Whether you’re a professional photographer or an aspiring one, you need a good quality laptop with the right features to really bring your photos to life. Some of the most important factors to look for include being able to easily upload and edit photos, as well as cloud storage availability.
That said, finding the best laptop for photo editing is no easy task, especially if you’re shopping on a budget. But, we all have to start somewhere and fortunately, there are a lot of budget-friendly laptops that can help you improve your photography skills.
In this guide, we’re going to share with you some tips on what to look for in order to spot a laptop that’s perfect for photo editing. In the end, we’ll also take a look at reviews of the best laptop for photo editing on a budget. Read on for more.
Things to Look for When Shopping for the Best Laptop for Photo Editing
PLAN - PRICE
START UP - $ 29
HP 14" HD Touchscreen Chromebook Laptop
BUSINESS - $ 49
HP 17.3" HD+ SVA WLED-Backlit Notebook Laptop
ADVANCED - $ 99
Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
ADVANCED - $ 99
LG gram Laptop - 15.6" Full HD Display
ADVANCED - $ 99
LG gram Thin and Light Laptop
Photo editing software continues to become more sophisticated as technology evolves. Sometimes, photographers feel the need to use pricey equipment in order to get the results they want. That’s why it can seem so difficult to find an affordable laptop for photo editing. But, it’s not impossible.
You have to consider the following features and functions.
A fast processor is essential for faster high-quality picture production. The latest laptop models usually come with an i5 or i7 processor. While most people believe that the i7 is the fastest based on clock speed, there are cases where the i5 is faster.
Check the manufacturing year of your processor as well because that will affect its speed. Older processors are made using outdated chips that are no longer in use. That’s why a year-old i5 processor will beat a 5-year old i7 processor on speed any day.
For the most part, 8GB of RAM is good enough for editing large photos. But, 16GB of RAM might be worth considering if you plan on using Photoshop frequently.
The only downside is that laptops with 16GB of RAM are usually not worth the price, considering that they offer pretty much the same performance as 8GB models. Alternatively, look for a laptop that has two RAM slots.
Most modern laptops come with built-in graphics cards that can be found on the motherboard. These graphics cards are built to handle basic and middle-level quality photo editing.
However, if you want to edit large photos that take up huge amounts of space, then you should consider a dedicated graphics card that is separate from the processor.
A dedicated graphics processor typically features its own memory and processor for your convenience. That means it can process graphics independently while your laptop and processor handle other tasks.
A laptop that comes with a built-in graphics card has to tap into your laptop’s internal memory (RAM). This tends to significantly limit your device’s memory capacity. For best results, opt for a graphics card with about 1GB worth of memory for smooth post-production picture editing.
A cost-effective photo editing optimized laptop should come with at least 1TB of internal space. This is more than enough to store all of the pictures you take.
But, if you don’t have enough to splurge on a 1TB laptop, then you can always use online Cloud storage instead. You also have the option of buying an external hard drive which comes with the added benefit of serving as backup storage for your files.
The most popular screen size is between 12 to 15 inches. Screen resolution is also an important consideration to make because it affects your ability to edit the smallest details of an image.
Ideally, you want a bright, vibrant color that displays accurately. Look for a laptop with a 1920x1080p HD resolution. However, a 4K (3840×2160 pixels) enabled laptop is necessary if you want to edit full HD images in particular.
We highly recommend a matte screen display instead of a glossy one because the latter will shine a lot brighter when you’re in a well-lit room. On the other hand, a glossy screen has been known to offer excellent color reproduction capabilities.
It’s important for your laptop to have different ports for different purposes. For instance, an HDMI port and a few USB 3.0 ports will come in handy for file transfer, while a Thunderbolt 3 port will enable you to use the latest technology as well. Don’t forget to check your laptop for a card reader, which is important for photo transfer from the digital camera to a PC.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Your laptop should have a responsive mouse and keyboard that’ll perform in pretty much the same way for as long as you own it, even if you have an external mouse and keyboard setup. You really don’t want a laptop with a poor quality trackpad and keyboard as it can ruin your whole photo editing experience.
