How To Buy Best Laptops For Photography In 2019

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When it comes to buying a laptop, photographers have a demanding set of requirements. Fast processors and enough memory to handle demanding applications are a must, as well as high-capacity drives to store tens of thousands of large image files. A display with great brightness and color accuracy is also extremely important.

Those requirements typically push up the cost, especially once you start adding in extras such as dedicated graphics cards. But when it comes to dedicated laptops for photographers, it’s important not to skimp, especially if you plan on using the machine for professional use. Need some help finding the best option for you and your hobby and/or career? Read on below to see our favorite picks. Whether it’s desktop-replacement powerhouses, durable machines to take out on shooting locations, speedy yet lightweight performers, our best laptops for photography are sure to have your images look postcard-ready.

Our Top Picks

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It’s rare to find a photographer-friendly laptop that’s as attractive and useful as it is powerful, but Dell has managed it with the XPS 15 2-In-1.

Pack this machine full of the latest components and it’ll absolutely fly while remaining one of the most stylish convertible laptops out there. The stunning edge-to-edge 4K touchscreen display provides accurate colors and pin-sharp clarity.

Relatively small (13.9 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches) and lightweight (4.4 pounds) for a machine with a 15-inch display, it’s compact enough to be your main device both in the office and out on a shoot.

Configurable with up to 16GB of RAM, Intel i7 processors, and a dedicated Radon RX Vega graphics card, it’ll handle intensive Photoshop and Light-room sessions with ease. Throw in anything up to a 2TB solid state drive to save all those large files, and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable combination.

If you decide you don’t need the flexibility of a tablet mode, you can usually save a few dollars by opting for the traditional laptop version instead. Whichever style you go for, the Dell XPS 15 is our top overall laptop pick for photographers.

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Tracking down some good budget laptop options for photographers isn’t easy, and you’ll need to make some compromises to do so. The Acer Aspire E 15 is better than most for the money and makes for a solid and dependable option if you’re just starting out.

It’s one of the few budget laptops with a dedicated graphics card, and while the NVIDIA MX150 is at the low end of the range, it’s still significantly faster than the standard integrated version. Paired with a latest-generation Intel i5 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD, the Aspire E 15 is fine for general photographic editing tasks. Unusually, both memory and storage are easily up-gradable after purchase, so you can add more as your budget permits.

Battery life is good, at up to 15 hours, and the 15.6-inch widescreen HD display gives plenty of room to work with, even if brightness and color accuracy aren’t the best.

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When you’re editing photographs, especially for professional use, using a monitor with the highest levels of color accuracy is vitally important. Many manufacturers boast about how accurate their laptop displays are, but independent testing and user feedback always puts Apple’s MacBook Pro at the head of the pack.

As good as the display is, it’s matched by what’s inside the case. The latest MacBook Pro models are highly-configurable, and it’s possible to order one with an Intel i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a fast 4TB solid state drive.

Paired with an AMD Radeon Pro Vega graphics card, the MacBook Pro can handle any photography task you care to throw at it. And battery life is rated at up to 10 hours.

The high price of the Macbook Pro 15-inch just kept it from taking our top overall spot, but if you’re a pro photographer and happy to spend the money—or you’re already using Apple gear and want to stay within the ecosystem—it’s likely your best option.

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Tablet computers with separate keyboards are pretty common these days, as are convertible laptops that fold back on themselves, but when it comes to flexibility, Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 is in a class of its own.

The touchscreen detaches at the press of a button to act as a fully-featured tablet computer. Attach it back to the base section, and you get a keyboard, dedicated NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics card, and up to 17 hours of battery life.

The 3240- x-2160 pixel display is bright, crisp, and well-calibrated for color accuracy, and with the latest Intel i7 processors, 16GB of RAM, and up to a 1TB solid state drive, the machine is plenty fast enough for demanding photo editing tasks.

Useful extras include a built-in card reader for quickly copying files from your camera and both USB-C and USB-A ports. You can also buy Microsoft’s Surface Dial, a unique configurable input device for speeding up your workflow.

All in all, there’s really nothing else quite like the Surface Book 2 right now.

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Microsoft was late to the game with an ultra-thin laptop, but the updated version of its Surface Laptop is the ideal choice for any photographer needing to keep the size and weight of their gear down.

The Surface Laptop 2 is barely half an inch thick and weighs just 2.8 pounds, but despite its svelte lines, it still manages to pack in plenty of performance. There’s no dedicated graphics card—a typical compromise with slimline laptops like this—but the rest of the specifications are impressive.

Configurable with up to an 8th-generation Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, the bright and colorful 13.5-inch display gives a little extra room to work with compared to other lightweight options. Battery life is also good, with up to 14.5 hours between charges depending on how hard you’re pushing it.

Available in a range of colors, including attractive black and burgundy options, the Surface Laptop 2 is as stylish as it is useful.

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If you don’t need to move your laptop and want as much power as possible, look no further than the Dell Precision 7720, a desktop-replacement machine in every sense.

With a starting weight of 7.6 pounds, this is a serious piece of hardware with specifications to match. Configuration options include a choice of two Intel Xeon processors, four dedicated graphics cards, up to 64GB of ECC memory, and two separate drive bays for up to 4TB of storage.

If one of the 17-inch display options still isn’t enough screen real estate for you, the Precision 7720’s DisplayPort 1.4 supports anything up to an 8K external monitor from a single cable. Other expansion options also aren’t a problem: there’s an HDMI port, four USB-A ports, a Thunderbolt port, memory card reader, and more.

In short, this is the laptop of choice for photographers with serious performance requirements—and the bank balance to match.

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If you like the power of the Dell Precision 7720, but still need to regularly transport your laptop, check out the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 instead.

Configurable with a Xeon processor, up to 32GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA Quadro P2000 graphics card, there’s more than enough performance for even the biggest Photoshop jobs. The gorgeous 15.6-inch 4K display is touch-enabled, with impressive color accuracy.

Two Thunderbolt ports, two USB-A ports, and an SD card reader mean connecting accessories isn’t a problem, and while the 0.7-inch depth and 3.8-pound starting weight are noticeable, the P1 is impressively thin and light given all the hardware that has been packed in.

Battery life is rated at up to 13 hours, although as always you’ll get less when you push the laptop hard. If you do need to top up before the end of the working day, the included fast charger will get you back to 50 percent within around 30 minutes.

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Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga is an impressive machine for photographers who need to take their laptop out on location with them.

Tested against no less than a dozen U.S. military tests for things like flying dirt, temperature extremes, and high humidity, this isn’t one of those laptops that will stop working at the first hint of rough conditions.

At 500 nits, the optional 14-inch HDR display is nice and bright, with impressive color accuracy. Configurable with the latest Intel i7 CPUs, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid state drive, the machine performs extremely well, although we’d have liked to see a dedicated graphics card option to make it really fly.

The battery is rated at up to 15 hours, and while you’ll likely only get half that under serious load, plugging the X1 Yoga into the wall for an hour gives an impressive 80 percent charge.

Our Process

Our writers spent 12 hours researching the most popular laptops for photography on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 22 different laptops overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers, read over 90 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 1 of the laptops themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

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