Jump to content

What is a good Laptop for Photo Editing - Short Version


Recommended Posts

  • I’m shopping for a laptop to edit on. What’s your favorite and recommended one?
  • What is a good Laptop for Photo Editing?
  • What specifications do I look for when buying a Laptop for photo editing?

When I originally wrote my article, well it's more of a rant, on what is a "Good Windows Laptop for Photo Editing?" I wanted to give someone the tools to make an informed decision for themselves. Unfortunately, I think I packed a bit too much information in that article and it wasn't clear, concise and too the point. So this "Short Version" should hopefully fix that and not have as many member's "Eyes that glaze over..." :) So let's get into it.

"What IS a good Laptop for photo editing?"

As with most, if not all of my articles, is I start with the question of "What is your Budget?" because, as with most things, you do get what you pay for. As I write this, COVID-19 is still hanging around world-wide and this is affecting prices on ALL computers and electronics. Combine that with people being forced to quarantine or work-from-home, creates a demand for laptops in particular. Not to mention that the actual components that make up electronics are also in short supply; if the manufacturers can't physically make/build their products, then the existing stock becomes more in-demand than ever. This in turn, drives up prices.

Why do I mention this? Because in today's world, if you are looking for a Laptop to edit photos on, a $500 Laptop just isn't going to cover it. Even a $1000 Laptop I would probably pass on! In reality,  your expected budget should be between $1500 and $2000 (US Dollars) for a Windows Laptop that is meant for Photo Editing. Now, that doesn't mean that you can't find a deal on a laptop, I'm just saying to expect to spend that much, or at least have that much saved for a laptop.

Now comes the question of "Why so much? I can't afford $2000! Is there anything that is more affordable?" comes into play. Well, yes...and NO, with emphasis on the "No." The various components that I recommend with "Laptops for Photo Editing" are usually upgrades or higher-end models. Most of the time, they end-up being "Gaming Laptops" which have higher-end components and price-points. Not to mention the Display Panel Type that I require is also more expensive and harder to find on laptops. Plus, basic things like HD capacity, RAM, and Video Card types all come into play and that will be discussed in the next paragraph.

When buying a Laptop, regardless of brand, it is important to dive into the Technical Specifications before even looking at reviews or even prices. There are a few specific things to look for and they are as follows:

  • An IPS (In-Plane Switching) Display Panel
  • Intel i7 or AMD Equivalent
  • A Dedicated Video Card with its own GPU and dedicated Video RAM, 8GB of Video RAM or more.
  • 32GB of RAM at a Minimum or the ability to upgrade after the initial purchase.
  • A Main Hard Drive Capacity of 1TB or more.

In reality, this list is not that much different than what I recommend for a Windows Desktop Computer for Photo Editing! I will cover each of these items and the reasons why in the next section. As you can see, these requirements aren't that much different from a Desktop Computer that is meant for Photo Editing; of course when it comes to modern Laptops, upgrading after the fact is often very difficult-if not impossible. So you need to purchase the "Extra" upgrades at the time of purchase rather than buying something that's less expensive and then assuming you can upgrade things later. Because often...you can't. Manufacturers have really made their laptop models sealed units, or at the very least, have soldered on components in which you can not upgrade at all. They want you back in the market every 18 months or so. Why make a product that will last for 5+ years? They won't be making any money if they do that. Unfortunately, Laptops in general, regardless of brand are meant to be thrown away and replaced often.

This keeps the Stock Holders happy. ;)


  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Display Panel Type and why it is so important.

Often I will go on-and-on about having a IPS Display Panel. Not for Laptops, but for Photo Editing in General. If you can't afford or find a Laptop that has a IPS-based Display, then I would recommend purchasing an external IPS Display, such as the Dell Ultrasharp IPS Series. Why is this such a big deal? Aren't all screens the same? The answer is a big-fat "No." To keep things simple, we will discuss the main two types of Display Panel Technology: TN and IPS.

TN or Twisted Nematic - This is the one you want to AVOID.

This display panel is MUCH cheaper to produce than IPS. They are often bright and are generally better for General Computing and playing Video Games, as their refresh-rates tend to be higher. The way they reproduce color is different than a IPS display. Often they use Dithering Technology to reproduce color, which affects the overall sharpness and contrast of the image. Not to mention the viewing angle is smaller  than one a IPS Display Panel. So if you think about it, having poor Colors, Contrast, Sharpness and consistency is something that you do not want for editing Photos and/or Video! Stuff like this seems kinda important, at least for me. :)

But let's get back to the main thing: Cost. Manufacturers like to cut costs at every chance that they can. Combine that with the majority of people who aren't editing photos leads them to use this Display Panel Type. It just makes good business sense. If your market is 95% of "Normal / General Computing" Consumers and only 5% or so of Photographers, who are you going to market towards? With a TN Display Panel, it works in a variety of environments, like a Coffee Shop, Airport, Living Room, etc. All sorts of areas it just works in. That said, the area that your Laptop or Desktop Computer that you must edit in should have even and consistent light. Damien as written an article on the subject, and they are worth a read.

