The best laptops for photo editing in 2021

Included in this guide:

MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) with the screen open and displaying the keyboard and trackpad

MacBook

Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

Dell XPS 15 with the screen open showing a colourful desktop wallpaper

Dell

XPS 15 (2020)

two Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) laptops, back to back

Gigabyte

Aero 17 (2021)

MacBook Pro 16-inch with the screen open showing a desktop wallpaper

MacBook

Pro (16-inch, 2019)

Dell XPS 17 (2021) opened halfway against a white background

Dell

XPS 17 (2021)

Acer ConceptD 7 with the lid open

Acer

ConceptD 7

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) with screen open showing a photo of a woman

Apple

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Surface Laptop 4 with desktop wallpaper and white background

Microsoft

Surface Laptop 4

Microsoft Surface Book 3 with the screen separate from the keyboard

Microsoft

Surface Book 3

Acer Swift 3 with the screen open and the Windows 10 interface showing

Acer

Swift 3 14-inch

best laptops for photo editing

If you’re after the best laptops for photo editing, then you’ve come to the right place, as on this page we’ve picked some brilliant devices that will let you edit your photos no matter where you are.

To really make your images look their very best, editing your photos in software such as Adobe Photoshop is an essential process, and it can turn good photos into great ones, and even poor photos can sometimes be rescued with some careful editing, such as adjusting brightness, color and contrast, or doing a bit of judicious cropping.

Photo editing apps don’t necessarily require powerful hardware, though there are some tools in Photoshop that take advantage of AI and machine learning, which require modern GPUs from Nvidia.

Still, this doesn’t mean you have to be tied to your desk and have to use a PC for photo editing. The best laptops for photo editing we highlight on this page will allow you to edit your photos in the studio, at home or when out and about. They all offer enough power to allow you to run photo editing apps, and also feature stunning high resolution screens, and some are even professionally calibrated and support wide colour gamuts, which ensure that your photos look their very best as you edit them.

So, read on for our pick of the best photo editing laptops available today, and if you’re after something smaller, see our pick of the best tablets for photo and video editing. Once you’ve made your choice, then you might want to pick up some tools to help you on your photo editing journey – see our best photo editing software or best photo apps for some options.

It’s also worth noting that Black Friday is fast approaching, and that means you should be able to get some brilliant deals on many of the laptops on this page, potentially saving you a lot of money. 

The best laptops for photo editing available now

01. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

The best all-round laptop for photo editing

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) is our current pick for the best all-round laptop for photo editing. At the end of last year, Apple gave its iconic MacBook a major refresh, packing it with a new Apple-designed M1 chip, rather than the Intel-powered hardware of previous models.

This gave the smaller MacBook Pro a real power boost, with the M1 chip performing brilliantly, especially when it came to running photo editing apps like Photoshop. Best of all, the MacBook Pro 13-inch now has the longest battery life ever seen in a MacBook. This thing is seriously impressive when it comes to battery, and means you can work on it all day editing photos, and you won’t need to plug it in.

As is usual with MacBooks, it also has a gorgeous Retina screen that will make your photographs look fantastic while offering a sleek and stylish design that Apple is renowned for. The Touch Bar, a slim touch display that runs along the top of the keyboard, is a great feature for photographers, as it displays context-sensitive buttons and shortcuts that change depending on the app you’re using, and it works with key photo editing software like Photoshop. It can really make a big difference to your workflow. Read more with our MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 review.

Recently, Apple announced the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), which comes with boosted hardware, including a choice of the M1 Pro or M1 Max chips and a mini LED display. That means it could be an even better photo editing laptop than the 13-inch model here. However, it also looks like it’ll be pretty expensive, so the MacBook Pro 13-inch could be a better value choice for many people, especially if Apple cuts the price now that the new model is here.

02. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The best Windows 10 photo editing laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Dell has proved once again that it is the top dog when it comes to making slim, stylish and utterly desirable Windows 10 laptops with the XPS 15, and it’s the best non-Apple laptop for photo editing.

If you don’t want a Mac, and can’t get to grips with macOS, then this is the laptop for you. Running the familiar Windows 10 (or new Windows 11), you have access to all the best photo editing applications around.

What’s more, Dell has packed the XPS 15 with some of the most powerful mobile components you’ll find in any laptop right now, so opening, editing and saving photos is incredibly quick and smooth.

