The Best Laptops for Photo Editing in 2021

Most people can do basic photo editing software on almost any laptop. However, not all PCs offer advanced features, high performance, beautiful displays, and sufficient storage for those who want to take their photography to the next level. 

The laptops on this list provide just those things in a variety of form factors and at prices from extremely expensive premium laptops to affordable budget options. You can also take a look at our list of the overall best laptops to buy in 2021 for more options.

Laptops for photo editing

Laptops provide a great deal of power and flexibility when it comes to photo editing. With the right specs, a laptop can easily handle the demands of even the most intensive photo-editing software. For example, a laptop with a powerful processor and plenty of RAM will be able to quickly render changes made to an image file.

A high-resolution display is also important for seeing fine details in an image, and many laptops now come with 4K displays that offer superb image quality. When choosing a laptop for photo editing, it’s also important to consider battery life and portability.

Laptops with powerful graphics cards can often be quite bulky, making them less convenient for traveling photographers. Conversely, laptops with lower-end graphics may not be able to handle more complex editing tasks. Ultimately, the best laptop for photo editing is the one that meets the specific needs of the user.

The best photo editing laptops at a glance:

Photo editing laptops are a special breed of computer, designed to handle the specific demands of working with digital images. While any laptop can technically be used for photo editing, only a Photo editing laptop will have the processing power, graphics capabilities, and display quality necessary to produce professional-grade results.

In addition Photo editing laptops often come equipped with software specifically tailored for tasks like organizing and editing photos, making them an essential tool for anyone who wants to pursue photography as a hobby or profession. Whether you’re a casual shutterbug or a seasoned pro, a Photo Editing laptop is the best way to get the most out of your digital photos.

Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1

Laptops for Photo Editing

Why you should buy this: It’s the best laptop for photo editin.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants an excellent display and doesn’t want to give up performance.

What we thought of the Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1:

Apple is making a move away from Intel CPUs to its own ARM-based processors, the first of which is the M1 that you’ll find in the latest MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Air. It’s incredibly fast when running native applications, like Adobe Photoshop, beating out Intel’s Tiger Lake platform and rivaling its H-series 45-watt CPUs. Not only that, but the M1 runs cool and sips power, resulting in a machine that rarely spins up the fans and that exhibits exceptional battery life.

Laptops for photo editing need to deliver not only on raw power for computationally intensive tasks like RAW conversion, but also need to have excellent displays forcolor management workflows.

The MacBook Pro 13 M1 excels in both of these areas. It’s one of the most powerful laptops you can buy, and its display is among the best you’ll find on any laptop. Add in a great keyboard and touchpad, and you’ve got a laptop that’s hard to beat for photographers. If you’re looking for the best laptop for photo editing, the MacBook Pro 13 M1 should be at the top of your list.

Read our The Best Laptops Under $500 In 2021: Lenovo, Acer, More

HP Envy 13

hp envy 13 3
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best budget laptop for video editing.

 

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a powerful laptop with a 4K display that won’t break the bank.

What we thought of the HP Envy 13:

HP’s Envy line of laptops has become its go-to solution for creative professionals who crave power without the high price of more premium laptops. The Envy 13 is the smallest member of the family, but that doesn’t it can’t handle a photographer’s workload.

For just $1,000, you can get a quad-core Core i5-1135G7 with Intel Iris Xe graphics — enough power to run Photoshop smoothly. That price includes a 4K display that promises solid colors, plenty of brightness, and good contrast — better than most budget laptops can provide. You’ll also get a form factor that’s attractive, well-built, and offers a superior keyboard and touchpad experience.

The HP Envy 13 isn’t the most powerful laptop on our list, but it’s the one that aspiring photographers can afford.

Dell XPS 17

dell xps 17 06

Why you should buy this: It’s the most powerful laptop for photo editing.

 

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants an expansive screen and ultimate power.

What we thought of the Dell XPS 17:

Dell’s XPS 17 took what was best about the XPS 15 — the attractive and well-built aluminum and carbon-fiber chassis, the powerful components, and the shrunken bezels — and packed in a larger 17-inch display. The XPS 17 can be configured with up to Intel’s 10th-gen Core i9-10885H CPU, a superfast, full-power (45-watt) processor that’s a champ at running demanding applications like Adobe’s Photoshop. You can also configure the XPS 17 with an NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU for any applications that can make use of faster graphics power. This also makes it a good laptop for video editing.

If you don’t need quite that much power, you can start out at a Core i5-10300H CPU, and you can upgrade to 64GB of RAM to handle the largest and most complex images and a full 2TB of SSD storage is available to maintain the largest photo libraries. In addition, the XPS 17’s display is one of the best you can buy, with almost 500 nits of brightness, a 1530:1 contrast ratio, and support for 98% of AdobeRGB with color accuracy of an astounding DeltaE of 0.37 (less than 1.0 is considered excellent).

There aren’t many laptops that can match the power and massive display size of the XPS 17, while remaining relatively portable. Better yet, Dell recently announced upgrades to the XPS 17, to Intel’s new 11th-gen 10nm processors and Nvidia RTX 3050 and 3060 GPUs.

Read our The Best Budget Laptops for 2021

HP Envy 15

hp envy 15 2020 08

Why you should buy this: It’s another powerful laptop for photo editing for less money.

 

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a fast CPU and GPU and a color-accurate display for less money.

