As a Graphic Designer, you want equipment that allows you create and organize your work effectively, efficiently, with mobility, and all for a reasonable price. The importance of a reliable laptop computer is undeniable, as it allows you to work just as easily on the road as from the comfort of your home.
Today’s modern laptops are faster, smoother, hold more information, have sharper visual displays, and operate much faster than anything we’ve seen before. Not all laptops, however, are equal. With such an important investment, it is imperative to ensure that you are making the right choice. With so many variables, you have to decide which laptop best suits your personal needs in Graphic Design.
I’m A Graphic Designer – What Do I Need In A Laptop?
The most important thing any Graphic Design laptop must be capable of is running whichever software or program you use to create your masterpieces, such as Adobe Creative Suite. Always check the recommended specs on anything you use before committing to a computer. You can cross examine the available computing power, GPU, RAM, and any other similar variable in regards to processing data.
While on the topic of specifications, you must also consider how much internal memory you require, or if the laptop you are purchasing even has the ability to hold external data, such as external hard-drives, flash drives, etc. There are, however, alternatives to physical memory. With an internet connection, and sometimes a few additional costs, you can use online storage, commonly referred to as “the cloud”, to store the majority of your work and save memory on your computer.
Now that you are sure the hardware can accommodate you, it is recommended to examine the visuals and the screen. A big part of Graphic Design is ensuring that your end result looks good, which might be a little difficult if your laptop’s display is on par with an early 2000s flip phone. Depending on how crisp of an image you require, check to see if the screen is rated to your standards. If has a high quality resolution it might be a worthy contender. As usual, check some reviews to see what others who have bought these products think about it.
Other important physical aspects include size, portability, and overall ease of use. Is the keyboard convenient? How is the battery life? Does it take a long time to charge? These are all small aspects that we sometimes overlook, but are best considered before buying a piece of equipment you will likely be using for a long time to come.
In terms of keyboards and touchscreens, you should take into account the style of design you prefer. If a stylus based system is most convenient for you, there are several Microsoft tablet style laptops that include their iconic Surface Pen, giving you control over finer details, as if you were using a pencil. Some people prefer directly using touchscreen. If you think your fingers, alone, would be a more accurate measure, there are many choices, both laptop computer and tablet, that allow you to work that way.
The advantage, however, of using a mouse or mousepad, is accurate, less sensitive motions. There are also options to use plugged in, or Bluetooth, drawing pads that hook up to your computer. Most, if not all, of these laptops have wireless bluetooth capability. Even those that did not specifically state Bluetooth capability more than likely offer it, due to the fact that most modern laptop computers have Bluetooth built in. The options available offer a wide range of choices for any type of Graphic Designer.
The Acer Aspire is, all around, one of the best all around choices for graphic designers. It hosts a large 17.3″ screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution. It runs quickly and smoothly, thanks to its Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, as well as a terabyte hard drive, ensuring you have plently of space to store your creations. It has Bluetooth capability as well, for whatever wireless tools you prefer using.
The Acer Aspire V7 runs Windows 10, supports Adobe products, and comes complete with a built in camera for Skyping or video messaging. The laptop weighs in at around 7 pounds, which is slightly above the average weight, but definitely not as overbearing as you’d expect for such a heavy-duty, all inclusive laptop. For what it provides you, it is well worth considering, according to all the positive reviews.
The ASUS P-Series is a perfect demonstration of how a lower price does not necessarily mean lower quality. Not much is sacrificed for those who are budget minded, in the case of this business style laptop. It carries a respectable Intel i5 processor, a standard 8GB of RAM, and even holds a full terabyte hard drive, like our top choice. This laptop is just as capable as any standard desktop office computer, with the added bonus of modern Bluetooth.
This ASUS runs on Windows 10, has no issue with most Graphic Design programs, and is quite durable and rugged, accord to ASUS. The battery lasts approximately 9 hours before needing a recharge. Weighing in at 5.2 pounds and with a 15.6″ screen, this is a decent option for any graphic designer on the go.
This touchscreen laptop allows ease of creativity with its included stylus, that Microsoft refers to as the “Surface Pen”. You can use it to navigate and change fine details without need for a wireless mouse or having to strain your fingers on the laptop mousepad. With its 13.5″ screen, and weighing only 3.48 pounds, this Surface Book is compact and convenient for Graphic Designers whether in your office or sitting crammed in a plane seat.
The visuals are noticeably crisp, bragging a 3000 x 2000 resolution. The computer runs on an Intel i7 processor and has a top-of-the-line NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M graphics card, which essentially means that your laptop will run your software fast and smoothly.
