Choosing the Best Laptop for Graphic Design
The best laptop for use by graphic designers won't be the average laptop you find everywhere in the electronics store, and it won’t be a tiny PC tablet or Eee PC; it must have certain features. A lot of these features are prized by gamers as well as by graphic designers. I know because I'm a gamer who also uses Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator (and has used Corel Draw and InDesign).
If you are a complete beginner to choosing a computer, just remember that the most important thing in a good laptop is RAM. Start low at 4GB and aim higher. The higher you go, the more programs you will be able to run in the background. Graphic designers, like gamers, want lots of RAM.
2. Video Card
If you use your laptop for graphic design, you might be able to get away with a less expensive video card than a gamer might demand. Compromise on the video card if you must, rather than on RAM.
You’ll want a more-than-decent CPU (something with four cores or higher). Intel Core i5 or i7 is good. "Haswell" refers to fourth-generation processors like those in the 2014 MacBook Pro, which were a big step up from earlier "Ivy Bridge" and "Sandy Bridge" Intel processor lines.
4. Screen Size
As a graphic designer you need room to work. If you choose a laptop with a 13-inch screen, you'll regret it pretty quickly. Go for a diagonal measurement of 15 inches or more.
In the last couple of years, laptops have become lighter and their batteries can go a longer time between charges. They have become way more portable, which can be fun. Then again if you do graphic design in an office or home setting, portability may not be a major consideration for you.
6. Color Quality
Depending on what kind of graphic design you do, color quality might be more important for you than for a gamer. IPS displays are better than older types.
1. Apple MacBook Pro
The Apple MacBook Pro is perhaps the best laptop for graphic design. The 2014 version features a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processor that's very fast in any application environment.
RAM is important, and the new MacBook has a whopping 16 GB of RAM along with a 256 GB hard drive. MacBooks made in 2012 and later have powerful batteries that can run seven hours or more on a single charge, which is great if you intend to take the laptop with you on the road.
Also, if you get tired of work, you can play the latest games, since the MacBook integrates a high-end graphics card that's just great at ripping through graphically appealing virtual worlds. The high-resolution Retina display is beautiful and incredibly detailed at 2880 x 1880 pixels.
On the price side, it might be a bit expensive (at $1999 new), but since this is an Apple, you are getting lasting value for your money.
Specifications: 2014 Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-Inch (MGXA2LL/A)
2.2 GHz Intel Core i7
16 GB DDR3L
Intel Iris Pro Graphics
IPS "Retina" Display, 2880 x 1880
802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
Average Battery Life:
up to 8 hours
OS X Mavericks
An Older MacBook Pro Could Be an Option
Macs keep their value longer than some other computers. Consider the 2012 MacBook Pro if you can get one. It doesn't have the Retina display, and it has the decent NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M video card instead of the excellent Intel Iris. But, like the new MacBook Pro, it is lightweight and runs seven hours or more on one battery charge, and it should cost about $1000 less.
Specifications: 2012 Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-Inch (MD103LL/A)
2.3 GHz Intel Core i7
4 GB DDR3
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
Average Battery Life (in hours):
Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Alternatives to Apple for Graphic Design Laptops
Other laptops besides Apple's, of course, carry the newest Intel processors and technology while remaining highly portable, and with some exceptions they cost much less than an Apple. "Ultrabook" is a term for laptops by various makers with Intel processors that meet certain standards for weight and battery life. They often carry SSD drives, which are lighter and up to ten times faster than regular hard drives, and consume less energy. Ultrabooks can be used for most tasks, and with their powerful processors, RAM, and hard drives, they can handle graphic design programs like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.
2. Lenovo Y50 Laptop
From Lenovo, for under a grand (or over a grand, depending on the options), you get a top performance and entertainment laptop that can be used for gaming, graphic design, watching movies, surfing the web—pretty much anything that springs to mind.
The Lenovo Y50 is a great desktop alternative, if not a desktop replacement laptop.
