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Best Laptop for Photo Editing

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In order to narrow down the best laptop for photo editing, we looked for computers with good graphics processing, fast memory, a good display, and at least some monitor adjustability for color representation. But in case you are looking for a general computer that is great at computing, open our best laptops guide.

Our top pick and the best laptop for photo editing, the MacBook Air 13-inch, is powerful enough to run Adobe CS Photoshop, InDesign, and LightRoom smoothly while being amazingly light and portable and offering nine hours of battery life. Plus, like all the best laptops for photo editing, it offers an excellent display with accurate color reproduction. Also, check out the best gaming laptop under $1500.

Top 7 Best Laptops for Photo Editing Compared

 #1  MacBook Air Laptop

Award: Top Pick

WHY WE LIKE IT: Compact and portable, with 9+ hours of battery and enough memory to run pro photo editing software. It’s great for photographers who travel a lot and want to be able to send in finished work from on the road, without lugging around a heavy workstation.

  • 9+ hour battery
  • Mac OS well suited to photo editing
  • Enough CPU speed to handle photo software
  • More expensive than the other laptops on our list
  • Uses a previous-generation Core i5 processor
  • Screen resolution less than with later Retina display models

The MacBook Air has long been a favorite of students and professionals on the go, and this 2017 model is still easy to recommend, thanks to the significant discounts available and its more-than-adequate fast performance for photo editing. Which makes it the best laptop for photo editing hands down. With its core i5 processor running at 1.8 GHz or 2.9 GHz turbo boost, a 3M cache, and 8 GB of RAM it supports pro-level photo editing software while remaining one of the easiest laptops to carry around. Built-in 128 GB SSD is plenty for most photoshoots, and this version of the MacBook Air, unlike the 2018+ models, still includes a built-in SD card reader, a pair of USB 3 ports, and a Thunderbolt 2 port, which may save you from having to buy an extra “dongle.”

Another plus is that Mac OS is particularly friendly for the photo editing workflow. From the ease with which you can drag and drop files in and out of the Adobe CS programs, to the custom color representation options for the display, it’s arguably easier to optimize your photo editing experience within this operating system environment. The MacBook Air 13.3” (13.3-inch) also has a great battery life, lasting for up to 12 hours of web browsing. This is also one of the best laptops for programming.

Other options from Apple include the Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Pro 16-inch. The 13-inch Apple Macbook Pro features a 13” Retina IPS display, which is upgradeable to 15”, and a speedy 2.4 GHz 8th-Gen Intel Core i5 processor, upgradeable to 2.8 GHz. Plus, it boasts 8GB of RAM configurable to 16GB RAM, and fantastic options for storage 512GB SSD, upgradeable to 1 or 2TB. Plus, the Macbook Pro can support two external 4K displays and has an ambient light sensor, Touch ID sensor, touch bar, and force touch trackpad for precise cursor control. The 16-inch MacBook Pro features the 9th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, upgradable to the Core i9, an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card, upgradeable to the Radeon Pro 5500M, and a 16-inch Retina display with True Tone.

 #2  Asus Chromebook C202SA Laptop

Award: Honorable Mention

WHY WE LIKE IT: A rugged Chromebook meant for use in schools and outdoor work environments, which still offers enough performance to run Chrome OS or Linux-based photo editing software. It’s great for events, weddings, and nature photographers or photojournalists looking for a laptop for photo editing they can travel with and use just about anywhere.

  • Best budget
  • Drop & spill resistant
  • 10+ hour battery life
  • Only 4GB of RAM, and it’s the slower DDR3 type
  • The limited built-in storage of 16 GB
  • Harder to run the usual professional photo editing apps in Chrome OS

The Chromebook C202SA makes an excellent travel laptop for photographers who may need to quickly do some editing on the go. Drop-resistant and spill-resistant, this “ruggedized” Chromebook is great for when you may want to throw something in your travel bag and not have to worry too much about a fragile, and expensive, laptop. It’s the kind of thing you can use at the truck stop to run some quick edits of your nature photos, or take them with you to an event. This makes it an easy recommendation for travel, wedding, and news photographers as well as for bloggers and journalism students. It has a long-lasting battery, too, around 10 hours with average use. Plus, it has a real, built-in SD card reader.

