From dealing with the raw film of cameras all the way to the now digital age, computers have become a crucial tool to enhance your images to your desire. Tweaking photos can be an extensive and complicated process, especially if you have all the right tools. If you’re going to be on the go and editing photos, you’re going to need a laptop with all the right features so you can do that without any unnecessary problems and delays.
What would be the best laptop for a photographer? Apple products are a quick option for many pros but it should also be kept in mind the benefits of using Windows and their editing apps. A fast processor –at least an Intel Core i5 or an AMD a10, is preferred. This is important when working with a lot of files in one session as well as in depth editing on programs like Adobe Photoshop. You wouldn’t want your laptop to move slow, so that’s why a good processor is important. It’s also important to make sure you get at least 8 GB of RAM for efficiency.
Storage is very important, this is what an external hard drive was made to do. Get high capacity hard drives that can go up to 4+ terabytes. There are also solid-state drives which are said to perform quicker than hard drives do. It’s suggested to use a solid state drive for the editing process, then use a hard drive for storage of completed photos and what not.
Another feature that can’t be ignored is the size and resolution of your screen. The larger the screen, the more room you’ll have to view and edit pictures. A higher resolution will help with details, typically when cropping and zooming in on pictures.
Having essential ports for USB, memory card readers, DVD and Blu-ray drives are some things you’ll want to make sire you have. Keep in mind that if you get a smaller and thinner laptop, the less of these features it will offer. Battery life is something that can easily be looked over until a laptop is already purchased. Make sure you get a laptop that can run for a minimum of 8 hours, especially if you travel a lot.
In this complete guide of the best laptop for photo editing, we highlight some of the important features to consider, and answer some of the most common questions beginner and advanced photo editors may have regarding the laptops and their components. We then go ahead and review some of our favorite laptops for photographers.
Best Laptop for Photo Editing Complete Guide
PC vs. Mac
Seemingly the question of the century, the real truth is that either one will work fine. You are going to have to spend a bit to get everything you need. This run down is probably geared mostly towards PC users. There are many Mac users who use Mac because they are involved in photography. Stay tuned if you use a Mac because we’ll be going over some recommendations for the hardware upgrades you should invest in to make your photo editing more efficient.
If you’re a PC user and feel pressured to get a Mac, think about how you’ll need to learn a new system. If you really do want to get a Mac then go for it. But if this is just some peer pressure, getting a Mac doesn’t make you a cooler person. Let’s say you’re a pro at using PC computers, why tamper with your skills? Use it to your advantage. Using a PC is perfectly fine for photo editing. Instead, focus on investments on lenses and equipment, maybe even some training if you would like. It can get frustrating on both Mac and PCs when your computer just doesn’t have enough power to pull through. You could very well be using a computer that you owned before getting into this photography stuff. You’re probably in great need of investing your money into a newer laptop computer.
The Mac and PC debate is a bit of a downer. Comparable to the Canon vs. Nikon debate photographers have, these things can get heated. Down the line you’re likely to want to get, or need, a new laptop that was better than what you started with. Photo processing software tools like Photoshop or Lightroom will run smoother if you have a better machine. Sure, you can keep using your current computer, that is if you don’t mind a long processing time and always waiting for your computer. It’s time for your investment in a new laptop. Compare it to investing in a new camera or lens. Definitely be prepared to spend a bit of a pretty penny.
Does Mac perform better with regards to Adobe photo editing software? Several years ago this may have been true. But for this modern day, there really is not much of a notable difference. Apple decided to switch the model of the Mac from PowerPC to Intel back in 2006. This meant Adobe was required to rewrite their own software products to accommodate Mac computers because of the obvious differences between Mac and PC.
Something like a cheap $200-$500 laptop shouldn’t be expected to work smoothly for anything besides simple internet use or running other basic applications. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. A PC can have a hardware set up pretty much the same as a Mac, then it will run Adobe just as well. I guess you could say the only real difference here is the price with Mac computers being pricier for the initial payment. Your personal preference should be considered too, whether or not you like Windows or OSX. If you are familiar with a PC, it is suggested to just stick with what you know. In the big picture, neither is really better than the other. Personally, I’m an Apple fan. I rocked Windows all my life, and eventually made the switch to Mac and have never been happier.
Minimum Hardware Requirements
There may be some upgrades you want to make to your PC in order to run Photoshop and Lightroom as good as possible. These recommendations should be taken into account for photography. If you’re a laptop gamer, audio producer, video editor or general-use graphic designer, you’re in the wrong place. The following recommendations are a guide to help you decide what PC to get depending on it’s features and specs. Here are some things you should look for when finding the best laptop for photo editing:
32 GB of RAM to take the workload off the photo editing software. You can get by with 8 GB and do what you need just fine with 16 GB. But to ensure your system will never be overworked in this aspect, getting 32 GB of RAM should be the best option. These software programs need every bit of RAM they can get.
