The 10 Best Laptops for Photography in 2021

Edit and make your photos really pop using these machines

The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
Introduction

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Photographers, whether amateur or professional, need a place to edit their best shots. The best laptops for photography can handle photo-editing and sometimes graphically intensive tasks. They can also serve as a business hub of sorts, for communicating with clients, advertising services, updating a business website, and so on.

When choosing a laptop for photography, several factors should be considered. The first is price, and whether the device fits within your budget. The second is the laptop’s specifications or internal hardware, which determine performance and capabilities.

For example, if you intend to work with 4K or even 8K-resolution content, in both video and image formats, you’ll need a much more powerful computer than if you were working with standard HD content. That means looking for a computer with a powerful processor, plenty of RAM (memory), and a dedicated graphics card (GPU) or video card, as opposed to onboard graphics. Together, these components ensure the laptop will not just run smoothly, but that it will also be able to handle performance-hungry tasks like photo or video editing.

We’ve looked at several laptops with varying levels of power and performance to determine the best for photography and photo-editing tasks. They’ve been presented in several categories so you can find something that best suits your needs, whether that’s a tight budget, as much power as possible, or a long-lasting battery.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Dell XPS 15 at Best Buy
The 15-inch edge-to-edge 4K resolution screen offers crystal-clear imagery and incredibly accurate color representation.
The build quality is superior, but it’s what’s under the hood that makes it so impressive.
Best for Color Accuracy:
Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro at Amazon
Apple’s Retina display is hard to match, especially when it comes to color accuracy and vibrancy.
It is an ideal choice for photographers and would make a suitable daily driver—the primary machine for all work and play.
Best Workstation:
Acer ConceptD 7 at Amazon
The Acer ConceptD 7 is a powerful mobile workstation, tailored for work-from-home setups, creatives, and more.
The Surface Book 3 is super thin and lightweight at just 2.79 pounds, but it also has plenty of power to sustain performance-laden work.
You can connect two external 5K displays when you’re working from a desk for some pretty intense productivity and editing tasks.
While it has a premium build and excels at creative tasks, the price isn’t ridiculous.
It comes with a built-in, garaged stylus, meaning there’s a dedicated place to store it.
The XPS 17 Creator Edition has a 17-inch FHD InfinityEdge non-touch display.

Best Overall: Dell XPS 15 (2021)

Dell XPS 15
What We Like
  • Versatile design

  • Powerful

  • Beautiful 4K design

  • Configurable hardware

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Unavailable in some places

It might not have been specifically designed for creatives or photography, but the XPS 15 (2020) sure works like a laptop that was. It’s quite attractive too, with its lightweight design, thin bezels, and gorgeous display; it weighs just 4.4 pounds.

The 15-inch edge-to-edge 4K resolution screen offers crystal-clear imagery and incredibly accurate color representation. Whether you’re working with photos, editing videos, or something in between, you’ll find yourself right at home.

As with most Dell laptops, the XPS 15 is configurable, which means you can pick and choose which hardware specs are included—that also affects the price. Most models include an 11th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor and a choice between integrated Intel UHD or Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards.

We recommend choosing a model with the dedicated Nvidia GPU, which offers incredible performance for media editing. Some models do have an OLED touchscreen so you can choose whether you want a standard non-touch display or not.

Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | CPU: 11th-Gen Intel Core i7-11800H (24MB cache, up to 4.6GHz) | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti with 4GB GDDR6 VRAM | RAM: 8GB to 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB to 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD | Touchscreen: Both options available

Best Power: Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XD

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XD
What We Like
  • Latest Nvidia GeForce GPU (RTX 30-series)

  • Premium build and design

  • Powerful

  • Microsoft Azure AI technology

What We Don't Like
  • Can get hot

  • Battery life could be better

The Gigabyte Aero 17 is a mobile workstation meant for productivity and power-hungry tasks. The build quality is superior, but it’s what’s under the hood that makes it so impressive.

It’s one of the first machines to support Microsoft Azure AI technology. It also includes a 144Hz display with ultra-thin bezels, and it’s Pantone certified to offer unprecedented clarity and color accuracy. It comes with either Windows 10 Home or Pro—you choose.