All this power is packed into a stylish body that’s thin and light – making it ideal for photographers who are often working out and about. Its screen is bright and vibrant, and at 15.6-inches, it’s large enough to comfortably edit photos on throughout the day. 

It’s backed up by a comfortable keyboard and excellent speakers, plus Dell’s famous build quality and support. It’s expensive, but worth it.

03. Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021)

A powerful laptop for photo editing

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) is one of the most powerful laptops for photo editing you’ll find at the moment, combining a 10th generation Intel Core i9 processor with 8-cores, along with the Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card, one of the most powerful GPUs you’ll find in a laptop at the moment.

What really makes it stand out for photo editing, however, is the fact that it offers a stunning 4K HDR screen, with 100% Adobe RGB coverage, and which is Pantone-certified as well. This ensures that any photo you edit on this laptop is going to look its very best, and keeps the colours as accurate as possible.

It also packs loads of ports, so you should be able to plug in your memory cards and any peripherals without having to worry about using adaptors. It may be overkill for many people, but if you want cutting edge performance, this is the laptop to get.

04. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

A superb high-end laptop – but it comes at a high price

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

While we praised the newer 13-inch MacBook Pro above, there’s no denying that the real powerhouse of the Apple range is the 16-inch MacBook Pro that replaced the 15-inch model in late 2019.

Sure, that makes it a few years old now, but it’s still a formidable photo editing laptop thanks to the powerful components that mean this is a brilliant performer, and outshines many more recent laptops.

So, the 16-inch MacBook Pro gets a larger screen than the 13-inch and 15-inch models, and that makes it far more comfortable to work on when editing your photos. It also packs AMD graphics cards and powerful Intel Core i7 and i9 processors (depending on the configuration you go for), and along with plenty of RAM, this means it’s a joy to use when photo editing.

It also has a redesigned keyboard as well which eliminates some of the problems that have plagued recent MacBook keyboards. Not only is it more reliable, it’s far more comfortable to use, with deeper travel and more responsive feedback.

macOS, the operating system it uses, works fantastically well with images too. If you have an iPhone for snaps and use iCloud Photo Library, every one of your photos will be uploaded from your phone into iCloud, then downloaded straight to your Mac automatically.

There’s also a new model out in 2021 which comes with a better (and slightly larger) 16.2-inch mini LED display, as well as drastically improved hardware thanks to a choice of Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, and that’s likely to make it an incredible photo editing machine for anyone who has the budget to buy it. We’ll hopefully get our hands on it soon to test it out.

05. Dell XPS 17 (2021)

A brilliant large screen laptop for photo editing

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Dell XPS 17 (2021) is an ideal Windows 10 alternative to Apple’s MacBooks for photographers looking for a large-screen laptop for photo editing. Its 17-inch display is bright and vibrant with a 16:10 aspect ratio screen that’s ideal for photographers, as it offers more vertical space than standard 16:9 widescreen displays, and it can be configured with a 4K Ultra HD+ resolution of 3,840 x 2,400. 

Perhaps most importantly, the screen supports 100% Adobe RGB and 94% DCI-P3 color gamuts, which means this offers accurate colors as well, and that makes it an excellent choice for professional photographers who want to edit their photos in the best possible conditions. 

It’s also packed with some of the best mobile components out there, and can even be fitted with a powerful graphics card as well. Plus, for a 17-inch laptop, as well as being impressively thin and light to boot.

06. Acer ConceptD 7

A mobile workstation for creatives

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Acer is well known for making gaming laptops, but with the ConceptD 7, it’s used its experience of building thin, light and powerful laptops to build a fantastic laptop for photo editing.

This is a laptop packed to the brim with powerful components which can easily run even the most demanding photo editing tools, and it’s also got a gorgeous 4K IPS display that is Pantone-validated. This means straight out of the box, this screen will show your photos as they are meant to be seen with little to no need to calibrate it yourself.

The body is smart and professional, and it packs plenty of ports as well, so you can plug in your peripherals with ease. It’s also easily portable, so you can carry it around with you if you spend a lot of time travelling and photo editing on the road.

It’s expensive, but the level of performance this laptop offers means it’s well worth the high price tag.

07. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Another great photo editing laptop from Apple

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is yet another Apple laptop that’s excellent at Photoshop thanks to its powerful Apple-designed M1 chip – based on the same tech as the one powering the more expensive MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020). 

