If you’re a photographer that relies on applications such as Photoshop to edit your photos on, then this list of the best laptops for photographers and photo editing will help you find the top notebook for your needs.
A powerful laptop that can handle Photoshop is is a must for editing high resolution raw files and getting stuck in with advanced effects. The best laptops for photo editing can rival traditional desktop hardware in the speed stakes, and unlike laptops of old, many boast pixel-perfect displays with stunning color, as well as wide contrast to keep highlight and shadow detail consistently visible.
Photoshop is a demanding piece of software, as are any Photoshop alternatives, like Paint Shop Pro. Dedicated graphics are worth investing in here for the best Photoshop laptop, as the graphics card can do a lot of the heavy lifting. You also need to consider how portable you need your laptop to be.
Will you be working mainly from an office or studio? Or will you need something you can take to photo shoots and out on the road with you? Having a lighter, more portable laptop for Photoshop may mean you need to sacrifice some power for portability and longer battery life.
To make things as easy as possible, we’ve rounded up the best laptops for Photoshop that take all of that into consideration, so you can find the best Photoshop laptop for your needs.
At the bottom of this guide you’ll also see our list of key things photographers need to look out for when buying the best laptop for photo editing.
The best Macbook Pro ever, now with touchbar
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, (2,560 x 1,600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 1TB PCIe 3.0 SSD
If you’re after the latest and greatest laptop from Apple, welcome to the 13-inch Macbook Pro with touchbar. It’s the best laptop Apple has ever made, and builds new features into the classic design. Of course the headline feature is the touchbar – it’s a thin OLED display at the top of the keyboard which can be used for any number of things, whether that be auto-suggesting words as you type or offering Touch ID so you can log in with just your fingerprint. This makes it an excellent laptop for photographers using Photoshop, as it has a number of Photoshop shortcuts, such as being able to quickly select a color or change the opacity of a layer by swiping your finger, features that all the other laptops on this list lack.
Retina display model is still the best option for photographers
CPU: Dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Screen: 13.3-in IPS display (2,560 x 1,600 pixels)
Apple’s Retina display revolutionised laptop screen quality – and while the competition now sports Retina-rivalling panels, the MacBook still offers the best viewing experience. Its brightness, contrast, saturation and detail are all sublime, and Apple’s factory colour calibration is the most accurate. Although its 2.7GHz processor is technically faster than the dual-core chips in the Dell and Microsoft laptops on test here, real-world performance is almost identical, and nothing very special. Our MacBook configuration lasted a mighty 12 hours 12 minutes in our video loop test, thrashing all but the Surface Book. It may be an obvious choice, but this is still a brilliant all-rounder.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro 13″ Retina
The best 15-inch laptop available this year
CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ – i7-7700HQ | Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB GDDR5 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB DDR4 | Screen: Up to 15.6-inch Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge touchscreen | Storage: 1TB HDD – 512GB SSD
If you’re looking for a larger and more powerful laptop for photo editing, then the Dell XPS 15 could be for you. Packing the same InfinityEdge technology as the smaller XPS 13, the screen extends right to the edge of the machine which means it’s as small as it’s possible to make a 15-inch laptop. It’s quite pricey though, depending on which version you get. The very top end version has a 4K color-accurate display, which makes it one of the best laptops for photo editing. You’ll be able to see your photos in crisp detail as you edit them, and the impressive specifications means it will keep up with edits you make to the largest photos in your collection. A new version of the Dell XPS 15 is coming out in 2018, which looks set to further improve this already excellent laptop.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15
An amazing laptop that does even more as a tablet
CPU: Intel Core i5-7300U – Intel Core i7-8650U 1.9GHz | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620; Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 (2GB GDDR5 VRAM) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 3,000 x 2,000 (267 ppi) PixelSense display, 3:2 aspect ratio | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
The Surface Book 2 is Microsoft’s followup to its popular 2-in-1 device, and it remains an excellent laptop for photo editing, and with a full version of Windows 10 installed, it can run Photoshop with any issues. It comes with boosted components, and its screen remains gorgeous. Only Apple’s marginally better colour calibration gives the MacBook’s image quality the edge, but Microsoft fights back with a superior 3,000 x 2,000 resolution and an ideal aspect ratio for viewing APS-C and full-frame images. The screen’s touch-sensitive, but its real party trick is its ability to detach from the rest of the laptop to become a tablet. It’s a shame that the Surface Pen stylus doesn’t come included, as we’d definitely recommend buying that to accompany this excellent photo editing laptop.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)
The best Windows laptop for Photoshop
CPU: Intel Xeon CPU | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Screen: 15.6-inch (3840×2160)
If you’re looking for the very best Windows laptop for running Photoshop on, then the HP ZBook Studio G4 DreamColor is definitely worth considering, though be prepared to spend quite a bit of cash. The highest-end model features a stunning 15.6-inch 4K DreamColor screen that can be easily calibrated to ensure that colors are as accurate as possible – essential for photo editing on Photoshop. An Intel Xeon CPU, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD and NVIDIA Quadro M1200 dedicated graphics with 4GB VRAM means this is an incredibly fast laptop as well. The keyboard isn’t the best, but otherwise this is a simply brilliant machine, and easily one of the best laptops for Photoshop on the market today.
Read the full review: HP ZBook 15 G4 review
A powerful 17-incher
CPU: Intel Core i7 processor | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Screen: 17-inch IPS display (3,840 x 2,160 pixels)
As with most of Dell’s laptops you can configure the Precision 7720 to meet your needs, and we recommend that, as the base spec is a bit under-powered for Photoshop. However, by boosting the processor, screen and GPU of this laptop you’ll get an excellent laptop for Photoshop. The 17-inch screen (which can be upgraded to 4K), is brilliant for photo editing, but it does mean that it’s a bit larger and heavier than other machines on our best laptop for Photoshop list.
Touchscreen can streamline photo browsing and culling
CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – 4k (3840 x 2160) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB 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. 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
It’s no photo editing wonder, but a decent general purpose machine
CPU: Dual-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Screen: 14-in IPS display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels)
The ThinkPad T-series is a no-nonsense design with a focus on robustness over style. Even so, the T460s‘ 18.8mm thickness is within 1mm of the MacBook, and it’s actually lighter at 1.4kg. But despite packing an identical processor to the Surface Book, the T460s’ Cinebench score was 30% slower, making it the slowest on test. While the Full HD screen looks good in isolation, colour saturation and contrast are noticeably more muted than the competition, and it’s less crisp. On the up side, it’s got the rare addition of an anti-reflective coating. Good, but the same money can buy you a better screen and more power.
Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad T460s
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.