When it comes to graphic design, the most important tool is your machine that'll run the software you want to use. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or talented student just starting out, having a laptop that can take on whatever you’re tasked with will make your workload feel a whole lot lighter.
To help you on your quest to find the ultimate graphic design laptop, we’ve put together a list of the top five laptops for graphic designers and creatives at PB Tech.
Quick List! Top 5 Laptops for Graphic Designers and Creatives
- Apple MacBook Pro (M2 Pro)
- ASUS ProArt Sutdiobook 16" OLED
- ASUS Zenbook Pro 16X OLED
- Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio (i7)
- ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED
Things to Consider When Choosing a Laptop
Before sharing our top picks, we thought we'd highlight the key factors to consider when choosing a laptop for graphic design work.
Performance: For demanding tasks like graphic design, you need a powerful processor. A multi-core CPU like Apple M2, Intel i5 or i7, or AMD Ryzen 7 or 9, is recommended.
RAM: Graphics work can use up a lot of memory, so aim for a minimum of 8GB RAM but ideally, you should target 16GB or more.
Graphics Card: A dedicated graphics card like the NVIDIA GeForce series or AMD Radeon series will be a significant advantage when running graphic-intensive software. This is especially crucial if you’re doing 3D work, video editing or rendering.
Display: For any designer, the display quality is a significant factor. Ideally, you should aim for a laptop with a large and high-resolution display. If you choose a 15” screen, then an absolute minimum of FHD resolution will be fine. However, for screens of 17” and above, we recommend QHD resolution; and if your budget allows, even a 4K display for a more detailed work.
Colour Accuracy: Providing accurate colors is essential, so consider a laptop with IPS technology (for better viewing angles) and good color coverage (like AdobeRGB or sRGB).
Storage: As a graphic designer, files could be huge, so consider a laptop with high storage capacity or options to upgrade. Additionally, pay attention to the type of drive. Most modern laptops now feature SSD instead of an HDD anyway but it’s worth double-checking, as they're faster and more reliable.
Connectivity: You'll need a good number of ports to connect your peripherals and any displays. The key ports to look out for are USB-C / USB 3.0, USB-A, HDMI, and an SD card slot. If the laptop doesn’t have all of these ports, you will need to purchase and use an adaptor.
Operating System: This choice often comes down to personal preference and needs. Many designers prefer MacOS for its robust performance and slick design, but Windows has improved dramatically, and several Windows laptops are excellent for graphics work.
With these in mind, you can better decide which laptop is best for you. Now onto our recommendations!
1. Apple 16" MacBook Pro - M2 Pro
The MacBook Pro has long been a go-to laptop for creative professionals. It's known for its brilliant display and performance, along with a long and reliable lifespan. The latest models feature the new Apple M2 chip, elevating the performance beyond what's been experienced in the past. Inside the 16" MacBook Pro (M2 Pro), the chip contains a lightning fast 12-core CPU which crushes the most graphics-heavy workflows, delivering more power and efficiency to push the boundaries of creativity.
Along with excellent performance, the MacBook Pro M2 Pro has a glorious display, with Extreme Dynamic Range to deliver true-to-life colours and incredible contrast. It has a wide colour gamut covering 100% of the sRGB space and 99% of the DCI-P3 space. It also has an impressive battery life that delivers up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing. All of this in a sleek lightweight body, making it a great laptop for those who want to design on the go, without sacrificing power or performance!
2. ASUS ProArt Studiobook 16" OLED
Designed to take on content creation with total ease, ASUS's ProArt Studiobook 16 OLED will blast through your creative workflow and be a highly reliable sidekick for all of your creative projects. Whether you're a digital artist, video editor, or dabble with animation and game development, the ProArt Studiobook 16 has all the horsepower you need to take your creations to the next level. With this power house by your side, you can enjoy desktop-grade performance wherever you are.
It's powered by an unstoppable 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13980HX processor, 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card, and 64GB of DDR5 RAM, easily tackling the most demanding applications. Boasting an unmatched 24 cores for seamless multithreading performance, a Turbo Boost speed reaching up to 5.6 GHz, and a 100 W maximum TDP, it makes light work of handling CPU-intensive tasks. A whopping 2TB of SSD storage gives you plenty of space for all of your photo, video and design files. The 16" 3.2K OLED HDR6 touch display is Pantone Validated, features a 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut, and supports Dolby Vision HDR.
Stepping your workflow experience up a notch is a haptic touchpad, touchpad stylus support, and an ASUS dial. The ASUS Dial is an intuitive physical controller that gives you instant and precise fingertip control over parameters in your creative apps. You can easily change brush size, or rapidly undo actions to make your creative workflow smoother. It's fully customisable and works with a wide range of apps!
