What is the Best Laptop for Photo Editing on a Budget in 2021?

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Best Budget Laptop for Photoshop

If you’re in a hurry, and want to quickly know which is the best budget laptop for Photoshop 2021, then it is the Lenovo Flex 5, although this is not a 100% sRGB laptop. If you want a 100 sRGB laptop, then choose the Lenovo Legion 5 (144Hz screen model only), which is one of the best laptops for Photoshop overall.

This article covers everything you need to know when looking for the best laptop for photo editing on a budget. I have considered all of the best laptops for photo editing under around $500 that meet the criteria to run Photoshop and edit photos, as well as a few that are a little above this in price, and classified them according to which is the best laptop for picture editing.

If you want to read the quick review of the best laptop for Photoshop (including the best laptops for Adobe Lightroom), then it is just below, along with an option for the best laptop for photo editing under $1000, if you have a little more money to spend.

But keep reading for a checklist of everything you need to consider when looking for the best laptop for Adobe Photoshop, and full and detailed reviews of the absolute best photo editing laptops.



What is the Best Laptop for Photo Editing on a Budget?

If you are on a strict budget, bear in mind that there will be trade-offs in your laptop. With that in mind, my pick for the best budget laptop for Photoshop is the Lenovo Flex 5. This is also the best budget laptop for Lightroom thanks to its touch screen. You can read the full review and see the specs later on in the article.


My Top Pick

The Best Budget Laptop for Photoshop

  • 2 in 1 laptop where the screen folds over to form a tablet
  • Powerful 6-core processor & 16GB RAM for strong performance in hardware-intensive tasks like Photoshop transforms
  • Includes digital pen and touch screen so usable for photo editing straight out of the box, and doesn’t require a separate drawing tablet – ideal laptop for Adobe Lightroom
  • An excellent budget choice that can still run the same programs as more high-end laptops
  • Long battery life and relatively light, so can be used away from a desk
  • The screen only covers about 74% of the sRGB color space, the trade-off is lower color accuracy

The Lenovo Flex 5 has a lot going for it, not only the relatively low price. Unlike the other traditional laptops reviewed here, the Flex 5 is a 2-in-1 laptop. This means that it the screen can also be flipped over to use as a table – you get both a laptop and tablet in one device.

For me, the big advantage is the touch screen and included stylus. It is crucial to have a good drawing tablet when using a traditional laptop, but the touch screen of the Flex 5 means that you can do away with this and mask and edit photos straight with pen-and-paper levels of accuracy.

The only downside to the Flex 5 is the relatively low 74% of sRGB colors that the screen displays, but you would need to pay about triple the price to remedy this, all else being equal, with a machine like the Microsoft Surface Book 3.

Therefore, the Lenovo Flex 5 makes the cut as the best laptop for photo editing on a budget, and is one I would happily use for home photo editing. For more professional uses, you might want to look at the option below.


What is the Overall Best Laptop for Photo Editing?

If you wanted the ultimate best laptop for Photoshop editing, and were willing to increase your budget to a little over $1000, you can get a machine with much better specs, the Lenovo Legion 5.

Best Laptop for Photo Editing

  • Powerful AMD Ryzen 7 4800H 8-core processor
  • 16 GB of RAM & 512 GB SSD
  • 15.6″, 1080p screen laptop with 100% sRGB color gamut in th 144 Hz screen version
  • 6GB, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card
  • Long, 9 hour battery life
  • No touch screen, but you can get a separate drawing tablet

As the best laptop for around $1000, the Lenovo Legion 5 is an outstanding machine with the super-fast performance that is a pleasure to edit photos on.

You get a fantastic color accurate display that makes this a 100 percent sRGB laptop on the 15.6″, 1080p IPS panel. In my opinion this is the best sRGB laptop, and when paired with the 8-core processor, even the most intensive Photoshop tasks breeze by. With 9 hours of battery life, the laptop is easily portable and has almost nothing to not recommend it, provided you have the budget.

Read the full review in the article on the best photo editing laptops under $1000.

Note: there are various versions of the Legion 5 available, all with different specs. For photo editing, the only non-negotiable part is that it must have a screen with a 144 Hz refresh rate. This rate itself is not important, but this screen has 100% sRGB colors. The 120 Hz screen has only around 60% sRGB colors.


Related article:
The Best Tablet for Photoshop

This article looks at the best touch screen tablets that can run Photoshop, like iPads or Android tablets. Take a look to see if they would suit you better than a traditional laptop?


Best Computer for Photo Editing on a Budget – Comparison Table

Use the following comparison table if you are looking for cheap laptops for photographers. If you want to know what is the best laptop for Photoshop, then it is the Lenovo Flex 5, but all of these laptops are good for Photoshop, and they could all reasonable be the best computer for photo editing on a budget, depending on your individual requirements.

