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10 Best MacBooks For Photo Editing (2022 Buyer’s Guide)
By Matthew Rivera
Last Updated: Sep 18, 2022
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Mac products have long been great for work, studying, or even gaming. Plus, being able to share photos and files easily through Apple’s proprietary AirDrop feature has been a game changer within the tech industry.
Most laptops have photo editing capabilities, but Apple has become the leading company when it comes to this category. But for photographers, graphic designers, and digital retouchers, what is the best Mac for photo editing?
This guide will talk more about the various Mac and MacBook products that are suitable for your photography needs and go in-depth about their specs and performance. We’ll also discuss the criteria we used to select our top picks. By the end, you should know which MacBook is best for photo editing!
Released in 2021, the 16-inch Apple Macbook Pro is hailed as the best MacBook Pro for photo editing because of its screen size and GPU. With a 16” Liquid Retina XDR display screen, users will be able to see every pixel in high definition. The MacBook Pro can display an incredible contrast ratio and up to 1 billion colors, allowing for the clearest and most vibrant images possible.
The product is fitted with Apple’s M1 Pro chip, which can handle up to 5x machine learning and 4x graphics performance compared to previous versions. The M1 Pro chip, paired with the 16” display, makes for a powerful laptop for rendering and editing images. It is also able to support up to three external displays up to 6k resolution. The laptop has a long battery life as well, lasting for up to 21 hours.
The laptop weighs around 2kg, and users also have the option to choose between 512 GB or 1 TB storage, which is perfect for photographers who want to store their images all in one place. Users can also choose between two colors: silver or space-gray, with either a 16-core or 32-core GPU.
Though smaller than the 16-inch MacBook, the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air released in 2020 is still a viable option for photo retouchers. The MacBook Air M1 has a True Tone display, which can display images in more natural lighting.
The laptop is fitted with an M1 chip, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and an LED-backlit display. The MacBook Air M1 has a RAM of 8 GB, which is on the low end compared to newer Mac versions. However, it’s configurable with up to 16 GB of RAM and can still perform well when using video or photo editing apps. Plus, it comes with 256 GB of storage, which can be upgraded to 2 TB.
It’s a lightweight laptop, weighing around 1.30kg, which is significantly lighter compared to the MacBook Pro. Its compact design allows for easier carrying compared to the 16-inch Pro versions. Though its memory and processor are quite low, it still has a long battery life that lasts about 15 hours, which is beneficial for photographers who are constantly on the go.
Though similar in size, the MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 is more powerful than the Air and can perform more efficiently. If you’re looking for a laptop that’s small but still powerful, then the MacBook Pro 13-inch may be a good fit for you.
Compared to the 2021 version, the MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 has a smaller RAM with only 8 GB, though it can be upgraded up to 16 GB. Even with just 8 GB of RAM, however, the MacBook Pro can still run graphic-intensive apps normally. It comes with 256 GB of storage that can be upgraded to 2 TB.
The 2020 version now has a Touch Bar and a Touch ID sensor on its trackpad, which allows for easier use of shortcut keys as well as color-picking on apps like Adobe Photoshop. The 2020 MacBook Pro also has a battery life of up to 17 hours.
The 27-inch iMac is a suitable desktop computer for video or image editors who want the biggest screen to work with and aren’t fussed about portability. The iMac has a stunning 5K LED-backlit Retina display and RAM of about 8 GB. There’s a noticeable improvement when it comes to graphics memory – the previous 21.5-inch version came with 4 GB, but the 27-inch version can be upgraded up to 16 GB of graphics memory.
Unfortunately, this version of the iMac is not yet fitted with Apple’s M1 Chip and is still using an Intel Core i7 processor. However, there is an option to upgrade to the Intel Core i9 processor, allowing for fasting processing and rendering performance.
The iMac 27-inch can be configured with up to 8 TB of storage, making it a candidate for the best Apple desktop for photo editing.
For those who want a desktop computer with a more compact design, a Mac Mini would be a good option. The Mac Mini has been fitted with the M1 chip, Apple’s processor that’s specifically designed for Mac products. With the M1 chip, the Mac Mini has a 3x faster CPU and 6x faster graphics performance, so users won’t have to worry about their tasks slowing down their computer.
