The Best Desktops for Photo Editing [January 2020]
Anyone who works in virtually any visual creative field knows that there are only certain types of computers that have the processing power and graphics abilities to get the job done right. Whether you work as a salaried photo editor for National Geographic or a freelance Photoshop guru for a variety of print and online publications, every professional visual artist need the right machine in order to bring out the best from both photos and videos in a variety of environments and mediums.
Of course you could invest in a MacBook Pro and spend over three-thousand dollars in order to get all the bells and whistles you need, but unless you travel on a regular basis and need your computer for other pro-level tasks, you’d be throwing away a lot of your money. In fact, it’s possible to land a desktop computer that can provide all if not more of the processing and graphics power you need at a fraction of the price, and there are a variety of HD monitors that you can pick from in order to ensure that the accuracy of your edits is unparalleled when it comes to both quality and style.
In fact, even if you do most of your edits on a laptop, it’s important to be able to compare the final result on a desktop using a slightly different processor and graphics card, in order to ensure that your work translates properly on different machines. So if you’re interested in either beginning or furthering a career having anything to do with graphic design or photo editing, here are some of the best desktop computers money can buy.
Anyone looking for the perfect photo editing machine doesn’t have to turn to clunky tower desktops that require additional monitors and accessories. Dell’s All-in-One Inspiron PC is the perfect computer in this category, because it includes everything you need to get started with your photo work. Since the hardware is built into the 24″ monitor, along with an included mouse and keyboard, there’s nothing else to buy once this computer arrives at your house.
Powering that 1080p display is a quad-core 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8700T clocked at 2.64 GHz. It’s not the most powerful processor on the market, but it’s more than enough for running Photoshop or other photo editing software. More important than that processor, of course, is the 16GB of RAM included to help manage your work as you edit photos. If you’re working with larger photo files, including RAW file formats, you’ll want to make sure you have at least 16GB of RAM, so seeing this AIO model from Dell come standard with 16GB is fantastic. Just as important is the included storage, and while the 1TB HDD isn’t the fastest in the world, it thankfully includes a 512GB SSD for speedy boot times and application launching.
On the back of the device is your port selection, an important piece of any computer. It’s a solid lineup for any PC in 2020, though we wish every USB port supported 3.0 speeds. Instead, you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.1 ports along with a USB 3.1 port with Power Sharing, and a single USB Type C port. There’s two HDMI ports—one HDMI-in port and one HDMI-out port—a headphone and microphone jack, an audio line out, an ethernet port, and most importantly, a 3-in-1 card reader that supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards. There’s also a webcam along the top of the device.
While the Inspiron AIO from Dell might not be the prettiest or most powerful device on this list, it’s a fantastic computer for photo editing that makes it easy to get started. Plus, for under $1300, you can use the savings you get from some of the more expensive desktops on Amazon to pick up a Photoshop subscription.
- Huge amount of storage
- Everything included
- Good display
- Not really upgradable
- Not the most powerful Core i7
Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock for the past decade, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Apple’s famed iMac computers, which combine incredible processing power with a gorgeous display in a single, sleek all-in-one unit.
Well it turns out you don’t have to dish out an exorbitant amount of cash in order to enjoy everything iMacs have to offer. This incredibly stylish and powerful Acer machine is ideal for photo and video editors who don’t want to break the bank in order to enjoy pro-level desktop computing, and it even comes loaded with a variety of tools that make it slightly superior to the iMac when it comes to visual editing functionality.
Featuring 12GB of RAM that allows for extensive multitasking with pro-level applications, this stylish and compact desktop and monitor combo comes loaded with enough power to conquer even the most difficult visual jobs. You can choose between multiple hard drive sizes in order to fit your work load, and the latest Intel Core i5 8250U ultra-low voltage quad-core processor provides high-efficiency renders at blistering speeds. (Your processor will also automatically kick into TurboBoost mode when you need that extra power for multiple tasks.)
