You really don’t have to spend a fortune on a PC for photo editing; these Windows-based PCs prove that.
Tired of your current desktop or laptop sounding like a jet engine while photo editing in Lightroom, Capture One 12, or any other photo editing software? If so, it may be time for a new computer, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to drop a few grand to get a machine that can get the job done. If you’re in the market for a pre-built desktop PC, or a laptop that will get through tough photo editing sessions like a boss, check out this roundup of computers that cost less than a grand each.
The minimum system requirements for Lightroom on Windows-based machines are pretty tame. Adobe recommends systems with 4GB of RAM, 1GB of VRAM (Video RAM), 2GB of storage space, and an Intel or Ryzen 64-bit processor that runs at more than 2GHz. Recommended systems requirements bump the RAM up to 12GB. Capture One 12’s minimum requirements include Intel or AMD CPU with 2 cores, 8 GB of RAM, and 10 GB of free hard disk space. The recommended system is a CPU with 4 cores, 16GB of RAM, and an SSD.
The PCs we have listed blow away the minimum requirements and some meet or exceed the recommended specs. All of the systems below feature AMD’s Ryzen or Intel’s Core i series of processors, gobs of RAM, and in most of the systems, GPU’s that will add a kick when it comes to processing your images. For under $1,000 (in some cases well under that price) you can purchase a new computer that will barely even get warm while running these two photo editing suites. Throw in the excellent GPU’s that most of these computers feature, and you can play some triple-A games in your downtime too (yeah like downtime exists for those working in photography). Check out these powerful, yet highly affordable photo editing beasts below.
HP – Pavilion 690 Desktop
Small, stylish, reliable, and powerful; this HP Pavilion offers tremendous value for money. Powered by a 3.6 GHz Ryzen 5 CPU which is partnered with an 8GB AMD RX 580 GPU, this small desktop PC means business. You’ll also find 8Gb of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and a super fast 128GB SSD which will really make accessing your files quick and easy. There are more inputs than you can shake a stick at, and it has a built-in SD Card reader. Photo editing, movie editing, and gaming, this PC can do them all easily. Check out a review here at PC Mag.
Buy now ($628.95): Amazon
Dell Inspiron 3670 High-Performance Desktop
This pre-built system has more than enough power to blast through photo editing software. It features an Intel Core i5 8400 CPU which is clocked at 4GHz, 12 GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, a 1TB hard drive, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, integrated Intel graphics, 1 HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, and 4 USB 2.0 ports. Windows 10 comes pre-loaded, so all you have to do is hook up your monitor, and off you go. If you need a PC that has a small footprint but still packs enough punch to knockout images in a hurry, this PC may be the one for you. Check out a full review over at CNET.
Buy now ($665.99): Amazon
Pro Tip: If you go with a new desktop PC, you may need to grab a new monitor too, but wait a second before you buy any old display. If you plan on getting a new monitor, make sure that you buy an IPS display. IPS (In-Plane Switching) displays produce true to life colors, they have a much bigger color gamut, and they have much wider viewing angles than other types of display technology. IPS displays are widely used in professional design studios for a reason. The Sw240 from Ben Q is a fantastic 24-inch IPS display that can swivel between portrait and landscape mode easily. The best part is that this display costs just $399!
Dell Inspiron i5676 Gaming PC Desktop
Another Dell desktop, only this one looks a little more menacing, and so it should because the Dell i5676 has some serious power under the hood. This machine is powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 2700 Processor, 16GB of RAM, and it has an AMD RX 580 4Gb graphics card. You’ll also find a 1TB HDD, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, multiple USB 2.0, and 3.0 ports, and a USB-C connection. Windows 10 64-bit is pre-installed, and for a little bit of flair, there’s a Blue LED. This case is a bit on the large size, but the computer is whisper quiet. With this PC, you’ll be able to design, edit, and play all day. Check out this review over at Digital Trends.
Buy now ($699.99): Amazon
HP Envy x360 15.6.’’
If hybrid laptops are more your thing, the Hp Envy X360 will probably interest you. This fully convertible laptop/tablet is packed full of features that won’t disappoint. Inside you’ll find a Quad Core AMD Ryzen 5 2500U which runs at up to 3.6GHz, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The touchscreen has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, the keyboard is backlit, and you’ll find Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity. There’s 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C port, 2 x USB 3.1 ports, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x Headphone/Microphone combo jack, and a microSD card reader. The power of a desktop that you can take with you on the road with a battery that lasts up to 10.5 hours; now that’s cool. Check out a review at TechRadar.
Buy now ($768.88): Amazon
Pro Tip: Would you like to have the ultimate control over your images during post-processing? If so you might want to consider using a tablet like the Wacom Intuos Pro. This Wacom Intuos Pro Medium tablet and pen combo will enable you to make edits to your photos easily. Even the most complex retouching job in any photo editing software can become a piece of cake thanks to fully customizable buttons and controls. The Wacom Intuos pro is available in small, medium, and large sizes.
ASUS VivoBook Pro 17
Powerful is an understatement for this laptop. The Asus VivoBook 17 is a computer that doesn’t play around. Powered by an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U Processor that operates at up to 4GHz and 8Gb of DDR4 RAM. This laptop laughs in the face of photo editing software. The 17.3″ FHD 1080p display is powered by an NVIDIA GeForce MX 150 graphics processor. You’ll have access to a 512GB SSD, a backlit keyboard, Windows 10, USB 2.0, and 3.0 ports, a USB-C connection, and a battery that charges up to 60% capacity in just 49 minutes. Check out this full review over at Laptop Media.
Buy now ($949.99): Amazon