PC vs Mac for Photo Editing
Most photographers and content creators prefer to use Mac laptops and desktops. That’s because Apple constantly updates its operating system with high-quality software that makes your life easier.
Not only that, but Mac devices are unparalleled when it comes to vibrant display and excellent contrast. However, this means that Mac devices are more expensive than other brands and models. But a Mac laptop is still worth the investment if your budget allows.
Why Use a Laptop for Photo Editing?
It seems like modern laptop models are designed to simplify the process of editing photos and create high-quality content. In fact, a lot of laptops and PCs now prioritize photo editing software and other relevant capabilities as integrated features for your convenience.
You Can Work on Many Projects at the Same Time
The great thing about using a photography laptop is the fact that you can use it to work on numerous projects at once. This means you can take different jobs and deliver projects on time without sacrificing quality. This is especially so if you use a camera that allows you to take high-quality pictures with premium photo editing software to boot.
Laptops Are Versatile
As opposed to desktop computers, laptops are way more versatile and allow you to play around with a wide variety of features. This includes high-quality screen resolution so you can refine your photos as much as you want. This means you can edit your photos to the tee without interrupting the main characteristics of the image.
Not only do laptops offer better display quality but they’re also clearer and more lightweight than regular PCs. That means you can use them on the go to keep up with your projects no matter where you are. Because they’re so quick to process, laptops are great for working on Adobe Photoshop D800 data.
This multi-functional ability will also come in handy when you’re working on several projects at the same time. Plus, most laptops come with huge storage space when compared to desktop computers which means you can use them to keep massive files without the need for external hard drives or cloud storage.
What Accessories Do You Need?
At this point, you know what features to look for in a photo editing laptop. But, if you have the budget, then you should consider the following accessories as well to optimize your photo editing experience.
External Hard Drive
If you look at the available options, large SSDs are significantly pricey and so is the process of configuring them. Instead, you should consider using an external hard drive. They’ve gotten cheaper over the years and they work much better than mechanical versions.
They’re also less likely to suffer from errors and SanDisk is probably the best manufacturer of external SSDs. There are resistant to water and dust thanks to their rugged construction.
This might seem like a surprise or a tad bit out of place in an article about the best photo editing laptops. But, a gaming mouse comes with the benefit of having multiple buttons that are also easy to configure.
You can use these buttons to assign certain keyboard shortcuts that’ll help to speed up the photo editing process. It’s definitely a game-changer. Most gaming mice are remarkably accurate which means they can significantly reduce the possibility of making mistakes while editing.
Most of the laptops we’ve reviewed come with stylus support and if you happen to choose one of them then you should definitely purchase a stylus pen as well to get the most out of it. Just make sure you get a proper Stylus that’s compatible with your particular laptop. For instance, Microsoft has designed the Surface Pen specifically for its laptop range.
If you’re on a small budget and interested in editing videos check out our guide – for a good laptop to use for video editing
What Are Some of the Free Photo Editing Options?
So, what happens when you get bored with the smartphone photo editing tools featured on Facebook and Instagram? Well, you have the option of upgrading to premium software but that can be costly. Most desktops come with high-quality operating systems with built-in photo editing software – for free!
For instance, Windows 10 comes with the Microsoft Photos app which offers features like face recognition, blemish removal, auto-tagging, image correction, and even raw camera file support. You can even use it to automatically edit albums based on the date and location of your photos.
Apple Photos offers the same features, except for the editable automatic albums. It’s important to note that you can synchronize either program with online storage services like Microsoft’s OneDrive and Apple’s iCloud.
Both programs also come with a feature that allows you to search for photos based on objects featured within the image. You can integrate both services with plugins such as Perfectly Clear. Ubuntu Linux users will be glad to know that their devices come with free photo editing software as well, including the convenient Shotwell app.
Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention GIMP, one of the best photo editing tools which is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. It features a plethora of editing functions and Photoshop-style plugins. Alternatively, you can opt for cost-effective options like Pixlr and Polarr.
The key to finding the best laptop for photo editing on a budget lies in knowing what to look for. Fortunately for you, we’ve covered all the features and functions that are important in a high-quality photo editing laptop. Now, let’s look at some of the most popular options on the market.
1 – HP 14″ HD Touchscreen Chromebook Laptop
The Chromebook is fast becoming a firm favorite among photographers. It works quietly and gets the job done with multiple ports, including a microSD card reader, a duo of USB-A 3.0 ports, and two USB-C 3.1 charging ports. However, it does tend to get hot when the GPU and processor are on heavy use.
Other notable features on the Chromebook 14 include Bluetooth 4.2 wireless connectivity, 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac WiFi, and an accurate keyboard that’s super easy to use.
But, the Chromebook 14 keyboard struggles with mushy keys that require a fair amount of pressure. Otherwise, it comes with a 14-inch full HD screen resolution.
Good quality touch display and touchpad
Great for editing photos and Android gaming
Well-made and durable
Poor battery life
Mushy keyboard keys
2 – HP 17.3″ HD+ SVA WLED-Backlit Notebook Laptop
This is a great, multi-purpose laptop that offers fast processing speeds even when you have multiple tabs open. For one thing, it has impressive bootup time considering that it’s working with a 5400RPM spinning drive and not an SSD.
It also features a massive 17.3-inch screen with a maximum resolution of 1600×900. That means that everything appears magnified and editing photos becomes a joyful experience all over again.
You’ll also find that this laptop makes it easier to run apps like VSDC Free Video Editor and Photoshop. Although slow, the hard drive doesn’t seem to have a problem with loading large applications.
Runs on Windows 10 OS
Comes with a 17.3-inch screen with a massive 1600×900 resolution
2TB HDD onboard storage
16GB Intel Optane
8th Generation Intel Core 15-8250U Processor
Available in three different colors
3 – Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
Acer’s Aspire line is well-liked by most creatives. It’s thin, lightweight and easy on the eye. The same can be said about the Aspire 5 laptop. It’s 0.7 inches thin with a weight of 4.25 pounds and dimensions of 14.3 x 9.9 inches.
It has a tapered shell and thin aluminum lid that adds to the style factor and definitely makes it look more expensive than it actually is. Once you open the lid, you’ll instantly notice the 15.6-inch display screen with slim bezels on the right and left.
This is also one of those laptops whose lid can bend for more than 180 degrees. That means you can literally bend this laptop until it’s completely flat. This makes it very convenient to use on the go.
The Aspire 5 features an impressive 1920×1080 resolution which makes sense considering that you’re working with a 15.6-inch screen. We also love the in-plane switching (IPS) feature in this laptop’s panel which makes it so much easier to view pictures at different angles.
This means you can enjoy a vibrant and easy to read display regardless of which angle you’re looking at it from. We should also mention the device’s “ComfyView” matted display which is designed to reduce glare when you’re in a well-lit area.
4GB of DDR4 RAM
Windows 10 in S mode
Comes with 15.6-inch Full HD screen
Backed by an 8th generation Intel Core i3 8154u Processor
It’s quite noisy
4 – LG gram Laptop – 15.6″ Full HD Display
The versatile LG Gram laptop comes in three different sizes – 13.3 inches, 14 inches, and 15.6 inches. Of the three, we’re more partial to the latter, larger sizes. They’re the perfect screen size for Photoshop and feature a full HD 1920×1080 resolution.
That means you’ll enjoy crisp and clear visuals while editing your pictures. Thanks to its IPS LCD screen, colors always come across accurately and vibrant, while images can be viewed at different angles easily.
Upon inspecting the 100% sRGB color space coverage, we realized that this would be a great laptop for aspiring photographers who’re just starting out. However, we should also mention that you might be a bit disappointed by this laptop’s color accuracy which is by far the lowest out of all the laptops on this list.
