We’ve drawn from the team’s personal experience to find the best computer for photo editing whether you’re budget conscious, a beginner, or a pro! If you are in the market looking to purchase a new desktop PC or laptop to help you with your photo editing sessions, look no further because this post brings together some of the best computers for photo editing and laptops that can handle video editing too.
These computers offer photographers enough power to edit high-resolution photos, meaning that they come installed with structures capable of handling any type of resolution. We understand that the process of purchasing a new computer for your photo editing needs can be daunting, especially for beginners and that is why we have compiled the best-reviewed laptops/PCs to make your hunt easier. These are the computers that this post will focus on:
- Dell Inspiron 13 700
- Acer Swift 3
- Apple Mac Mini
- Apple Macbook Pro with Touchbar
- Lenovo Thinkpad
- Apple Macbook Pro 15’’
- Microsoft Surface Book
- Apple iMac 27
- Microsoft Surface Studio All-in-One
The Best Budget Models
There are plenty of options to look out for when hunting for a photo editing computer. However, that does not mean that you have to go for an expensive model. There are a number of budget models to consider for your basic photo editing needs like cropping, resizing or applying simple filters. You don’t need an expensive or powerful computer to accomplish such basic editing needs.
Dell Inspiron 13 700
Best dual Mode Computer
Display: 13.3’’ Full HD (1920 x 1080)| CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | RAM: 8GB-16GB| Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620| OS: Windows 10 Home| Storage: 256-512 GB SSD | Weight: 1.7kg| Size: 36.1 x 24.8 x 1.8cm; W x D x H| Ports: 2 x USB 3, 1 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), , 1x SD card reader, 1 x HDMI 2.0.
- Plenty of horse power
- Operated in tablet and laptop mode
- The tablet mode is not needed always
Acer Swift 3
Best convertible option
Display: 14’’ Display| CPU: 2/4 core Intel Core i5/Core i7| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD| RAM: 8GB-16GB| Weight: 1.6kg| Size: 33.8 x 23.4 x 1.8cm; W x D x H.
- Has a relatively thick frame
- Not pleasant to look at
Best Models for Beginners
There are different types of laptops that work best with photographers with a certain skill level in photo editing. If you are a beginner in this field, the following are the best options to consider if you are in the market looking for a computer for photo editing at a beginner’s level.
Apple Mac Mini
Best Mini PC for Photo Editing
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630| RAM: Up to 64GB| CPU: Intel Core i3-i7|Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi| Storage: Up to 2TB SSD| Size: 19.7 x 19.7 x 3.6cm; W x D x H.
- Minimalist design
- It has 4 USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports
- The integrated graphics are not that impressive
Apple Macbook Pro with Touchbar
Best All-round computer for Photo Editing
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655| Screen: 13.3-inch, (2560 x 1600) IPS| CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5-i7| RAM: 8GB-16GB| Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD.
- Superfast performance
- The best Macbook in the market
- It has a disappointing battery life
Best for Beginners
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620| RAM: 8GB| CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8265U| Screen: 15.6’’ HD WLED| Storage: 256GB SSD| Weight: 1.9kg
- Very cool and quiet
- Comfortable keyboard
- Solid chassis
- Poor battery life
Best Models for Professionals
If you are a professional in the field, then you are probably looking for a computer that has a top-notch processor and plenty of storage, no less than 256GB. The available options for professional editors do not come cheap but will definitely deliver to your expectations. Here are the best computer options for professionals in photo editing.
Apple Macbook Pro 15
The Best Laptop for Professional Photo Editors
Graphics: 15.6’’ Display| CPU: 4 or 6-core Intel Core i7| Storage: 256GB to 4TB SSD| RAM: 16GB – 32GB| Size: 34.9 x 24.1 x 1.6cm; W x D x H| Ports: 4 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3)| OS: MacOS| Weight: 1.6kg.
- Great Retina Display
- Availability of processor upgrade
- Limited memory
Microsoft Surface Book 2
Best Alternative for Macbook
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050| CPU: Intel Core i5-i7| Storage: 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB PCIe SSD| Scree: Touchscreen display with 13.5” 3000 x 2000 PixelSense Display |RAM: 8GB – 16GB.
- Unrivaled display
- Seamless integration with tablet
- Surface pen not included
Apple iMac 27
Best All-in-One Desktop PC
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 570X – AMD Radeon Pro Vega 48| CPU: Hexa-core 8th-gen Intel Core i5 – 8-core 9th-gen Intel Core i7| Storage: 1TB Fusion Drive – 2TB PCIe SSD| RAM: 8GB – 64GB| Size: 51.6 x 65.0 x 20.3cm; HxWxD.
