The best laptops for photo editing: HP Spectre, MacBook, and more!

The best laptops for photo editing: HP Spectre, MacBook, and more!

If you look around for a new laptop to buy today, you’ll find no shortage of options to choose from. There are many fantastic laptops on the market from all kinds of different companies and for all kinds of users. Even if you have a specific use case in mind, you’ll likely have a lot of options too. We’ve previously rounded up the best laptops for content creators, and if you’re specifically into video editing, we have you covered there. Now it’s time for the best laptops for photo editing.

Photo editing is generally less demanding than video editing. After all, videos are strings of thousands of still images, which makes rendering them more difficult. But if you’re working with photos professionally, using lots of effects and layers, there are still some things that are nice to have. Specifically, it’s good to have a lot of RAM, at least 16GB, to load multiple layers into memory while editing. And of course, while it’s not as demanding, it’s still good to have a fast CPU. Even with all of that in mind, there are a lot of great laptops that fit this bill.

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Best convertible: HP Spectre x360 14

HP Spectre X360 14

The HP Spectre family has rooted itself as one of the best series of laptops on the market today, and the Spectre x360 14 is one of the best options yet. Just like the rest of the Spectre x360 laptops, this is a convertible, so you can use it as a traditional laptop but also as a tablet. It also supports active pens, which may be useful for some types of editing work.

One of the best things about this display though, is the aspect ratio. The Spectre x360 14 is the first Spectre convertible to come with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and that’s a big deal for productivity. A taller display means you have more surface area for content on the screen. Whether that means seeing more of your photos, having more space for UI elements, or being able to read more, there are a lot of benefits to a display like this. Not only that, but you can get this with up to 3K2K (3000 x 2000) resolution, which is incredibly sharp. If you go that route, you’re getting an OLED panel too, so you get bright and vivid colors, high contrast ratios, and pure blacks. Everything will look fantastic on this laptop’s screen.

Performance-wise, the HP Spectre x360 14 comes with the latest Intel Tiger Lake processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1165G7. That’s a mobile processor designed to be efficient, but with four cores, eight threads, and speeds of up to 4.7 GHz,  It’s already super fast and can handle photo editing without much of a problem. It also includes Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics with 96 execution units, and while that’s not quite as good as a dedicated GPU, you don’t really need one for photo editing.

The Spectre x360 14 starts with 8GB of RAM, which is a solid amount. For best results, we’d recommend upgrading to 16GB, particularly if you’re working with very high-resolution images and lots of layers. There’s also quite a bit of storage available, which will be useful to save all your projects in. The Spectre x360 14 can go up to 2TB of SSD storage, more than enough to store a lot of photos and editing projects.

If you do need more storage — or more of anything really — you also get more ports to greatly expand your capabilities. The Spectre x360 14 has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, so you can connect docks, displays, or even external GPUs if you need them.  There’s not much a Thunderbolt 4 port can’t do. One of those ports is also located on the corner of the laptop, thanks to HP’s cut-off corner design, and that makes it a bit more accessible. Plus, there’s one USB Type-A port if you have some legacy devices you need to plug in without using a dock.

Rounding out the design aspects, you get three color options to choose from, including the classic two-tone design offered by HP, there’s a backlit keyboard with top-firing speakers above, plus a fingerprint reader and an IR camera for Windows Hello support.

Being the premium laptop that it is, with its iconic design and high-end specs, the Spectre x360 14 can be a bit pricey, but it’s a fantastic option if you want a stylish and powerful laptop that can handle photo editing.

    HP Spectre x360 14
    The HP Spectre x360 14 is a fantastic premium convertible with a stunning design and high-end specs. It has powerful Intel processors and you can get it with an ultra-sharp OLED display that looks fantastic.

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Best Delta E < 2 laptop: Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel

Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel

If you’re a photo editing professional, color accuracy is undoubtedly important for your work, and the Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel is one of the best laptops for that. There’s a lot that makes this laptop special, but the display is definitely one of the big selling points. This is a 14 inch Full HD display that covers 100% of the sRGB color space, but its biggest draw is it has a Delta E lower than 2. That means color accuracy is fantastic, and this display is validated by PANTONE, so you know you’re getting a great experience.

