Modern graphic design is a complex job that requires some specialized high-quality computing hardware. Currently, there is a large market for laptops due to their size and portability. In today’s world of “digital nomads”, a quality laptop is virtually a necessity for the budding graphic designer (especially if you want to start your own graphic design business).
To this end, we have compiled a list of the best laptops for graphic design. Our selection is based on a few key qualities of good laptops for graphic design; features like performance (RAM and processor), screen size and resolution, input features (keyboard, touchscreen, etc.) and battery life and portability. The best laptops for graphic design have a solid mix of all these qualities. We also have lists of laptops for video editing and laptops for programming.
That being said, the sheer number of products on the market can make narrowing down the choice that much more difficult. So sit back as we go over a list of the best laptops for graphic design.
How to Choose the Best Laptop for Graphic Design
In general, laptop performance can be boiled down to RAM, processor, GPU and storage.
The CPU (central processing unit) is the central unit that performs the most basic computations. Essentially, the processor is the thing that allows your computer to have multiple applications working at the same time. A better processor means faster computations which result in faster performance on all open applications.
GPU is also important but comes into play when you work with animation and 3d modeling.
RAM (random access memory) is part of the hardware that temporarily stores information for processing. Basically, the more RAM you have, the more tasks your processor can handle. Some graphic design applications are heavy and a large amount of RAM makes these applications run smoother.
The storage can be an HDD or SSD. Unlike RAM, data in the storage device is stored permanently (unless manually deleted). An SSD is faster than HDD and can make processing quicker and reduce boot and load times.
Another important feature for graphic design laptops is the screen. A better resolution screen means higher graphical details and a wider range of colors. The size of the screen also determines how easy it is to work on the laptop. In general, a 15-inch screen is considered standard among the graphic design industry. Many laptops for graphic design and multimedia are 2-in-1 laptops that double as a computer or a tablet.
A good graphic design laptop should have enough ports to connect a mouse, keyboard, drawing pad, or even an integrated touch screen.
Touch screens are an increasingly popular addition to graphic design laptops as you can work on your stuff by directly touching the screen, almost like drawing on a piece of paper. Whether or not you should want a touchscreen depends on your personal preferences; some designers love them because of the integrated features and ease of use, others may prefer a more traditional approach to graphic design.
Battery Life and Portability
As much as working in an office is the standard locale, many graphic designers like a change of scenery and take their work with them to different places. That’s why it is important to have a laptop that has a good battery life, so you can work wherever without worrying about a drained battery. Portability ties into this too, as the more compact and transportable your laptop the easier it is to work while enjoying your freedom.
8 Best Laptops for Graphic Design in 2020
Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch
Solid Graphic Station for the Money
As usual, and this is not a marketing gimmick by the way, the new Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch is the best it’s ever been, and that’s pretty much obvious as soon as you take a look at what’s under the hood. For example, this particular unit comes with a 9th gen hexa-Core Intel Core i7 Processor, an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M Graphics, 16 GB of RAM and a beefy 512 GB SSD.
However, one can argue that you can get that kind of hardware in other (more affordable) laptops, yet the Apple MacBook Pro really stands out from the crowd due to its stellar build quality, optimized software, and, last but not least, its stunning Retina display with True Tone technology (3,072 x 1,920 resolution with smartphone-like 226ppi density), not to mention the high end 6 speaker system with force canceling woofers.
Basically, the new Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch plays in a league of its own, especially for the brand aficionados, and needless to say, its latest iteration is the best ever, as it improves on basically each aspect of the legendary workstation. Bottom line, if you’re looking for a lightweight, relatively compact and very powerful laptop for graphic design, and you can live with the price (which is decent by the way), the new MacBook Pro 16 comes highly recommended.
- Strong hardware
- 11 hours battery
- Stellar build quality
- Fantastic display
- Excellent sound system
- Solid keyboard
- Relatively affordable
- Only 4 T3 ports
Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop
A Great Laptop For Graphic Design And Gaming
Since we’re talking about a gaming laptop, the Acer Nitro 5 is also an excellent choice for graphic design, since the two are pretty much connected. If it’s not clear, both gamers and graphic designers require top-notch hardware, more precisely strong CPUs and GPUs. And in this regard, the Nitro 5 really shines.
This model comes with a 9th gen Intel Core i7-9750H, which is basically overkill for graphic design, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD and a cool 144 Hz full HD display, 15,6 inches wide. Tech talk aside, what’s really great about this gaming laptop is the price asked. For ~$1000 give or take, you’ll get a lot of laptop for the money asked, even if design and build quality are not on-par with more expensive machines.
It’s important to mention its subdued gamer look, and the red trimmings noticeable on the backlight, keyboard, trackpad and the top rear bay. The display hinges are solid, and the keyboard is comfy and precise enough for avid typists. However, keep in mind that this is a budget laptop, and it shows in overall build quality, i.e. this doesn’t look nor feel premium. Other than that, the Acer Nitro 5 is a solid laptop for graphic design and if you’re on a tight budget, give it a shot.
