Photoshop is the most useful and popular software whether you are a photographer, web and other type of graphic designer
However, you’ll find a lot of conflicting evidence on what makes a laptop the best for Photoshop. And most of the time you’ll end up with a far too expensive machine that may have many unnecessary features that are not best for Photoshop and other similar software.
So how can this article help?
We’ll go through every specification needed for the best laptop for Photoshop backed up by a few studies and benchmarks so you can be sure you are making the right purchase. This article has two parts: a guide on how to look for the best laptop for Photoshop and the top 5 laptops for Photoshop as of 2017. If you know what to look for and you want to save time, then go to the recommended laptops section below. If not, go through the guide first so you know what you are buying and why are you buying it.
Top 5 Best Laptops for Photoshop
Regardless of the type of work you do with Photoshop and the budget you currently have, you should find a suitable laptop from this short list. Just make sure to read the details and descriptions carefully before doing any purchases.
The Best Laptop For Photoshop
CPU: i7 2.5GHz Quad Core| Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 2GB vRAM | Screen: 15.4-inch RetinaDisplay (2880×1800 pixels) | Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD | RAM: 16GB
If budget is not an issue and you don’t mind using a Mac, this should definitely be your top choice. It’s not really the OS that makes it one of the best laptops for Photoshop, it’s actually the combination of hardware specs and features it provides which isn’t very common among laptops from any brand.
For starters you get a high quality display. The Retina which simply translates to high resolution giving its users a higher pixel density than most laptops (full HD 1080p) as well as integrating an IPS panel for a more accurate view regardless the angle and which also increases color accuracy. The Pro’s display covers 86% of the sRGB color space which is far more than the average laptop and some popular laptops for graphics design . Its color accuracy (measured as 1.4 by Delta Score) is actually near perfect which really makes it stand out of most of laptop’s displays out there.
There are PC laptops with a decent display too, but this is one area where you can rely on a mac.
Performance wise it has more than sufficient power to support Adobe Photoshop and provide you with a super fast workflow too no matter how complex your editing gets: 2.5GHZ of Clock Speed, 16GB and the 4 core CPU for multitasking with other apps.
The Graphics Card is dedicated with 2GB vRAM to take advantage of hardware acceleration features in Photoshop and also has one of the fastest SSD technologies on the market for insanely fast loading times (applications, files, previews, savings, OS booting times, etc).
Although this is the expensive 15” version, you can do ok with the 13” version which has a dual core i5 processor and an integrated graphics card for most purposes and any multitasking you plan on simultaneously doing along with Photoshop.
In summary, the Pro has the right color accuracy, enough resolution, great brightness levels, viewing angles, more than enough CPU, RAM and SSD technology for ultra-fast image editing for photoshop and any image editing. Without a doubt the best laptop for Photoshop as of 2017.
Best Windows Laptop For Photoshop
CPU: i7 2.8GHz Quad Core (3.5GHz Turbo Boost) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 | Screen: 15.6″ 4K Ultra HD Display (3840 x 2160) | Storage: 512GB SSD | RAM: 16GB
Like the Pro, it also has more than enough power for Photoshop and multitasking between heavy editing apps: a Quad Core processor, 16GB RAM, the same speedy SSD (PCIe flash storage) for quick access to files, launching photoshop and boot up times.
It has one of the most amazing displays(if not the best) for a portable laptop. The resolution is 3840×2160 almost twice of that of MacBook Pro. Now, while that resolution may not be useful to some of you it should be for those looking for high precision and accurate editing (photographers).
It covers a wider gamut than the MacBook Pro which is measured as +100% of the sRGB and 98% of the aRGB. As a result it has a color accuracy near perfect levels too. And if you go for the lowest resolution option (full HD), it’ll also come with a matte finish to protect your screen and your work from distortion coming from external light sources.
It also remains quite portable at 4.4lb and with a relatively long battery life 6 hours (vs. 10 hours of the Pro).
If budget isn’t an issue and if you find yourself more productive with Windows , the Dell XPS 15 is a no brainer. Alternatively if you are interested in its displaying features as well as having just enough power for Photoshop you could settle with the 13” version which is a bit cheaper but almost with the same performance provided you do not use GPU accelerated effects with Photoshop.
Best Budget Laptop For Photoshop
CPU: Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5GHz (Turbo up to 3.1GHz) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 | Screen: 15.6 inches Matte FHD display` | Storage: 512GB SSD | RAM: 8GB-16GB RAM
This is a gaming laptop but it’s quite a gem among them, it’s cheap and has everything you need for an ultra-fast performance with Photoshop.
The processor although it’s a dual core it’s one of the latest generations with a maximum speed of 3.1Ghz which is more important for Photoshop than the number of cores. The RAM is only 8GB but this is easily upgradeable up to 16GB.
It’s got the right storage capacity and technology(SSD) for the quickest performance and more than enough space for a large part of your library, files and applications (512GB).
Though not the latest, but certainly not the oldest either, the graphics card is one of the most powerful out there for both gaming and 3D applications in mind which is the same one as the Dell XPS 15.
