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Picking a laptop for graphic design can be difficult. There are so many factors you need to take into account when choosing which laptop to buy. Making a decision is no easy task when there are so many questions you need to ask. That’s why we’ve put together a list of features you need to take in mind when selecting the best laptops for graphic design.
Graphic design is a demanding profession that requires a laptop with serious hardware and software. As with every job, the laptop choice is about finding the right balance between performance and portability. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know to be able to find the right laptop for your graphic design need:
1. CPU & RAM
When it comes to processors, high-end processors like Core i7 or Ryzen 7 are always preferred for graphic design. Core i3 or Ryzen 3 is enough for office tasks but not for graphic design. For better optimality, never go lower than a processor with 4-cores and a memory clock of 2 Hz. The recommended processors are: Intel core i7, i9, Intel Xeon, Ryzen 7, Ryzen 9, ryzen Threadripper.
RAM is the most crucial component in a laptop for design work. 8GB RAM is the bare minimum for running graphic design software. In general, 16GB RAM is the ideal number. You could go for 32GB+ RAM to be able to run other apps such as Spotify, Skype or Snapchat at the same time. However, 16GB is enough for your machine to handle graphical tasks.
2. Graphic cards (GPU)
Graphic designers need a machine with discrete GPU so that graphical computations and visual output is improved. Good news for you is that graphic design is not as GPU hungry as 3D animation, rendering, editing, etc. Therefore, a laptop with a mid-end GPU is sufficient for design tasks. At a minimum, I recommend a GTX 1070 for serious graphic designers.
However, if you are willing to spend more, you should choose NVIDIA Quadro graphic cards. These Quadro GPUs are made for graphic design specifically. Check out ConceptD 5 or ASUS ProArt StudioBook Pro 15 which feature such GPU.
3. Display & Screen sizes
It is better to work on a large screen than on a small one. However, a large screen can make your laptop more clunky or cumbersome to travel with. It all boils down to your needs and personal preferences. Typically, don’t ever go lower than 13 inches. If your laptop display is smaller than 13 inches, you won’t get much screen estate to work with.
Beside screen size, another major factor you need to consider is the resolution and color accuracy. Color accuracy helps you find out what your finished product is going to look like, whether it’s on TV, print, smartphones screen, etc.
Another specification you need to take into consideration is the panel type. There are three LCD panel types:
TN Panels: The most inexpensive option. These are ideal for gaming thanks to having low latency and high refresh rate. Color accuracy is the worst of all panel types. NEVER choose a laptop with this panel for graphic design.
VA Panels: A middle ground between TN and IPS panel. This type boasts a superior contrast ratio. However, colors on VA displays won’t be as consistent as that of the below panel type.
IPS Panels: The best choice for graphic designers. IPS displays have the highest color accuracy and widest viewing angle. However, these often suffer from “backlight bleeding”.
If you want something on a small side, Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is the laptop to go for. This one features a 13.5-inch touchscreen with pen input. For those who prefer large screens, take a look at this 16-inch MacBook Pro and this 15.6-inch Razer Blade 15.
There are two storage drive options: traditional HDD or new SSD. Here’s my advice for you: always opt for the latter. SSD helps you perform tasks faster; it can make a difference if you are opening large files. The downside is that in terms of cost per storage, SSDs are more expensive than HDDs. It means that for the same amount of space disk, you’ll pay more for an SSD than an HDD.
For the speed alone, SSDs are worth the money. Therefore, you should go for a laptop with at least 512GB SSD to get work done faster. Microsoft Surface Book 2 and Samsung Notebook 9 Pro are good choices with a whopping of 1 TB and 2 TB SSD, respectively.
5. Battery life
Most graphic designers love to mix things up here and there to seek inspiration and ideas. Some would love to venture out to find new venues, such as coffee shops, co-working spaces, etc. for some fresh air. But sometimes you’ll be frustrated by the lack of power outlets outside the workplace. A lightweight and long-lasting laptop is what you need to solve this problem. With a good battery, you can enjoy the freedom and get things done on-the-go.