The ConceptD 3 Ezel also gets points for being a convertible with a very unique design. The display rotates on a hinge like a normal laptop, but there’s another hinge at about half height, which allows you to adjust the position of the screen easily. You can pull it closer to you and cover the keyboard, or fold it down over the entire keyboard deck. You can also rotate it backwards to share something with someone across a table. Of course, this is a touch screen, and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Plus, it also supports Wacom AES pen technology if you prefer it.

The ConceptD 3 Ezel also isn’t lacking in performance, packing a 45W Intel Core i7-10750H processor, with 6 cores, 12 threads, and boost speeds up to 5GHz. That’s a 10th generation processor, so it’s not the newest around, but it’s still incredibly powerful for photo editing and even more demanding workloads. We’re expecting a new version of this laptop with 11th-generation processors later this year, so if you can wait, it might be better to do so. But this is still great if you need a new PC right now. Plus, it has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, a solid combination for photo editing, although it could be a bit better.

On top of that, you get a dedicated GPU, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, which gives you some extra power for all kinds of tasks. You could feasibly use this laptop for video editing, or even gaming. Again, this is something that will be upgraded with a refreshed model, which will feature a GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, but it’s still fantastic if you need a new laptop right now.

The Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel is also fantastic for its connectivity. You get plenty of ports with this laptop, including two USB Type-A ports, Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C), HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, a full-sized SD card reader, and a headphone jack. You also get a keyboard with full-sized arrow keys and a soft amber backlight that helps this laptop look wholly unique compared to anything else out there. For sound, there’s a speaker grille above the keyboard, too.

If you want a laptop with stellar color accuracy, fantastic performance, and a modern design, the Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel is a fantastic option, and considering everything it offers, it’s actually a reasonable price to pay. It’s certainly one of the best laptops you can get for photo editing, even if a refresh is on its way soon.

    Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel
    The Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel is a unique convertible with a design that allows it to be used in a multitude of ways. It's also got a very color-accurate display with touch and pen support and powerful specs with 45W Intel processors and dedicated NVIDIA graphics.

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Best 15-inch laptop for photo editing: Dell XPS 15

Dell XPS 15 9510 frost white on yellow background

Much like the HP Spectre lineup, the Dell XPS 15 is one of those iconic brands, and for good reason. These laptops pack a lot of power into a compact chassis, and the latest Dell XPS 15 carries on that legacy. This laptop has a 15.6 inch laptop with a 16:10 aspect ratio and tiny bezels all around, making it smaller than you might expect for this display size. That 16:10 aspect ratio is taller than the usual 16:9, and that means more surface area for UI elements, photos, and text.

The best thing about this display is in its upgrade options. You can get it with a 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED display, which covers 100% of DCI-P3, or with a 4K+ (3840 x 2400) LCD panel that covers 100% of Adobe RGB. The OLED display is going to look absolutely stunning with vivid colors, true blacks, and very high contrast ratios. On the other hand, Adobe RGB is a more comprehensive color spectrum so you may prefer it for its color reproduction. Either way, these display options make this one of the best laptops for photo editing.

But that’s not all. Even with its compact chassis, the Dell XPS 15 packs an incredible amount of power. That includes 11th-generation 45W Intel processors, with speeds as high as 4.9GHz. It starts with an Intel Core i5-11400H, but this is a limiting configuration and we’d definitely recommend upgrading to either the Core i7-11800H or the Core i9-11900H. If you do, you’ll get at least 16GB of RAM, with the option to go all the way to a massive 64GB. Similarly, you’ll start with 512GB of SSD storage, but you can go as high as 8TB, so any and all photo editing projects you could ever need to store will fit just fine. And if the upfront cost of those upgrades is too much, you can upgrade the RAM and SSD yourself later.

Even that’s not the end of it. Along with the Core i7 or Core i9 processors, you get dedicated NVIDIA graphics, up to a GeForce RTX 3050 Ti with 4GB of memory and 45W of power. That gives you an extra kick in performance, so not only can this laptop handle photo editing gracefully, even video editing and some gaming are well within reach.

The Dell XPS 15 continues to impress with its design, featuring four top-firing stereo speakers on the sides of the keyboard, plus a large Precision trackpad. It also looks unique, giving you the option between black carbon fiber and white woven glass fiber composite for the keyboard deck. For ports, you get two Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C connectors), a third USB Type-C port without Thunderbolt, a full-size SD card reader, and a headphone jack. And if you need a display output or USB Type-A, there’s a dongle in the box that you can connect to one of the Type-C ports.

