Which Photo Editing Laptop is Right for You?

Last Updated: July 18, 2017

It is safe to say that laptops are every photographer’s best friend. With options like cloud storage, being able to edit and upload photos in the field comes handy. Choosing the best laptop for photography is, however, not the easiest task.

There are so many factors to consider and even then, there is the issue of understanding important terminologies. The fact that there are hundreds of laptops on the market doesn’t make things easier.

This guide seeks to make your search easier by highlighting features to look for in a photography editing. It will also review the best models.

At a Glance: Our Top 5 Photo Editing Laptop Picks

Benefits of Using a Laptop for Photography

Benefits of Using Laptops Built for Photography

Modern day laptops have made the craft of photography so much more convenient and easier to create quality content. This has promoted photo editing and other practical aspects that reinforce the convenience that photography desire.

Ability to Work on Several Projects at Once

One of the advantages that photography laptops have is that they allow professionals to work on several projects at the same time. This also allows them to provide services to many individuals. With a camera that takes pictures and downloadable photo-editing software, publishing images and delivering them instantaneously to clients is easier than ever.

Many Functions

Laptops offer way more photography functions compared to desktop computers. Such include superior screen resolution to present an accurate view of photos under refinement. It makes it easier for professionals to setup photos in all of the required components without interfering with other leading characteristics.

Improved display capabilities provide more clarity than desktops while lightweight construction allows individuals to complete projects on the go. Laptops have a fast processing ability, thanks to a central processor. This comes handy when working with D800 data on Adobe Photoshop. It’s also crucial when carrying out multiple projects at the same time.

The massive storage capability of laptops makes them a preferred piece of equipment compared to desktop computers. They can keep large files safe, which is unlike desktops that often require external hard drives.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Photo Editing Laptop

Man working with his camera and laptop

There are many fine details that make a quality photograph, and all of them should be displayed properly. This calls for significant computing power. You will need a laptop with a fast CPU, the component responsible for processing speed. And while other components may be of important significance, the most important thing in a photography laptop is a processor.

That said, let’s take a deeper look at the features of a photo editing laptop.

Storage Capacity and RAM

The speed for many post-production software is usually determined by the processor and RAM. We always recommend going for the highest possible RAM you can get, regardless of the intended purpose of the laptop. The minimum requirement for those who plan on serious work is 8GB. Anything below that will only cause compatibility issues and make it difficult to work with large files.

While today’s DDR3 and DDR3L models are more or less universal, the emergence of DDR4 RAM packed laptops offers an added boost. If you can’t afford an 8GB RAM laptop, you can buy one with 4GB RAM and upgrade it later.

As for the storage capacity, a 1TB hard drive should be the minimum if the laptop is for professional use. Lower hard disk capacity laptops come at a more affordable price and are a great option if you consider using cloud storage. Keep in mind that removing the hard disk can prove damaging for your laptop and void the warranty.

Everything You Need to Know About Processors

If you are on a budget, a mid-range dual core PC will suffice. Quad core laptops are, however, more sensible for someone who needs optimum performance. While photo editing software doesn’t need as much power as video editing software, it’s better to invest in a laptop that handles more than just the basics. This is especially true because technology is always evolving.

i5 vs i7

Intel i7Many buyers think that the i7 is better than the i5. The truth is that not all i5 processers are slower than i7’s. You have to take into account the year of manufacture of both i5 and i7 when determining performance.

With chip architectures being updated daily, an i7 processor manufactured four years ago is slower compared to an i5 produced last year.

When comparing chips made in the same year, it’s important to remember that performance between the two processors may be marginal for the intended purpose.

Graphic Cards

The difference between workstation and gaming graphic cards isn’t that huge, except when it comes to price. The gaming cards for AMD are known as AMD Radeon while NVIDIA cards are called Geforce. NVIDIA graphic cards almost always deliver greater performance compared to AMD cards.

