a fantastic 15-inch 4K colour-accurate display that supports 100 per cent of the AdobeRGB colour space, something you don’t find on many other laptops. Even your older photos will look better than ever on this screen, with colours leaping out at you in ways that simply aren’t possible with a standard screen.
While the ThinkPad P1’s high-end performance is met with equally sky-high pricing for the six-core version, the lower-tier model is still a relative powerhouse for photo editing, and you can always upgrade the screen when purchasing to the brilliant 4K version for a fairly small additional sum.
03. DELL Inspiron 13 7000
Can be used like a tablet or traditional laptop
CPU: Intel Core i5 or Core i7 | Display: 13.3-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | Memory: 8GB-16GB | Storage: 256 - 512GB SSD | Ports: 2 x USB 3, 1 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1x SD card reader | Size: 36.1 x 24.8 x 1.8cm; W x D x H) | Weight: 1.7kg | OS: Windows 10 Home
Dell’s Inspiron 13 is a 2-in-1 laptop, meaning it can fold down into tablet format, so you can work with photos using your finger or a stylus via a 10-point touch-sensitive screen, in addition to being able to use it as a standard laptop.
If this idea of a dual-model laptop appeals to you, you’ll be pleased to hear it also packs in some great performance too, with an eighth-generation Intel Core i5 processor. This will ensure any photo editing software you use with it will run smoothly, offering enough power for fluid manipulation of even high-resolution images, whether that’s using the trackpad in laptop mode, or with your fingers in tablet mode.
Perhaps surprisingly, given its good performance, great screen and bevvy of features, it’s far from the most expensive laptop option for photo editing.
04. Apple MacBook Pro 15"
A couple of inches makes all the difference
CPU: 4 or 6-core Intel Core i7 | Display: 15.6-inch Retina Display) | Memory: 16GB - 32GB | Storage: 256GB - 4TB SSD | Ports: 4 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), | Size: 34.9 x 24.1 x 1.6cm; W x D x H) | Weight: 1.8kg | OS: MacOS
Given the choice of the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro models for photo editing, we’d recommend the larger screen size for editing photos on, thanks to the increased desktop space that make it easier to scroll around and make adjustments to images on. That’s despite the higher price of the larger MacBook Pro.
The MacBook Pro is undoubtedly a gorgeous computer, especially the more recent Space Grey colour scheme. The TrueTone Retina display on Macs looks fantastic too and Apple’s TrackPad is one of the best you can find on laptops, which will make a big difference when making fiddly edits.
MacOS works fantastically well with images too. If you have an iPhone for photography and use iCloud Photo Library, every one of your photos will be uploaded from your phone into iCloud, then downloaded straight to your Mac automatically. They’ll already be on the laptop, ready for you to edit and manipulate in Apple’s own Photos app, or in another image editing program of your choice.
Six-core eight-generation Intel processors are a new option in the 2018 version, which will make a real speed difference with the most complex of visual edits and plug-ins in Adobe Photoshop, particularly when working with high resolution imagery.
One word of caution, with 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory as standard, which is rather modest for a laptop that costs this much, you might want to upgrade the specification when purchasing, as Apple laptops cannot be upgraded by the user.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro review
05. Acer Swift 3 14”
If you're after a convertible, this is the best
CPU: 2 or 4 -core Intel Core i5 or Core i7 | Display: 14-inch Retina Display) | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | Memory: 8GB - 16GB | Storage: 256GB - 4TB SSD | Size: 33.8 x 23.4 x 1.8cm; W x D x H) | Weight: 1.6kg
Coming decked in an all-aluminium chassis and a range of colours, the appearance of Acer’s new laptop range has divided opinion. But what’s clear is that you get a great specification for your money, making this one of the best laptops for photo editing.
With a quad-core Intel processor and 8GB of memory as standard, even the mid-range model comes in at less than half the price of Apple’s MacBook Pros but can deliver roughly the same processing power. And the rest of the specification doesn’t skimp either – the 14-inch display uses IPS backlighting technology for wider viewing angles and brighter colours, and supports FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution.
They keyboard is great to work on too, making this a fantastic choice for anyone who wants the power to do serious photography work, without breaking the bank. And if you want a 4K screen, a laptop with that option is available too, again for less than competitors are asking.
One of the most portable laptops there is
CPU: dualcore Intel M3, Core i5 or Core i7 | Display: 12-inch Retina Display) | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | Memory: 8GB - 16GB | Ports: 1 x USB-C, | Weight: 0.9kg
If you think you’d prefer using a Mac and the macOS software ecosystem for photo editing, but your budget won’t quite stretch to the expensive MacBook Pro, Apple’s super-svelte and portable MacBook might be a good alternative, especially if you’re not planning on particularly complex image manipulation.
It weighs under 1kg, and measures 1.3cm at its thickest point, which is about small enough to fit into a bag and not notice it. It has a great 12-inch Retina display, which photos will look lovely on, a large trackpad for editing and 256GB of storage in the entry-level model, which will be more than enough to get by.
If you’re opting for the cheaper entry-level MacBook model, as with all Macs, it’s worth considering a few choice upgrades before purchase to smooth out performance. For photo editing, choosing 16GB of memory will make the biggest difference, and an upgrade from the base model’s Core M3 processor and a Core i5 or Core i7 will give it some extra oomph.