Best laptops for photographers 2022

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Photographer and hot balloons
(Image credit: Shutterstock - RB_Media)

Finding the best laptop for photographers can sometimes feel like a juggling act. On the one hand, the machine needs to be powerful enough to handle high-end photo editors. On the other hand, it needs to be portable enough to take with you on any assignment. 

Whether you prize performance or portability, you find plenty of Windows and Mac laptops tailor-made for photography and photo editing suitable for a range of budgets and creative workflows. 

Depending on your project, photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom can be somewhat hardware-intensive. That means the best laptops for photographers should ideally come equipped with the one of the best processors, best graphics cards, and the best RAM

To help you find the machine that’s right for you, we’ve tested, reviewed, and rated the best laptops for photographers. Some are so good, they’ve even made our round of the best laptops and best MacBooks overall.  

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The best laptops for photographers 2022

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MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
Best laptop for photographers overall

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 10-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 16-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely long battery life
+
Plenty of ports

Reasons to avoid

-
On the bigger side

The MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) is our pick for best laptop for photographers. It's a beautiful machine that runs supremely well, even with resource-intensive creative apps. And that's just the start for a laptop that's ready-made for photographers and photo editors. 

From the inclusion of an SDXC and 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports to an extremely stunning display with a very wide color range, not to mention its incredibly powerful internals, it’s a pleasure to work on. It also comes with a stellar battery life that won’t throttle your performance when unplugged so it’s ideal for using in the field as well. 

When we tested the device, we were impressed to find a laptop tailor-made for creative professionals. True, it's not as portable as the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but that's a fair trade-off for extended battery life and an incredible screen. 

Of course, it comes with quite the price tag but that’s too be expected for a laptop as powerful as this. 

Read the full MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) review

MacBook Pro 14 against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
Best for creative professionals

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 8-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 14-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliant performance
+
Best screen on a laptop

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen may be a bit small for some

The MacBook Pro has truly made its complete transformation as a laptop for creative professionals with the launch of the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) and its 16-inch counterpart. 

It is, perhaps, a little too powerful for your everyday document-and-browser use. But for photo editors, photographers, music producers, and videographers, you can't go far wrong with this beauty. 

Armed with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max, this compact laptop impresses with breath-taking power – the kind that deserves the most intensive creative workloads – and an equally breath-taking battery life. 

Of course, Apple then rounds it all out with its XDR display with 1600 nits of peak brightness and a wide color gamut, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports (all of which can stay available thanks to MagSafe charging being back.) If you’re looking for the best laptop for photo editing on-the-go, look no further.

Read the full MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) review

(Image credit: Gigabyte)
Best for photo-editing performance

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Max-Q 8GB
RAM: 64GB
Screen: 17.3-inch UHD 4K OLED, HDR400, 100% Adobe RGB, Pantone-certified

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional build quality
+
Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series GPU
+
Incredible performance starting at a midrange price
+
One of the most powerful mobile workstations for creatives
+
Cheaper than less-powerful rivals

Reasons to avoid

-
Can become hot running intensive tasks

One of the most powerful mobile workstations out there, the Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) comes with a lot of power, a gorgeous display, and a whole lotta ports. 

During our review, we found ourselves mightily impressed by the build quality of this machine - it's not just stunningly sleek, but feels good in the hand, too. 

Best yet, it’s priced well below its less-powerful rivals, making it a better proposition even if you have a more flexible budget. It isn’t by any means perfect. The battery life could use a bit of a boost, for example. It's also not the best choice for a gaming laptop or running 3D modeling software, where it can sometimes run hot - although you'll find tons of tools for customizing hardware performance. 

Ultimately, then, for how much you’re paying and for the other things you’re getting in return, these won't feel like too much of a sacrifice.

Read the full Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) review

(Image credit: Dell)
Best MacBook rival

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
One of the best laptops available
+
High end hardware options
+
Excellent keyboard and trackpad
+
Cheaper than MacBook Pro

Reasons to avoid

-
Not best for gaming laptop

The Dell XPS 15 might just be incredible enough to tempt hardcore Mac users. It’s easily one of the best laptops for photo editing right now, 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. Battery life is stellar, and the new Intel Alder Lake processors and RTX GPU packed inside are a fine addition for those looking to get creative. 

We’re not saying that this laptop is perfect. The machine isn't the absolute best for gaming, for example. And the premium price-point won't suit smaller budgets. However, it's ideal for just about every Windows user, from light admin to intensive photo editing (and everything in between). That it earned our coveted 5-star rating speaks for itself.

Read the full Dell XPS 15 review

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
Best affordable Mac for photo editing

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2 with 8-core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 10-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 24GB
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 display with P3 and True Tone technology
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm

Reasons to buy

+
M2 chip is a brilliant performer
+
Excellent battery life
+
Almost silent in use

Reasons to avoid

-
No new design
-
Still only two Thunderbolt ports

Although it doesn't look it - it retains the existing design for a start - the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) is even more powerful than its M1 predecessor, with the M2 chip delivering a boost in both power and battery life. Our tests show that it provides a performance excellent enough for video editing, let alone photo editing and productivity multitasking. 

