*This article was updated in May 2021
Graphic design is a serious job that requires good hardware and software to get the job done.
When choosing a laptop, you need the right balance between performance and weight, large screen and portability, battery life and affordable price and so on.
Most creatives I know use Apple products, and I too work on my Macbook Pro.
It’s no secret that most creatives love Apple products.
But in case you’re not an Apple fan, in this article I cover a variety of other great laptops that will do the job.
Here’s my list of the 10 best laptops best laptops for graphic design.
There are certain features what to look for in a laptop and things to consider before you buy.
When it comes to choosing the best laptop for your specific graphic design needs, you should consider 7 factors:
Now let’s shortly describe each of them and what they mean when it comes to getting the graphic design work done.
First things first, at the start you need to decide whether you like using Windows or you consider switching to MacOS or perhaps simple ChromeOS would be enough?
I started my graphic design career using Windows and then after a few years I made my transition to MacOS.
Clearly, the most important thing when deciding on which laptop to choose is how powerful it is.
Any serious graphic design software will require a powerful processor (CPU) to run all your tasks smoothly.
Go on sites like Adobe and check out their CPU requirements for specific apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Premiere Pro etc.
For example: to do heavy lifting like 3d rendering and video editing, you must go for the maximum performance—look for a quad-core.
The next thing to consider is RAM, which basically allows you to run multiple apps simultaneously.
I would strongly recommend you to go for the maximum RAM that you can afford.
This is because as a graphic designer you will often have to switch between different apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and more—so you need that extra juice.
Depending on what specific graphic design work you do, you will need some space to save those often heavy files.
Graphic design source files (PSD, AI, INDD, AEP etc.) tend to be very heavy so you need that extra disk space to save all of them.
Especially if you work in 3d graphic design or video editing, or just working with photos — these things require a lot of space on your disk.
Obviously, a decent display choice is very important to any graphic designer.
This is because as a designer, you need optimal brightness, great color accuracy, and the bigger the screen the better.
When it comes to screen size: 13” screen is a bit too small, 15” is optimal, and 16 or 17” will be very appreciated.
Here, you can also think whether you want to have a touchscreen to be able to use it as a tablet (good for drawing illustrations)
Since you want to buy a laptop, then battery life must be important to you.
Especially if you’re living a nomadic life or just have to move your laptop frequently without having to plug it every single time.
Dying batter in the middle of your work can be a very frustrating thing.
And of course, with all that being said, probably one of the most important factors is affordability as well, right?
Who wants to spend money only to find out later that there was a better deal?
You should set your budget first and then look for laptops within that budget range—affordable, but powerful enough to handle your creative work.
Take all of that into consideration and check out my list of the best laptops for graphic designers on the market in 2021.
It may come as no surprise that MacBook Pro is my top pick as you can see me working on one in the cover image.
Macbook Pro is the most popular laptop among graphic designers.
This specific MacBook is my favorite as it comes with a larger screen than its previous models, giving you more space to work with.
Moreover, Apple managed to keep the iconic light and slim design while increasing screen size.
As Apple says in its press release “...designed for developers, photographers, filmmakers, scientists, music producers and anyone who relies on a Mac to create their life’s best work.”
This MacBook is blazing-fast, has bigger battery, awesome speakers and massive amounts of storage.
If wasn’t always an Apple fan, but I remember when I got my first Macbook Pro about a decade ago—and I never looked back ever since.
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M – Radeon Pro 5500MRAM: 16GB – 64GBScreen: 16-inch Retina display with True ToneStorage: 512GB – 8TB SSDAverage Battery Life: 11 hours
If you’re a designer that needs a laptop that looks and feels premium, but without breaking the bank, HP Envy X360 is a solid choice.
The best budget-friendly and versatile laptop for graphic designers.
As the name suggests, other designers will envy your new 2-in-1 laptop that you can flip and use as a tablet as well.
Thanks to its great design and excellent performance, it makes as a perfect choice for creatives that can’t afford spending over $2k on a Macbook.
The 15” touchscreen is very bright with wide color spectrum.
You can also buy a pen from HP which allows you to create beautiful illustrations easily.
But the most exciting aspect of this laptop is probably what’s inside for this price: AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series which can handle multitasking fast and easy.
And if you also love gaming, you will get performance delivered here as well.
CPU: Intel Hexa-Core i7-9750HGraphics: 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650RAM: 32GB DDR4Screen: 15.6”, 4K UHD OLED (3840 x 2160)Storage: 2TB PCIe SSDAverage Battery Life: up to 7 hours
If you’re not an Apple fan, but don’t mind spending more on a quality laptop, then Dell XPS is your best choice.
The most decent laptop for creatives who value quality and design.