A laptop’s primary focus is usually portability. If you work from home or mostly in an office, it may not be a top priority for your laptop to be small or feather-light. If your main concern is performance, the HP ZBook is a well-built laptop, suitable to replace a desktop computer, while also giving you the option of portability. The ZBook weighs 8.8 pounds, but still lets you easily take your office with you. This HP runs Windows 10 Pro and boasts 16GB of RAM.
When a computer is classified as a Gaming Laptop, it means it was designed with running high level graphics in mind, both efficiently and seamlessly. If you are a Graphic Designer who needs a computer capable of processing complex or high level graphics, a gaming computer is a great option to look into. The Acer Predator 17 has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070, which is designed to run the many power-intensive mathematical algorithms required for visual graphics to operate well. Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity is provided, which is one of the newest versions.
The Acer Predator comes in two sizes, depending on your preference in screen size versus weight and how compact it needs to be. The 17.3″ version weighs in at 9.26 pounds, while the slightly lighter 15.6″ screen version weighs 8.16 pounds. It all depends on how you plan to use your laptop.
Not everybody likes or prefers Windows. If you own a Mac, or are just more comfortable on an Apple device, a MacBook Pro gives you the power to work on a system suited to you. The MacBook is sleek and has a crisp, 15″ display. It is not explicitly stated whether or not Bluetooth is available, but, according to Apple, most MacBooks have Bluetooth built into them. The laptop has an Intel i7 Quad Core processor and 16GB of RAM, making it just as usable as any Windows based laptop. It also includes the iconic Apple Touch Bar, for ease of use, and runs any Mac or Apple based Graphics Design software.
Don’t let a last minute trip stint your creativity. If you are constantly on the move, or need a computer that you can toss into your backpack, without a second thought of how reliable it is, the Asus Transformer is a worthy contender. This Laptop has a 12.5″ inch screen, is slim enough to put in most backpacks or bags, and has a detachable, lightweight keyboard, letting you use it like a touchscreen tablet.
There are also two cameras, one on the front as well as the back, and allows you to connect your Bluetooth devices similarly to any other laptop. It may not be able to perform the most intensive, high end computations that a devoted desktop computer would, but it allows you the most mobility and convenience out of any option listed. Use it in class, on the bus, in your hotel, or anywhere, for up to 8 hours on a single charge.
A simple, easy to use laptop is all most Graphic Designers can ask for. This Surface Book is very straightforward, with a detachable keyboard to use the computer as a tablet, a Surface Pen for design convenience, and standard operating features without all the bells and whistles of higher end laptops. This laptop has a standard Intel i5 processor, the basic 8GB of RAM, and runs the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. This laptop is ideal for those who want something that is simple to use while convenient for designing. The display is a compact 13.5″, allowing you to a great deal of mobility.
Related guides: Best 2 in 1 Laptops For Creatives.
The most impressive aspect is that this model has a noticeably long battery life. This computer holds up to 12 hours of battery actual use, not just the misleading idle state of being turned on. Of course, the battery time does dwindle if you are performing higher power tasks, such as rendering graphic models, but this will still give you, by far, the most time of unplugged use.
This version of Dell Inspiron has a large, 17.3″ inch LED touchscreen with 1920 x 1080 high-definition resolution. The touchscreen gives you choice of clicking something quickly with your finger, or using the ergonomic, well-designed keyboard to create your work of art Graphic Designs. This Dell Inspiron has the aptitude for high quality visual effects and was designed specifically for home entertainment, giving you a great visual display to accurately gauge the precision and quality of your projects. Not to mention a useful backlit keyboard so you can work easily at night without straining your eyes.
The Inspiron comes complete with a 2TB hard drive, making storage of your projects an easy task. Depending on the size of your work, you may never even need external storage or cloud data storage at all. Processing power isn’t an issue either, since you also get a powerful Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and an AMD Radeon R5 4GB Graphics Card, the same kind that is used in many gaming computer. Connectivity is not an issue, as there is an HDMI port and built in Bluetooth.
Upon personally researching this computer, I was honestly surprised by how much it had to offer, considering how easily obtainable as this laptop would be to most people. The battery life is only 7 hours, and it weighs 7.58 pounds; but considering all it has to offer, and all the potential uses considered, this truly is a great, well-rounded choice that I would highly recommend to any Graphic Designer who also wants an incredible computer just for everyday use.
With a few tweaks from the design team at Dell, this could easily be a contender for Star Choice. Functionality is fine, but until they make improvements to the physical aspects of the laptop, it will likely remain overlooked by many potential buyers. But I recommend looking into this not-so-well-kept secret for yourself, you may be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
After reviewing tons of laptops we’ve landed on the Dell XPS for Windows and Macbook Pro for Mac. Both computers can handle you running way too many Chrome tabs while running graphics-heavy applications like Sketch or Photoshop.