What we thought of the HP Envy 15:

The HP Envy 15 is the company’s primary laptop aimed at creative professionals. It’s technically a rung lower than HP’s Spectre line, but you would have to look hard to find the differences. It’s well-built and enjoys the same excellent keyboard and touchpad as the Spectres, although its bezels aren’t quite as small and it doesn’t have the same standout aesthetic — even so, it’s a good-looking laptop in its own right.

More important, though, is its performance. It offers the 45-watt Intel 10th-gen Core i7-10750H, a great performer albeit not as quick as the Core i9 available in the XPS 17, and the Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU, which is the same as in Dell’s highest-end configuration. You can also choose up to 32GB of RAM.

Best of all, our review configuration including the Core i7, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, a 4K OLED display, and the RTX 2060 costs just $1,600. That’s about $1,200 less than a similar XPS 17 (only with a 1TB SSD), and the Envy 15’s OLED display is arguably superior. It might not be quite as fast as the XPS 17, but it costs far less and still provides creative types with a powerful laptop.

Read our HP Envy 15 review

MacBook Air M1

Macbook Air M1
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best portable laptop for photo editing.

 

Who’s it for: Anyone who doesn’t want to carry around a super-heavy laptop for photo editing on the go.

What we thought of the Apple MacBook Air M1:

As we indicated in the MacBook Pro 13 M1 listing, Apple’s ARM-based M1 CPU has made some waves since its debut. It’s faster than Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors and even challenges the faster 45-watt H-series CPUs in a number of demanding tasks. And it does all that while staying cool and sipping power.

The MacBook Air M1 makes great use of that powerful CPU, packing a ton of power into a very small laptop that’s just 0.6 inches thick and 2.8 pounds in weight. It’s easy to slip into a backpack and carry around, but once you pull it out you’ll make no compromises when it comes to performance.

The display isn’t the MacBook Air M1‘s strongest feature, offering good but not great color support and accuracy. But it’s good enough for work on the go, and there’s an advantage to having so much power in such a tiny machine.

Read our Apple MacBook Air M1 review

Dell XPS 13 OLED

Dell XPS 13 OLED

Why you should buy this: It’s the best portable Windows 10 laptop for video editing.

 

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a highly portable Windows 10 machine with a color-accurate display.

What we thought of the Dell XPS 13 OLED:

The latest Dell XPS 13 is one of our favorite laptops, and a case can be made that it’s the best laptop you can buy. It’s incredibly portable for a laptop with a 13.4-inch 16:10 display, and the only thing holding it back from making this list was its average color gamut and accuracy.

Dell has now released an OLED version of the laptop, and we suspect that the display will be as good as every other OLED panel we’ve tested. That is, it will likely provide 95% or better of the AdobeRGB color gamut and 100% of sRGB, with a color accuracy less than a  DeltaE of 1.0 (which is considered excellent).

That means you can get the same awesome built quality, performance, keyboard, and everything else that makes the XPS 13 such an excellent laptop with a display that will thrill photo editors. We haven’t reviewed this model of the XPS 13 yet, but we’ll report back when we’ve put the new display through its paces.

Read our Dell XPS 13 review

HP Spectre x360 14

HP Spectre x360 14 Media Mode
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best 2-in-1 for photo editing.

 

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants the flexibility of a 2-in-1 for their photo editing tasks.

What we thought of the HP Spectre x360 14:

We rated HP’s Spectre x360 14 as the best convertible 2-in-1 you can buy, and for good reason. It looks awesome with its gem-cut design and it has a build quality to match. It sports one of the best keyboards around and a spacious touchpad, with a pen-enabled touch display that’s great for digital drawing. It’s also fast when its HP Command Center is configured for performance mode.

Its standout feature for photo editors, though, is its 13.5-inch 3:2 OLED display, which offers additional vertical space for editing to go with wide colors (96% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB) and a color accuracy of DeltaE 0.69 (well under the preferred 1.0 threshold). This is a display that’s made for creative pros, and it’s a joy to use.

Of course, the Spectre x360 14 is also a 2-in-1, meaning it offers the flexibility of four modes — clamshell, tent, media, and tablet — and so stands out from the crowd. There’s really nothing wrong with this laptop, and that’s not something we can often put in print.

Read our HP Spectre x360 14 review

Research and buying tips

How much RAM do you need for photo editing?

That all depends on the size of your photos and the complexity of your editing needs. You’ll want 8GB as a bare minimum, but 16GB or greater would be preferable, particularly if your photos tend to be larger. Of course, more RAM is always a good thing with demanding tasks like photo editing, and so if your laptop and budget support it, 32GB or more can easily be recommended.

What laptops are good for Photoshop?

Start with the laptops on this list. Each of them offers something that makes them a good choice for Photoshop, such as quality displays, fast CPUs, plenty of RAM or the ability to upgrade to more, and fast SSD storage that will keep up with Photoshop’s demands.

What do you need in a laptop for photo editing?

As mentioned above, what you want in a laptop that will meet your photo editing needs includes a powerful CPU to keep up with demanding applications like Photoshop along with plenty of RAM and SSD storage. You’ll also want a high-quality display that offers a wide color gamut and accurate colors, to ensure that you’re getting the best representation of your work. Beyond that, you’ll want a laptop that meets your requirements in terms of portability and battery life, in case you tend to work remotely, and all of the expandability that you’ll need.

Above article first published by . We curated and re-published.

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