If you choose to upgrade to a Core i7 processor as we recommend, the Dell XPS 15 isn’t cheap, but you get a whole lot of laptop. You can buy the OLED model with an Intel Core i7, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage at Best Buy using the link below. For $2,299, this is a fantastic laptop and is significantly cheaper than buying the same configuration from Dell directly. However, if you want to configure the specs completely to get even more power, you’ll have to do it on Dell’s website.

    Dell XPS 15 (OLED)
    The Dell XPS 15 is a phenomenal 15 inch laptop with a compact design and incredibly powerful specs, including 11th-generation 45W Intel processors and dedicated NVIDIA graphics. It comes with a stunning OLED display, too.

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Best 17-inch laptop for photo editing: LG gram 17

LG Gram 17 2021

Some of us prefer larger screens, and the LG gram 17 is a standout among 17 inch laptops. The LG gram line has long been known for being incredibly light, and weighing less than 3lbs, this is certainly one of the lightest 17 inch laptops out there. This is a great laptop if you want something with a large screen that’s still extremely portable. Adding to its portability, the gram 17 has a large 80Whr battery that promises to last up to 19 hours on a charge, making this one of the best laptops if you want photo editing capabilities on the go.

Being light doesn’t mean the LG gram 17 is lacking in power. It packs the latest Intel Core i7-1165G7, and that’s a fairly powerful mobile processor already, with four cores, eight threads, and clock speeds up to 4.7GHz. On top of that, it also includes Intel Iris Xe graphics with 96 execution units. That’s paired with 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD, giving you more than enough space for your photo editing projects, and a decent amount of RAM to work with too.

Aside from being big, the 17 inch display also looks fantastic. This is an IPS panel and it covers 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, giving you solid color reproduction right out of the gate. It’s also got a 16:10 aspect ratio, giving you more surface area to work with. When you combine that with the Quad HD+ resolution (2560 x 1600), this is an incredibly sharp laptop that can fit a lot of content on the screen at once, which is only compounded by being a large 17 inch panel.

An extra benefit that comes with a 17 inch laptop is the extra space for the keyboard, and the LG gram 17 includes a full number pad for all your number-crunching needs. There’s also a fingerprint reader built into the power button, and a port selection that’s nothing short of great. You get two USB Type-A ports, two Thunderbolt 4 ports (USB Type-C), HDMI, a full-size SD card reader, and a headphone jack. That can accommodate almost any peripheral you might want to connect, and if you need even more, you can use a Thunderbolt dock to expand your possibilities even further.

All in all, the LG gram 17 is a fantastic laptop offering great performance and fantastic portability, including a long-lasting battery. You get a sharp Quad HD+ display and tons of ports right out of the box, making this one of the best laptops you can use for photo editing at home or on the go.

    LG gram 17
    The LG gram 17 is a fantastic lightweight laptop that's still powerful enough to handle photo editing without many issues. It has sharp Quad HD+ display and a long-lasting battery, giving you a great experience anywhere.

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Best business laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

If you’re a fan of the classic business look of the Lenovo ThinkPad family but you want the power to do photo editing — and just about anything — the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is here for you. This is one of the most powerful business laptops you can buy, but it still retains what you’ve come to know and love about the ThinkPad family, including things like the pointing stick and mouse buttons above the trackpad.

Make no mistake, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme has all the powerful specs you could ask for, including up to an Intel Core i9-11950H vPro processor. Not only do you get an 8 core CPU with up to 5GHz clock speeds, but you also get the security features of Intel’s vPro line, which is fantastic already. You can also configure the ThinkPad 1 Extreme with up to a whopping 64GB of RAM, making it a breeze to open large images and lots of layers in your projects. Plus, with up to 4TB of storage, you can save all the projects you work on for a long time to come.

But that’s only part of the story when it comes to performance. You can also configure the ThinkPad X1 Extreme with up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 graphics, making this an incredibly powerful laptop, and especially so among business devices. A powerful GPU like this means you aren’t limited to photo editing — this is one of the best laptops for video editing too, and even gaming is within reach. Getting a powerful GPU does have some caveats, as you’ll be limited to a maximum of 2TB of storage if you go above the RTX 3050 Ti, but that’s still not a weak configuration by any means.

The display is another point in favor of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme. This is a large 16 inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, giving you the benefits of a larger surface area and more space to work with. On top of that, the default configuration already includes a Quad HD+ (2560 x 1600) panel, so you get a sharp display right out of the gate, regardless of your configuration. If you want even more quality, you can upgrade to a 4K+ (3640 x 2400) panel, which covers 100% of the Adobe RGB color gamut for fantastic color reproduction.