IPS or In Plane Switching - This is the one that you want.

This display panel costs MORE to produce. If cost were no option, by far this Display Panel Technology wins in almost every category. With a IPS Display, there are two transistors for every Pixel which results in better Color-Reproduction, Consistent Contrast & Sharpness, and a Better / Wider Viewing Angle from corner-to-corner. So if you are editing Photos and Video, things like this are kinda important? Eh? That's why I jump up-and-down about IPS Screens and why they are so important for Photo / Video Editing and why this option is Non-negotiable. If the Laptop does not have a IPS Display, simply put: SKIP-IT!!

As I mentioned above, manufacturers like to keep their COGS low and this results in them not installing IPS Display Panels in Laptops. Especially the lower price-point models. Which is a shame, because that limits models for us Photographer types. Often, I will have to really hunt for a IPS Based Laptop and with technology today, as things change quite often. They are just down-right difficult to find. (More on this later.)

CPU Selection

A long time ago, this option was probably THE most important thing that people paid attention to when it came to buying a computer. It was along the lines of buying a V6 vs a 4 Cyl Engine or a 2-Wheel Drive vs a 4-Wheel Drive. The faster the CPU, the "Better" the computer was. If you had more MHz than your neighbor next-door, you would have "Bragging Rights." It's not the case anymore. Well, it is true to some degree, that more Cores / Megahertz can increase performance, often the software must be programmed to take advantage of the technology that makes a particular CPU so fast.  When It comes to Photoshop, this isn't the case. Sure, a Intel i9 is a bit faster than a i7 CPU Model, but it isn't THAT much faster. In fact, only a few years ago when the Intel i7 and i5 CPU Chips were all the rage...when it came to Photoshop, there was only a 5%-7% performance boost if you bought and i7 CPU. When it came to Photoshop, spending the extra $$$$ on a faster CPU didn't yield you better performance. Sure, 7% is still 7%, but spending a few hundred more for that 7%? It's not worth it. Same rule applies with today's computers. I would rather have a person spend less in getting a Intel i7 (or AMD Equivalent) and then taking those savings to put towards purchasing a better Video Card, which will be covered in the next section.

Video Cards

Sometime during the last decade, Adobe decided to use the Video Processor or Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to aid with performance with their products. Especially when it came to Photoshop. Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) the new fancy Cloning Tools, like Content Aware, and things like Liquify primarily use the GPU in order to work. There are other tools that primarily use the GPU, but those aren't popping into my head right now. I'm sure you are wondering, why is this so important?

Remember about that whole COGS thing and that Manufactures want to save money? Well another area that they like to skimp on is when it comes to the Graphics portion of your Laptop's Hardware. If the Laptop is only meant for "General Computing, " meaning wasting time on Facebook, watching YouTube or another Streaming Service like Netflix, answering e-mails, paying bills, etc. you do not need a fancy video card. Not to mention the power requirements that come with a higher performance video card. If your goal is to have a Laptop last for 15 hours on one charge, you are putting in low-powered components. Which brings us to the Video Card...

As I just mentioned, Photoshop utilizes the Graphics Card more today than ever for a Performance Boost. Why? Because a GPU doesn't have much to worry about other than creating things for a user to see. A CPU has to worry about the Operating System and Resources, plus any Computer Programs that are currently loaded, what is loaded into RAM, how things are stored on a Hard Drive, WHERE those things are stored, etc. etc. The CPU chip wears many different hats during the course of operation, the GPU does not. It just has to worry about one thing, creating an image on a display panel. It's not worried about Hard Drives or Programs or your data, it's just worried about Video. Plus, the way the GPU itself is constructed, it is way more efficient than a traditional CPU. Which is why Adobe started using the GPU for a performance boost; it's just easier for their programmers to take advantage of the extra unused processing power. Unfortunately, not all video cards are the same.

There are two main types of Video Cards: Integrated and Stand Alone. Integrated Video is just that, it's part of the Motherboard. It sometimes uses the CPU and computer's RAM in order to work. These type of video cards are extremely cheap to produce and are very common in lower-priced Desktop Computers / Laptops. There are some Integrated Video Cards that have a low-end GPU Chip, but use the computers RAM in order to function. When it comes to Adobe's Products, especially Photoshop, the best type of Video Card to use is one that has its own dedicated GPU AND its own dedicated Video Memory. These are the "Stand Alone" cards that I'm talking about. Of course, since we are talking about Laptops, the Video Card will more than likely be a part of the Motherboard, but it has its own dedicated components, which makes it a better choice. This way the Video Card lives in its own world and Photoshop can take advantage of the extra performance that you get with a Video Card. Make sense?

