A laptop is a versatile piece of equipment that can serve many purposes. For photographers, a laptop is a means to edit photos. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an expensive high-spec desktop computer to use high-end photo editing software. And you do not need to shell out your entire life savings on a laptop that will do the job. As you will see below, you can easily get the best laptop for photo editing on a budget for less than $600!
The Best Laptop for Photo Editing on a Budget: Our Top 10 Picks
1. Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series – 16GB
The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series – 16GB has powerful specs, ample storage, and great connectivity which make it a well-rounded photo editing laptop.
Our top pick for the best laptop for photo editing on a budget is the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series – 16GB. This laptop has a fine combination of features. It has powerful specs for its price-point, great storage capacity, and it has a high-quality display.
Inside the laptop, there is an AMD Ryzen 3450U Quad-Core processor, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. These are perfect for high-end photo editing. You also get a 1TB HDD as standard which should provide more than enough space even for larger collections.
We also like that it features AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics which is much better than what you’d find on most budget laptops. For versatility, you also get 3 USB ports, a HDMI port, a multi-format SD card reader, and Windows Home 10 as standard.
2. HP Pavilion 2021
The HP Pavilion 2021 is one of the most powerful budget laptops available and can potentially be upgraded to have 32GB of memory.
The HP Pavilion series of laptops are renowned for quality and high specs. The HP Pavilion 2021 is no exception. This has some fantastic components that will make photo editing, even with process-hungry software, a breeze.
At its core, this laptop has an AMD Athlon 3050U processor, capable of clock speeds of up to 2.3 GHz (dual-core). It also features 16GB of DDR4 memory, and a 256GB SSD. If you feel that 256GB is not enough (and indeed it may not be for larger photo collections), you can upgrade to either a 512GB SSD, or a 1TB SSD. There is also an upgrade to 32GB of DDR4 memory which bumps the total price to just under $750.
The HP Pavilion 2021 offers a great combination of affordable pricing, together with high-power performance. It features a 15.6-inch touchscreen display and comes with Windows 10 Home as a standard.
3. Lenovo IdeaPad 3 17.3” Laptop
Due to the ample 17.3” screen, the Lenovo IdeaPad is deal if you want to edit large resolution photos in great detail.
Lenovo has an excellent range of laptops for photo editing, and one of their best budget options is the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 17.3. This is a stylish laptop that has a slimline design, high-quality display, and a good range of internal components for photo editing.
It offers some of the best performance available for budget laptops. This is thanks to the 16GB of DDR4 memory, AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor, and 512GB SSD storage drive. It also features an integrated AMD Radeon 7 graphics card. This is one of the best graphics cards available for budget laptops so you’re really getting your money’s worth with this laptop.
For clear and concise photo editing, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 also has a 17-inch HD plus display that has a thin edging for maximum viewing space. Other features include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, 3x USB ports, an HDMI port, and an SD card reader.
4. HP Notebook Laptop 2021
The 16GB memory and AMD Athlon processor of the HP Notebook Laptop 2021 make it ideal for high-end RAW editing with advanced software.
The HP Notebook Laptop 2021 has it all. It looks great, but it also has some excellent specifications.
This budget laptop has 16GB of DDR4 memory. Most photo editing software recommends a minimum of 8GB, meaning this laptop exceeds requirements. The extra memory capacity will help with loading times and having a smooth editing experience.
The laptop also features an AMD Athlon 3050U processor, and a high-capacity 1TB SSD storage – essentially everything you need for professional photo editing.
As standard, this laptop comes with Windows 10 Home, an SD card reader, and wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. The display is 14-inch and features SVA anti-glare technology so that you can view your photos without any light interference.
5. Microsoft Surface Go 2
The compact size of the Microsoft Surface Go 2 make it an ideal choice if you want to edit photos while traveling.
Some may consider the Microsoft Surface Go 2 to be a tablet. However, it can be used as either a tablet or laptop, and it’s a perfect option for traveling photo editors.
This small laptop is one of the most stylish and portable available. It measures just 0.33×9.65×6.9 in/0.83×24.51×17.52 cm and weighs only 6 lb/544 g. Basically, it’s super lightweight and compact!
In terms of specs, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is not as powerful as other laptops on this list. However, it still has 8GB of DDR4 memory and an Intel Pentium processor. This should be enough for using less power-intense photo editing software. It also has an excellent quality 10.5″ touchscreen display.
If you opt for this laptop, we advise purchasing the attachable keyboard. It uses magnetic clips to lock to the laptop itself and offers a great typing experience.
6. ASUS VivoBook 2021
The ASUS VivoBook 2021 has a high-quality HD touchscreen if you prefer editing using this method as opposed to a keyboard and mouse.