This Dell laptop combines powerful components in a thin, light, and very stylish design making it a perfect choice for all creatives.
This Dell checks-off everything a designer would look for in a laptop.
With a 15-6-inch display and a discrete Nvidia graphics card, it is a perfect choice for graphic designers who do intensive creative work.
The latest tech from Intel makes this laptop skillful at images, video editing software, and some gaming as well.
As they say “You get what you pay for” and it couldn’t be further from the truth in this case.
Solid performance in a beautiful design for those who don’t mind spending over $2k a quality machine.
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics - Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 TiRAM: 8GB – 64GBScreen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS - UHD+ (3840 x 2400)Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSDAverage Battery Life: Up to 8 hours
If you’re not an Apple fan, but didn’t like previously mentioned Dell, then you might consider Microsoft Surface Laptop 3.
The best Microsoft laptop for designers in 2021.
This laptop from Microsoft is not only a great budget choice, but it also comes with a very beautiful design.
Price range: $799.00 to 2,799.00
I the terms of design, it definitely resembles a Macbook and does so in many ways.
The apple-like aluminum body gives this laptop a familiar, premium feel and protects well what’s inside at the same time.
Similarly as with Macbook, you can choose from a variety of sophisticated-looking colors: Cobalt Blue, Mate Black, Platinum and Sand Stone.
Inside you will find a powerful processor that makes graphics render and it ensures minimal lag while using Adobe CC products.
What’s very interesting about this laptop is the new fast-charging feature that enables an 80% charge in less than an hour!
Still not sure which one should you buy: Microsoft Surface Laptop vs Apple MacBook Pro?—Check out this article.
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 / AMD Ryzen 5 / AMD Ryzen 7Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics / AMD Radeon Vega 9 / AMD Radeon RX Vega 11RAM: 8GB – 16GBScreen: 13.5” or 15” PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504 or 2,496 x 1,664)Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSDAverage Battery Life: Up to 8 hours
If you’re looking for one of the latest pieces of tech with a powerful engine and excellent display, then consider the new Gigabyte Aero 17 just released in 2021.
The most powerful laptop for 3d designers and video editors.
This laptop brings you everything you need when it comes to portable computing.
The notebook is ultra-light yet gives you the optimized power and speed for high resolution rendering of your creative projects.
It also offers outstanding refresh rates for playing your favorite AAA games.
This laptop with zero compromise, it’s a versatile workhorse designed for modern on the go pros.
You can get up 16 TB disk storage, which definitely comes in handy for heavy video or 3d model renderings.
The best thing?—Average battery life of 10.5 hours is extremely attractive for graphic designers who need a mobile version of their powerful desktop computer.
And the 17.3 inches of space you can use, what else would a designer wish for in a laptop?
CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i7 2.3 GHz 8 CoreGraphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 2070 Super with Max-Q DesignRAM: 16GB – 64GBScreen: 16-inch Retina display with True ToneStorage: 1-16 TBBattery Life: 10.5 hours
If you’re a designer who also likes gaming, Razer Blade 15 is a wonderful choice.
The best laptop for gamers and designers
This is a well built, sleek and compact laptop with great performance and for affordable price.
The screen is a beautiful Full HD display that provides an immersive and insanely fast visual experience for gaming and design.
You will be able to game or create with the colorful and accurate visuals of the thin bezel, factory calibrated 15.6” display, with support for up to 100% sRGB color!
Probably the only downside to Razer Blade 15 is its low battery life of 5-6 hours.
However, it has exceptionally better hardware than the much more expensive Macbook Pro.
And hardware optimization is a very important element to keep in mind when choosing a laptop for your graphic design work.
Besides, this laptop is fully loaded with Wi-Fi 6, Gigabit Ethernet, Thunderbolt 3, USB type-A and type-C ports, and HDMI—all of which gives you a desktop-class like experience.
And an interesting feature is that you can customize the backlight color of the keyboard, making the Razer Blade 15 uniquely yours.
CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750HGraphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Max-QRAM: 32GBScreen: 15.6" OLED 4K Touch 60Hz, factory calibratedStorage: 1TB SSDBattery Life: 5-6 hours
MacBook Air is a budget version of Apple products and it might be a good option for those designers who don’t need super powerful Macbook Pro.
The most inexpensive laptop for regular graphic design work.
Previous versions of MacBook Air weren’t powerful enough to handle advanced graphic design softwares like Adobe CC.
But this latest model comes with the same Apple M1 chip that’s in the more expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro, which I’ve mentioned earlier in this list.
Having the same M1 chip means this Apple MacBook Air is as powerful as the MacBook Pro, but much much cheaper.
Plus, it has a fan-less design, ensuring complete silence in use, without overheating.
This Macbook has also a wider palette of colors on display, up to 25% more colors than sRGB, which really matters for graphic designers.