An SSD hard drive – This is similar to flash memory technology like in your phone and SD cads. Though on the more expensive side, it makes a huge difference in photo editing. Try to get something 256+GB for the OS and use this as a “working” drive. On hand you should also have a minimum 1 Terabyte hard drive for long term storage.
Intel Core i processor – Get the best one you can afford. The AMD processor is great, but when compared to Intel for running photo editing software, it was greatly outmatched. Photoshop and Lightroom just run smoother on Intel processors. Go with at least a Core i3 processor. Go with a Core i5 for a bigger step and go with a Core i7 so your machine can handle any work without a sweat.
IPS monitor – The bigger it is and the higher the resolution, the better. This will make a BIG difference in your photo editing. Think a 27”-30” monitor with 2560 x 1600 resolution, commonly called WQXGA. Connect the PC to the monitor through DVI or display port, do not use HDMI.
Nvidia graphics is all too important to get because its all that Adobe supports greatly on PC. As it’s improving, look for it to get better these next several years. Try to get a computer with a discrete Nvidia chip set graphics card that also offers 1GB of RAM.
Make sure there is a USB 3.0 port. Some PCs offer Thunderbolt built into their motherboards, but this is mainly an Apple product. Use USB 3.0 since it is faster than USB 2.0, and the more the merrier. Editing photos from your external hard drive isn’t recommended, so instead use a USB 3.0 SD card reader and you will notice the difference.
64 bit Windows 8.1 or 7 Professional. A lot of things have changed when Microsoft implemented Windows 10. A tabbed friendly UI didn’t go too well with many PC users. When using Windows 7 or 8.1, make sure it is the 64 bit version otherwise you are not going to be able to utilize all the RAM available in your machine. Everything within the last 2-3 years has come with a 64 bit version of Windows if you weren’t aware.
While it has become possible to run OSX on non Apple hardware – you should avoid this. That means you can configure your PC to run like a Mac. The thing is that this is illegal and these hacks frequently run into problems. If you really want a Mac, just purchase a Mac instead.
Best Laptops for Photo Editing Reviews
1. Apple MacBook Pro 15 w/ Retina Display Review
This 15 inch MacBook Pro’s Retina Display is undeniable. With a powerful processor and new graphics card, quicker flash storage along with a new Force touch trackpad, you’ll totally want to try this bad boy out. If you already own a 15 in MacBook Pro, then you probably don’t feel the need to upgrade. The many mentionable upgrades included with this system makes it an expensive choice and the top choice for a good portable laptop to photo edit with.
Apple’s lines of MacBook Air and Pro are consistently on point with their look and feel; it’s been that way for several generations now. Every year comes the next new updates and minor tweaks to the internal components. Be it a better hard drive this year and a faster Wi-Fi connection to processors, these laptops are constantly evolving. Both the Air and Pro were ahead of their time when they first came into the market, so not surprisingly they look more than up to date.
Enhancements made to the MacBook 15 inch Pro include the Force Touch trackpad, quicker solid-state hard drive, updated graphics (AMD Radeon R9 M370X GPU) and the Core i7 CPU is still here to make an appearance. So there weren’t that many major changes, but you have to admit that this is one of the most powerful laptops.
As one of Apple’s largest and most powerful laptops that can endure an all day, everyday type of work load, this productivity machine can do it all for you. Don’t worry about needing extra GPU for your photo and video work. Take advantage of your screen’s real estate with the 15 inch Retina panel. Though this is a newer model, the Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina Display has generally the same design of it’s earlier model, which is just fine!
A great advantage of the 15 inch MacBook Pro is how slim it is. It is slim yet still allows for a wide desktop appearance. Compared it to newer and lighter laptops, you’ll notice that the MacBook Pro is denser than it looks, only adding to it’s durability. This laptop seems almost indestructible, though we wouldn’t want to put that to the test. It’s denseness comes from the flex-free aluminum construction. Though this laptop may not be the best for carrying with you in your laptop bag all day, every day, all the time – you can still manage to travel around with this laptop with barely any troubles.
This MacBook’s keyboard is the same as the last several generations that they have come out with. The backlit Apple keyboard is beautiful, though we could note that Lenovo may surpass the Apple backlighting. This is because Lenovo invests a lot of time into their keyboard developments.