That said, this is a highly portable laptop that’s easy to travel with and it comes with a fast 4-core Intel Core i5 processor. Although this processor can sometimes struggle with complicated filters, it does hold its own when it comes to battery life and overall efficiency. According to LG, you can use this laptop for up to 21.5 hours per charge.
However, it could use more RAM considering that the 8GB may not enough for a pro who’s constantly working on Photoshop edits. The good news is that this laptop comes with the option of adding 16GB of additional RAM memory.
Efficient and fast performance
Large and good quality screen
Lightweight, slim and easy to carry
It doesn’t have the best screen specs
5 – LG gram Thin and Light Laptop
The LG Gram 17 offers a classic PC feel with a 17-inch screen IPS display backed by powerful display hardware and a 114% color range. It’s the best laptop in its size category with a metal alloy chassis which is compliant with the 810G Military Standard. This means it’s rugged enough for use on the road.
This laptop weighs only 2.9 pounds making it the most lightweight in its size category. In addition to all these great features, this laptop also comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM. It’s perfect for Photoshop and editing using other types of software and it can easily handle multiple projects without any issues.
The only downside to this laptop is that it’s quite pricey but if you’re willing to wait until Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales then you might be able to get it at a lower price.
It’s definitely worth the splurge as it comes with UHD 620 graphics from Intel, Lightroom and Photoshop support and a bevy of other features that make it the best laptop computer for photo editing.
Comes with Windows Home 10
Intel 8th Gen Intel Core i7 8565u processor
512 GB SSD
16GB of RAM
17-inch 2560×1600 resolution
The keyboard could use some improvement
6 – New Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch
This is the latest offering from Apple and one of the bravest inventions yet. It’s perfect for photo editing and it seems like it was designed specifically for that. Although it has a screen resolution of only 13 inches it’s a vast improvement in terms of internal operation when compared to the brand’s previous models.
The screen features a thin OLED display with a Touch Bar at the top of the keyboard. You can use it to control a versatile number of functions including TouchID which allows you to login using your fingerprint, and word auto-suggestion.
This laptop also comes configured with a number of Photoshop shortcuts for your convenience. It allows you to pick colors, change layer opacity and operate many other features at the touch of a button, which is something you won’t find on any other laptop on this list.
The only issue that we and other users have with this laptop is the fact that it’s limited to 16GB of internal memory and it doesn’t offer DD4R memory. You won’t be able to increase the internal memory of this device because this line of laptops is limited to the 8GB to 16GB memory range.
Hyper-Threading quad-core processor
Impressive CPU and GPU boosts
It’s very pricey
7 – Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DS384T 2 in 1 Laptop
The Asus Chromebook Flip C434 is very similar to the Zenbook Ultrabook line from this brand. It has the same aluminum construction with a silver matte finish and chrome trim, which makes it look swanky and sophisticated.
Once you open the laptop, you’ll notice that the display features barely-there bezels and at 14-inches, this laptop is incredibly compact and lightweight. On the other side of the laptop is a silver keyboard with an intuitive touchpad and right by the hinges you’ll find power and volume buttons.
It doesn’t have the most wonderful design but it’s impressive enough to give the MacBook a run for its money. You can easily flip the screen for up to 360 degrees, making it one of the most flexible photo editing laptops on the market.
However, it’s worth noting that the chrome hinges lock at 180 degrees. From that point onwards, you should be able to rotate the screen to the point where it actually looks like a tablet.
Intel Core m3-8100y processor
Chrome operating system
14-inch display screen with 1920×1080
Available in two different sizes
There have been a few complaints about charging issues
8 – Dell Inspiron 15 5000 15.6″ Full HD Laptop
With this model, Dell proves that they’re still in the game. First of all, this is a two-in-one laptop which means you can fold it until it resembles a tablet so you can edit photos using a stylus pen or your finger on the touch-sensitive screen. Of course, you can always flip it back and use it as a normal laptop too.
