Best Graphic Design Laptops of 2016
A Lot More for a Lot Less
Having watched the hardware market closely over the past ten years, I can tell you that some of the biggest gains in integrated graphics have been over the last couple of years. Intel's Broadwell and Skylake processors give you a mix of good integrated graphics and a long battery life.
If you haven't upgraded in a while, it's well worth it to take a look. Even less expensive options are better than the more expensive laptops of only a few years ago. In this post, I'll take you through pricey options with dedicated graphics cards for professionals as well as some cheap and good performing options.
5 Good Laptops for Graphic Designers Who Travel 2016
If you travel as much as I do, you know the importance of battery life, color accuracy, and weight. Here are a few laptops that offer good performance for the money you spend while making it easy for you to take them on the road.
Apple MacBook, Pro, and Air
When it comes to graphic design, it's hard to beat Apple's Macbook. MacBook's have traditionally been the go-to tool for the serious graphic designer and the latest lineup from the tech giant is no exception. It's what I use on the road although I'm a bit different as I switch to a PC that I've built myself while I'm at home.
Ideal if Color Accuracy is a Priority:
One of the main reasons I go with the Macbook Pro is because of its display. I simply need that extra color accuracy. If you're in the same boat, then this particular laptop should be at or near the top of your list. If color accuracy is not a priority, then you can focus more on performance.
The new line of MacBook Pros with the Retina Display is impressive. While the 17-inch models have been discontinued, the 15.4-inch models make up for the lack of screen size with an amazing 2880 by 1800 resolution. The higher pixel density is something I prefer because it gives me quite a bit more to work with.
Newer Models offer Superior Battery Life and Graphics:
If battery life is important to you, then I wouldn't recommend going with an older or used MacBook Pro. The newer MacBook Pro feature Intel's Skylake processor which allows the efficiency within the MacBook Pro to reach new heights. This gives users a general battery life of 9 hours for the 15-inch version and up to 12 hours for the 13-inch. For me that's plenty to use while I'm on the plane or out and about before I get back to my hotel. Previous generation models are not only offer inferior battery life, they also have inferior graphical performance.
Overall the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro are a great choice for those who need color accuracy and good overall performance. If you do a lot of rendering and don't need color accuracy, then there are several options out there that offer similar or better processing and graphical performance for less money. That being said it's hard to argue with other intangibles like the superior battery life and Retina Display.
A Good Laptop for Gaming and Video Editing Under $1000
Performance is key when running graphic design programs. Creativity does not wait for the computer to catch up to ideas. ASUS has a tradition of building quality and reliability while providing some of the best performing laptops on the market. The ASUS ROG GL702VM-DB71 gives you the power and portability to take on the most demanding graphic design projects.
The ASUS GL75wVW has a large 17.3" 1080p G-Sync display. For graphics, it has a GTX 960M which should give you a leg up against many of the others laptops on this list in terms of graphical performance.
For processor, it has the capable Skylake Quad Core i7-6700HQ. Installed is 16GB of DDR4 memory that gives you the multi-tasking performance that graphic designers demand. The hard drive is a 1GB solid state drive. This is quite impressive considering the price.
Pascal-Based Graphics Cards
Perhaps the best part of this laptop, along with other newer gaming options this year, is the graphics card. The Pascal-based graphics cards are no longer the laptop "m" versions. This gives them unprecedented performance based on those of just last year.
Overall, this laptop gives you a ton of performance for the $1,000 price tag. Get a good photo or video editing monitor and you should have the color accuracy you need as well.
If performance is your first priority, then its hard to look past a manufacturer like Asus and their ROG or Republic of Gamers series. If a laptop is made for gaming, then you know it gives you superior performance. In this case you get the GTX 1060 along with a powerful processor in the 4 core i7-6700HQ. Despite its low price that's an upgrade vs. a laptop like the Macbook Pro.
A Good Budget Graphic Design Option
If you're looking for a laptop with decent performance and a long battery life, the Dell XPS13 could be what you're looking for. It has a color accurate 1080p borderless IPS display with an all-aluminum body.
What I like most about the XPS13 is its size. Weighing in at just 2.61 lbs it's easy to take with you anywhere you go. What's more is that it has a battery life of up to 15 hours. That should be enough to get at least a full day of work in if not more.
Additional features include a USB 3.1 Type C with Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, Waves MaxxAudio 3, Bluetooth 4.1, backlit keyboard, webcam, and a 3-in-1 card reader.
With an Intel Core i5-6200U Processor, 128 GB solid state drive, Intel HD Graphics, IPS Infinity Display, and 8GB of ram, the Dell XPS series has good enough performance and color accuracy for most.
A Good Traveling Laptop Under or Around $500
HP has a wide variety of laptop computers to address the specific need of the customer. From everyday computing to running enterprise CAD programs, there is bound to be an HP laptop that fits your needs.
One that I like is the new HP Envy convertible laptop which functions both as a laptop and tablet. I've had a few of these in the past that had a hinge that was hard to move; however, this one seems to have ironed out all the kinks.
For performance, it has an i5-6200U and uses Intel's HD Graphics 520.
For display, the HP Envy x360 has a 15.6" HD IPS WLED backlit touch screen.
Overall, this is a good performing laptop with a little more functionality than your common laptop and some color accuracy to boot as well. If you're willing to go with a used or refurbished option, you should be able to get it for as little as $500. New it will cost you around $700. It's fun to take with you on the road and the battery life should last you at least 6 hours.
A Good and Cheap AMD / Lenovo Laptop (Under $500)
My last pick is a lot less commonly known among most graphic designers but ultimately is one I couldn't leave out.
It uses an AMD Quad-Core A10-8700P accelerated processor with AMD's Radeon R6 Discrete Graphics and has a full HD IPS Backlit Display.
Since it does use an AMD processor, you'll get a lot less battery life. That being said, the 6 hours you'll get out of this Lenovo model is still very respectable. Like with most less expensive laptops, it weighs a bit more than the thin models above at around 5 pounds.
What this gives you is a laptop with a lot of graphical performance and an IPS display for a lot less money than you'd pay elsewhere. This should give you the wide viewing angles and color accuracy you're looking for while still having a laptop that can run all your power hungry software.
Ultimately, if your budget is $500, you need color accuracy, and graphical performance, this is a stellar option.
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