Best Photographer Laptop?

Since this has become a very popular post I’ll re-edit and say how things are 8 months later

(I also wrote a follow up post a while back here SEE UPDATE HERE)

Use A DeskTop if you can

First I must say that if I were you I’d stick with a desktop to edit pictures.
Much much less expensive,
Much more expandable,
You can get 2-3 monitors on it no problem
No hassle for adding extra hard drives.
You are forced to work at a desk… which can be good.
And you won’t ever feel tempted to waste your time using something other than a mouse (or even better a tablet)
And you’ll most likely be using a good sized monitor (23″ and up)

Looking for a kickbutt photography editing laptop.

I’ll be gone a lot this summer on wedding assignments.
For instance in may I’ll be gone a week to alaska and I’ll need to edit while there.
I’ll also be gone later that month on a trip that will include weddings in Arizona and NYC

I need to keep on top of my editing and my old single core laptop from a while back won’t cut it.

So I need a good laptop that will substitute nicely.

I suppose I’m looking for:

  • Fast processor
  • Lots of Memory
  • big Screen – at least lots of resolution
  • good battery life for the airplanes
Tell me if there is anything else I’m missing.
So I’m even willing to go to Mac did a similar review

Base System

I will compare the prices based on system that has more or less the following:
They all have 17″

  • 2.93 processor
  • 64bit operating system
  • 4GB ram 1066 ddr3 / And also showing 8GB
  • 320GB HD

(Please note that prices have gone down since i wrote this in march)

Macbook Pro 17
= $3149
8GB ram = $4199
QuadCore = NA
Dell 17″
= $3875
8GB ram = $4915
QuadCore = 5715
Lenovo w700ds
3.06 processor
dual HDs in raid 320GB 5400rpm
Built in wacom tablet
8GB = $4919
Quad Core 2.5 = 5319
Sony vaio AW series
18.4 screen
= $2798
8GB = $3298
Quad = NA
2.8 processor
8GB = $2389
Quad Core 2.5 = 2989
Other things to note:
Obviously some of them have lots of toys and tricks that I didn’t mention, which accounts for some of the price difference.
But the question is… why is the HP so cheap in comparison?
And only a couple of them assured me that it was truly 1920 resolution.
And what other toys are necessary to compare that I overlooked.
Please weigh-in in what you think.


See that I ended up getting a MacBookPro – I decided that the price difference wasn’t as much as I expected or that usually exists between PC and Mac

I have used it as I stated for several of my trips. It’s been durable, small enough for my camera bags (that allow laptops)

I haven’t used it a ton for editing because i’ve gotten so used to the speeds of my desktop which this doesn’t even compare.
And now i’ve gotten used to my 30″ monitor and 17″ doesn’t make me feel confident I’m making the best editing decisions.

If I were to do it again I would. There’s a lot to be said about the small form factor for traveling and the long battery life.

If I were to buy a main computer – i’d still be putting together a top of the line PC.

It appears that for actual editing and processing (speeds or quality) that there is no advantage in Mac (that I’ve ever hear(… I just happened to like the computer.


  1. Jim Goldstein says

    Having just purchased a new 17″ laptop I will tell you that you should also account for what & how many peripheral ports there are (USB/USB 2.0/FW400/FW800/eSATA/Express 34). Laptops by default will never have everything you want and for that reason you’ll want the right ports or jacks to hook up what is missing. In some instances it may be worthwhile to forego a more expensive system if you feel comfortable using peripherals to make up the difference. Personally I ended up getting a MacBook Pro 17″ with a discount, a perk of being a member of ASMP. Alternatively you can try to track down employees of the manufacturer in the hope they can extend one of their employee discounts. Don’t stop at being creative with your camera. Be creative in how you get the most computer you can at the best price.

  2. Cari says

    I’m biased towards Macs because I’ve used them all my life. I think Mac laptops perform better for creative work (video editing, photo editing, etc) since that’s kind of how they market and develop their products.
    Besides that, in my experience, Macs have better battery life when they are being used full out (like having the brightness all the way up like you will need). My husband has a nice PC that could perform as well as my MacBook Pro, but mine would win the battery life race.
    AS far as graphics go, I have never had a problem with my computer when dealing with graphics. Granted, I don’t do a whole lot of that stuff. Just the really basic video and photo editing.
    But that’s my 2 cents. Good luck!

  3. Travis says

    All great computers but I’ll put one vote in for mac.

  4. Garrett says

    A Macbook Pro will change your life. And it does lightroom.

  5. Garrett says

    Another thought: with the Macbook Pro, you can install a copy of Windows that you already own at no extra cost (via Boot Camp or one of several comparable free/cheap options), so you don’t have to abandon Windows or your current license of LR!

    Oh, and the claim for 8-hour battery life on the 17″ MBP is promising. That’s a long flight’s worth of editing/movies!

