The 9 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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The Rundown

If your passion is photography, either as a hobby or a career, then you know how important it is to have the right laptop. From editing photos, storage, and communicating with clients, you need high-resolution, speed, and ample storage space from your computer. 

When considering the best laptops for photography, you’ll want to look for something within your budget, with the highest possible screen resolution you can afford—ideally, 4K. If you’ll be working on location often, durability and long battery life can be helpful too. Powerful processing is important also, as your laptop needs enough oomph to manage complex photo and video edits without overheating or slowing down.

Best Overall: Dell XPS 15 2-In-1

Dell XPS 15 2-In-1
What We Like
  • Hybrid tablet/laptop design

  • Core i5 performance is lightning-fast and powerful

  • Color and clarity impress via the 4K touchscreen

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Keyboard can be noisy

It's rare to find a photographer-friendly laptop that's both attractive and powerful, but Dell has managed it with the XPS 15 2-In-1. This powerful hybrid laptop is sure to impress photographers with its stunning edge-to-edge 4K touchscreen display and fast processing, making it quick to download even large files. 

If you frequently travel for your shoots, the XPS makes a great travel companion, at a lightweight 4.4 pounds and a smaller size—but still with the benefit of a 15-inch display screen. With crystal-clear images and accurate color representation, it’s a great tool for doing detailed editing work also. The XPS is configurable with up to 16GB of RAM, Intel i7 processors, and a dedicated Radeon RX Vega graphics card, so it'll handle complex Photoshop and Lightroom sessions with ease. 

The XPS series were designed with creators in mind, giving artists the tools to work quickly and efficiently, with easy access to apps and storage. While it’s not the cheapest laptop, it’s a fantastic asset for both beginner and advanced photographers and one of the best overall options.

Best Budget: Acer Aspire E 15

Acer Aspire E 15
What We Like
  • Long battery life

  • Huge touchpad makes it easy to control

  • Full HD screen

What We Don't Like
  • Not very aesthetically pleasing

  • Heavier and thicker than some of its competition

Finding budget laptop options for photographers isn't easy, as creatives tend to invest in products with more premium features. However, even if you’re on a tight budget, or just starting out in the field, there’s plenty to like about the Acer Aspire E 15.

It includes a dedicated graphics card, the NVIDIA MX150, rare in budget laptops. While it’s at the lower end of the range, it's still significantly faster than the standard integrated version. Paired with the latest-generation Intel i5 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD, the Aspire E 15 is more than sufficient for basic photo editing and storage. While editing, it’s easy to work efficiently, thanks to the laptop’s huge touchpad, offering smooth scrolling and controls. A full HD display screen, at 15.6 inches, makes it easy to see what you’re doing and the backlit keyboard is sure to be appreciated by users as well. 

Battery life is solid, at up to 15 hours. However, the one fault of the E 15 is its appearance—it has that chunky black look of older-style laptops, with the thickness to match. For this reason, it might not be the best for frequent flyers—but it has plenty to offer photographers on a budget.

Best Lightweight: Microsoft Surface Book 3

Microsoft Surface Book 3
What We Like
  • Sleek, lightweight design is paper-thin

  • Removable hard drive

  • Pixelsense touchscreen and Surface Pen give you creative freedom

What We Don't Like
  • Limited selection of ports

  • Not so different from the Surface 2

Many photographers are constantly on the road for shoots, so they’re sure to want a laptop that’s lightweight and won’t weigh down an already heavy camera bag. If you need something portable, but with the power to match, check out the Microsoft Surface 3. This stylish, sleek 13.5” laptop couldn’t be thinner, weighing in at only 2.79 pounds. However, a 15” option is also available.

The Surface 3 can be used as both a laptop and a tablet, thanks to the touch screen and optional Surface Pen that lets you note and write directly on the tablet. It’s got plenty of power and performance, with the latest-gen processors. When you’re shooting in the field and trying to upload content from multiple shoots, you’re sure to appreciate the removable hard drive as well. This laptop also offers around 11.5 hours of battery life and a clean, elegant design that creatives are sure to appreciate. 

