Help Me, Laptop: What's the Best Lightweight Laptop for Photo Editing?

Traveling can put a damper on your work if you have only a desktop PC, but Laptop Mag is all about helping you find suitable replacements for you to take on the road. This week on our forums, one user asked for help finding a good photo- and video-editing laptop with a solid battery life.

Nick Powell
writes, "So I'm about to head off on a trip for 3 months to the Middle East and Europe. I'm looking for something relatively light, sturdy, ideally 14 [inches] and at least 5 [hours of] battery time. The primary use is for the Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop [and] Lightroom, but I've also started exploring some light video editing on Premiere Pro and After Effects."

This is the list of laptops Nick provided for us to compare:

  • Asus ZenBook UX430 - AU$1,560 ($999), 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Intel UHD 620 GPU
  • MSI PS42 8RB - AU$1,678 ($1,299), 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU
  • Dell XPS 15 - AU$2,000 ($1,699), 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GTX 1050 Ti GPU
  • MSI GS65 Stealth Thin - $2,200AUD ($1,785), 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, GTX 1060 GPU

Let's break down which one is best laptop for your needs and is in line with your request.

Asus ZenBook UX430

While the ZenBook UX430 meets Nick's demand for a 14-inch lightweight laptop (2.8 pounds and 0.6 inches thick), it doesn’t have a discrete graphics card, which can put a damper on video and photo editing.

The ZenBook hit 79,242 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark, falling below the 90,387 premium laptop average, and took 20 minutes to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on the HandBrake benchmark, beating the 20:06 category average. It also has a slow SSD and a stiff keyboard. However, its 1080p display is gorgeous, offering 128 percent of the sRGB color gamut and 286 nits of brightness, and its battery lasts 8 hours and 40 minutes. On top of that, the ZenBook has a great set of speakers.


The MSI PS42 8RB also has a slim 14-inch frame (2.6 pounds and 0.6 inches thick), and it packs a Nvidia MX150 GPU. That's a slight step up from integrated graphics, hitting 125,326 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, but it still took 20 minutes on HandBrake.

MORE: Which GPU is Right For You?

The MSI PS42 1080p panel covered 116 percent of the sRGB gamut and managed 243 nits, while its battery only lasted 6 hours and 22 minutes. It's stronger than the ZenBook, but its display is not as bright or colorful and its battery life is much worse. Not to mention that the speakers sound distorted in comparison.

Dell XPS 15

Yes, the XPS 15 is quite the jump in price, and also leaves the 14-inch realm for the 15-inch (4.2 pounds and 0.5-0.7 inches thick), but the components, display and battery life do not disappoint. This baby packs a meaty GTX 1050 Ti that hit 163,171 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, which is what we recommend for video editing. It also took only 10:12 to complete the HandBrake benchmark. And its battery lasted a whopping 11 hours and 53 minutes (8:26 for 4K panel).

The XPS 15's 1080p panel hit 115 percent sRGB and averaged 371 nits of brightness, while its 4K display nailed 164 percent and 447 nits. The only downside with your config is the downgrade to 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, which may slow down your programs as well as kill much needed storage space. But did I mention it has a sleek aluminum chassis?

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin is quite the beast, not only for video editing, but for gaming as well. Its 15-inch gorgeous frame (4.1 pounds and 0.7 inches thick) is outfitted with a powerful GTX 1060 GPU.

The GTX 1070 Max-Q configuration that we tested hit 166,967 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. However, it took 12:01 on the HandBrake test. Its 1080p, 144-hertz panel reproduced 150 percent sRGB and 293 nits of brightness, and its battery lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes, which is still within the requirements.

Bottom Line

If you're less concerned with battery life and you're willing to splurge, get the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin for its better GPU. But if you're looking for better battery life, stick with the XPS 15. For a 14-inch laptop, we'd recommend the MSI PS42 8RB for its stronger GPU. You can toss the ZenBook overboard. We hope this helped — let us know what you decide to go with!

Credit: Laptop Mag

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.