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How to find the best laptop for Photo Editing [Complete Guide]

Finding a laptop that meets our needs and our budget is never an easy endeavor. Finding one that's optimal for photographers who have their own special set of needs is even harder. However, today we're going to run through everything you need to know in order to pick the best laptop for photo editing so you can really let your creativity soar.

Disclosure: when developing this guide we are assuming that you are looking to buy a PC and so this guide is based entirely on a laptop running Windows as an operating system. That's why we don't even touch upon Macs which are infamously great for creative types.

Guide on What to Look for in a Laptop for Photography

Display Quality & Size

If you're going to be editing photos, the display is everything. If nothing else, this is true because it determines how much of your photo you can actually view comfortably as compared to how much has been chopped off at the edges.

The first thing that should jump out at you when selecting a laptop screen is whether or not it's an IPS-based panel or a TN monitor.

You want an IPS screen because of the superior viewing angles and color reproduction they offer more than make up for their higher price tag. TN monitors may be cheaper, but viewing angles are more limited and that can easily distort your perception of the image and therefore hinder the editing process.

Aside from the technology of the display, you also want to consider the size of it. An ideal laptop for photography would be one that's got a 15-inch display, but if you can't afford something quite so large or are just looking for something more portable then you may want to consider going with a 13-inch screen instead. The only thing that may make the 15-inch option better for your work is the extra screen real estate that a larger panel will give you.

The resolution and color reproduction are also two features you should definitely pay attention to. If you're using the laptop mainly for editing you should definitely get a resolution of at least 1920 x 1080 (also known as Full HD). However, it doesn't hurt to have a higher resolution as well.

You also want to pay attention to whether or not the display is "wide gamut." If it is, then that means that all of the colors of an image will display correctly. That's a huge deal for photography as it allows all of the color information in your images to be preserved and accurately shown even if you're editing them on a laptop.

Nowadays, pretty much every laptop with a screen that is larger than 13 inches supports wide gamut displays. However, some budget models don't.

Regarding touchscreens, they aren't strictly necessary but that depends if you're planning on using the computer for editing photos on the go or if you're far more likely to do the editing in the comfort of your own home.


The best processor option for a photographer is one that can handle overwhelming workloads without stuttering. Nowadays most high-end laptops are going to be using some form of an Intel Core i7 processor, but it's best to double-check when you're making your purchase.

You could also opt for a high-end AMD processor. The difference between AMD and Intel processors is that AMD processors are generally best at multitasking while Intel processors will typically have more power per core. This brings us to our next point. Either brand will perform well if they're on the top of the lineup, ie: Core i7/i9 or AMD Ryzen 9.

Aside from the series, you should also pay close attention to the number of cores. The number of cores in a CPU is best described as how many tasks it can handle at the same time. For example, a four-core CPU would be best for running several media to heavy programs simultaneously. These days you can find plenty of processors with four or more cores so that shouldn't be an issue.

Finally, there's also the clock speed to consider. This is best described as how many operations the CPU can complete in a certain time. So, larger numbers mean faster clock speeds.

Within the assortment of high-end processors, it's standard to find clock speeds along the lines of 3 to 4 GHz. Again, as we said, higher is better. However, these days it's not that big of a deal and stuff like the series or the number of cores will have a far greater impact on performance.

What about the processor generation?

As a bonus, you should remember to look at the series number to make sure you're buying a laptop that has a current-generation processor. That's not to say that an older processor will be much worse as improvements are generally marginal but newer is almost always better nonetheless.

Currently, in 2021, at the time of writing this article, we're on the 11'th generation of Intel Core processor, with the 12th generation just a few months away from launch. To figure out what generation the processor is from all you need to do is look at the name.

For example, an Intel Core i7-9750H is from the 9th generation, whilst the i7-8750H is from the 8th generation. Easy enough, right?

Can I have a summary?

1) Check for the series: You want a Core i5 at the minimum and i7 is optimal.

2) Look at the number of cores: The best option at the moment is 8 but you can still get away with a 6-core.

3) Look at the clock speed: 3 GHz or higher is best if possible.

4) Remember to check that it's not a very old processor.


But processing power isn't the most important feature you should look out for when searching for the best laptop for photography. Memory also plays a huge role. That's because when you're editing pictures the picture will be stored in the system memory while it is being worked on. Ergo, the more RAM your laptop has, the quicker it will be for rendering and editing pictures.

What's the right type of RAM?

