Starry-Eyed Choices: Selecting the Best Laptop for Astrophotography

Astrophotography, the art of capturing images of astronomical objects like stars, planets, and galaxies, requires specialized equipment and software. A capable laptop is essential for processing the high-resolution images generated during astrophotography sessions. When choosing a laptop for astrophotography, key factors to consider are processor performance, RAM, graphics capabilities, display resolution, and storage capacity.

Based on expert recommendations and customer reviews, here are some of the top laptops for astrophotography in 2023. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers robust processing power in a portable package. The ASUS ZenBook stands out for its vibrant display and ergonomic design. For those on a budget, the Acer Aspire provides solid performance at an affordable price point. The powerful MacBook Pro is a popular choice for Mac users.

No matter which laptop you choose, aim for at least an Intel Core i5 or equivalent processor, 16GB of RAM, a dedicated graphics card, and 512GB of SSD storage. A high-resolution display with accurate color reproduction is also important. While a lightweight and durable design makes a laptop ideal for use in the field. When configured properly, the right laptop can handle the demands of processing high-res astrophotography images and help bring your galactic photography visions to life.

Key Specs and Features For Astrophotography Laptops

Processing Power

The CPU is arguably the most vital component for astrophotography, as many common workflows involve stacking hundreds of exposures into a master image, which taxes the processor.

For image processing, a current generation Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU or AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 is recommended. Core i7 and Ryzen 7 chips are ideal for faster performance, especially with CPU-intensive astrophotography programs.

For reference, deep-sky astrophotographer Charles Pax recommends a 6-core i7 laptop as a practical minimum for image processing.


RAM works hand-in-hand with CPU performance. More RAM enables keeping more data accessible for faster processing.

Most astrophotography experts suggest 16GB of RAM as the bare minimum. 32GB or more is ideal for working with huge batches of high-res images efficiently.


Astrophotography produces enormous files, so ample storage is a must. A fast SSD (ideally 512GB or higher) will give you speedy performance when reading and writing data.

Some opt for an external drive for image storage, but having sufficient internal SSD space gives you more flexibility when working in the field.

Graphics Card

A dedicated graphics card is not strictly necessary, but will significantly accelerate processes like image stacking.

NVIDIA’s RTX series are a top choice, with the RTX 2080 Ti being a premium option. AMD Radeon chips like the RX 5700 XT are powerful alternatives.

But integrated graphics can suffice for many, especially if prioritizing weight and cost savings.


Look for a display with high resolution (1920 x 1080 or higher), good brightness, accurate colors, and an IPS, OLED, or AMOLED panel for wide viewing angles. A color calibrator can help dial in screen accuracy.

A touch screen can provide an intuitive way to adjust images. A matte finish helps reduce distracting glare.


Multiple USB 3.0 ports allow connecting essential accessories like external hard drives, guide cameras, filter wheels, and focusers.

SD card readers are useful for transferring images from your camera. Look for Thunderbolt 3 ports to harness the fastest speeds.


A lightweight and durable design makes a laptop ideal for use in the field and when traveling to ideal dark sky locations. Battery life is also an important consideration.

With these key factors covered, let’s look at some stellar astrophotography laptop options in various categories and price ranges.

Top Laptop Picks for Astrophotography

Best Overall: Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

  • 6-core 9th Gen Intel i7 or i9 CPU
  • Up to 64GB RAM
  • Up to 8TB SSD storage
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5300M – 5500M graphics
  • 16-inch Retina display with P3 wide color
  • Multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports

With outrageous processing muscle, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is ideal for crunching through the demands of astrophotography software. Benchmarks show it outperforms Windows counterparts thanks to excellent hardware optimization.

The Retina display renders images with fantastic clarity and color accuracy. The slim yet durable aluminum unibody design weighs just 4.3 pounds. For Mac users, it’s the clear choice that will chew through pixel-packed astrophotography data.

Best Budget: Acer Aspire 5

  • AMD Ryzen 5/7 or Intel i5 CPU options
  • 8-16GB RAM
  • 256-512GB SSD storage
  • Vega or GeForce MX graphics
  • 15.6-inch 1080p display
  • Weighs 3.97 pounds

Those seeking strong astrophotography performance on a budget should check out the Acer Aspire 5. Configurable with a latest gen quad-core Intel or AMD processor, respectable RAM and SSD specs, and a Full HD display, it provides excellent value.

