Best Laptops for Photo Editing 2019: Top Notebooks for Photographers
Photographers who spend hours painstakingly laboring over a photo's every pixel require a machine with speedy performance, a decent graphics card and a fast hard drive. Of course, the most important laptop component for photographers is a beautiful display capable of accurately reproducing a wide range of colors.
For those who also dabble in video, check out our best video editing laptops. Just like our recommended laptops for photography, these machines have gorgeous displays, but they offer a bit more performance on the whole. If you prefer to edit photos on a touch screen using your finger or a stylus then head over to our best touch screen laptops and best 2-in-1 pages for more specific recommendations. And you can read our guide on how to pin the on-screen keyboard when you're in tablet mode. We recently reviewed the 15-inch Spectre x360, which has a 4K OLED display that went up against the likes of the MacBook Pro.
For power users, the upcoming ThinkPad X1 Extreme refresh has an optional 4K OLED display. At Computex 2019, we were introduced to the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, which flaunts a primary 15.6-inch, 4K OLED display along with a secondary 14-inch, 4K panel on the deck. Business users should seriously consider the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1, although its panel is a bit dim, and gamers will want to save up for the Alienware m15 OLED.
We have laptop recommendations for every type of photographer. Here are some excellent choices that fit photo editors' demanding criteria.
Best Overall: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga is the best laptop for photo editing, thanks to its flexible design, gorgeous display and fast performance.
While the 2K resolution on the X1 Yoga's display doesn't break records, it's plenty sharp for pixel peepers and has fantastic qualities, including brilliant colors (201 percent of the sRGB color gamut) that are extremely accurate. It also gets blindingly bright at 477 nits. Photographers who prefer using a stylus will appreciate the touch-sensitive panel and flexible 2-in-1 design.
With an Intel Core i7-8650U processor and NVMe SSD, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga can handle anything you throw at it. Additionally, artists and photographers inspired by nature won't need to worry about taking this durable laptop into the wild — the X1 Yoga passed 12 MIL-Spec tests.
Pros: Vivid, accurate and bright display; Slim, durable design; Fast performance
Cons: Battery life is only OK; Pricey
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p or 2560 x 1440-pixel | Size: 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds
Best Apple Laptop: 15-inch MacBook Pro
The 15-inch MacBook Pro is a favorite among photographers not only for its proprietary Apple software but because this premium laptop has an impressive 15.4-inch Retina display that is both sharp and vibrant. While it'll cost you a pretty penny, the MacBook Pro's outstanding SSD performance is unrivaled, enabling you to render and transfer RAW photos in the blink of an eye. Travelling photographers will appreciate the laptop's slim design and long battery life.
Pros: Record-breaking SSD speeds; Premium, lightweight design; Vivid, detailed display; Long battery life
Cons: No USB-A port; Expensive
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 560X/Pro Vega 16/Pro Vega 20 | RAM: 16GB/32GB | Storage: 512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB | Display: 15.4-inch, 2800 x 1800-pixel | Size: 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 4 pounds
Most Versatile: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-inch)
The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is the Transformer of premium laptops. A detachable 2-in-1, the Surface Book 2 is among the most versatile machines on the market. Its unique fulcrum hinge lets you fold the display back flat, while the dock turns it into a detachable tablet. This flexibility is great for photographers who use a stylus and who frequently travel.
Featuring a unique 3:2 aspect ratio, the 15-inch display on the Surface Book 2 is capable of producing 131 percent of the sRGB color gamut and has a maximum brightness level of 417 nits. Given its extremely high price, you'd expect top-of-the-line performance, and that's exactly what you get. The Intel Core i7-8650U processor and optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU on high-end configurations will breeze through photo-editing tasks.
Pros: Flexible bendback and convertible design; Long battery life; Colorful, bright display; Accurate stylus; Powerful graphics
Cons: Expensive; No Thunderbolt 3
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: GeForce GTX 1060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 15-inch, 3240 x 2160-pixel | Size: 13.5 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 4.2 pounds
Best Performance: HP ZBook Studio x360 G5
The HP ZBook Studio x360 G5's 15.6-inch 4K display is extremely detailed and vibrant. Coupled with blistering workstation-class performance, this beastly machine is an excellent option for photo editors who need the most powerful setup to run demanding programs. Better yet, the x360 G5 has a rugged chassis for those times you're out in the field, and its lengthy battery life means you don't need to stay near an outlet.
The x360 G5 can be configured with premium components, including an Intel Xeon E-2186M CPU (with Quadro P1000 graphics), 32GB of RAM, and two 2TB SSDs. We suggest photo editors opt for the 4K Dreamcolor touch screen over the FHD model.
Pros: Versatile design; Gorgeous 4K display; Military grade durability; Long battery life; Amazing performance
Cons: Lid flexes; Poor webcam; Expensive
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7/Core i9/Xeon | GPU: Intel UHD 630/Nvidia Quadro P1000/Quadro P2000 | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB/64GB | Storage: Up to 4TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 4.9 pounds
Best Detachable: Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Our favorite detachable just got even better with the Surface Pro 6, which significantly improves battery life and performance when compared to its predecessors. Now equipped with a quad-core CPU, the 2-in-1 can run Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom without breaking a sweat. The 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1823 resolution display is everything a photo editor could ask for — it's bright, vivid and accurate. In fact, it covers a very good 136 percent of the sRGB color gamut and reached more than 400 nits of brightness.
You'll have to buy the Surface Pen and the Type Cover separately, but they add a ton of functionality to this lightweight (1.7 pounds) tablet. And the Surface Pro 6 remains one of few devices with a kickstand that lets you use it as a traditional laptop, a tablet or in studio mode.