With this, the Mac Mini is even able to do 3D rendering and large-scale image processing without exerting too much of its power. It has 8 GB of unified memory that can be upgraded to 16 GB, plus standard storage of 256 GB that can be upgraded up to 2 TB. The Mac Mini also comes with Apple’s newest operating system, the macOS Monterey.
For users who are looking for small but powerful desktop computers, this may be the best Mac desktop for photo editing.
Possibly Apple’s most advanced Mac yet, the 2022 Mac Studio is primarily used in the multimedia and business industry, which means this Mac is even more powerful for personal use. What sets this apart from other Apple products is the introduction of the M1 Ultra, the latest advancement in M1 technology by Apple.
Considered to be the world’s most powerful chip for personal computers by Apple, the M1 Ultra has eight times the GPU compared to the M1 chip. With the Mac Studio, users can perform graphics-intensive activities while using less power on the computer. This makes the Mac Studio the best Mac for photo and video editing available on the market today.
Not only does the computer have a 64-core GPU, but its 1 TB SSD can also be configured with up to 8 TB. The Mac Studio also has several ports for efficient connection, six Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB A ports, an SD card slot, and an HDMI port.
And with Apple’s newest operating system, the macOS Monterey, users can now access iPhone and iPad applications on the Mac.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro, much like the 16-inch version, offers users two options – you can choose between an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip as well as either 512 GB or 1 TB of storage. With the M1 Max chip, its GPU can be upgraded to a 32-core, which provides 13x faster performance for gaming or graphic-intensive applications.
Just like the 16-inch version, it also has a Liquid XDR and True Tone display. Its battery life can last to 11 hours on the wireless web or up to 17 hours when on Apple TV playback. This laptop also has a backlit keyboard built with a Touch ID and an ambient light sensor.
Though it is also a MacBook Pro, it is lighter than the 16-inch version, weighing just 1.6 kg – the perfect balance between the light but small 13-inch Apple MacBook Air and the bigger 16-inch Macbook Pro. The laptop is also made with recycled material to help reduce its environmental impact.
The MacBook comes in two colors for users to choose from: space-gray or silver.
Though a couple of inches smaller compared to the 2020 version, the 24-inch iMac is still able to process files at incredible speed, so it’s great for people who edit videos and photos.
This is the thinnest iMac yet at around 11.5mm and weighs less than 5 kg, which means users won’t have to worry about clunky, heavy desktop computers. The 4.5K Retina display iMac is also available in seven different colors: blue, pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, and silver, allowing for more options and more customization.
What’s new about this version is the introduction of the M1 chip to iMacs, which combines storage, graphics, and the processor all into one chip. This makes it more compact and powerful compared to other desktop computers. Because of the M1 chip, the iMac comes with 8 GB of RAM that is configurable with up to 16 GB and a speed of 1.20G Hz. It also comes with either 256 GB or 512 GB of SSD storage, which is upgradable to 2 TB.
With two USB 3 ports, four performance and efficiency cores each in the CPU, and a massive 4480 x 2520 resolution, this iMac is possibly the best iMac for photo editing.
The MacBook Pro 16-inch, though significantly older, can still deliver optimal performance for photographers and editors who are on a budget. The RAM that comes with this laptop is 16 GB, and customers have the option to choose either an Intel Core i7 or an Intel Core i9 processor for the MacBook Pro 16-inch.
Users also have a choice to upgrade their storage from 512 GB to 1 TB of memory. Large storage, combined with a powerful Intel Core processor, can significantly make up for the laptop’s age.
It also has a battery life of up to 11 hours and four Thunderbolt 4 or USB-C ports, making it a good candidate for the best MacBook for photo and video editing despite its age.
The 2019 iMac is the best budget desktop computer on this list – as an older Mac product, you can find many great deals online. Despite its age, it can still power through graphics-intensive apps, as users can choose from either an Intel Core i3 or an Intel Core i5 processor. The iMac has a RAM of about 8 GB, though users can upgrade to either 16 or 32 GB of RAM.
The iMac provides a stunning Retina 4K display, though it unfortunately doesn’t have Apple’s trademark True Tone technology. The computer is fitted with four USB-A ports, an SD card reader, and two USB-C ports. If you don’t have much issue with the lack of True Tone technology, then this is possibly the best deal for a desktop computer.
