ComputersConsumer ElectronicsCell PhonesHome Theater & AudioGraphic Design & Video EditingInternetIndustrial Technology

The Best Laptops For Graphic Design in 2016

Updated on January 4, 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)

 
 
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.

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. | 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)

 
 
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. | 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

 
 
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

What are the graphic design programs you use?

See results

© 2013 Bucsa Emanuel Ioan

Got anything to add? Leave a comment below!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Konrad 5 months ago

      Where is HP with 4K 17.3 inch display IPS ?

    • profile image

      Srinivasan Jv 7 months ago

      If we prefer 256 GB of SSD, how much space would we roughly get for storing personal files?

    • profile image

      Aakifah 8 months ago

      Thanks for the insight, how do these specs compare to software needed for interior designers such as revit, autocad, sketchup etc?

    • profile image

      Sophie 9 months ago

      So Helpful!!

    • Stephen Kalu profile image

      stephen kalu 21 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.

    • profile image

      simon Okuna 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Arun Prabu 2 years ago

      Thanking you for giving a great idea.

    • BucsaEmanuel profile image
      Author

      Bucsa Emanuel Ioan 2 years ago from Baia Mare, Romania

      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 2 years 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.

    • profile image

      Lesley 3 years ago

      Thank you so much! This was very helpful!

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 3 years ago

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

    • JamesWhitaker profile image

      James N. Whitaker 3 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

      Jessica 3 years ago from Arizona

      Very helpful hub, thank you!

    • profile image

      Fatma Al Bably 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      adam 3 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

    • profile image

      Matt G. Leger 3 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

      James Richton 3 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 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Bucs,

      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

      Alan R Lancaster 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
      Author

      Bucsa Emanuel Ioan 3 years ago from Baia Mare, Romania

      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
      Author

      Bucsa Emanuel Ioan 3 years ago from Baia Mare, Romania

      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.

    • profile image

      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?

    • alancaster149 profile image

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

      Now I know what to look for when I win the Lottery! Asus is being advertised on the Box over here with an attractive price tag.

      Very comprehensive piece of reference, Emanuel. Take this as a vote of confidence and a return visit to a new follower. Let's see more from you in future.

      By the way, for a computer dunce like me some of the 'spec' needs to be explained, like 'SSD', 'SLI' and 'CPU'. I'm a bit like 'Oddball' in KELLY'S HEROES when he's talking to Kelly about his Sherman, 'I only know how to drive this thing...'

    • toptenreview profile image

      Tre Griffey 4 years ago from Utah, USA

      I would highly recommend a macbook pro with retina for graphic design. I have the macbook pro with retina and I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

    • toptengamer profile image

      Brandon Hart 4 years ago from The Game

      Some pretty good laptops for sure. I am surprised you didn't talk a little bit more about processing power and hyperthreading, but overall some pretty good tips.

    • verradonna profile image

      verradonna 4 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      I really want to get a Macbook Pro but they really are so expensive. Good article though!

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      Wow great reviews. I would tell my friend about this hub. :-) Very interesting.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Interesting, useful and thanks for sharing.

      Eddy.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 4 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Good review of these laptops. I am debating on an iMac next time I upgrade. The one you have listed here looks good.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 4 years ago from Iowa

      Good first hub. Welcome to Hubpages!

    • BNadyn profile image

      Bernadyn 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

      This was so informative since I'm looking to purchase a new laptop and wanted to start using it more for photos and videos including using Photoshop. Great job!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Looking for a new computer, but don't need much in the way of graphic design. Still, it's always interesting to see what is on the market. Nice work.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I'm a fan of Adobe. The problem however is the huge memory it uses. I guess that's the trade off for having so much features and power in a software

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

      Stephanie Launiu 4 years ago from Hawai'i

      Thanks for such a comprehensive hub! I tweeted and pinned. Voted up, useful, interesting. Aloha, Stephanie

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 4 years ago from Malaysia

      My son is studying Games Design and this article will be useful info for him and his friends. Will forward the link to him. Welcome to HP and looking forward to more articles from you.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very useful information shared by you!

      This is good technical information, everyone should know.

      Although you are new here, your presentation reflects, you know the basics of on line writing. Very well done!

      Thanks for the Follow and welcome to HubPages! Voted up as useful!

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from London

      Thanks for this information, very clearly described. I've pinned it

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Welcome to HubPages. From your profile, I could tell that you have much to offer; and your very first article is a teaching guide for me. Thank you so much for sharing your expert knowledge. Voted Up!