Workstation graphic cards are designed to work with a variety of applications. Both workstation and gaming cards have exclusive technologies, benefits and drawbacks.

It’s important that you balance the amount of money you are willing to spend and level of performance you need. Investing in a more expensive graphics card will be worth it in the long run if you spend most of your time editing photos.

Don't Forget About Cooling

While a cheap laptop will save you some money, it will have performance issues if it has a poor cooling system. It will work fine during the first few months but you’ll soon start to notice some problems when running software programs.

Investing in a laptop with a great ventilation and cooling will save you the stress of having to deal with crashes due to overheating. Nothing is as annoying as your computer crashing when editing photos with Lightroom or Photoshop.

Budget and Purpose of Laptop

If photography is your profession, a mid-to-high budget laptop is what you should be looking for. High end photography laptops will save you the need to upgrade after a few years. Hobbyists will benefit best from low to mid end laptops that offer a comfortable balance between price and functionality. Businesses, students and freelancers have a budget that they need to stick to. A budget laptop for students will perform well.

Which is Better: Mac vs PC for Photo Editing

Many media professionals prefer Macintosh desktop and laptop computers. This is because Apple releases highly capable and adequate software with the operating system.

In addition, Mac devices are known for their good contrast and bright displays. This makes Mac laptops and desktops more expensive than PC’s. That said, a PC laptop makes more economical sense if your budget is tight.

Should You Get a Laptop or Desktop for Photo Editing?

Laptop or Desktop?

If you’re reading this, you already prefer to use a laptop for your work, but to make it clear, a laptop is always going to underperform compared to a desktop.

It’s a matter of space; desktops have more room in their case, which allows for larger components that can draw more power from a cord.

Laptops, by comparison, have to be light and easy to transport, and they can only draw as much power as a battery will allow to be reasonably usable.

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of either, it’s recommended that you take stock of just how often you’re going to use a laptop. If you do most of your computing in a home or office, a desktop for photography is recommended.

Our Top 5 Choices for the Best Laptop for Photography

1. Apple MacBook Pro MJLQ2LL/A 15" Laptop

apple-macbook-pro-retina480

Pros

  • Superior CPU Performance
  • Retina Display
  • Handy Force Touch Features
  • Attractive, Slim Design

Cons

  • Bit Expensive
  • Lacks USB Type C Connectivity

This refreshed Macbook Pro is fitted with Apple’s Force Touch trackpad that enhances performance of pressure-sensitive commands. There is also an optional AMD Radeon R9 M370X GPU. Like the 2014 model, this MacBook Pro sports a speedy Core i7 processor as well as a slim, sleek design. But is this photography laptop worth the upgrade?

Design and Appearance

We love the design not just because it’s similar to the previous year’s model, but also because it’s simply cool. It packs a black-bordered display and a slim aluminum chassis that gives it a sleek look. The two speakers add a nice touch and compliment the black chiclet keyboard. The vents on the sides are barely noticeable and the company’s glowing logo adorns the lid.

Display

We are in love with the Retina Display. This laptop has a 15.4” screen that impresses the moment it pops open. The icons are colorful while text looks handwritten. Each and every detail of your photos is crisp and clear. With the ability to render up to 86% of the SRGB color gamut, you can rest assured that editing the smallest details will be easier than ever.

Ports and Webcam

The Apple Macbook Pro supports a wide variety of connections including HDMI, USB 3.0, Thunderbolts and SDXC cards. These allow for fast file transfers and make it possible to connect to HD external displays when showing off your work.

It retains the patented 720p Face Time Webcam, which you can use for making calls or taking HD quality photos. The Photo Booth app offers a few custom backgrounds, filters and effects.

Force Touch Trackpad

This is the biggest addition to the Macbook Pro 15” and we love the innovation. It is a 4” by 3” ink trackpad that uses haptic feedback and force sensors to stimulate sensation. The ability to perform a force click is one of the highlights of this feature, partially because it activates special functions when pad is pressed extra hard.

