The best PCs for photo editing offer power and performance that even the best laptops for photographers can’t match. But if you’re using any of the best photo editors on the regular, there are a few things to check.
Whether you’re an experienced pro or new to the art of photo editing, PCs for photographers need to be able to handle all your projects and accurately reflect your vision.
PCs for photographers and professional digital artists need real power to manage complex projects at high-resolutions. So, a dedicated GPU is a must - although you won’t need a top-of-the-line graphics card unless you’re also working with 3D modeling and rendering software, video editing software, and VFX.
That may feel like overkill if you’re just starting out, working to a budget, or using free photo editors for low-spec PCs. However, all users should select a computer with a good amount of RAM for running multiple programs, images, and tasks at once. Storage space should be as large as possible - images take up a lot of space that can soon fill up your photo cloud storage.
We suggest minimum specs of at least 16GB RAM and 1TB of storage (preferably SSD) for the best photo editing PCs.
To help you find the right machine for you, we’ve tested the best photo editing PCs and all-in-one computers, comparing key features like high-res editing, graphic card capabilities, hard drive capacity, and memory.
Pair your photography PC with the best monitor for photo editing to bring every detail to life.
The best PC for photo editing 2022 in full
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If you think that the new iMacs couldn’t possibly be as good as they look, you’d be wrong.
Not only are they an improvement on their 21.5-inch predecessor externally, touting a fresh new face that comes in several different colors. But they also come with fresh new specs, thanks to Apple’s new M1 chip that makes it much more powerful than the previous Intel iMacs. That means they're more than equipped to handle video and photo editing without slowing down the creative workflow.
In fact, we’d go as far as to say that the new iMac (24-inch, 2021) is the best all-in-one for photo editing we’ve ever tested. It's certainly earned its place in our best Macs list. You’ll also be happy to know that you’re getting great value here, as you’re getting the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse included – in matching colors, we might add.
Read the full iMac (24-inch, 2021) review
Even though the iMac 27-inch’s last update was only recent, Apple couldn’t help but step up in the upgrades department with its follow-up. Specs-wise, this model sports some massive improvements while also upgrading its webcam and microphones for a felicitous update.
More people are working from home these days, and the 1080p FaceTime HD webcam and studio-quality microphones ensure better video calls, now an essential part of any home office.
The glare-preventing nano-texture glass finish on the display comes as an optional extra. This seems like the best all-in-one PC to invest in without being forced to make some considerable space in your existing area. Sure, its overall design hasn’t seen so much as a tweak, making it look a bit tired, but power trumps design for photo editing.
Read the full iMac (27-inch, 2020) review
One of Apple’s biggest surprises of the year is the update to its smallest Mac. The brand-new Mac mini now touts Apple’s M1 chip, while keeping things the same in its much-loved design.
It’s more powerful than ever – Apple claim that the M1 will offer the world's best CPU performance per watt, with its 8-core CPU consisting of four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores to balance workloads, enabling it to process tasks nearly three times faster than the chip in the previous Mac mini.
With more than decent video editing performance, even at 8K, and can now run iOS apps and games, thanks to this new chip, but it still keeps its title as the cheapest Mac ever – terrific news for budget-minded creatives.
Read the full Mac mini (M1, 2020) review
The Lenovo ThinkCentre M900 is one of the best PCs for photo editing, as it combines speed and power with excellent build quality and reliability which is essential for computers used for heavy-duty image manipulation.
The M900 comes with an Intel Core i7 processor that is tailored to keep up with the workload of gamers and so should have little trouble handling the editing demands of even the busiest of photographers. Although if you're keeping the PC busy, the fan can be a little on the noisier side.
Best of all, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M900 comes in a range of configurations, with the top-end model boasting a huge amount of power. This flexibility lets you build a Lenovo ThinkCentre M900 that suits your needs, and there's plenty of room to upgrade and expand this desktop in the future.
If you’re looking for an incredibly powerful, yet stylishly designed, all-in-one PC for photo editing that’s not made by Apple, then Microsoft’s brilliant Surface Studio 2 will be for you. It comes at a price, but for build quality and performance, you’ll not want to look any further, especially if you work with image editing applications.
And that's because, while not for everyone, the Surface Studio 2 has been designed with digital artists and content creators in mind, So, those looking to use their PC for photo editing would be wise to consider it.
Microsoft's all-in-one machine fits comfortably on a desk, and its built-in screen makes your photos look fantastic, even before you've edited them. As it runs Windows 10 you get a huge range of comparable photo editing apps as well.
Read the full Microsoft Surface Studio 2 review
If you're a professional photographer and digital creative, then the iMac Pro is one of the best PCs money can buy. This is a seriously powerful all-in-one with cutting-edge tech, and a choice of powerful Intel Xeon W processors, bags of RAM and hefty graphical processing power.
All of this is in an iconic Apple design. If you have the budget for it, the iMac Pro is one of the best PCs for photo editing money can buy. For professionals needing a dedicated workstation to streamline a heavy-duty workflow though, the price is worth it.
However, for some people, you may find it has a level of power that you do not require. If that is the case, then read on for more modest (and affordable) PCs for photo editing.
Read the full Apple iMac Pro review
Lenovo’s latest all-in-one offering isn’t as powerful as Apple’s premium AIO, the iMac Pro, or even the recently updated iMac, which now offers a 9th-generation Intel Core configuration. After all, the 8th-generation chips and Radeon RX 560 graphics are aging at this point.