RAM and Hard Drive Capacity

This is the area that most people pay attention to. Well, they should. In today's modern world, you want 32GB of RAM at a minimum and a fairly large main Hard Drive, at least 1TB AT A MINIMUM. Why is this such an issue? Because again, Manufacturers love cutting costs and people do not pay attention. I can't tell you on how many Hardware Threads are created in both here on the Website and FB Ask Damien where an end-user's problem / error message is being caused by lack of Main Hard Drive Capacity!

In other words, their Computers / Laptops become full and this results in things not working correctly. When it comes to a Hard Drive, you do not want to go over 75%-80% full, especially the main "boot" drive. In reality, a 250GB HD doesn't have 250GB available for you. After formatting and partitioning, along with Windows being installed, you have A LOT less than 250GB to work with. Now add programs like Photoshop / Bridge / Lightroom, Web Browsers, Microsoft Office, and you quickly start running out of room. Plus there is another thing that occupies your storage space: Cache Files.

What are Cache Files? They are areas that are reserved by software to supplement lack-of-available resources on your computer.


A Cache File is an area that is treated as "RAM" by the Operating System and a Software Program like Adobe Photoshop to tap into when it needs more "Umph" from your computers resources in order to complete a task. The most common name is the Photoshop Scratch Disk and the Windows Swap File. (Also known as Pagefile.sys.)

Let's say you are batch editing in Photoshop and it's running low on available RAM. It will tap into the Photoshop Scratch Disk in order to complete what its trying to do. If the HD that contains the PS Scratch Disk is running low on Space, Photoshop doesn't have much to work with, which usually results in complaining that the "Scratch Disk is Full" error message or things just taking forever to complete. (Or even crashing altogether.) The Scratch Disk increases/decreases in size automatically, without any user intervention. You can't set a particular size and call it good, Photoshop controls this. So that's why it's important to keep your Main Hard Drive as free as possible, because not only is the Scratch Disk trying to work, but your Operating System also has it's own "Scratch Disk." If you are running low on space, this becomes an issue.


Which comes to my main point:



Now for some tough love: I can not stress this enough...you are an idiot if you purchase a computer that has a 250GB (or smaller) Main HD!! I'm dead serious. I do not accept the phrase, "I don't know much about computers..." We all live in the 21st Century. Home Computers have been around since the late 1970's / early 1980's. Hard Drives in Home Computers have become commonplace since the middle 1980's. I call Bullsh*t. You are smarter than that and should give yourself credit. Out of ALL the things that people can figure out with Laptop Model A vs Laptop Model B, the Hard Drive Capacity should be as plain as day. So when looking at the Technical Specifications, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THE MAIN HARD DRIVE CAPACITY. If it's 250GB or smaller, SKIP IT. I don't care HOW cheap it is or how great the reviews are, just don't buy it.

In reality, you want a Main Hard Drive that is at least 1TB. Or larger.

Phew! Rant over. :D Granted, I will accept a 500GB HD, but barely. Honestly...really shoot for the 1TB (or larger) Main Hard Drive. There is no such thing as too much Hard Drive Space! Which leads me to the next section part: RAM.

As with a Hard Drive, there is no such thing as "Too Much RAM." In today's computing world, you want AT LEAST 32GB of RAM in 2022, with a preferred amount of 64GB. Unfortunately, when it comes to modern laptops, RAM is often Soldered to the Motherboard.


With today's modern laptops, you often have to find a Model that has the preferred amount of 32GB at the time of purchase or one that has the ability to be upgraded at some point. This is quite difficult as the majority of laptops tend to be sealed units, or are otherwise very difficult to take apart.  The RAM Slot(s) that allow you to increase the amount of RAM after the fact aren't there anymore so you really need to pay attention to see IF they exist on the model. (I'm looking at you Apple.) The Laptop that has 16GB Soldered is stuck at 16GB. Period. If you want more, you are buying a new computer. Make Sense? Speaking of Soldered Components, there are many manufacturers, such as Apple that not only Solder the RAM to the board, but also the Hard Drive. So if you purchase a Mac Laptop that has 16GB of RAM and a 250GB HD, there is usually no upgrading after the fact. Even though you spent "$2700," you are stuck. Of course there are exceptions to every rule but you still need to pay attention to this kind of thing when looking for a new Laptop.

Bottom Line: When it comes to RAM and Hard Drives, there is no such thing as too much. You really want more than 32GB of RAM and to purchase a Model that has a 1TB Main Hard Drive.


  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I did it again. I just can't help myself. :D  I wrote another really long article on what to look for when trying to purchase a "Laptop for Photo Editing." Hopefully I've cleared up on WHY I pick things that I do, there just isn't a way to keep it simple. Why?


