Before we jump to our top picks for the best desktop computers for photo editing, there are some crucial points you need to take into account when you are going to buy a computer for yourself.
1. Types of desktop computers
Desktops typically offer more performance for the cash than laptops and are less expensive to repair. They may allow for a more ergonomically correct work environment, generally come with better speakers, and allow you to view your work on a larger screen.
- Full-Size Desktop: Though they require a lot of room under or on top of your desk, full-sized desktops are the least expensive and the easiest to upgrade and repair.
- Compact Desktop: At less than half the size of full-sized desktops, compact or slim desktops are ideal if you lack space under your desk or if you plan to put the computer on your desk.
- All-in-One Desktop: All-in-one desktop computers, also known as "all-in-ones," integrate the computer and monitor in one case. The components are tightly packed behind and underneath the display, making them difficult to upgrade or repair. Meant to be space-savers, they're also designed to look less dull than traditional computers. You'll pay big cash for these models.
- Gaming Desktop: Speaking of gaming systems, they have no limits. You get the fastest processors, the most sophisticated graphics cards, multiple large hard drives, and lots of RAM. Cases are usually large and offer room for additional components like extra memory or dedicated sound cards. These tend to be quite expensive.
2. Choosing your OS: Mac or Windows
Personal preference and experience affect the operating system of choice more than anything, making it hard to recommend one over the other. The best way to tell which one is perfect for you is to try both out to see which one feels more natural for you to work on, and which one will work with your favorite programs.
Mac computers are generally more expensive than Windows-based PCs, though they tend to be a little more secure. With fewer MacOS PCs out there, hackers are less interested in making viruses for them. The closed-ecosystem approach Apple employs for its products also makes it harder to spread malware — though not impossible.
Windows PCs have a much more strong gaming ecosystem to enjoy and are definitely better for gaming enthusiasts.
Apart from that, the app ecosystem for both macOS and Windows is very good — there are so many apps for both platforms so no matter what you need to do, you’ll likely be able to find an app to complete the task. Eventually, you need to choose for yourself, but definitely keep in mind that today’s Mac computers can also run the Windows operating system through programs such as Boot Camp, Parallels, or VMWare Fusion.
3. Power and performance
Performance is possibly the most important metric of any PC, and the CPU is the heart of that. You want at the very least a dual-core processor, but a quad-core will give you obvious performance. Intel’s Core i3 and AMD’s Ryzen 3 CPUs are fantastic in this respect, especially the latter, which support simultaneous multi-threading, which can make a CPU operate as if it has double the number of cores.
If you need a bit more power to make it the best desktop computer for photo editing, or video editing, or are planning to play the latest games, then preferably you will want to look for a computer that has a six-core (or better) processor such as an Intel i5 or i7 or an AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7.
When it comes to system memory or RAM, you want to make sure you have enough, and not too much more. A capacity of 8GB to 16GB is the sweet point for most users, including heavy gamers; 32GB and beyond is only really recommended if you’re doing a lot of heavy video editing, and will very much depend on the particular software you want to use.
A graphics card can be the most expensive part of a PC and is only necessary if you’re looking to play games. If you are, buy a GPU that fits your needs and budget. There’s no point in buying a $1,000 graphics card if all you want to play is Minecraft, but you’ll be disappointed if you try to play the latest AAA games on a budget GPU. Check out the specifications of the games you want to play to help decide which graphics card is right for you or check out our list of the best GPUs you can buy.
The size of a hard drive (or solid-state drive) decides how many programs and files you can fit on it before running out of space. A computer with at least 500GB of space is a good starting point. If you have a lot of photos, games, or movies that you want to store, then you’ll want to consider a secondary drive with a terabyte or two of additional space.
Another thing to remember when thinking about storage is considering a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a traditional hard drive. SSDs are much faster than traditional hard drives, which means you can open and find files faster. SSDs are your best bet for a boot drive, with traditional hard drives best suited as additional storage space and secondary drives.
Best desktop computer for photo editing for you!
Eager to know what is the best desktop computer for photo editing on the market? Here are our top picks:
Apple renewed its Apple Mac Mini at the beginning of 2020, and the small computer is now better than ever – and that means it’s still our pick for the best desktop computer for photo editing overall. It’s got a new 6-core processor from Intel, it supports up to 64GB of RAM and the Intel-integrated UHD Graphics 630 is perfectly capable of editing photos. If you need a bit more energy, you can plug in an external graphics card via Thunderbolt. So, it’s certainly powerful, and it’s also kept its slimline design that means it doesn’t take up much space on your desk.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive desktop PC for working on your photos, then the Acer TC is a great budget pick. It's available in lots of different specs options, but we suppose the best bang-per-buck comes from the configuration built around a 6-core Intel Core i5-9400 processor and 8GB of RAM. The Aspire TC comes in a slimline case that won't take up much of your desk space. You can still open it up and upgrade it when needed, and it even features a built-in SD memory card reader. However, there’s only integrated graphics and storage is limited to either a 1TB hard drive or a 512GB SSD, which will soon fill up if you're working with high-res raw photo files or 1080p video – although it’s worth keeping in mind that internal storage can be easily upgraded, and there's always our pick of the best external hard drives.
