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The best photo-editing laptops for photographers in 2022

(Image credit: Future)

The best photo-editing laptops won't just be the perfect tool for photographers needing to do some photo editing. A machine with a fast processor, plenty of RAM and a large storage drive will also give you a computer ideal for home-working - these slimline marvels will quite likely outperform that dusty old desktop tower in your office!

What's more, the addition of a quality screen with consistent color and contrast will not only bring images to life, it can also help reduce eye strain and fatigue.

These days pretty much every major laptop manufacturer offers a model sporting a top spec 4K screen with 100% sRGB color space coverage and wide contrast to keep highlight and shadow detail consistently visible.

With the recent announcement of the next-generation M2 MacBooks (opens in new tab), choosing which photo-edititng laptop to buy is about get even harder! But as things stand, we reckon the MacBook Pro 16-inch is the best laptop for photo editing right now. Featuring Apple's M1 Pro or M1 Max hardware, it can be specced with a whopping 64GB RAM. An ultra-bright Liquid Retina XDR display keeps your images looking simply sublime, thanks to screen tech tricks learned from Apple's Pro Display XDR monitor.

The 2020 13-inch MacBook Air M1 is still worth shortlisting. Its smaller size and lighter weight make it great for on-the-go image editing, although a 13-inch screen could feel restrictive for prolonged editing stints or general home working (opens in new tab)

And if you like some gaming escapism, the Razer Blade 15 has you well covered.

Of course, the right laptop for you depends on many factors: will this be your main machine, or is this a secondary device? How important is power and speed versus portability and battery life? We’d recommend a 15-inch screen size as the best balance between portability and having a versatile Photoshop workspace, while 16-17-inches offers a super-comfortable screen real estate and is worth the extra weight penalty if you'll be predominantly working from home.

• See also: Best monitors for MacBook Pro (opens in new tab)

Here are the best photo-editing laptops you can get right now…

The best photo-editing laptops in 2022

(Image credit: Future)
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Simply the best photo-editing laptop

Specifications

CPU: Up to 10-core Apple M1 Max
Graphics: Up to 32-Core Apple M1 Max GPU
RAM: 16GB – 64GB
Screen: 16-inch Retina display with True Tone
Storage: 1TB – 8TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Awesome M1 Pro and Max chips
+
Supports up to 64GB RAM
+
Sensational screen specs

Reasons to avoid

-
Hugely expensive
-
Some may miss the Touchbar

Sure, the new MacBook Pro may be an obvious pick as the absolute best laptop for photo-editing, but it's hard not to be thoroughly impressed by what it has to offer. We still love the original (13-inch) M1 MacBook, but with a maximum 16GB RAM, it could never quite topple the older Intel-powered MacBook Pro to be a truly futureproofed image/video-editing powerhouse. Not any more! Apple has addressed these concerns, big time.

The current 2021 MacBook Pro not only smashes any RAM limitations courtesy of its Apple M1 Max chip, which can be had with 64GB RAM, it also comes with a 16-inch screen size, which is noticeably more comfortable for long editing sessions than a 13-inch panel. This incredible Liquid Retina XDR display boasts an insane 1,600-nit peak brightness, making HDR content come alive, and it can display a high DCI-P3 color space coverage for accurate video editing. The current 16-inch MacBook Pro is also available with an M1 Pro chip (rather than M1 Max) if you want to save some cash, though RAM capacity is restricted to 16GB or 32GB, and its speed is lower.

Despite all this power, the supreme efficiency of the M1 chip architecture, combined with a large 100-watt-hour battery, means battery life is up to an incredible 21 hours.

The 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro is far from cheap no matter how you spec one, but your money is buying one of the most technically advanced laptops on the market right now. A smaller MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) (opens in new tab) is less expensive alternative.

Read more: MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) full review (opens in new tab)

See more MacBook options in our Best MacBook for photo editing guide

(Image credit: Dell)
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2. Dell XPS 15

A great all-rounder, and the best Windows laptop for photo editing

Specifications

Processor: Up to 11th-gen Intel Core i9-11990H (8 cores, 4.9GHz boost)
RAM: 8-64GB
Storage: 512GB-2TB SSD
Screen: Up to 15.6-inch IPS LCD, 3840x2400, touchscreen

Reasons to buy

+
Decent display
+
Fast performance
+
Good selection of ports, with SD slot

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Battery life not the best

The Dell XPS 15 range can be confusing: there are lots of different spec configurations to choose from, and pricing can frequently fluctuate. We reckon the best config for photographers is one which includes Dell’s best 4K+ (3840 x 2400) 16:10 screen, which boasts 500-nit brightness and touch sensitivity. The only issue with that is few XPS 15 configs come with this display, and they're inevitably at the pricier end of the range.

