Best Laptop for Photo Editing
With the advent of digital cameras, editing photos instantly and on the go has become very important today than ever before. For this reason, laptops have become an inevitable and portable tool for editing, cropping and printing photos on job sites according to various needs. In order to tweak pictures far more comprehensively, the best laptop for photo editing must be equipped with the right software and accessories. In addition, the photo editing laptop must comprise of features and specs which support tasks ranging from simple editing to complex batch processing and workflow management. They must aid the speed and efficiency for photo editing.
Accordingly, here are the key factors one needs to consider while choosing the best photo editing laptop– processing power, memory: RAM size and hard disk, Wi-Fi capabilities, battery life, screen size, resolution, color and display, ease of use of keyboard and mouse to zoom in and out, photo editing software and accessories. Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Image Ready, Illustrator, is the most popular and the best laptop for photo editing software package in the industry. So, any laptop used for photo editing must support Adobe Creative Suite efficiently.
Given all these factors, it can be overwhelming and daunting to choose the best laptop for editing. Below is a comprehensive guide describing the features and specifications required by laptops for editing?
Features and Specifications:
The key hardware specifications that are essential for high performance, photo editing laptop are:
- Speedy Processor or CPU
- Large capacity Random Access Memory (RAM)
- Large capacity hard disk
- Large size and high resolution screen
- Long-life Battery
- Wi-Fi capabilities
- Graphics card/Graphics processing unit (GPU)
- USB and peripherals.
- Speedy Processor or CPU
As per Moore’s law, the processing power doubles and the size of the CPU reduces to half every 18 months. This means that the latest CPUs available in market today, in 2016, are twice as powerful, yet half the size of the processors sold in late 2014. More powerful the processor is, the better is the laptop performance. Tasks like photo editing require a rather powerful processor compared to simple word-processing or online browsing tasks. Processors’ power is represented by three components 1) Speed measured in gigahertz 2) Bit architecture represented as 32 bit or 64 bit3) Core architecture.
- Speed – Higher the gigahertz, the faster is the processor. It is recommended to have laptop with 2 gigahertz or more to run Photoshop or similar software efficiently.
- Bit architecture – The best laptop for photo editing should have a 64 bit processor. This 64 bit represents the amount of data that can be handled by the processor. 64 bit processors are better than 32 bit processors for obvious reasons.
- Core architecture – Modern processors are actually multiple processors baked into a single chip. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, in the computing world, multicore is better than single core. The popular processors today have quad core (four cores) and are good enough, but for the best laptop for picture editing, the processors with six cores are recommended.
Even a simple photo editing task such as cropping can take up a few thousand lines of machine code to execute, while complex editing and batch processing can bring your laptop to its knees. Unlike components like RAM and hard disk, a CPU cannot be upgraded. The processor must have high speed to support smooth working of editing software such as Photoshop. Reduced speed will slow down the laptop, making it difficult to work on large files and images. Hence, it is recommended to buy the most powerful processor available in the market. High speed Intel Core7i family or AMD A10 processors serve the purpose.
- Random Access Memory (RAM)
RAM is the main memory of the laptop and is measured in bytes. It is the temporary area where data is being processed while the instructions are executed. Higher the bytes, better the performance of the laptop. Photo editing generally requires a lot of data to be processed. It is recommended to use 8 gigabytes or more of RAM for photo editing tasks. The advantage of RAMs is that they can generally be upgraded to a higher capacity over time if the processor and motherboard are able to support it. The laptop for photo editing should have 16 gigabytes of RAM, with an option to upgrade the RAM in the future.
- Hard Disk
The main storage component of a laptop is the hard disk. While RAM is for temporary storage of data, hard disk is for long term storage. With the advent of newer technology, photography is not limited to cameras alone but has expanded to mobile phones as well. The high end mobile phones and digital cameras (including SLR and point and shoot cameras) can capture very high resolution pictures. This means that the size of the photo files tends to be very large. It is not uncommon for a single photo file to be 10s of megabytes. In addition, if you are a professional photographer who shoots images in RAW file format, the file sizes can easily cross the 100 megabyte mark. Therefore, it is recommended to have a very large capacity hard disk.
Hard disks come in two varieties these days 1) SATA 2) SSD
- SATA –These hard disks are cheaper but slower compared to SSD hard disks. Since the SATA technology has been around for a while, the capacity improvements have been immense. Hence, SATA hard disks tend to have larger capacity than their SSD counter parts.
- SSD – the latest kid in the block is the SSD hard disk. These are extremely fast and are compact in size, but lower in capacity. Hence, the laptops with SSD hard disk tend to be lighter. However, SSD hard disks tend to be pricier than the SATA ones.