It does have a propensity to run hot, but that’s because of how much power it’s rocking, including the latest Nvidia RTX 30-series graphics cards. One drawback is that the battery life isn’t great, up to eight hours with settings turned down.

When you have something this powerful, however, you will have to make certain concessions, and the battery life is an obvious choice. Prices vary, but they’re comparable to similar brands and models.

Size: 17.3 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q with 8GB of GDDR6 dedicated VRAM | RAM: 32GB to 64GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB to 1TB SSD | Touchscreen: No

Ultimate power thanks to the latest hardware. Unbridled beauty thanks to the display. Optimal build quality and design. This thing is a beast, hands down.” — Briley Kenney, Tech Writer

Best for Color Accuracy: Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (i9, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD)

Macbook Pro 16-inc
What We Like
  • Beautiful design with premium materials

  • Responsive and enjoyable

  • Dedicated AMD GPU

  • Best-in-class display

What We Don't Like
  • Could use a refresh

  • Expensive

Apple’s Retina display is hard to match, especially when it comes to color accuracy and vibrancy. As a photographer, no matter what screen size you’re working with, you’ll need the colors to be true to life. The Apple Macbook 16-inch has it, and even though it didn’t get a refresh for 2020, it’s still a contender on the list.

Powered by either an Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a dedicated AMD Radeon Pro 5300M GPU (with 4GB of GDDR6 VRAM), there’s plenty to like under the hood. Apple also makes it easy for creatives to work, offering a host of tools and software applications. It reliably runs Photoshop and photo editing tools as well.

Some of the other notable features include top-notch speakers with quality sound, a larger overall display with more screen real estate—perfect for touching up 4K and 8K photos—and the Apple TouchBar across the top edge of the keyboard.

There are several models available so you can personalize the internals based on just how much power you need or want. It can be expensive, especially for a late-2019 model, but the ticket price is still worth it.

Size: 16 inches | Resolution: 3072 x 1920 | CPU: Intel Core i7 or i9 | GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 VRAM | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB to 1TB SSD | Touchscreen: No

Best Splurge: Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

What We Like
  • Sleek and stunning design

  • 4K-ready touchscreen OLED display

  • Lots of power

  • Built with creatives in mind

What We Don't Like
  • Inordinately expensive

  • Niche availability

While it’s somewhat of a departure from Razer’s sleek, gamer-oriented designs, the Blade 15 Studio Edition is refined, gorgeous, and incredibly powerful. In fact, it was created to be a mobile workstation for schoolwork, productivity, and everything in between.

It is an ideal choice for photographers and would make a suitable daily driver—the primary machine for all work and play. It features an Intel Core i7 8-core processor with clock speeds up to 5.1GHz, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and an Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU with 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM. The power is all there, but so is the visual fidelity.

The Blade 15 also includes a 15.6-inch OLED touchscreen display, running at 60Hz and capable of delivering 4K resolutions. The 100-percent factory-calibrated DCI-P3 color gamut doesn’t hurt either, as it provides a crystal-clear picture with accurate color representation.

The biggest drawback is the price, because this thing is expensive, more so than comparable models. That said, the hardware, display, and design all warrant the cost.

Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 with 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM | RAM: 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB SSD | Touchscreen: Yes

The Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is the epitome of creative workstations. It has a premium build quality, tons of power, and an impressive OLED display. Because it’s portable, photographers have the freedom to take that power and experience anywhere.” - Briley Kenney, Tech Writer

Best Workstation: Acer ConceptD 7

What We Like
  • Gorgeous 4K-ready IPS display

  • Nvidia RTX GPU

  • More affordable than comparable models

  • Plenty of ports

What We Don't Like
  • Could be thinner

  • The thick bottom bezel is distracting

Ready to get down to business? The Acer ConceptD 7 is a powerful mobile workstation, tailored for work-from-home setups, creatives, and more. It offers a reliable dose of power for a more affordable price compared to other options.