Laptop

CPU & Memory

Display

Battery Life & Weight

Check Price

Lenovo Flex 5

[Best Laptop for Photo Editing on a Budget]

AMD Ryzen 5 4500U 6-cores @ 4.0 GHz

 

16GB RAM & 256GB SSD

14" 1080p
74% sRGB

10 hours 

3.64 lbs

ASUS TUF Gaming F17


[Highly Commended]

Intel i5-10300H 4-core @ 2.5 – 4.5 GHz

 

8GB RAM & 512GB SSD

17.3" 1080p
62.5% sRGB

7.5 hours

5.73 lbs

Intel Core i5-1035G1 4-core @ 3.6 GHz

 

8GB RAM & 256GB SSD

13.3" 1080p 95% sRGB

14 hours

2.5 lbs

Intel i5-1135G7 4-core @ 4.7 GHz

 

8GB RAM & 512GB SSD

15.6" 1080p 54% sRGB

15 hours

3.97 lbs

AMD Ryzen 7 3700OU 4-core @ 2.3 GHz

 

8GB RAM & 256GB SSD

15.6" 1366x768  58% sRGB

10 hours

3.75 lbs

Intel Core i5-1035G1 4-core @ 3.6 GHz

 

8GB RAM & 256 GB SDD

15.6" 1080p 65% sRGB

7.5 hours

3.97 lbs


[Best Macbook for Photo Editing]

Apple M1 Chip 8-Core

 

8GB RAM & 256GB SSD

13.3" 2560x1600  113% sRGB

15 hours

2.8 lbs

AMD Ryzen 3 3250U 2-core @ 2.6 GHz

 

4GB RAM & 128GB SSD

15.6" 1366x768  52% sRGB

6 hours

4.84 lbs

Intel i5 2-core @ 3.1 GHz

 

8GB RAM & 128GB SSD

13.5" 2256x1504  94% sRGB

10 hours

2.76 lbs

Intel i3-1005G1 2-core @ 1.2 GHz

 

8GB RAM & 128GB SDD, 1TB HDD

15.6" 1366x768  71% sRGB

7 hours

4.45 lbs

Intel i7-1065G7 4-core @ 1.3 GHz

 

16GB RAM & 1TB SSD

17" 2560x1600  99% sRGB

17 hours

2.98 lbs


How to Choose the Best Budget Photo Editing Laptop

There are always going to be some compromises when looking for the best budget photo editing laptop, so you have to be aware of your own particular requirements and what non-negotiables you have.

For example, personally I might want a color accurate 100% sRGB display, but this means I might get a slower machine with an older processor and less RAM.

You can use this section to learn the importance of each laptop component to photo editing. I used this list for my reviewing process when I compared the best budget laptops for Photoshop in the full reviews further down this article.

Lightroom vs Photoshop for Photo Editing
The two best programs that you can currently buy for photo editing on laptops are Lightroom and Photoshop, both made by Adobe, but regardless of the photo editing program that you use, the best budget laptop for photo editing will need to meet certain minimum hardware requirements.

Although you can edit photos in both Lightroom and Photoshop, Lightroom is primarily designed for smaller edits and for cataloging your photos, while Photoshop is the king of photo editing software.

The best laptop for Lightroom therefore doesn’t require specifications quite as high as for Photoshop, but they are broadly similar. The main difference when looking for a budget laptop for Lightroom specifically is that touch screens become more useful, as Lightroom has an interface that results in much more clicking, and where it is much more intuitive to click on the screen.

When looking for the best budget laptop for Photoshop specifically, you will need to hit the minimum requirements listed below. A laptop matching these requirements would also be able to run Lightroom. Further down the article, I have included some tips from my personal experience, of which requirements are the most important to pay attention to.

If you don’t have a copy of Lightroom or Photoshop, then I would strongly recommend you take a look at Adobe’s photography plan. This is what I use for all of my photos.

Adobe Photoshop Minimum Requirements

Windows & Mac Min. Requirements
Processor Multicore with 64-bit support; 2 Ghz or faster on Windows
Operating System Windows 10 Oct 2018 update (64-bit) or later; macOS 10.13.6 or later
RAM 2 GB or more of RAM (8 GB recommended)
Graphics Card nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 or equivalent; nVidia GeForce GTX 1660 or Quadro T1000 is recommended
Hard Drive Space 3.1 GB (Windows) or 4 GB (Mac) or more of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system)
Monitor Resolution 1280 x 800 display at 100% UI scaling with 16-bit color and 512 MB or more of dedicated VRAM; 2 GB is recommended
Internet Internet connection and registration are necessary for required software activation

Processor (CPU)

In a laptop for Photoshop, the processor (CPU) is one of the most important components when it comes to doing things quickly. Although a slower processor will not limit the options available in Photoshop (unlike for the graphics card), it will increase the time that you sit staring at progress bars.