- Amazing value for money
- Top-notch hardware
- Sharp and clear display
- Good battery
- Solid build quality
- Sub-par trackpad
- Mediocre speakers
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Exciting AMD Flagship Debut
If you’re a fashion-conscious graphic designer, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 comes to mind. If you can ignore its hefty price, this machine looks absolutely amazing, and on top of that, you’ll get a high-powered ultra-portable laptop, which is definitely designed for portability and comfort.
The third generation of the Surface laptop comes with a 15’’ touchscreen display, a very special AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition CPU, 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. Battery life is also impressive, at 11.5 hours on a single charge, so we can vouch for the Surface 3’s hardware prowess in a graphic design environment. Actually, considering the 15’’ display, this is arguably one of the best laptops in terms of battery life we’ve ever seen.
Also, this is the first Microsoft flagship machine to roll with AMD’s latest Ryzen generation of processors, and the Surface Edition CPU is actually a collaboration between Microsoft and AMD, and it’s worth mentioning that this Surface 3 configuration costs less than the starting 15-inch MacBook Pro, which is kind of important.
The Surface 3 weighs a mere 3.4 pounds or 1.5 kg, measures 13.4 x 9.6 x .57 inches (339.5 x 224 x 14.69mm), and yes, that’s way less than a 15-inch MacBook Pro. However, we must mention the lack of dedicated graphics. Workaholics will be delighted to find out that the keyboard and the trackpad are fabulous, while the2,496 x 1,664 resolution touchscreen display is ideal for both graphic design, and content consumption, not to mention digital media or text-based work.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for a premium machine and you prefer a Windows environment, the Microsoft Surface 3 is an interesting competitor for Apple’s MacBook Pro, as its AMD-powered “engine” is more than enough for editing and graphic design work, while its battery life is nothing short of amazing.
- Premium design
- Impeccable build quality
- Vivid display
- 11.5 hours battery life
- Versatile and portable
- Too few ports
ASUS ZenBook 15 Laptop X534FTC-AS77
Powerful GPU And Large Screen For Stunning Visuals
The ZenBook 15 is a very interesting choice for graphic designers looking for an affordable yet performant machine with an UHD screen. This baby comes with a 15.6” UHD 4K NanoEdge display, which is relatively rare in this price bracket, plus a solid Intel Core i7-10510U CPU and a GeForce GTX 1650 GPU under the hood.
As far as graphic design goes, this setup is more than enough to meet and exceed the strictest demands. On top of that, you’ll get 16 GB of RAM (upgradable), a beefy 512 GB SSD and Amazon Alexa compatibility, though it’s not clear why you would need that for.
Anyway, the ZenBook 15 is a great all-rounder and it manages to tick off all the important boxes in our preamble. This is the master of productivity, and it can handle anything you throw at it, even some light gaming due to its dedicated GPU. Also, from a productivity point, the UHD display is one of the best screens available on a 15 incher.
We must also mention its gorgeous design and the cool metallic lid, which looks and feels great to touch, though it’s a literal fingerprint magnet. The ErgoLift hinge is another interesting feature that will delight avid typists, as it allows you to raise the keyboard deck for a more ergonomic typing experience. Finally, the laptop weighs 3.6 pounds and measures 13.9 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches, which makes it a great choice for people on the go.
- Beautiful design
- Solid build quality
- Light and compact
- Super slim bezels
- MIL-SPEC durability
- 8.30 hours autonomy
- Lacks Ethernet port
- Dim display
Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop 4K OLED
Productivity Monster and King of Style
If you’re a gamer, and you most probably are, you know that Razer is one of the biggest names in the gaming industry, and that makes the Razer Blade 15 Base OLED laptop an interesting choice for graphic design. As we already told you, gaming laptops are excellent for productivity tasks due to their high-end hardware and excellent ergonomics.
The Blade 15 Base is a versatile machine for many applications, and it comes with a hexa-core Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and, last but not least, a phenomenal 4K OLED display.
Arguably, this display can go toe to toe with the best in the industry, including the Apple MacBook Pro, and the same goes for build quality. See, the Razer Blade 15 boasts a CNC milled aluminum unibody frame, which is pretty similar to Apple’s best work to date. This high-performance gaming laptop not only has the latest and greatest hardware inside, but it looks like a million bucks, being basically the Windows equivalent of a high-end MacBook Pro.
Even if it’s pricey, you’ll end up with a productivity monster, a premium looking and feeling gaming laptop that can handle anything you throw at it, including showing off in public without raising any eyebrows in a business environment.
Even connectivity is top-notch, as the laptops comes with 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, 3 USB A ports, a reverse-able dedicated charging port, and even a dedicated HDMI, which is kind of rare nowadays. The chiclet keyboard is amazing, and the same goes for the touchpad. Bottom line, if you can afford it, just go for it and thank us later.
