The best laptops for Photoshop in 2021

Included in this guide:

A MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) against a white backdrop, displaying an abstract blue desktop background

MacBook

Pro (14-inch, 2021)

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

Dell

XPS 17 (2021)

Two Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021), one with its back on the camera, against a white background

Gigabyte

Aero 17 (2021)

A MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 with an abstract, colorful desktop background

MacBook

Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

A Microsoft Surface laptop Studio with its display resting at an angle on a white background

Microsoft

Surface Laptop Studio

A Microsoft Surface Book 3, detaching it's display against a white background

Microsoft

Surface Book 3

A pink MacBook Air M1 with a colorful desktop background

Apple

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The Asus ZenBook 13 on a white backdrop, with a desktop background of a colorful flower

Asus

ZenBook 13 (2021)

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 displaying a colorful explosion against a white backdrop

Lenovo

ThinkPad P1 Gen 4

A HP Envy x360 13 in tablet mode on a white background

HP

Envy x360 13 (2020)

A man using one of the best laptops for photoshop while working in a cafe

Many of the best laptops for photoshop share things in common, and for good reason. Laptops and convertible 2-in-1 devices often don’t have the raw power of a desktop computer, but modern advancements in technology mean we can now include OLED or mini-LED displays with fantastic brightness and RGB color coverage, as well as optimized internal components like processors. graphics cards and memory to make running the demanding photo editing and illustration application a breeze.

Adobe Photoshop is one of the best photo editing software applications, offering features and tools that many of its competitors simply can’t, including AI-powered tools that make adding advanced effects, or performing what was once time-consuming editing tasks, impressively easy. However, while these features make Photoshop stand out from the crowd, it also means that it’s quite a demanding piece of software, so getting yourself a well-optimized laptop will help the application run smoothly.

And while some of the best laptops for photoshop can be pretty pricey, you’re saving on the cost of a desktop monitor, and in some cases, even a graphics drawing tablet as some of the choices on our list are touch-screen compatible and work well with a stylus. Of course, If you’re planning to hook your machine up to a second screen, make sure you pick up one of the best monitors for photo editing too, and if you’re a student on a budget, you should also check out our best student laptops. 

If this all sounds a little daunting, then don’t worry, buying any of the laptops in our best laptops for Photoshop guide will guarantee you’ll be getting a laptop that runs Photoshop perfectly. As we’re approaching the Black Friday 2021 sales, you might also get lucky with saving a wad of cash on one of the devices on this list, so keep your eyes peeled for when the deals start dropping.

Still need to sign up to Creative Cloud? Take a look at our guide to the best Adobe Creative Cloud discounts to make sure you get the best price, or download Photoshop for a free trial.

The best laptops for Photoshop available now

01. MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021)

The best MacBook for Photoshop in 2021

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The new MacBook Pro on the block is hands down the best portable workstation on the market right now for creatives running applications like Photoshop. It’s had a complete redesign since 2019 that has reintroduced built-in ports, now featuring three Thunderbolt 4 ports, one HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a MagSafe 3 port.

You can configure it to your exact needs, with a choice between either an M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC (system-on-a-chip), that combines the CPU and GPU together. Whatever you pick, this is an absolute powerhouse that can run any application you throw at it, making it ideal for digital illustrators, photographers and video editors.

That 14.3-inch 120 Hz mini-LED display is also one of the best we’ve ever seen on a laptop, giving you crisp, accurate color and delivers up to 1,000 nits of sustained, full-screen brightness, and 1,600 nits of peak brightness.

If you need multiple displays for your work then you can connect up to three Pro Display XDRs and a 4K TV with M1 Max, or two Pro Display XDRs if you opt for the M1 Pro.

For more details, read our MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) review.

02. Dell XPS 17 (2021)

The best Windows laptop for photoshop in 2021

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

MacBooks and macOS aren’t for everyone, and for those looking for a powerhouse of a laptop without the Apple branding, we have the Dell XPS 17 (2021). It’s packed with some of the best mobile components out there, with options for an 11th generation Intel i9 processor, up to 64GB of memory and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card to power through any demanding renders. Plus, for a 17-inch laptop, as well as being impressively thin and light to boot.

This is a shining example of just how great a Windows device can be for creatives, and you even have the option of buying with Windows 11 preinstalled. Its 16:10 aspect ratio screen is 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. This means it’s an excellent choice for professional photographers or anyone who wants their photos to look their very best when editing them in Photoshop. 

03. Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021)

A powerhouse made for creative professionals

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Looking for something powerful often means browsing outrageously expensive hardware, so anyone looking for a more budget-friendly option might find themselves feeling disheartened. 