However, don’t expect it to be a good choice if you’re into some heavy design work like video editing or 3d rendering.
Macbook Air is a good option for those who do some simple graphic design work, like branding, logo or web design.
Moreover it comes with a whole bunch of features that Apple is known for: Touch ID, True tone technology, Force Touch trackpad, WI-FI 6, USB 4 and many more.
CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑coreGraphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-coreRAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memoryScreen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina displayStorage: 256GB – 2TB SSDAverage Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is another excellent laptop for high-level graphic designers who need a powerful yet portable machine.
The best for professional designers and content creators.
If you prefer Windows, then this laptop is a stylish choice: powerful processors and great battery life in a unique, sophisticated design.
The combination of a pro-grade graphics, up to 64GB of RAM, and options for Intel Xeon processors make this ThinkPad from Lenovo an extremely powerful laptop.
And yet, despite its eye-catching looks and impressive performance, it’s still affordable and represents real value to any demanding graphic designer.
In fact, the Lenovo ThinkPad E15 provides the same kind of performance you’d expect from a powerful desktop workstation.
But unlike a desktop computer—it’s portable, allowing you to work on the road or travel with it.
And best of all, this laptop is designed to withstand almost anything you can throw at it—even water.
It’s proven to work in nearly any environment from freezing cold to a dry hot.
So that any even accidental knocks, drops, and spills won’t stop it from running.
Moreover, it also offers a range of ports so that you don’t have to buy any additional accessories to connect your other devices like hard drives, cameras etc.
Overall, Lenovo ThinkPad E15 is perfect for working with multimedia.
Go with the FHD low-power display option for enhanced battery life.
CPU: 10th gen Quad-Core i5-10210UGraphics: Nvidia Quadro P1000 / P2000RAM: 8GB-64GBScreen: 15.6" Full HD (1,920 x 1,080)Storage: 128MB-2TB SSDAverage Battery Life: Up to 11 hours
While Huawei is probably best known for its smartphones, but it has also been offering really good laptops in recent years.
The most Apple-like laptop for those who use Windows.
As might have already noticed that the name sounds very familiar: Is it MateBook or MacBook?
In fact, the similarities don’t end there and span beyond just naming.
We can clearly see that this laptop tries hard to imitate Macbook Pro in its look as well.
But its not just name and looks either, when it comes to performance and durability, Huawei MateBook X Pro can proudly stand next to more established brands.
For that reason, this laptop is a valid option if you like Apple’s product design, but don’t want to break up with your beloved Windows.
For much less money than its competitors like Apple or Dell laptops, Huawei MateBook X Pro offers you a sleek looking laptop and solid performance.
You also get pretty decent screen and overall specs, so that all your creative and graphic design softwares will run perfectly on it.
Again, great choice for designers who like how sleek Apple products look, but want to keep running on Windows.
CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5RAM: 8GB – 16GBScreen: 13.9-inch 3K (3,000 x 2,080)Storage: 512GB SSDAverage Battery Life: 8-10 hours
And last but not least on my list is Pixelbook Go from Google which makes as a great tablet for some simple and light graphic design work.
The best Chromebook for quick design on the fly.
This laptop is a good option for those who don’t need Adobe CC apps—for example, web designers who use web-based software like Webflow or Figma etc.
The two primary reasons for why you would want to buy a Chromebook is probably the price and battery life.
Pixelbook Go lets you stay unplugged for up to 12 hours, so that you don’t need to carry a charger.
And when you do need a charge, you can get up to 2 hours of battery use in just 20 minutes of charging.
This Chromebook it’s barely 2 pounds and 13 mm thin making it easy to carry around.
Pixelbook Go is a quiet and comfortable laptop with a backlit keyboard, and a spacious touchpad that only needs a light touch.
You will also get amazing picture quality with the brilliant HD touchscreen display.
For this price, it is a definitely no-brainer for those who don’t need any advanced software like Adobe, AutoDesk or CorelDraw.
So if you work with online web design tools, such as Webflow or Wordpress, or graphic design tools such as Canva—they will run effectively on this Chromebook.
CPU: Intel M3RAM: 8GBScreen: 13.3" LCD touchscreen displayStorage: 64 GBBattery: Up to 12 Hours
These was my general buying advice on how to choose the perfect laptop for your graphic design needs.
Graphic design is a very broad term and your design software will have a specific list of hardware requirements.
Combine it with your own preferences and inclinations and you’ll spend hours trying to find the best price-features combination.
Again, the MacBook Pro remains the #1 option for many graphic designers due to its minimalist look and excellent performance.
However, there are other great brands who make good looking, great performing laptops that cost my less than Apple products.
What’s the laptop of your choice as a graphic designer?—Leave a comment below.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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