The extra cash does also buy you plenty of performance courtesy of a 11th-gen, 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, and you can choose from 16GB right up to a whopping 64GB of RAM, though we'd only recommend the latter if you'll be editing high res video as well as images. 16GB or 32GB should be ample amounts of RAM for image editing.

The selection of ports is also pretty good, with Thunderbolt 4, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, plus adapters for USB-A and HDMI. There's even a built-in full-size SD slot; something that’s sadly becoming a rarity in premium laptops.

Should I buy a Dell XPS 15? (opens in new tab)

• Check out the best portable monitors

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3. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

A great choice for on-the-go photographers

Specifications

Processor: Up to 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 (quad-core, 4.8 GHz Boost)
RAM: Up to 32GB
Storage: Up to 2TB SSD
Screen: Up to 14-inch IPS LCD, 3840 x 2400

Reasons to buy

+
Light and compact 
+
Good battery life
+
Good screen options

Reasons to avoid

-
Non-user-upgradable RAM

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has long been a great choice for on-the-go photo editing, thanks to its compelling blend of high performance and sleek, lightweight design.

The current, 9th gen, X1 Carbon can be specced with several 14-inch screen options. All have at least a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and a respectable 400-nit max brightness, plus 100% sRGB color coverage. The range-topping display is an ultra high res 3840 x 2400 panel with a 500-nit brightness and a hugely impressive 100% DCI-P3 color space coverage.

Elsewhere, bang-up-to-date 11th-gen Intel Core processors provide ample computing power, and though RAM appears to top out at 16GB, you can customise some X1 Carbon configs to pack 32GB. However, it's a pity the RAM comes soldered to the motherboard, so cant be swapped out for higher capacity modules at a later date, and it also means you'd be unwise to settle for a base 8GB X1 Carbon.

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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The best MacBook for on-the-go image editing

Specifications

Processor: Apple M1 8-core
RAM: 8-16GB
Storage: 256GB-2TB SSD
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 IPS Retina

Reasons to buy

+
Finish, design, low weight
+
Excellent Retina display
+
Silent, fanless design

Reasons to avoid

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No HDMI port or memory card slot
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8-core GPU model costs more
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Barely lighter than MacBook Pro M1

The MacBook Air 13-in M1 is impressive in three main areas: first, its design, finish and ergonomics; second, its sheer performance for a lightweight laptop; third, its value for money given those other two things. The M1 may not be as flat-out fast as a specced-up 16-inch MacBook Pro (above), but if you value outright portability more than ultimate performance, the M1 is a better bet.

Its Retina screen is, as ever, just beautiful. Apple says it has a 25% wider color range than sRGB, but doesn’t mention Adobe RGB, which leads us to assume it’s somewhere in the middle. The contrast, definition and brightness are stellar, and while the 2560 x 1600 resolution isn’t 4K, it’s an important step up from a regular 1920 x 1080 screen. It has that ‘Retina’ effect where you just don’t see the dots any more and makes a surprising and subtle difference to the way you view, edit and evaluate digital images.

There are just two USB ports, which is annoying, it’s not really a lot smaller than a regular MacBook, even though it looks like it, and the 7-core entry level model is a bit of an odd proposition, but these are pretty minor complaints. This is a beautifully made notebook computer that's great for mobile image editing if you need supreme portability over a larger screen size.

Read more: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch M1 full review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Andrew Williams/Digital Camera World)
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The best hybrid laptop/tablet for photo editing

Specifications

Processor: Up to 11th-gen Intel Core i7
RAM: 16-32GB
Storage: 256GB-2TB SSD
Screen: 14.4-inch 2400 x 1600, 120Hz, multi-touch

Reasons to buy

+
Finish, design, low weight
+
Excellent Retina display
+
Silent, fanless design

Reasons to avoid

-
No HDMI port or memory card slot
-
8-core GPU model costs more
-
Barely lighter than MacBook Pro M1