The laptop for photo editing is recommended to have at least one terabyte of hard disk capacity, preferably SSD, to serve for the high storage demands of photo editing. However, with the rise of cheap cloud storage, you are not always limited to the hard disk capacity of your laptop. Yet, hard disk is an essential companion when you are offline and need to access your photos for editing.
Gone are the days of screens where you had to squint your eyes to see a sharp image. Laptop these days have technology such as retina technology where you cannot even distinguish between two pixels on the screen. These screens are not only high in resolution but also support millions of colors and match the real world scenes to near perfection. Such screens are a must have for the best laptop for photo editing. With these high-end screens, common photo editing tasks including contrast, saturation, brightness, hue, sharpness always yield great and desired results.
The larger the screen, the better is the view of pictures to edit and zoom in. It is advisable to get a minimum screen size of 15 inches if size is not too much of a hassle while travelling. The display and color quality must be crisp and precise in order to edit pictures efficiently. Higher resolution, with at least 2880x1800pixels with 32 bit of color depth and 220 pixels per inch, will help to edit fine and tiny details accurately on Photoshop. In addition, the laptop resolution defines the clarity of the image – the higher the resolution, the clearer the image and the better it will look when printed in brochures or catalogues. If you’re printing bigger size pictures, you will need even higher resolutions to make it them look clear.
Touch screens have become very common in the market. Touch screens can be very useful to zoom in and out of the photos with your fingertips. While not a must have feature, touch screens do add an accessibility dimension to the laptops.
- Long-Life Battery
A commonly ignored aspect of a laptop is its battery life. In the quest for the fastest and lightest laptop, battery is the common victim. You will need a longer battery life especially if you are always on the go. This will enable the laptop for photo editing on sites without interruption. The best laptop for photo editing should have at least 8 hours of battery life to get you through the work day.
- Wi-Fi Capabilities
Whether you are accessing your photos online or backing up your hard disk on the cloud, you need to have a good Wi-Fi hardware on your laptop to support your photo editing activities. IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n is the latest standard in the Wi-Fi and ensures that you have the maximum bandwidth available. Moreover, the top of the line digital cameras also allow you to wireless connect to the laptop and access digital storage directly. So, a laptop that supports a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networking is the one that is ideal for photo editing.
- Graphic Card/Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
While the CPU does the heavy lifting of the overall processing, a GPU card can come in handy for those complex image processing activities such as oversampling, texture mapping and high-precision color functions. A good GPU is a must have for the best laptops for editing.
- USB Ports and Peripherals
The best photo editing laptops must support multiple peripherals such as an USB card reader, a mouse or a drawing tablet, using a number of USB and other ports.
A common way to transfer photos from the digital camera to the laptop is using a USB card reader. Simply detach the memory card from the camera and plug into the card reader and photos are readily available on the laptop.
Even though your laptop supports a touch screen and has a touch pad, the ease and comfort of the good old mouse is unbeatable. You can connect your mouse to the laptop either through a cable using the USB port or wirelessly via Bluetooth.
Yet another popularly used gadget for photo editing is the drawing tablet. With the ability to use a stylus to add embellishments to the photo, the drawing tablets bring out a whole new dimension to photo editing.
If you usually use an external monitor to connect your laptop, your laptop will need an HDMI or RCA port.
So, which are the best laptops for photo editing? Many professional photographers unanimously choose Apple manufactured laptops that are high-end and expensive. They are very well worth the price for the functionalities – speed and performance- they offer. Apple’s MacBook series with retina display is custom-made for photo and video editing. It is the best laptop for editing in the industry if you’re ready to dig deep into your pockets.
While Windows laptop families, such as HP Pavilion, Dell Inspiron, Lenovo Yoga, Acer Aspire and Asus ZenBook, have reasonably priced products, it is very essential to upgrade the specific products with the necessary hardware in order to use them seamlessly for photo editing.
Adobe Creative Suite is available across both the Windows and Mac platforms. Professionals often opt for Mac as they are more durable and are less prone to malicious attacks. Microsoft offers many free apps that can be downloaded and used for editing on Windows. If you are a Linux fan, there are picture editing laptops by HP and Dell, designed specifically for Ubuntu, a popular Linux operating system. Photo editing software such as GIMP is readily available to use on such laptops.
Choosing the right laptop for your photo editing needs can be an expensive endeavor. You will not only need a set budget for the laptop, but also an additional amount for hardware upgrades, photo editing software, peripherals, monthly fee for cloud services and more. If you also print your work, that becomes a separate beast in itself.
Whether MacBook or Windows laptops, whether high end or low price-point laptops, the best photo editing laptop must be equipped with the appropriate features and specs that support the photo editing tools – both software and hardware accessories – required to perform the editing tasks efficiently and speedily.