Choosing a laptop for Adobe Lightroom is not particularly hard – having a high-end graphics card is not necessary, laptops with larger and faster hard drives and memory are now commonplace. But it gets problematic when you have to take into consideration screen and upgrade potential.
Surely no sane man would go through all new, well-received and best selling laptops to find out what is the best one for Lightroom. But you’d be making a mistake if you call me sane.
So I compiled a list of 90 hottest laptops (originally it was over a 100, but I had to remove really terrible ones out of it). Then I compared them by their performance (using real benchmarks), storage, screen quality and weight. I have weighted all of these metrics according to what’s important to Lightroom – so you know these laptops are the best for their purpose.
In this post I’ll cover 9 best laptops for Lightroom and what’s so great AND what’s not so perfect about them. Also, I will make sure that anything above budget options will also be a viable option for other software you might end up using (khm khm.. Photoshop).
This time, unlike any other, I’ll start off with the laptops and then I’ll write about how did I end up choosing them. Finally, at the bottom of the article, I’ll give you the link to the spreadsheet covering all the quantified comparisons of these 90 laptops ranging from 400$ to 3150$!
Here we go!
Best laptops for Lightroom
Dirt cheap option
Firstly, don’t expect something amazing at this price range. This laptop is not great, but it’s the best thing you can get for Lightroom for 400$.
It has a decent entry-level processor, plenty of storage but a very limited amount of memory. On the bright side, upgrading RAM is ridicoulously easy.
The screen is also quite good for a 400$ laptop. It is one of the few laptops (apart from Chromebooks which can’t run Lightroom anyways) under 500$ that comes with a Full-HD IPS panel. It helps out tremendously with viewing angles. Just make sure you’ll not be using it outside as the display is rather dim and can be a pain to use on a sunny day.
Budget options for Lightroom
We’re starting off the budget options strong. This large HP Pavilion can put most laptops under 1000$ to shame.
This HP Pavilion is a very good “starting package” if you are planning to keep it for 2-3 years (or even more). All of this comes down to a very good processor Intel Core i7 processor (Intel Core i7-6700HQ). It is miles ahead of the other components – but other components can be upgraded when needed. HP Pavilion can be upgraded and kept in shape for years to come. For example, you can get HP Pavilion for Lightroom and if needed, you can add extra 8 GB of RAM and/or swap HDD for an SSD drive.
In short, this laptop can be scaled very well in the future. Unfortunately due to its slim unibody design (which is awesome on its own!), changing parts will be a bit tricky if you haven’t done that before.
The screen is nothing amazing, but it is still basically as good as you can get in this price range – and A LOT better compared to what you could get a year or two ago for 800$.
Finally, a touchscreen is definitely a nice touch (heh) – but please remember to disable it if you won’t be using it. A touchscreen can be a big drain on the battery.
Of course, as any 17-inch laptop is rather heavy. Though it is not bulky at all and it’s a lot lighter than most 17-inch laptops due to its compact design.
In short, this an absolute best 17″ budget laptop for Lightroom and photo editing.
In this particular model, instead of a very fast processor, we’re getting plenty of memory and a spacious Solid State Drive which is great if you can’t be bothered to upgrade HDD-only models.
You might want to add an additional external drive or even a tiny 128GB thumb drive.
Acer Aspire V15 packs a good screen for a laptop under 1000$, which is so important for any type of image processing – the last thing you want is your coloring to be off.
Overall, I’d say Acer did a very fine job balancing the pros and cons of this model to reach a sweet spot for a ~$800 15 inch laptop.
Mid-range Lightroom laptops
It seems that no matter what type of comparison I’m taking on, there’s always 1 or 2 gaming laptops that slip through even to gaming-unrelated areas, like photo management and editing.
But do not fear! The power of a gaming laptop can be utilized by Lightroom, particularly in “Develop” module. Lightroom takes advantage of this mid range graphics card to speed up effects and filters. This is especially handy when working with RAW or extremely high-resolution photos. In those cases, graphics card can alleviate a lot of stress from your already-busy processor.
This Asus model comes with a matte screen, which is a pleasure to work with (in contrast to some glossy finishes). It’s worth mentioning that Asus did not cheap out and got a proper lighting so this matte screens doesn’t look dim. Apart from that, it has a good contrast and color space – a full package under 1000$.
Lack of SSD bothers me a bit, especially when getting this model with an installed 128 GB SSD would add 250$ to the price tag (which is not worth it – there are better options at that price range). The only difference between this and a 1250$ model is a non-retail Samsung SSD occupying the M.2 slot (which you could get off eBay for 55$). Yes, 1250$ has 2GB more of graphics card memory, but that’s irrelevant to Lightroom and is not worth the price difference.