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is perhaps the slickest touchscreen laptop specifically aimed at designers and those in other creative fields. It features a hybrid design, so can convert from a laptop into a tablet, but it doesn't do so via the usual 360-degree hinge. Instead, the Surface Laptop Studio has a dual hinge so can open up like a normal laptop, with a secondary hinge around the centre of the display that lets you pull the screen forwards so the bottom locks in place magnetically just above touchpad. Or it can sit flat where the lid would usually be. This gets you the “fat tablet” style of a 360-degree hinge, without leaving the keyboard sitting awkwardly underneath. Inside, 11th-gen Intel processors and up to 32GB of RAM make light work of image editing, though the Surface Laptop Studio is far from the most powerful laptop on the market. However, like other Surface computers it excludes quality throughout, including parts workstations tend to neglect, such as the speakers and webcam. Just be careful when it comes to ticking the option boxes when you buy, as the price can quickly increase to levels that are tough to justify for the performance you'll get.

Read more: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio full review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Future)
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A laptop that's stunning to behold, if slightly compromised

Specifications

Processor: Up to 12th-gen Intel Core i9
RAM: Up to 32 GB
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
Screen: Up to 14.5-inch 2880 x 1800 120Hz OLED
ScreenPad Plus: 12.7-inch 2880 x 864 IPS

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning dual screens
+
Fantastic build quality
+
Great connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Tricky ergonomics
-
Slightly constrained performance
-
Disappointing battery life

The big talking point with the ZenBook Duo is its huge touch-sensitive secondary screen above the keyboard. Asus calls it the ScreenPad Plus, and you can use it as a genuine secondary monitor to display another app to that on the main screen, or it can be split into two or three columns, each containing a different open app. There's even a screen extension function that lets you spread a single app over both screens.

This main monitor is a 14.5-inch display, which in the case of our review sample features gorgoeous OLED dislay technology with 100% DCI-P3 color space coverage,. 550-nit max brightness and eye-popping contrast.

Add a potent 12th-gen Intel Core i9 processor to the mix, along with up to 32GB of RAM, and the ZenBook Pro 14 Duo can be a seriously powerful editing machine. Dual Thunderbolt 4 ports are bang-up-to-date, plus there's the handy inclusion of one conventional USB Type-A port, along with an SD card reader, HDMI port and a headphone socket.

Downsides? The ergonomics of the keyboard and trackpad are not ideal. Battery life isn’t exactly stellar, either. But if your workflows can benefit from the dual screens here, The ZenBook Pro 14 Duo could still be well worth the trade-offs.

Read more: Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo full review (opens in new tab)

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7. Razer Blade 15

The Blade is an impressive all-rounder if you work and play hard

Specifications

Processor: Up to Intel Core i7-10875 (8 cores, 2.3GHz base frequency)
RAM: 16GB
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
Screen: 15.6-inch OLED, 4K 3840x2160, touchscreen

Reasons to buy

+
Healthy performance
+
Quality display and well made

Reasons to avoid

-
Fast graphics card not that useful for photographers

Razer’s brand focus is on the gaming market, and the Blade 15 4K (opens in new tab) is primarily a gaming laptop, but the styling doesn’t shout about it like many laptops targeted at gamers. Only the illuminated green Razer logo on the front and the colour-changing backlit keyboard give the game away, but the latter can be muted to keep things more sober. 

What makes the Blade 15 a good photo-editing machine is its 15.6-inch 4K screen, which in the range-topping Blade 15 Advanced model is now an OLED panel, giving stunning color vibrancy and contrast. Oh, and it's even touch-sensitive, with a super-fast 300Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth gaming, if that's your thing.

This particular Blade 15 configuration also comes equipped with a blazing-fast GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics card. That’s great for gaming at 4K resolution, where it’ll give a noticeable performance boost, but apps like Photoshop won’t really use the extra oomph. Solid build quality with excellent heat ventilation, as well as the three conventional USB ports are easily-overlooked plus points, though the absence of an SD card slot is a shame.

Here we're listing prices for all Blade 15 variants, not just the flagship Advanced model, but even a 'base' Blade 15 will still be an image-editing monster.

(Image credit: LG)
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8: LG Gram 14" 2021 (14Z90P)

Need to travel as light as possible? The 14-inch LG Gram could be for you

Specifications

Processor: 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 (8 cores, 4.7GHz boost)
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Screen: 14-inch IPS LCD, 1920x1080

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely light and slim
+
IPS screen
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as fast as some Ultrabooks
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Screen res not the best

LG makes the Gram in three screen sizes: 14-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch. All have their pros and cons for portability vs. viewing ease, but the svelte 14-inch model makes most sense if you want something seriously portable. You get a Full HD 1920x1080 resolution; not the highest, but you do get a terrific 99% DCI-P3 color space coverage, and the Full HD res is still enough to produce a crisp viewing experience.

