The best laptops for photo editing

We talked to our photographers. These are the best laptops for perfecting photos

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Scyther5 / 123RF
Although you can pick up any laptop for basic photo editing, professionals need a specific “environment” to produce optimal results for print and digital publishing. We talked to our staff photographers here at Digital Trends to find out what features they needed on a daily basis — and which made for the ideal photo-editing tool.

The most important, of course, are solutions with high-resolution displays, support for large color spaces, high levels of brightness, and wide viewing angles. Without a vibrant and accurate display, there’s no way of knowing the editing choices you’re making are correct. Of course, the hardware backing these displays is important too, whether that’s discrete graphics, Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, PCI Express-based storage, or touchpads that don’t suck.

Taking all of that into account, these are the best laptops for photo editing.

Our Pick

Dell XPS 15

best macbook alternatives dell xps 15 lid2 800x533 c

Dell lands in the top spot of our list of the best laptops for photo editing — and the main reason is for its screen. XPS 15 configurations include an option for a Full HD resolution, as well as a UHD resolution with full touch support. More importantly, the display is based on IGZO panel technology, which results in a high-performance screen that supports near 100 percent of both the sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces, which is pretty rare. It should be noted that even though we prefer the XPS 13 overall as a laptop, its display doesn’t perform quite as well in the AdobeRGB spectrum.

Overall, Dell offers four models packing seventh-generation Intel Core processors. Their base design is the same across the board, providing two memory slots supporting up to 32GB of system memory (Dell only sells up to 16GB), a Thunderbolt 3 port (which supports only two PCI Express lanes), several standard USB-A ports, and an SD card slot. This should give you everything you need to support both legacy accessories and high-speed connections — both of which are essential for the modern photographer.

You can read our full review of this laptop here.

See on Dell

Screen size: 15.6 inches
Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 – No Touch
3,840 x 2,160 – Touch
Screen type: IGZO
Color space: sRGB 100 percent
AdobeRGB 99 percent
Screen brightness: 350 nits
Processor: Intel Core i3-7100H
Intel Core i5-7300HQ
Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 630
GeForce GTX 1050 (4GB GDDR5)
Memory: 8GB DDR4 @ 2,400MHz (2x slots up to 32GB)
Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
500GB 7,200RPM HDD + 32GB SSD
Audio: 2x speakers w/ Waves MaxxAudio Pro
Camera: 720p with dual array digital microphones
Connectivity: Wireless AC (2×2)
Bluetooth 4.1
Ports: 1x SD card slot
2x USB-A 3.1 Gen1
1x HDMI 1.4
1x Thunderbolt 3 (16Gbps)
1x Headphone/microphone combo
Security: Fingerprint reader
Backlit keyboard: Yes
Battery: 56WHr
Power adapter: 130 watts
Dimensions: 14.06 (W) x 9.27 (D) x 0.66 (H) inches
Weight: Starting at 4 pounds
Starting price: $949

Best Mac

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Macs are still the go-to-device for ad designers, graphic artists, and all other creative individuals. The love relationship between Apple and Adobe still burns after 30 years, as students became teachers only to pass their Mac-based Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign knowledge to students over the past three decades. Sure, Windows-based devices work just as well, but Apple and Adobe have put a lot of work into making sure that MacBooks remains the first choice for photographers.

However, our photographers didn’t love the options Apple presented in its most recent update of the lineup. In particular, they weren’t all that impressed by the functionality of the Touch Bar, which was supposed to be this laptops’ killer feature. Similarly, the choice to move completely to Thunderbolt 3 ports was controversial, and it’s sure to upset photographers who still rely on USB-A external hard drives and SD cards. You can make it work, so as long as you’re willing to use a fair share of dongles.

That being said, we chose the MacBook Pro 15 it’s fantastic display marries its crazy max brightness of 500 nits with extensive support for the DCI-P3, sRGB, and AdobeRGB color spaces. It’s the best display you can buy on a laptop, and that’s absolutely worth it to some photographers. The cherry on top is that the 15-inch version comes with its discrete AMD Radeon Pro graphics card and isn’t as overpriced as the 13-inch version.