However, it is still plenty powerful to meet the needs of professional photographers who can't afford Apple's more pricey machines.
The 27-inch screen boasts a 4K resolution with 100% Adobe RGB support and Dolby Vision. This makes visuals on the screen look bright and vibrant, and that Adobe RGB support is essential for any photographers who require accurate colors.
The in-built webcam can be used to log in with just a glance, while there's also a stylus and dial as well, for better control over your photo editing work.
Read the full Lenovo Yoga A940 review
If the iMac Pro above is too expensive (and offers a level of performance that you simply don't need) but you want an Apple all-in-one, then the standard iMac is more than capable of helping you with your photo editing.
While the iMac 2019 doesn’t feature a touchscreen or an adjustable stand, the option for a 4K P3 wide color gamut display means it will accurately display your photos. Plus, there’s the fact that because the iMac (27-inch, 2019) is no longer the latest model, it should be getting some tempting price cuts.
The 2019 iMac is certainly an upgrade on the 2017 model, especially for creative professionals, and one of the best premium all-in-one PCs that money can buy. Though beware that memory and storage upgrades don't come cheap.
Read the full Apple iMac 27-inch (2019) review
If you appreciate the beauty of minimalism - and you rely on music as a muse for your photographic creativity - then the unique HP Pavilion Wave might just be the PC pick for you. It's a PC that aims to combine the bulk of a personal computer and speakers into one sophisticated, and compact, unit.
Though at first you might confuse it for a fabric-woven Mac Pro refresh, the HP Pavilion Wave is anything but. This compact Windows machine packs in sixth-generation Intel Core processors and optional discrete AMD graphics with a uniquely integrated Bang & Olufsen speaker.
Wrapped in a handsome fabric exterior, this is the perfect PC to have on the desk. If you love listening to music while you edit your photos, then this is a brilliant – and stylish – photo editing PC.
If you’re looking for a great desktop experience for photo editing, but don’t have a lot of space, look no further than the Intel Hades Canyon NUC. In this tiny bare-bones PC, you have an insanely powerful 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, and discrete-class Radeon graphics – once you throw in some RAM and storage, you've got a small and easily portable PC that can handle photo editing with ease.
At first glance, it may look more like a set-top box than a desktop PC, but the device is interesting enough to look like more than just a plain box in your home entertainment setup while also not being too distracting if you decide to use it as your work computer.
Also, if you often travel around and want a powerful and dependable PC for photo editing, then this is definitely worth considering.
Read the full Intel Hades Canyon NUC review
Discover which of the best video editing computers makes the cut
How to choose the best PC for photo editing
When choosing which photo editing PC is best for you, it's a good idea to have a clear idea how you'll be using the machine. Given the considerable variance in costs between some of the PCs featured in this list, it's important to get a solid grasp of the level of photo editing performance you require.
If you're an amateur photographer who would love to simply spend a little more time editing shots taken in your spare time, then you're unlikely to need to shell out on some of the more powerful machines in this list.
Conversely, if you're a professional photographer who relies on being able to turn around a considerable number of photos during working hours in order to pay the bills, eyeing up the powerful models will prove a shrewder decision in the long run.
There are of course more subjective choices to be made too. Windows or Apple is the main one, of course, but there are also aesthetic choices like whether you want something that will sit unmoved in a defined office space, or whether you require something portable.
How we test the best PC for photo editing
In our run down of the ten best PCs for photo editing, we've rigorously tested all PCs using our standard reviewing process for laptops and desktops. This begins with looking at the built quality of all models, assessing its design and build to see how robust it feels, testing the functionality of all ports, switches and latches.
We looked at screen quality, testing brightness and tone, and the overall weight and size of the machine. We also considered the machine's compatibility with the leading photo editing software, and ran the rule on battery life and (key in the case of photo editing) processing speed.
Photo editing: PC vs Mac
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 differences between Apple and Windows-based devices when it comes to photo editing.
"With two major systems available in Apple and Windows computers, which one is truly better for photo editing? All professional photographers use Macs, don’t they? And aren’t Macs simply much better at running photo editing software than Windows PCs? When Photoshop 1.0 was launched back in 1990 it was Mac-only software, and it wasn’t until 1993 with version 2.5 that it became available for Windows computers. Macs remained the favorite option for graphic designers, and this, alongside the fact that digital typography began on Macs, helped to create the idea that Macs were best for running Photoshop.
The reality is that running Adobe and Affinity Photo (ed: probably the most potent rival to Adobe's hegemony - read our Affinity Photo review) is identical on both Mac and Windows PCs. There really are no differences in performance, features or functionality, although faster and more powerful computers of both types are preferred. This means that you don’t have to switch from Windows to Apple when you first begin editing – you can use whichever system you prefer.
I used to use Macs, but once Apple made it difficult to upgrade components such as RAM and hard drives, I switched to a Windows PC because I knew I’d be able to upgrade all components when I wanted to. The switchover was seamless, and while I miss the clean simplicity of the macOS operating system, the versatility of the Windows PCs I’ve owned since I switched has been well worth it.
Just one more thing: with improvements in the processing power of both Android and iOS tablets, it’s now possible to edit images using these smart devices. The ability to use touch can provide a highly tactile approach to editing, and with Affinity Photo and different versions of Photoshop and Lightroom (read our Lightroom review) available for tablets, there’s huge scope for using these devices.
From a workflow point of view, computers remain the best devices for image editing because of their greater processing power, larger screens and increased space for storing image files. Tablets, however, are a great option when travelling for image editing on the go.