Don’t panic though, the Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) is surprisingly affordable it is for what you get, especially when stacked up against rival offerings, with prices starting at $1,599 (about £1,170) for the base model that comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-10870H with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 with Max-Q, 16GB 2,933Hz DDR4 RAM, 1TB SSD, and a 17.3-inch full HD 300Hz display.

It’s unusual for such a great laptop packing some beefy components, a gorgeous display, and plenty of ports to dock any additional displays or peripherals to be this reasonably priced. Yes, for most people that’s still a hefty sum of cash, but it’s far from unreasonable for the features you’re getting.

The 4K OLED display is available for $3,699 (about £2,700), but for that you’re getting an Intel Core i9-10980HK, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 , and a 17.3-inch 4K HDR400 OLED display with Pantone factory calibration for 100% Adobe RGB.

There are a few things that might bother you (such as unimpressive battery life and frustratingly loud cooling fans) so it’s far from perfect, but considering how little you’re paying to get a 4K OLED workstation designed specifically for creative professionals, you might want to let a few things slide.

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

The best 13-inch laptop for Photoshop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Not everyone wants to carry around a 17-inch behemoth, so luckily, there are plenty of smaller devices on the market that are just as capable. For fans of macOS, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) is the ideal candidate.

While a few people were disappointed that this smaller MacBook Pro was still rocking the divisive Touch Bar, creatives have found it to be useful when working in applications like Adobe Photoshop, and you’re getting many of the design benefits of the larger 16-inch model in a more compact package.

Best of all, the 13-inch MacBook Pro now comes with Apple’s very own M1 chip (rather than an Intel processor), and this allows the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) to provide some seriously impressive performance, and the M1 version of Photoshop is seriously impressive.

The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) also boasts the longest battery life ever seen in a MacBook. We’ve tested it ourselves and it’s seriously impressive, allowing you to work all day and still have battery life left.

For more details, see our MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review

05. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

A stunning creative laptop from Microsoft

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Microsoft offers some of the best MacBook alternatives on the market, and that’s no different for the Surface Laptop studio. Offering Windows 11 compatibility and some seriously powerful hardware, this laptop has been well received by creatives across various backgrounds, from digital illustrators, writers and photographers.

It’s got a thin and light design that rivals Apple’s best devices, with a gorgeous screen that makes working in Photoshop a joy, on top of excellent battery life so you can edit photographs or illustrate without worrying about being near a power outlet.

There are, however, some annoying caveats. For one, you can only buy the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio if you’re in the US. It is coming to the UK and other regions, but not until early 2022, and you can’t preorder the device outside of the USA either.

If you’re really determined, you can get a US model shipped over, but for anyone outside of that region, sit tight – it will be worth the wait.

06. 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 another brilliant Photoshop laptop from Microsoft, as it’s a powerful device, with 10th generation Intel Core processors, and it can be configured to come with a graphics card by Nvidia as well.

If you needed some additional variety for sizes then good news – you can pick between 13.5-inch and 15-inch screen sizes on top of other component configurations to make sure this is the best-optimized device for your needs.

A kick in the teeth for Apple is that you can also convert the Microsoft Surface Book 3 into a drawing tablet for easier image editing or sketching on the go, which is a feature you don’t have by opting for a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

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 if you need anything other than a mouse or USB headset.

07. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

New and improved

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

If you don’t fancy dropping a huge stack of cash on a MacBook pro, but you love macOS then the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s not as powerful as a Pro device, but the MacBook Air features the same M1 hardware as seen in the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) that appears earlier in our list. 

This means it’s the first time ever the more affordable MacBook Air can go toe-to-toe with a 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, all without listing to any noisy fans thanks to its fanless design. 

As with previous MacBook Airs, it features a gorgeous thin and light design that makes it easy to carry around with you, and also rocks a 2560 x 1600 screen that maxes out at 400 nits of brightness.

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. Asus ZenBook 13 (2021)

A brand-new laptop that’s perfect for photoshop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Asus ZenBook 13 was designed with creatives in mind, so it’s no wonder that this is one of the best ultrabooks on the market right now for using Photoshop and demanding photo editing and illustration applications.

This new model comes with a choice of either an AMD Ryzen 5000 series or Intel 11th gen processor. These are cutting-edge components and ensure that this is one of the fastest laptops you can buy right now, and you can buy it with up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage – making it ideal for multitasking and holding all of your photos.

Perhaps best of all, it has an incredible 13.3-inch OLED screen. This makes your photos look absolutely stunning, and it’s easily one of the best screens we’ve seen on a laptop. Add in the fact that it has a brilliant battery life, and you’ve got one heck of a laptop to do your photo editing on.

