How to Choose a Laptop for Photo Editing (Definitive Guide)

How to Choose a Laptop for Photo Editing

It doesn’t matter if you’re an occasional or a professional photo editor; having a powerful enough laptop to get the job done is essential.

Almost everything is done on computers these days, and laptops are becoming more and more popular than desktops because of their versatility. You can easily take your laptop with you and edit photos on the go.

But how to choose a laptop for photo editing, and what components should it have? We will answer these questions below, so keep reading to find out!

How to Choose a Laptop for Photo Editing

It’s not easy to choose the right laptop for photo editing. There are many models with different prices available, but several essential components make up an excellent photo editing laptop:

  • The display;
  • The CPU;
  • The GPU;
  • The RAM;
  • The memory storage type.

Besides looking at these crucial components, there are a few others that are also worth considering.

For example, the operating system makes a lot of difference in application support. The available ports on the laptop are also important for connecting various devices like your camera, memory cards, etc.

Furthermore, the weight and size of the laptop are also crucial if you plan to carry it with you in your backpack.

Components That a Photo Editing Laptop Should Have

Now let’s look at the essential components a photo editing laptop should have. In the following sections, you will get a detailed explanation of each component, its characteristics, and what to look for when purchasing your laptop.

The display

Since you will be using your new laptop to edit photos, the display is one of the most critical components to consider. Several key features are important to consider when looking at a laptop’s display:

Size

First, the display’s size will determine the laptop’s overall size and weight. With that in mind, you also need to think about how big and heavy you want your laptop to be.

If you’re worried about the size, we’d recommend getting a laptop with at least 15.6 inches. This is the ideal size for getting work done and carrying the laptop with you in a backpack.

Want something smaller? The lowest you should go is 13.3 inches. The MacBook Air has this screen size, for example. It is a very convenient laptop for traveling, but you will lose much of that screen size real estate for editing photos.

Lastly, if size and weight are not determining factors for you, purchasing a 17-inch display-size laptop would be ideal for photo editing.

Resolution

Now we come to a very important characteristic of laptop displays, the resolution. When we talk about screen resolution, we mean the number of pixels a screen has both horizontally and vertically.

For example, an HD (720p) display has a resolution of 1280×720 pixels (horizontally and vertically). A Full HD (1080p) display has 1920×1080 pixels, and an Ultra HD (2160p) display has 3840×2160 pixels.

This means that the higher the resolution, the sharper the screen and the better the image quality.

So, if you’re considering purchasing a budget photo editing laptop, we recommend getting one with at least Full HD resolution capabilities. Other than that, buying a UHD display with 4K resolution would be your best bet for photo editing.

Color quality: IPS or OLED

Color reproduction will mostly depend on the laptop’s display type. In today’s market, there are two main types of displays to choose from: IPS and OLED.

IPS (in-plane switching) are LCD-type displays that use liquid crystal molecules aligned in parallel to the in-plane surface. This configuration results in the screen displaying more vibrant colors, as well as having better viewing angles.

In OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays, each pixel lights itself when displaying the image. This means the colors appear more accurate on the screen, and the blacks are deeper and darker.

Choosing a laptop with an OLED display would be the more expensive but better option, although IPS panels will provide excellent image quality for photo editing.

Brightness

The display’s brightness is also important and might make a huge difference depending on your working environment.

For example, if you’re working and editing photos outdoors in a bright environment, you would need a laptop with a brighter display of over 350 nits. A brighter display will also make the color stand out and be more vibrant.

Regular or touch-enabled

Your new photo editing laptop can also have a touchscreen. But is a touchscreen on a laptop worth it? To be honest, it depends on your personal preference. However, consider the following:

  • A touchscreen laptop will be more versatile in terms of maneuverability;
  • It will surely be more expensive than regular screen laptops;
  • The screen will have a glass protective coating, which will increase the reflection and glossiness, making things harder to see;
  • Because of the touch capabilities, it will consume more battery power without you even using them.

So, if you’re not that into touchscreens or have a specific need, we recommend purchasing a laptop with a regular screen.

The CPU

AMD Ryzen

Now let’s talk more about the first essential component, closely related to the speed of your laptop.

First, you should know that two global CPU manufacturers make CPUs for most laptop brands. They are Intel and AMD.

Both CPU manufacturers offer high-quality and reliable processors, with AMDs processors being on the cheaper side of the market.
Once you choose the CPU brand, it’s time to select the processor’s model and generation.

For example, Intel makes i3, i5, i7, and i9 processor models of different generations (years of production), while AMD makes the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9 processor models of different generations.

In terms of clock speed, higher-generation processors have higher clock speeds, meaning they are faster at processing more data at once. Most modern processors have clock speeds above 2GHz, which is essential when choosing a new laptop.

An ideal CPU for photo editing to look for would be an Intel i5 or an AMD Ryzen 5 with close to 3GHz of clock speed. This should be more than enough power to edit and render high-quality photos.