Well, there’s a way to save ~200$. You see, more expensive variations of this model come with an ADDITIONAL SSD for an additional cost of 250$-700$. But if you’re smart, you can get around all of this – all you need is a screwdriver and minimal (if any) technical knowledge. Let me guide you through it.
To begin with, I checked the specifications of Samsung SSDs that are present in the more expensive models. It is connected using an M.2 slot. The only thing you need to know about this slot is that it is very important to know how much space there is for it. Apparently, it comes in 22mm X 80mm (2280 factor). OK, with that in mind, take a look at this Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB M.2 (80$). It comes in the same 2280 size (3.16 X 0.87 inch) – that’s exactly what we need. Now, if you get this SSD, you’ve got yourself a 2x larger SSD for 1/3 of the price difference of a more expensive Asus model. You’re welcome.
P.S. Don’t buy M.2 models with NVMe – Asus BIOS indicates an older-generation AHCI controller.
On the other hand, keeping the 7200RPM HDD and not bothering with a single upgrade is still totally fine. You can upgrade to SSD whenever you want (if ever). A word of advice – make sure your Windows partition (always named with the letter “C”) is up to 230 GB or 460 GB in size. This will allow you to move to a faster 250 or 500 GB drive without any problems.
This is the first laptop in our list to passing all performance checks with flying colors: a great processor, a lot of RAM and enough of SSD storage for a comfortable workflow.
The display HP has installed to this model is also good. Its brightness and contrast are OK, its color space is a bit limiting, but I’ll let it slide this time because HP represents these colors really well – especially grayscale. Nevertheless, a lacking color space still begs for an external monitor to make sure the images aren’t being oversaturated.
Also, if you prefer a larger 17″ version – there’s an almost identical variation of this model with 17″ display.
In comparison to the previous laptops, Envy 17t passes all the tests without a problem – it will not slow you down.
250 GB SSD storage might be a bit limiting, but even having a fast SSD for your system and Lightroom will save you a lot of time when it’s needed the most. I’m sure you’ll need to keep your gallery on a slower but more spacious internal hard drive.
This notebook surely will not need extra storage. It comes with 2000 GB already installed – you might not even need any external storage. To put that into perspective, let’s say you’ll need the whole 250 GB SSD for the system, your software, documents, downloads etc. Also, let’s say the pictures are all in 21 megapixels. That means, there’s enough space for 62,000 uncompressed RAW12 images OR over 1,000,000 compressed JPG images with 90% quality setting. For a desktop computer, these numbers are nothing special, but for a mid-range laptop – that’s extraordinary.
250 GB should be enough for the system drive. If you want to never have any problems with storage – just make sure that you’re not saving everything to the desktop and your downloads also do not go to the system drive.
Moving on, this laptop has no problems with performance – i7 6700HQ processor, dedicated graphics card and whopping 16 GB of RAM are more than enough for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
Compared to everything else, the display on this HP Envy 17t does not thrill me. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a bad screen by any measure – otherwise, it wouldn’t be on this list. But it is a bit underwhelming. Despite that, unless you’ll be working outside or you can’t stand seeing glares – it is the best laptop for the price.
Best laptops for Lightroom
By now, I have covered almost everything I’d need to cover when talking about Lightroom laptops and there are only a few truly worthwhile points to make about this laptop. I will not go into detail how it has great performance and a good screen – for a Lightroom laptop at this price range – it’s a given. I’ll mention only what makes this laptop special.
Firstly, it has a PCIe Solid State Drive. What’s the difference between the regular SSDs and PCIe? In short, SSDs that use PCIe connection are measurably faster than regular SSDs. But there’s a more important question. Does it matter? Considering Photoshop benchmarks, I’d say it can take 10% less time to open massive photos or process them in batch when using macros/scripts. That’s not much, but it definitely gives this laptop an edge over others.
Secondly, ZenBook Pro features a 4K display resolution. This essentially results in an extremely crisp images and a more realistic image preview.
And finally, it is lighter and slimmer than most laptops of its size. This, most of the time is a good thing. But there’s one caveat – difficulties when cleaning the laptop (and you’ll need to clean it if you’re planning to use it for more than 2 years). In that case, for most people I simply recommend bringing the laptop to a specialist. It’s not a difficult operation and should not cost much.
How to know when to a laptop needs to be cleaned?
Well, the whole reason of cleaning a laptop is to remove the dust that settles around the fan and fan’s filter. This dust restricts airflow which results in one close-to-boiling-temperature processor. To know whether that’s happening – download any app that allows checking the temperature of the components. I prefer Open Hardware Monitor as it’s free, easy to install and there’s no BS behind it. When launched, it should show the processor temperature. If it is between 90 – 95 C (194 – 203 F) – processor is way too hot and the laptop needs cleaning. Don’t forget to check the temperatures while your processor is doing some kind of difficult task instead of checking it when it has been idle and had time to cool off.
