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The 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)

The best laptop for photographers needs to check several boxes to handle your photography-related projects. You don’t want to throw money at the machine with the highest specs without doing research, but you do want one that has enough power for the task at hand. So, before you buy the most expensive one you can find, consider all the different factors necessary for you to produce your best work.

Consider one equipped with the best processor, the best graphics card, and the fastest RAM so that your creative workflow isn’t affected by any limitations of the laptop in question. In the same vein, you’ll want a speedy SSD that can quickly load files with enough storage space to keep the most relevant projects accessible at a moment’s notice. 

Whether you’re using Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, or a free photo editor, you’ll need a machine that can keep up. But, you also want to make sure that what you’re seeing is accurate. That means the best portable for photographers needs to have an excellent screen with fantastic contrast, a high brightness level, and a wide color gamut – at least 90% sRGB and 70% Adobe RGB.

Just as crucial are the types of ports available. Many slimmer laptops these days come with just a few which will require you to carry dongles for all your peripherals. And, with all the time you’ll be spending working on that portable, a comfortable touchpad and keyboard are just as important.

Taking all those factors into consideration, we’ve gathered the best laptops for photographers here. You’ll find some that also make our best laptops lists as well as some of the best MacBooks available. Don’t forget to take advantage of our included price comparison tool so you can get the best laptop deals.

The best laptops for photographers 2022

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

(Image credit: Apple)
A powerhouse for any photographer

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

There are a number of reasons that the MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) is such a fine machine 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. 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)
Mightily impressive

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. Armed with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max, this compact laptop impresses with breathtaking power – the kind that deserves the most intensive creative workloads – and an equally breathtaking 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 overall, look no further.

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

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

3. Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021)

A creative professional's dream

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. 

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. But, for how much you’re paying and for the other things you’re getting in return, it’s a minuscule sacrifice.

Read the full Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) review

(Image credit: Dell)

4. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The ultimate laptop has arrived

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 the best laptop for photo editing at present, 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. 

We’re not saying that this laptop is perfect, but our coveted 5 out of 5 rating should speak for itself.

Read the full Dell XPS 15 review

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

(Image credit: Apple)
The most affordable MacBook Pro 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

The Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) is even more powerful than its M1 predecessor, with the M2 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)

6. Acer ConceptD 7

A mobile workstation for creatives

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 photo editing, 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. 

Obviously, it’s still pretty pricey, but if you’re looking for a Windows-powered MacBook alternative for video and photo editing, it’s certainly among the best laptop for photo editing.

Read the full Acer ConceptD 7 review

(Image credit: Microsoft)

7. Surface Laptop 3 15-inch

Longer-lasting than most

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

With an impressive, reasonable price tag and some of the best battery life we’ve experienced in a 15-inch laptop, 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. 

While it isn’t the most powerful 15-inch 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)

8. Microsoft Surface Book 3

An extremely premium piece of kit

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 have come in just a few short years. 

It has an extremely premium piece of kit – with one of the best displays we’ve used in a laptop, a keyboard that will put the MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboards to shame, and a hybrid design that’s great for creative tasks. More specifically for what you’re looking for, this follow up to the outstanding Surface Book 2 has configurations with a discrete GPU and more RAM than everyday consumers will ever need. This all makes the Surface Book 3 an amazing choice for content creators and one of the best laptop for photo editing currently on offer.

Read the full Microsoft Surface Book 3 review

(Image credit: Dell)

9. Dell XPS 13

Touchscreen can streamline photo browsing and culling

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

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. 

But it’s also among the best laptop for photo editing. 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)

10. HP Spectre x360

A best 2-in-1 gets better

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3-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

Sartorially-conscious photographers will love the look of this 13-inch stunner, sure. But the Spectre x360 also takes things to another level, power-wise. 

With its gem cut design and sleek profile, it’s this one of the most beautiful laptops on the market right now. However, HP also fitted this with powerful Intel Whiskey Lake processors and long battery life, which means that you’re getting one of the best laptop for photo editing.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2019)

How to choose the best photo editing laptop for you

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.


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."

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.