The GPU

The GPU is just as important as the CPU in a laptop or desktop computer. You can think of the GPU as its mini-computer. It has a built-in CPU and VRAM (Video RAM). Laptops can either have an integrated graphics chip or a separate graphics chip.

The term integrated graphics means that most of the graphics are also rendered by the main CPU. This is enough if you’re using the computer for basic operations like web surfing, watching movies, or social media.

An integrated graphics chip is not enough if you wish to do image editing, video editing, or play games. For photo editing and advanced graphic work, having a separate graphics chip(card) is the smarter choice.

So, look for a laptop with a dedicated graphics card installed, which will take all the load of processing the images you wish to edit and render.

There are two main graphic card brands to choose from, NVidia and AMD. They manufacture different model graphic cards with similar characteristics.

Just for photo editing and everyday use, you don’t really need a powerful GPU. From the Nvidia line-up, getting a laptop with one of the older GTX cards (GTX 1650 or 1660 Ti) will be enough, and the newer RTX cards will be overkill. On the AMD side of things, look for a laptop with RX 5500 or better.

The main thing to remember is to choose a laptop with a separate graphics card installed, not one with integrated graphics.

The RAM

RAM is short for Random Access Memory and is the part of the computer hardware that works closely with the main CPU.

RAM’s function is to store temporary operating system files necessary for the quick processing of operations and data used by the CPU. The RAM is there so that the CPU can reach the data faster and with minimum delay.

That said, the more RAM you have in your computer, the faster the CPU performs. But don’t be fooled, as CPU speed is still the main factor in computer speed.
In other words, you can have enormous amounts of RAM available, but that will mean little if your CPU cannot process that data quickly. That means that both components work together and complement each other.

Modern PCs have RAM capacities ranging from 8GB to 128GB and beyond. For photo editing, you should have at least 16GB of RAM. Ideally, you should have 32GB of RAM available on your laptop. This amount of RAM is enough for most Intel i5 and AMD Ryzen 5-generation processors to operate at maximum speeds.

Having 8GB, or even less than that will significantly slow down your render speeds.

The storage drive type

Samsung SSD

Having the right memory storage type means that your CPU and RAM will access data faster, and your laptop will operate at higher speeds with minimum lag.
The main storage types for laptops and desktops are HDD and SSD. HDD is short for Hard Disk Drives and is already becoming obsolete.

That is because HDDs have slower operating speeds of 50-150MB per second, which is not enough read speed for modern CPUs. HDDs have an internal spinning disk, similar to a CD, and that’s their main way of reading and writing data.

On the other hand, SSD (Solid State Drive) is a faster memory storage type that operates similarly to modern USB sticks. They do not have moving parts, and their read/write speeds can reach 7,000MB per second in the case of NVMe drives.

We highly recommend choosing NVMe SSD as the primary storage type for your new laptop. You can access your image files faster, open apps quicker, and have a better-performing computer overall.

In terms of storage size, the larger, the better, and you should consider going for a minimum of 1TB of storage space.

Other Factors to Consider

Besides the main components, there are a few additional factors to consider when choosing a laptop for photo editing.

The operating system

There are two main choices when it comes to the operating system. You can pick either a Windows-operated machine or a macOS-operated machine.

Apple’s macOS is limited to their MacBook laptops, so you will also be limited when choosing the right components for your laptop. You should only choose a MacBook laptop if you’re in love with Apple’s Ecosystem and its overall feel and functionality.

On the other hand, we highly recommend choosing a Windows-operated laptop, as the options to combine hardware components are vast.

Most major laptop manufacturers, like Acer, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Dell, etc., use Windows OS, giving you many more options to choose from.

Windows 10 or 11 are excellent choices and support countless apps that will help you with image editing and rendering.

The ports of the laptop

You must also consider the ports available on the laptop. Most modern laptops come with all the necessary ones, like an HDMI port, USB ports, a LAN port, and even a USB-type C port.

If you’re taking photos yourself and want to upload them to the laptop, then make sure it also has an SD card slot for easy image transfer. Manufacturers are starting to omit these ports on laptops, but they are quite handy to have.

Another thing to pay attention to is the USB ports speed. Most modern laptops already come with USB 3.0 ports, with transfer speeds of up to 4.8Gbit/s, compared to USB 2.0 with only 480 Mbit/s. So, it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to these details.

Laptop Models and Prices to Consider

With all the components and characteristics described above, you can easily find affordable laptop models.

We’ve made a separate article on the matter, highlighting the 12 best budget laptops for photo editing that you can choose in 2022, so make sure to check it out!

Conclusion

Now that you know how to choose a laptop for photo editing and what components to look for, you should be able to choose the best one for your available budget.

We’ve made sure to include every relevant information so that you have everything you need in one place.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them below, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

About Richard Gamin 183 Articles
My name's Richard and over the years, I have personally built many PCs for myself and my friends. I love gaming, programming, graphics designing and basically anything that has to do with computers and technology. If you ever need a hand with anything, feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help you out.

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