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Yes, gaming laptops can be great for photo editing. They come with powerful processors, ample amounts of RAM, and high-end graphics cards.
However, before you go out and buy one of these machines just because they can edit smoothly, there are some caveats you should keep in mind.
For instance, if color accuracy and precision are your priorities, be sure to check the display quality. Many gaming laptops’ displays are not as color-accurate and lack a rich color gamut.
There is more to it, so let’s unpack this.
If you want to use programs like Photoshop for work, then a more powerful hardware would be better.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Difference between a Gaming Laptop and a Photo Editing Laptop?
- Is a Gaming Laptop Suitable for Photoshop?
- What to Look Out for WhenBuying a Laptop for Photo Editing?
- Minimum & Recommended System Requirements
- Edit Like a Pro with These Laptops
What Is the Difference between a Gaming Laptop and a Photo Editing Laptop?
A gaming laptop is usually more powerful than a photo editing laptop, as it needs to be able to handle demanding games. They usually have great displays in terms of refresh rate, but most gaming laptop manufacturers have less interest in color accuracy.
A photo editing laptop, on the other hand, is designed and configured for running photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop. The high-quality IPS screen on these laptops sports high color accuracy (ie: 100% sRGB and very high DCI-P3) and wide viewing angles.
- Strong specs that can handle heavy-duty photo editing and large RAW files
- Generally, great value compared to other laptops with dedicated GPU
- Large display
- Color accuracy can be off in some gaming laptops
- Low battery life
- Not very portable, usually heavy
Is a Gaming Laptop Suitable for Photoshop?
Can gaming laptops run Photoshop? Yes, easily.
Are they the best choice? It depends on your needs. If you are planning to use the laptop for heavier gaming, then sure, by all means – get a gaming laptop.
Are you planning to use Photoshop on a daily basis but will not use the machine for AAA gaming? In that case, you may want to get a MacBook or a Dell XPS.
If you are a graphic designer or someone who uses Photoshop for work and color accuracy is very important to you, then be sure to look for a laptop with 100% sRGB.
Most laptops and desktops need some degree of color calibration depending on where you want to post your edits.
Have you ever edited a pic on your laptop and it looked just right, only to appear very different on Instagram? That’s color accuracy. In my case, I often saw differences in the strength of the shadows and contrast – the published images simply seem too washed out.
The prevailing bad color accuracy in gaming laptops certainly doesn’t help. Simply put, gaming laptop manufacturers don’t care that much about it, because it’s not crucial for gaming. That being said, some gaming laptops – like ASUS ROG Zephyrus or Acer Predator Helios 300 – have great color accuracy.
What to Look Out for WhenBuying a Laptop for Photo Editing?
The points below are relevant for anyone considering a photo editing laptop (not just gamers).
It Starts with You…
Start by deciding what type of user you are. Are you a professional who needs to be able to work on the go? Or do you need a laptop for school, and just want to try some photo editing on the side? Each category has different requirements when it comes to speed, battery life, and portability.
If you lack a clear picture of your ideal laptop, then here are some questions that will help narrow down your options:
- What kind of photo editing do I need?
- How often do I edit photos?
- What kind of budget do I have?
- Do I want to play games on this laptop? If so, what kind of games? AAA or simple ones like Minecraft?
- Will I use other programs at the same time as editing photos (like video rendering)?
- Will I travel with my laptop a lot?
Minimum & Recommended System Requirements
The minimum requirements will give you the bare bones of what you need to run the software, while the recommended ones allow you to take full advantage of its features.
|CPU||11th Gen Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 5000 series||12th Gen Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 6000 series|
|Storage||256GB SSD||512GB SSD|
|Display||14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)||17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)|
|GPU||Integrated Intel Iris Xe or similar||4GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050|
If you’re just getting into photo editing, then you don’t need anything too advanced. Minimum requirements will easily get you started with basic editing and touch-up tasks on a laptop.
If you want to use programs like Photoshop or After Effects for work, then a more powerful hardware would be better.