In general terms, Intel have always been the preferred processor options for programs like Photoshop, which do not rely on highly threaded processors, although with the more recent Ryzen line of CPUs from AMD, Intel’s lead has waned as AMD have caught up with their performance.

Nowadays, clock speed of the CPU combined with the number of cores is likely to be a better determinant of Photoshop performance than CPU brand.

To give you an idea of the differences in Photoshop performance for different processors, benchmark testing of budget processors says that the AMD Ryzen 5 six core at 3.6 GHz will open a 16-bit RAW file in 1.31 seconds, and take 24.17 seconds to run the smart sharpen filter, whereas the Intel i5 six core also running at 3.6 GHz will open the same file in 1.16 seconds and run smart sharpen in 22.44 seconds. Clearly, there is very little difference in CPU brands.

But when we increase the number of cores, we see performance differences for premium processors such as the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 24-core at 3.8 GHz opening a 16-bit RAW file in 0.85 seconds, and running the smart sharpen filter in 13.38 seconds. The Intel i9 18-core CPU running at 3.0 GHz opens the RAW file in 0.94 seconds, and applies smart sharpen in 13.83 seconds.

The latter processors are clearly faster and would be found in the best laptop to run Photoshop, but the price difference between these two groups of processors is into the high three figures. So, if you have a cheaper processor in your laptop, you will wait a few more seconds, but in my opinion the price difference makes the cheaper processors a better bet.

If you are looking for the best budget processor for Photoshop, rather than the outright best processor for Photoshop, then a CPU with six cores and a high clock speed is sufficient, such as the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core, which runs at a max speed of 4.2 GHz.

Memory (RAM)

The more memory in the form of RAM that your laptop has, the quicker the speed of Photoshop operations. RAM is used by Photoshop as a place to store information that does not need to be written to your hard drive, such as data used for any transformations or filters that you apply.

When you are looking for a budget laptop for Photoshop, there are two ways of defining RAM that you should pay attention to:

  • How Many GBs?
  • What Speed?

The number of GBs of RAM is the most important characteristic, and should be a minimum of 2 GB, though even this will result in poor performance. Ideally, you should be aiming for 8 GB as an absolute minimum, although I have found that Photoshop and Lightroom will use as much RAM as you give them, and will minimize the use of scratch disks (see below), so if you can afford it, go for 16 GB, or even 32 GB of RAM.

The clock speed of RAM is less important for budget laptops, but if you are looking to create as high a quality system as possible, then going for faster RAM (>3200 MHz) will improve Photoshop performance, albeit only to a minor degree.

Memory (HDD / SSD)

Physical memory storage on your laptop can be broken down into two distinct types: Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD). Compare them below:

HDD SSD
Has physical moving parts, so slower No moving parts, very fast
Cost around $0.03 per GB Cost around $0.20 per GB
Very high maximum capacity Typically under 1 TB capacity in laptops
Bootup time around 30 – 60 seconds Bootup time around 10 – 15 seconds
Photoshop start time around 30 seconds Photoshop start time around 5 seconds
Around 80 MB/s file transfer speed Around 200 MB/s file transfer speed
Slower photo previews and file opening Faster photo previews and file opening

Photo editing programs like Photoshop use your memory in two ways: as a place to install the program and to store your pictures, and as scratch disks.

Because SSDs are so much faster than HDDs, they are ideal to both store the Photoshop program, and to store your photos. When looking for the best laptop for picture storage, always confirm that it has a good capacity ( ideally >500 GB, but smaller is ok) SSD. If you go for an HDD, make sure that it has a platter speed of at least 7200 RPM. This is the fastest speed of HDD available, but it is still a long way off SSD speed.

Scratch disks are Photoshop’s term for short term memory storage outside of RAM. If you have enough RAM, then the scratch disks should not be used, but if your laptop is more RAM-limited, like in the more affordable laptops for photo editing, then Photoshop will start using your HDD or SSD.

If Photoshop is relying on an HDD as a scratch disk, performance can really drop until RAM is freed up again, so again I would recommend having an SSD, and assigning this SSD as the scratch disk within Photoshop’s preferences.

Display

Good laptops for photo editing have high resolution displays with excellent color rendition. It is even possible to get a budget laptop with color accurate display now. You would think that you would always want to go for the largest laptop screen size available, but this is not the case if the screen is of a low quality. All of the aspects that you should consider when selecting the best laptop screen are detailed below, but note that even the best laptop screens do not match even mid-range external monitors. If your budget will stretch to it, and you will be doing most of your photo editing in a fixed location, then consider an external display, like the LG 27UK850-W 27″ 4K IPS monitor. I consider this the best monitor for Photoshop, and I use this for photo editing, finding its color accuracy to be second-to-none.

