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Best photo editing laptop

Through this article, one will be able to derive what the best laptop for photo editing is. I have researched and looked at several laptops that are great for photo editing and have also created a side-by-side comparison of the laptops.

If you are going to do a lot of image editing, the best laptop for photo editing is going to be something with a big screen. The big screen makes it easier to handle multiple images at the same time. However, the exact model you should purchase will depend on what features you want your model has, and what kind of budget you have to work with.

What is the best laptop for photo editing?

The best laptop for photo editing is the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio. That is as much for its beautiful display as it is for the unique hinge design that lets you transform from laptop to studio to tablet mode. This way, you can bring the screen toward you and make edits with a stylus or your fingers on the 14.4-inch, 2400 x 1600-pixel touchscreen. 

And whatever photo edits you’re making, be it removing stray hairs or adjusting the contrast, feel smooth because of the powerful 11th Gen Intel performance as well as the 120Hz refresh rate screen. 

Those who prefer macOS and its photo editing software options should splurge on the MacBook Pro, which features the ultra-fast M1 processors in a compact chassis. Its battery life is exceptional and the fans inside will ensure the laptop doesn’t throttle during long photo editing sessions, unlike the MacBook Air.

Covering such a wide spectrum of the color wheel, imagine the heart-stopping visuals we’ve seen on the Dell XPS 15 and HP Spectre x360 15 when they came through our lab. The 4K OLED displays on these laptops are absolutely stunning. Photo editing on the HP Spectre x360 15 and Dell XPS 15 will be an absolute treat with the laptops’ discreet graphics card, which will help you run some of the most demanding photo-editing software on the market.

MacBook Pro M1 (16-inch, 2021)

Simply the best photo-editing laptop

SPECIFICATIONS

CPU: Up to 10-core Apple M1 MaxGraphics: Up to 32-Core Apple M1 Max GPU RAM: 16GB – 64GBScreen: 16-inch Retina display with True ToneStorage: 1TB – 8TB SSD

REASONS TO BUY

+Awesome M1 Pro and Max chips+Supports up to 64GB RAM+Sensational screen specs

REASONS TO AVOID

-Hugely expensive-Some may miss the Touchbar

Sure, the new MacBook Pro may be an obvious pick as the absolute best laptop for photo-editing, but it’s hard not to be thoroughly impressed by what it has to offer. We still love the original (13-inch) M1 MacBook, but with a maximum of 16GB RAM, it could never quite topple the older Intel-powered MacBook Pro to be a truly future-proofed image/video-editing powerhouse. Not any more! Apple has addressed these concerns, big time.

The current 2021 MacBook Pro not only smashes any RAM limitations courtesy of its Apple M1 Max chip, which can be had with 64GB RAM, it also comes with a 16-inch screen size, which is noticeably more comfortable for long editing sessions than a 13-inch panel. This incredible Liquid Retina XDR display boasts an insane 1,600-nit peak brightness, making HDR content come alive, and it can display a high DCI-P3 color space coverage for accurate video editing. The current 16-inch MacBook Pro is also available with an M1 Pro chip (rather than M1 Max) if you want to save some cash, though RAM capacity is restricted to 16GB or 32GB, and its speed is lower.

Despite all this power, the supreme efficiency of the M1 chip architecture, combined with a large 100-watt-hour battery, means battery life is up to an incredible 21 hours.

The 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro is far from cheap no matter how you spec one, but your money is buying one of the most technically advanced laptops on the market right now. A smaller MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is a less expensive alternative.

Dell XPS 15

A great all-rounder, and the best Windows laptop for photo editing

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Up to 11th-gen Intel Core i9-11990H (8 cores, 4.9GHz boost)RAM: 8-64GBStorage: 512GB-2TB SSDScreen: Up to 15.6-inch IPS LCD, 3840×2400, touchscreen

REASONS TO BUY

+Decent display+Fast performance+Good selection of ports, with SD slot

REASONS TO AVOID

-Very expensive-Battery life not the bestAdvertisement

The Dell XPS 15 range can be confusing: there are lots of different spec configurations to choose from, and pricing can frequently fluctuate. We reckon the best config for photographers is one that includes Dell’s best 4K+ (3840 x 2400) 16:10 screen, which boasts 500-nit brightness and touches sensitivity. The only issue with that is few XPS 15 configs come with this display, and they’re inevitably at the pricier end of the range.

The extra cash does also buy you plenty of performance courtesy of an 11th-gen, 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, and you can choose from 16GB right up to a whopping 64GB of RAM, though we’d only recommend the latter if you’ll be editing high res video as well as images. 16GB or 32GB should be ample amounts of RAM for image editing.

