As a photographer or creative pro, having a powerful yet portable laptop is crucial. You need one that can smoothly run editing programs like Photoshop and Lightroom, with a stunning display to view images accurately. But it also has to be lightweight enough to take with you wherever inspiration strikes.
I’ve tested the top laptops for photo editing and graphic design to find the best options balancing performance and portability. Whether you’re a pro looking for a mobile workstation or an enthusiast seeking an affordable editing machine, there’s something for everyone.
The Power Players For raw processing muscle, the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the new M2 Pro or M2 Max chips is hard to beat. It tore through benchmark testing and intensive creative tasks without breaking a sweat. The Liquid Retina XDR display remains the best laptop screen I’ve ever used – incredible brightness, contrast, and color. It’s on the heavier side at 4.7 pounds, but overall the MacBook Pro is a photo editing beast.
If you want sheer power above all else, the Lenovo ThinkPad P16 mobile workstation packs desktop-level performance into a “portable” package. The 12th Gen Core i9 CPU, Nvidia RTX graphics, and 4K OLED display blazed through the most demanding photo and video projects. Just expect poor battery life and a hefty 6 pound carrying weight.
The All-Rounders The Dell XPS 15 is a perennial favorite, dubbed “laptop perfection” in my review. With its sleek, lightweight chassis, gorgeous 15-inch screen, and speedy 12th Gen Intel performance, it nails the sweet spot between portability and power. I easily edited batches of Raw photos and 4K video during testing. Plus battery life is fantastic, lasting over 12 hours in one test!
I’m also smitten by HP’s gorgeous Spectre x360 2-in-1. Its unique gem-cut design and vibrant 13.5-inch OLED touchscreen make it one of the most striking laptops out there. And it holds its own for photo editing, while doubling as a tablet for drawing and notetaking. Just beware of finicky touchpad issues.
The Ultraportables If traveling light is essential, the MacBook Air M2 delivers startling speed in a 2.7 pound chassis. Apple’s speedy new M2 chip keeps pace with the MacBook Pro for many editing tasks. iMovie didn’t even make the Air break a sweat when exporting 4K video in testing. It’s not as powerful for intensive workflows, but proves itself as an exceptional portable editor.
For Windows users, the Dell XPS 13 Plus stands out for its slim, lightweight design housing 12th Gen Intel power. During my time with the laptop, it ably handled batches of Raw edits and exports in Lightroom Classic. Just expect somewhat short battery life, lasting 7 hours in mixed usage. But if portability is priority #1, the XPS 13 Plus perfectly fits the bill.
The Best Displays Those seeking the ultimate editing screen will love the Gigabyte Aero 16’s gorgeous 16-inch, 4K OLED display. It covers 100% of Adobe RGB and serves up incredible contrast and color accuracy. Combined with Nvidia RTX 4070 graphics, a 13th Gen Intel i9 chip, and up to 64GB RAM, it’s a formidable creative workhorse in a sub 5 pound frame.
On the Mac side, I have to call out Apple’s meme-worthy claim that the MacBook Pro’s screen is “the best on a laptop.” After testing it extensively, their bold statement definitely holds up! The 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display hits 1000 nits max brightness, covers extreme color gamuts, and looks simply stunning. It sets the bar for any high-end photo or video editing needs.
Choose What Best Fits Your Needs Of course your personal editing style, budget, and carrying preferences should dictate which is the “best” laptop. But with options spanning desktop powerhouses to featherweight portables, this roundup aims to cover every photographer’s needs. So take your pick of these capable, creator-approved machines!