Finding a good laptop for color-accurate photography work is pretty hard. Not because such laptops are rare, but because you have so many options spread out across a vast price range.
Companies like ASUS, Dell, Acer, and Gigabyte have really stepped up their game in the creative/ studio laptop segment. Now you have an endless supply of slim and lightweight laptops with good processing power and excellent displays.
But which one should you buy? Worry not, we made a list of the top 7 laptops for photo editing. And if you don’t have time to read through the whole thing, our top pick is the Gigabyte Aero 15 thanks to its excellent 4K OLED display that is calibrated to perfection for super accurate colors. And the best part is that it’s relatively affordable when compared to its rivals.
Here is our list of the 7 best laptops for photo editing:
Hands down, the best display on any Windows laptop we’ve seen so far. Not only is it OLED, but it’s also one of the few OLEDs which isn’t overly vibrant and bright.
Calibration from the factory is really nice, and it should be, because Gigabyte has designed this laptop specifically for content creators who work with photo and video.
It even has a UHS-II SD card reader which tells you that this laptop was made with modern digital cameras in mind. And it’s extremely portable so you can carry it around in the backpack with your camera gear, get to work right on site, and make edits on the move.
There is Windows Hello fingerprint detection for quick and easy unlocks. And the AX1650 Wi-Fi card from Killer guarantees excellent wireless connectivity whether you’re at home, office, or in a café with several dozen other laptops in the vicinity.
The build quality is remarkable for such an affordable content creation laptop, it is constructed from thick ABS plastic with lots of metal reinforcements underneath. And it just weighs 4.4lbs despite having a massive 94Wh battery which can last up to 8.5hrs of use.
Gigabyte hasn’t forgotten their gaming DNA even though this is a content creation machine, for it has one of the best cooling systems you’ll find on any laptop out there. Two fans, one for each major component- the CPU and GPU. Five thick copper heat pipes for efficient heat transfer.
There’s plenty of vents to dump all that heat outside the laptop. Oh, and they even put some Thermal Grizzly paste in there as a cherry on top. We know Thermal Grizzly well; it is one of the best thermal interface compounds you can buy and lowers temps by 5 to 10 degrees depending on the application and hardware.
MacBooks are known to have some of the best displays on any laptop out there, both in terms of resolution as well as color accuracy. Well, the all-new MacBook Pro has even more of what you wanted- only this time it is powered by a 9th generation Intel Core i7 processor for insane speed. And some good old 2666MHz DDR4 memory, 16GB of it in dual channel configuration.
This particular version is equipped with a 6-core Intel Core i7 processor and Radeon Pro 5300M dedicated graphics for accelerating your workflow in creative workloads within Final Cut and Adobe Software.
It also has a 512GB PCIe SSD for blazing fast loading and transfer speeds on all your photos, no matter how large they are.
We recommend you get the version with a 1TB SSD if you can afford it, as it will give you a lot more flexibility in terms of what you can store on the machine.
However, you could also drive some really fast external storage alongside this machine since it has a Thunderbolt 3 port. Like this Samsung X5 500GB external SSD (it also comes in higher capacities up to 2 TB).
The display is excellent as always, it is a TrueTone 16” Retina IPS model with a resolution of 3072 x 1920 pixels. And it is P3 wide-gamut, so you get an industrial standard color accurate panel to do all your color-sensitive work.
On top of that, the brightness is pretty high at 500 nits so you get vibrant images and can even work outdoors.
Tip: If you want a smaller MacBook Pro for portability and don’t mind sacrificing a bit of processing power for a lower price tag, check out the 13 inch model. It has no dedicated GPU, but a larger SSD (2x the size at 1TB) and Iris Plus integrated graphics which is faster than the HD 630 graphics on 9th gen Coffee Lake parts.
Acer’s ConceptD line of laptops is designed for and targeted at creative professionals/ power users who want performance without sacrificing on portability.
The Concept5 in particular offers excellent value at a relatively affordable price tag when compared to other “studio laptops” from rival companies like ASUS and Dell (with their XPS line). And it is certainly a lot cheaper than a MacBook Pro.
You get a really good display in this machine, a Pantone-validated 4K IPS panel with a Delta E < 2 and 100% Adobe RGB coverage. Remember, Adobe RGB has a wider range of supported colors compared to sRGB (Standard RGB) and you don’t find Adobe RGB color gamut support on most gaming laptops. It is an industry standard and is often used for professional photo editing.