What's more, the 14-inch Gram weighs a mere 1kg - compare this to the equally small Lenovo 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon that weighs around 1120g and the Gram is noticeably lighter in the hand. The slim design still has room for a versatile selection of two USB-A ports, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports and an HDMI port, plus a microSD slot.

The Intel Core i7-1165G7 quad core processor isn't the most powerful laptop CPU out there, but it is especially power efficient, enabling a tremendous battery life of up to 25.5 hours per charge.

See also: the best Ultrabooks

(Image credit: Future)
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This 2-in-1 offers decent performance and a gorgeous screen in a portable package

Specifications

Processor: Up to 11th gen Intel Core i7
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Screen: 13.5-inch, 3000x2000 OLED, 400 nits

Reasons to buy

+
Stupendous OLED display
+
Great battery life
+
Genuinely usable tablet functionality

Reasons to avoid

-
Not exactly cheap
-
Limited graphics power
-
Merely adequate speakers

Think carefully before you take the HP Spectre x360 14 OLED for a spin. Because once you see its fabulous 13.5-inch OLED display in action, you won’t want to go back to a boring old LCD panel. It really is that spectacular. You get dramatically better response, contrast and viewing angles than pretty much any LCD panel. Other highlights include excellent build quality, genuinely usable tablet functionality, a bundled input pen with inking support, great battery life and good connectivity for this class of device. Indeed, HP has paid attention to pretty much every element of this snazzy little laptop, including pulling in Bang & Olufsen to handle the speakers and including facial recognition with Windows Hello support. Performance is solid from the Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU/ 16GB RAM combo we tested, making light work of dealing with batches of RAW images. Just don't expect the last word in outright processing firepower - you'd need something much bulkier and less power-efficient for that.

Read more: HP Spectre x360 14 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Future)
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A high-end gaming and photo editing machine

Specifications

Processor: Up to 12th gen Intel Core i7
RAM: Up to 32GB
Storage: Up to 2TB SSD
Screen: 17.3-inch IPS, 2560x1440

Reasons to buy

+
Flashy gaming looks
+
Packed with power
+
High-quality 17-inch display

Reasons to avoid

-
Flashy gaming looks
-
Poor battery life
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Definitely on the large side

The Acer Predator Helios 300 is a gaming laptop first and foremost, but its sheer processing power and high quality screen mean it will serve you very well as a photo or video editing rig as well. We've reviewed the 17-inch model (a 15-inch version is also available), which means you're sacrificing portability for screen size. Yes, you can carry it around if you like, but it's a struggle – and you shouldn't expect too much in terms of battery life. The payoff is impressive all-round performance, and plenty of screen real estate for photo editing while having various tool pallets open. The keyboard and trackpad are also a pleasure to use, while the stereo speakers do a surprisingly decent job. Overall, the 17" Predator Helios 300 is well worth considering if you want big-screen gaming capabilities and plenty of power for creative tasks.

Read more: Acer Predator Helios 300 full review (opens in new tab)

How to choose the best photo-editing laptop

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1. Screen quality matters

Laptop screens used to be more eye-sore than eye-candy, with appalling contrast and  viewing angles. Thankfully IPS display tech fixes this and you shouldn’t settle for anything less. 

2. Speedy storage 

An SSD (solid state drive) is a must in any new laptop. All our options in this buying guide include one, but don’t get stuck with a small capacity: 512GB is a minimum if you’re working with 4K video. See our guide to the best internal SSDs (opens in new tab).

3. Graphic novelty

Dedicated graphics cards are great for gaming, but they’re not a necessity here. Today’s processors can fill in for them, and they pack enough pixel-pushing punch for photo editing.

4. Which processor (CPU)?

Laptop processor model numbers are practically impossible to decipher. Just focus on the ‘base frequency’ (speed, measured in GHz), and number of processing cores (two, four, or six). 

5. Mac or PC? 

The MacBook is favoured by many photographers, and for good reason. But don’t rule out comparably priced laptop PCs, which can offer more bang per buck, with better upgradability. 

Also read:

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.