See on Apple

Screen size: 15.4 inches
Screen resolution: 2,880 x 1,800
Screen type: IPS
Color space: DCI-P3 100 percent
sRGB 100 percent
AdobeRGB 91 percent
Pixel density: 220 pixels per inch
Screen brightness: 500 nits
Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Intel Core i7-7820HQ
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 630
AMD Radeon Pro 555 (2GB)
AMD Radeon Pro 560 (4GB)
Memory: 16GB LPDDR3 @ 2,133MHz
Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
Audio: 2x stereo speakers
Camera: 720p FaceTime HD
Connectivity: Wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.2
Ports: 4x Thunderbolt 3
1x Headphone jack
Security: TouchID
Backlit keyboard: Yes
Battery: 76WHr
Power adapter: 87 watts
Dimensions: 13.75 (W) x 9.48 (D) x 0.61 (H) inches
Weight: 4.02 pounds
Starting price: $2,399

You can read our review of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple’s Touch Bar here.

Best budget option

Asus ZenBook UX330UA

Best laptops for photo editing

The ZenBook UX330UA is our cheapest solution of the batch, but it’s not “cheap” in performance. Configurations include seventh and eighth-generation Intel Core i5 processors, and integrated graphics. Both power a 13.3-inch screen with Full HD or QHD+ resolutions, but you won’t find touch input on any configuration. The screen supports 100 percent of the sRGB color space, but only 74 percent of the Adobe RGB color space. That’s not as good as the XPS 15 or MacBook Pros, but it’s in line with laptops that sell for hundreds of dollars more.

According to the specifications, the display has a maximum brightness of around 315 nits, making it great for brightly-lit environments. Meanwhile, you’ll find that the configurations only vary in the slightest, with the differences residing in the processor, resolution, and integrated graphics. Otherwise, you’ll see the same 720p camera, USB ports, and 57WHr battery promising up to 12 hours of up-time on a single charge.

One of the bigger selling points resides in the laptop’s size, measuring just 0.53 inches thick and weighing a mere 2.64 pounds. Other notable features include a MicroHDMI port so you can connect an external display that supports a resolution of 4,096 x 2,304 at 24Hz. The USB ports can connect to additional external displays using the appropriate USB adapter.

You can read our review of the Asus ZenBook UX330UA here.

See on Amazon See on Newegg

Screen size: 13.3 inches
Screen resolution: 3,200 x 1,800
1,920 x 1,080
Screen type: IPS
Color space: sRGB 100 percent
NTSC 72 percent
AdobeRGB 74 percent
Pixel density: 276 pixels per inch
Processor: Intel Core i5-8250U
Intel Core i5-7200U
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Intel HD Graphics 520
Memory: 8GB LPDDR3 @ 1,866MHz
Storage: 256GB M.2 SATA SSD
Audio: 2x speakers Bang & Olufsen
Camera: 720p
Connectivity: Wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.1
Ports: 1x Micro SD card reader
1x Headphone / microphone jack
2x USB-A 3.1 Gen1
1x Micro HDMI
Security: N/A
Backlit keyboard: Yes
Battery: 57WHr
Power adapter: 45 watts
Dimensions: 12.7 (W) x 8.7 (D) x 0.53 (H) inches
Weight: 2.64 pounds
Starting price: $750

Best Compact Option

Razer Blade Stealth

Razer Blade Stealth

Okay, so Razer is best known for manufacturing products for gamers. But you have to admit: the Razer Blade Stealth should suffice as a great laptop for editing photos. The 12.5-inch screen is based on IGZO technology, providing close to 100 percent coverage of the sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces. The drawback is that the laptop doesn’t include a discrete graphics chip to handle all the rendering and compiling power, but that’s why Razer sells the Core V2 external GPU enclosure.

The only configuration required on your part pertains to storage: a 512GB or 1TB PCI Express-based “stick” SSD. Everything else crammed into the Stealth remains the same: a UHD resolution with touch support, 16GB of system memory, a 2MP camera, a handful of ports, and even a Thunderbolt 3 port promising transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps (depending on the supporting hardware).

Here’s our review of the 2016 version of the Razer Blade Stealth laptop.

See on Razer

Screen size: 12.5 inches
Screen resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 with Touch
Screen type: IGZO
Color space: sRGB 98 percent
AdobeRGB 95 percent
Pixel density: 352 pixels per inch
Processor: Intel Core i7-7500U
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
Memory: 16GB LPDDR3 @ 1,866MHz
Storage: 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD
Audio: 2x speakers
Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater Edition
Camera: 2MP
Connectivity: Wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.1
Ports: 1x Thunderbolt 3
2x USB-A 3.1 Gen1
1x HDMI 2.0a
1x Headphone / microphone jack
Security: N/A
Backlit keyboard: Yes, supports Chroma
Battery: 56.3WHr
Power adapter: 45 watts
Dimensions: 12.6 (W) x 8.1 (D) x 0.52 (H) inches
Weight: 2.84 pounds
Starting price: $1,249

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