While we’d like to see more input ports included, this is still a fantastic choice for photographers on the go. You can select from multiple color options, including Sandstone, Matte Black, Cobalt Blue, and Platinum.

“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

Best for Flexibility: Microsoft Surface Book 2 15"

Microsoft Surface Book 2
What We Like
  • Good value

  • Impressive battery life

  • Works beautifully as both a laptop and tablet

What We Don't Like
  • Like the Surface 3, lacking in ports

  • Limited app selection

Tablet computers with separate keyboards are increasingly common, but when it comes to flexibility and usefulness it’s hard to beat the Microsoft Surface Book 2. 

The touch screen detaches at the press of a button from the keyboard, letting you easily use the device as a tablet or laptop.  You can also use it in studio mode, as if it were a notepad, along with view mode, which creates a kickstand to show your work to others or play a video. It’s easy to see how photographers could love the convenience of this when working in the field or editing. Choose from either the 13.5” or 15” models. 

The 3240- x-2160 pixel display is bright, clear, and incredibly accurate, thanks to Microsoft’s PixelScreen technology. It also offers Intel i7 processors, 16GB of RAM, and up to a 1TB solid-state drive. It’s fast enough for complex photo editing tasks too. 

While some users aren’t impressed with the limited app selection on the device, there are still plenty of selections to appease most users. If you need the convenience and flexibility to use your device in multiple ways, then you’re sure to like the stylish Surface 2.

Best Desktop Replacement: Dell Precision 7740 Mobile Workstation

Dell Precision 7740
What We Like
  • Multiple graphics cards and plenty of storage options

  • Fantastic color reproduction, thanks to 4K screen

  • Powerhouse processing

What We Don't Like
  • Shorter battery life

  • Expensive

Can a laptop replace the trusty workhorse that is your desktop? While many photographers depend on their desktop for photo editing and storage, the Dell Precision 7740 is giving desktops a run for their money. This weighty laptop is large, with a 17” screen, giving you plenty of room for detailed editing work—made even better with a 4K screen that supports 100% of the Adobe RGB color space. The 7740 also packs a powerful processor and several graphics cards, Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 w/16GB GDDR6, yet it still doesn't run hot. It’s hard to find other laptops with such impressive graphics, especially useful for video editing. 

Users also have plenty of connectivity options, including three USB ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI and mini-DisplayPort for external monitors, and an SD card reader. The built-in mouse is also convenient, offering six mouse buttons, three under the trackpad and three under the spacebar. 

At almost seven pounds, combined with a shorter battery life, you probably won’t want to make this laptop your travel companion. However, if you’re looking for something powerful that takes up far less space than a desktop, then the 7740 can deliver. It offers serious specs and performance, but at a serious price point.

“If you need the power of your desktop in a laptop, the Precision 7740 is your best choice, especially for video and complex editing tasks.” —Katie Dundas

Best Splurge: MSI Creator 15 Multi-Touch Laptop

MSI Creator 15
What We Like
  • Fast performance from a laptop designed specifically for creatives

  • 180-degree lay-flat hinge design

  • Sleek metal design

What We Don't Like
  • Can sometimes run hot

  • Keyboard layout slightly different from most laptops

If you’ve got the budget to spend on a premium product, check out the MSI Creator 15. This powerful laptop is specifically designed to excel at creative tasks, including editing and video. With a sleek metal grey exterior, the Creator 15 is both stylish and practical, featuring a 15.6” screen and a weight of 4.63 pounds, still light enough to travel with. It can also open 180 degrees to lay flat, a useful feature when you’re collaborating with others and want to display your screen. 

Photographers have access to an HD screen, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 connectivity, plenty of inputs, an Intel Core i7 processor, and Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics cards. They all come together to create a fast, powerful laptop that can handle any editing task. Colors are accurate and vibrant, and it’s even a decent choice for those who also enjoy gaming. 