It has an Intel Core i7 processor, comes with 16 GB of system memory pre-installed, and runs Windows 8.1 straight out the box.
It comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GT 960M 4GB graphics card.
There's also an integrated 720p HD webcam so you can chat in HD with friends and family.
The Lenovo Y50 is sold in at least four different versions (mostly without an optical drive, if that matters to you). One complaint about the Lenovo Y510-Y50 series has been the quality of the display, particularly the color. If you need super-accurate color for your graphic design work, some recommend the Y50 with IPS display: this version is more than $1000 but still a good value if the Mac is out of reach.
Specifications: Lenovo Y50 Laptop (Model 59440654, With IPS Display)
Intel Core i7-4720HQ (2.6 GHz)
1 TB SATA
4GB NVIDIA GTX-960M
1920 x 1080 pixels IPS
Average Battery Life:
up to 5 hours, per Lenovo
3. ASUS "Republic of Gamers" Laptop
The ASUS ROG G751JL-DS71 is marketed as a gamer's laptop, being a proud member of the Republic of Gamers line from ASUS, but it's great for anyone who wants a powerful laptop. Good gaming laptops integrate all the latest hardware so they can run all the latest games at high resolutions and quality settings.
The ASUS G751JL was designed to run modern games at full speed, so it will run pretty much anything else flawlessly and is a great choice for any designer.
It comes with an Intel i7 4700HQ 2.6Ghz processor, 16 GB DDR3 of installed RAM, and a huge 17.3-Inch screen. Of course, screen size is important for a designer. The more pixel real estate, the better you can see your designs and work with everything.
This laptop carries an Nvidia GTX965M 2GB GDDR5, a top-of-the-line graphics card choice for gamers and enthusiasts alike.
The ASUS ROG line is actually my favorite laptop of the three, perhaps because I am a gamer as well as a graphic designer. I use a slightly older version, the ASUS G750JW-DB71, and it performs with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator like you wouldn't believe.
Specifications: ASUS ROG G751JL-DS71
Intel Core i7 4720HQ 2.6 GHz
NVIDIA GTX965M 2GB GDDR5
17.3" IPS FHD (1920x1080)
Average Battery Life:
3 hours (CNET review)
Top Five Graphic Design Programs
I kept on wondering what the most-used graphic design software was, and after a bit of research, I found the top 5:
- Adobe Photoshop
- Corel Draw
- Quark Express
- Adobe Illustrator
Vote in the poll below for your favorite graphic design software!
Vote: The Most Used Graphic Design Programs
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Bucsa Emanuel Ioan
Got anything to add? Leave a comment below!
Dennis Assan on November 01, 2017:
Konrad on April 22, 2017:
Where is HP with 4K 17.3 inch display IPS ?
Srinivasan Jv on March 18, 2017:
If we prefer 256 GB of SSD, how much space would we roughly get for storing personal files?
Aakifah on February 02, 2017:
Thanks for the insight, how do these specs compare to software needed for interior designers such as revit, autocad, sketchup etc?
Sophie on January 09, 2017:
Sachchidanand on September 21, 2016:
I want Laptop for Graphic Design work
Amanda on September 10, 2016:
I would have to agree that Photoshop is a great program in itself but it is great at editing Photography that you would use in your Graphic Design - not designing with it. Depending on what your creating, in my opinion, Illustrator or indesign should be used to create graphic design.
Adam on August 20, 2016:
I disagree. Adobe's tech people suggest 8 - 16 gigs of RAM not 4 as stated here or a minimum of 3 which they state on their own website. I have 6gigs of RAM and my computer chokes all day long.
emma maembong on August 09, 2016:
thanks for this information , very clearly described
Joseh on February 14, 2016:
Just purchased the Lenovo. It is a beast. Love it.
Benjamin Nguyen on February 12, 2016:
I was just reading another lense/page about the best laptops for graphic design in 2015.