It also comes with a powerful Nvidia RTX graphics card, offering dedicated video memory for graphic-intensive tasks like photo and video editing, something you’d normally have to process on a desktop.

Inside is a 9th-Gen Intel Core i7 6-core processor with clock speeds up to 4.5GHz, 16GB to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM. The 15.6-inch Ultra HD and widescreen display supports 4K, with a native resolution of 3840 x 2160.

It is Pantone validated, with a 100-percent Adobe RGB color gamut for accurate on-screen representation. The amber-colored backlit keyboard adds a nice touch as well, and makes it easy to work in low-light conditions, whether in a dark room or putting in some hours in the evening. It’s a solid MacBook alternative that runs Windows 10 Home or Pro.

Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | CPU: 9th-Gen Intel Core i7 | GPU: Nvidia RTX 20 Series | RAM: 16GB to 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB to 2TB SSD | Touchscreen: No

If you want the form factor and feel of a MacBook but on a workstation that runs Windows, this is your best option.” — Briley Kenney, Tech Writer

Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Book 3

Microsoft Surface Book 3
What We Like
  • 2-in-1 tablet/laptop design

  • Removable storage

  • High-resolution PixelSense touchscreen display

  • Free upgrade to Windows 11

What We Don't Like
  • Limited port selection

  • Not a significant upgrade from the Surface 2

2-in-1 computers are great when you want the best of both worlds, as they can swap seamlessly between a laptop and a tablet. The problem is that you usually have to sacrifice some power, but that’s not the case with the Microsoft Surface Book 3. It’s super thin and lightweight at just 2.79 pounds, but it also has plenty of power to sustain performance-laden work like photography and creative endeavors.

The optional Surface pen means you can add a stylus to the mix for sketches, drawing, and more precise editing. Battery life is about 11.5 hours with a single charge, offering ample field time. The removable hard drive is a bonus and makes it easy to transfer digital content like documents or photos.

There are a lot of hardware options to choose from too, so you can personalize the system to your liking. You can pick between a 13-inch or 15-inch display, Core i5 or i7 processors, 8GB to 32GB of RAM, and the size of the hard drive. It comes with a detachable keyboard, and when Windows 11 releases, you get a free upgrade to the new OS, too.

Size: 13 or 15 inches | Resolution: 3000 x 2000 (13-inch) or 3240 x 2160 (15-inch) | CPU: 10th-Gen Intel Core i5 to Intel Core i7 processor | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM | RAM: 8GB to 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB to 2TB SSD | Touchscreen: Yes

This laptop is seriously cool—the Surface series has been very popular with those who work in tech and the creative industries, giving you the longevity, speed, and convenience that you need to work anywhere.” — Katie Dundas, Tech Writer

Best for Media: HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 15.6" 4K Ultra HD TouchScreen Laptop

What We Like
  • Gorgeous 4K OLED touchscreen display

  • Decent power and performance

  • 2-in-1 design

  • Includes stylus

What We Don't Like
  • Battery life could be better

  • Expensive with older hardware

The HP Spectre X360 may be running some older hardware, like an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor and a Nvidia GeForce MX150, but it still offers 4K-resolution video and photo editing. You can also connect two external 5K displays when you’re working from a desk for some pretty intense productivity and editing tasks.

The 13-inch or 15.6-inch IPS touchscreen display supports a native resolution of 3840 x 2160, with LED backlighting. The system also comes with a stylus you can use to write, draw, or edit content.

The overall design is sleek, featuring a 360-degree rotating hinge that can seamlessly swap between a laptop or tablet-style device. Four Bang & Olufsen speakers ensure sound quality is fantastic and clear.

Altogether, it’s one of the best laptops for entertainment, media, and browsing visual content, which also makes it an awesome choice for photographers and editors.

