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The best laptops for photo editing in 2020

best laptops for photo editing
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Welcome to our updated guide to the best laptops for photo editing in 2020. When picking a device, you have plenty of choice from some of the biggest brands in the world, such as Dell, HP and Apple.

However, it doesn't mean you need to go for the most expensive laptop – after all, basic photo editing, such as cropping, resizing and applying simple filters, can be accomplished without needing very powerful components (see our guide to the best photo editing software for more information).

The hardware laptops run on these days is now more powerful than ever before, which means even mid-range and affordable laptops are often able to do excellent jobs of photo editing.

However, if you're a professional photographer, or a keen enthusiast that wants to take your photography to the next level, and make use of some of the complex functions and advanced plugins in professional-grade tools such as Adobe's Creative Cloud suite, then investing in a more powerful and capable laptop for photo editing is a wise move. Perhaps you’ve bought one of the best cameras and have started working with massive uncompressed images at ultra-high resolutions. The extremely large file sizes you’ll be working with will need as much computer power as possible.

What laptop is best for photo editing?

The best laptop for photo editing for you will depend on your budget and skill level. But what kind of specs should you look for when buying a laptop for photo editing?

Perhaps most importantly, 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.

You'll also find that an increasing number of laptops aimed at photographers and digital creatives have screens that support AdobeRGB  and sRGB colour spaces, and some come professionally calibrated as well.

You definitely need to look for 8GB of RAM, as well; plus 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, 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

Read on for our pick of the best photo editing laptops out there at the moment.

The best laptops for photo editing right now

Apple Macbook Pro

01. Apple Macbook Pro with touchbar

The best all-round laptop for photo editing

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, (2,560 x 1,600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD

The best Macbook Pro ever
Super fast performance
Disappointing battery life

If you're after the best all-round laptop for photo editing, then Apple's iconic MacBook remains the laptop to get. It has a gorgeous screen that will make your photographs look fantastic, while offering a sleek and stylish design that Apple is renowned for. The Touch Bar, a slim OLED display that runs along the top of the keyboard, is a great feature for photographers, as it displays context-sensitive buttons and shortcuts that change depending on the app you're using, and it works with key photo editing software like Photoshop. It can really make a big difference to your workflow.

Of course, the macOS software that comes installed with the MacBook supports all the most popular photo editing apps, and there's enough power in the MacBook to easily handle most photo editing tasks with ease.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1

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

Amazing display
Incredible performance 
High-end model is very pricey

The 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.

DELL Inspiron 13 7000

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

Dual-mode tablet/laptop
Plenty of horsepower
Tablet mode not always needed

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

Processor upgrade available
Great Retina display
Limited memory

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

(Image credit: Microsoft)

05. Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)

A great Windows alternative to the MacBook

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5” 3000 x 2000 PixelSense Display with touchscreen | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB PCIe SSD

Seamless tablet integration
Unrivaled display
No Surface Pen included

Microsoft has been steadily releasing some brilliant devices aimed at creatives and professionals for the past few years now, and the Surface Book 2 is one of its best. It's a brilliant 2-in-1 device, with Windows 10 installed, which means you can use powerful apps like Photoshop without any issues – and the Surface Book 2 can be used like a tablet or as a traditional laptop PC.

The components inside the Surface Book 2 are excellent, and can handle any photo editing task, but the real star of the show is its gorgeous display. Only Apple's marginally better colour calibration gives the MacBook's image quality the edge, but the Surface Book 2 offers a higher 3,000 x 2,000 resolution and an ideal aspect ratio for viewing APS-C and full-frame images. 

You can also buy the Surface Pen stylus and use it with the Surface Book 2's touchscreen for an incredibly versatile tool for photographers and designers.

Acer Swift 3 14”

06. 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

Relatively thick frame

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.

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