Your lists both agreed with Apple Macbook Retina display coming in #1 understandably with the importance of color accuracy.
How does the Dell XPS compare to Lenovo Y50? Do you find that you need a specific laptop for better performance?
Personally, as someone who needs the occasional design for websites and social media content, I'm using YouZign 2.0 ( http://bit.ly/YouZign20 ) and find that it works the same regardless of my computer performance. Perhaps because I'm not at the professional graphic design level with Photoshop but how much does the laptop performance affect your performance on these tools?
The reason I started using YouZign 2 was because I used to outsource some simple design work to those who had photoshop and their work just wasn't up to par. Should I be looking at laptop or hardware requirements when posting our freelancing post next time?
Erin Potter on January 30, 2016:
Thanks so much for the ideas. I am only just new to graphic design and I want to progressive in this field. This article really helped me trying to found the right laptop for me as well as the programs. Thanks :)
stephen kalu from Nigeria on January 03, 2016:
Great writting, very nice and persuasive picture. I love this keep it up and going. Thanks alot for the wisdom you have shared with us.
simon Okuna on July 05, 2015:
Thanks a lot for this powerful tip, now I know what I need.
Arun Prabu on May 26, 2015:
Thanking you for giving a great idea.
Bucsa Emanuel Ioan (author) from Baia Mare, Romania on November 20, 2014:
I usually choose the ones that get an SSD, a dedicated graphics card and a hefty amount of RAM. Aside from doing graphic design, I'm also a gamer, so this kind of configuration suits me just fine :)
Thanks for the comment TTGReviews!
TTGReviews on November 18, 2014:
For me I just try to get a laptop that has a solid state drive and a decent graphics card.. since the monitors aren't really all that color accurate anyway.
Hezekiah from Japan on October 23, 2014:
Very good article there and interesting ranking. I see that Adobe photoshop is the beast.
Lesley on September 27, 2014:
Thank you so much! This was very helpful!
muhammad abdullah javed on September 26, 2014:
Hi Bucsa, very interesting and useful. Thanks for sharing.
James N. Whitaker from Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2014:
Good Hub, These are helpful details. I am using Adobe Photoshop too. And I am hoping to replace my current laptop with one of the above feature. Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p will be ideal. Thanks.
Jessica from Arizona on July 27, 2014:
Very helpful hub, thank you!
Fatma Al Bably on May 13, 2014:
very useful tips .. i'm on my way to have a new one ,, Thank you
adam on February 17, 2014:
I wondering why all the specs are in gb when its obviously a tb... not a big deal but this may confuse people who are bad at math haha... Please note everyone that even though it may say 1024gb you're only going to get maybe 950gb in reality. You're going to want your specs to be high in RAM and CPU if you're looking for something good at graphics and gaming along with a good graphics card. I always build my own and recommend it if you're technically inclined..its cheaper
Matt G. Leger on February 16, 2014:
Thanks for contributing a great article - you've provided some very useful information in an easy-to-read, well-written fashion. However, I don't see any mention of one very important consideration for graphic designers looking to upgrade, especially for impoverished freelancers: the cost of these obviously high-end machines. Including price quotes on the models listed, as well as a lower-cost model that can put at least adequate processing power in the hands of designers who don't have unlimited budgets, would have been greatly appreciated and made the article far more useful.
James Richton from USA on January 09, 2014:
I have a few friends that have told me about about Mac's. Are they really worth the price?
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on November 05, 2013:
Loved this piece. Very well written. Love your subject.
Voted up and all the way.
Keep up the great writing.
wabash annie from Colorado Front Range on October 27, 2013:
An extremely useful and educational hub ... well organized and with excellent graphics. Thanks much!
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 26, 2013:
Nice of you to explain it, thanks.
Keep up the good work, Emanuel!
Bucsa Emanuel Ioan (author) from Baia Mare, Romania on October 26, 2013:
Hello alancaster149. SSD stands for Solid State Drive which is a type of drive with no moving parts. They generally perform way better than regular hard drives, they don't heat up and are typically more durable.