  6. drfindley says

    The 17″ has the best display we’ve ever put in a in a laptop. It’s absolutely stunning. I highly recommend it.

    Macs take a little getting used to, but take it from a former Windows and Linux user, I much prefer the user experience of a Mac to Windows. That’s what converted me and the short story of why I’m working at Apple today.

  7. David Terry says

    I went with the Dell Studio XPS 16 with 6Gb Ram and the 2.53Mhz processor. So I skimped a little on the ram and the processor side to save some money, but it cost me less than $2100 shipped and 12-months same as cash financing.

    It has 64-bit Vista on it, which runs 64-bit Lightroom perfectly. I continue to run Photoshop in 32-bit mode because most of my plugins are only 32-bit. But since the operating system itself has 6G to play in, I’ve not run out of memory yet and you know I’m playing with 21Mp Canon 5D Mark II files and videos! :)

    The only downside I would say would be battery life. With wifi turned on and the screen all the way up, I probably only get about 1.5 hours of work time. But I’m nearly always plugged in, so for me battery life simply has not been an issue.

  8. scott says

    So anyone know what the deal is on the HP laptop and why it’s so stinkin cheap in comparison?

    Because dang I wouldn’t mind buying that one and loading it with 8GB ram and a quad core… I know the battery life will stink. But I think I’ll be fine. I’ll just buy an external battery or at least a second battery.

    I just checked again and the HP version i could get the following for $3429

    Quad Core QX9300 2.5
    1GB Nvidida GeForce GT 130m
    8GB DD3 Ram 2Dimm 1066
    18.4″ display
    Dual 320GB 7200RPM HD
    BluRay ROM
    Fingerprint reader, webcam, Bluetooth, Tv Tuner,
    Extra 8Cell battery

    That’s the computer loaded to the brim and it’s still cheaper than most all the other options… what gives?

  9. Tom Sparks says

    Well, it is getting near time for me to upgrade, but the desktop in my home office is still doing well. I run a PC, I have had a couple of Macs and I love them. I probably will switch to Mac when it is time to upgrade computers. Scott Bourne has a review of his current MacBookPro here :

    I don’t have 5k to put down, but boy oh boy!

  10. drfindley says

    I’ve been looking over the HP and I think what they are skimping out on price-wise is the screen and the memory. While they hit your numbers (17″+ and 8 gigs), those don’t define the quality, same as a 10 megapixel SLR is much better than a 10 megapixel point and shoot. If you go to HP’s site and configure the same laptop in their business line, the price starts to go up. Also it’s a pretty heavy laptop (8-9 pounds w/o the extended battery).

    There’s a reason why you can go out and by a 24″ display for $200-900. Memory prices vary the same way. Weight also costs a lot to remove. Case in point: Macbook Air, Dell Adamo and Lenovo X301.

    It’s hard to explain till you load up some of your favorite photos on one of those beautiful screens and it takes your breath away.

  11. Erin says

    Definitely go with the Mac. The hardware and the battery will last so much longer and the whole experience will be more pleasant. Also make sure to get the Apple Care, awesome warranty.

  12. Shawn says

    I’ll have to add my vote for the MacBook Pro. I personally have the 15″ because I already had an older Mac Pro at home and I wanted it to be more portable. The 17″ would be a great do it all computer and the display on the re-designed 17″ MacBook Pro is gorgeous. I have been Windows free for 3+ years with no regrets. The few windows apps I do still run, run in VMWare Fusion just fine.

  13. scott says

    This is the Fully maxed out HP from COSTCO!
    It makes me feel more comfortable just knowing it’s from Costco

    Configuration Summary

    Selected Features:
    Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad Processor QX9300 (2.53Hz)
    $100 OFF!! 8GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) – For 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 130M
    640GB 7200RPM SATA Dual Hard Drive (320GB x 2) with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
    1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 130M – For DDR3 Memory
    Intel Next-Gen Wireless-N Mini-card with Bluetooth
    18.4″ diagonal High Definition HP Ultra BrightView Infinity Display (1920x1080p)
    Upgrade to Genuine Windows Vista Ultimate with Service Pack 1 (64-bit)
    No Productivity Software
    Extra 8 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
    Full Size Backlit Keyboard
    Blu-Ray ROM with SuperMulti DVD+/-R/RW Double Layer
    Webcam + Fingerprint Reader with HP Imprint Finish (Fluid)
    System Recovery DVD with Genuine Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit)
    50% OFF!! HP Integrated HDTV Hybrid Tuner
    Included Features:
    Type: Premium innovation at the edge of entertainment
    Memory card reader: 5-in-1 integrated Digital Media Reader
    Accessible memory slots: 2
    Maximum Memory Expansion: 8GB
    Ports: 4 USB (4th shared with eSATA port),1 Expansion Port 3 connector
    Additional Ports: IEEE 1394 Firewire, HDMI
    Hard Drive Protection: HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
    Audio: Altec Lansing stereo speakers
    ENERGY STAR Qualified: EPEAT Silver
    Adapter: 120W AC Adapter
    Dimensions: 17.17(W)x11.26″(D)x1.33 (min H)/1.72(max H) –

  14. […] It wasn’t too long ago I wrote a post looking for the “Best photographer Laptop?” […]

  15. Steve says

    I am having the same conundrum, but between a HDX18t and Sony Vaio AW. 18”.