The MX350 discrete graphics available on some configs gives a performance boost for image processing. While not the most portable, it’s a very capable astrophotography laptop at an affordable price point.

Best Portability: ASUS ZenBook 13 Ultra Slim

  • 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Intel Iris Xe graphics
  • 13.3-inch OLED 1080p touch display
  • 0.7 inches thick, 2.45 pounds

The ASUS ZenBook 13 sets the standard for ultraportable laptops, with its super slim profile, featherlight 2.45 pound weight, and military-grade durability. But don’t let its size fool you – with an 11th Gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, speedy 1TB SSD, and OLED touchscreen, it packs serious performance into the tiny frame.

The ZenBook is the perfect on-the-go companion for travel-focused astrophotographers who value portability, while still providing the power to process high-res images smoothly.

Best Display: Dell XPS 15 OLED

  • 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10875H CPU
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD
  • NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti graphics
  • 15.6-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) OLED touch display
  • Starts at 4 pounds

The Dell XPS 15 is revered for its gorgeous near bezel-less OLED display, and the 4K panel does not disappoint. With lively color and inky blacks, photos look fantastic on its 15.6-inch screen.

Combined with a 10th Gen 8-core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, speedy SSD, and capable NVIDIA discrete graphics, you have serious power for processing your astrophotography. The carbon fiber and aluminum chassis keeps weight down to 4 pounds for a desktop-class experience.

Best High-End: ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15

  • AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX 8-core CPU
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 GPU
  • 15.6-inch 4K 120Hz primary display
  • Integrated 14-inch touchscreen secondary display
  • 5.29 pounds

For professionals seeking cutting edge performance, the innovative ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 packs incredible power into a slim yet robust metal chassis, thanks to an AMD Ryzen 9 processor and NVIDIA RTX 3080 graphics.

Dual 4K displays give you abundant screen real estate for processing and viewing massive astrophotos in intricate detail. With 32GB RAM and a blazing fast 1TB SSD rounding out the specs, you can obliterate through the most demanding workflows.

Portability does suffer slightly due to its weight and bulk, but the Duo 15 defines the apex of processing muscle for astrophotographers.

Comparison Table of the Best Laptops for Astrophotography

Apple MacBook Pro 16″Intel Core i7/i916-64GBAMD Radeon Pro 5300M – 5500MUp to 8TB SSD16″ Retina display4.3 lbs
ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX32GBNVIDIA RTX 30801TB SSD15.6″ 4K 120Hz + 14″ touchscreen5.29 lbs
Dell XPS 15Intel Core i7-10875H16GBNVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti512GB SSD15.6″ 4K OLED touch4 lbs
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 CarbonIntel Core i7-10510U16GBIntel Integrated512GB SSD14″ 1080p matte2.4 lbs
MSI P65 CreatorIntel Core i7-9750H32GBNVIDIA RTX 20601TB SSD + 2TB HDD15.6″ 4K IPS4.14 lbs
Acer Aspire 5AMD Ryzen 5/7 or Intel Core i58-16GBVega or GeForce MX256-512GB SSD15.6″ 1080p3.97 lbs
ASUS ZenBook 13Intel Core i716GBIntel Iris Xe1TB SSD13.3″ 1080p OLED touch2.45 lbs

Tips for Picking the Right Laptop

Beyond just specs, it’s important to choose a laptop aligned with your individual astrophotography needs and budget. Keep the following in mind:

  • Consider the types of targets you want to image: Planetary and lunar photography is less demanding than deep sky. A multicore processor becomes more important for stacking subframes of nebulae and galaxies.
  • Understand your software requirements: Check recommended system specs for the programs you use so you can best match your laptop’s capabilities.
  • Know your budget limitations: You can get capable astrophotography laptops across price ranges. Focus spending on vital components like CPU, storage, RAM and target luxury features like graphics cards and displays only if budget allows.
  • Read astrophotography community reviews: Seek out first-hand recommendations from experienced astrophotographers using laptops in real world conditions.
  • Prioritize portability if needed: If you’ll frequently image in the field, keep weight and battery life in mind, but don’t sacrifice essential performance.
  • Be open to refurbished: You can stretch your dollars further by opting for a refurbished laptop from a reputable seller that can handle astrophotography duties.
  • Don’t overbuy: Avoid the temptation to splurge on unnecessary bells and whistles and focus spending on components that will improve your image processing and workflow.