Screen Size
The best laptop for editing photos will need at least a 13″ screen, but preferably a 15.4″ screen. Remember the larger the screen, the bigger and heavier the laptop, so tailor your screen size choice to how you intend to use the laptop – either for travel, at home, or in-between.

Resolution
The best resolution for Photoshop currently available in budget laptops is sub-4K (2560 x 1600 pixels), although most of the cheaper models only offer a max resolution of 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels).

A higher resolution means more usable screen real estate, so that a 4K 14″ laptop will be able to display more on its screen than a 1080p 15.4″ laptop. This is because the higher resolution display can handle smaller icons, menus, etc.

Ideally, you should aim for a higher resolution display before a large screen size.

Panel Type
This refers to the construction of the screen. For budget laptops, you will generally get panels in either IPS, VA (or SVA), or TN.

  • IPS panels are found in the best Photoshop laptops, as they offer the highest quality color rendition, plus increased viewing angles and more even lighting. If you intend to print your photos and want to know what they are going to look like before printing, then an IPS panel will give the most true-to-life results. Bear in mind that they have slightly slower response times than TN panels, but are faster than VA panels, although this should not matter for photo editing.
  • VA (SVA) panels have the longest response times, although this is not really relevant for Photoshop use. They have the best contrast and best image depth of any panels, with color rendition and viewing angles between TN and IPS panels. SVA panels are an updated version of VA panels, with essentially the same characteristics.
  • TN panels are the more basic display construction. They are good enough for most uses, as long as you are not editing photos professionally. Color rendition is less good, and viewing angles are more limited than both VA and IPS panels.

Color Space
The number of colors that a display can show is often given as a percentage of a color space. Unfortunately, there are many color spaces, all covering different ranges, so it can be difficult to directly compare displays without further research. The two main color spaces are:

  • sRGB: This color space is the standard for internet use, originally designed to mimic the colors visible on old CRT monitors. sRGB only covers about 35% of the colors visible to the human eye, so is one of the smaller color spaces. If you intend to use your laptop to edit photos for the internet or social media, then aim for a display with as close to 100% sRGB as possible (an sRGB 100 laptop), although in practice any high sRGB laptop (> 70%) will be sufficient. As the percentage gets smaller, for most laptops you lose some subtle tones in the blues and greens, but this is not very noticeable in most cases.
  • Adobe RGB (1998): Most professional photographers use the Adobe RGB (1998) color space or equivalent, as this most closely replicates the colors that CMYK printers are able to print, and covers about 50% of the colors visible to the human eye. This is one of the most encompassing color spaces, and the best color profile for Photoshop, and is significantly wider than sRGB. Adobe RGB is primarily known for having richer greens and cyans than sRGB.

Touch Screen Laptop for Photoshop
Whether you get a laptop with touch screen for Photoshop or not is entirely a personal choice. Bear in mind that touch screens drain the battery faster than regular screens, but in return you get the ability to draw directly onto the screen, which makes masking and other Photoshop operations significantly easier.

If you choose a touch screen laptop, read the related article on the best stylus for touch screen devices.

Battery Life

A good laptop for Photoshop will have the longest battery life possible. Although the battery life of laptops used to be fairly poor, you can now regularly get 10 hours plus of usage from the most efficient Photoshop laptops.

Although you might expect that laptops with lower powered, slower components would offer longer battery life, this is rarely the case as manufacturers reduce the size of batteries in these machines. This means that all laptops reviewed here have roughly the same battery life.

Additional Accessories

If you are serious about using Photoshop on your laptop, you will likely need to consider accessories, like the best mouse for Photoshop, or the best Wacom for Photoshop, as these will dramatically improve your ability to mask images and perform other operations.

Although there is not space to review them here, follow the link to see which is the best drawing tablet for photoshop.

Graphics Card (GPU)

The best graphics card for Photoshop is a dedicated card, like the Radeon RX 570, but the graphics card, or GPU, is one of the least important laptop components for Photoshop. It does improve performance, and thus speed, for a few operations, so the necessity of a video card will depend on how you intend to use Photoshop.

Photoshop features that are quicker with a GPU

  • Lens blur
  • Camera RAW
  • Image Size – Preserve Details
  • Select Focus
  • Blur Gallery – Field Blur, Iris Blur, Tilt-Shift, Path Blur, Spin Blur
  • Smart Sharpen
  • Select and Mask

Photoshop features that REQUIRE a GPU

  • Perspective Warp
  • 3D
  • Oil Paint
  • Render – Flame, Picture Frame, and Tree
  • Scrubby Zoom
  • Birds Eye View
  • Flick Panning
  • Smooth Brush Resizing

Do you need a dedicated graphics card for Photoshop?
A number of CPUs come with on-board graphics, which use part of the RAM to simulate a dedicated graphics cards. These are not the best GPU for Photoshop, although they are generally ok, but you are much better off using a laptop with a dedicated GPU if you can afford it, as they offer faster performance and leave the RAM free for other uses.

There used to be problems with on-board graphics cards not being recognized by Photoshop. Any recent laptop should be ok, but for a full range of tested graphics cards, take a look at Adobe’s site.


Best Budget Laptop for Photoshop 2021 – Full Reviews

The best laptops for photo editing on a budget are detailed below. Any of them would be a good choice as they are all laptops that can run Photoshop, but remember that the cheaper models can at times be frustratingly slow – you won’t regret getting a higher spec model in the long run.

1. Lenovo Flex 5

Best Budget Laptop for Photo Editing 2021

Specifications:
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U 6-cores @ 2.3 – 4.0 GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • SSD: 256 GB
  • Screen Size: 14″
  • Max Resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 74%
  • Touch Screen? Yes
  • Graphics: On-board Radeon RX Vega 6
  • Battery Life: ~ 10 hours
  • Weight: 3.64 lbs (1.65 kg)

The Lenovo Flex 5 is one of the most popular laptops for photo editing currently available, thanks to its high specifications, touch screen and 2-in-1 ability, all available for a low price, making it the best laptop for beginner photographers.

This doesn’t have the power of a high end laptop like the Lenovo Legion 5, but you wouldn’t expect it to at this price. What you do get is an included stylus that allows for accurate masking and photo editing directly on the laptop screen, and means that you don’t need a separate drawing tablet.

This reduces overall weight and makes the laptop particularly well-suited for carrying around and using away from home.

The only real negative is that the screen has 74% of the sRGB color gamut, which means you must be more careful with colors during editing, as there is reduced color accuracy, but I feel this is a fair trade-off for the price.

Overall, the Lenovo Flex 5 is very hard to beat as a home photo editing laptop. Professionals may want to look elsewhere, but hobbyists will be more than happy with the Flex 5.

  • Pros:
  • Specifications outperform the price – best affordable laptops for photo editing
  • 2 in 1 use as a laptop and tablet with the screen folded back over the base
  • Well-balanced device for word processing, web surfing, drawing and most other tasks (excluding gaming)
  • Fast 6 core processor and 16GB RAM offers superior performance in hardware intensive tasks
  • Digital pen included, so usable straight out of the box for drawing
  • Long battery life, so suitable for use away from a desk
  • Capable of easily running Photoshop, Lightroom and other photography programs
  • Cons:
  • Only 74% of the sRGB color gamut which means a less color accurate display
  • Only 14 inch screen, but this makes it more portable

Lenovo Flex 5


Best Asus Laptop for Photo Editing

Specifications:
  • CPU: Intel i5-10300H 4-core @ 2.5 – 4.5 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD: 512 GB
  • Screen Size: 17.3″
  • Max Resolution: 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 62.5%
  • Graphics: 4GB GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
  • Battery Life: 7.5 hours
  • Weight: 5.73 lbs

Let’s start by getting the negatives out of the way with the F17: the trackpad is too small; there is no SD card slot; the screen only has 62.5% sRGB colors. But despite all of this, I still think the F17 is one of the best budget laptops for photo editing.

Why?

You only have to glance at the specs to see that the F17 is a good laptop for Photoshop and can easily handle any Photoshop task that you throw at it. With the 10th gen Intel processor that can run at up to 4.5 GHz, plus the 8 GB of Ram (user expandable), and a very large 512 GB NVMe M.2 SSD, you are not going to experience any slowdown even with more intensive tasks.

The negatives of this laptop can be partially ignored for photo editing, as you will likely have a drawing tablet attached to control it, or at very least a mouse.

Which leaves the lower 62.5% sRGB display. The screen has reasonable color reproduction and marks this out as the best cheap laptop for Photoshop, being a good size for everyday use at 17.3 inches and 1080p resolution, which is not common among all of the best budget laptops for photo editing. This is an Asus 100% sRGB laptop in some configurations (with a 300 Hz screen at a significantly higher price), although the attached display does change with the model number, so be sure you are buying the version through the link, rather than a cheaper model with worse screen.

Ultimately, I find it very difficult to find anything not to recommend the Asus F17 as a photo editing laptop on a budget at its current price point. For not too much over $500 dollars, you can have a portable, powerful laptop, that compares favorably to desktops in the same price range – a rarity for laptops.

  • Pros:
  • 10th gen processor for fast performance in Photoshop
  • Very large 17 inch display at 144 Hz in Full HD
  • High capacity, super-fast NVMe SSD drive
  • User upgradeable and designed to take knocks and falls with premium build quality
  • Includes up-to-date I/O ports and discrete graphics card
  • Cons:
  • Color space is only 62.5% of the sRGB gamut
  • Trackpad is not as strong as competitors models
  • Fans can be loud under very high load (but this won’t be a problem for most photographers)

Asus TUF 17


3. Acer Aspire 5 15.6 inches Laptop

Strong Budget Laptop

Specifications:
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 4-core @ 3.6 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 256 GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Max Resolution: 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 65%
  • Touch Screen? No
  • Graphics: On-board Intel UHD Graphics G1
  • Battery Life: 7.5 hours
  • Weight: 3.97 lbs

The Acer Aspire 5 for photo editing actually delivers a very credible performance considering it’s low price. With a 256 GB SSD and the option to upgrade this to 512 GB with a small extra payment, this is the best laptop for picture storage reviewed here, and a very affordable laptop for photo editing and Photoshop.

The screen has excellent color rendition over its 15.6 inches, despite only covering 65% of the sRGB color gamut, and is a full HD, IPS display. Like most other laptops in this price range, it does not have a dedicated graphics card, but this should not be a problem for Photoshop users in practice.

The very good Intel i5 quad-core processor is strong while performing CPU intensive processes in Photoshop, and means you don’t have to wait long for tasks to complete.

If you are on a tight budget, this can be the best laptop for Photoshop under 500 dollars, with a lower spec version that only has 4 GB RAM and a 128 GB SSD available for less than $500.

  • Pros:
  • Highly regarded and well-liked by hobbyist users
  • Excellent screen and color rendition – but only covers 65% of sRGB color space
  • Affordable
  • Good battery life
  • Cons:
  • No dedicated graphics card
  • No touch screen

Acer Aspire 5


4. Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2020 Model)

Highest Resolution Laptop for Photo Editing

Specifications:
  • CPU: Apple M1 Chip 8-Core
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 256 GB SSD / No HDD
  • Screen Size: 13.3″
  • Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600 pixels
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 113%
  • Touch Screen? No
  • Graphics: On-board Intel Iris Plus
  • Battery Life: 15 hours
  • Weight: 2.8 lbs

This is not quite a 4K laptop for photo editing, but comes the closest of any being reviewed here, with a very high 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution. In the small 13.3″ screen, this makes everything appear very sharp, and dramatically increases the screen real-estate. With about 133% of sRGB colors visible through this display, the Macbook Air must be one of the best laptops to run Photoshop.

Apple’s new M1 8-core processor is blazingly fast, and means that even complex filters in Photoshop can be easily applied – not something you would have said about the earlier Macbook Air models.

If you are already used to Windows devices, then it is probably best sticking with those, but if you want a lightning fast, small and light laptop, then the Macbook Air is it.

  • Pros:
  • Overall a beautiful, premium machine to use for photo editing
  • Highest resolution display at this price range
  • 113% of sRGB color gamut with a color accurate display
  • Amazing design & build quality
  • Built-in Thunderbolt ports for connecting external SSDs
  • Cons:
  • Few ports
  • Gets hot very quickly under load
  • Expensive

Apple MacBook Air


5. ASUS VivoBook S15

A Contender for Best Laptop for Photoshop and Lightroom

Specifications:
  • CPU: Intel i5-1135G7 4-core @ 4.7 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 512 GB SSD / No HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Max Resolution: 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 54%
  • Touch Screen? No
  • Graphics: On-board Intel UHD
  • Battery Life: 15 hours
  • Weight: 3.97 lbs

This hits the sweet spot for the best laptop for Photoshop, with very little to let it down for the price. Perhaps the hardest thing to find in a budget laptop is a great screen, but the Asus Vivobook 15 delivers in Photoshop, with an IPS panel that has excellent color rendition and brightness – comparable to Macs.

With the benefit of a battery that lasts over 15 hours in real world tests, and a charger than can take an empty battery to 60% in 49 minutes, this is an excellent option for those looking to use their laptop out and about.

The weight is relatively light for this screen size and power, and the included USB-C and microSD ports make it easy to transfer photos from your camera to the laptop.

The processor is either a quad core, 10th generation Intel chip, that can overclock itself from the base frequency of 1.6 GHz, up to 4.2 GHz for labor intensive tasks, or an 11th gen processor that can run up to 4.7 GHz, and with the 512 GB SSD will make Photoshop use lightning fast.

Although there is no dedicated graphics card, the on processor Intel UHD graphics will work well with Photoshop and Lightroom.