What To Look For In The Best Mac Computer For Photo Editing
Of course, price and performance are the key factors that should be taken into consideration, but when looking for the best MacBook for photo editing, you must also consider storage limit, processing power, build, and screen quality. Let’s break each of these criteria down:
The dimensions of the Mac products as well as their physical features are important if you’re particular about the products you buy. Size also comes into play when it comes to portability, which can be an issue if you like to edit on the go.
iMacs, Mac Studios, and Mac Minis are desktop computers, meaning they can’t be carried around and are designed primarily for home or office use. If you’re a student or someone who is constantly on the go, then a MacBook Air might be more suitable for you to use, as it is notably lighter and more compact than a MacBook Pro.
Features such as memory card slots and ports are essential for professional photographers who store their files on external devices. Thankfully, most Macs are also built with an SD card reader or memory card slot so photographers don’t need to buy an adapter to transfer files from their cards to their computers.
Both the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air come with an HDMI port and a USB C port as well, which are useful if you want to connect your laptop to an external monitor or a separate hard drive.
How much detail and color a Mac product can display is extremely important when you’re using it with photo editing software like Photoshop, as you’ll want colors and pixels to be as visible and accurate as possible. Mac uses True Tone Technology, which matches ambient lighting and makes images look more natural – this helps users adjust to what they’re seeing on the screen easily.
Most Mac products come with a 4K display for their screens, so users don’t need to worry about their full-resolution images being displayed poorly. Computers like the 27-inch iMac can even deliver a gorgeous display of 5k resolution, which is a great improvement on Apple’s graphics quality. Plus, Apple’s Liquid XDR-Retina display, available on both its laptops and desktop computers, can support up to a billion colors.
Though Apple’s XDR display allows photographers to see their captured images in the fullest definition possible, the computer’s GPU is what allows every pixel to be seen clearly. With the M1 chip, Mac computers can display and recognize up to a billion colors, and the graphics memory can even be upgraded so that lagging won’t be a problem.
When talking about the best computer to buy, how much data it can store is something that always needs to be considered. Older laptops only have about 256 or 512 GB of storage – while this may be enough for personal use, it’s not enough for graphic designers, video editors, or photographers who often have to work with a large volume of high-resolution images.
The more storage is used, the slower your computer will run. Editing photos and videos can eat storage up fast because it is quite file-heavy. This is no issue for Apple, however, as Mac products have upgradable storage. The amount of storage a Mac can have depends on its processor – a computer like the 2022 Mac Studio can be configured with up to 8 TB of storage because of its M1 Ultra chip, while the 2019 MacBook Pro can only have up to 1 TB because it still uses the Intel Core I7 as its processor.
RAM is especially important when you’re handling large files. The larger the RAM of a laptop, the faster it can render photos or videos. Photo editing apps like Adobe Photoshop require about 4 to 8GB of RAM for it to run normally but need about 16 GB to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Fortunately, Apple products offer you the option to choose how big your RAM is with many of its laptops or desktop computers. The latest versions come configured with 16 GB of RAM as the lowest option.
If RAM size is important to you and you’re trying to find the best Apple computer for photo editing, then get a computer with the M1 Max chip – these computers have 32 GB of RAM and can be configured with up to 64 GB
Unfortunately, Apple products are not the cheapest option available on the market, especially the latest releases. That said, some products can still be relatively affordable for students or those who are on a budget.
If you want the best budget laptop, check out older models like the 2019 MacBook or 2019 iMac, which can be found online for under a thousand dollars. Though they are older, they are still able to edit high-resolution photos and have sufficient screen quality.
There are tons of great Apple laptops and computers for photo editing, you just need to know what you’re looking for to find the best one for you. The latest versions of the MacBook Pro and Air are contenders for the best Apple laptop for photo editing, easily rivaling other powerful Windows laptops. Meanwhile, the Mac Studio, with its M1 Ultra Chip, is often praised as the best Mac desktop for photo editing.
That said, older Apple products can still compete for the title of the best Mac laptop for photo editing, especially when price is taken into consideration. Older models like the 2019 MacBook Pro and iMac are still capable of handling raw images and editing large video files – and at half the price of new releases.
Which of these best laptops for photo editing is the best for you? Ultimately, only you can say, as photo editing specifications differ from person to person. We hope this guide has provided you with everything you need to know to find the right workstation for you!
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