SLI stands for Scalable Link Interface and refers to installing more than one graphics card on a system (up to 4) for added graphics performance.
CPU stands for Central Processing Unit or Processor for short. It’s the main component that does all the math on a computer. The more cores it has, the better.
I didn’t go into much detail here, since I would go offtopic. Hope this clears up some terms for you :)
Bucsa Emanuel Ioan (author) from Baia Mare, Romania on October 26, 2013:
Stepanovna, in terms of storage they are about the same since 1TB = 1024 GB. Now when it comes to performance, the more RPM a hard drive has, the faster it will perform.
Which is better for graphic design? Well, the faster the hard drive, the better overall system performance will be. I recommend getting something with a solid state drive, since these are the fastest drives.
Stepanovna on October 24, 2013:
Thanks. I am looking at the Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p. What is the difference between a 1000 GB SATA (noted above) and a 1TB 5400 RPM hard drive (which I see available for sale)? Which is better for graphic design?
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 23, 2013:
Now I know what to look for when I win the Lottery! Asus is being advertised on the Box over here with an attractive price tag.
Very comprehensive piece of reference, Emanuel. Take this as a vote of confidence and a return visit to a new follower. Let's see more from you in future.
By the way, for a computer dunce like me some of the 'spec' needs to be explained, like 'SSD', 'SLI' and 'CPU'. I'm a bit like 'Oddball' in KELLY'S HEROES when he's talking to Kelly about his Sherman, 'I only know how to drive this thing...'
Tre Griffey from Utah, USA on August 23, 2013:
I would highly recommend a macbook pro with retina for graphic design. I have the macbook pro with retina and I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.
Brandon Hart from The Game on August 23, 2013:
Some pretty good laptops for sure. I am surprised you didn't talk a little bit more about processing power and hyperthreading, but overall some pretty good tips.
verradonna from Cleveland, Ohio on August 22, 2013:
I really want to get a Macbook Pro but they really are so expensive. Good article though!
ignugent17 on August 21, 2013:
Wow great reviews. I would tell my friend about this hub. :-) Very interesting.
Eiddwen from Wales on August 21, 2013:
Interesting, useful and thanks for sharing.
Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on August 13, 2013:
Good review of these laptops. I am debating on an iMac next time I upgrade. The one you have listed here looks good.
Deborah Neyens from Iowa on August 13, 2013:
Good first hub. Welcome to Hubpages!
Bernadyn from Jacksonville, Florida on August 12, 2013:
This was so informative since I'm looking to purchase a new laptop and wanted to start using it more for photos and videos including using Photoshop. Great job!
Judy Specht from California on August 11, 2013:
Looking for a new computer, but don't need much in the way of graphic design. Still, it's always interesting to see what is on the market. Nice work.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on August 11, 2013:
I'm a fan of Adobe. The problem however is the huge memory it uses. I guess that's the trade off for having so much features and power in a software
Stephanie Launiu from Hawai'i on August 11, 2013:
Thanks for such a comprehensive hub! I tweeted and pinned. Voted up, useful, interesting. Aloha, Stephanie
Mazlan A from Malaysia on August 11, 2013:
My son is studying Games Design and this article will be useful info for him and his friends. Will forward the link to him. Welcome to HP and looking forward to more articles from you.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 11, 2013:
Very useful information shared by you!
This is good technical information, everyone should know.
Although you are new here, your presentation reflects, you know the basics of on line writing. Very well done!
Thanks for the Follow and welcome to HubPages! Voted up as useful!
Diana Grant from London on August 11, 2013:
Thanks for this information, very clearly described. I've pinned it
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 11, 2013:
Welcome to HubPages. From your profile, I could tell that you have much to offer; and your very first article is a teaching guide for me. Thank you so much for sharing your expert knowledge. Voted Up!