Size: 13 or 15.6 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | CPU: 8th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor | GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX150 with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: Up to 512GB SSD | Touchscreen: Yes

"The touchscreen feels smooth as silk when dragging, pinching, zooming, and otherwise manipulating objects and icons with the touch functionality." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

HP Spectre x360 15t Touch

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Value: MSI Creator 15 Multi-Touch Laptop

MSI Creator 15
What We Like
  • Made for creative endeavors

  • Excellent performance

  • Lay-flat hinge design

  • Premium metal materials

What We Don't Like
  • Odd keyboard layout

  • Ineffective cooling

The best thing about the MSI Creator 15 Multi-Touch is that while it has a premium build and excels at creative tasks, the price isn’t ridiculous. We’ll go even further to say it’s a downright enticing price compared to some of the other options.

The Creator 15 has a sleek, cool metal exterior that’s not just stylish, but it’s also durable and practical for use out in the field. The 15.6-inch HD IPS display runs at a native resolution of 1920 x 1080, but it’s also Calman-verified for true color accuracy, with a Delta E rating. The 180-degree lay-flat hinge means you can fold back the keyboard to focus on the screen and digital content.

Inside, it’s powered by an Intel Core i7 8-core processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM. For storage, it has a 512GB solid-state drive, and it’s running Windows 10 Home and comes pre-installed with MSI Creator Center, an optimized mode for working with Adobe tools like Photoshop.

Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: Nvidia RTX 20 Series | RAM: 16GB to 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB+ SSD | Touchscreen: No

Most Portable: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga Gen 6

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga Gen 6
What We Like
  • Built for professionals and creatives

  • Durable and stylish aluminum frame

  • Built-in garaged stylus

  • Excellent battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Limited ports

  • Intel Iris graphics

The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is what you get when you cross the professional design of workstations with 2-in-1 devices. It comes with a built-in, garaged stylus, meaning there’s a dedicated place to store it. The touchscreen display and folding hinge allow you to use it as a tablet or sketchbook, or swap it back to a conventional laptop with a keyboard.

It employs a unique PrivacyGuard feature to ensure on-screen content remains private and invisible to snooping eyes. It’s a 14-inch IPS touchscreen with a native resolution of 1920 x 1200, and both anti-reflective and anti-smudge properties are applied.

For power, it has an 11th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and relies on Intel Iris Xe graphics with shared memory. While more power would be nice, it gets the job done. Plus it’s lightweight, which is beneficial when you’re working in the field or from somewhere out of the office.

Size: 14 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | CPU: 11th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor | GPU: Intel Iris Xe graphics with shared memory | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB to 512GB SSD | Touchscreen: Yes

Best Design: Dell XPS 17 Creator Edition (2020)

What We Like
  • Power, grace, and portability

  • Latest Intel processors and powerful Nvidia RTX 30-series GPUs

  • Optional 4K-resolution display

  • Free Windows 11 upgrade

What We Don't Like
  • Limited availability

  • Fans can be loud

Yes, it’s a larger version of the XPS 15, but the extra screen real estate is always welcome when you’re checking photos, editing media, and so on. The XPS 17 Creator Edition has a 17-inch FHD InfinityEdge non-touch display running at a native resolution of 3840 x 2400.

Inside is an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 to i9 processor with clock speeds up to 5GHz, 8GB to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-Series graphics cards. It’s slim, it’s tough, and it’s powerful—just what every creative needs.

It merges power, beauty, and accurate color, along with a bevy of creative-friendly applications to provide a work-ready device that’s lots of fun to use. The 4K-ready touch display is optional but highly recommended because it has a 100-percent Adobe RGB and 93-percent DCI-P3 color gamut.

The carbon fiber finish on the inside of the chassis, above and below the keyboard, gives it a premium look and feel. Most importantly, it’s a capable device for media and photo editing. And anyone nabbing the laptop now will get a free upgrade to Windows 11 as soon as it releases.

Size: 17 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2400 | CPU: 11th-Gen Intel Core i5 to i9 processors | GPU: Nvidia RTX 3050 or RTX 3060 with 4GB to 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM | RAM: 8GB to 64GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB to 2TB SSD | Touchscreen: Both options available

It’s bigger, bolder, and more powerful than comparable XPS models, and it’s a lot of fun to use too.” — Briley Kenney, Tech Writer

Final Verdict

When it comes to one of the best laptops for photography, Dell’s 2021 XPS 15 (view at Best Buy) has everything you’ll need, including power, an excellent display, and a sleek, portable build that’s easy to bring back and forth between the field and your office.

