Best laptops for photographers in 2021
It’s vital for the best laptops for photographers to allow you a seamless creative workflow. And, on top of having enough power and speed, they need to come with a display that will reproduce accurate colors and contrasts. You want your photos to be represented correctly when you’re working on them, after all.
A machine loaded with a speedy and sizable SSD is crucial as well, considering that your photo editing will probably involve working on high-resolution photos, most likely in batches, and applying advanced effects to them. Design features are important too, as the right ones can improve your workflow, letting you concentrate instead on your creative process. And, having the right ports, as well as a quality keyboard and trackpad, should be also taken into account when picking out that new portable.
No matter what programs you use, whether they be Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or a free photo editor like GIMP, there’s something out there that will fit the bill. You’ll see quite a few laptops up to the task, including some that also make our best laptops and best Ultrabooks lists. So, take a look at our list of the best laptops for photographers to find the one that fits your needs.
Best laptop for photo editing at a glance
- Dell XPS 15 (2020)
- MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
- Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (2020)
- MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)
- Acer ConceptD 7
- Surface Laptop 3 15-inch
- Microsoft Surface Book 3
- Dell XPS 13
- HP Spectre x360
- Lenovo Yoga C930
1. Dell XPS 15 (2020)
The ultimate laptop has arrived
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti | RAM: 8GB – 64GB | Screen: 15.6″ FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 15.6″ UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display | Storage: 256GB – 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe
The Dell XPS 15 might just be incredible enough to tempt hardcore Mac users. It’s easily the best laptop for photo editing at present, and in a lot of ways, the best laptop (period). Combining staggering power in a stylish thin and light chassis, this laptop doesn’t hold back when it comes to internals and features that improve your computing experience overall. Among those amazing features are a gorgeous bright display with 500 nits of brightness, an extremely comfortable keyboard, impressive speakers, and a terrific trackpad. We’re not saying that this laptop is perfect, but our coveted 5 out of 5 rating should speak for itself.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15
2. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
The best Apple laptop for photographers
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M – Radeon Pro 5500M | RAM: 16GB – 64GB | Screen: 16-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 512GB – 8TB SSD
As thin, light and sleek as ever, the MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) doesn’t actually feel like a 16-inch behemoth. If you’re worried that this was going to be bulky and awkward to use, don’t be. Whether you’re a nomadic photographer or you have your own studio, this laptop will feel just as compact as the 15-inch MacBook Pros that preceded it. Only, you’re still getting that extra real estate on that stunning display, as well as the latest and greatest components behind it. Apple then rounds those out with amazing (and loud) speakers and a much, much better keyboard. This is truly the best laptop for photographers.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
3. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (2020)
The best premium laptop for photographers
CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 | RAM: 32GB DDR4-2933MHz | Screen: 15.6″ OLED 4K Touch 60Hz, 100% DCI-P3, factory calibrated | Storage: 1TB SSD
If you want the most powerful laptop ever made and money is no object, then the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (2020) might just be the best laptop for your photo editing needs. This gorgeous, smart-looking mobile workstation will give some of the most powerful desktop PCs a good workout, running for their money, showcasing prowess in complex tasks like 3D animation and video rendering. That’s while delivering a delicious 4K touchscreen display with 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, perfect for creative pros and accomplished multi-taskers. Of course, it’ll also set you back a hefty sum. But, if you’ve got the dough, this has all the serious firepower you need.
Read the full review: Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (2020)
4. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)
Apple’s little MacBook Pro gets a big refresh
CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU | Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory | Screen: 13-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) may not have gotten a massive design overhaul, but what it lacks in that department, it makes up for big time in performance and battery life. Thanks to Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch delivers excellent performance and exceptional battery life. Its performance is so impressive, in fact, that it can easily handle 4K – and even 8K – videos. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that keeps things small and lightweight, this is the best laptop for photographers money can buy.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)
- See more like this: The best Macs and Macbooks 2018
5. Acer ConceptD 7
A mobile workstation for creatives
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 – 2080 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.6″ 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 16:9 IPS | Storage: 1TB
For those who think that MacBook Pros are overpriced but still need a powerful mobile workstation, there’s the Acer ConceptD 7. This formidable laptop capable of handling complex and demanding tasks such as photo editing, thanks in part to its Nvidia RTX graphics, was designed specifically with creative professionals in mind. Beyond that sheer power it delivers, it also offers decent port selection, a minimalist solid white design and that stunning Pantone-validated 4K IPS display. Obviously, it’s still pretty pricey, but if you’re looking for a Windows-powered MacBook alternative for video and photo editing, it’s certainly among the best laptop for photo editing.
