If you’re a tech professional, you probably know the significance of a good laptop for photo editing. However, the high cost of Mac and Alienware laptops can be a barrier for many aspiring photographers. The good news is that budget-friendly options can still deliver the processing power and features needed for professional photo editing.
In this article, I provide a comprehensive guide to the best budget laptops for photo editing, including what to look for and which models to consider. Whether you’re a novice or a pro photo editor, this guide will help you find the perfect laptop without breaking the bank.
What to Look for in Best Budget Laptops for Photo Editing
When looking for a budget laptop for photo editing, below are the most important factors.
Your Specific Requirements
Firstly, you must identify your requirements and non-negotiables. What is it that’s most important for you? For instance, the last time I looked for a laptop, I wanted a 100% sRGB color-accurate display. To get that, I was ready to compromise on hardware a bit. But, of course, not everyone can be comfortable with my choice, especially when looking among cheap laptops for photo editing.
Lightroom Or Photoshop
The photo editing software is also important. Lightroom requires less powerful specifications compared to Photoshop. For Photoshop, the minimum requirements include a multicore processor with 64-bit support of 2 GHz or faster, a Windows 10 Oct 2018 update (64-bit) or later or macOS 10.13.6 or later, 8 GB or more of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or equivalent graphics card, and a 1280 x 800 display, 16-bit color and 512 MB or more of dedicated VRAM.
When it comes to the components of a laptop, the processor is one of the most important components, with clock speed combined with the number of cores being the best determinant of performance. Intel processors are the preferred option for Photoshop, but the AMD Ryzen line of CPUs has caught up with their performance. The more cores a processor has, the faster the performance, but it comes at a higher price. The minimum for the best budget processor for Photoshop is a CPU with six cores and a high clock speed, such as the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core.
RAM is also important, as it affects the speed of Photoshop operations. The more RAM, the quicker the speed. That’s why. Even when you’re looking for low-cost laptops for photo editing, get at least 8 GB of RAM.
Get a high-resolution display with an excellent color rendition. For budget laptops, the best resolution available is sub-4K and IPS panels due to their high-quality color rendition, increased viewing angles, and more even lighting. Regarding color space, sRGB is the standard for internet use, while Adobe RGB (1998) is the best color profile for Photoshop. A touch screen laptop for photo editing is a personal choice, and it may drain the battery faster than a regular screen. Still, it allows for easier masking and other Photoshop operations. In the end, the best laptop for photo editing depends on how you intend to use it, whether for travel, at home, or in between. An external display, such as the LG 27UK850-W 27″ 4K IPS monitor, is also viable if your budget allows it.
Find a laptop with a dedicated graphics card. While laptops with onboard graphics are okay, they’re not the best. A dedicated graphics card becomes all the more important, particularly if you plan on using Photoshop. With a dedicated graphics chip, your laptop’s RAM becomes free to perform other tasks, making it faster overall.
Nowadays, even entry-level laptops for photo editing usually have a long battery life. you can easily get 10+ hours of regular usage with an efficient laptop model. High-end gaming models generally consume batteries faster than budget photo editing machines.
5 Best Budget Laptops for Photo Editing
Lenovo Legion 5
As a tech enthusiast, it’s clear to see why the Lenovo Legion 5 is the best budget laptop for photo editing. First, it comes in 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch models, allowing users to choose between a larger screen or a more powerful processor and RAM.
Both models share a Full HD screen, but the 15.6-inch model has a more powerful Ryzen 7 processor and 16GB RAM. Meanwhile, the 17.3-inch model has a larger screen, which I prefer for photo editing, but it only has 8GB of RAM. However, it makes up for this with its powerful AMD Ryzen 5000 H processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU.
One of the biggest advantages of the Lenovo Legion 5 is its 100% coverage for the sRGB color space, which is essential for high-end photo editing. Users can also benefit from a larger workspace with the 17.3” FHD screen model.
However, the laptop is heavy, weighing 5.3 lbs for the smaller model and 6.57 lbs for the larger one. Additionally, its design is heavily focused on gaming, which might be better for some users.
Despite these cons, the Legion 5 offers fantastic value for money, given its powerful specs. It also has a dedicated graphics card with 4GB of GPU memory, and the AMD Ryzen processor comes with max clock speeds of up to 4.2GHz. Its cooling system is built to handle long gaming sessions, making it ideal for intensive graphics software like Adobe Creative Suite.
- 100% sRGB and Full HD display
- Dedicated graphics card
- Plenty of ports for connectivity
- Efficient cooling system
- Gaming focussed design
Acer Nitro 5
Acer Nitro offers excellent value for money, and if you can find it under $700, you can have one of the best budget-friendly laptops for photo editing.
The Nitro 5 comes with an Intel Core i5-10300H processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, making it a very powerful machine for photo editing despite being designed as a gaming laptop. Additionally, the RAM is user-upgradable, so you can easily upgrade it to meet your needs.
While the screen’s color accuracy is not the best, with only 62% of sRGB colors, the Nitro 5 is still great for high-end photo editing tasks like adding 3D effects or using the Distort filters in Photoshop. Besides, the screen is an IPS panel type, providing wider viewing angles and better color reproduction than a regular TN panel.
The Nitro 5 is also available in a 17.3-inch model, which includes 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD, all for a little over USD $1000, making it an excellent budget laptop for photo editing.
The laptop’s design is different, as it is slightly chunky, with a specific gaming aesthetic. However, this design also has specific specs like a backlit keyboard, making it practical for working in low-light conditions.