Apple Comparision: due to popular demand we have reviewed the new Macbook Air vs. the new Pro.
- Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
- Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
- Dell XPS 13 (9380)
- Acer Spin 5
- Microsoft Surface Book 2
- Lenovo Yoga C930
- Apple MacBook Air
- Samsung Notebook 9 Pen
- Dell XPS 15
- Apple MacBook
- Microsoft Surface Pro 6
The best laptops for graphic design all have solid battery life and crisp, beautiful graphics.
We’ve looked at the precision of the touchpad in each laptop but suggest getting a real mouse too.
Note that we included different screen sizes on our list. If you need a big screen, you can always hook up your laptop to a good monitor. If you’re not planning to work on the go it might be better to look at a desktop computer for graphic designers.
1. Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 [Windows Pick]
Here is the top-of-the-line Dell XPS with incredible graphics. It’s an excellent choice for video editing because of the Dell Cinema feature. Since this is a 2-in-1 model, you can flip the keyboard around the back and use it as a tablet.
This convertible laptop comes with a 15.6-inch touch display. The 4K Ultra HD screen has an exceptionally thin bezel. Vivid graphics are the standard these days, but the precision offered by this Dell stands out. The display comes with a 1500:1 contrast ratio. Due to the intense brightness levels, you can use this laptop outdoors, and the viewing angle is as wide as it can be.
The laptop is easy to carry and use. It comes with an ultra-thin keyboard that uses magnets, resulting in a smooth typing experience. It also boasts a practical design with four ports, including two Thunderbolt 3 ports with up to 40Gbps transfer speed.
If you’re a stylus user, this laptop is a great option for you. The Dell Premium Active Pen offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. As it’s tilt-sensitive, this stylus is an excellent option for shading. It also doesn’t lag and it’s comfortable to hold.
- Bright, realistic colors and deep blacks
- Two Thunderbolt 3 ports and two USB Type-C ports
- High-quality security system
- Recyclable parts and an eco-conscious design
- Fairly expensive
- The Active Pen costs extra
Who Is It for?
2. Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar [Mac Pick]
Broadly speaking, graphic designers prefer to use Apple products. All historically significant graphic design apps were designed for Mac. That’s mostly due to the more predictable color reproduction, but Apple’s Support functions and superior security measures are also part of the appeal for creatives.
If you’re hoping to find a Mac that will match your workflow perfectly, consider the MacBook Pro. This laptop comes with both 13-inch and 15-inch screens. In this review, we’ll look at the 15-inch version.
This laptop comes with touch ID. If you’re worried about protecting your confidential data, the MacBook Pro can set your mind at ease. The innovative Apple security chip provides you with encrypted storage capabilities.
But it’s the Touch Bar that makes it really stand out. This bar replaces the function keys on your keyboard. Instead, it lets you change the brightness on your screen and browse through content in a new way. Easier to adapt and use than you might think, the Touch Bar will speed up your work process in no time.
- Excellent graphics – Retina display with True Tone
- Large and sensitive touchpad
- Exceptionally quiet keyboard
- Thorough but comprehensible security measures
- A major investment
- No SD card slot
Who Is It Good for?
3. Dell XPS 13 (9380)
If you demand an even more portable flagship laptop, take this 13-inch Dell into account. It is a top-notch laptop that you can get for a reasonable price (for the base model).
The newest Dell XPS 13 comes with a few remarkable improvements. It is an excellent choice for digital nomads due to the lightweight and utilitarian design. But the 9380 is more comfortable to use than its predecessors, and it offers a display of 13.3 inches that reaches the edges of the screen. It’s the same InfinityEdge screen that Dell introduced two generations ago, but now the resolution goes up to 4K.
This laptop can support a vivid palette of colors and offers a high contrast ratio. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth investing in a touch display, which raises the price of this laptop by approximately $400.
But the most important innovation is the webcam. In this model, the camera got moved to the top side of the screen, and it also became smaller, with a quality four-element lens. This alone may be worth the upgrade if you own an older XPS 13 with the quirky camera on the bottom left.
- Widescreen HD (720p) web camera
- Affordable base model to start
- Up to 12 hours battery life
- Weighs as little as 2.7lbs
- Limited number of ports – which is the case for all Ultrabooks
- Opting for a higher resolution reduces the battery life dramatically
Who Is It for?