- Quiet under load
- Built-in stunning 5K display
- Expensive SSD upgrades
Microsoft Surface Studio All-in-One
Best Windows Alternative to iMac
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070| CPU: Intel Core i7- 7820HQ| Connectivity: Gigabet Ethernet| Storage: 1TB SSD| RAM: 32GB| Size: 25 x 22 x 3.22 cm; WxDxH.
- Transitions seamlessly between modes
- Built-in touch-sensitive screen
- Biggest and best digital drawing board
- Hard to reach ports
Key considerations in a Computer for photo editing
Finding the best laptop for photo editing is often expensive and daunting, especially for beginners in the field. Having a reliable and fast computer to handle all your photo editing needs is just as important as having a camera and all its extras. This section of this post will shed some more light on some of the few considerations that are important in guiding the purchase of a laptop/PC for photo editing.
Desktop vs Laptop
The first thing you should consider when choosing your system is the factor of mobility and portability. Laptops tend to have limited upgradeability but are the best option for those who are constantly on the move. On the other hand, desktops have a greater upgrade potential compared to laptops but are quite cumbersome to move around with, making them suitable for those working from home.
Generally, it is a lot more pleasant to do some photo editing tasks on a bigger screen than it is on smaller laptop screens. This makes desktops more desirable but if you want to go for a laptop, then it is important to consider getting yourself an additional large screen to improve your photo editing experience.
As a photographer, you should endeavor to get yourself a laptop for the move but remember to have a desktop computer at home or the office to handle every aspect of photo editing that could demand a lot of processing power and disk space. For this reason, it is advisable to steer clear of All-in-One PCs because most of these computers lack upgradeability with the exception of the Apple iMac and Microsoft Surface because they have excellent monitors and technical specifications.
PCs vs MacOS
There have always been debates on which is the better option between macOS and Windows. In terms of photo editing, the choice lies entirely with you. Just go for the computer system that you are generally comfortable with. If you grew up around a PC, then it is only advisable to go for a gaming PC for your photo editing needs and the opposite is also true for macOS. It would help a great deal in avoiding unnecessary confusion. Do not be shy of seeking professional advice before making your purchase.
MAC systems often come with medium to high-end specs that make your programs run seamlessly. For PCs, the situation can be very confusing, especially for beginners because they range from low-spec to high end and they make an uninformed decision and purchase a system that does not efficiently deliver.
There are five most crucial hardware components that are instrumental for Photoshop and Lightroom editing and they are:
This hardware component is instrumental in increasing the number of tasks your CPU handles at any given time. By virtue of opening Photoshop or Lightroom, about 1GB is used and consequent scrolling through files (PS) and pictures (LR) will use up to 4GB of RAM. All these combined with about 2GB of RAM used by the system, you would discover that the best and recommended minimum amount of memory required is 16GB. Anything less than that is bound to cause drags in performance especially in carrying out a strenuous task such as Panorama or HDR processing.
This comprises the brains of a computer system and it carries out all the tasks you give it. How good your photo editing works in adjusting sliders or applying filters entirely depends on how good your processor is. Therefore, always go for Intel Core-I range rather than Celeron or Pentium. For instance, you are bound to get better performance from Core i5 that runs at 3.8GHz or Intel Core i7 processor that runs at 4.2GHz that are often affordable compared to a very expensive system that comes with Core i9 but runs at 3.2GHz.
Storage space drives
The traditional hard disk drive (HDD) has been in existence for quite some time but in the recent past, solid-state drives (SSD) that are entirely solid, are seemingly shaking things up. The fact that SSDs have no movable parts means that it is capable of accessing data at extremely fast speeds compared to Hard drives (HDDs) that have to wait for the rotating disks to warm up. Computer systems with SSDs have a shorter boot time of up to 10 seconds.
Therefore, SSDs are the better option to run your OS, photo editing software, and cache drives when you are using a large capacity drive for storage purposes. The recommended SSD disk size is 500GB to accommodate your OS and software including Lightroom and Photoshop. An extra HDD of 2-4TB is also essential for storing your files, pictures, documents, and data. An extra external HDD will also help you back up your files and data.
Photo editing demands a proper high-resolution display. Technological advancements have brought us Ultra-HD (UHD) and Quad-HD (QHD) monitors, which have been how we experience our photos better since they are crisper and sharper in detail too. It is advisable to get monitors that support nothing less than 1920 x 1080 resolution (Full HD). If your bank allows it, then go for the UHD and QHD that will offer you higher resolution ranging from 2560 x 1440 to 3840 x 2160.
It is also important to understand that the factor of size also plays a vital role in photo editing. The minimum recommended size for editing photos is 27 inches or two 24-ich monitors for multitasking. If your pockets allow it, then go for at least a 32-inch curved and ultra-wide curved monitor that supports UHD resolution. It is expensive but worth the purchase.