So, what kind of hardware do you need for this?
The 11th-13th Gen. Intel Core i5/i7 processors are the most affordable in the lineup and can handle basic photo editing tasks.
The 11th+ Gen. Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 5/7/9 5000-7000 series processors are recommended for more demanding photo editing.
Intel Core i3 or Pentium/Celeron processors are not recommended for photo editing. The software often lags and sometimes even crashes on this hardware.
Ideally, a laptop with 8GB RAM is a good choice for most hobby users. I was able to run most tools and processes on an 8GB RAM laptop. Occasionally, a complex brush pattern will lag a bit.
The issue are the lighting renders and 3D. These get crazy slow really fast. The liquify tool is another feature that will probably lag with 8GB RAM.
I would still recommend at least a 16GB RAM laptop. And for those working in graphics-intensive programs such as Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, I’d go for 32GB or more. Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, you could start with 8GB RAM and upgrade to 16GB when you get the chance – it doesn’t cost much.
For basic photo editing, you can get by with an integrated GPU, such as the Intel Iris Xe or the AMD Radeon. Note that an integrated GPU uses the RAM so get at least 16GB RAM with an integrated GPU.
For more advanced and professional users, always get a laptop with a dedicated GPU that has 4GB or more vRAM such as the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti or 3060. Or, if you want to go for the best, get NVIDIA RTX 40-series.
A few years ago you could choose between an HDD and an SSD. Even then we recommended SSD because it’s faster and more reliable. Nowadays, laptops with SSD are quite mainstream.
I prefer a 512GB or 1TB SSD if you’re looking for speed, but 256GB is also acceptable. Just keep in mind that you may not be able to replace the SSD on some laptops.
You could also get an external hard drive. This will allow you to store your files, programs, and games on the secondary drive without taking up the space on the SSD. They are fairly inexpensive as well. As of now, around $90 / 1TB.
Displays, Keyboards, and Trackpads
Aim for at least a 14-inch or 15.6-inch display with a resolution of at least 1920 x 1080p and IPS technology. Larger displays will give you more space to work on, but they also tend to be heavier and more expensive.
I would also prefer an FHD display over an HD one because it makes your work look sharper and more precise.
You could also consider a laptop with a 4K display. Obviously, these are even better, but they are more costly as well.
Also, go for laptops with backlit keyboards, so you can use them in low-light conditions without straining your eyes. The trackpad should also be large enough for easy navigation and gestures.
Finally, with regards to color accuracy – sRGB and Adobe RGB are great, DCI-P3 is better. For all of them, the higher the percentage, the more color-accurate the laptop. DCI-P3 is important if you’re working on cinema-grade images or super professional projects and need the color calibration to be spot-on.
If you want to future-proof your photo editing laptop, ideally you’d make sure that RAM and storage are upgradable.
In terms of gaming laptops vs regular laptops, gaming laptops are more likely to have upgradable components than, say, an Ultrabook. This is simply due to the size — and space for new components.
That doesn’t mean that every gaming laptop has upgradable components. As always, check whether the RAM or SSD are soldered onto the motherboard.
Gaming laptops are known to be heavy and bulky. Typically, you can expect anywhere from 5 to 10 lbs – if you need to take a charger with you, this can go up very fast.
Normally, when I’m editing, I don’t move a lot, so the weight and battery life are not an issue. However, if you’re someone who takes a laptop to the office, day in, day out, the weight could get frustrating.
The bulkiness is very justified because you get powerful specs and usually a large display, which is awesome for editing. There are gaming laptops that are lightweight, too – though they tend to be more expensive.
Edit Like a Pro with These Laptops
Gaming laptops can be wonderful machines for photo editing, if you pay attention to a few things.
Color accuracy and portability are the biggest ones to consider. Get these right, and you’re golden.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about photo-editing laptops? Or are you looking for the best laptops for photo editing on a budget? If you need a good bargain, check out these options that cost less than $1,000.