If using a webcam is a part of your process, this laptop might be a great option for you. Its portability is another huge plus.View Price
4. Acer Spin 5
If you have a passion for clever design choices, the Acer Spin 5 is worth taking into consideration. This convertible laptop comes with a dual torque hinge. You can use it as a sketch pad or set it up vertically for comfortable video viewing.
This laptop is a good choice if you have a limited budget. Investing in the Acer Active Stylus is a good idea, as this laptop is fairly responsive and doesn’t tend to lag. The touchpad is responsive and easy to use as well.
The display options for this laptop are more than satisfying. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor on a 13.3” FHD IPS display. If music is a significant part of your creative process, this is definitely an excellent option to consider. It offers clear and immersive sound in any mode you choose.
- Low price
- Great sound quality
- Very responsive to the stylus
- The advertised battery life of 13 hours is for the lowest brightness level
- A lack of connectivity options
Who Is It for?
We recommend this laptop to beginners who want an affordable but flexible laptop with sharp graphics.View Price
5. Microsoft Surface Book 2
Here’s Microsoft’s most popular convertible laptop. You can flip your laptop around and use it as a tablet, and you can also detach the screen if you want to view videos.
This laptop is designed to support the most demanding graphics software packages. For example, you can use it to easily perform complex tasks in Adobe Premiere Pro or Autodesk Revit. If you also use Office extensively, this is the ideal laptop for you.
This model comes with a Surface Dial. With the Dial, you get an easier way to interact with your software, and it lets you store and reimagine the tools that you use in your designing process. If you’re open to experimentation, give the Dial a try.
Note that this laptop comes in two different sizes. The 13.3-inch Surface Book 2 is an excellent option for shoppers on a tight budget. But if you can make the extra investment, go for the 15-inch version instead, as it comes with a touchscreen function and enhanced color quality.
- Battery lasts up to 17 hours of video playback
- Gorgeous graphics
- You can use the Surface Dial to add a boost to your work
- Outdated chassis design
Who Is It for?
6. Lenovo Yoga C930
Lenovo’s latest Ultrabook is sleek and practical. It’s an excellent all-purpose laptop with a few extra features that make it particularly interesting to graphic designers.
The Lenovo Yoga C930 is designed with ease of use in mind, and it comes with a number of practical innovations that make your job easier.
For example, this laptop is a great option for users who worry about protecting their privacy in the era of webcams. The laptop comes with a privacy shutter. If you need to use your webcam, you can open the shutter, but our advice is to keep it closed the rest of the time.
Additionally, there’s an opening on the chassis where you can store the digital pen. This pen is included along with the laptop, and it’s equipped with 4096 pressure sensitivity points. Using it is a real pleasure, and you can rest easy knowing you won’t leave it behind.
- Dolby Vision ensures bright colors and strong contrast
- Responsive digital pen and a place to store it
- 8th generation Intel Core processor
- Thunderbolt 3 ports
- A glitchy fingerprint scanning system
- Battery life lower than average – doesn’t go beyond 6 hours with extensive use
Who Is It for?
If you prefer to use a laptop while working at home or in the office, try this Lenovo. As long as regular charging is possible, the Yoga C930 can provide you with everything you need to complete your projects.View Price
7. Apple MacBook Air
Apple redesigned the MacBook Air and equipped it with a dazzling Retina display. No longer a stepchild, it became an instant success among creatives.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use laptop with stunning graphics, consider the MacBook Air. It offers a resolution of 2500×1600, featuring 4 million pixels on a 13.3-inch screen.
Apple promises 48% more color than the previous model. For graphic designers who use a wide range of colors, this Mac is a great option. The trackpad is large and responsive, and the keyboard is particularly easy to use.
- 12-hour battery life
- Intuitive and efficient security measures
- Large trackpad
- Weighs only 2.75lbs
- Made with 100% recycled aluminum
- Limited storage options
- No Touch Bar
Who Is It for?
This Mac is entirely environmentally-friendly, so if ethical product choices are important to you, why not go for the Air?View Price
8. Samsung Notebook 9 Pen
If you’re looking for an all-purpose laptop that offers fast charging, consider this Samsung. It comes with a 360-degree touchscreen, which you can use as a tablet.
The Samsung Notebook 9 Pen is a lightweight laptop, weighing around 2 lbs. To make sure it stays charged throughout the day, you can invest in a USB-C battery pack and charge your laptop while you’re on the move.
The best feature is perhaps the S Pen. You can use this stylus to jot down notes and sketches while you’re brainstorming. But it’s also comfortable to use and a good choice for precision work.