    It’s interesting to note the clear Mac preference on this thread. The Mac aura is a fascinating dynamic in the computer world….akin to the Grateful Dead phenomenon for musicians. Mac’s account for somewhere in the vicinity of 3% of the worlds computers and yet Mac owners take personal offense at any comment or suggestion that Mac’s are not the end-all and be-all of computers. The same dynamic exists for Dead Heads. The similarity goes beyond this comparison and extends to the top professionals in both fields, the animation field (the most demanding process for computers) and the music industry. The Dead are seen as moderately talented musicians with an average song writing ability and a subpar stage performance rating. If you should decide to share similar opinons with a Mac owner or a Dead Head….expect heated protest.

    In the end, I admire those who circle their wagons to protect their beliefs, even when I consider those beliefs to be in error.

    So I am a PC guy…….and I am still undecided about the HDX18t or Sony Vaio AW. 18”.

  16. scott says

    As mentioned in later posts I ended up with the MacBook Pro 17″

    My short review is… I like the computer.
    It’s not way impressive and I wouldn’t have it as my primary computer. And as I explain a PC desktop well built is way better for some serious lightroom processing.

    But that being said it looks great fits well in my photo backpacks
    I think the battery life is pretty good. But i hear some PCs last even longer.
    I think the advantage is the small size and weigth for a 17″

    But again I only use it while traveling. Or to let my assistants use it when I’m on the other computer.

    And steve… I agree :)

  17. Kimbrey says

    enjoyed the advice!

  18. seth says

    you cannot knock the mac for looks and battery life…and the screen is quite brilliant. but they are vastly more expensive for less spec, and more importantly, every pro or semi-pro photographer uses compact flash cards…the mac has no cf reader and as it only has an express34 slot any reader will stick out from the side of the laptop…plus it is more expense. the spec of the dell is exceptional, but the battery life is absolutely terrible and it has a terrible time overheating. i am afraid i would avoid that.

    as a photographer, who has used pc’s and macs and is comfortable with both, i would have to say the best option at present is the sony (although it galls me to say it…as i am not sony’s biggest fan at the moment). the screen is probably the best you can get anywhere in the world on a laptop. it has excellent battery life, cf slot, etc its all there!

    but my eye is always drawn back to the slick styling of the mac book pro. aaaagh!

  19. Neil says

    I have the same question. But I think the real issue lies in which product now has the best screen/video card to get good calibration for serious editing. I think Macs have been the leaders but not sure if that is still the case. Viewing angle is a big issue if you will only get good results with your head in a vice. So does anybody know the answer to the viewing angle/accuracy/calibration questions as to who makes the best laptops for photo editing?

  20. […] Best Photographer Laptop? […]

  21. Paul says

    It seems the more I look at the laptops the more confusing it gets. I like the Sony’s and HP’s and after looking at the Mac…well… Like I said it is very difficult. I have an older Dell Desktop and was also thinking of replacing it with a new more powerful one (brand is still up in the air) to do most of my work and a lower end laptop to take with me when I travel…. tough decision….

  22. Fredreica (Fred) Speyer says

    I’ve had my MacBook Pro for almost a year and I still can’t figure out how to organize them the way I’d like. I do sports photography and I might have several games in a week and I might take 500+ photos per game. I can’t figure out how to rename the photos and store them in folders and subfolders attributed to the different teams and their different sports and in different years! Is this an issue for you and if so, what will you do about it? Thanks for your advice!

  23. Ian Smith says

    i would recommend the dell studio 17( available in touch if needed), its fairly priced(beginning at 739 dollars) and can be upgraded to your needs easily, with intel core 2 duo processor, 4 g shared dual channel, 500 g harddrive, 9 cell lithium ion battery and much more, i think it would suit your needs fairly well

  24. Jens says

    I went for a Dell XPS 16 Studio and would do it again. The screen is RGB-LED and just absolutely awesome (full adobe-rgb range). The only downside is, that the screen is glossy and the battery just makes it 1.5 hours on average. But Mac’s have also glossy screens, are more expensive, have no HDMI, have less USB ports, not such a good screen and cost more.

  25. Ben Church says

    I love anything that has to do with photography. There are very few really good photo sites and or blogs. I found yours through search engine. You have a lot of great information and articles here.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Ben Church

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