What's more is that it tackles intensive tasks while staying quiet, the fans rarely kicking in to keep things cool and minimizing distractions from your creative process. Of course, the battery life is longer than ever, lasting over 15 and a half hours during our testing.

Those wanting to upgrade from its predecessor might be disappointed by the lack of design upgrades. But there's nothing inherently wrong with it in the first place. If upgrade in specs and performance is top priority, it's worth it, especially considering it hasn't gone up in price.

Read our in-depth MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) review

(Image credit: Acer)
Best for 3D rendering

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful Nvidia RTX graphics card
+
Stunning Pantone-validated 4K IPS display
+
Good selection of ports
+
Cheaper than MacBook Pro

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as thin and light as MacBook Pro

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 3D modeling, video editing, and, of course, photo editing. This is 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 - so color accuracy and consistency throughout the design process is made even easier. 

It's not a budget laptop for photographers. But if you’re looking for a Windows-powered MacBook alternative for video and photo editing, it’s certainly should be on your shortlist.

Read the full Acer ConceptD 7 review

(Image credit: Microsoft)
Best for battery life

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Mid-range price competitive laptop
+
Battery can last almost all day
+
For those who want a larger screen

Reasons to avoid

-
Just one USB-C port

When you're working remotely and editing images on the go, battery life is essential. And while MacBook Pro's typically excel in this area, few other laptops can compete with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. 

Beyond the impressive battery life for a 15-inch machine, which feels like it could last all day without being plugged in, it also has an impressive, reasonable price tag attached. The overall impression, then, is that 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. It's a sleek, streamlined design that's perfect for photographers with an eye on aesthetics. 

While it isn’t the most powerful 15-inch photography 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 Surface Laptop 3 review

(Image credit: Microsoft)
Best for its display

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Premium design
+
Strong on power and performance
+
One of the best displays and keyboards

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak U-series processor
-
Tiny trackpad
-
Lackluster speakers

In many ways, the Surface Book 3 is an example of just how far the best laptops for photographers have come in just a few short years. 

It has an extremely premium piece of kit. The display is, without a doubt, one of the best we’ve used in a laptop. It's bright, clear, and ideal for working on images. The keyboard easily puts the MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboards to shame. And its hybrid design makes it well-suited to creative tasks. 

In line with that, this follow-up to the outstanding Surface Book 2 has configurations with a discrete GPU and more RAM than everyday consumers will ever need (but photographers, editors, and other content creators will absolutely use up that memory running high-end creative apps).  However, the lack of H-series processors does mildly hurt performance - it uses the Intel Core i7-1065G7, also found in the less expensive Dell XPS 13. 

Besides that, the Surface Book 3 offers an amazing choice for content creators and one of the best laptops for photo editing currently on the market.

Read the full Microsoft Surface Book 3 review

(Image credit: Dell)
Best for portability

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Top range Windows ultrabook
+
Among the best laptops for photo editing.
+
Extremely portable 13" design

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited battery life of 4 hours

The Dell XPS 13 is small. Very small. In fact, the 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 don't let the size of this svelte device fool you. If you're constantly on the move, this is one of the best laptops a photographer can buy. Light, slim, the design is as sleek as a 1960s sports car, while packing more than enough under the hood to make creative workflows a breeze.  

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 Dell XPS 13 review

(Image credit: HP)
Best 2-in-1 laptop for photographers

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.5-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) touchscreen
Storage: 256GB – 2TB PCIe SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Strong Intel Whiskey Lake processors
+
12-hour battery life
+
Thin, light, and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as powerful as some rivals

The HP Spectre x360 is a beauty of a machine - so if great-looking laptops appeal, this one deserves closer inspection. With its gem-cut design and sleek profile, it’s this one of the most beautiful laptops on the market right now. 

This 13-inch stunner is more than just pleasing on the eye, though, with plenty of power under the hood. HP also fitted this with powerful Intel Whiskey Lake processors and long battery life, which means that you’re getting one of the best laptops for photo editing.

When testing out the portable, we loved the OLED display (it's available without OLED for a lower price, though). It's a screen that's ideal for those seeking to maintain consistency (and color accuracy) throughout the creative process. And the inclusion of a tablet pen will be equally useful for digital artists. 

What stops the HP Spectre x360 from achieving full greatness are the serious touchpad sensitivity issues - some of the worst we've come across in similar laptops. Otherwise, the extremely portable machine is a delight. 

Read the full HP Spectre x360 review

Photography laptop buying advice

7 tips for choosing the best photo editing laptop

Watch the video above for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop. 

How to choose the best laptop for photographers

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.

Screen display is an important factor. 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. You want to be confident that what you’re creating is accurately displayed, so look for one with an excellent screen with fantastic contrast, a high brightness level, and a wide color gamut – at least 90% sRGB and 70% Adobe RGB. 

To keep your files accessible, you’ll also want a speedy SSD capable of quickly loading files and packed with plenty of storage space - even if you typically use cloud storage for photos.  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.