What you can expect to be new is the Apple Force Touch trackpad, which is also available along with the 12 in MacBook and the 13 inch MacBook Pro. Essentially the Force Touch trackpad gets rid of that former top hinge which you would have to physically depress to get things to register properly. The new Force Touch trackpad features 4 sensors under each corner. Now you can enjoy a nice flat surface to navigate through your laptop with much more ease.
Use the 4 sensors to “click” virtually, or should I say physically, anywhere on this pad’s flat surface without having to worry about different things happening. Something called the Force Click effect is what combines the sensors with “taptic” feedback and you can then have more than one level of clicking going on within whatever app or task you are working on. The “deep click” feels like the trackpad may have messed up in it’s physical mechanics, though what is really going on is that you’re separating the trackpad into two different levels of use.
You can’t lie when you say it takes a bit of BRILLIANT engineering to design laptops to be thinner and more minimal while functioning like a strong machine. These machines are already in existence, so maybe even if they create “thinner” laptops, we might not even notice the big difference.
When the 15 in Retina Display was first introduced, there was a lot of good expectations. Its seemingly “better than HD” screen resolution is now available and common in so many different types of laptops among many different brands, yet this is still a main selling point of the MacBook Pro 15. The screen looks so bright, very clear, and super sharp like any high end laptop should. Enjoy the 2,880 x 1,800 pixel resolution when dealing with all of your professional high resolution photography. This screen was made to browse and edit photos because of it’s attention to detail and better than 1080p display screen.
Enjoy a multitude of available ports for anything you need. The list includes two USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports (doubling as Mini DisplayPort outputs), one slot for an SD card, Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Because optical drives and Ethernet jacks are becoming more and more rare, you won’t find those on this laptop, even though it is a 15 inch.
A premium laptop equals a premium performance, as it should. The MacBook Pro 15 received premium performance scores even though it’s CPU was not upgraded from it’s fourth-generation Intel Core i-series chips. Like mentioned, the upgrades in this laptop were fairly minimal, so it’s a bit difficult to compare the ‘14 and ‘15 configurations of the MacBook Pro. What we can say is that this version does have a discrete graphics card supplied by AMD, which is an improvement.
When you compare a Windows laptop running a Core i7 processor to the MacBook Pro 15, the Pro came closely matched with a model called the Razer Blade. This is actually faster than the Dell XPS 15 which is also equipped with Nvidia graphics and has a 4k display. These are all much faster when they are compared to the Core i5 CPU of the 2k15 13 inch MacBook Pro.
This expensive MacBook Pro’s AMD graphics card is super helpful if you’re dealing with very high end photo and video editing techniques and software. Less so when it comes to gaming, but that’s not what we’re worried about right here. Gaming is possible, but definitely lacks even with the high end game BioShock: Infinite and Metro: Last Light, which is only available to Mac users. The problem with the gaming is the high end resolution and detail just don’t work as well. Mid range GPUs available from Nvidia, like GeForce 750M (available in the Dell XPS 15) have tested to workout much better when it comes to mainstream and live stream gaming according to a head to head comparison that utilized the game Tomb Raider.
Apple can guarantee the the 15 inch MacBook Pro is a powerful yet portable laptop that feels like a desktop when being used. Sure it’s probably easier to have a stationary set up with this MacBook Pro and it may be a bit heavy in your bad. The slim and still light weightedness makes this laptop more than able to be carried along with you wherever you need to go. Surely Apple is aware of this. The MacBook Pro 15 is Apple’s most powerful laptop, sure to be a gift to photographers, graphic designers, video creators and so many more to come.
2. Asus ZenBook Pro Review
If you’re going to be doing more complex tasks as well as using more advanced photo editing software, it will only help you to choose a laptop that is more PC than the traditional laptops today. This can ensure that you’re architecture blueprint or your next movie release won’t overload your machine. No, you don’t have to pay $2,000 for what you’re looking for… The Asus’ ZenBook Pro UX501VW has an Intel Core i7 CPU, RAM of 16GB, discrete Nvidia 960M graphics chip, 512 GB SSD and even a high resolution UHD touch screen. It’s quite obvious this laptop takes things to the next level. You’ll have no trouble editing photos and videos. With it’s 15 inch screen, the Asus’ Zenbook Pro really is a catch. Surely there must be some shortcomings somewhere, though you could say it’s almost flawless.
Taking a more simple approach to the design of this laptop, Asus created a truly high quality machine with the 15 inch Zenbook Pro. All aluminum chassis is used for durability along with a metallic grey lid. Take a look on the inside, the Zenbook is a comfortable set up for your hands to rest as you do your work editing photos, videos, or even just browsing the web.
