The Best Laptops For Graphic Design in 2016

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 Laptop for Graphic Designers: 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) | Source

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
Hard Drive:
256 GB
Graphics Coprocessor:
Intel Iris Pro Graphics
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.

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

2.3 GHz Intel Core i7
Hard Drive:
500 GB
Graphics Coprocessor:
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
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. | Source

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)
16 GB
Hard Drive:
Graphics Coprocessor:
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. | Source

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
16 GB
Hard Drive:
1024 GB
Graphics Coprocessor:
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

What are the graphic design programs you use?

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • In Design
  • Corel Draw
  • Quark Express
  • Adobe Illustrator
See results without voting

© 2013 Bucsa Emanuel Ioan

Got anything to add? Leave a comment below! 36 comments

Stephen Kalu profile image

Stephen Kalu 9 months ago from Nigeria

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 15 months ago

Thanks a lot for this powerful tip, now I know what I need.

Arun Prabu 17 months ago

Thanking you for giving a great idea.

BucsaEmanuel profile image

BucsaEmanuel 23 months ago from Baia Mare, Romania Author

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 profile image

TTGReviews 23 months ago

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 profile image

Hezekiah 2 years ago from Japan

Very good article there and interesting ranking. I see that Adobe photoshop is the beast.

Lesley 2 years ago

Thank you so much! This was very helpful!

m abdullah javed profile image

m abdullah javed 2 years ago

Hi Bucsa, very interesting and useful. Thanks for sharing.

JamesWhitaker profile image

JamesWhitaker 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

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.

WebJess profile image

WebJess 2 years ago from Arizona

Very helpful hub, thank you!

Fatma Al Bably 2 years ago

very useful tips .. i'm on my way to have a new one ,, Thank you

adam 2 years ago

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 2 years ago

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.

TOPTENTECH profile image

TOPTENTECH 2 years ago from USA

I have a few friends that have told me about about Mac's. Are they really worth the price?

kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


Loved this piece. Very well written. Love your subject.

Voted up and all the way.

Keep up the great writing.

wabash annie profile image

wabash annie 3 years ago from Colorado Front Range

An extremely useful and educational hub ... well organized and with excellent graphics. Thanks much!

alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

Nice of you to explain it, thanks.

Keep up the good work, Emanuel!

BucsaEmanuel profile image

BucsaEmanuel 3 years ago from Baia Mare, Romania Author

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 :)

BucsaEmanuel profile image

BucsaEmanuel 3 years ago from Baia Mare, Romania Author

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 3 years ago

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?

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