Of course, it also depends on what you’re looking for. If you want maximum power, the Gigabyte Aero 17 (view at Adorama) is a phenomenal choice. If you’re on a budget, Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 (view at Amazon) or the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 (view at Lenovo) would be better options.

About Our Trusted Experts

Briley Kenney is a seasoned tech and electronics writer, with over 14 years of experience in the field. He’s worked with computers even longer. In addition to writing, he spends a lot of time snapping photos, editing, and preparing them for publication.

Katie Dundas is an experienced tech and travel writer, with years of experience in landscape and travel photography. She personally uses MacBooks for her photography editing, thanks to their ease of use and speed.

Jeremey Laukkonen is a technology writer specializing in consumer tech and Apple devices, among others. For travel, he uses an Asus VivoBook Flip 14 for ultra-portability and an HP Spectre x360 15t when he needs to get work or gaming done on the road.

FAQs

What laptops do photographers use?

Photographers use a variety of systems and computers, including desktop PCs, laptops in the field, and various brands or models. It just depends on what they’re trying to do, the quality of the content or media they’re working with, and where they are.

For example, when working from a home office, a desktop may be used. When working out in the field, a laptop or tablet may be used because of their general portability. A system that’s primarily used for photo editing, especially Adobe applications, calls for a certain level of power and performance under the hood.

Is Mac or PC better for photography?

It depends on what you’re looking for, as both platforms are excellent for working with photos, videos, and media. For maximum power and performance, desktops are far superior and can be upgraded at any time. Macs will work just fine, however.

What laptop do you need for Photoshop?

It’s less about what laptops or specific models are best, and more about the internals or technical specifications. Adobe Photoshop does have minimum system requirements, which means it’s the lowest possible range of hardware that can be used with the application without experiencing a severe performance decrease.

To check if your laptop is compatible, or a laptop you’re purchasing, your laptop must have these specifications or better:

  • CPU: Intel or AMD with 64-bit support (2GHz or faster for SSE 4.2)
  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit version 1809 or later
  • RAM: 8GB or more
  • GPU: DirectX 12 supported card with 2GB or more of dedicated VRAM
  • Display: 1280 x 800 resolution with 100% UI scaling
  • HDD: At least 4GB of available space

There are also separate specifications for macOS computers and those with ARM processors like budget laptops and netbooks.

Is the RAM or processor more important for photo editing?

For most tasks, like photo and video editing, the processor or CPU is slightly more important because it handles the bulk of tasks. However, RAM or memory is also important, as it determines the total number of tasks that can be handled at once, and sometimes the speed at which those tasks are completed.

In short, both the RAM and the processor are important considerations when choosing a laptop for photography. You should avoid prioritizing one over the other and instead choose a system that offers suitable power on both fronts. Just to give an example, at least 8GB of RAM should be installed, but more is ideal. As for the processor, it should offer 64-bit support and high clock speeds, at least above 2GHz. The number of cores doesn’t necessarily matter, but as a general rule, more is better.

What to Look For in the Best Laptops For Photography

Display

When you’re editing visual content, whether that’s photos or videos, you need an accurate representation of the colors and quality. That means the laptop you’re working on must support a wide color gamut, at sharp, high definition resolutions. You might also consider finding something with support for Adobe and other editing suites. What’s more, 4K UHD is the current standard, but forward-thinking creatives might look for 8K-capable machines.

Power

Power is determined not just by the processor alone, but also the speed and quantity of RAM, as well as the graphics option, preferably a dedicated GPU over integrated or shared video memory. Make sure you’re choosing something with plenty of power, otherwise your photo editing tools might not be compatible, or they’re going to be exceptionally slow during rendering and export processes.

Portability

Another thing you must decide is where you will be doing most of your work. Assuming photographers are going to spend a lot of time in the field, you’ll want a machine that’s lightweight and portable. Most importantly, it must be durable enough to withstand the back and forth journeys, which means quality build materials—like an aluminum or metal chassis—are a must!

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