It is advisable to find a laptop that lasts about 10-14 hours of continuous use. That number is enough for you to last a long working day. If that sounds right to you, check out Microsoft Surface Book 3 with up to 15.5 hours of battery life in a single charge.
1. Can I use gaming laptops for graphic design tasks?
Graphic design requires a laptop with powerful specs, and so do gaming. Any tasks you need to perform on laptops for designs could also be done on gaming laptops. In fact, some game titles are even more demanding than most designing programs. So, the answer is yes.
However, as the name implies, gaming laptops are designed specifically for gaming-related purposes. Some features such as bulk body design, integrated cooling option, TN panel for faster response times, etc. could be unsuitable for graphic design purposes. For instance, a gaming laptop with RGB lightning could make you look unprofessional when visiting clients.
2. Why is RAM important for graphic design?
In graphic design, it is the CPU that is responsible for the majority of work. However, when you are running multiple applications at once, the weight of multitasking could make your laptop slow or freeze or even crash the system. Therefore, it is advisable to always get additional RAM for the rig to make sure you can get things done smoothly.
3. Are there any accessories I should consider?
Aside from a laptop, there are other equipment a graphic designer should know about. These tools will boost your productivity of creative works. Some of them includes:
Monitor calibrator: These are used to ensure the color accuracy of your monitor or display. Using a calibrator is faster and more accurate than using your eye/hand.
External hard drives: These are useful if your laptop internal disk space is limited. On the other hand, they could be used to backup all of your data and projects.
High-res monitors: These are great if you need more screen estate, higher image quality or just want to protect your eyes. Remember to choose one whose ports are compatible with your laptop’s connectivity options.
Wacom tools: AKA graphics tablets or pen tablets. These devices allow a person to draw by hand and transform their drawing into digital forms.
Wireless keyboard and mouse: Sometimes you just need to type or click freely on the table. Plus, these offer more buttons (such as numeric pads) and features than your built-in keyboard and touchpad.
Printers: These are for showcasing your design and portfolio sample. You need one that can provide you with a sharp image and crisp colors.
4. What are the minimum requirements for most graphic design software?
More often than not, design software’s minimum requirements are not demanding. On paper, that is. What they tell you is just the bare minimum specs you need to be able to start the program, not for doing complicated projects on the apps.
For example, Adobe Photoshop stated it requires only 2GB RAM or more to be able to run it. Yet with even 4GB RAM, you will struggle a lot. Load times are slow and there will be freezing and lagging. For that reason, here is my recommended specs for running almost all graphic design software:
CPU: Core i7, Ryzen 7
Memory: 8GB+ (the ideal number is 16GB. 32GB is a bit overkill)
GPU: GTX 1070 with at least 8 GB of VRAM
Storage: SSD 256GB +.
5. What are the advantages of laptops over desktops for graphic design purpose?
You may have to pay more for a laptop than a desktop with equivalent specification. But the major advantage of a laptop over desktop is portability. Laptops for design have now become more powerful in terms of specs than ever. Laptops give you the flexibility to work while on-the-go, visiting clients, or just when you need a change of scenery.
For instance, with a 2-in-1 computer, you can switch between laptop and tablet modes depending on your activity at the time. Tablet mode is great for presenting your work and ideas. It’s easy and hassle-free to sit side by side with your clients and show them your design on the device.
The best all-rounder of our choice is Apple MacBook Pro. As sleek, lightweight and powerful as ever, no wonder this laptop has always remained in the creative professionals’ favor. It features a larger screen with high resolution, amazing speakers and better keyboard to boot. You can’t go wrong with this one whether you are a designer or content creator.
If you prefer Windows machines, then why don’t choose the laptop made by the company that developed the Windows themselves? Surface Laptop 3 is the perfect fit for both newcomer and advanced graphic designers alike. This latest high-end laptop offers you the full Windows 10 experience with all the top-of-the-line hardware.
The best laptops for graphic design are more than just raw power. As you can see, they also require a high-quality display, thin, light body and long-lasting battery life. We hope that after reading this guide, you have all the knowledge you need. If you have made your choice, let us know in the comment which laptop is it and why you choose this laptop.