Whether you are capturing these special moments at a wedding or carefully placing a sleeping newborn in front of the most precious photo, professional photography takes some serious skill. But making beautiful photos is only half the job. Editing those photos can take hours and if you do not have the right workstation for it, then you are screwed. That’s where the team at PCWorld swoops in. You’ll need a laptop with a powerful CPU for those power-hungry editing programs, discrete graphics, and a high-resolution display. You also need to consider storage and portability. If you are not sure where to start, then do not sweat it. We have compiled a list of the best photo editing laptops available today. Read on to learn more.
[Looking for something else? Check out our best laptop roundup for more options]
Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED – Best overall
Nice 4K OLED display
Long battery life
Useful DialPad tool
Design lacks flare
If you are looking for a killer display, the Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED is a fantastic choice. The 4K OLED panel is a work of art. Not only does it produce vivid images, but it is a solid choice for those dealing with tension headaches of the eyes. If you find that you spend hours after hours looking at a screen, you might as well invest in one with a sharp photo. The VivoBook is also powerful when it comes to processing power. Let’s take a look under the hood, shall we?
The Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU is fast enough for photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Bridge. As for memory and storage options, it has 32GB of RAM and a large 1TB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage. That’s enough for quickly launching multiple applications and storing giant RAW images. However, there are a few flaws to be aware of. The webcam is less than stellar and the fingerprint reader is temperamental. Overall, though, the VivoBook Pro is an amazing machine that every photo editor would love.
Read our full Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED review
MSI GF76 Katana – Best Value
Lackluster GPU performance
The display lacks brightness
Audio produces less-than-stellar bass
If you are on a tight budget (have been there), the MSI GF76 Katana is an excellent choice for value. It has an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCle 4 SSD storage. In other words, this laptop is fast enough to handle most photo editing work, such as daily use such as browsing the web and streaming Netflix. The trackpad and keyboard are also surprisingly comfortable.
The only real knock against this machine is the dimming display. It’s not terrible, but some photo editors prefer a brighter screen. That said, it’s 17.3-inch and that’s a ton of screen development to work with. If you are a novice photo editor who wants to save some money, seeing the GF76 Katana is well worth it.
Read our full MSI Katana GF76 review
Razer Blade 17 (2022) – Best for powerful users
The Razer Blade 17 (2022 version) is our best choice for powerful users. This beastly machine has an Intel Core i7-12800H CPU, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, 1TB of PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD storage, and a GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU. The 17.3-inch QHD display is both rich and vibrant, with a resolution of 2650 × 1440 and a maximum refresh rate of 240Hz. The Blade has a lot to offer, that’s for sure. The biggest warning, however, is the price.
The Blade costs thousands of dollars. The powerful components can even be a bit overkill for beginner photo editors. However, if it is the power that you desire and you can spend the money, then the Blade is a great purchase. If you are looking for more options for both work and play, be sure to check out our listing of the best gaming laptops.
Read our full Razer Blade 17 (2022) review
ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) – Mostly portable
If portability is at the top of your priority list, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is a great choice because of its lightweight form factor. It weighs a little over three pounds, which puts it in the ultraportable category. However, do not let the slim profile deceive you. It packs in some seriously powerful internals.
The Zephyrus has a Ryzen 9 6900HS processor, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, and 1TB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage. That’s enough for heavy photo-editing tasks. However, there are a few small nitpicks to be aware of. The keyboard feels too soft and the backlight is not impressive. Nitpicks aside, if you’re looking for a compact laptop that delivers extremely fast performance, the Zephyrus G14 is the way to go.
Read our full ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) review
Asus ROG Flow Z13 – Best folio-style laptop
The Asus ROG Flow Z13 is one of the more unique picks on this roundup. It is sold as a folio-style gaming machine. You can open the kickstand on the back plate and use it as a traditional clamshell. You can even remove the keyboard and use it as a touch-enabled tablet. The versatility of this machine makes it a cool choice for creative work. It also has some pretty powerful internals.
The Flow is rocking an Intel Core i9-12900H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage. It’s powerful enough for editing photos and tasks for general use, such as checking email and browsing the World Wide Web. The 1200p IPS touchscreen is also sharp and colorful. However, the Flow is not a budget-friendly option. This kind of versatility and power comes at a great price. However, if you are able to stretch your budget comfortably, the Flow Z13 is a great choice.
How we test
The PCWorld team puts each Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that measure GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and more. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it to others we have tested. Below you will find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run it.
- PCMark 10: PCMark 10 is how we determine how well the laptop performs general use tasks such as browsing the web, word processing, spreadsheets, etc. It is how we simulate daily use in a specific time frame.
- Hand strap: HandBrake is more intensive than PCMark 10. It measures how long a laptop’s CPU takes to encode a beefy 30GB file. This is more than a stress test.
- Cinebench: Cinebench is a short stress test of the CPU cores. It does this by showing a 2D scene over a short period of time. This benchmark shows us how well the CPU splits the working pressure.
- 3DMark: 3DMark controls whether 3D performance remains consistent over time by performing graphically-intensive clips. These benchmarks are used on gaming laptops.
- Video rundown test: To measure battery life, we run a 4K video with Windows 10’s Movies & TV app until the laptop dies. If you are a regular traveler, you want a battery that can last longer than a full working day.
Laptops for Photo Editing FAQ
There is a lot to consider when it comes to laptops for photo editing. For one, a powerful processor is absolutely necessary. This will keep things fast and responsive as you edit images. Screen resolution is another, because you want to work from a panel that is both sharp and color accurate. You also need to keep RAM, storage and graphics in mind. If it sounds too overwhelming to process, do not worry. We help break it down for you.
How much processing power will I need?
For most photo editing work, an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor is fine. Need more oomph? Go for an Intel Core i9. Most important is the number of cores. The more cores, the better your CPU can handle the workload. For AMD options, the Ryzen 5 Series is zippy enough for basic photo editing work. If you need faster response times, shoot for a Ryzen 9.
Do I need a discrete graphics card?
It is not absolutely necessary, but it will make a difference when using photo editing applications. If you want super-fast performance, go with a laptop that has a dedicated graphics card. For those on a tight budget, go for an Nvidia RTX 3060 or 3050 Ti. For a serious boost in graphics performance, strive for an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti like an AMD Radeon RX6800S.
What about memory?
RAM will keep your laptop nice and supple as you edit those lovely baby photos. We recommend 8GB RAM as the minimum. For larger projects, go for 16GB.
Should I jump in for a hard drive or an SSD?
RAW image files are massive, so you will need a high-capacity SSD, because solid-state disks are faster and quieter than hard disk drives. 256GB is the minimum amount we recommend, but more is obviously better. For really large projects, go for 512GB or 1TB.
Does screen quality matter?
We would argue that screen quality is one of the most important aspects of a laptop, especially for photo editing work. Do not set anything less than 1080p resolution. That’s your baseline. If you can spend a little more, 4K is best for detailed creative work and OLED tends to be more color accurate.
What about portability?
Do you often take your work to a coffee shop? If so, you may want a laptop with a 13- or 14-inch screen, because it is smaller and more portable. Anything that weighs about three pounds or less is considered ultraportable. That’s the golden number you want to dial.
How long should my laptop last on one charge?
If you plan to take your laptop with you everywhere, 10 to 12 hours on one charge is the sweet spot. That’s more than a whole working day. However, know that the battery size affects the portability of the machine. The larger the battery, the heavier the laptop.