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So I compiled a list of 244 laptops (most of them are outdated, but they are always down in the list when comparing metrics). Then I compared them to their performance (using real benchmarks), storage, screen quality and weight. I have weighed 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 8 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 240 laptops ranging from $370 to $3700!
Here we go!
Best laptops for Lightroom
Dirt cheap option
If you want a cheap yet overall a good laptop – Acer Aspire is a nice pick. It’s the best you can find under $600 even though it’s not particularly well adapted for Lightroom and photo editing.
It has a decent processor, a dedicated graphics card and a fitting amount of memory. It even offers a surprisingly good battery. Sadly, it has a limiting amount of storage and a poor quality display – subpar brightness levels, weak contrast and underwhelming color accuracy. Well, you can’t have it all with this price tag.
Budget options for Lightroom
Acer is the king of budget laptops. It outcompetes brands at this price range and that’s why I got 2 Acer laptops in my list standing back-to-back. This particular model is not much different from its cheaper counterpart. But it has 2 key differences – a faster processor and an IPS panel.
We’re getting some strong offers just around $1,000. The first one is Dell Inspiron i5577.
This Dell Inspiron 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 i7-7700HQ).
The screen is yet again the weakest link in this package. It’s general hardware is worthy of a $1,500 laptop but the reasons why we can get it at this low price point are mediocre display and unknown battery life. I’d expect just ~3.5h out of an average battery paired with these power-hungry components.
Mid-range Lightroom laptops
After a pair of performance-oriented laptops, it’s time for a lightweight to enter the ring. Microsoft Surface Laptop is a godsend for people on the go that need a well-built machine that will deliver on its promises and won’t break the bank.
It’s not particularly fast or spacious – after all you can’t expect to cram state of the art hardware into a lean frame like this one. Don’t get me wrong – it’s sufficient for Adobe Illustrator CC, but I would want some kind of external drive with me at most times. It’s ideal if you also have a dedicated computer for working with graphics and you only need a sleek machine for working out of office.
What Microsoft sacrificed in performance, they’ve returned double of that in battery life. It stands heads and shoulders above other laptops in this list. With up to 13 hours of battery life it blows the competition out of the water. And the screen quality is nothing to scoff at – 400 nits, 1400:1 and 100% sRGB coverage are all great metrics even for a picky buyer.
There’s no better laptop to stand in contrast to Surface Laptop as Eluktronics N870HK1. Don’t be fooled by its relatively unknown brand name – this laptop has earned a strong reputation on Amazon for its unparalleled performance benchmarks at an affordable price. It is one of the few laptop brands that can offer a mid-range gaming-oriented laptop without throwing the display quality out of the window.
It offers great performance, reasonable 500 GB SSD storage and a large & wide 17.3″ display. But it’s the biggest indoor cat – you’ll have a hard time taking it outside. It’s heavy and it doesn’t offer much of a battery life. Just a couple of hours and lights out!
It’s a great workstation but if you want an ultimate laptop for Lightroom – you’ll need to spend a little more.
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, the graphics card can alleviate a lot of stress from an already-busy processor.
A workstation laptop with all the latest hardware, a good display and attention-grabbing details. That’s what sums up HP Omen 15t.
Best laptops for Lightroom
HP Pavilion 15t is very similar to HP Omen 15t with a few key exceptions. It has a more subdued and professional design style, longer lasting battery and a higher refresh rate display. Though, I have found some reports of rather underwhelming display metrics in related HP models which still leaves this laptop one step away from perfect.
You can’t say you didn’t see that coming – MacBook Pros are great when working with multimedia!
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.
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 package. Adobe Lightroom is no exception.
In short, any 7th-to-9th generation Intel Core i5/i7 processor is a good starting point. If you’re serious about it – you should look to higher-end 8th-gen processors. In particular, I’d gravitate towards i7-7700HQ and i7-8550U and i7-8750H. But there’s nothing wrong to choose a bit weaker i5/i7 such as i7-7700HQ, i5-8300H or i5-8250U. 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, there’s no significant variance in single/multi core performance due to power restrictions and fewer options from AMD.
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. I would prioritize getting an IPS display and better color accuracy and only then would I look for a 4K display.
Major requirement Fast Storage drive
For the most part, 500 GB Solid State Drive should be enough for most, preferrably with NVMe support. Ideally, I would even get a 1 TB SSD or 500 GB SSD with 1 TB HDD. SSDs are faster than HDDs by an order of magnitude, but they also cost multiple times what an HDD costs.
I would not recommend getting a laptop without an SSD. I can make an exception if a laptop is very cheap and it can be upgraded later. 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. But that’s about it. So unless you’re on a very tight budget – make sure that you’re not buying a laptop without an SSD
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 paired every 4K display with an appropriate dedicated graphics card.
A good graphics card these days includes any Nvidia 10th-gen GTX or RTX card. For most, there’s little reason to get anything better than GTX 1050 Ti or 1060.
Minor requirement At least 8 GB of RAM
I insist on having at least 8 GB of memory and for higher-end models, I demanded for 16 GB.
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).
Best laptop for Lightroom comparison sheet
Here you can find the laptop comparison sheet with 240+ 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.
Table of Best Laptops for Lightroom
|Acer Aspire E 15||$600|
|Acer Aspire E 15||$800|
|Dell Inspiron i5577-7342BLK-PUS||$900|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop||$1,000|
|Eluktronics N870HK1 Pro||$1,050|
|HP Omen 15t||$1,400|
|HP Pavilion 15t||$1,600|
|Apple MacBook Pro||$2,800|