The selection of ports is also pretty good, with Thunderbolt 4, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, plus adapters for USB-A and HDMI. There’s even a built-in full-size SD slot; something that’s sadly becoming a rarity in premium laptops.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

A great choice for on-the-go photographers

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Up to 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 (quad-core, 4.8 GHz Boost)RAM: Up to 32GBStorage: Up to 2TB SSDScreen: Up to 14-inch IPS LCD, 3840 x 2400

REASONS TO BUY

+Light and compact +Good battery life+Good screen options

REASONS TO AVOID

-Non-user-upgradable RAMAdvertisement

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has long been a great choice for on-the-go photo editing, thanks to its compelling blend of high performance and sleek, lightweight design.

The current, 9th gen, X1 Carbon can be specced with several 14-inch screen options. All have at least a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and a respectable 400-nit max brightness, plus 100% sRGB color coverage. The range-topping display is an ultra high res 3840 x 2400 panel with 500-nit brightness and a hugely impressive 100% DCI-P3 color space coverage.

Elsewhere, bang-up-to-date 11th-gen Intel Core processors provide ample computing power, and though RAM appears to top out at 16GB, you can customize some X1 Carbon configs to pack 32GB. However, it’s a pity the RAM comes soldered to the motherboard, so can’t be swapped out for higher capacity modules at a later date, and it also means you’d be unwise to settle for a base 8GB X1 Carbon.

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch M1

The best MacBook for on-the-go image editing

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Apple M1 8-coreRAM: 8-16GBStorage: 256GB-2TB SSDScreen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 IPS Retina

REASONS TO BUY

+Finish, design, low weight+Excellent Retina display+Silent, fanless design

REASONS TO AVOID

-No HDMI port or memory card slot-8-core GPU model costs more-Barely lighter than MacBook Pro M1Advertisement

The MacBook Air 13-in M1 is impressive in three main areas: first, its design, finish, and ergonomics; second, its sheer performance for a lightweight laptop; third, its value for money given those other two things. The M1 may not be as flat-out fast as a specced-up 16-inch MacBook Pro (above), but if you value outright portability more than ultimate performance, the M1 is a better bet.

Its Retina screen is, as ever, just beautiful. Apple says it has a 25% wider color range than sRGB but doesn’t mention Adobe RGB, which leads us to assume it’s somewhere in the middle. The contrast, definition, and brightness are stellar, and while the 2560 x 1600 resolution isn’t 4K, it’s an important step up from a regular 1920 x 1080 screen. It has that ‘Retina’ effect where you just don’t see the dots anymore and makes a surprising and subtle difference to the way you view, edit and evaluate digital images.

There are just two USB ports, which is annoying, it’s not really a lot smaller than a regular MacBook, even though it looks like it, and the 7-core entry-level model is a bit of an odd proposition, but these are pretty minor complaints. This is a beautifully made notebook computer that’s great for mobile image editing if you need supreme portability over larger screen size.

Asus Zenbook Duo 14 UX482

A laptop that’s stunning to behold, if slightly compromised

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Up to 11th-gen Intel Core i7RAM: Up to 32 GB storage: Up to 1TB SSDScreen: Up to 14-inch, Full HD (1920×1080)ScreenPad Plus: 14-inch, 1920×515

REASONS TO BUY

+Innovative ScreenPad Plus+Good CPU/RAM choice+Light weight for its performance

REASONS TO AVOID

-Screen not 4K-No OLED or wide-gamut screen option

The big talking point with the ZenBook Duo is its huge touch-sensitive secondary screen above the keyboard. Asus calls it the ScreenPad Plus, and you can use it as a genuine secondary monitor to display another app to that on the main screen, or it can be split into two or three columns, each containing a different open app. There’s even a screen extension function that lets you spread a single app over both screens.

This main monitor is a 14-inch display with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. That’s a little low by today’s 4K standard, but it’s enough to keep images looking crisp on a screen this size. A bigger pity is that Asus has also downgraded the screen in other ways. Whereas the larger, sadly discontinued 15.6-inch ZenBook Duo could be specced with a 4K OLED display boasting 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space and 550-nit peak brightness, this 14-inch ZenBook Duo can only cover 100% of the more restrictive sRGB color space, and it tops out at 400 nits brightness.

At least the quad-core Intel Core i7 processor options are plenty powerful enough for some intensive image editing, and you can spec up to 32GB RAM – a healthy amount for most usage scenarios. Dual Thunderbolt 4 ports are bang-up-to-date, plus there’s the handy inclusion of one conventional USB Type-A port, along with an HDMI port and a headphone socket.

Razer Blade 15

The Blade is an impressive all-rounder if you work and play hard

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Up to Intel Core i7-10875 (8 cores, 2.3GHz base frequency)RAM: 16GBStorage: Up to 1TB SSDScreen: 15.6-inch OLED, 4K 3840×2160, touchscreenTODAY’S BEST DEALS

REASONS TO BUY

+Healthy performance+Quality display and well made

REASONS TO AVOID

-Fast graphics cards are not that useful for photographers

Razer’s brand focus is on the gaming market, and the Blade 15 4K is primarily a gaming laptop, but the styling doesn’t shout about it like many laptops targeted at gamers. Only the illuminated green Razer logo on the front and the color-changing backlit keyboard give the game away, but the latter can be muted to keep things soberer. 

