Photographers’ Laptops

Above: Alienware Area-51 M15X
Weight: 7 pounds
Size: 14.5×10.7×1.3 inches
List Price: From $1,299

One of the joys of digital photography is the instant feedback you get from looking at your images right after capturing them. Whether you’re photographing a family event or traveling on vacation, having a laptop with you that lets you review, organize, back up, enhance and share your images will definitely add to your enjoyment. Even a few years ago, carrying a notebook computer powerful enough for digital imaging was a heavy proposition. Today, there’s a wide range of laptops available that easily can handle processing big image files, from ultraportable models to larger, wide-screen models.


Laptops generally fall into one of three size categories. The smallest are commonly referred to as “netbooks.” The name comes from the fact that they’re best suited for Internet-based tasks and applications like web browsing, e-mail and social networking. These are the most portable notebook computers, with screen sizes smaller than 13 inches, and some features, like a DVD drive, are omitted to achieve the smaller size. With their lower power demands, battery life is typically much better than with the larger models, and the form factor allows you to pack one of these into your bags much more easily.

On the larger end of the scale are full-featured, big-screen models that can be an alternative to a desktop computer. They’re often relatively heavy and large, but offer screens up to 17 inches and desktop specs. Add an external screen and keyboard, and you have a dual-display workstation for use at home.

In between the two is the range of laptops that are ideal for most mobile photographers. With screen sizes from 13 to 15 inches, they offer a balance between portability and performance.

Which is right for you? If you have a desktop computer where you do most of your photo processing, a netbook or midrange laptop probably will suit you best. You’ll travel lighter, plus have the ability to download and organize your images, share them, upload them and even do some basic Photoshop work.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a laptop that can do double duty as your primary computer at home, you may want to sacrifice some of the portability to get the enhanced performance offered in the larger models. With their larger screen sizes, more memory and typically faster processors, you can run intensive Photoshop operations with ease.

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