You can also wait for the Surface Pro 7 to show up sometime in the near future.
Pros: Vivid and accurate display; Superfast performance; Long battery life; Snappy keyboard
Cons: No USB-C; Sluggish SSD
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/TB | Display: 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel | Size: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds/2.4 pounds (with keyboard)
Best Business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Photographers who want the benefits of a business laptop should look no further than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme. The 15.6-inch laptop takes everything we love about the ThinkPad series to the next level. It has an excellent keyboard, tons of security features and a wide range of ports, all included in a sleek, durable chassis. And while its battery life could be better, the X1 Extreme is one of the fastest laptops we've ever tested.
But the crown jewel of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is its jaw-dropping 4K HDR display, which covers an outstanding 186 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That tops the displays on the Dell XPS 15, 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro and the Asus ZenBook Pro 15. The X1 Extreme's panel also reached a solid 366 nits of brightness.
Pros: Stunning 4K HDR display; Slim, durable chassis; Fantastic keyboard; Blazing-fast performance
Cons: Disappointing battery life; Runs warm
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: GeForce GTX 1050Ti | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB/64GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 3.8 pounds (FHD)/4 pounds (4K)
Best Gaming: Lenovo Legion Y7000
Gaming laptops are inherently great for photo editing. Why? Because they come with discrete graphics, which is a major perk when you're running GPU-intensive programs like Photoshop. An excellent balance of price and performance, the Lenovo Legion Y7000 is the best gaming laptop for photo editing — at least, for most people. The Y7000 sports a vivid 15.6-inch, 1080p display and its keyboard is up to the quality that we expect from Lenovo.
Pros: Sleek, elegant design; Strong performance; Solid battery life; Good keyboard
Cons: Disappointing speakers; Awful nosecam
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: GeForce GTX 1060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB + 1TB HDD | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p | Size: 14.2 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches | Weight: 5.3 pounds
Best Budget: Microsoft Surface Go
For $400, the Microsoft Surface Go gets you a gorgeous 10-inch, 1800 x 1200-pixel display that is both colorful and bright. The panel covers an impressive 129 percent of the sRGB color gamut and is easily visible outdoors, with 415 nits of brightness. While you'll have to buy it separately, the keyboard accessory for the Surface Go is comfortable to type on and includes a touchpad. Also, the optional stylus is a joy to draw with.
Pros: Class-leading display; Useful keyboard and pen; Windows Hello login with facial recognition
Cons: Short battery life; Thick bezels
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | GPU: Intel UHD 615 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 10-inch, 1800 x 1200-pixel | Size: 9.7 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 1.2 pounds
Best Value: Huawei MateBook X Pro
Not all MacBook lookalikes are made the same. In fact, Huawei's entry, the MateBook X Pro, is one of the best laptops of 2019. The star of the show is a 3000 x 2000-pixel edge-to-edge display capable of producing 124 percent of the sRGB color spectrum. The display emits a blinding 458 nits, so you shouldn't have problems viewing the MateBook X Pro outside.
Huawei's flagship laptop also has fast performance, a great keyboard and almost 10 hours of battery life packaged in an elegant design. Even better, the high-end version with an i7-8550U processor, an Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD goes for a reasonable $1,500, making it one of the best-priced premium laptops you can buy.
Pros: Gorgeous, bezel-less display; 10-hour battery life; Good port selection; Comfortable keyboard
Cons: Limited availability
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620/GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB | Display: 13.9-inch, 3000 x 2000-pixel | Size: 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds
Best 13-inch: Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
The follow-up to one of our favorite laptops improves upon a winning formula in almost every way. The Surface Laptop 2 retains the original's unique fabric chassis, which gives the laptop a luxurious and inviting feel. For photographers, the 13.5-inch, 2K display is exceptionally vivid, capable of reproducing an amazing 176 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That tops the XPS 13, MacBook Pro and Spectre 13. The Surface Laptop 2 also has long battery life, fast performance and a useful magnetic Surface connector.
Pros: Striking fabric design; Bright and vivid display; Good keyboard; Long battery life
Cons: Slow SSD; Loud fan; Pre-loaded with Windows 10S
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504-pixel | Size: 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds
Best 15-inch: Dell XPS 15 (2019)
You haven't seen a good laptop display until you've feasted your eyes on the OLED panel gracing the newest Dell XPS 15. With exceptional brightness and color reproduction, this pricey upgrade is a photographer's dream. The 15.6-inch laptop also gives you tons of power to run even the most demanding photo-editing software, all packaged in a chassis that can be easily transported from shoot to shoot. But our favorite thing about the 2019 model is that the webcam has returned to its rightful position, above the display.
Pros: Striking 4K OLED display; Awesome overall performance; Webcam is where it should be; Slim, premium design
Cons: Meh battery life
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: Intel UHD 630/GeForce GTX 1650 | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.5 pounds
Best 17-inch: LG Gram 17
When photographers touch-up their pictures, they need to see every last detail, which is why the editing is often done on a massive monitor. But how can you get the same precision when you're on the go? Meet the LG Gram 17, a remarkably portable laptop with excellent battery life and a large, high-resolution 17-inch display. How portable is it really? Get this: the Gram 17 fits a 17-inch display into a featherweight 3-pound chassis that's about the size of a 15-inch laptop.
Another reason photographers will love the Gram 17 is for its display. The laptop's bright and vivid panel has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and its unique 16:10 aspect ratio lets you see more content at once without scrolling.
Pros: Lightest 17-inch laptop ever; Excellent battery life; Vivid, detailed display
Cons: Keyboard quirks; No discrete GPU; Slow SSD
Key Specs: — CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Display: 17-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel | Size: 15 x 10.5 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 3 pounds