If you want a compact laptop with touchscreen capabilities, the ASUS VivoBook 2021 is a good option. The VivoBook from ASUS is a popular line of compact laptops and the 2021 version has great specs for photo editing.
It boasts an Intel 10th Gen Quad-Core i3 processor with speeds of up to 3.6 GHz. For fast loading and editing, it has 9GB of DDR4 RAM and a fast 256GB SSD storage drive. These three components should mean that your images will load quickly, and edits should quickly render in real-time with minimal delay.
The display is one of the best features of this compact laptop and makes it a contender for the best laptop for photo editing on a budget. You get a touchscreen display that’s sizeable at 15.6”, and it has a resolution of 1980×1080 (1080p). The surface also has an anti-glare finish and an incredibly thin edge for optimal viewing.
7. HP 14 Laptop
The HP 14 Laptop has a powerful processor and sleek design which make it great for portable photo editing.
The HP 14 Laptop is another excellent option that’s a cheaper alternative to the previously mentioned HP Pavilion laptop. Regardless, it still has some impressive specifications and could easily be used for photo editing with software like Luminar 4 and InPixio Photo Studio.
This laptop is not as eye-catching as some other designs. This is because it has a silver casing which some may consider outdated. However, the screen has anti-glare properties and also offers full HD display quality. This means that you can see your photos in excellent detail when editing, no matter the lighting.
The HP 14 Laptop has 8GB of DDR4 memory, a powerful AMD Ryzen 5 processor, and a 256GB SSD storage drive. We particularly like the AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor which has 6-cores with clock speeds of between 2.1 GHz to 4 GHz. This should mean that photo editing software loads quickly and has excellent performance without any lag.
This laptop is also quite small and has a thickness of just 0.71 in/1.8 cm. This means that it could be a great travel laptop too.
8. Acer Aspire 5
The Acer Aspire 5 laptop is another simple model that could be ideal for basic and occasional photo editing.
The Acer Aspire 5 is one of the cheapest options available that still has components suitable for photo editing. This budget laptop has 4GB of DDR4 memory, an AMD Ryzen 3 3350U processor, and a 128GB SSD.
As you can see, it has similar specs to the Microsoft Surface Go 2 so it is better suited for basic photo editing. It could comfortably be used with lighter software like Luminar 4, Affinity Photo, and Adobe Photoshop Express.
That being said, the slimline design of this laptop is great for traveling. It has a 15.6″ screen and is incredibly thin when folded. It also has a useful option for fingerprint login using Windows Hello Access. For connectivity, this laptop also has a USB-C port, a USB 3.2 port, and an HDMI port – it does not, however, have a card reader.
9. HP Stream 11.6-Inch
The HP Stream 11.6-Inch provides an affordable entry into the world of basic photo editing.
If you really don’t want to spend a lot but still want the ability to edit basic photos, the HP Stream 11.6-Inch is a solid choice. This is not a powerhouse by any means so don’t expect to be able to run the most advanced photo editing software.
However, for basic editing using less power-hungry programs, it should be fine. Its specs include 4GB of DDR4 RAM, an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, and a 32GB HDD. The processor has clock speeds of up to 2.6 GHz, and it is a quad-core model. Combine this with the 4GB of memory, and you can see the photo editing potential.
The HP Stream 11.6 in also has a high-quality HD display that has anti-glare technology. It also has decent connectivity with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and an HDMI port.
10. Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series – 8GB
The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series 8GB is a brilliant affordable laptop that still has decent specs for basic photo editing.
Our last pick for best laptop for photo editing on a budget is the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series – 8GB. This is essentially a cheaper version of our top pick and it is one of the cheapest laptops available on this list.
We like the sleek black design of this Dell laptop – it looks great and is relatively light and compact. It has multiple USB and HDMI ports so you can easily connect external devices like a mouse and a separate keyboard if you wish.
For photo editing, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series has 8GB of DDR4 memory and an Intel Celeron processor. The Intel Celeron processor has a clock speed of 1.8 GHz which should be ample for basic photo editing especially when combined with the 8GB of DDR4 memory.
It also has two separate hard drives – a 128GB SSD, and a 500GB HDD. This gives you 728GB total which is OK for photo editing – but not as much as some other models that feature a minimum HDD capacity of 1TB.
Which Budget Laptop Is Right for You?
We hope you have found this guide on the best laptop for photo editing on a budget useful. An affordable but powerful laptop could be a great alternative if you cannot afford an expensive laptop or desktop computer or want a low-cost on-the-go device.
But which laptop is suitable for you? If you want the highest specs and power for RAW editing, laptops like the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series – 16GB, and HP Pavilion 2021 make great choices with their 16GB of memory and fast multi-core processors.
Alternatively, if you want a cheap laptop that can easily be used for basic photo editing, something like the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series – 8GB is an excellent affordable option.
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