The 8 Best Laptops for Photography in 2020

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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The Rundown
"Dell has made a photographer-friendly laptop that's as attractive and useful as it is powerful."
"The Aspire E 15 is better than most for the money and makes for a solid and dependable option if you're just starting out."
"The Surface Laptop 2 weighs just 4.2 pounds, making it an ideal choice for keeping the size and weight of your gear down."
Best for Color Accuracy:
Apple MacBook Pro 15-Inch at Apple
"The MacBook Pro is an industry-leader, synonymous with creative work, whose color accuracy makes it the Pro's choice."
"With a detachable touchscreen, color-calibrated screen, and dedicated graphics card, the Surface Book 2 is as adaptable as it is unique."
Best Desktop Replacement:
Dell Precision 7720 at Dell
"If you want as much power as possible, the desktop-replacement Dell Precision 7720 allows you to take your studio on the move."
Best for Use in the Field:
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga at Amazon
"The ThinkPad X1 Yoga performs extremely well for most light post-production jobs while being highly portable."
Best for Power on the Go:
HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 at HP
"The HP Spectre x360 15t has a gorgeous 4K display and plenty of power to handle photo editing."

The best laptop for photography should have big, high-resolution display, a processor and GPU that's strong enough to handle video and photo editing, and ideally a lightweight form factor so you can take it with you on the go. Our top choice that checks all these boxes is the Dell XPS 2-in-1 at Amazon. It boasts an attractive 4K edge-to-edge display, accurate colors, and incredible resolution. It also weighs just 4 pounds and has configurations that allow you to pack it with powerful hardware for video and photo editing.

If your needs are more expansive than just photography, take a look at our general list of the best laptops. Otherwise, read on to see the best laptops for photography to get.

Best Overall: Dell XPS 15 2-In-1

It's rare to find a photographer-friendly laptop that's as attractive and useful as it is powerful, but Dell has managed it with the XPS 15 2-In-1.

Pack this machine full of the latest components and it'll absolutely fly while remaining one of the most stylish convertible laptops out there. The stunning edge-to-edge 4K touchscreen display provides accurate colors and pin-sharp clarity.

Relatively small (13.9 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches) and lightweight (4.4 pounds) for a machine with a 15-inch display, it's compact enough to be your main device both in the office and out on a shoot.

Configurable with up to 16GB of RAM, Intel i7 processors, and a dedicated Radeon RX Vega graphics card, it'll handle intensive Photoshop and Lightroom sessions with ease. Throw in anything up to a 2TB solid state drive to save all those large files, and you've got yourself an unbeatable combination.

If you decide you don't need the flexibility of a tablet mode, you can usually save a few dollars by opting for the traditional laptop version instead. Whichever style you go for, the Dell XPS 15 is our top overall laptop pick for photographers.

Best Budget: Acer Aspire E 15

Tracking down some good budget laptop options for photographers isn't easy, and you'll need to make some compromises to do so. The Acer Aspire E 15 is better than most for the money and makes for a solid and dependable option if you're just starting out.

It's one of the few budget laptops with a dedicated graphics card, and while the NVIDIA MX150 is at the low end of the range, it's still significantly faster than the standard integrated version. Paired with a latest-generation Intel i5 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD, the Aspire E 15 is fine for general photographic editing tasks. Unusually, both memory and storage are easily upgradable after purchase, so you can add more as your budget permits.

Battery life is good, at up to 15 hours, and the 15.6-inch widescreen HD display gives plenty of room to work with, even if brightness and color accuracy aren't the best. 

Most Lightweight: Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

Microsoft was late to the game with an ultra-thin laptop, but the updated version of its Surface Laptop is the ideal choice for any photographer needing to keep the size and weight of their gear down.

The Surface Laptop 2 is barely half an inch thick and weighs just 4.2 pounds, but despite its svelte lines, it still manages to pack in plenty of performance. There's no dedicated graphics card—a typical compromise with slimline laptops like this—but the rest of the specifications are impressive. 

Configurable with up to an 8th-generation Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512TB of storage, the bright and colorful 15-inch display gives a little extra room to work with compared to other lightweight options. Battery life is also good, with up to 17 hours between charges depending on how hard you're pushing it.