However, if the idea of having a cool laptop that can turn into a tablet sounds like the ideal setup, then you should consider this particular model because it comes with an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor.
With such a powerful processor, you can rest assured that all of your photo editing needs will be met, no matter what type of software you use. It functions smoothly through various tasks and you can have multiple tabs and work on multiple projects at once without experiencing a lag in performance.
You’ll easily turn out beautiful high-resolution images using your fingers in tablet mode or the laptop mode trackpad. This is truly the best affordable laptop for photo editing, as evidenced by many features, amazing screen resolution, and superb performance.
Backed by a 1-year warranty
Features Intel UHD Graphics 620
Windows 10 Home
8GB 2400 MHz DDR4 Memory
Impressive 15.6″ Full HD screen with energy-efficient LED backlight
The fan can be quite loud
9 – Acer Aspire NVIDIA MX250 Graphics 5 Slim Laptop
The Acer Aspire is considered to be the best laptop for photo editing under 1000. That’s because it’s decked out in impressive specs that include 512GB SSD storage, 12GB of RAM, and an 8th Gen Intl Core i7 processor. It also comes with Windows 10 and a 15.6-inch full HD LED screen.
This laptop was truly built for the busy creative who needs to constantly edit photos without spending a hefty amount of money. The driving force behind this laptop is the NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics card.
Most interestingly, this laptop is built for speed and it’s easy to use and carry anywhere. This is all thanks to the lightweight chassis which is complimented by a polished polycarbonate plastic frame. Not forgetting the fact that this laptop has a long-lasting battery as well which makes for increased productivity.
Great value for money
Ideal for photo editing on a budget
Comes with Windows 10 Home
512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
12GB of DDR4 RAM
8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor
The performance could use some improvement
10 – Lenovo Flex 11 2-in-1 Convertible Laptop
Despite its plastic construction, the Lenovo Flex is still one of the most physically durable options in its category. It features a 360-degree hinge which allows you to easily switch from laptop to tablet mode without losing stability.
With dimensions of 12 by 8 inches, this is one of the smallest photo editing laptops on the market and it’s lightweight enough to take with you on the road, weighing just 2.75 pounds. Granted, it’s not as lightweight as a regular-sized tablet, but it’s definitely easy to work with once you put it into tablet mode.
The keyboard automatically deactivates when you switch modes so you don’t have to worry about accidental texting or writing. We were quite happy with this laptop’s performance under pressure and it can definitely handle things like web browsing and word processing pretty well.
You can even stream live videos on it without experiencing any buffering issues, especially when using the Google Chrome browser. However, this is not a perfect machine; the Intel Pentium CPU exhibits a regular stutter when moving between one task to another.
The speakers aren’t that great as they produce an almost nervous, trebly sound, but this is to be expected from a machine of this price range. To mitigate this, make sure to use headphones every time you listen to music or videos on this laptop. Otherwise, the Lenovo Flex 112 definitely deserves to be on this list of the best laptop for photo editing on a budget.
Comes with the Intel Pentium Silver N5000 Processor
Easy to use
Features 64GB Emmc SSD Storage
4GB of DDR4 memory
It crashes a lot
PLAN - PRICE
START UP - $ 29
New Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch
START UP - $ 29
Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DS384T 2 in 1 Laptop
START UP - $ 29
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 15.6” Full HD Laptop
START UP - $ 29
Acer Aspire NVIDIA MX250 Graphics 5 Slim Laptop
START UP - $ 29
Lenovo Flex 11 2-in-1 Convertible Laptop
Well, there you have it! That’s our list of the best budget laptops for photo editing. We’ve given you all the different features and functions to look out for as well, so you’re ready to make a well-informed decision. If we were to pick just one option from our review list, it would have to be the Dell Inspiron 15 5000.
We think this is the best laptop for photo editing on a budget because it ticks all the boxes. It has a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, a large, full-HD screen with an energy-efficient LE display, and an Intel UHD graphics card. This laptop is fully bendable of course and it offers smooth functioning no matter how much you put it through its paces.