Most new laptops use DDR4 memory but some still use DDR3 and older platforms. If the laptop that you're thinking about buying has DDR3 or even DDR2 then it's best to wait until you find a laptop with DDR4.

Why? Well, DDR3 isn't as fast as DDR4 and it's also getting pretty long in the tooth at this point. Plus, DDR2 memory hasn't been sold since 2015. So that should tell you just how old that platform is really starting to get.

What about the RAM speed?

Currently, RAM speed starts off at 2400 MHz and goes all the way up to 4400 MHz. Having said that, most laptops will feature either a 2400 MHz RAM module or a 2666 MHz module, with a few offering up to 3200 MHz.

How much RAM should I get?

On most mid-range and high-end laptops, you'll find that manufacturers include 8 GB of RAM as standard. However, if you're going to be editing photos for a living then that might not be enough.

To have the best computer for editing photos you're going to want 16 GB of RAM or more so consider that when making your purchasing decision.

Also take into account that most laptops allow for RAM upgrades, meaning the RAM isn't soldered onto the board and if it is then they typically will have another slot available so upgrading RAM on a laptop is generally a very straightforward process - and one of the easiest ways to add speed to your PC -.

Graphics card For Editing Photos

You can't talk about how to choose a photo editing PC and not talk about the graphics card. The graphics card, or GPU as it is best known, handles all video and photo rendering on your laptop.

For that reason, a good graphics card saves you time when doing things like color correction and other types of photo editing software work. What's more, is that most high-end notebooks often come with a decent enough GPU to allow for some light gaming as well.

When it comes to GPUs you should know that there are two different types of Graphics cards. You've got your integrated GPU and your dedicated GPU.

Integrated GPUs are best suited for light video work such as watching Youtube videos, editing photos at a non-professional level, or streaming games on Twitch. Most laptops in the mid-range feature an integrated GPU.

Dedicated GPUs are best as they don't share resources with anything and they provide a much better performance.

That said, if you're on a tight budget and a dedicated GPU seems too expensive then you can get an integrated one but we would always recommend professionals get a dedicated GPU, as basic as it might be.


The next thing to consider is storage. In terms of choosing your storage, you don't have much choice. Newer laptops will come with a solid-state drive rather than an HDD so that's what you'll find in most cases.

Having said that, you need to make sure the storage is big enough for your needs.

If you're just editing pictures here and there or if you're only using your laptop for games then an SSD with 128 GB of space will be fine but if you plan on doing a lot of photo-editing work off your laptop then 256 GB or more would be better.

In any case, consider that most laptops offer the possibility of upgrading storage through an available slot. You should check the spec sheet of the laptop you like in order to see if it's a possibility.

That's all you need to know when it comes to choosing the best laptop for photo editing as far as storage is concerned.

Connectivity Options for Your Laptop

In the realm of photography, connectivity options should also be a big consideration since they'll let you upload photos and download editing tools without the need to drag along any bulky external hardware.

To start off, you want the standard USB Type-A 3.2 ports and a USB Type C port. However, you will likely also make use of the HDMI port so make sure that the laptop for photography that you're looking into has one.

Many laptops now also come with a display port. Those will allow you to really expand your display options while providing additional screen real estate to work with when using photo editing programs.

Along with those, however, it's also important that your laptop comes with an SD card slot. You might think that this is a pretty standard feature but as of late a lot of manufacturers are opting to not include an SD card reader so make sure that's not your case.

What about the WiFi connectivity?

While often overlooked and taken for granted, WiFi connectivity can be a pretty big deal when looking at a laptop for photography. Typically you'll want dual-band WiFi support. That's WiFi connectivity that connects to both 2.4 and 5 GHz WiFi networks.

What's even more important is the WiFi standard that the laptop is using, with Wifi 6 being the latest standard to hit the market and delivering up to 40% higher data transfer speeds than the WiFi 5 standard (also known as WiFi 802.11 ac) you should definitely be looking for a laptop with WiFi 6 support.

That said, this only applies when you have a compatible router to work with. If you're going to connect your laptop to a bgn single-band router then you're not going to benefit from any of these features.


After looking at all of the above points and judging them by themselves you should be pretty well equipped to go out there and find the perfect laptop for your needs. It's important, however, that you consider these criteria together as they are all inter-connected and you might get a build that fulfills most but not all of your requirements.

On the other hand, if you're still not sure where to start then we have recommended a couple of laptops for you based on both your budget and your needs. These laptops should address most areas that are important when choosing a laptop for photography.