The benefits of being a business laptop also show in the connectivity options, and you get a lot of ports here. Two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a full-size SD card reader, and a headphone jack give you plenty of connectivity options. And like many other business laptops, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme also includes an option for cellular connectivity, specifically with 5G support. You can’t get it if you have a GPU above the GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, but the option is there if you want to stay connected on the road.

With all the powerful specs, fantastic upgrade options, and business features it offers, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a pricey laptop, but there’s no denying there’s nothing else like it on the market. If you need an incredibly powerful machine that fits in perfectly at the office, this is the one for you.

    Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme
    The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme lives up to its name with powerful 45W Intel processors, dedicated NVIDIA graphics, and lots of configuration options. It's one of the most powerful business laptops out there, and there's little else you could possibly want.

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Best Mac for photo editing: MacBook Pro 13-inch

Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1 purple background

Not everyone wants to use a Windows laptop, and if you’re a fan of macOS, the latest 13 inch MacBook Pro is a fantastic laptop. Many consider macOS to be a more accessible operating system, so it may be the ideal choice if you’re just getting started with photo editing.

The MacBook Pro has an Apple M1 chip inside, an 8 core CPU with four high-performance cores and four power-efficient cores. The processor has a maximum clock speed of 3.2GHz, but that doesn’t mean it falls behind in terms of performance compared to Intel. This processor offers fantastic performance for all kinds of tasks, and benchmarks put it well ahead of other low-power processors. You can even use it for video editing fairly comfortably, and this is easily one of the best Macs altogether.

The Apple M1 also includes an 8 core GPU that delivers much better graphics performance than previous generations too. On top of that, you can configure the MacBook Pro 13 inch with up to 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, giving you solid performance for photo editing and plenty of space for your projects.

The MacBook Pro 13 inch also has a fantastic display with Quad HD+ (2560 x 1600) resolution and wide color (P3) support. That does mean it’s got a 16:10 aspect ratio, which MacBooks have had for a while, and that tall display means you get more space for items on the screen, whether that’s a photo or the tools you need to edit it. Combined with the high resolution and relatively small size, this screen will look fantastic.

You also get the usual benefits of a MacBook. There’s a large Force Touch trackpad below the keyboard, and that keyboard also includes a Touch Bar in place of the function row, giving you custom shortcuts in many apps. It includes Touch ID support, too, and on the sides of the keyboard, there are speaker grills for the top-firing speakers.

Ports are one of the biggest limitations of this laptop, which only has two Thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack. Thunderbolt ports mean you can use a Thunderbolt dock to expand your connectivity, but out of the box, you’re fairly limited. Plus, even with a Thunderbolt dock, only one external display is supported. But that’s not something you necessarily need, so this may still be a great option for many people.

If you’re interested in the MacBook Pro, you can buy the 8GB model below with either 256GB or 512GB of RAM. If you want more RAM or storage, you’ll need to buy from Apple directly.

    MacBook Pro 13-inch
    The latest MacBook Pro packs a lot of power thanks to the Apple M1 processor, plus it has the same high-quality display and design you've come to expect. It can handle photo editing just fine, and even some more demanding tasks like video editing.

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Best detachable: Surface Book 3

Microsoft Surface Book 3 15-inch

While there are quite a few convertibles out there, detachable laptops are a different story, and it’s especially uncommon to find a powerful one like the Surface Book 3. This device combines the power of a dedicated GPU with the versatility of a tablet, and it’s a wholly unique device.

The tablet unit of the Surface Book 3 has up to an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, and yes, that’s not the latest hardware from Intel. In fact, we’re expecting a refresh for the Surface Book family soon, so you may want to hold off for now. But if you can’t afford to wait, this is still a powerful CPU that can handle most day-to-day tasks just fine, and photo editing won’t be much of a problem either. You can pair that with up to 32GB of RAM, more than enough to open large photos and lots of layers, and 2TB of storage, which gives you plenty of space to save your files.

If you need more power, the keyboard of the Surface Book 3 can also add a dedicated graphics card, up to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. Again, that’s not the latest and greatest, but it’s still a decently powerful GPU that makes the Surface Book 3 not only great for photo editing, but also some video editing and even mid-tier gaming. You’ll need to get an Intel Core i7 model if you want that dedicated GPU, but it’s definitely worth the upgrade.

