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 15” with Touch Bar
Lightweight, Compact and Powerful
MacBooks are a favorite among graphic designers for their sleek design and user-friendly nature. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is one of the most powerful apple laptops yet and boasts a beast of a 6-core i7 processor (or 8-core i9) and up to 32GB of RAM. The powerful Radeon Pro 560x GPU has 4GB of memory and is great for graphics-heavy applications like 3D modeling and rendering video. The standard model comes with a 256 GB SSD which can be upgraded to a max of 4TB SSD storage (on Apple’s website).
The 15-inch LED Retina display is bright but easy on the eyes and automatically adjusts to ambient light levels. It can produce up to 25% more colors than standard RGB displays. Unfortunately, it lacks some standard features such as an HDMI output, standard USB, or SD card reader, but adapters are available for those. Despite these shortcomings, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is a sleek laptop for animation and design with powerful innards for graphical applications.
- Powerful processor and GPU for high-level performance and visual fidelity
- Good battery life (~10 hours)
- SSD storage
- Lack of standard ports (HDMI, USB, SD reader)
Acer Predator Helios 300 15.6” Gaming Laptop
A Great Laptop for Graphic Design and Gaming
Predator laptops are popular among graphic designers for the same reason they are popular among gamers. The main draw of the Helios is the incredibly juiced up NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU that has 6GB of dedicated VRAM. Coupled with the 6-core Intel i7-9750H processor, the Predator Helios is simply one of the most powerful laptops around and can run virtually any graphical application you want.
The 15.6-inch screen renders in full 1080p and has a 144Hz refresh rate for smooth graphics, less screen tearing, and less input lag. Due to the high-end GPU, the laptop is a bit bulky and heavier than some so it may not be the most portable choice. Unfortunately, the frame can get somewhat hot and the battery life is a bit on the lower side. It’s very reasonably priced for a laptop of its caliber, so it makes a great entry-level option for those who want to get serious about graphic design.
- Very reasonable price
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU
- Full HDMI and 144Hz refresh rate for stunning visuals
- Slightly heavy and bulky
- Lots of pre-installed bloatware
- GPU runs hot after being taxed for a while
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
Simple Elegant Design With User-friendly Options
Microsoft’s Surface line of laptops is seen as a competitor to Apple MacBooks in terms of portability and performance. The Surface 2 is an exceedingly portable laptop that is powerful enough for most daily tasks you may need to do as a graphic designer. It’s one of the best windows laptops for graphic design.
The main thing about the Surface 2 is its user-friendly nature. The touchscreen display is bright and ultra-fast and responsive, perfect for design applications like drawing or sculpting. You can choose between i5 and i7 processor and the laptop is also balanced by its portability and long battery life (14 hours!). Unfortunately, it does not have a dedicated GPU so it may not work as well for very graphics-heavy applications like 3-modeling.
- Very light and portable
- Long battery life (14 hours)
- Bright and responsive touchscreen
- Lower end processor
- No dedicated GPU
ASUS VivoBook Pro 17
Powerful GPU and Large Screen for Stunning Visuals
Another powerful laptop, the ASUS VivoBook Pro 17 comes equipped with a powerful NVIDIA GTX 1050 GPU and quad-core i7 processor for extremely fast performance. The 17.3-inch screen is wider than most and gives good visuals and a wide color palette. It is a bit on the heavier side at just under 5 pounds, but its compact enough that it is still portable.
The SSD + HDD storage combo is a nice touch and lets you prioritize data by how fast you need it to be accessed. It’s also got a lot of connection ports for good compatibility options and a fingerprint reader if you want some extra security on your laptop. Because it is so powerful, the battery life is pretty low at around 5 hours on a max charge; not a huge deal if you don’t mind working while it is plugged in.
- High-end CPU and GPU gives excellent performance
- Larger than average screen (17.3-inches)
- Fantastic price/quality ratio
- Short battery life
- A bit on the heavier side
- Lots of bloatware
Huawei Matebook 13
A Great Versatile Laptop for Many Applications
The first thing to note about the Matebook 13 is how portable it is. It is less than an inch thick when fully closed and weighs just over 2 pounds so you will barely notice it while it is in your bag or backpack. The screen is only 13” but feels larger due to the 88% screen to body ratio and can output 2k visuals. The portability makes it one of the better laptops for graphic design students.
The touch screen is responsive and easy to use and treated to keep it smudge free from your fingers. The NVIDIA MX150 GPU is not incredibly powerful but should be good enough for moderate graphic design applications. It has a pretty decent battery life too and charges very quickly, up to 2.5 hours of battery life on a 15-minute charge.
- Very light and portable
- Excellent touch screen capabilities
- Good battery life and fast charging
- GPU is not that powerful
- Screen hinge is slightly weak
HP ZBook X2
A Detachable Screen Makes for Unlimited Graphics Applications
The most important feature of the HP ZBook X2 is the 4k detachable touch screen. The 14-inch display is totally removable so you can switch between laptop and tablet very easily. The included Wacom EMR stylus has over 4,000 distinct pressure levels and zero latency for maximum detail when drawing. The outer frame of the screen has 18 pre-configured shortcuts to Adobe applications. Basically, this laptop/tablet combo is the perfect option for the graphic artist on the go, a great 2-in-1 laptop for animation and graphic design.
The included Abode Creative Cloud applications give virtually endless options for graphic design. Several connection ports offer good multi-media compatibility, with a Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.0 charging, HDMI and SD reader.
- Detachable 4k screen is bright and easy to work with
- Adobe Creative Cloud has tons of graphics apps
- Bluetooth keyboard never really needs to be charged
- Somewhat expensive
- Not incredibly versatile, mostly focused on graphic design
Asus ROG Strix Scar III
Make Video Editing Great Again
We know, the ROG series is a “gamers only” kind of a deal, but if you’re looking for a strong machine for video editing, a gaming laptop is a match made in heaven. Allows us to demonstrate: the Asus ROG Strix Scar III comes loaded with top notch hardware and features an amazing 240Hz IPS Type FHD display, as well as Intel’s latest Core i7-9750H CPU, a powerful NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, 16 GB of RAM and a 1TB PCIe Nvme SSD. Basically, if you need a strong laptop to cover all your video-editing needs, there’s nothing better than a top-notch gaming laptop.
If you can live with the price tag, it doesn’t get any better than this baby: besides being perfectly capable of running the latest games at ultra settings, the ROG Strix Scar III is also excellent for content creation and video editing, due to its powerful hardware, but if you’re into the latter racket, you’ll absolutely love that gorgeous 240 Hz screen. The keyboard is also pretty good and the build quality won’t disappoint the most exigent user. Just take the ROG for a drive and thank us later in the comments section.
- solid hardware can handle anything you throw at it
- excellent build quality
- high quality 1080p IPS display (matte, not glossy this time)
- impressive keyboard
- “shock and awe” sound system
- perfect for both work and play
- amazing graphics for a “portable”
- RGB galore
- rather heavy and kind of expensive
MSI GV62 8RD-200
Affordable Yet Powerful
The last item on our list is the MSI GV62. NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti coupled with the i5 processor makes the laptop superb for graphical applications. The NTSC display has a wider range of color options than many other common displays.
It boasts a large 1TB of storage + 16GB Intel Optane Memory. It comes with 8GB of RAM included but can be upgraded to 16GB if you need to boost the performance. It is also very reasonably priced so it makes a good laptop for graphic design that will not break the bank.
- Very affordable
- Great GPU (GTX 1050i)
- Upgradable RAM
- No SSD
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.