This means it’s the first time ever the more affordable MacBook Air can go toe-to-toe with the MacBook Pro when it comes to Photoshop performance. You’ll be able to open and edit high resolution photos and projects, and swap between apps, with ease, and its fanless design also means that it is pretty much completely silent when in use. As with previous MacBook Airs, it features a gorgeous thin and light design that makes it easy to carry around with you.

Also, for the first time in a MacBook Air, the latest model supports the P3 colour gamut, which means the screen can display accurate colors, a consideration that is incredibly important for photographers using Photoshop.

08. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

A great photo editing laptop from Microsoft

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Surface Laptop 4 is a great laptop for photo editing, and is one of the best devices Microsoft has ever made. It’s got a gorgeous design, plenty of power under the hood, and its large, high resolution PixelSense touchscreen is perfect for editing photos on, ensuring your shots look their very best.

Microsoft has included the latest mobile tech from both Intel and AMD, so Windows 10, and any photo editing apps you want to use, run brilliantly. The super-fast storage allows you to move large amounts of photos to and from this laptop as well.

Best of all, it has one of the longest battery lives we’ve seen in a laptop, which allows you to work out and about without worrying about being plugged into a wall socket.

09. Microsoft Surface Book 3

A powerful laptop that doubles as a digital sketchbook

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5-Inch) is a brilliant laptop from Microsoft, and it’s yet another example of how a Windows 10 laptop can offer a level of style and power that can easily rival Apple’s MacBooks.

The Surface Book 3 is ideal for photo editing, as it’s packing powerful Intel processors, and you can also get configurations with an Nvidia GPU as well. Screen sizes come in both 13.5-inch and 15-inch configurations, so if you want a more portable device – or you’d like more room to work on your photos, then there’s a Surface Book 3 for you.

It can also be used as a detachable tablet (by removing the keyboard) with a multi-touch display, which means you can use as a digital sketchbook – something traditional laptops like the MacBook Pro just can’t do.

Bear in mind, though, that there’s only one non-Thunderbolt USB-C port so you’ll probably need the extra Surface Dock for plugging in all of your peripherals.

10. Acer Swift 3 14-inch

If you’re after a convertible, this is the best

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Many of the laptops in this list are expensive, premium, devices, but what if you don’t have that kind of budget? Then the Acer Swift 3 the Acer Swift 3 could be for you.

It’s much more affordable than many other laptops on this page – it’s around half the price of the MacBook Pro – but it features a nice design that feels robust, and comes with a quad-core Intel processor and 8GB of RAM, which is plenty for most photo editing apps.

Its 14-inch display is surprisingly good, with IPS technology that lets it really show off bright and vivid colours, and it boasts a full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution.

The keyboard is great to work on too, making this a fantastic choice for anyone who wants the power to do serious photography work, without breaking the bank.

Best laptops for photo editing: What to consider

The best photo editing laptops will offer plenty of speedy storage. Ideally an SSD (Solid State Drive) with 512GB or 1TB (or higher) storage. This gives you fast data transfer rates (handy for moving all your photos to and from one of the best external hard drives or camera memory card), while also offering plenty of space to hold those large files.

Getting a decent laptop for photo editing doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive thing out there. As you’ll realise, basic photo editing like cropping, resizing and applying straightforward filters, can be performed on most devices. But we’ve prioritised graphically-capable laptops in this list because if you’re looking for a photo-editing laptop specifically it’s likely you’ll want to do at least some advanced stuff. 

As we mentioned earlier, we’ve prioritised graphical power (from AMD and Nvidia) above other elements but a pixel-perfect screen is also a must. 

Many laptops now have IPS displays so you get brighter, bolder images, wider viewing angles and better colour reproduction. And resolutions are now higher than ever with Full HD now a minimum but even higher resolutions are standard on many. 4K is also a more regular option though it is still expensive.

Some laptops aimed at photographers have screens that support AdobeRGB and sRGB colour spaces, so it’s worth looking out for those. 

What laptop specs do I need for photo editing?

In  specs, you should consider 8GB of RAM a minimum for a laptop for photo editing, likewise a modern Intel Core i5 processor (or AMD Ryzen 5). These processors come with decent integrated graphics which will be more than enough for photo editing.

And your SSD drive should be 256GB as a minimum, too. Bigger is better if you’ll be storing a lot of photos on the device, but you may be using cloud storage of course. 

We recommend 1080p displays, as they’ll allow you to see more of your photos, but if your budget can stretch to it, a laptop with a 4K screen may be worth investing in.

You may also want to see our guides to the best laptops for Photoshop and best laptops for graphic design.

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