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The Best Laptops for Graphic Design in 2018

People use both laptops and desktops for graphic design

People use both laptops and desktops for graphic design

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).

1. RAM

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.

3. CPU

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.

5. Portability

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

Apple MacBook Pro MD103LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop (NEWEST VERSION)

Apple MacBook Pro MD103LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop (NEWEST VERSION)

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)

Processor:

2.2 GHz Intel Core i7

RAM:

16 GB DDR3L

Hard Drive:

256 GB

Graphics Coprocessor:

Intel Iris Pro Graphics

Display:

IPS "Retina" Display, 2880 x 1880

Wireless Type:

802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0

Average Battery Life:

up to 8 hours

Operating System:

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.

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Specifications: 2012 Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-Inch (MD103LL/A)

Processor:

2.3 GHz Intel Core i7

RAM:

4 GB DDR3

Hard Drive:

500 GB

Graphics Coprocessor:

NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M

Display:

1440x900

Wireless Type:

802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0

Average Battery Life (in hours):

7 hours

Operating System:

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

Lenovo makes powerful, relatively inexpensive laptops for daily tasks, gaming, video and graphics editing.

Lenovo makes powerful, relatively inexpensive laptops for daily tasks, gaming, video and graphics editing.

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)

Processor:

Intel Core i7-4720HQ (2.6 GHz)

RAM:

16 GB

Hard Drive:

1 TB SATA

Graphics Coprocessor:

4GB NVIDIA GTX-960M

Display:

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, a 17.3-Inch laptop, is a great choice for anyone looking for a big-screen to work with.

The ASUS ROG G751JL-DS71, a 17.3-Inch laptop, is a great choice for anyone looking for a big-screen to work with.

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

Processor:

Intel Core i7 4720HQ 2.6 GHz

RAM:

16 GB

Hard Drive:

1024 GB

Graphics Coprocessor:

NVIDIA GTX965M 2GB GDDR5

Display:

17.3" IPS FHD (1920x1080)

Wireless Type:

802.11 A/C

Average Battery Life:

3 hours (CNET review)

Operating System:

Windows 8.1

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:

  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. InDesign
  3. Corel Draw
  4. Quark Express
  5. 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:

Is good

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:

So Helpful!!

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:

Hi Busca,

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?

Thanks,

Benjamin

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: