Built from the ground up with editing in mind. The 10-core CPU is reliably quick. Battery life lasts up to 21 hours. Liquid XDR Retina display looks beautiful when in use. When closed it can fit in a backpack without taking up much room.
Lack of normal ports means you will have to buy an adapter for HDMI and USB-A.
Built to perform with 8GB RAM, a 512GB solid-state hard drive, 8-core GPU and CPU, and macOS's famously reliable workflow and performance. Also works with Final Cut, Adobe, and most other top creative suites.
It's pricey. The operating system can take some getting used to.
Surface Pro computers are light and powerful; you truly get a full laptop experience, despite it being tablet-sized. Lightweight and portable at only 1.7 pounds. Comes with a type cover. Features 10th-generation Intel core i5.
The 12.3-inch screen may mean a little bit of squinting when it comes to editing photos and videos.
Relatively affordable model. Desktop-like performance. Features a thin bezel. Boasts a vibrant 17-inch HDR display. Optimized for Adobe creative programs. Has a slim profile and a comfortable keyboard.
Its weight of 5.53 pounds may be an issue for some users.
Wide and gorgeous 4K UHD 17.3-inch display. Lifelike color range. NVidia Quadra graphics pop with vibrant colors and crisp detail. The 4TB of storage and custom memory offer desktop-like performance. Premium Dolby Atmos speakers.
Its bezels are on the thick side.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Technology has changed everything for us — especially how we document our lives. We take hours of video and thousands of pictures with our phones, tablets, and 4K video cameras, and they all make sure everything comes out in stunning detail. It’s pretty great, although it’s created an interesting problem: most of us have a huge backlog of media to edit.
Whether you’re a serious videographer producing videos using Adobe Premiere, or a casual user with a ton of photos and videos to comb through, you’ll need a machine that’s powerful enough to handle it all and reliable enough to keep everything safe. Not just any laptop will do: you’ll need to find one that can keep up with you without breaking the bank.
Here’s everything you need to know to find the perfect laptop for editing photos or videos: the specs to invest in, the gimmicks to watch out for, and the right amount to pay.
Laptops for photo and video editing are standard laptops, but they have more power than usual for tasks like rendering graphics or indexing directories with hundreds of files. Pay the closest attention to the following specifications:
The central processing unit (CPU) is in charge of all of the tasks a computer does, everything from opening files to editing them. Because most editing applications demand so many resources, it’s important to get a CPU that can keep up. In most cases, the best bet is to buy a laptop with a processor from the Intel i3/i5/i7 series or one from the AMD Ryzen 3/5/7 series. If you see a laptop listing that isn’t upfront about what CPU it uses, don’t buy it.
The graphics processing unit (GPU) is often referred to as a video card. For photo and video editing, graphics are critical, so the right laptop should have some beefy video hardware on board. Most good photo- and video-editing laptops have a video card made by either NVIDIA or AMD. If you see a laptop stating it has “on-board video,” don’t buy it. That just means that there is no separate video card and it relies on the CPU for all of its video rendering.
The screen resolution controls how detailed images look, so for creative work, it’s important to get a laptop that can display as many pixels as possible. Laptop screen resolutions typically range from 1920 x 1080 (1080p HD) to 2160 x 3840 (4K UHD). Most users find 1080p screens to be too blurry, so for best results, get a laptop with a screen resolution of 2560 x 1440 (1440p) or higher.
Think about the peripherals you might use with your laptop. Do you plan on connecting an external hard drive? USB mouse? Phone charger? External monitor? No matter what extras you plan on bringing, you’ll need a laptop that can connect plenty of them simultaneously. Consider everything you’ll be connecting and determine how many ports you’ll need before you start shopping.
In addition to the laptop’s screen resolution, you’ll also need to pay attention to its screen size. Smaller screens can make it hard to see minute details, which can be critical when it comes to photos and videos. On the other hand, larger screens increase the weight, cost, and battery consumption of a laptop, so you’ll have to choose a size that represents a reasonable compromise. Laptop screens range from 11.6 inches to 17 inches, and most creative professionals opt for the biggest screen they can afford.
Because these laptops are designed to use high-end hardware, they’re typically more expensive than other laptops, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a bargain. Keep these price ranges in mind so you know how far your money will go.
You’ll find good entry-level laptops for photo and video editing for between $900 and $1,499. Models in this range are generally good machines, but they typically make a few compromises that may concern photo and video editors, like low resolutions or anemic amounts of RAM. If you’re just getting started in the world of editing videos and photos, a laptop in this price range will still be a bargain, but if you’re a power user, you’ll want to look at more expensive models.
Most laptops between $1,500 and $2,399 strike a good balance between price and performance. Models in this price range are fast enough for any application and often pack extras like 4K resolution and plenty of RAM. Unless you’re a professional photographer or videographer, there’s no need to spend more than this to get an outstanding value.
Expect to see laptops powerful enough for pros in the $2,400 to $6,000 range. Laptops in this price range take every component and max it out, so if you’re looking for a 17-inch screen with 4K resolution accompanied by a current-generation processor and as much RAM as the computer can handle, it’ll cost you.
Decide what editing software you plan on using before you buy a laptop. Most software applications will publish minimum hardware requirements, that is, how fast a computer needs to be to run an app. By selecting the software you plan to use ahead of time, you can consult the developer’s hardware recommendations and then buy a laptop that meets or exceeds those metrics.
Develop a strategy for backing up files from your laptop. Sadly, laptops can get stolen or damaged, and if you don’t back up your files, a single accident can make all of your content unusable. Always be ready for the worst-case scenario. Sign up for a cloud-based backup storage service or buy a portable hard drive and use it regularly to keep extra copies of your files safe.
Q. What’s the difference between hard disk drives and solid state drives?
A. Computer hard drives come in two different types: hard disk drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD). HDD capacities can get higher than SSDs (for now), but SSDs have no moving parts, so they last much longer and typically perform faster. Many creative professionals opt to use SSDs in their laptops for their software and operating system, and then also use external HDDs to store their digital video and photo content.
Q. For editing videos and photos, which type of screen is better: glossy, or matte?
A. It’s a matter of preference. Some users swear by glossy screens and love how they can make even the dullest images look shiny. Others say that glossy screens have too much reflection and make fingerprints more visible. While you’re considering which one you prefer, think about where you’ll be using your laptop most often. If it’s an area with a lot of light, you might want to opt for a laptop with a matte screen.
Q. Can I use a Chromebook for editing photos and videos?
A. It depends on how powerful the Chromebook is. Google’s Chrome OS operating system supports the most popular web-based video- and photo-editing services, including Adobe Creative Cloud. However, not all Chromebooks are fast enough to use the software because many Chromebooks are designed to be entry-level laptops. If you’re interested in buying a Chromebook for editing photos and videos, look for a high-end model.