  • Pros:
  • Fantastic value for money
  • Very long battery life
  • Lots of ports and extras
  • Colorful (about 61% of sRGB color space), bright display, ideal for photographers
  • Speedy and powerful performance
  • Cons:
  • No dedicated graphics card

ASUS VivoBook S15


6. ASUS ZenBook 13 Ultra-Slim Laptop

One of the Best Laptops for Photo Editing under $1000

Specifications:
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 4-core @ 3.6 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 256 GB SSD / No HDD
  • Screen Size: 13.3″
  • Max Resolution: 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 95%
  • Touch Screen? Yes
  • Graphics: On-board Intel UHD G1
  • Battery Life: 14 hours
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs

As one of the smallest and lightest laptops reviewed here, you might expect performance to suffer, but the Zenbook actually outperforms a number of other laptops, although the higher price means it doesn’t quite fall into the realm of best budget laptop for photography.

As you would expect in any best value laptop for photo editing, there are a good number of ports included, such as USB-C and a microSD reader, which should help with getting your photos from your camera to the Zenbook.

Having only a 13.3″ screen is an acquired taste for photo editing, but the fact that this runs at a full HD 1080p resolution means that in practice it feels no smaller than a 15 inch laptop. That it covers 95% of the sRGB color space makes it perfect for editing photos for the web, and is one of the laptops in this price range that displays the most colors.

The advantage to the small screen is the weight of under 2.5 lbs, making this extremely portable, with the real-world battery life even exceeding the stated 14 hours when under light load.

If this was cheaper, it would be higher up the list, but if you have the budget and want a more premium device, then the Zenbook is an excellent choice.

  • Pros:
  • Very small and light
  • Excellent colors with 95% sRGB
  • Fast charging and super long battery life
  • Aluminum body construction
  • Tough and able to take knocks and bumps
  • Cons:
  • Smaller screen size
  • Expensive

ASUS ZenBook 13


7. HP 15.6-inch HD Laptop

Cheap Laptop for Photo Editing

Specifications:
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700OU 4-core @ 2.3 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 256 GB SSD / No HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Max Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Panel Type: SVA
  • sRGB Color Space: 58%
  • Touch Screen? No
  • Graphics: On-board AMD Radeon RX Vega 10
  • Battery Life: 10 hours
  • Weight: 3.75 lbs

This is a cheap laptop for photo editing that has one of the best balances between cost and performance. With the fast AMD processor, 8 GB of RAM and a super-fast NVMe SSD, you won’t be waiting long for Photoshop to perform any labor intensive tasks.

You get a long battery life and the laptop is relatively small and lightweight for the screen size and specs, although this is let down by the lack of a dedicated graphics card. As with any laptop of these specs, it will get hot pretty quickly when used on your lap.

The biggest flaw from this laptop is the low resolution SVA screen (1366 x 768), which is a sub-1080p display. The color rendition is acceptable, but unless you are on a tight budget, I would strongly recommend the ASUS Vivobook S15 above, which is ultimately much better value for money.

  • Pros:
  • Very fast processor and SSD
  • Long battery life
  • SD card reader and USB-C port
  • Small for the screen size
  • Cons:
  • Screen is not IPS and only covers about 58% of sRGB colors
  • No dedicated graphics card

HP 15.6-inch HD Laptop


8. Lenovo IdeaPad 3

Best Inexpensive Laptop for Photo Editing

Specifications:
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3250U 2-core @ 2.6 GHz
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 128 GB SSD/ No HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Max Resolution: 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Panel Type: TN
  • sRGB Color Space: 52%
  • Touch Screen? No
  • Graphics: On-board AMD Radeon Vega 3
  • Battery Life: 6 hours
  • Weight: 4.84 lbs

This is the cheapest laptop for Photoshop reviewed here, and although the trade-off is lower performance, this is still the best inexpensive laptop for photo editing for those on a strict budget.

Although the processor is an older dual-core model, it runs at a respectable 2.6 GHz, and comes with a decent on-board graphics card. The slower performance of this laptop will come from the reduced RAM when compared with other models, although this can be partially recovered by letting Photoshop use the SSD as a scratch disk.

You get a low resolution, TN display panel, which will not be ideal for photography, although it will be passable. You do not get very good color rendition, with only 52% of the sRGB color space available.

So why is the IdeaPad 3 a good choice?
Because it is the best option to run Photoshop on a strict budget, thanks to the very low price. You will not find another Photoshop capable machine for the $350 or so that this laptop retails for. If that’s the size of your budget, then you have found the best cheap laptop for photo editing.

