Best Laptops for Photo Editing

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Best Laptops for Photo Editing

Photographers on the move need a laptop with enough power to enable quick turnaround on projects and enough space to avoid getting bogged down by a photo library. Whether you're a professional photographer or just getting started, having a machine that can provide the kind of performance you need is essential. While photo editing isn't as resource intensive as video editing, having a laptop with a lot of processing power will make your workflow much smoother and save you a ton of time. Of course, there are other factors to consider as well and, in this guide, the goal is to help you get a better idea of what specs are going to matter the most.

The best laptop for photo editing, in our experience, is still Apple's flagship MacBook Pro. Photographers constantly in motion need a workstation that's powerful enough to handle tasks quickly and efficiently, and the MacBook Pro is perfectly suited to the task. The Pro has the specs to be a catchall for various creative applications, but when it comes to photo editing, specifically, it’s got an incredible display that can reproduce colors accurately while still being bright with pleasing contrast. On top of that, it's got more than enough power to handle any kind of project. Thanks to its M3 chipsets, the Pro is fast, power efficient, and offers lengthy battery life.

Apple 14" MacBook Pro featuring M3
Apple 14" MacBook Pro featuring M3

While we recommend the 14-inch version for its portability, the 16-inch Pro has better speakers and a more efficient battery. It’s a capable alternative if you're willing to sacrifice some portability. The M3 Pro and M3 Max chipsets are designed with resource-intensive tasks like editing 4K video in mind, so it will be able to handle even the most demanding photo projects with ease. The Pros also have three Thunderbolt™ 4 (USB Type-C) ports, as well as an HDMI port and an SDXC slot. They're also configurable with up to a 16-core CPU, 40-core GPU, 128GB of unified memory, and 8TB of storage. The Pro is a very suitable device for anyone who needs power and portability.

If the Pro is outside your budget, consider Apple’s M2 MacBook Air as a great lower-cost point of entry for photography editing. While it’s not quite on the same level as the Pro, it still has an impressive screen for a laptop in its price range. It also has enough power to chew through most photo editing workflows easily. While M2 just recently got replaced by newer chips, the second-generation Apple silicon is more than fast enough for most photographers. We recommend the 13-inch or 15-inch display; the former has 2560 x 1664 resolution and the latter 2880 x 1864. It’s also bright enough to use comfortably outdoors, thanks to its 500-nit rating. Color-accuracy-wise, the Air performs quite well and offers nearly the same amount of coverage as the Pro. If you’re looking for a lighter machine that's still capable, look no further than the MacBook Air.

Apple 13.6" MacBook Air M2
Apple 13.6" MacBook Air M2

Also Great

For those who would rather get a Windows laptop, the Dell XPS 15 is a great all-around alternative in a 15.6" display model, alongside a speedy 13th generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor and a respectable 512GB SSD. It comes packed with 16GB of DDR5 RAM, which should be more than sufficient for photo edits. It’s also thin and light, weighing around four pounds, which makes it a solid choice for creatives on the go. Again, if you're looking for a laptop that is a bit more portable, the smaller XPS 13 is also a viable choice, with a similar spec sheet to the XPS 15.

Dell 15" XPS Notebook
Dell 15" XPS Notebook

Another one of our favorite laptops for photographers is the ASUS 16" Zenbook Pro 16X. If your primary focus is editing photos, this laptop should handle whatever you throw at it. It’s equipped with a 16" 1920 x 1200 display with 100% sRGB color gamut coverage, which means images should look bright and vibrant. It also has a 120Hz refresh rate. Under the hood is a 13th generation Intel® Core™ i7 14-core processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 GPU. A wide selection of ports, including USB-C, USB 3.2 Type-A, and an SD card reader, mean connecting to other displays or storage devices won't be a problem for the Zenbook.

ASUS 16" Zenbook Pro 16X OLED Multi-Touch Laptop
ASUS 16" Zenbook Pro 16X OLED Multi-Touch Laptop

An alternative budget model we recommend is the Acer 14" Swift 3 Laptop. It has a 1920 x 1080 LCD touchscreen with full sRGB coverage. In addition, it offers solid build quality and all-day battery life. It comes with an Intel® 11th Gen Core™ i5 CPU and up to 8GB of memory and 512GB of storage. The display's resolution is only 1080p, it but it does have full sRGB coverage, which is fine if you want to edit photos―in most cases. As for ports, you get two USB-A, one USB-C/Thunderbolt™ 4, an HDMI, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. While this laptop is a bit underpowered, compared to our other recommendations, it’s a steal if you need a light, portable editing machine.

Acer 14" Swift 3 Laptop
Acer 14" Swift 3 Laptop

Whichever you go with, these laptops are designed for creatives who need portability and aren’t willing to compromise on power. What laptops are you currently using?  Let us know in the Comments section, below, whether you're researching something to replace your current setup or if this is your first time shopping for a laptop for photo editing.

1 Comment

My laptop of choice for my photography has always been the MacBook Pro as big as I can get it with enough processing power to handle video if I need to.  I am big on macro work with flowers at Longwood Gardens in PA around Christmas and Atlanta Botanical in the spring, winter work on Camellias in Charleston and of course the non-macro project of the Albuquerque annual hot air balloon fiesta in early October every year.  Plenty of RAM for me so I can process quickly and accurately with a monitor that provides the most accurate color and brightest screen I can get.  The great battery life helps too.  Happy Shooting!!