This laptop weighs in at 5 pounds. This is on average half a pound heavier than other 15 inch laptops like it. It’s also a bit thicker in comparison. You can trust the ZenBook Pro to be durable, so the size isn’t too much of a hassle. You probably haven’t tried a keyboard like this before. It features a comfortable typing experience with long stroke. This means the keys are made slightly bigger and that if you’re used to short distance keys, then you might need a little time to get used to this. It’s possible for things like pressing the key all the way down being a problem at first, but you’ll also be able to adapt to such a slight change in no time.
What you may consider a trade off for the Asus is a smaller shift key on the right size to accommodate a full sized set of arrow keys. This could be really beneficial, especially if you’re known to work on videos during much of your screen time. These keys can be used to easily navigate through frames while video editing. A 4 inch by 2.75 inch key touchpad is smooth and matte with a silver finish that almost disappears in the laptop itself. The pad responds fairly quick and very accurately with clicking and multi-touch actions and gestures, for example, two finger scrolling and pinch to zoom.
Take full advantage of today’s modern technology with the ZenBook Pro’s 15.6 inch 3840 x 2160 UHD touch screen. This is the ideal display that caters to photo and video editors using windows instead of a MacBook. You may notice the absolute slightest blue tint, pictures and videos look practically the same when compared to a NEC desktop monitor. Brightness goes up to 286 nits, comparable to the Dell’s XPS 15 and a little dimmer than an Apple MacBook Pro 15. Samsung’s Ativ Book 9 Pro however goes way beyond it at 405 nits of brightness. This doesn’t have to be a deal breaker though.
On the ZenBook Pro, the screen reproduces 110 percent of the sRGB color scale. If you aren’t familiar, anything that is over 100% is phenomenal. Believe it or not, the Asus outdid the MacBook Pro in this aspect. Coming up short compared to the XPS 15 or Ativ Book 9 Pro, the ZenBook’s color is said to look a bit more true to life. Color accuracy isn’t the absolute best though. A Delta-E rating of 4.37 comes up short compared to the Dell XPS 15 or the Apple MacBook Pro. You might mistake the ZenBook Pro for having speakers on the deck, even though the sound radiates out of some Bang & Olufsen’s along the laptop’s bottom portion. This is a unique placement of speakers that gives for a decent sound system.
One problem that many laptops face is the overheating of the system, in which case a laptop cooling pad may be required. This might especially be a problem if the machine has discrete graphics. Luckily, the ZenBook Pro doesn’t have problems like this. After a video was streamed for only 15 minutes, the hottest spot was on the underneath the machine between two fans. It read as only 91 degrees F, which is a good amount below the standard comfort threshold of 95+ degrees. Providing 3 USB 3.0 ports, it also offers lightening fast UCSB-C port connections that also supports Thunderbolt 3. Use this port to hook up to a different display or even during super fast data transfers, this can get as fast as up to 40 GBps. Of course, you get the typical microphone jack as well as a headphone jack, HDMI 2.0 and even an SD card reader.
Take this ZenBook Pro and use it right out of the box to start increasing your productivity and improve efficiency in using photo/video editing. Because of it’s Intel Core i7 and 16GB of RAM, the ZenBook kills it with flying through tasks as well as sorting yous spreadsheets, or even just as simple as having multiple internet browsing tabs open. The ZenBook was tested for it’s efficiency to stream while having up to 15 tabs open. It was able to handle the workload with loading and streaming several HD Youtube videos at the same time. Keeping up with the graphics oomph provided with the Dell XPS 15, the ZenBook pro also offers Nvidia 960M GPU along with 2GB of vRAM. This Asus model actually outperformed the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Pro, which features an older version of Nvidia.
The ZenBook Pro has a super shiny screen that is just not ignore-able, a keyboard with some interesting offers and an amazing colorful touch screen that offers ultra high definition. An 8 hour battery life puts this laptop at a good stance for longevity and a traveling workload. You can’t lie when you say the ZenBook is amazing, feels great, and is such a great deal when quality is compared to the price – get Dell and Apple quality at a lesser price with the Asus ZenBook Pro.
3. Asus Rog GL552VW Review
As a budget oriented notebook, the Asus Rog GL552VW is an excellent choice for the beginning level photo editor. You yourself can get this laptop for a great price for the price to performance ratio. It’s interesting that some of the best laptops for gaming could also be the greatest laptops to use for editing or browsing through pictures. This is because there are many specific features both tasks require. So much has changed with technology over this past generation. Asus upgraded to a quad-core by Skylake CPU, which ultimately benefits in the aspects of battery life and longevity. It’s CPU is paired with a DDR4 RAM and even better, a GeForce GTX 960M. That’s a pretty big deal as the GTX 960M gives you more horse power to take on a bigger workload and it generally improves in functionality. That’s actually the reason why this laptop is a little more expensive, the price was needed to match with the quality experience brought to you by the GPU.