The HP Gaming Desktop Pavilion TG01-0020 is another inexpensive desktop computer for gaming but that's also great for photographers. It does a superb job of balancing price and features, with our preferred spec option packing a six-core Intel processor, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, making it a great little desktop PC for photo and video editing compared to PCs with integrated graphics only. It also comes with a multi-card memory card reader, which makes it quick and easy to get your photos off your camera. The only real problem is that the 256GB SSD - though fast - will quickly be filled up. However, adding an external hard drive is an easy fix for this.
If you’re looking for the best all-in-one desktop computer for photographers, then Apple has you covered with the latest 27-inch iMac. It comes with the latest tech, including 10th-generation Intel processors, powerful discrete graphics, and plenty of RAM. You also get a decent number of storage options – though the higher capacity SSD choices are very pricey. Best of all, the built-in screen is simply stunning with a Retina 5K (5,120 x 2,880) resolution and Apple's True Tone technology for accurate color. Apple is very popular with creatives for a good reason, and its macOS software is compatible with the biggest labels in photo editing.
If you like the idea of a stylish and powerful all-in-one PC, but you don’t want to use an Apple product like the iMac, then the Microsoft Surface Studio 2 is a superb choice. It’s fashionably designed and comes with some excellent components that make it a great bit of hardware for photographers. Its screen is touch-capable, which gives you more options for interacting with it, and it runs Windows 10. However, it is expensive. Very expensive.
1. Is a laptop or desktop better for photo editing?
Remember that you won't get the same level of performance form a laptop as you will form a desktop. Most professionals seem to prefer editing on a desktop. However, desktops can be relatively more expensive than laptops. Everyone will have their own preference with laptops to work with for Photo Editing.
2. Are gaming computers good for photo editing?
Gaming laptops are overkill for photo editing. Gaming laptops are equipped with really high-end GPUs for rendering high-resolution 3D graphics at high frame rates. Not all necessary for rendering static 2-dimensional images. Photo editing is more dependent on RAM, processor, and speed of the hard drive.
3. Is CPU or GPU more important for photo editing?
A strong GPU is important for 4k+ production pipelines, and most image processing programs use GPU acceleration for display rendering, zooming, and navigation, but the bulk of the actual processing happens on the CPU.
4. Which CPU is good for Photoshop?
Photoshop prefers clock speed to large amounts of cores. The Intel Core i5, i7, and i9 range perfect for Adobe Photoshop use. With their excellent bang for your buck performance levels, high clock speeds, and a maximum of 8 cores, they are the go-to choice for Adobe Photoshop Workstation users.
5. Should I pick an all-in-one computer?
As well as traditional tower desktop computers, there are also all-in-one computers available. These have all the components built into a screen, and there are a number of advantages to this. First of all, they are stylish and space-saving, as you do not need to have a big beige box sitting on your desk – just the screen and a mouse and keyboard.
As the PC is built into the screen, it means you don’t need to buy a monitor separately either, which can save money. Plus, with PC components getting thinner and more powerful than ever, all-in-one PCs can be just as accomplished at photo editing as traditional computers.
There are a few downsides you need to consider, however. First, is that they can’t be easily upgraded like traditional PCs, as the components are usually specially designed to be fitted behind the screen – much like a laptop. They can also be more expensive – and you'll have to consider the screen quality as part of your purchase, rather than being able to take your pick from the best monitors for photographers. Still, they are worth considering, so we’ve included a few all-in-ones in this list of the best desktop computers for photographers.
It’s obvious to see that the New Apple iMac is the best desktop computer for photo editing on the market at the moment. With a new 6-core processor from Intel, it supports up to 64GB of RAM and the Intel-integrated UHD Graphics 630 is perfectly capable of editing photos. Besides, this machine has a trendy and minimal design, which will not take up much of your desk space.
If you want to save a little money, but still want to enjoy an amazing photo editing experience, then look no further than the Acer Aspire TC and the HP Gaming Desktop Pavilion TG01-0020. Inexpensive, but great performance.
For serious and professional photographers, the Apple iMac (27-inch, 5K), a powerful all-in-one desktop computer is perfect for you. If you are not an Apple fan, then try the Microsoft Surface Studio 2, though it may cost you a lot more.
Well, that’s all for this guide right now. We hope this guide could help you to choose for you the best desktop computer for photo editing. Choose wisely, and take your photo editing sessions to a whole new level!