3. ASUS Zenbook Pro 16X OLED
Next up, we have another powerful laptop from ASUS that was designed for creators! While this one has slightly lower specs than the Strix SCAR 16, that doesn't mean it's lacking. The Zenbook Pro 16X OLED is powered by a 12th Gen Intel i7-12700H processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, delivering fantastic performance that is capable of handling any creative task you throw its way. It packs 16GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD which ensures there are no memory or storage bottlenecks to slow your creativity down. The display is a 16" 4K UHD OLED NanoEdge touchscreen display with stylus support and features 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut, Pantone Validation, DisplyHDR and Dolby Vision.
Since creative work can be quite demanding, the Zenbook Pro 16X has a AAS Ultra mechanism which raises the rear of the keyboard up, positioning it in a way that enhances cooling by allowing 30% more airflow. This, along with ASUS's IceCool Pro cooling system, results in the CPU and GPU running more optimally, reaching up to an 140 W combined TDP in performance mode without throttling, and can run quieter than 40 dB in Standard mode.
4. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
The Surface Laptop Studio (Intel Core i7 version) is the most powerful Surface laptop available and Microsoft's alternative to the MacBook Pro. With a 14.4-inch display, it's best suited for photography, graphics, and design work (video editors and animators may prefer a larger screen). The PixelSense Flow touch display will come in ultra handy for illustrators and designers, allowing you to draw or illustrate without the need for a graphics tablet. In the colour space, Microsoft promises true-to-life colour and contrast and individual testing shows 100% sRGB colour accuracy and 87% DCI-P3.
Alongside incredible performance - thanks to a quad-core Intel i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU - the Laptop Studio offers fantastic flexibility thanks to its 2-in-1 design that allows you to use it like a laptop, tablet, or with a tilted screen. You can also expect up to 19 hours battery life offering plenty of power to do your work on the go!
5. ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED
If you're after a more affordable option, the ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED is a great choice and it was created with content creators in mind. Perfect for creatives who need power and performance without breaking the bank, this laptop comes fitted with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics and 16 GB of RAM to give you the horsepower needed for your graphic design projects. Additionally, the GPU provides hardware-accelerated ray tracing an AI capabilities to render quicker, broadcast cleaner, and edit videos better.
It sports a super bright 15.6" OLED 2.8K NanonEdge display, along with a 133% sRGB and 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut delivering vivid, accurate colours. It's also Pantone Validated for professional-grade colour accuracy. Being an OLED display, you can also expect better detail, brightness and contrast, and colour quality compared to conventional LCD displays. There are a few other additions ASUS has made to really enhance the final form of this laptop, including Audio by Harman Kardon, Wi-Fi 6 support, ClearVoice, plenty of I/O ports, fantastic cooling, and a beautiful design to really seal the deal. All coming packaged in an extremely lightweight, 1.65 kg laptop!
Frequently Asked Questions
What laptop specifications do I need for graphic design?
For graphic design, it's important to have a laptop with a good processor, such as Apple M2, an Intel Core i5, i7, or AMD equivalent for handling complex tasks. A minimum of 8GB of RAM is advisable, though 16GB would be ideal for professional graphic applications and even 32GB if your budget allows. Storage with at least a 256GB SSD is recommended due to their speed and efficiency. A dedicated graphics card can aid with tasks like 3D rendering. Regarding the display, aim for at least a Full HD resolution, though 2K (QHD) or 4K is optimal for detailed work.
Can you be a graphic designer with just a laptop?
Yes, you can certainly be a graphic designer with just a laptop. Modern laptops, especially high-performance ones, have the necessary processing power, memory, and graphics capabilities to handle graphic design software such as Adobe Creative Suite. Moreover, they offer the advantage of portability, allowing you to work from any location. However, some designers also choose to enhance their setup with additional tools like an external monitor for a larger workspace, a mouse for precision, and a drawing tablet for digital sketching. But these are not strictly necessary to begin with and you can certainly start your graphic design career with just a laptop.
Is Mac or Windows better for graphic design?
Both MacOS and Windows operating systems have strong offerings for graphic design. The choice largely depends on personal preference and specific use cases. MacOS is often praised for its smooth performance, fantastic retina display, excellent color reproduction, and the seamless integration between software and hardware. Apple also has a strong reputation for reliability and longevity. Windows, on the other hand, provides a wider range of hardware options across many manufacturers, often at more budget-friendly prices. It's compatible with a broad range of software and is usually more customizable. Key software for graphic designers, such as Adobe Creative Suite, works well on both platforms. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your budget, software requirements, and personal preference.
How much RAM do graphic designers need?
For graphic design, a minimum of 8GB of RAM is typically recommended to run basic design applications. However, if you're working on more complex projects, using multi-layered files, 3D graphics, or high-resolution images, you might require more. In such cases, 16GB of RAM is a safer choice. For highly professional work or for those who multitask with multiple heavy applications simultaneously, 32GB might be required. It's essential to remember that more RAM allows for smoother performance and better handling of multiple tasks, such as running design software while having many browser tabs open.