Ports will also play a part in choosing which photography laptop is best for you. Many slimmer (and more portable) devices come with just a few ports, which means you’ll need to carry dongles for peripherals. 

Ultimately, you want to make sure your chosen photography laptop can match and maximize your creative workflow - whether you use a free photo editor or the top industry-standard tools like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom (or any number of Photoshop alternatives and alternatives to Lightroom that we’ve tested). Depending on your workflow, you may also need one that can effortlessly handle the best 3D modeling software, VFX, and video editing software, too. 

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.


What should I look for in a laptop for photography?

The best laptops for photographers combine portability and power. Generally, there will be trade-offs between the two. For photo editing, a good CPU, GPU, and RAM are essential, letting you work without the machine lagging (and decimating your creative flow). Displays are also important - a good-sized screen gives you plenty of 'canvas' to work on, but you'll also want to focus on the color space and display type (OLED screens, for instance, are great for photographers). Also factor in storage, as edited photos can take up a lot of space on your photography laptop. 

Do I need a 4K laptop for photo editing?

You don't need a 4K display on your photography laptop - but it's a good idea if it's within your budget. When it comes to photo editing - and any other visual creative medium - the high the resolution, the better you can see the details in your images and deliver more accurate designs.  Thankfully, the cost of 4K displays is falling, making them more accessible to photographers at every stage in their career. 

What photo editing accessories do I need?

Below is an excerpt of “The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing” by James Abbott, published by Ilex Press (£17.70 on Amazon.co.uk (opens in new tab)). James talks briefly about the essential photo editing accessories that any image manipulation aficionado need to consider.

"As a photographer, you will be well aware that there is a plethora of accessories that you can buy to aid your photography, and photo editing is certainly no exception; some are essential, others are nice to have while the remainder simply come down to personal preference. It’s like any hobby really – you can buy as much or as little as you want to but having all the gear does not always guarantee excellence.

You will need a computer – a laptop or a desktop – and, gear-wise, in many cases this will get you 70 percent of the way towards where you need to be with image editing. But getting yourself up to 100 percent is a much steeper climb, and some essential accessories are required to help you get there. In reality, there are only two additional accessories you need, while the others can improve comfort and control. I use all the accessories recommended here, but the most important two by far are the monitor calibration device and a wide gamut monitor, in that order.

A powerful computer Image processing requires a lot of processing power, so powerful computers with multi-core processors and plenty of RAM are essential. The minimum RAM you should consider is 16GB, but 32GB or even 64GB will better help image editing software run smoothly and perform tasks much quicker. If buying a new Mac you’ll need to increase the RAM at the point of purchase, but with Windows PC it’s much easier to upgrade at a later date. Also, with Windows, gaming PCs are ideal for photo editing.

Wide gamut monitor

A wide gamut monitor is one that’s capable of displaying 98–100 percent of the Adobe RGB (1998) colour space. These monitors will nearly always utilize in-plane switching (IPS) technology, which means the monitor will display a clear image from wider/multiple viewing angles, so you don’t have to be sitting directly in front of the monitor to view a reliable image. Some of the best monitors for photography are produced by BenQ and EIZO, and these can be connected to both laptops and desktops.

Monitor hood

Some of the BenQ and EIZO monitors designed for photo editing include monitor hoods, but you can also buy universal hoods for both external monitors and laptops. A monitor hood is simply a C-shaped plastic shade that helps to stop stray light from hitting the monitor surface from above and at the sides. This means you’ll be viewing a clearer image that’s more reliable than if the screen was being affected by glare.

Graphics tablet

A graphics tablet performs the same function as a mouse, but the difference is that you move a special pen over a tablet connected to your computer to move the pointer. The advantage is that it’s more natural and comfortable than using a mouse and reduces the risk of developing repetitive strain injury (RSI). Plus, they provide a greater degree of pointer control and accuracy so it’s much easier to make fine adjustments – they just take a little getting used to at first.

Monitor calibration devices

A monitor calibration device, such as the Datacolor SpyderX, is an essential accessory. These devices ensure that photo editing monitors are displaying colour, contrast and brightness correctly because most uncalibrated screens won’t be. The problem here is that you’d be processing your images according to incorrectly displayed colour, contrast and brightness, so your images will exhibit these problems online, in print and on calibrated monitors."

How we test the best laptops for photographers

When we test the best laptops for photographers, we're assessing factors such as performance, portability, display type, value for money, and overall design. 

Photo editors can often be resource-intensive, especially when working on large, complex projects. So, we test each to see how well they perform when running photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop. Laptops designed for photographers should have no trouble with the industry-standard editing tool. 

Creative workflows are unique - so we evaluate each on the individual merits and how well they meet the expectations of their intended users. For example, the Dell XPS 13 will be ideal for users constantly editing on the go, while the 16-inch MacBook Pro is much-more suited to those who need a creative powerhouse. 

See how we test, review, and rate on TechRadar.

Michelle Rae Uy
Buying Guides Editor

Michelle Rae Uy is the Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives. 

With contributions from