There are some downsides to the ZenBook 13, such as its lack of Thunderbolt 4 support and absent 3.5mm headphone jack, but if you mostly use BlueTooth headsets anyway then this shouldn’t prove too troublesome in comparison to the great features it provides.

09. Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 4

Expensive, but worth every penny

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 isn’t concerned with being lightweight or particularly stylish, instead, focusing on being pure productivity machine that puts performance above all else. 

This means you can configure it with some seriously powerful professional components, such as 11th gen Intel i7 or i9 processors and up to Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics. There are also a few display options available for configuration, the top-spec being a 16-inch 3840×2400 IPS with 600nits of brightness and 100% Adobe RGB coverage.

It’s no surprise that these beefy components will cost you a pretty penny though, so the current generation of Lenovo ThinkPad P1 should only be considered by industry professionals or those with money burning a hole in your pocket.

10. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

The best affordable 2-in-1

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The HP Envy x360 13 (2020) is one of the most affordable options on this list, available to buy for just $799 / £799, so if the slim design and tablet functionality didn’t win you over, the reduced blow to your wallet certainly might.

It’s not going to win in a head-to-head match against some of the powerful alternatives featured on this list, but not every Photoshop user needs insane components to get the job done. With a stylus compatible tablet mode, artists and photographers can edit or sketch on the go, and that fantastic battery life means you can do so without stressfully watching your power drop after a couple of hours.

There are some limitations of course. You won’t get the same pen sensitivity on the screen as you would with a display graphics tablet, but it’s plenty enough to get by in Photoshop and similar editing applications. It’s also one of the smallest devices we’ve ranked here, but that compact size makes for better portability. If you’re a photographer or content creator who likes to do a lot of fieldwork, you don’t want to be dragging around a hefty device alongside the rest of your equipment after all.

If you need something cheap and cheerful to get the job done, you could do much worse than the HP Envy x360 13.

What makes a laptop good for Adobe Photoshop?

Photoshop is a creative application beloved by Photographers and digital artists alike thanks to its varied toolset and wide range of features. It’s far from the most demanding piece of software available, but it’s certainly one of the beefiest for photo editing. This means not every laptop can do a decent job of running it, but there are a few things to look out for when buying a laptop specifically for Adobe Photoshop.

Firstly, you’ll want a modern processor. Both Intel and AMD list CPUs in numerical order regarding power, and the rule is generally ‘the bigger, the better’ so a 9th generation Intel i5 won’t perform tasks as efficiently as an 11th generation Intel i9. We recommend at least a 9th generation Intel i5 or a Ryzen 5 3600. 

Memory, or RAM is also important so look for a minimum of 8GB (though 16 GB is preferred), and even a dedicated graphics card if your budget can stretch to it. 

A laptop with a large SSD hard drive is also recommended, as it means you can store all the photos you’re editing on the device, while the speed of an SSD (compared to a slower traditional hard drive) means you can load up and edit the photos in a matter of seconds.

Because you’ll be spending lots of time working on your laptop, you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable to use, so the trackpad and keyboard need to be well built, without adding too much bulk to the laptop. If you’re going to need a laptop for Photoshop to edit photos while traveling, a thin and light laptop should be your priority. 

A 2-in-1 laptop can also be very advantageous as it combines the fluid editing benefits of a graphics tablet with your laptop, though these tend to be less powerful than a larger, design-optimized laptop. 

New developments have also appeared in recent months too, with more 4K OLED displays appearing on laptops specifically created with photographers and creatives in mind. An OLED screen will provide rich, deep blacks and beautiful colors, so while they might be expensive, it’s worth every penny to get one if you can splash the cash.

What laptop do most photographers use?

This is entirely down to the personal preferences of each photographer. Many choose MacBook Pro devices as they were one of the best optimized laptops on the market for creative professionals. these days, Windows based laptops and 2-in-1’s have come a long way, but Apple still reigns as the top choice.

This is thanks to a mix of great optimization and that beloved Apple ecosystem, making it much easier to use other Apple devices like iMacs Mac Pro desktop computers and iPad Pro tablets together in harmony.

Of course, if you don’t have a bunch of other Apple devices laying around your home, Windows hardware is still a fantastic option for photographers and digital editors alike, especially if you’re not experiences using macOS. Apple also has yet to release a true 2-in-1 device or convertible laptop, which gives Windows an advantage for folks looking to leave a graphic drawing tablet at home and instead use a stylus directly with their laptop.

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