At the center of it all lies the Intel 9th generation Core i7-9750H processor, it has hyperthreading and boosts up to 4.5GHz. Supporting this processor is 16GB (8 x 2) of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM. And a NVIDIA Quadro T1000 professional GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM.
You also get Wi-Fi 6, which is something missing from the MacBook Pro.
And an actual Ethernet port (also something that’s missing in the MacBook Pro) so you can plug your laptop into the wall for high-speed, low latency internet connectivity.
Tip: If you are okay with spending some extra money, we highly recommend you check out the ConceptD 7 which is an upgraded version of the ConceptD 5. It has a more powerful GPU in the RTX 2060 with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM, a larger SSD (1TB), and a better network adapter.
Plus, it has an eye soothing all-white finish that is very aesthetically pleasing. Combine that with a slimmer all-metal chassis, and you get a package that feels more premium than the ConceptD 5 (and also performs better).
The most expensive laptop on our list, and it’s not just because of the Razer tax.
Well, it does command a premium just for being a Razer thin & light but there’s more to this marvelous machine.
For instance, the Quadro RTX 5000 professional GPU with 16GB of VRAM which is totally unnecessary for photography work since Photoshop and Lightroom run perfectly fine with Intel HD integrated graphics.
But if you ever transition into 3D modeling and rendering or video work in the future, you know you’ve got a GPU which can back you up.
Then there’s the 15.6” 4k OLED display which looks stunning with amazing pixel response times and great color accuracy. The brightness is around 400nits, and it supports the HDR 400 standard.
An Intel 10th generation Core i7-10875H processor with 5.1GHz max turbo speed is exactly what professional video and photo editors need. It blazes through projects of even the highest magnitude with relative ease, and is assisted by a massive 32GB of RAM. You won’t have to upgrade this laptop for another 4 to 5 years with specifications like these.
The body is made from CNC aluminum alloy and is extremely rigid yet thin and light.
Cooling is achieved by a vacuum sealed copper vapor chamber which is really good at extracting heat away from the GPU and CPU even under high sustained loads.
A laptop designed to be light and slim above anything else, but it doesn’t mean the LG Gram is slow. In fact with a 10th generation Intel Ice Lake chip inside, this is one of the fastest photo editing machines you can buy.
The Core i7-1065G7 lays the smackdown on whatever photo editing workload you put it against, and the 1440p IPS display is extremely color accurate.
Total thickness is just 0.7 inches, and the laptop weighs under 3 lbs. despite having a massive 17” display.
We love the larger display as it’s great for content creators, speeding up your workflow since you don’t have to zoom and strain your eyes as much. Iris Plus graphics ensures smooth performance in Lightroom and Photoshop.
A massive 80Whr battery feeds the hardware inside and ensures a battery life of at least 7 hours.
With light browsing and word processing it can last 11+ hours. There is 16GB of DDR4 RAM and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage (dual 512GB drives in RAID) to keep things snappy.
The ZenBook Pro Duo is ASUS’s foray into creating a studio laptop that boosts productivity with a secondary display called “ScreenPad” above the keyboard. It is a very bold, yet innovative design choice.
And while it may not be for everyone, we certainly believe it can enhance the way you edit photos if you get accustomed to it.
The MacBook touchbar seems like a kid’s toy in comparison, as the secondary display on the ZenBook Pro Duo supports full touch functionality and has its own stylus. You can drag windows in there, setup hotkeys, draw, sign documents- basically you can do whatever you would on a touch display.
Think of it like a tablet PC integrated into the bottom half of the laptop, which shares the screen space with the main display.
The main display is stunning as well, it is a 4k OLED panel with nearly zero bezels and 100% DCI-P3 coverage for color accurate work. It even supports HDR, although it is not nearly bright enough for true HDR work.
There is a 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM, so you have storage and memory for days.
You won’t even notice this laptop ripping through renders and edits thanks to the ultra fast Core i9-10980HK which is Intel’s flagship laptop CPU as of now.
This laptop can function very well as a gaming and rendering machine too, thanks to the RTX 2060 dedicated graphics processor.
Unlike most other studio/ creative laptops, this one features a truly innovative swivel design which can be used in various positions.
It can be used to create content (editing photos, building presentations, viewing 3D models), share projects with your colleagues, and take notes. You can even draw on it with the included stylus.
The ConceptD 3 has 6 different modes of operation depending on its stance- Standard laptop, float, share, display, pad, and stand.