Overall, the Acer Nitro 5 delivers maximum performance for photo editing tasks at a minimum cost, making it the best budget laptop for photo editing, especially for those who value performance over screen color accuracy and design aesthetics.
- Excellent value for money
- Very powerful machine
- User upgradeable RAM
- The 17.3-inch model includes 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD
- The screen has only 62% of sRGB colors
- Design is not to everyone’s taste
HP Pavilion 15
The AMD Ryzen 5-based midrange version of the Pavilion 15 offers an excellent balance of power and affordability, making it a great choice for photo editing. The 8GB of RAM available in the current Pavilion 15 range is sufficient for most photo editing tasks, but if you work with large images, consider the 16GB version.
Additionally, the laptop has a dedicated graphics card, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, which can handle demanding graphics workloads while freeing up the CPU and RAM for other tasks.
The connectivity options on the Pavilion 15 are impressive, with USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, and even an integrated SD card reader. The 15.6-inch Full HD 1920×1080 screen with IPS technology ensures you get the best photo display.
One downside of the HP Pavilion 15 is that it only offers 62% sRGB color space, which is lower than other laptops. However, this is still a good middle-ground option for most photographers.
In terms of portability, the HP Pavilion 15 is not the thinnest or lightest laptop out there, weighing in at 4.9 pounds. This may not be ideal for photographers already carrying a lot of equipment, but it’s still a manageable weight for most users.
Battery life is another important factor when choosing a laptop for photo editing. While the HP Pavilion 15’s battery life maxes out at 8 hours, it is more consistent than some other budget laptops, making it a reliable editing option.
The HP Pavilion 15 is an excellent budget laptop for photo editing. Its powerful hardware, good connectivity options, and Full HD screen make it a great choice for photographers looking to edit their photos without breaking the bank.
- Upgradable RAM
- Dedicated graphics
- Efficient cooling
- Great port selection
- Poor battery life
- Provides only 62% sRGB color space
ASUS Vivobook S15
The ASUS VivoBook S15 is another of the best budget laptops for photo editing. The laptop comes with an Intel i5-1135G7 processor with four cores that can overclock itself up to 4.7 GHz for labor-intensive tasks, and it has 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD.
The 15.6-inch IPS panel screen has excellent color rendition and brightness, making it comparable to Macs. It has a long battery life of over 15 hours and can charge up to 60% in 49 minutes. Additionally, the laptop’s weight is relatively light for this screen size and power, making it easy to carry around.
One of the significant challenges when looking for a budget laptop for photo editing is finding a great screen, but the ASUS VivoBook S15 delivers on that front. The included USB-C, and microSD ports make it easy to transfer photos from your camera to the laptop. Although no dedicated graphics card exists, the on-processor Intel UHD graphics work well with Photoshop and Lightroom.
The laptop’s pros include fantastic value for money, a long battery life, lots of ports and extras, a colorful and bright display ideal for photographers, and speedy and powerful performance. On the other hand, the laptop’s only significant con is that it does not have a dedicated graphics card.
The ASUS VivoBook S15 is a reasonably portable budget laptop with a Full HD IPS screen with wide viewing angles and excellent contrast. However, not all S15 models have an IPS screen. In summary, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly laptop that can easily handle photo editing tasks, the ASUS VivoBook S15 is an excellent option.
- Fantastic value for the money
- Very long battery life
- Lots of ports and extras
- Colorful, bright display, ideal for photographers
- Speedy and powerful performance
- No dedicated graphics card
- Not all S15 models have an IPS screen
Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5i (2022)
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i (2022) is a 2 in 1 convertible that can be another great option for photo editing. The laptop’s color is stunning, with a subtle and deep blue hue extending from the outer shell to the keyboard area. The responsive keyboard feels great, exceeding the quality of more expensive laptops. The fan noise is quiet, and the heat levels are comparable to other laptops, so there’s no need to worry about overheating.
While the laptop is a bit heavier than some other models, this gives it a sense of high quality. The upward-firing speakers are a welcome change from side-firing speakers, and they offer decent sound quality, although the bass could be better. The display could be brighter for outdoor use, but the narrow color gamut will have minimal impact on day-to-day usage for most people.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i (2022) is also a great choice for those who want to maximize performance without breaking the bank. Its 12th-gen Core i5 CPU is faster than many 11th-gen Core i7 options and costs hundreds of dollars less. The redesigned hinges provide a better sense of quality than last year’s model, and Thunderbolt 4 support allows for a wider range of compatible docking stations and desk setups. The Core i5-1235U CPU and integrated GPU offer fast performance, comparable to laptops with the more expensive Core i7-1255U option.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i (2022) is a fantastic budget laptop for photo editing and other office workloads. While it may not be suitable for serious picture editing due to its limited color gamut, it is still a great choice for those who want a versatile 2-in-1 form factor without breaking the bank.
- High-performance CPU for a budget laptop
- Thunderbolt 4 support
- Redesigned hinges for a better sense of quality
- Great keyboard with a crisp and responsive feel
- Lightweight with a high-quality feel
- Limited color gamut of just 60% of sRGB
- Not suitable for brighter outdoor use
So, there you have it – the most affordable photo editing laptops available today. While there are numerous options, consider the laptop’s overall performance, portability, and usability rather than just focusing on photo editing capabilities.
Also, while a desktop PC and a good monitor may offer better performance, gaming laptops can be a surprisingly strong option for photographers on a budget. Ultimately, with a little research and consideration of your individual needs, you can find the perfect laptop for your photo editing needs without emptying your wallets.