Read the full review: Acer ConceptD 7
6. Surface Laptop 3 15-inch
Longer-lasting than most
CPU: Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 15” 2496 x 1664 PixelSense Touch Display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB
With an impressive, reasonable price tag and some of the best battery life we’ve experienced in a 15-inch laptop, the Surface Laptop 3 certainly has a lot going for it. That also includes the fact that it’s got a great look and feel, as well as a weight that surprisingly light for a product its size. Performance-wise, it certainly knocks it out of the park. While it isn’t the most powerful 15-inch laptop out there, it has Intel’s 10th-generation chips and the Iris Plus graphics. That’s more than enough to make it one of the best Ultrabooks out there.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop 3
7. Microsoft Surface Book 3
An extremely premium piece of kit
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G7 – i7-1065G7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with Max-Q Design | RAM: 8GB – 32GB 3733Mhz LPDDR4x | Screen: 13.5-inch 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI) – 15-inch 3240 x 2160 (260 PPI) PixelSense Display | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB PCIe SSD
In many ways, the Surface Book 3 is an example of just how far the best laptops have come in just a few short years. It has an extremely premium piece of kit – with one of the best displays we’ve used in a laptop, a keyboard that will put the MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboards to shame, and a hybrid design that’s great for creative tasks. More specifically for what you’re looking for, this follow up to the outstanding Surface Book 2 has configurations with a discrete GPU and more RAM than everyday consumers will ever need. That makes the Surface Book 3 an amazing choice for content creators and one of the best laptop for photo editing currently on offer.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 3
8. Dell XPS 13
Touchscreen can streamline photo browsing and culling
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3″ FHD (1920 x 1080) – 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge Anti-Glare Non-touch IPS | Storage: up to 2TB SSD
This laptop’s claim to fame is being the smallest 13.3-inch laptop on the market. It’s slim screen bezel helps contribute to a svelte 304mm x 200mm x 15mm form that needs to be held to be truly appreciated. But it’s also among the best laptop for photo editing. The XPS 13’s screen is touch-sensitive, and it boasts a similar resolution and pixel density to the MacBook and Surface Book. Image quality is more in line with the ZenBook though, falling slightly short on colour and contrast intensity compared to Apple and Microsoft’s displays. A highly portable package with little compromise other than battery life.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
9. HP Spectre x360
A best 2-in-1 gets better
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) touchscreen | Storage: 256GB – 2TB PCIe SSD
Sartorially-conscious photographers will love the look of this 13-inch stunner, sure. But the Spectre x360 also takes things to another level, power-wise. With its gem cut design and sleek profile, it’s this one of the most beautiful laptops on the market right now. However, HP also fitted this with powerful Intel Whiskey Lake processors and long battery life, which means that you’re getting one of the best laptop for photo editing.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2019)
10. Lenovo Yoga C930
2-in-1 with little to no compromise
CPU: Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) IPS Glossy Multi-touch | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Sleek, slim and with solid specs to boot, the new Lenovo Yoga C930 not only deserves to be voted one of the best 2-in-1 laptops to date, but it’s also a worthy addition in our best laptops for photographers list. That’s without mentioning the fact that it now touts a 4K display model, which is just excellent for editing those high resolution full-frame shots. This 2-in-1 is a strong contender for photographers on the budget, but if you do decide to go for gold, you might have to break the bank.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga C930
Key things to look out for
Watch the video above for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the tech and spec soup of computer terminology, but there are a couple of key areas photographers need to think about.
The first is the quality of the screen. This used to be more eye-sore than eye-candy, with appalling contrast and viewing angles, but thankfully IPS display tech fixes this and you shouldn’t settle for anything less.
An SSD (solid state drive) is a must as your primary storage in any new laptop. A conventional hard disk drive will bottleneck performance like flat tires on a Ferrari, and while dedicated graphics cards are great for gaming, they’re not a necessity here. Today’s processors can fill in for them, and they pack enough pixel-pushing punch for photo editing.
The MacBook is favoured 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.
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