Depending on how hard you press the pad, you can scroll through your photo gallery at varying speeds when using Force click. Overall, there is a lot you can do with this trackpad.

2. Asus ROG 15" GL552VW-DH71 Laptop

Asus ROG 15" Laptop

Pros

  • Great Looking Chassis
  • Responsive Touchpad & Keypad
  • Colorful Display
  • Full HD Photo Editing Performance
  • 7200 RPM Hard Disk Drive

Cons

  • Poor Webcam
  • Mediocre Battery Life

One of the most powerful gaming laptops is also one of the best for photography. The Asus Rog 15” GL552VW-DH71 offers a great balance of stealth chassis, strong performance, snappy keyboard and vibrant display.

Design and Appearance

The aluminum lid was inspired by an F-22 fighter plane, but isn’t as sleek as the MacBook Pro. And while it is a little chunkier and heavier than most 15” laptops, it has a lot going for it in terms of design.

The silver pattern on the inside gives it a bit of flair and the detailing on the vent reinforces its red-and-black color scheme. Many customers loved the black metal deck as well as the sinister red backlighting.

Display

The 15” screen of the Rog GL552VW-DH71 impresses with spot on colors, great accuracy as well as top notch brightness. It makes editing photographs, playing video games and watching movies an enjoyable experience. The screen offers 272nits of brightness and renders up to 116.2% on the SRGB spectrum.

Ports and Webcam

The Rog GL552VW-DH71 offers a bold combination of the past and modern. This is because it has a dual layer DVD tray, common on old models, and pushes things forward with USB Type C Connector. It also has three USB Type A ports, SD card, Ethernet and HDMI connections. You have the option to attach a microphone and headphones.

Touchpad

The touchpad has a superior level of responsiveness, which comes handy when working on multiple projects instantaneously. It will register your clicks, swipes and multi-touch gestures accurately.

3. MSI GE72 APACHE-264 17.3” Gaming Laptop

MSI GE72 Apache

Pros

  • System Runs Smoothly
  • Great Storage Capacity
  • Equipped with a SSD-HDD Combo
  • Two Cooling Fans

Cons

  • Consumes a Lot of Power
  • Doesn't Look as Great as Others

The MSI GE72 17.3” is the big sister to the 15.6” MSI GE72 laptop, and both have a lot in common. The materials, shape and colors are all the same but this one has a black case with a few red elements that add style. But what makes this one of our top 5 best laptops for photo editing?

Design and Appearance

Photography is a form of art that calls for artistic equipment and this laptop is anything but artistic. The base and display cover is made from brushed aluminum, a material that attracts fingerprints.

We are a little skeptic about the synthetic material used for the rest of the case. The fact that the optical drive can be pushed in easily is also a cause for concern.

Though a little disappointed with the appearance, we have to acknowledge that the workmanship is great and doesn’t leave room for complaints. You don’t have to worry about sharp corners and the solid hinges hold the panel firmly in panel.

Display

This laptop is retrofitted with a 17.3” panel that offers a 1920x1080 HD resolution. It has a color average of 62% of AdobeRBG and 94% of SRGB, which is higher than most laptops in the same price range. It is also equipped with a TN panel that offers great viewing angles, which comes handy when editing photos in the field.

Ports and Webcam

There are plenty of options when you need to transfer large files as the MSI GE72 offers a variety of connections. It has four USB ports, three of which are of the 3.0 standard. A HDMI port is beneficial when showing off your work on third party devices.

The Qualcomm Killer-E2200 Gigabit Ethernet chip housed in this laptop helps smooth things when editing photos online. Other connections include a microphone and headphone jacks as well as a mini-display port and Kensington Lock.

Touchpad

The input devices on the GE72 include the keyboard and touchpad, both of which are very responsive.