Additional aspects like backlight LED with IPS technology are important in determining the color accuracy, viewing angles, and image quality during photo editing. Associated technologies like PLS and AHVA are equally important. Try as much as possible to stay away from VA and TN panels.
Screen spaces like sRGB and Adobe RGB offer users greater color accuracy but Adobe RGB is the preferable space because they are not limited in the color ranges compared to sRGB since it represents the full-color range that can be achieved on CMYK printers. However, the use of Adobe RGB in Windows might prove counterproductive since they show colors incorrectly.
Monitors that come with built-in Adobe RGB hardware calibration are very expensive for an average photographer thus it could be a good idea to borrow or buy an optional calibration tool like X-Rite ColorMunki or Spyder Pro and purchase a monitor that has the ability to cover 99% of the color space of sRGB.
GPU (Graphics Card)
Any photo editing software will highly benefit from a computer system that has a dedicated graphics card. The latest version of Lightroom Classic and Photoshop supports graphics hardware acceleration. The recommended graphics card should bear at least 2GB of VRAM, but if you use high-resolution 4K or 5K monitors,a graphics card with a dedicated VRAM of 4GB would only be suitable. Even though recommending a graphics card is a tricky business, the suitable cards would either be Radeon or NVIDIA supporting OpenGL 3.3 or later or DirectX.
- Card reader: Getting a USB 3.1 card reader is advisable because it can read the card your camera uses.
- Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS): A UPS can help you safeguard your work when there has been an unexpected interruption in the power supply giving you the chance to safely turn off your computer.
- Mouse: The process of retouching can be sped up when using the recommended mouse. It is advisable to get a gaming mouse for improved control and ergonomics. A good mouse will offer you greater margins of accuracy. However, don’t forget to buy a gaming mouse pad too to increase accuracy on the surface.
Laptops for Professional Photographers
- 12GB or more.
GPU (Graphics card)
- An onboard graphics card that is similar to a desktop with a dedicated 2-4GB of VRAM
- 3840 x 2160 UHD or
- 1920 x 1080 HD or
- 15-inch or larger
- 500GB SSD or larger
- 1TB HDD -2TB HDD ( budget alternative)
- Extra external Hard drive for backup
- Intel Core i5 or Core i7, 7th generation or AMD Ryzen equivalent or higher
- Gaming mouse
- Gaming pad
Desktops for photographers
Desktops for professional photographers.
- Intel Core i5 or Core i7, 8th generation or AMD Ryzen 7 1700 equivalent or higher
- 500GB SSD or higher
- 2-4TB HDD for photo storage
- Extra HDD to back up your files
- 99-100% sRGB coverage
- PLS, IPS or AHVA panel
- 2560×1440 (QHD) or 3840 x 2160 (UHD)
- 27” or larger
- 2-4GB or VRAM minimum
- NVIDIA GeForce 950, 960, 980, 1050, 1060, 1070, 1080 or the Radeon equivalent.
- Gaming mouse and pad
- Compatible USB 3.1 card reader.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What kind of computer do I need for photo editing?
There are a number of options you can go for to meet your photo editing needs. However, if you are just a beginner, aim for computers with such specs as Quad-core, 8 GB of RAM, 3GHz CPU, and a small SSD storage. If you are a professional, then go for a computer with such specs as 16-32 GB RAM, 3.5-4 GHz CPU, 500GB SSD, or more among other specs as stated in this post.
What laptop is best for photo editing?
The best laptop for photo editing is definitely the Apple Macbook Pro with Touchbar because it has some of the best specs that adequately support all photo editing needs. If you are looking for the best all-around laptop, then this is the best option for you. The laptop’s gorgeous screen will ensure that all your photos look amazing.
Are Macs better for photo editing?
It does not really matter whether you choose a Mac or PC. All of them have the ability to perform to par. However, if your pockets can allow it, then you can go for a Mac. This remains a topic of debate. The truth is, many professional photographers tend to lean towards Macs because they look better and have appealing ergonomics.
Which Photo Editing Software is best for PC?
There are two pieces of software that we can recommend: Adobe Lightroom and Skylum Luminar (see Luminar vs Lightroom here). Essentially Lightroom is the gold-standard tool for image editing. It is pretty straightforward to use. But, it requires the purchase of a monthly subscription. Luminar is catching up to Lightroom and has a lot of AI functionality to enable you to edit photos quickly.
EDIT: We also recommend Topaz Studio 2 (see our review here). It’s a one-payment full photo editing suite that allows some very quick and powerful edits. Plus it has the entire power suite of Topaz tools behind it.
The overall winner is the Apple Macbook Pro with Touchbar. The all-round laptop is the best companion in terms of photo editing as compared to all the other computers since it offers super-fast performance and supports most of the popular photo editing apps you can think of, not to mention the capacious storage, slim OLED display, touch bar plus its stylish and sleek finish.