Best for Color Accuracy: Apple MacBook Pro 15-Inch

When you're editing photographs, especially for professional use, using a monitor with the highest levels of color accuracy is vitally important. Many manufacturers boast about how accurate their laptop displays are, but independent testing and user feedback always puts Apple's MacBook Pro at the head of the pack.

As good as the display is, it's matched by what's inside the case. The latest MacBook Pro models are highly-configurable, and it's possible to order one with an Intel i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a fast 4TB solid state drive.

Paired with an AMD Radeon Pro Vega graphics card, the MacBook Pro can handle any photography task you care to throw at it. And battery life is rated at up to 10 hours.

The high price of the Macbook Pro 15-inch just kept it from taking our top overall spot, but if you're a pro photographer and happy to spend the money—or you're already using Apple gear and want to stay within the ecosystem—it's likely your best option.

Best for Flexibility: Microsoft Surface Book 2 15"

Tablet computers with separate keyboards are pretty common these days, as are convertible laptops that fold back on themselves, but when it comes to flexibility, Microsoft's Surface Book 2 is in a class of its own.

The touchscreen detaches at the press of a button to act as a fully-featured tablet computer. Attach it back to the base section, and you get a keyboard, dedicated NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics card, and up to 17 hours of battery life.

The 3240- x-2160 pixel display is bright, crisp, and well-calibrated for color accuracy, and with the latest Intel i7 processors, 16GB of RAM, and up to a 1TB solid state drive, the machine is plenty fast enough for demanding photo editing tasks.

Useful extras include a built-in card reader for quickly copying files from your camera and both USB-C and USB-A ports. You can also buy Microsoft's Surface Dial, a unique configurable input device for speeding up your workflow.

All in all, there's really nothing else quite like the Surface Book 2 right now.

Best Desktop Replacement: Dell Precision 7720

If you don't need to move your laptop and want as much power as possible, look no further than the Dell Precision 7720, a desktop-replacement machine in every sense.

With a starting weight of 7.6 pounds, this is a serious piece of hardware with specifications to match. Configuration options include a choice of two Intel Xeon processors, four dedicated graphics cards, up to 64GB of ECC memory, and two separate drive bays for up to 4TB of storage.

If one of the 17-inch display options still isn't enough screen real estate for you, the Precision 7720's DisplayPort 1.4 supports anything up to an 8K external monitor from a single cable. Other expansion options also aren't a problem: there's an HDMI port, four USB-A ports, a Thunderbolt port, memory card reader, and more.

In short, this is the laptop of choice for photographers with serious performance requirements—and the bank balance to match.

Best for Use in the Field: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga is an impressive machine for photographers who need to take their laptop out on location with them.

Tested against no less than a dozen U.S. military tests for things like flying dirt, temperature extremes, and high humidity, this isn't one of those laptops that will stop working at the first hint of rough conditions.

At 500 nits, the optional 14-inch HDR display is nice and bright, with impressive color accuracy. Configurable with the latest Intel i7 CPUs, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid state drive, the machine performs extremely well, although we'd have liked to see a dedicated graphics card option to make it really fly.

The battery is rated at up to 15 hours, and while you'll likely only get half that under serious load, plugging the X1 Yoga into the wall for an hour gives an impressive 80 percent charge. 

Best for Power on the Go: HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 15.6" 4K Ultra HD TouchScreen Laptop

4.6

The HP Spectre x360 15t is a 2-in-1 laptop in the same mold as the Dell XPS 15. It has a foldable design so you can use the touchscreen as a laptop, but the real selling point is the sharp 4K display and high-end components. It has rich colors that pop and boasts great viewing angles. Under the hood, you get an Intel Core i7 CPU (8th generation) and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti which is good enough for image editing, digital content creation, and even a bit of gaming. If there are any downsides, the laptop is a bit on the heavier side at 4.81 pounds, but that's the tradeoff you make for the extra bit of power.

Final Verdict

The best laptop for photography for most people is the Del XPS 15 (view at Amazon). It's a powerful 2-in-1 with a gorgeous 4K display, a light weight, and hardware that can handle image editing. For a more affordable option, we like the Acer Aspire E15 (view at eBay). it doesn't look as flashy, nor have the same specs, but it's capable for handling most photo editing tasks.