You can’t say you didn’t see that coming. MacBook Pros are great when working with multimedia, often come in better thought out versions of their Windows counterparts.
Despite the popular opinion, even the most expensive MacBook Pro offers about the same “metal” you’d find in other similarly-priced laptops.
This MacBook, just like any other, comes with some very hard to find features on a Windows machine. For example, a great trackpad that feels as a solid input device instead of a replacement for a mouse. What is more, it weighs less a lot less than its competition and comes with a hard-to-match battery runtime.
Even comparing it to Dell XPS, Asus ZenBook models that were supposed to be MacBook -killers you’ll notice that even when they outpace MacBook Pros in one area they are far behind in another compartment.
The few limitations of this model are:
- Difficult (or impossible) internal upgrades
- Might require external storage depending on your needs
- Graphics card is good enough for Lightroom but somewhat limiting if you’ll need to work with video footage
This particular MacBook has all top-tier components and characteristics that are needed or helpful when working with Lightroom.
So if your wallet is deep enough – Apple MacBook Pro (15.4″) is the best laptop for Lightroom.
Why I chose these laptops?
Major requirement Processor
I always look for a solid processor. Quite ofter, this is is my #1 requirement when in search for a good laptop for any particular software. Adobe Lightroom is no exception.
In short, any 4th-to-6th generation Intel Core i5/i7 processor is a good starting point. If you’re serious about it – you should look to higher-end 6th-gen (Skylake) i7 processors. In particular, I’d gravitate towards i7-6700HQ and i7-6820HK. But there’s nothing wrong to choose a bit older i7 such as i7-4720HQ, i7-4870HQ or i7-4710HQ. To judge processors performance, I’ve considered benchmarks from:
From that point on the selection process is quite straightforward.
Since Lightroom utilizes multi-core processors well, you don’t need to think much about single core performance – and anyways, in laptops, it’s a lot more similar than in desktop PCs due to power restrictions.
Major requirement Quality screen
4K screens look great when editing photos but there are a few key things to note.
First off, 4K/Ultra HD/Quad HD/etc are supported starting Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC (from June 2014). That has left enough time for Adobe to even fix a lot of issues with these resolutions and even though it’s still not perfect and optimized as it is for Full HD (1080p). But there still are a few problems:
Personally, I prefer 4K displays when I’m dealing with a 17″ laptop. If you’re going for a 15-inch laptop – it all comes down to your preference and budget.
Major requirement Fast Storage drive
A few laptops I’ve included do not come with an SSD but, at least, their hard drives spin at 7200 RPM which is above the standard of 5400 RPM. This can be enough if you’re not targeting at the high-end models.
It can get problematic when trying to balance SSD performance with the amount of space older HDDs provide. If you’re going for a 17″ laptop – then it’s no biggie – 17″ laptops are the easiest to upgrade. They often have 1-2 SATA connections and a few of them also have a new M.2 connection.
Another option is to extend your storage using an external hard drive. And sometimes even a tiny a thumb drive can be enough. Luckily, we’re living in a wonderful time when USB 3 is ubiquitous and every single laptop I’ve selected has, at least, a pair of them. This port will make sure that using external storage will not slow you down.
Minor requirement Good Graphics card
Lightroom only utilizes graphics card in the “Develop” module (though, for many it is the most important part of Lightroom). This “hardware acceleration” becomes a lot more important when you go up in resolution. That’s why I only paired 4K displays with appropriate dedicated graphics cards.
Minor requirement At least 8 GB of RAM
Apart from the dirty cheap laptop for 400$, I insist on having at least 8 GB of memory and for higher-end models, I required 16 GB of RAM.
Minor requirement Ports for multiple external displays
There’s a few key things you need to know about ports for an external monitor.
First off, every laptop has an HDMI port so you’ll be able to connect an external monitor (or 2 if you’re OK with lower resolutions).
Also, ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW and ASUS ROG models have USB 3.1 Type-C connector. With a help of an inexpensive adapter, it can be used for an external monitor that has a DisplayPort connection.
Best laptop for Lightroom comparison sheet
Here you can find the laptop comparison sheet with 90 laptops where each component is weighted accordingly to its importance for Lightroom and other photo management software.
You are free to share this spreadsheet and add comments to it if something is not totally clear. I hope that after reviewing the spreadsheet you’ll understand better why these laptops ended up in my suggestion list.
I can only hope the time I’ve spent on compiling this list has helped you in the search for a great Lightroom laptop. And if you liked the article, please share it with your colleagues and don’t hesitate to leave a comment down below if you’ve got a specific question.