Let’s talk about laptops for photo editing that can also push some frame rates. Most gaming laptops under $1000 nowadays tend to have a mediocre IPS display. For those who look for a high quality built-in panel alongside good 3D capabilities, the options are not many, however exist. That’s a manufacturer decision to differentiate the market so that if you want better feature-set and qualities, you better spend some more.
Let’s talk about three routes one can take:
- Finding a laptop with good display, but probably in exchange for bang for buck ratio.
- Get the best gaming laptop for the money and add a high quality external monitor.
- Get an excellent laptop with basic 3D power and setup an eGPU solution. This is a good solution for many.
- Get the fastest gaming laptop for the money, and replace the panel manually. That’s a good option since you can choose the panel yourself. However, availability for end consumer is sometimes very limited, plus that’s more work and in some cases there could be some functionality problem (like the Asus FX502 with 120HZ and no option to change brightness)
Gaming laptops with a built-in good display, under $1000:
When, not a lot of options really. I do hope it will get better in the next generation of laptops (end of 2018 – early 2019). Let’s list them:
- MSI PS42 Prestige 15.6″: Amazon, Newegg ; Review. Near 100% sRGB coverage and 63% adobeRGB. Comes with the Nvidia MX150 GPU, Intel I5/I7-U CPU. Pro good battery life, calibrated display, relatively lightweight. Cons Maximal display brightness, hard maintenance, no TB3 or USB 3.2, mediocre touchpad.
- HP Pavilion 15T Gaming with the 144HZ IPS upgrade: HP, Amazon, Newegg ; Review. Equipped with a GTX 1050/Ti or GTX 1060 3GB. The 144HZ IPS has > 90% sRGB and 60% adobeRGB coverage with very good contrast and brightness along with a low response times. Pro Quality display, relatively slim & lightweight, good keyboard and good enough battery performance (though not relatively). Cons No USB 3.1gen2 not Thunderbolt 3, thermal handling is not as good as other gaming laptops.
- Refurbished Dell XPS 9570 15.6″: Dell Outlet ; Review. With coupons, the Dell XPS 9570 can be purchased for less than $1000 with the default FHD display. The display offers almost 100% sRGB coverage and > 60% adobeRGB coverage and high contrast. With Intel 8th generation CPU and a GTX 1050/Ti Max-Q, 3D/gaming performance is adequate for a midrange gaming laptop. Pro Slim & lightweight, looks, Thunderbolt 3 + mDP port + USB 3.1gen2, very good battery performance for casual work. Cons WiFi performance
- Lenovo Yoga 720 or Yoga 730, 15.6″ versions with a GTX 1050 GPU and ~90% sRGB display. Not that great, but an still an option.
- Some more, slightly above $1000: Asus GL503 and GL504.
best gaming laptop for the money and add an external monitor
Well, that’s pretty straight-forward solution. You pick one of the $1000 gaming laptops and add a good external monitor. The advantage in this case is that you can optimize for gaming performance in one front and optimize for display quality on the other front. The drawback is ofcourse reduced mobility and the space taken by the additional item. It might not fit all, but for those who really need more accurate display mostly at one point and can spare the space, that’s a very viable option.
Remember that external monitors for like $200-$300 can be way better than the typical “good” laptop IPS display. A 1080p/1440p 100% sRGB and even 100% adobeRGB monitor is actually easy to find for around these prices.
Laptop + eGPU setup
An eGPU setup means you get a laptop and connect an external box that houses a desktop GPU. This allows one to get a good, probably slim and very light laptop for travel / university and add a 3D power at a usual place. Moreover, product life, maintainability and upgradeablity are increased thanks to the modular nature of the setup and the fact that the laptop is not as hot. An eGPU box can also be carried, obviously. The drawbacks are again, lowered mobility (for the whole setup), probably higher initial costs and sometimes software problems.
To build an optimal eGPU solution, I would recommend getting a laptop with a Thunderbolt 3 port which is currently the most widely used and fast connection port that fits this mission. Another option is the proprietary Alienware Amplifier box, but that would limit you vastly.
Example laptops for an eGPU setup are: refurbished Dell 7490 or Precision 5520/5530 as well as Lenovo Thinkpads like the T480. Another option is the slimmer XPS 9370. This kind of business class laptops are excellent overall with good display, keyboard and support. I would currently advise interested people to consult egpu.io as to a good eGPU box to pick.
Manually replacing the panel
This option is very good if you find the laptop you want but the display leaves you unsatisfied – because the colors, contrast and response times are not good enough.
For example, you might find a Dell G5/G7 for a very low price (like $700 with GTX 1060MQ, 16GB RAM and SSD) which is currently a very good deal. The display isn’t great and colors are lacking. You can easily replace it with a good 60HZ 1080p display. There are various degrees of quality. A basic upgrade would be a screen from the LG LP156WF series, like this for example.
The options currently are not great if you want to pick a gaming laptop which will be good enough for photo editing as a complete package. I would suggest considering the other options, depending on your needs. For gamers, it would probably be better to get a a good gaming laptop and replace the display or use an external display. That’s the easiest way.