The surface of the touchpad is made brushed aluminum and has tangible grooves. This makes it easy for it to blend in with the entire palm area without hindering finger movements.

We loved how easy it was to configure multi-touch gestures and activate or deactivate them. Two mouse keys below the touch pad offer a short stroke distance.

4. Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK 15.6” Full-HD Laptop

Dell Inspiron i7559-763blk

Pros

  • Displays Images in 4K HD
  • Nice Plastic Chassis
  • Great Performance for Photo Editing
  • Efficient Power Use

Cons

  • Limited Functionality of Touchpad

With a weight of almost 6 pounds, the Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK is not the most portable photography laptop. However, it offers great performance and a variety of features that you will find useful.

Design and Appearance

While appearance is obviously a matter of taste, we have to admit that the design of the plastic chassis is quite lovely. The palm rest and lid have silky, soft-touch finish that’s not susceptible to fingerprints. All of three fan exhausts are cleverly designed. The lid is easy to open and you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure to twist the base unit.

Display

This Dell laptop is equipped with an IPS UHD panel that displays 4K HD quality images, text and videos. It delivers an average of 85% brightness distribution and there is noticeable bleeding at the lower edge of the panel. It covers 64% AdobeRGB color space. As the laptop has a glossy screen and decent luminance, using it outdoors may prove problematic.

Ports and Webcam

The ports are located further at the back of the sides as there isn’t an optical drive. Contrary to what you’d expect with a pricey laptop as this one, you only get the essential connections i.e. 3x USB 3.0, combo audio, Ethernet and HDMI.

Touchpad

The conveniently sized touchpad is a ClickPad that doesn’t have mouse buttons. The slightly roughened surface is surrounded by a red strip, and doesn’t hinder finger movements. Its gliding capabilities are impressive but we were disappointed by the limited functionality. The touchpad can only detect two fingers at a time, making it difficult to use gestures.

5. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW–US71 15.6” Laptop

Asus Zenbook Pro

Pros

  • Attractive All Metal Chassis
  • Long Battery Life
  • Superior NVIDIA Graphics Performance
  • USB-C Port with Thunderbolt 3

Cons

  • Lacks Configuration Option
  • Super Glossy Screen

If you have the money to shell out for the Dell XPS 15 or Macbook Pro, the Asus Zenbook Pro UX501VW-US71 will meet all of photo-editing needs at a reduced cost.

Design and Appearance

This 15” inch laptop has a simple design that features an aluminum chassis, metallic gray lid with a ring finish as well as polished edges on the sides. There is a brushed metal deck with ample space for you to rest your palms. At 5 pounds, the Zenbook Pro is slightly thicker and thinner than most 15” laptops. Other than that, it has a solid build.

Display

The15.6 screen has 3840x2160 UHD resolution, which is more than enough for professional photo editors that aren’t familiar with Apple. We loved the supersharp detail on imagery and videos alike. The screen can render up to 110% of the SRGB color gamut and is rated at 289nits of brightness.

Ports and Webcam

Connections offered included 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C that’s compatible with Thunderbolt 3, SD card slot, HDMI and combo headphone/microphone jack. You can easily transfer large files at high speeds of up to 40Gbps. We didn’t like the webcam much as the images taken appeared a little too grainy and dark for our liking.

Touchpad

The ZenBook Pro’s touchpad has a smooth, silver matte finish that blends in nicely with the metal deck. It is quite responsive and makes it easy to use multitouch gestures, which is incredibly useful in photo editing.

Conclusion

The crown for best laptop for photography goes to the Apple Macbook Pro MJLQ2LL/A mainly because of the patented Retina Display innovation. It makes photo editing so much easier with superior performance, display technology and Force Touch Tackpad. And while its price makes it a preferred laptop for professionals and not beginners; the extra cost is well worth it in the long run as its quite versatile.

Photo Editing Laptop Buyer's Guide
Photo Editing Laptop Buyer's Guide
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