Best Laptops for Astrophotography by Software

Certain astrophotography software like Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight, and Photoshop are commonly used in editing and processing astrophotos. Here we highlight laptops well-suited for these popular programs.

For Deep Sky Stacker: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

  • Intel 10th Gen i7-10510U 4-core CPU
  • 16GB RAM
  • 512GB SSD storage
  • 14-inch 1080p matte display
  • 2.4 pounds starting weight

Deep Sky Stacker is extremely CPU and memory intensive during image stacking. With its latest gen 4-core i7 processor and abundant 16GB RAM, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon can smoothly handle DSS workloads. Its 14-inch matte screen shows fine details in images and it remains highly portable at just 2.4 pounds.

For PixInsight: MSI P65 Creator

  • Intel Core i7-9750H 6-core CPU
  • 32GB RAM
  • 1TB NVMe SSD + 2TB HDD
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU
  • 15.6-inch 4K IPS display
  • 4.14 pounds

PixInsight leverages GPU acceleration for faster pre-processing and editing. The MSI P65 pairs a 9th gen 6-core i7 CPU with 32GB RAM for seamless PixInsight performance. The RTX 2060 provides a further speed boost during image processing. Its vivid 4K screen shows the intricate details of your astrophotos. A 1TB SSD, plus 2TB HDD gives you ample storage capacity.

For Photoshop: Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

  • 9th Gen Intel Core i7/i9 CPU
  • 16-64GB RAM
  • Up to 8TB SSD storage
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5300M – 5500M graphics
  • 16-inch Retina display with P3 wide color
  • 4.3 pounds

Photoshop thrives on MacOS, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro has the powerhouse performance to handle high-res astrophotography workflows. The 16-inch Retina display reproduces colors with fantastic accuracy and detail. Configurable with up to an 8-core i9 CPU, 64GB RAM, 8TB SSD, and cutting-edge graphics, it dominates Photoshop processing performance for astrophotographers.

Frequently Asked Questions about Choosing the Best Laptop for Astrophotography

What CPU do I need for astrophotography?

A current generation Intel Core i5, i7, i9 or AMD Ryzen 5, 7, or 9 CPU is recommended. For image processing, a 6+ core Intel i7 or i9 or AMD Ryzen 7 or 9 is ideal.

Is a good GPU required for astrophotography?

A dedicated GPU like NVIDIA RTX is not strictly necessary but can significantly accelerate image processing and editing. Integrated graphics is sufficient for many.

How much RAM and storage should I get?

Aim for at least 16GB RAM, with 32GB or more being ideal. For storage, 512GB minimum SSD is recommended, with 1TB or greater enabling working with more images.

What display specs are most important?

Look for a high resolution (1080p or 4K), color accurate display with IPS, OLED, or AMOLED panel. Matte screens help reduce glare.

Does astrophotography require a high-end laptop?

No, capable astrophotography laptops are available across a range of prices. Focus spending on key components like CPU, RAM, storage rather than luxury features.

Can I use a MacBook for astrophotography?

Yes, MacBook Pros especially are excellent choices, with optimized performance for astrophotography software like Photoshop.

Is a 2-in-1/convertible laptop good for astrophotography?

Yes, 2-in-1s offer flexibility and some have the specs to handle astrophotography processing well. Just be aware that image quality may suffer in tablet mode.

Should I buy new or refurbished?

Buying refurbished from a reputable seller can help you maximize value. Prioritize key specs over buying brand new.

Final Recommendations

When choosing the best laptop for your astrophotography needs, identify the minimum specs required by your target processing software, then invest available budget in the highest tier components possible, focusing especially on CPU, RAM, storage and GPU if relevant.

While ultra portable laptops have come a long way in performance, heavier mobile workstations can still provide advantages in thermal management and hardware expandability.

Carefully evaluate display resolution, color accuracy, storage capacity, and connectivity options. And lastly, keep an eye on astrophotography community reviews of laptops actually being used in the field for the most relevant recommendations.

Happy laptop shopping, clear skies, and enjoy capturing the wonders of the universe!

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