- The S Pen is designed with graphic design in mind
- Great processing power (8-core processor)
- LED backlighting for working at night
- Lightweight design
- The keyboard isn’t sturdy enough for intense use
- Lower battery life than other Samsung Notebooks
Who Is It Good for?
Graphic designers who like working anywhere might enjoy using this lightweight Samsung. It’s also a good choice for you if you are on the hunt for a high-quality stylus and a laptop that can keep up with it.View Price
9. Dell XPS 15
Here’s a robust Dell laptop that is perfect for 3D graphic design.
Like with the Dell XPS 13, there are various configurations that you can choose from when you’re considering a Dell XPS 15. The base model is available for less than $1k, but you can choose to upgrade the processor or to an SSD. Fully loaded, it offers 512GB SSD and comes with an 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8750H Processor.
The graphics on this laptop are also up to you. The most expensive version of the XPS 15 comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti video card with 4GB GDDR5. For designers who plan to use 3D rendering, this is the best option.
The laptop is user-friendly as well. While the chassis is the familiar Ultrabook 15 by Intel, you don’t have to worry about overheating or any other design flaw.
- Great graphics
- The battery life can reach 12 hours
- Comes with a Thunderbolt 3 port
- The webcam is placed at the bottom left of the screen
Who Is It Good for?
If you’re looking for a powerhouse of a laptop, this one can be the best choice for you. At the same time, you can get the base XPS 15 for a relatively low price, and its performance will still be satisfactory.View Price
10. Apple MacBook
The MacBook is one of the most elegant laptop models out there, and its ultra-thin design makes it perfect for artists on the move. If portability is a priority for you, take this laptop into consideration.
Like other Macs, this laptop boasts a battery life of ten hours. Apple uses terraced battery cells to fill all of the space inside of the chassis. This keeps the design exceptionally thin – the thickness of the MacBook is only 13.1mm.
It’s easy and comfortable to use this MacBook in any circumstances. Its weight is around 2lbs, which is impressive considering the 12-inch display. The keyboard uses a butterfly mechanism, which makes the keys lighter and more responsive, and you’ll enjoy the way the keys bounce back when you type. The MacBook’s trackpad comes with a pressure-sensing function that helps make drawing feel more intuitive.
The 2304×1440p Retina display guarantees engaging, clear images. In spite of its lean design, this laptop can keep up with intense multitasking.
- Noiseless due to the innovative heat dispersion
- Great battery life
- Ultra-lightweight design (2lbs)
- Pleasant to use
- Only one USB-C port and no Thunderbolt port
- Relatively pricey
- Small screen size
Who Is It For?
Anyone who needs a lithe, elegant laptop will love the MacBook. In particular, it is an excellent choice for graphic designers who spend a lot of time typing. Both the keyboard and the trackpad are user-friendly.View Price
11. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Let’s end the lineup with an affordable Microsoft 2-in-1 laptop.
The Surface Pro 6 offers both a tablet mode and a studio mode. You can set any angle for the screen and use the Surface Pen to create art, or you can opt for Microsoft’s Surface Dial instead. Note that both these accessories are sold separately. If you’re looking for ways to change and improve your work, trying out a new tool might be your best option.
The graphics offered by the Surface Pro 6 are impressive, as you get a resolution of 2736 x 1824 and a crisp color palette. This laptop is equipped with two front-facing and one rear-facing camera, and the portability makes it a good choice for photographers.
- Extremely lightweight, starting from 1.7lbs
- Up to 13.5 hours battery life
- Works with both the Surface Pen and Surface Dial
- No Thunderbolt or USB-C port
- No HDMI port
Who Is It Good for?
If you don’t mind the limited connectivity options, the Surface Pro 6 is a sophisticated choice. It’s perfect for adventurous graphic designers who are looking for a durable and extremely versatile laptop.View Price
A Final Thought
Choosing your tools is an important part of your work as a graphic designer. It’s frustrating and demotivating to work with subpar hardware that isn’t good enough to capture your vision.
Even if you’re only getting started with graphic design work, you should invest in a laptop that fits your every need. Fortunately, there are some budget options that come with stunning displays and sensitive touchpads. Your options become more varied when you have a higher budget at your disposal.
However, there is no single laptop that fits everyone’s needs. For example, some users require excellent connectivity options. Others need an anti-glare and super bright screen that makes it possible to work outdoors. Quality webcams are a must for some, while some designers require excellent audio playback.
In addition to whatever extras you care about the most, it’s always important to study the basic specs before you make your purchase. In this competitive field, using a slow or glitchy laptop means falling behind and losing valuable opportunities. Don’t forget to take note of the battery life too, especially if you tend to move around a lot.
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