One of the most impressive features of the Acer Aspire C24 is its screen, which features a 23.8-inch full HD display (1920 x 1080) and a widescreen edge-to-edge LED back-lit projection—making it ideal for editors who want to attain the most realistic image possible without sacrificing their light sources. The color is also surprisingly rich without deceiving the eye—an all too common problem for visual editors who want to have their images transferred flawlessly to glossy print.
You’ll enjoy the latest 802.11AC wireless system that provides a smooth Internet experience and connection speeds, along with Gigabit Ethernet LAN and Bluetooth 4.2 technology for added functionality and connectivity for your various devices. This computer also comes loaded with a variety of ports—including an HDMI output, USB 2.0 ports, USB 3.1 ports, and more. Its pre-installed Windows 10 platform also comes with a series of features that make it easy to quickly edit on the fly, without having to deal with a sea of self-written automation that only ends up complicating matters further.
- Good display
- Half the price of Dell's AIO
- Less powerful processor
- Slower storage
Don’t be fooled by its small size. Although this desktop computer may not look traditional, it packs an amazing amount of power and all of the connectivity options you’d need for virtually any visual project. Powered by an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor running at 2.2GHz, this tiny yet mighty machine is able to take on pro-level image and video rendering projects like no other. It packs 8GB of memory for advanced multitasking and app support, along with high-bandwidth RAM that can smoothly run your games and editing applications with ease. It also comes loaded with a 256GB solid state hard drive that’s much faster than traditional spinning drives, and helps ensure that it’s virtually impossible for your data to get lost (since it’s much easier to recover in the incredibly unlikely event of a crash).
You’ll also enjoy fast, long-range WLAN 802.11 connections along with Bluetooth 5.0 functionality, and there are two USB ports along with an HDMI out that can be used to connect a monitor. This unit is also small enough to take with you on the go without issue—making it ideal for people who want to shuttle their work between home and the office.
- Small size
- SSD support
- Only 8GB of RAM
- Core i5 could be faster
We admit that this desktop tower isn’t as flashy or aesthetically pleasing as some of the other desktops on our list, but if you’re looking for power and functionality and care less about pomp and frills, this may be the unit for you. Crafted by one of the most well-known and respected computer manufacturers on the planet, this HP machine boasts an Intel Core i7 processor running at a whopping 3.40GHz (with turboboost capabilities of up to 3.9GHz), 16GB of RAM with support for up to 32GB, fast WiFi, and a massive 2TB hard drive that can be used to store longer and more weighty video and photo files.
The only reason this incredibly reasonably priced computer didn’t make it higher on our list is because we found its graphics card to be relatively lacking—although this probably won’t be an issue for those who send their final edits out to a third party for browser and print matching
- Super cheap
- Massive amount of storage
- Only comes refurbished
- Old processor
Where would a computer roundup be without a Dell—those trusty workhorse machines that can carry out an endless number of tasks for a reasonable price. This machine does just that, thanks in part to a super-fast 8th generation Intel i7 6-core processor that’s capable of carrying out a seemingly limitless number of tasks simultaneously, along with 16GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM and a 512GB solid state drive. Yes, this machine is a bit pricer than the others on our list (which is the main reason why it ranked lower), although the reason for the added cost seems to lie in its superior graphics card: a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB GDDR5 board that delivers stunningly crispy and accurate imagery regardless of whether you’re working with images or video.
- Includes a great dedicated graphics card
- Fast 6-core processor
- A bit expensive
- Needs accessories
This is the second (and last) HP on our list, which should come as no surprise since this world-renowned brand is known for making some of the best and most reliable computers on the market. Featuring a 7th generation Core i7 processor and powerful quad-core processing capabilities, this desktop classic comes with 16GB of high-bandwidth memory that’s ideal for photo and video editing, along with a 2TB hard drive for ample storage space.
It also boasts a built-in media player and reader that can be used for fast and easy photo transfers, along with support for SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory card formats. We decided to rank this machine a bit lower than the EliteDesk at our number-four spot only because we felt that the significant price gap wasn’t necessarily justified, but if you need a bit more power and have the cash to spend, we highly recommend checking this desktop out.
- Under $1000
- 2TB Hard drive
- No SSD support
- Older Core i7 processor