Because Laptop Models change ever 4-6 weeks.

It's EXTREMELY DIFFICULT in having links for "Recommended Models" when it comes to Laptops. That one you've been keeping your eye on waiting to purchase? It will be discontinued in 4-6 weeks, or less. I'm dead serious. Way-back-when, Manufacturers had a "Spring Line" and "Fall Line" when it came to laptops. Often the Spring Line had that year's new releases, and the Fall line had upgraded models or tweaked versions of their Spring Counterparts. When the Back-to-School time period hit, there were Sales on the Spring Line in order to clear out stock for the future Fall releases. That cycle lasted for years, mostly through the 1990's and early 2000's. But somewhere along the way, Manufactures stopped doing this. Well, except when it comes to Apple, they still have their Spring / Fall releases, not just for their computers, but their Smart Phone line as well.

Today, Laptops are "En Vogue" for at most 90 Days. That's it. So if you see it, like it, meets my specifications...BUY IT. Because come next month, chances are it will be out of stock. Seriously. Combine that with the fact that Laptops that contain IPS Display Panels, and enough Horsepower for Photoshop, creates an even more difficult task to find one. In the past, I did link to certain laptops only to get an e-mail from someone two weeks later that said the model has been discontinued. So I don't bother posting links. This is why I'm so detailed when it comes to what to look for and I will post a few screenshots in the next section to give you an idea of what I'm looking at. Hopefully, this will clear things up.

Currently, this Laptop would be one that is "Good for Photo Editing." There is limited stock available, and I have a feeling it's on its way to being Discontinued. But I'm going to link to it all the same. Let's dive into the Technical Specifications and we will focus on the areas that my eye:

  • CPU?
    • AMD Ryzen 7, which makes it a Intel i7 equivalent. CHECK!
  • RAM?
    • It has 8GB Soldered on the Motherboard, but does have a slot in where you can install a 16GB Stick of RAM. While this falls short of my 32GB Recommendation, it is more than 16GB in the end. (24GB). The downside is you will be throwing away the existing additional RAM. So this is a CHECK!
  • Video Card?
    • It has a NVIDIA Geforce RTX dedicated Video Card with its own dedicated Video Memory. (6GB.) This is a BIG CHECK!

Screen Shot 2020-12-05 at 4.51.52 PM.png

  • Display Panel Type?
    • IPS!!! This is the thing to keep in mind, a Manufacturer will definitely LIST if it's a IPS Panel. If the technical specifications do not list this as an option, I would automatically assume that it contains a TN Panel and would move on. This is a BIG CHECK!!
    • Bonus Points: It's not a Touch Screen. Why is this important? Because smudges from finger prints are a PITA to deal with when editing photos. Also Touchscreen Panels tend to be difficult to calibrate, which usually requires a more advanced Calibration Tool / Software.
    • The Downside to this Display is the Color Gamut. It only displays 72% of the sRGB Colorspace. In reality, you want 90% or better, OR you will need to Calibrate MONTHLY at a minimum and have a set of test prints to check your colors at a moment's notice.

Screen Shot 2020-12-05 at 4.52.04 PM.png

  • Storage?
    • 1TB for the Main HD. BIG CHECK!!

Screen Shot 2020-12-05 at 4.52.14 PM.png

As you can see, this particular model checks most, if not all my boxes on what to look for. Always dive into the Technical Specs when shopping for a Laptop. It will save you time. Once you find one that meets my requirement, THEN dive into the reviews to see if there are any problems / it's worth buying.


Final Thoughts

I hope your eyes haven't glazed over by now and you have found this article informative. While I still do not recommend laptops for Photo Editing, I can understand the appeal of one. If you much use a laptop to edit photos on, please for the love that is "Good-and-Green" purchase this Viewing Angle Gauge  to go with it:

Acratech Viewing Angle Gauge (Red) - B&H

Acratech Viewing Angle Gauge (Silver) - Amazon

This little device is so important to have when editing on a Laptop. Why? Because each time you open your screen, your Laptop's Viewing Angle Changes. Even with a fancy IPS screen, a simple inch one way or the other, WILL AFFECT on what you see on the screen. Especially in the Dark Areas of a photo, or even on the other extreme, the brights.

Let's say you are trying to recover some detail in the darks. You might open your Laptop, do some editing and then close the lid. When you come back to finish editing, the Screen's Angle won't be the same. This will affect on what you see for a second time. All of a sudden, your edits from a few hours ago are Null-and-Void. So how does this tool help that?

There is a little hole in the gauge, with a little "Nub" in front of the hole. When the Nub covers the hole, from your eye's vantage point, your laptop is at a good angle to edit on. As long as  you make sure the Nub is in the same position, your edits will be close enough each time your open your screen. Got it? :) 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...