It has plenty of processing power with an Core i7-10750H and GTX 1650 dedicated graphics processor. The 14” HD IPS display is protected by Gorilla Glass which saves it from scratches and blemishes.
It is an ideal laptop for both 2D and 3D work. You can do everything from engineering drawings and plans to photo/ video editing on this laptop. It can even do the occasional gaming session thanks to the GTX 1650 graphics processor.
Color Accurate and Vibrant Display
This one is a must-have and often goes unnoticed by new photographers whenever they set out to purchase a laptop. They get distracted by shiny spec sheets and marketing fluff, forgetting the single most important component of a photo editing laptop- the display.
After all, this is what you’ll be staring at for most of your workday. Not the processor or RAM, that stuff stays hidden from view and as long as you’ve got decent processing power all should be good.
But a bad display can completely ruin the nature of your work, and no amount of calibration can fix something of inherently poor quality. Stay away from “gaming” displays that use high-refresh TN panels. Unless you’re just doing some photography on the side as a hobby and don’t care too much about making money or getting more skilled.
How To Know If A Laptop Display Is Good?
Just look at the RGB color gamut, typically pro-rated displays show their DCI-P3 coverage while consumer and gaming panels show NTSC or sRGB coverage.
Anything that scores above 90 percent on the DCI-P3 or Adobe RGB (different from sRGB) scale is good enough for enthusiast or even pro-grade photo work.
Another value you want to look out for is “Delta E” which basically quantifies the difference between two colors on your screen. You want a Delta E close to or under 1 if possible.
Remember- the smaller the Delta E value, the more color accurate your display is. It gives a measurement of the difference between the original color input and the actual color that is shown on your display.
Higher Delta E levels mean a significant deviance from what was input vs what was shown. Lower Delta E means a color accurate picture on your screen.
Please Note: Other than color accuracy, you also want the display to be bright with good viewing angles. We highly recommend good quality IPS and certain OLED panels, stay away from TN if you want to do color accurate work. HDR compliant displays are always a bonus since you can work on HDR content, but pay attention to the standard of HDR supported (HDR400, HDR10, etc.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do I need a really fast GPU for photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop?
A. Not at all, even Intel integrated HD graphics will get the job done. Despite what it may look like, editing photos doesn’t actually benefit from hardware acceleration via GPU. Any basic graphics processor like a NVIDIA GeForce MX250 or Vega 10 iGPU will do just fine, even in larger and more complex projects. GPU acceleration is more for video editing and 3D modelling/ rendering. Not photography.
Q. What level of brightness to look for in a laptop display?
A. If you’re working in any sort of professional capacity, we highly recommend a pro-grade external monitor instead of your built-in laptop display. Those are much brighter and calibrated by professionals from the factory. The highest most laptop displays go is 400 nits, which isn’t even half of what a true HDR display can output.
Q. SSD or HDD?
A. Always go for a solid state drive, since there are no moving parts and loading speeds are ridiculously fast. You will bottleneck your modern processor and RAM with a slow storage drive if you choose a laptop with a HDD. Spinning disk drives are also more likely to get damaged and corrupted, losing most if not all data in the event of a sudden physical shock (like a fall).
On the other hand, SSDs are basically flash memory so your data will stay safe even if the laptop gets jolted or dropped in the middle of work. SSDs also ensure that photos load much faster, and transitioning between programs feels much smoother.
We did the research, checked out customer testimonials, and looked at data from 3rd party reviewers. The results are clear- in terms of display color accuracy and build quality, it is hard to beat out the Gigabyte Aero 15. This laptop delivers amazing value for money, while not being a slouch in terms of performance.
The Aero 15 packs a really high-end laptop processor from last year, the Core i7-9750H. It has 6 cores with hyperthreading and a boost frequency of 4.5GHz which is surpassed only by Intel’s newer 10th generation Comet Lake chips (those are basically rebranded 9th generation chips with higher clock speeds).
You also get the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660ti GPU which means this laptop can handle video editing and light 3D modelling in software such as Blender, AutoCAD, Solidworks, etc. You can even game on it if you wish to sit back and relax in between work sessions.
On top of that, it’s extremely light and relatively slim which makes it a perfect choice for carrying along with you to work.
For folks who prefer Apple and the MacOS, there’s the MacBook Pro. You can buy either the 13” or 16” model, although we recommend you get the largest possible screen for creative work like photo editing.
And if money is no object, you can check out the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo which has a very innovative dual display system and top of the line processing power.