What makes the Blade 15 a good photo-editing machine is its 15.6-inch 4K screen, which in the range-topping Blade 15 Advanced model is now an OLED panel, giving stunning color vibrancy and contrast. Oh, and it’s even touch-sensitive, with a super-fast 300Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth gaming, if that’s your thing.

This particular Blade 15 configuration also comes equipped with a blazing-fast GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics card. That’s great for gaming at 4K resolution, where it’ll give a noticeable performance boost, but apps like Photoshop won’t really use the extra oomph. Solid build quality with excellent heat ventilation, as well as the three conventional USB ports are easily-overlooked plus points, though the absence of an SD card slot is a shame.

Here we’re listing prices for all Blade 15 variants, not just the flagship Advanced model, but even a ‘base’ Blade 15 will still be an image-editing monster.

LG Gram 14″ 2021 (14Z90P)

Need to travel as light as possible? The 14-inch LG Gram could be for you

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 (8 cores, 4.7GHz boost)RAM: 16GBStorage: 512GB SSDScreen: 14-inch IPS LCD, 1920×1080

REASONS TO BUY

+Extremely light and slim+IPS screen+Great battery life

REASONS TO AVOID

-Not as fast as some Ultrabooks-Screen res, not the bestAdvertisement

LG makes the Gram in three screen sizes: 14-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch. All have their pros and cons for portability vs. viewing ease, but the svelte 14-inch model makes most sense if you want something seriously portable. You get a Full HD 1920×1080 resolution; not the highest, but you do get a terrific 99% DCI-P3 color space coverage, and the Full HD res is still enough to produce a crisp viewing experience.

What’s more, the 14-inch Gram weighs a mere 1kg – compare this to the equally small Lenovo 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon that weighs around 1120g and the Gram is noticeably lighter in the hand. The slim design still has room for a versatile selection of two USB-A ports, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, and an HDMI port, plus a MicroSD slot.

The Intel Core i7-1165G7 quad-core processor isn’t the most powerful laptop CPU out there, but it is especially power efficient, enabling tremendous battery life of up to 25.5 hours per charge.

HP Spectre x360 15 Convertible

A clever photo-editing laptop that can also double as a tablet

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Up to 11th gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 (quad-core, 4.7GHz Boost)RAM: 16GBStorage: 256GB-1TB SSDScreen: 15.6-inch AMOLED, 3840×2160, touchscreen

REASONS TO BUY

+Nifty tablet conversion+4K AMOLED screen+Pen input for graphics apps

REASONS TO AVOID

-Limited port selection-Heavy and bulky in tablet modeAdvertisement

The x360 moniker in the HP Spectre name refers to the touchscreen’s ability to flip around through 360 degrees so the laptop can convert to a tablet. Windows 10 automatically detects the screen’s position and adapts the interface to be more touch-friendly. It’s a useful feature if you regularly use your laptop on the go and can’t always find a surface to rest it on. However, while a 1.92kg weight is reasonable for a 15.6-inch laptop, it’s heavy for a tablet, so the Spectre isn’t really a replacement for a conventional tablet.

HP has moved to an AMOLED screen for its flagship 2021 Spectre x360 15t-eb100 touch model. It still boasts a 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution, but you now get 100% DCI-P3 color space coverage and an impressive 400 nits peak brightness. The addition of a Corning Gorilla Glass anti-scratch coating further helps the x360’s practicality in tablet mode.

Just a single normal USB Type-A port is present, along with two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, an HDMI 2.0b port, and a Micro SD slot. There’s plenty of image editing power though, thanks to a quad-core 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, though there’s no dedicated graphics card, so don’t expect this to be a gaming monster. The automatic facial recognition for Windows Hello sign-in is a handy feature though.

How to choose the best photo-editing laptop

1. Screen quality matters

Laptop screens used to be more eye-sore than eye-candy, with appalling contrast and viewing angles. Thankfully IPS display tech fixes this and you shouldn’t settle for anything less. 

2. Speedy storage 

An SSD (solid-state drive) is a must in any new laptop. All our options in this buying guide include one, but don’t get stuck with a small capacity: 512GB is a minimum if you’re working with 4K video. See our guide to the best internal SSDs.

3. Graphic novelty

Dedicated graphics cards are great for gaming, but they’re not a necessity here. Today’s processors can fill in for them, and they pack enough pixel-pushing punch for photo editing.

4. Which processor (CPU)?

Laptop processor model numbers are practically impossible to decipher. Just focus on the ‘base frequency’ (speed, measured in GHz), and the number of processing cores (two, four, or six). 

5. Mac or PC? 

The MacBook is favored by many photographers, and for good reason. But don’t rule out comparably priced laptop PCs, which can offer more bang per buck, with better upgradability. 

Conclusion

If you are into photo editing and need a laptop, I would definitely go for the laptop which has got the best configuration. Always aim for a good configuration, because that’ll be more than enough. If you have time, you can check out laptops with 8th generation Intel i5 processors or above.

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