Without proper post-processing, digital photos remain pale. A laptop for photo editing is essential. But what does a device that runs “Photoshop” or “Affinity Photo” have to do?

Artists of photography ideally edit pictures on their desktop PC. It offers more convenience, choice and better value. However, particularly passionate photographers travel to the most remote places in the world to capture unique moments. And neither convenience nor the better price of a PC bring them anything. You are dependent on a laptop.

And it has to meet certain needs. On the go, the laptop wants to be light, to have a long battery life and with enough power so that image processing runs smoothly. On top of that, the display should reproduce colors true to the original. It is advantageous if it emits a high level of luminosity. In this way, photographers can put the finishing touches to their pictures on the go, even when the sun is shining.

Unfortunately, these properties are only combined in the top models from Apple, Dell and other premium manufacturers. Traveling photographers don’t get away cheaply. After all, the laptops are so powerful that you don’t necessarily need a desktop PC at home. For convenience, all laptops for image processing connect to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard thanks to the appropriate USB-C dongle.

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1. Photo editing laptop: MacBook Pro

Apple products are particularly popular with creative people. The reason for this may lie buried in the simplicity of MacOS and the sleek design of the devices. In addition, the calendar, photos, notes on the iPad, iPhone and MacBook are synchronized in the Apple ecosystem. You can send large files among the devices via AirDrop. Handy if you want to add the finishing touches or filters to an image with a special iPhone or iPad app.

But Apple makes photographers happy with its screens. The company has given the 16-inch version of the MacBook Pro a Retina display with True Tone technology. Retina displays have a high pixel density of 326 pixels per square inch (ppi). You benefit enormously from this in post-processing, for example when you zoom in on the image to change it with pixel precision.

According to Apple, the MacBook’s sensors adjust the colors and intensity of the display to the ambient lighting. The built-in ninth-generation Intel processors work in conjunction with AMD graphics cards. The performance is more than enough for image processing with Adobe “Photoshop” or “Affinity Photo”. In the smallest version with 512 gigabytes of memory, the MacBook Pro costs at least 2,700 euros. The memory is small for a device in this price range. So it makes sense to get an external USB-C hard drive if you don’t like the lavish surcharges for more internal storage.

2. Apple MacBook Pro 13 Zoll

Incidentally, last year Apple presented a smaller version of its MacBook Pro, which came with 13 inches. It’s a bit cheaper than its big brother, but thanks to the formidable display, it’s just as good for image processing. Apple’s M1 chip works in it. It has a different architecture than previous processors. Therefore, software developers are forced to rewrite their programs so that the processor can process them.

So far, Adobe has only released a beta version of its “Photoshop” software that runs natively on the ARM chip. No reason to worry. With the integrated simulation software “Rosetta 2” you can still get “Photoshop” to run – and without any further problems. If you want to take a smaller version of the MacBook on a trip, you’re in good hands with the 13-inch version.

3. MacBook Air

“Price-conscious” Apple buyers should take a look at the MacBook Air with the M1 chip. In terms of performance, the Air is on par with the Pro. Only the battery is smaller. Extensive image processing without a power source comes to an end faster than with the small Pro version. The M1 processor has a very special advantage over conventional chips from Intel and AMD: Apple promises that apps can implement machine learning “better” thanks to the ARM architecture, allowing software to process images automatically. And of course that works just as well on the Pro version as it does on the MacBook Air.

4. Dell Precision

If you prefer to edit pictures on Windows 10 or Linux, you can get away with it cheaper with a laptop from Dell. A nice plus point: The built-in Intel Core i5 processors from the Precision series are from the chip manufacturer’s eleventh and thus latest generation. The more powerful i7 chips in Precision laptops are 10th or 11th generation. Apple is still giving its 16-inch MacBook Pro ninth-generation Intel processors. Also, Dell offers you more configuration options with its laptops. Anyone who finds an i7 processor to be oversized for photo editing can switch to an Intel Core i5 at Dell.

But you should pay attention to one thing: Some of the Precision laptops only work with the integrated graphics unit of the Intel chips. However, programs such as “Affinity Photo” and “Photoshop” also use the graphics card to speed up calculations for individual effects during image processing. So you want to know a dedicated graphics card on board the laptop. Unfortunately, the Dell Precision’s display isn’t quite as high-resolution as the Retina display on the MacBook Air and Pro. Apple remains the undisputed leader here. Plus point for Dell: If you wish, you can get the Precision without an operating system if you order it directly from Dell. So you save another 110 euros.

Configure Dell Precision at Dell

5. Microsoft Surface Pro

Another interesting device for editing images is the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. It is a convertible. This is a mix of tablet and computer. You can buy a keyboard for the Surface Pro 7 and use it like a laptop, or use the touchscreen to operate the device. Beautiful: Windows has given the Surface Pro 7 powerful tenth-generation Intel processors.

The more powerful of their kind are easily sufficient for “Photoshop” and “Affinity Photo”. Compared to the Dell XPS and MacBook Pro, the Surface Pro offers the advantage of a touchscreen. Artists who love to draw can buy a pen with the convertible and paint and edit images intuitively on the Surface Pro 7. Apple only offers this option on its iPads. A big plus for the Surface Pro.

Configure Microsoft Surface Pro 7

6. Dell XPS 2-in-1

If you don’t like Microsoft’s design at all, you can switch to a Dell XPS 2-in-1. The computer manufacturer also offers high-performance versions of tablet and laptop hybrids. However, the way Dell 2-in-1s work is a bit different.

You don’t have to buy a keyboard, it’s on the screen like on classic laptops. However, a rotary hinge ensures that you can turn the keyboard to the back and use the screen as a tablet. Alternatively, the keyboard can also be used as a stand.

Configure Dell XPS 2in1 at Dell

Laptop for photo editing: external hard drive

A big problem with laptops for photo editing is storage space. This is usually small and it makes sense for videographers and photographers to save their projects on external hard drives. However, not every external hard drive is equally well suited to enable a smooth workflow.

All laptops presented have a USB-C connection, which guarantees high data throughput. The higher the data throughput, the faster the individual files move between external and internal storage. In addition, the external storage should be an SSD and not a “normal” hard drive. Because it has longer loading times compared to flash memory, which is annoying when things have to be done quickly.

The Samsung Portable SSD T5 is excellently suited as external storage for image processing. It works with Windows 10 as well as with MacOS. At 2 terabytes, their storage space is generous – at least for photographers. If you film in 4K resolution, you may need a larger external memory.

How much memory do I need?

Random access memory (RAM) serves as the processor’s short-term memory. The larger the RAM, the more computing tasks the processor can cache there. For you, who work on the computer, this means nothing more than that the computer can process several tasks in parallel. So if you have opened the browser with many tabs and other programs in addition to the image editing program, you want to know that there is a lot of RAM installed in the laptop. DDR4 RAM works in the latest laptops.

Usually it is easy to upgrade the RAM on laptops. Most of the time, you don’t even have to unscrew the laptop, you can simply open a flap. However, more and more manufacturers are beginning to change that. It is better to find out beforehand whether and how easy it is to upgrade the RAM on your desired device. As a guideline, at least 16 gigabytes of RAM should be installed in a laptop for image processing. You drive better with 32 gigabytes. Before you buy, pay attention to how the already installed bolts clock. Otherwise it can happen that the processor reduces the clock of the new bars.

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