This laptop’s earlier version in the last generation was great at keeping itself from overheating. This is partially because of the GPU not producing too much heat. However with the Asus Rog, the GTX 960M does run a little more wear and tear on the cooling system. Asus has also changed over to the IPS panel while the laptops before had Samsung panels. Since then the Asus company has moved to LG.
Asus didn’t make too many structural upgrades to the laptop, besides the new touch pad. The chassis itself is the same as it was in it’s previous model. Since the powerful hardware of this laptop is at such a reasonable price, the decision to go after the best performance for the price was the move that Asus wanted to make. When it all comes down to it, everyone wants the best performance for what they are willing to pay.
Even though the touchpad change is seemingly minuscule, it is still quite a mentionable enhancement from the last model. Performance levels are much higher as it is responsive and can be “clicked”. Asus decided to switch up the trackpad which is great because there seemed to be some problems with the last model’s trackpad.
You’ll be able to enjoy a FULL HD panel at 1920 x 1080 pixels. The display is provided by LG and is a bit different compared to the earlier GL552JX. Pixel density of 141 ppi holds a great “retina” when it’s viewed at a distance of at least 61 cm. Angles are also looking very good on this machine. Maximum brightness reaches 311 cd/m2 and deviates at a maximum of 8%. Color temperature almost perfectly aligns optimally to 6500K by getting to 6600K. When the surface of the display was observed, there weren’t any unnecessary deviations as well.
The sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamuts are definitely some things we should go a little more in depth on. With a CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram, which is the widest spectrum of colors that can possibly be seen by the human eye, you will get a much better perception of the color coverage and accuracy. The standard color gamut is used by many people watching HDTV and viewing on the Web. Adobe RGB is used to work specifically with professional photography cameras and such when preparing to print.
The Rog GL552VW offers amazing display picture quality. Unfortunately, though, the panel itself uses PWM on all of the brightness levels and it only user-friendly once it reaches 100%. This isn’t so ideal. Emitted light comes out with a frequency of 20.6kHz, considered high enough while not being too high to efficiently reduce any negative impacts it may have on a human’s vision. This notebook offers a very pleasing picture quality as well as phenomenal viewing angles, bright and vivid colors, a nice high contrast ratio with a high max brightness setting. Gamma curve and color temperatures are practically optimal. The only real complain here is the PWM, even though it is true the light that comes from the GL552VW’s screen has been proven to be less harmful to the human eye. This is great because you know you’re going to be having a lot of screen time editing your photos and videos.
As for sound quality, this laptop has stereo loudspeakers that are great at providing high, mid, and low frequencies. All the sounds have depth and are fairly clear, giving this system a more than decent sound system. While the GTX 960M has the same GM107 GPU core as the 860M, this more recent version is optimized in preserving the battery life of this laptop as well as including some extra performance enhancements. The 960M supports a resolution of 2048 x 1536 via the VGA port ad when it comes to the DisplayPort or HDMI, it boosts up to 3840 x 2160 display resolution.
When it comes to the GL552’s design and construction, which itself didn’t have too many changes or upgrades, Asus really tried to keep in mind the performance to price ratio for this model. A cooling system to help keep temperatures relatively low is available and is used for the interior as well as the exterior. It helps keep cool even though the more powerful GTX 960M GPU gets a bit warmer than the last model’s 860M. The laptop’s keyboard provides a comfortable typing experience and when paired with the new touchpad, which has gotten rid of it’s unstable “wobbling” effect, it gives for an overall more responsive experience for users. A high maximum brightness along with the wide range of sRGB color gamut coverage, an accurate knack for color reproduction gives off a beautiful well balanced color display. A display that is flicker-free is not available unless you reach 100% brightness which is one of the very few downsides of the Asus Rog GL552VW. It is more than notable to mention that the higher frequencies of light will definitely be noticed by any users with light sensitivity, as it will ease your eyes that are looking at a computer screen which can get pretty straining if lighting is not optimized.
Thanks to the Skylake chip set, the new Type-C port is welcomed. This means you’ll be able to transfer data super fast and this even provides support for an external display if you need to use one. The new version of the Asus Rog GL552 is way better than it’s earlier model. Yes the price tag may have increased, but this is simply because the laptop itself is just that much b