It also comes with a matte display, to prevent distortion of your editing from highly illuminated areas and more than enough connectivity for external peripherals and displays (2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone-out & Audio-in Combo Jack, 1x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert, 1x HDMI, 1x Card Reader).
CPU: Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Quadcore CPU (turbo to 3.5GHz) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 | Screen: 15.6″ Touch IPS 4K Ultra-HD glossy display, 3840 x 2160 resolution| Storage: 512GB SSD NVMe | RAM: 16GB RAM
This is another great non-mac option that can match the MacBook and the Dell XPS 15.
For performance, it’s got nearly everything you need for a speedy workflow: i7 Quad Core Processor and 16GB RAM. Its GPU is also just like every laptop here and one of the most powerful ones on the market. It’s storage device doesn’t fall behind either being an SSD (though a step below in technology behind the Pro & XPS) still sufficient for faster loading times and more than enough capacity for most of your library: 512GB.
On top of that, its display is one of the best you can get as of 2017: 4k resolution covering the entire sRGB spectrum (although the Dell has a higher score for sRGB).
As far as portability goes, its a bit heavier than both the MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 15 , at 5lb however its battery life its impressive for a laptop with 4k resolution (8 hours) as most of them only last a few hours.
Lastly, in terms of connectivity, this one takes the crown with every port you may need for every peripheral and external device for multimedia purposes: 1x Thunderbolt III (via USB TypeC), 1x Gen 2 USB 3.1 TypeC, 3x USB 3.0, 1x HDMI.Bluetooth 4.0, SDXC reader, 802.11ac WiFi.
Best Portable Laptop For Photoshop
CPU: 3 GHz Intel Core i5 | Graphics: HD graphics 520| Screen: 15.6″ TouchScreen 2736×1824 pixels| Storage: 256-512GB SSD | RAM: 8-16GB GB
Don’t be surprised if the Surface Pro made it to the list. Surely it’s not a full “laptop” but it’s still a laptop provided you buy and use its keyboard but as you’ll see that may not be necessary.
It’s highly configurable depending on your budget and how much performance you want from it, from an i3 processor with 128GB and 4GB RAM to an i7 processor with 1TB and 16GB RAM.
However it may not be such a good idea to go for the highest storage capacities since this is isn’t likely to become your primary working device.
Lastly, the GPU is integrated but if you are not using accelerated effects in Photoshop then you will not notice a difference in overall performance. If you do, you can always upgrade it to an Intel Iris graphics card or opt with the Surface Book which has a dedicated GPU capable to match up any laptop on this list.
Although it’s screen size is smaller, it’s displaying features are nothing short of amazing. Not only does it cover almost the entire sRGB spectrum (99.7) but it’s color accuracy is unmatched among all the laptops on this list with a Delta-E rating of 0.35 according to third party testers.
Believe it or not, it’s one of the most popular choices for image editing and designers. But if you are not interested in using the touchscreen features and you don’t see yourself drawing ,designing or editing with the stylus then you shouldn’t buy it.
If you can get used to the touchscreen features and its stylus, you can open a whole new world of functionality and more capabilities than regular laptops can provide as many designers out there will tell you.
How To Buy The Best Laptop For Photoshop
The first place to start is with the minimum software requirements listed on Adobe’s Photoshop site.
|1024 x 768||2 GHz Processor||8GB||512 vRAM||3GB|
As you can see most systems today, whether they are laptops or computers, will meet the specifications needed to install and operate Photoshop. However you always want to go above the minimum requirements for just about any software you plan on using.
For Photoshop, that will be far more ideal for a speedy and much more productive workflow when editing your images especially if your projects start to get more complex with tons of layers & effects each.
Recommended Specs For Photoshop
In order of priority here’s what you need to look out for when shopping computers or laptops with Photoshop in mind:
Getting the latest and most expensive CPU doesn’t necessarily translate to the most efficient CPU for photoshop. As of today , according to third party testers, multicore CPUs do not offer an advantage for photoshop.
Photoshop along with similar software out there still haven’t been optimized to take full advantage of multiple cores.
When dealing with photoshop , it’s not the number of cores you should be after but the highest clock speed. Whether you get a dual core Processor (core i5) or a quad core Processor (i7 HQ), whichever has the highest clock speed will perform faster and better as far as editing and applying effects go.
In fact a very thorough benchmark study found the following conclusions:
- Most Actions in Photoshop are single threaded meaning that whether you get a dual core quadcore or octacore CPU doesn’t matter as long as you stick with a high base frequency (clock speed in GHz).
- The few actions that are multi-threaded (supposedly benefit from multiple cores) do not show any significant improvement beyond 6 cores.
An i5 processor or an i7 processor with a high clock speed is sufficient. A dual core is recommended if you only use photoshop by itself. A dual core will have one core working with Photoshop and the other with the operating System for the most part.
However if you plan on using different and heavy software at the same time you use Photoshop, then you may benefit from a quad core Processor (i7 HQ Series), just make sure you get the highest clock speed per core to speed up your workflow with Photoshop which is of course your top priority.
Likewise, Photoshop requires only 8GB of RAM. This is more than enough. However it is very unlikely you’d only be using Photoshop by itself without any other applications. Internet Browsing tabs and other third party software (iTunes, checking images on the Web, etc) will take up a lot of RAM too leaving less available for Photoshop.
