Looking for the best desktop computer for photo editing? This guide is here to help you to decide what is right for your photography – and find you the best prices.
While the best photo-editing laptops offer the ability to edit photos while maintaining on-the-go portability, a good-old desktop computer is still the preferred option for many who work in a home office. Picking the best desktop computer will give you the ability to add your own monitor; with typical sizes ranging from around 21 inches to well over 30 inches means, if you've got the desk space, you can work from home far more comfortably than if you were squinting at a laptop screen. Adding a full-size keyboard and comfy mouse further ups the ergonomic benefits over a laptop keyboard and trackpad.
Many of the best PCs on this page offer a level of power and performance that laptops can't match, and if you don't mind opening them up and tinkering with them, they can be upgraded down the line with more powerful components, which makes them far more future-proof than standard laptops.
If you're not too keen on the idea of upgrading a PC yourself, many of the best desktop computers for photo editing can be easily customized when you buy them, so you can pick a level of performance (and price) that best suits your needs.
The best desktop computers: What to look for
The size of a desktop PC also means manufacturers can fit in more powerful components than you’d usually find in a laptop. That means if you want to, you can get a desktop PC with a discrete graphics card (rather than an integrated one), which is useful if you’re doing very intensive editing – including video editing.
Desktop PCs with lots of RAM and a multi-core processor are great for multitasking. If you like to have multiple apps open at once, then keep an eye out for 4, 6 or 8 core processors.
Of course, you can always build your own desktop computer, but while that offers you more flexibility when it comes to power and price (as you source the components yourself), if you don’t have the inclination or know how to build your own PC, then buying a pre-built desktop computer is the way to go.
Many PC manufacturers offer a range of customization options anyway, which means you can tweak things such as processor power, graphics cards and storage space to suit your needs.
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.
Apple updated its Mac Mini at the start 2020, and the tiny PC is now better than ever – and that means it’s still our pick for the best desktop computer for photographers 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 oomph, 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 a cheap desktop PC for working on your photographs, then the Acer TC is a great budget pick. Despite its low cost, it packs some decent specs, including a 6-core Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. It comes in a slimline design that won't dominate your desk space. You can still open it up and upgrade it when needed (it supports up to 32GB of RAM, for example), and it even features a built-in SD memory card reader. However, there’s no integrated graphics and there’s only 1TB of hard drive space – although it’s worth bearing in mind that these can always be added later.
The HP Gaming Desktop Pavilion TG01-0020 is another great affordable desktop computer with a gaming theme but that's also great for photographers. It does a great job of balancing price and features, with a six-core Intel processor, 8GB of RAM and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, making it 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 downside is that the 256GB SSD - though fast - will quickly fill up. At least adding an external hard drive is an easy fix for this.
If you’re looking for the best all-in-one desktop PC for photographers, then Apple has you covered with the latest 27-inch iMac. It comes with the latest tech, including 9th-generation Intel processors, powerful discrete graphics and plenty of RAM. You also get a decent choice of storage options – though the 2TB SSD option is very pricey. Best of all, the built-in screen is simply stunning with a Retina 5K (5,120 x 2,880) resolution. Apple is very popular with creatives for a good reason, and its macOS software is compatible with the biggest names in photo editing.
• See other iMacs for 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 brilliant choice. It’s stylishly 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.
For professional photographers who need a serious amount of power, the iMac Pro could be the perfect PC for you. While still featuring the iconic iMac design that Apple is famous for, the iMac Pro features some of the most powerful components you'll find in a PC, including powerful Intel Xeon W processors, large amount of RAM and powerful graphics cards. This makes the iMac Pro a brilliant tool for multitasking, with the professional-grade graphics cards allowing you to edit incredibly high resolution photographs with ease. However, this is also an extremely expensive PC, and it offers a level of power that not every photographer will need, so think carefully before you make this purchase. However, if you're after an incredibly powerful and stylish all-in-one PC, then the iMac Pro will be an ideal purchase.
• See our guide to the best iMacs for photo editing
Next on our list of the best computers for photographers is the Intel Hades Canyon NUC. Intel’s NUC devices are small yet powerful PCs that pack enough power to edit photos on, while also being tiny enough to hide away and not take up too much space on a desk. Part of their appeal is that they are barebones machines, which means you need to add RAM and a hard drive yourself. This makes them flexible (you can add the amount of storage space and memory you need) and affordable (you can shop around for the best prices for those components). You’ll need to install Windows 10 separately, and while installing the RAM and hard drive is pretty straightforward, it might be a bit too fiddly for some people.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre A340 24-inch is an all-in-one PC that proves you don't have to buy an Apple iMac if you want a stylish and powerful desktop PC for photo editing. While it doesn't come with the most cutting-edge components, it still offers more than enough power for running Adobe Photoshop and other photo editing applications. It's a particularly good PC for photo editing thanks to its IPS screen, which though 'only' 1080p resolution, uses IPS display tech for excellent contrast accuracy and viewing angles. Best of all, it's way more affordable than Apple's pricey iMac machines.
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