The best laptops for photographers tick a few boxes other equally powerful laptops don’t. Photo editing requires more than just enough horsepower to rival traditional desktop computers. After all, you’re not just working with high resolution files and utilizing advanced effects.
Besides a powerful processor, the best graphics card for content creation and the fastest RAM, you also need pixel-perfect displays with accurate color reproduction, as well as wide contrast to keep highlight and shadow detail consistently visible. In addition, you’ll need features that will give you a more seamless workflow, whether that’s a comfortable keyboard and an extremely reliable trackpad or an abundance of ports, so you can keep focus on your creative process.
From the crowd-favorite MacBook Pros to their Windows-based rivals, there’s quite a selection of the best laptops for photographers out there. To make your search easier, we put together a short list for you that includes some of the best laptops and best Ultrabooks. Whichever photo editor you’re using – whether it’s Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom or GIMP, or a combination of two, your pick is guaranteed to handle your photo editing demands.
Best laptops for photographers 2020 at a glance
- MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
- MacBook Pro 15-inch
- Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
- Acer ConceptD 7
- Surface Laptop 3 15-inch
- Dell XPS 15 (2019)
- Dell XPS 13
- HP Spectre x360
- Lenovo Yoga C930
1. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
The best Apple laptop for photographers
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M – Radeon Pro 5500M | RAM: 16GB – 64GB | Screen: 16-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 512GB – 8TB SSD
Stunning 16-inch screen
New and improved keyboard
Limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports
As thin, light and sleek as ever, the MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) doesn’t actually feel like a 16-inch behemoth. If you’re worried that this was going to be bulky and awkward to use, don’t be. Whether you’re a nomadic photographer or you have your own studio, this laptop will feel just as compact as the 15-inch MacBook Pros that preceded it. Only, you’re still getting that extra real estate on that stunning display, as well as the latest and greatest components behind it. Apple then rounds those out with amazing (and loud) speakers and a much, much better keyboard. This is truly the best laptop for photographers.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
2. MacBook Pro 15-inch
Same body, big leap in power
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: Radeon Pro 555X – Radeon Pro 560X | RAM: 16GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch 2,880 x 1,800 (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: up to 4TB SSD
True Tone works well when you want it
Touch Bar is improving
Lack of ports
Keyboard still feels a little flat
With Apple having recently fitted its MacBook Pro 15-inch with Intel’s latest 9th-generation processors, these laptops are better and more powerful than ever, which means it’s just the ticket for demanding post-processing tasks. Of course, the fact that it boasts Touch ID and an improved Touch Bar, and is upgradeable to 4TB of SSD storage means that you can have a more seamless experience doing so. Although you will have to adjust to not having an SD card port and only two Thunderbolt 3, this is still one of the best laptops for photographers.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 15-inch
3. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition
A seriously powerful pro laptop
CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q – NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 Studio Edition | RAM: 32GB | Screen: 15.6″ OLED 4K Touch 60Hz, factory calibrated | Storage: 1TB SSD
Razer’s idea of taking its famous gaming laptop and turning it into one of the best mobile creative workstations on offer has paid off. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition takes the mantle from one of HP’s most powerful laptops as among the best laptops for photographers. Without a doubt, this model was designed with photographers – as well as video editors and game designers – in mind, rocking powerful graphics cards and an absolute stunner of a 4K display. You’ll be spending a lot of money to take this laptop home. But, make no mistake, it will be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make.
Read the full review: Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition
4. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
Worth the upgrade at the highest configuration
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – 10th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 | RAM: up to 32GB | Screen: 13-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD
Improved specs (on some models)
Larger capacity SSD for starting model
New keyboard is great
Entry-level model still has 8th gen Intel CPU
You still only get Thunderbolt 3 ports
The MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)’s entry-level model may miss out on some of the lineup’s new toys. However, going for the higher-end configurations will get you new (and powerful) Intel processors and improved RAM speeds for better performance, all packed in the 13-inch incredibly svelte body. Apple rounds it all out with that incredible Magic Keyboard from the new 16-inch, finally getting rid of that problematic keyboard. Even if you don’t go for the 10th-generation Intel Core configurations, you might still appreciate the fact that all models come with more storage capacity for the same price as their predecessors.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
5. Acer ConceptD 7
A mobile workstation for creatives
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
Cheaper than MacBook Pro
Good selection of ports
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 laptops for photographers.
Read the full review: Acer ConceptD 7
6. Surface Laptop 3 15-inch
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
Excellent battery life
Exciting AMD flagship debut
Far too few ports
Lacking in power
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 for 2020.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop 3
7. Dell XPS 15 (2019)
CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H – i9-9980HK | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 | RAM: 8GB – 64GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) InfinityEdge Anti-Glare Non-touch IPS – 15.6-inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) Anti-Reflective InfinityEdge Touch IPS | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Webcam has finally moved
Core i9 power
No major redesign
One of our top favorite laptops here at TechRadar must be Dell’s XPS line, thanks to their gorgeous displays and powerful components inside. So, it isn’t surprising that the Dell XPS 15 has made it to yet another list. There’s not much redesign here beyond Dell finally fixing that awful webcam placement, thank goodness, but as they say, if it isn’t broken… What matters here are the innards, and this laptop’s definitely got power with those 9th-generation Intel Core processors leading the charge. If you’re looking to invest in one of the best laptops for photographers, this is definitely an affordable one to consider.
Read the hands-on review: Dell XPS 15
8. Dell XPS 13
Touchscreen can streamline photo browsing and culling
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
Decent power and screen
Mediocre battery life
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 laptops for photographers. 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 review: Dell XPS 13
9. HP Spectre x360
A best 2-in-1 gets better
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
Very well built
Powerful and thin
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 laptops for photographers.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2019)
10. Lenovo Yoga C930
2-in-1 with little to no compromise
CPU: Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) IPS Glossy Multi-touch | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Strong build quality
Robust feature set
Excellent battery life
Weak graphics performance
Pricey upgrade options
Sleek, slim and with solid specs to boot, the new Lenovo Yoga C930 not only deserves to be voted one of the best 2-in-1 laptops to date, but it’s also a worthy addition in our best laptops for photographers list. That’s without mentioning the fact that it now touts a 4K display model, which is just excellent for editing those high resolution full-frame shots. This 2-in-1 is a strong contender for photographers on the budget, but if you do decide to go for gold, you might have to break the bank.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga C930
Key things to look out for
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.
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- Want more choices? Check out our list of the best laptop