Some users report that the Creator 15 can run hot during extended periods of time, so keep this in mind when using. We can see the features of this stylish laptop appealing not only to photographers but also to musicians, videographers, and influencers. 

Best for Use in the Field: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga

What We Like
  • Thin aluminum frame is durable and designed for use anywhere

  • 4K HDR display

  • Impressive audio

What We Don't Like
  • 4K means you burn through battery life faster

  • Occasional fan noise

If you need a laptop for working on location, especially outdoors, you’re sure to like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. It’s thin, durable, and built to withstand the elements. The X1 Yoga has gone through rigorous, military-grade testing, ensuring it can perform at its best even in extreme temperatures, humidity, or around dirt and dust. Made from CNC aluminum, the exterior is tough, but lightweight enough to go wherever you need it to go. 

It’s flexible in the field, but it’s also flexible in terms of its use—the screen and keyboard can flex and twist, letting you maneuver it into plenty of positions for working or watching video. The 14-inch, 1080p touch screen is bright and vibrant, accurately portraying the colors in your photos, however a 4k HDR model is also available. Configurable with the latest Intel i7 CPUs, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive, the machine performs extremely well, giving you the power you need to edit and work. 

The X1 Yoga stands out with its battery life as well, ideal for when you’re working away from the office. The battery is rated at 15 hours, but plugging the X1 Yoga into the wall for an hour gives an impressive 80 percent charge.

Best for Color Accuracy: Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

What We Like
  • Detail and color representation on screen a cut above the rest

  • Durable build and thin design

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like
  • No Apple Touch Bar

  • Cost

It’s no secret that color matters when you’re a photographer. You need the vibrant colors of your work to look just as accurate on the small screen. If you’re looking for a laptop based on color accuracy, it’s got to be the MacBook Pro 13-inch. Creatives are long turned to Apple for their software, but photographers are going to love Apple’s Retina display, which delivers bright and accurate color. It also features a LED backlighting for dark black and whites, plus Apple’s True Tone technology, which adjusts the white balance to match the white around you.

Users also benefit from fast speeds and power, with the MacBook Pro powered by Apple’s M1 chip. This is the powerhouse behind the computer, delivering a powerful 8‑core GPU, machine learning accelerators, and super-fast graphics speed. The battery life is solid too, with 20 hours of use. Note that this model doesn’t include the Apple Touch Bar, which some Mac fans have come to love. However, if that doesn’t bother you, the MacBook Pro 13-inch is sure to be a photographer’s best friend.

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

HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 15.6" 4K Ultra HD TouchScreen Laptop
4.6
What We Like
  • 4K Oled screen

  • Powerful and fast processing

  • Unique design is durable but flexible

What We Don't Like
  • High price point

  • Not the longest battery life

If it’s power you need, the 2-in-1 HP Spectre x360 offers a large, 15.6” screen and fast, impressive processing. It offers a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor with a Nvidia GPU, plus a 4K Oled screen. This gives you the speed to edit photos, videos, and even do some gaming and the screen delivers clarity and vibrancy when editing photos. The sound is top-notch too, thanks to the inclusion of four Bang & Olufsen speakers. 

The 360, as the name implies, has a unique and flexible design as well. With the included stylus, you can use it as both a tablet and laptop, with the device bending in 360 degrees. It’s also angular and hip from a design perspective, however it’s worth noting that many laptops big on power tend to be heavier in weight. This device weighs in at 4.81 pounds. 

While this device doesn’t have the longest battery life, it does redeem itself somewhat with fast charging—30 minutes of charging delivers a 50% boost in battery life.

Final Verdict

Our best overall choice for photographers is the Dell XPS 15 2-In-1. The flexible design offers plenty of versatility to work, and the fast and powerful processors and 4K screen give you all the tools you need to run your business. Or, if you’re looking for something more lightweight, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is stylish, thin, and powerful, great for working out in the field.

About Our Trusted Experts

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.

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