Being on a budget shouldn't stop a photographer from creating great photos.
Today, with a steady stream of updated laptops in the market, finding quality hardware need not be expensive. Going for a machine that features the fastest RAM, the best processor, and a top-shelf graphic card isn’t always satisfying for a photographer on a budget. What they rather need is a laptop that delivers great value for money.
To begin with, a photographer needs a laptop that can handle industry-standard programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Besides the power, the laptop also needs to have an excellent display, adequate storage, a long-lasting battery, a quality trackpad, and enough ports to support the peripherals.
We have considered the factors mentioned above while making this list of the best budget laptops for photo editing.
Best Laptops for Photo Editing on a Budget
1. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
|OS||Big macOS Sur|
|Screen||13.3-Inch, 2560x1600 LED|
|Graphics||7/8 - Core GPU|
|Storage||256 GB - 2 TB SSD|
|Battery Life||10 Hours|
Apple MacBook Air, with its ARM-based M1 chip, has been a game-changer since it first launched. Compared to its predecessors, it has improved performance, longer battery life, and better power efficiency.
The base model of the Apple MacBook Air comes with 8GB of RAM, an 8-core CPU, and 256 GB of storage space. Its 13.3-inch screen features a 2560x1600 resolution and 400-nit LED-backlit display. Along with its P3 color gamut support, MacBook Air is plenty of performance and power for most photo editors.
The new macOS Big Sur is built from the ground up to take advantage of the hardware. It runs M1 optimized apps, iOS apps as well as legacy apps, and multi-tasking between them is a breeze. Even moving large files into the laptop is much faster compared to the other options in the same range.
The design may look identical to the previous models; however, the current model is fanless. This has enabled Apple to make the MacBook Air much thinner and lighter, making it more portable for moving photographers.
2. Lenovo Flex 5
|Screen||14 Inches, 1920x1080|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 5, 6-cores|
|Graphics||Radeon RX Vega 6|
|Battery Life||10 Hours|
Lenovo Flex 5 is one of the easiest recommendations for the best laptops for photo editing for those on a budget due to its high specifications and 2-in-1 ability.
It delivers a superior editing experience on apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrators compared to the other Windows machine in the price range. 16 GB of RAM and 6 Core processor units are the reason behind its high performance. Couple that with a long-lasting battery, and you can manage hardware-intensive tasks on it without constantly being plugged into a socket.
Flex 5 is a portable, lightweight laptop. It features a stylus that could help photo editors with accurate masking without a separate drawing tablet. The screen, however, is limited to 74% of the sRGB color gamut. This means you need to be more careful while editing colors.
With its high-precision touchscreen interface, any beginner photo editor would be more than happy with Flex 5.
3. Asus ZenBook 14
|Screen||14 Inch, 1920x1080 IPS|
|CPU||1.8GHz Intel Core i7|
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Battery Life||12 Hours|
Asus Zenbook 14 is an all-screen laptop with minimal bezels. Its IPS technology delivers great colors and viewing angles, making it a remarkable photo editing machine and one of the best photo editing laptops.
The pairing of intel core i7 with 8 GB RAM ensures that the hardware can handle heavy rendering tasks. However, the laptop does tend to heat up and turn on its fan while editing high-resolution images. And perhaps a little too sooner than you might expect.
The massive battery life that goes up to 12 hours with moderate use more than justifies its 2.62 pounds. With its Intel 512 GB NVMe SSD, it delivers desktop-class storage that gives Zenbook plenty of space for most editing workflows.
Compared to its price point, it offers a great overall photo editing performance. Lacking a USB-C charging and a punchier screen are the only two things that could bother a photo editor in the long run.
4. Acer Aspire 5
|Screen||15.6-inch FHD 1920x1080 LED|
|CPU||1.60Hz Intel Core i5|
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Battery Life||8 hours|
Acer Aspire 5A is a mid-range laptop that delivers a balanced performance at an attractive price point. For day-to-day photo editing tasks, this laptop is more than competent and ticks all the boxes.
The 15.6 inches Full HD screen of Aspire 5 makes photos a treat to the eyes. As far as the design is concerned, there is nothing much flashier here. At 2.20 kg, it may even be considered a large laptop by a lot of photographers. It may not be the easiest laptop to carry around, but it’s quite a nice-looking machine with a reflective Acer logo at the top.
If USB C and SD memory card slot is important to you as a photographer, then Aspire 5 has plenty of peripheral options. With its Intel quad-core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a solid 256 GB of storage, the editing software on the machine can easily handle multitasking.
There is a wide range of configurations available for this laptop. This means that depending on your budget, you could find an Aspire 5 model that suits your needs.
5. Microsoft Surface Laptop (1st Gen)
|Screen||13.5 Inches 2256x1504|
|CPU||3.1 GHz Core|
|Graphics||Intel Core i5/i8|
|RAM||8 GB DDR4|
|Battery Life||14 hours|
Microsoft Surface Laptop (1st Gen) in 2022 still stands out as a gorgeous design. Its large screen and included keyboard enable it to focus on being a laptop instead of a 2-in-1 hybrid that Microsoft is known for since the original Surface Pro.
Its 13.5-inch display with 201 PPI pixel density keeps the screen bright and vibrant for image viewing. The 2256x1504 resolution makes it a taller screen, which translates to more estate for photo editing. Its responsive touchscreen performs brilliantly, especially with a stylus.
The base model of Mircosoft Surface comes with a 7th generation Intel i5 processor clocked at 2.50 GHz. Coupling that power with 8 GB RAM ensures no lags while you engage with intensive photo editing programs.
Its speedy 256 GB storage disk is incredibly fast and supports instant wake from standby. At 1.25 kg, it is lighter and slimmer than most contemporary laptops. If you want a portable photo editing machine, the Surface Laptop 1st Gen seems a smart choice as one of the best laptops for photo editing.
6. HP Chromebook 14
|Screen||14 inches 1920x1080|
|Battery Life||11 hours|
Based on Chrome OS, HP Chromebook 14 is a fun notebook on which you can edit photos. This may not be the right choice if you use a desktop version of Adobe software. However, its store has the Adobe Lightroom app and its own photo editing program called Snapseed.
Since Chromebooks are designed for cloud storage, the limited 32 GB storage isn’t a deal-breaker. Also, it features a MicroSD card slot with plenty of USB 3.0 USB ports to transfer photos.
With its 11 hours of battery time and portable body, you could edit photos on it without carrying around its charger.
Even with its quad-core 1.83GHz Intel Celeron processor, it might not be as flexible as Mac or Windows PC, but it gets the job done with web apps.
The low price tag of the HP Chromebook 14 does come with a few limitations. But if you want to do basic photo editing without any-graphic intensive work, it could offer a lot more value for its price.
Choosing the best budget photo editing laptop takes time and effort. You need to know exactly what you want from the laptop based on your use and editing requirements.
MacBook Air is our clear choice if you’re looking for a mix of powerful internals and great looks.
But, if you can manage your photo editing out of Windows and the Apple ecosystem, HP Chromebook 14 could be the right pick for you.
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