Among the caveats for this low-priced and durable machine are that it only has 16 GB of internal storage, so you may want to invest in an upgraded solid-state drive. It also takes some tech know-how to make Chrome OS work for pro photo editing. Alternatively, with a similar degree of skill, you could run this as a Linux machine and use editing software like Gimp. If your kid is rocking this laptop, make sure to look at the best kids’ computer case. In addition, you might also want to check out our best kids’ laptop case guide.

Another option is the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo. With an Intel Core i9 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card, and 32GB of RAM, the ZenBook Pro is a fantastic dual-screen laptop suitable for photo editing.

 #3  Microsoft Surface Go Laptop

Award: Best Tablet

WHY WE LIKE IT: A flexible tablet with a stylus, a high-quality touchscreen display, fast connectivity, and enough internal storage for most photo editing projects. It’s great for photo retouchers and digital graphic arts students who benefit from the flexibility of the Surface Go’s tablet/ studio and laptop modes.

  • 8GB of RAM
  • Stylus is great for retouching
  • Up to 128 GB built-in SSD storage
  • 10” display is smaller than the 13+ inch displays of our top 2 choices
  • Preloaded with Windows 10 in “S” mode, making it more difficult to run non-Windows apps
  • No SD card reader

The Surface Go is one of the most portable and versatile tablets on the market. A relative bargain as well, coming in at a few hundred dollars less than the MacBook Air, our top pick, this 2-in-1 laptop and tablet offer photo editors the option of using its stylus on the screen to help with precision retouching and the kind of “pixel peeping” tasks that are especially tedious on a computer with only a trackpad or mouse. It offers 128 GB of built-in SSD storage and comes standard with 4 GB of RAM, though an upgrade to 8 GB is offered, too, making it more than adequate for Adobe CS and most photo retouching software, if not quite up to video workstation specs.

Another big draw for the Surface Go is its size. Despite packing 1800 x 1200 pixels into its display–more than the top pick MacBook Air offers unless you opt for the Retina display–it’s only 10 inches across and weighs only 1 pound, making it even lighter than the MacBook Air. To see how it truly stacks up against the competition, read our best upcoming laptops for college students list.

 #4  Lenovo Flex 11 Laptop

Award: Best 2-in-1

WHY WE LIKE IT: One of the least expensive Windows laptops on the market, it has 4 GB of DDR4 RAM and, crucially for photo editing, an adjustable anti-glare screen. It’s great for students and photographers looking to save on a portable, easy-to-use editing platform.

  • 180-degree rotating touchscreen
  • Built-in SD card reader
  • Anti glare display with faithful color representation
  • Defaults to Windows 10 in S mode
  • Limited memory, 4 GB, compared to the 8 GB available with the Surface Go
  • Processor not as fast as with the MacBook Air, our top pick

This laptop, as the name implies, is a flexible device that can also be used as a tablet thanks to its 180-degree rotating touch screen. This screen is also a boon to photo editors since it supports convenient two-finger zoom gestures and you can use it for airbrushing as well. It also resists glare and does a pretty good job of representing natural-looking colors.

Another big plus for photographers is that the Lenovo Flex 11 comes with a built-in card reader, making the camera-to-computer workflow that much smoother. It also has an HDMI port, handy for connecting to an external monitor, TV, or projector for displaying your work. While its 1.1 GHz intel processor generally does a good job handling basic editing tasks, those who do more heavy edits with many layers or who need to process very large photos may find this single-core processor more limited than the multi-core processors of the MacBook Air (our top pick) or the Surface tablet (our #3 pick.) And if it’s a gaming laptop you are after, read about the best gaming laptop video card.

Another option to consider from Lenovo is the ThinkPad X1 Extreme. The ThinkPad X1 Extreme features a stunning 4K HDR display and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti graphics card.

 #5  HP 14” Chromebook HD Laptop

Award: Best Chromebook

WHY WE LIKE IT: A large 14” screen with clear colors, plus a built-in SD card reader make this one of the more convenient choices among Chromebooks for photo editing. It’s great for students looking for something easy to carry that delivers fast web and photo editing capability and who don’t mind the limited internal storage.

  • Built-in SD card reader
  • High quality 14” screen
  • 9 Hour battery life
  • 4 GB of RAM soldered in place, meaning difficult to upgrade
  • May be harder to find pro level editing software on Chrome OS
  • Only 16 GB of built-in storage

A big, good-looking screen and a built-in card reader are some of the selling points of this capable and generally good performing Chromebook. For those comfortable with native Chrome OS photo editors, the HP 14” Chromebook HD is an easy recommendation, since it has a powerful enough processor to run Chrome’s image editing applications and works well with web-based editors like Pixlr.