  • Pros:
  • Very affordable – a really cheap laptop for photo editing
  • Decent processor for the price
  • Potential to use SSD as Photoshop scratch disk
  • Suited for those wanting a Photoshop laptop on a budget
  • Cons:
  • Small SSD
  • Quite heavy
  • Low resolution, TN display with 52% of sRGB colors
  • Small amount of RAM

Lenovo IdeaPad 3


9. Microsoft Surface Laptop (1st Gen)

Nearly the Best Computer for Photography Editing

Specifications:
  • CPU: Intel i5 2-core @ 3.1 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 128 GB SSD / No HDD
  • Screen Size: 13.5″
  • Max Resolution: 2256 x 1504 pixels
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 94%
  • Touch Screen? Yes
  • Graphics: On-board Intel HD Graphics 620
  • Battery Life: 10 hours
  • Weight: 2.76 lbs

The first gen Surface Laptop was and is a very good laptop for photo editing, and remains the best choice if you demand a touch screen along with enough power to run Photoshop. Along with hitting 94% of the sRGB spectrum, the touch screen means that Photoshop use is extremely intuitive, with the Surface Pen meaning that you can draw masks directly onto the screen.

The laptop shows its age in the older, slower components it has been fitted with. You can counter this by upgrading to the more recent Surface Laptop 3, but this will cost you a significant premium.

The Surface Laptop 1 was designed as Microsoft’s answer to the Macbook Air, and is very similar to it in specs. If you are looking for a direct equivalent to the Macbook Air, but in Windows form, then the Surface Laptop is the answer.

  • Pros:
  • Very high resolution touch screen with 94% of sRGB colors
  • Lightweight with long battery life
  • Well designed and high build quality
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Cons:
  • Older, 7th gen Intel CPU
  • Have to upgrade (for free) to Windows 10 Pro from Windows S
  • Older, slower components

Microsoft Surface Laptop


10. Dell Inspiron 3000

Best Laptop for Photoshop Under $500

Specifications:
  • CPU: Intel i3-1005G1 2-core @ 1.2 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD / HDD:128 GB SSD / 1 TB HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Max Resolution: 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 71%
  • Touch Screen? Yes
  • Graphics: On-board Intel UHD Graphics
  • Battery Life: 7 hours
  • Weight: 4.45 lbs

As the best laptop for Photoshop under $500, the Dell Inspiron 3000 is a excellent choice for those on a more restricted budget. You get the latest 10th gen Intel processors (although only a slower dual-core version), along with plenty of RAM and both an SSD and HDD.

The display resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels lets the laptop down, although the touch screen is a massive bonus.

You won’t be getting a top quality budget laptop in the Dell, unlike with the Asus offerings, but you definitely get something that outperforms other units at this price point.

  • Pros:
  • 71% of sRGB color gamut
  • Touch screen
  • 10th gen Intel processor
  • Good build quality
  • Cons:
  • Need to take it out of Windows S mode
  • No dedicated graphics card
  • Slower components

Dell Inspiron 3000


11. LG Gram 17″ Laptop

Best Laptop for Picture Editing

Specifications:
  • CPU: Intel i7-1065G7 4-core @ 1.3 GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • SSD / HDD: 1TB SSD (2 x 512 GB) / No HDD
  • Screen Size: 17″
  • Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600 pixels
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • sRGB Color Space: 99%
  • Touch Screen? No
  • Graphics: On-board Intel Iris
  • Battery Life: 17 hours
  • Weight: 2.98 lbs

The LG Gram is without a doubt the best laptop for Adobe Creative Suite, if you have the money to spend. Unlike the other laptops featured in this article, it is not a budget model, but shows you what you can get if you are willing to spend a little more.

The very large 17″ screen can display just under the full sRGB color spectrum, and the high resolution makes it a joy to use for Photoshop work.

It has a quiet fan, that is difficult to notice even under heavy load, and the high-end Intel processor will quickly power through any labor intensive tasks.

With 16 GB of RAM, you are unlikely to run out when using Photoshop, and the two included SSDs mean that even if you do, there is a spare SSD to use as a scratch disk, making this the best laptop for photo editing and storage.

If you are looking for desktop replacement, that is also portable, and you have the money to spend, the LG Gram 17″ is one of the best laptops that you can buy.

  • Pros:
  • High-end processor
  • Lots of RAM and high capacity SSDs
  • Large screen with 99% of sRGB colors
  • Light weight and long battery life
  • Cons:
  • Slow charging
  • Expensive

LG Gram 17″ Laptop


Follow Tim Daniels:

Hi, I'm Tim Daniels, photographer and photo trainer, founder of Lapse of the Shutter and creator of the totally free Lightroom Develop System. I've travelled to (probably) 30 countries over the last few years, taking photos and licensing them around the world, and creating lots of free photography learning resources. Read More ...

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