RAM isn’t expensive and most high end laptops can be upgraded in terms of RAM.
Try your best to get one with 16GB to make sure you get the best performance with Photoshop without having other software slowing you down. 8GB can work out to be OK too as long as you are not multitasking when using Photoshop.
This is a feature that Photoshop uses when it starts to run out of memory. It’ll be activated when you try to work through multiple file, use several layers, effects and your system’s resources can’t keep up with them.
A Scratch Disk is basically temporary memory used by Photoshop on your Storage Device (whether it’s an HDD or an SDD). Having to resort to this feature results in a much slower performance overall. If possible you’d want to avoid your system from using it whether you are dealing with a laptop or a computer. This is why investing on high RAM becomes even more important.
Adobe Photoshop by itself doesn’t take much space, however the generated file sizes can get quite big the more detail they hold onto it and the more effects you apply to each of them.
As of today, we have two options for storage: an HDD or SSD.
They will give you the highest amount of capacity for your money. They easily hit 1TB at affordable prices and most laptops will use this type of storage. They are great for your back ups and storing all of your heavy files and images.
Ideally however you’d want to invest on an SSD for your laptop or computer. They can be expensive but it’s worth every penny. They’ll help you launch your applications faster (Photoshop will start up in seconds), provide you with faster access to files, give you quicker previews, decreasing saving/loading times a of your files and booting up your system in no time.
Anything that is related to files will be impacted by the speed SSDs offer which is on average around x5 times than HDD.
Recommended Set up
The only downside of SSDs (apart from their price) are their storage capacities they are not as huge as what an HDD can offer which easily hit up the 1-2TB range for laptops and workstations.
However, this can easily be solved by having a hybrid system: an SSD+HDD within your laptop or having an SSD in your laptop and an external HDD.
You can store current projects, your OS and applications (including photoshop) on the SSD and any old projects and images you are not working with on your HDD (internal or external). That way you’ll get the best out of both technologies.
The display of your computer or laptop will depend on the kind of work you plan on doing with Photoshop or who your target audience is.
Resolution and Size
Adobe itself doesn’t require a high resolution display but you’d still want to invest on a high resolution display to have enough tools, interfaces, panels right on the screen instead of accessing menus back and forth. A decent screen size will also allow you to have more work space area for editing your images.
Stick with a minimum of 1080p for resolution and a 15” display. A 17” inch screen of course is a much better choice if you can deal with the reduced battery life and the weight.
If your target audience uses higher resolution displays or you want a much more accurate representation and detail for your photos, then you can go higher than 1080p.
Matte vs. Glossy
If you are working within a highly illuminated area (out in the field or inside with a lot of light getting through) you’d want to go with a Matte Display which will reduce the distortion by outside sources of light hitting your screen.
A glossy display will produce much richer colors but it’s not an ideal option if your working area is highly reflective as it will put a strain to your vision from all the reflections.
If color accuracy is important to you and your work then try to get a laptop with an IPS panel that covers as much of the color space as possible (look for sRGB coverage as opposed to aRGB according to this world expert).
An IPS panel will give you an accurate representation of your work regardless of what angle you look at it or how tilted your screen is and also provide you with a wider color gamut for even greater color accuracy.
If you are serious about Photoshop or if utmost detail is important in your work(photography&retouching), you should also consider an external display. While you may be able to find laptops for every budget to run Photoshop flawlessly , you will never find a laptop that can compare to the quality of external Monitors. If there’s any money left, be sure to get a high quality one.
Contrary to popular belief and as most websites will tell you, a high end graphics card is not a must to get the best out of Photoshop. Only few features benefit from having a dedicated GPU so whether you stick with an integrated or dedicated graphics card will be the same for most of you unless you deal with 3D accelerated effects consistently and a few more features.
Plus, according to one of the most accurate benchmarks and tests done with GPUs and Photoshop, there is little benefit in going with high end and expensive graphics cards even for those features.
As long as your set up has a dedicated graphics card, it’ll be sufficient to take advantage of the few features that require GPU acceleration.
If you are wondering which operating system performs better with photoshop. I’m happy to tell you that both have about the same performance.
It’s not really true as of today that Macs do perform better when it comes to Adobe Software just because they were first designed to work with Macs or the fact that Macs in general have an artistic mindset when designing their products.
Regardless of which OS you pick, you’ll be facing bugs and minor issues from time to time anyways which is due to the lack of compatibility between new releases of either OS (updates and new versions).
Which OS should I pick for Photoshop?
It really depends on which one you are more comfortable with and how productive you are with either of them. Nobody wants to re-learn all the keyboard shortcuts and tools when using a different OS than the one they are used to.
Try to avoid a change unless you wish to learn Photoshop with a new OS (extremely useful for your curriculum) because you may end up both frustrated and unmotivated to keep going as an artist.
If you are asking this question in terms of hardware quality, then that’s a whole different story. As long as you stick with high quality laptops from top brands and the recommended specs for Photoshop, you shouldn’t have an issues with performance with either.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know in the comments below.