- Fabulous design
- Impressive keyboard
- Lots of ports
- Good speakers
- 7-8 hours autonomy
HP ZBook Create G7
Excellent for Work and Play
Just like the, the HP Zbook Create is specially designed for gaming, but also for creators, which makes it ideal for graphic design, obviously. According to HP, the Zbook Create is the world’s smallest 15’’ machine for gaming and creation, and considering its metrics, i.e. it weighs 1.9 kg and it’s 17.5 mm thin, this statement is hard to contradict.
If you’re on an unlimited budget, you can configure your ZBook Create G7 to take you to the Moon and back, i.e. this stylish and incredibly thin laptop can house an RTX 2080 Super GPU, as well as the latest Intel Core i9 and Intel Xeon CPUs. The sky is the limit, customization wise, and if that’s not enough for you, there’s even a ZBook Studio alternative that comes with an Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU.
The display is another strong selling point for the ZBook Create G7, and it’s obvious that this is a machine designed for professional creators. To give you a hint, you can get high res and incredibly accurate 4K OLED panel, with 100% DCI-P3 color coverage and 600 nits brightness in the highest-end version.
The unibody chassis is built from machined aluminum, and that confers it exceptional cooling capabilities, due to HP’s gaming-class VaporForce Thermal platform. Even the sound system is tuned by Bang & Olufsen, hence if you can afford it, just go for it.
- Beautiful design
- Supremely configurable
- Fantastic display
- Gaming grade performance
- Stellar audio system
- High-end configs are expensive
Dell XPS 15 9500
The Best Laptop for Graphic Design
The Dell XPS 15 9500 is arguably one of the best (if not the best) 15’’ laptops on the market, and that makes it a prime contender for the title of the best laptop for graphic design. If you’re ready to pay the price for a beefed-up version of the XPS 15 9500, we can say that the ultimate laptop has arrived for you.
Depending on the configuration, the XPS 15 9500 can be extremely powerful (and expensive), but in the same time, light enough to carry around town hassle-free, and, most importantly, stylish and discrete. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this laptop, as it ticks absolutely all of the boxes in the preamble of the article.
First, you’ll get a stunning display, which is highly important for graphic design work, then the keyboard is terrific for typing, comfortable and ergonomically designed, the speakers are pretty good, the trackpad is also big enough and comfy enough to use for extended periods of time, the configuration options are endless, and so on and so forth.
For the starting price of $1,299, you’ll get a 10th gen Intel Core i5 Comet Lake CPU, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. If you’re not married with Apple’s MacOS, the Dell XPS 15 is the best laptop money can buy in 2020: it’s thin, light, well designed, the speakers are on top, the display has small bezels, you get 3 T3 ports, an SD card reader, and even a headphone jack.
The chassis is made from CNC milled aluminum, and features clean edges, while the keyboard deck is carbon fiber, reminding us of sports cars. Finally, we must mention the stellar 3,840 x 2,400 resolution display, with 500 nits of brightness and capable of hitting of 100 percent the Adobe RGB color gamut, and you’ve got yourself a winner for the best laptop for graphic design, especially if you take into consideration the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU.
- Superb display
- Premium build quality
- Fantastic design
- Impressive keyboard and trackpad
- Light and stylish
- None really
MSI P65 Creator-1084
Almost Overkill for Graphic Design
This is the MSI alternative to the HP ZBook Create, and as the name suggests, this hardcore machine is focused on content creators, and by that we mean graphic designers, photo editors and so on. The laptop comes loaded with the best components, including a 15.6″ 4K UHD Display, the latest-gen Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, a GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, 32 GB of RAM and a 1TB Teton Glacier SSD.
Everything’s on the up and up with this machine, including the retail price. However, if you’re looking for sheer power, this speedy, powerful and stylish laptop can do anything: 2D/3D design, 4K video editing, gaming, you name it, it got it. MSI is well known for high-end gaming computers, like its Trident desktops or GT series laptops, but this one is will definitely make creative professionals happy.
Even if this is far from cheap, it’s definitely worth your money if you’re looking for high-end performance and top-notch components at a reasonable price. Even the design is pretty sleek and discreet, connectivity is well taken care of, performance is on level with the best in class, and the only compromise we can think of is the built-in speakers which are not great.
- High-end hardware
- Brilliant 4K display
- Sleek design
- Good keyboard
- Plenty of connectivity
- Sub-par speakers
So what is the best laptop for graphic design? As always, the answer will depend on your specific wants and needs. More powerful laptops tend to be bigger and have less of battery life while those that excel in portability and user-friendliness tend to be less powerful. A touch screen can be a great option for a graphic designer who wants an intuitive interface. Regardless of your needs, hopefully, this guide will give you some pointers and put you on the right path to find a suitable laptop for your graphic design needs.