It’s also one of the slimmest computers offered today that comes with a built-in card reader. The screen is a full 14” diagonal and comes with 1366 x 768 pixels, making it comparable in resolution to the Lenovo Flex 11, our #4 pick. The Chromebook HD, however, has a faster 2 core Intel processor. Where the Chromebook is more limited is in terms of storage; it comes with 16 GB flash built-in, which is upgradeable; however, Google does offer cloud storage, and you can always plug in an external hard drive. Speaking of Chromebooks, check out our best Chromebook apps list.

 #6  Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Core i7 Laptop

We’re sorry, this product is temporarily out of stock

Award: Best Screen

WHY WE LIKE IT: A high-performing 8th generation Core i7 processor and a TB of built-in storage make this a fully functional photo editing workstation capable of running demanding tasks with large photosets or multi-layered images. It’s great for designers, photo editors and retouchers, and photographers looking for a fast laptop to handle a busy workflow.

  • Full HD screen
  • 1 TB hybrid drive built in
  • 8 GB of DDR4 high speed RAM
  • Heavier and less portable than Chromebooks and tablets like the Surface Go (our number 3 pick)
  • No built-in SD card reader
  • More expensive than the other laptops for photo editing on our list

This full-featured Windows laptop comes with a fast 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of built-in DDR4 RAM, and, importantly for photo editing, the highest resolution screen, at 1920×1080 pixels, of any computer on our list. While the Inspiron 15 is larger and heavier than most of the laptops for photo editing we recommend, coming in at 4.4 lbs versus the 1-3 pounds of various Chromebooks and the MacBook Air (our top pick) it makes up for it with a built-in hard drive, a hybrid drive using a 128 GB SSD paired with a 5400 RPM hard drive for 1 TB of space, making it tied for the most storage among any laptop on our list. Speaking of Chromebooks, check out the best Chromebook cases.

If you use a laptop as your main editing machine, a full-featured model like this 8th generation Core i7 Dell Inspiron might make a more sensible choice than relying on a Chromebook or tablet. However, you do give up some of the convenience of the tablet form factor as well as the option of using a stylus. It also runs hotter and uses up its battery more quickly than, for example, the similarly priced MacBook Air. Speaking of which, the best Apple laptops are worth a look if you are leaning toward a MacBook.

Other options from Dell that just missed our list were the Dell XPS 15 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. The Dell XPS 15 features a 15.6-inch 4K wide sRGB color gamut touch display with an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8705G  core processor. The XPS 15 boasts plenty of useful ports and slots including a 1. 2x USB-C 3.1 port, a headset jack, a Noble lock slot, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and a MicroSD card reader. Alternatively, the Dell XPS 13.4-inch model features an Intel Iris Plus Graphics Card, the 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, and a 256 GB SSD.

 #7  HP 15.6” HD 2019 Laptop

We’re sorry, this product is temporarily out of stock

Award: Best Value

WHY WE LIKE IT: A full-featured touch screen laptop with 8 GB of RAM and a built-in 1 TB HD, making it among the best of both worlds when it comes to laptops for photo editing. It’s great for students and editors looking for a laptop they can edit large photos or large sets on, and which has enough internal storage to allow for leaving the external drive at home.

  • The largest capacity touchscreen laptop on our list (15.6-inch)
  • Built-in 1 TB storage
  • Has an SD card reader
  • Less screen resolution (1388×768) than our #6 pick, the Dell Inspiron 15
  • Significantly less battery life, at only 4-5 hours of web browsing, than the MacBook Air or any of the Chromebooks
  • Somewhat laggy performance when using touchscreen

The built-in 1TB hybrid drive and the ample ports are among the draws of this bargain-priced full-featured Windows 10 laptop. It also has 8 GB of ram as listed, upgraded from the HP 15.6’s original 4 GB. This should make it able to comfortably run Adobe Photoshop and most digital cameras’ proprietary software. The least expensive terabyte laptop on our list, the HP 15.6” 2019 HD is a usable primary photo editing and storage laptop, at about half the cost of the Dell Inspiron (our #6 pick) or the MacBook Air (our top pick.)

However, this Windows 10 laptop lacks the full HD display found on the Dell, and it has a shorter battery life, at around 4 hours than the MacBook Air, whose battery lasts up to 12 hours. That said, this is a solid choice for a full-featured, 8 GB of RAM laptop at a price point similar to what you usually find with Chromebooks. HP is one of the best laptop brands.

Another option from HP is the HP Spectre x360 15, offering 16GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card, 1TB of storage, and a 15.6-inch 4K OLED display. Plus, if you’re looking for one of the best photo editing laptops on the market, the HP Spectre x360 15 reproduces an impressive 256% of the sRGB color gamut, which means you’ll get rich colors in sharp detail.

How We Decided

We selected a variety of laptops, tablets, 2-in-1s, and even Chromebooks to provide laptops for photo editing on the go for all budgets. We narrowed it down to models with at least 1300×700 screen resolution, with added bonus points for full HD.

We also only included computers with at least 4 GB of RAM and with processors and graphics cards speedy enough to handle photo editing tasks.

Finally, we looked for battery life. At least three hours on a full charge is a must when doing display and CPU-intense photo editing tasks. Plus, if you’re a photographer who works on location, you may not always have an outlet handy.

Other popular choices that just missed our list include the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, the Microsoft Surface Book 2, and the Razer Blade Stealth. The Surface Pro 7 is a 12.3″ touchscreen 2-in-1 laptop, featuring up to 16GB of RAM and Intel UHD Graphics. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 features Intel HD Graphics and offers up to 17 hours of battery life. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is also available in 13.5″ and 15″ models and comes with up to 16GB of RAM.  The Razer Blade Stealth is a compact 13.3-inch laptop featuring an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, perfect for editing photos. Plus, it’s a remarkably small and light photo editing option.

Best Laptop for Photo Editing Buyer’s Guide

The Most Important Features to Consider

  1. System Memory
    Photo editing isn’t as system intensive as video editing or 3D rendering, of course, but if you work on larger projects or frequently edit photos and big files in photoshop– the 30+ megapixel RAW files of modern digital cameras can easily run to the tens of megabytes each–then more RAM is definitely better. We limited our search to laptops and Chromebooks with at least 4 GB of memory. You may not need the biggest, multiple core processors on the market for photo editing, as you would for video, nor the kind of massive storage that video editing requires, but depending on what program you use to edit, at least 4 GB of RAM is best.
  2. Display Quality
    For portable photo editing, a quality display is a must. You want at least 1300 x 700 resolution for a 10-inch or larger display, and the more adjustments to color and anti-glare features, the better. The standouts in this category are the MacBook Air, our top pick, which offers a pleasing 1440 x 900 screen even if you don’t pay extra for the Retina model, and the Dell Inspiron 15, our #6 pick, with its full HD 1920×1080 display.
  3. Connectivity
    One feature that can make some laptops more convenient than others for photo editing is the presence of a built-in SD card reader. While not a deal-breaker per se, it’s nice to have one less dongle to worry about. Of course, if you shoot on a digital camera that only uses CF cards, you’ll likely need an external reader anyway.

Laptop for Photo Editing FAQs

Can these run Photoshop?

In general, all the Mac OS laptops and the Windows 10 laptops like the Dell Inspiron 15 and the HP 15.6” 2019 HD can run Adobe Creative Suite smoothly. On Chromebooks like the ASUS C202SA (our #2 pick) and on laptops set to Windows 10 in “S” mode it’s a little more challenging. There are plenty of photo editing options for Chrome OS and Linux however, it may just take a little more tech savvy to set them up.

How much space is enough?

For the most part, when it comes to choosing a laptop for photo editing, how little built-in space you can live with depends on your willingness to use external drives or cloud storage. Both have their pros and cons, but if your laptop has at least about 128 GB of storage built in, you should have no problem with the average sized photo shoot or project. And make sure you haveone of the best laptop bags to keep your device safe.

What’s the difference between Adobe RGB and sRGB?

AdobeRGB produces a broader range of colors, creates more vibrant and accurate colors when printing, and can be converted into sRGB. However, using AdobeRGB can complicate your workflow, and RGB will not display correctly online without conversion. sRGB solves this problem by offering a simplified workflow and displaying colors correctly on the web. The downside to shooting is sRGB is that files cannot be converted into AdobeRGB, and you’re left with a narrower range of colors.

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