For the display, the Surface Book 3 comes in two sizes — 13.5 inches and 15 inches. The displays have different resolutions — 3,000 x 2,000 for the 13.5 inch model, and 3,240 x 2,160 for the 15 inch — but the pixel density is the same, and both will look fantastic. These are PixelSense displays that support touch and Surface Pen input on top of looking incredibly sharp.

The Surface Book 3 also includes a solid selection of ports, with two USB Type-A, one USB Type-C, a full-size SD card reader, and a Surface Connect port. All of these ports are on the keyboard base however, and the tablet itself only has a Surface Connect port. Unfortunately, there’s no Thunderbolt support here, but you can get docks that use the Surface Connect port instead.

As we’ve already mentioned, it might make sense to wait for a potential Surface Book 4, but if you want it right now, the Surface Book 3 is still a very powerful machine and one of the best laptops for photo editing.

    Surface Book 3
    The Surface Book 3 is a powerful detachable laptop with 10th-generation Intel processors and discrete NVIDIA graphics that make it powerful enough for all kinds of tasks. You can get it with up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage.

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Best tablet: iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

the iPad Pro 2021 with a white Magic Keyboard on a table

It’s not often that a tablet can sneak its way onto a list of powerful laptops, but the latest iPad Pro model is absolutely capable of handling photo editing tasks. Much like the MacBook Pro we listed above, the 2021 iPad Pro is powered by the Apple M1 chip, and it’s an incredibly powerful device. As we’ve mentioned, the Apple M1 is comprised of an 8 core CPU and an 8 core GPU, making this the most powerful tablet you can buy today. It can’t just handle photo editing, but even video editing is feasible with a device like this. Not only that, you can get up to 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, just like on the MacBook Pro, so you won’t run out of space for projects.

But that’s just the beginning of this story, and there’s a reason we specifically chose the 12.9 inch iPad Pro here. The latest model of the iPad Pro comes with a mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display. That means there are nearly 2,600 lighting zones on this 12.9 inch display, each with independent backlight control, resulting in a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. Not only that, the display supports wide color (P3), and ProMotion, meaning it has a 120Hz refresh rate for extra smooth animations and transitions. Of course, the display also supports touch and the second-generation Apple Pencil.

By itself, the iPad Pro may not be ideal for photo editing, but with iPadOS now supporting external mice and keyboards, you can easily set up the iPad Pro as if it were a laptop and use it for all kinds of demanding tasks. iPadOS may not have all the apps that macOS or Windows have, but it does have Adobe Photoshop, and your PSD projects will work on it just fine, so it’s still a viable option for photo editing.

As a tablet, you probably don’t expect the iPad Pro to have many ports, and it doesn’t. However, the USB Type-C port has been upgraded with Thunderbolt, so you have much faster data rates if you connect compatible devices. That’s about it in terms of ports, but you do have cellular support, specifically 5G, so you can use the internet to share and find files wherever you are.

The iPad Pro also has an advantage in that you can use it to take and edit photos all on the same device. The 12MP main camera and 10MP ultra-wide may not be as good as a flagship phone, but it’s still a solid camera, and it support Smart HDR. If you want to quickly take a picture and work on it, the iPad Pro lets you do that, and that can be useful for some users.

If you’re interested, you can buy the 12.9 inch iPad Pro using the links below. Starting at $1,099, it’s not exactly cheap, but it offers a lot more than you might expect from a tablet.

    iPad Pro 12.9 inch
    The iPad Pro is one of the most powerful tablets you can buy today, using the same processor as Apple's MacBooks. It has up to 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, plus a bright and vibrant mini-LED display with nearly 2,600 dimming zones.

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Those are the best laptops (and one tablet) you can buy today if you’re interested in photo editing. While they can all handle this type of workload to some extent, it’s important to know how demanding of a workload you’re planning to have for these devices. The most complex editing tasks may require more than 16GB of RAM, which not every device has. But for a lot of users, that will work just fine. Some may even be ok with 8GB if you’re only looking to do basic edits.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what you prefer and/or need, but these options should have you covered no matter what. There’s something for everyone on this list. With some devices, like the Acer ConceptD 3 Ezel and the Surface Book 3, it may be a good idea to wait for a refresh if you can, but if you’re in a hurry, you’re still going to get a fantastic experience with them.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.