Best Laptop for Graphic Design in 2021

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Table of Contents

Introduction

The best laptop for graphic design is a combination of fast storage, abundant memory, brilliant, true colors, and a bright display that never lets you down. Most importantly, it also means a powerful CPU that keeps everything running super smooth no matter what you decide to create. As a graphic designer, as someone who creates designs and puts final touches on an artistic expression, a responsive workstation is a must-have.

But before we dive right in, let’s take a quick look at what makes the best graphic design laptop:

OS

The world of graphic designing works on two operating systems. Those who follow the MacOS and those who refuse to migrate and stay with Windows. Whichever you choose, its best to go for the option that you are the most familiar with, as this will be a huge factor in your productivity.

CPU

But what does matter is the power of the CPU. Of all the modern CPUs Apple M1 is miles ahead. What we have seen with the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro the M1 chip takes laptop processing power to a completely different level. 

On the Intel side, the Core i9 Processor is a great processor to have on your laptop. Even the Intel Core i7 processor is also a good CPU to work with, provided you have sufficient memory and fast SSD storage.

RAM

16 GB of RAM is the basic standard these days and you don’t have to be a gamer to wield that much memory. You need this if you are a graphic designer and want to run multiple applications on your laptop at the same time. The extra amount of RAM helps you to run your applications smoothly. You need these when running more than one application. An example is when you have just finished your basic edits in Adobe Lightroom and want to transfer the image from Lightroom to Photoshop.

GPU

Unlike popular belief, a faster GPU does make some difference when working with graphics applications, especially Adobe Photoshop. The reason is there are a bunch of tools in Adobe Photoshop that can leverage the power of a fast GPU. Add to that the fact that some tools in Photoshop won’t even work without a GPU. Notwithstanding, photoshop is not an application that utilizes a GPU in its entirety. So too high a GPU is also not necessary.

Storage

There are two major types of hard drives that are popular at this time. HDD and SSD. The latter being the faster one. If you are a graphic designer, you have got to go for an SSD. 

Display

We love the MacBook Pro’s Retina Display. There is very little that comes close to this in terms of viewing quality. Yes, when we talk about Retina Display we have to take into consideration what Apple thinks is the best in terms of the size of the display. So, the actual resolution kind of changes with the size of the display. But mostly that is 264 pixels-per-inch (PPI).

Then there are some laptops, like the Dell XPS 15.6 that we have listed here, that comes with a higher PPI than what Apple’s Retina Display offers.

Does it make sense to go for a higher resolution than Retina Display? Well, to some extent your images are going to appear sharper. But then adding more resolution does not add to the viewing experience. It is only going to hog more power and more graphics. So, we would say Apple’s Retina Display is the perfect synergy of viewing quality and savings in power and graphics.

Before we begin, we’ve also got guides covering the best laptops for animation. Check it out if you want to learn more.

Also Read : Best Laptop for Animation

The Best Laptops for Graphic Design

Apple MacBook Pro with M1 Chip

Processor and GPU

If you are looking for the best laptop for graphic design your search ends right here. The highly anticipated M1 chip is the major USP of this 2021 laptop. This is an 8-Core design, designed to make any workload appear trivial. 

The 16-Core neural engine design is rated to execute a mind boggling 11 trillion operations per second.

This is paired with the CPU is an 8-Core GPU – the most advanced GPU that Apple has built to date. And that says a lot.

Internal Memory & Storage

The M1 chip comes with 16GB of unified memory. For graphic designing 16 GB is just about enough. But this is a MacBook powered by an M1 chip that we are talking about and suddenly that 16 GB does not sound too ordinary.

Storage on the M1 powered MacBook is a maximum of 2TB.

Display

The Macbook Pro comes with Apple’s signature 13-inch Retina display. Powered by P3 wide colors and True Tone technology for more vibrant colors, this is one of the best displays available on any laptop.

Battery backup

One issue the MacBook never had to worry about is the power backup. The latest MacBook Pro is not going to break that chain either. With 20 hours of backup power, the MacBook Pro with an M1 chip has enough juice to complete a rigorous day of designing at the office without you ever having to reach out for the charger. This also happens to be the longest battery life yet on a MacBook.

Pros

  • Up to 5x the graphics speed-enhancing your work experience as a graphic designer.
  • Up to 2.8x faster CPU performance allowing you to render your work quicker and complete demanding tasks faster than the competition.
  • Retina display
  • Incredible 20 hours of power backup.
  • 500 nits of brightness.

Cons

  • A 13-inch display isn’t the most optimum when you think of designing stuff.
  • Now user-configurable memory upgrades. Now that the entire system is just one single SoC (System on Chip).

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (Second)

If you don’t like the 13-inch M1 powered MacBook Pro, you can always opt for the 16-inch Intel version. We would recommend you wait for a few days when Apple does launch the 16-inch M1 version of the MacBook Pro. Whenever that happens. But if you need a 16-inch upgrade right now, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is a great option.

Processor and GPU

There are two versions of this laptop. One is powered by a 9th Generation Intel Core i9 processor and the other is powered by an Intel Core i7 chip. Each configuration comes with a different GPU. But we love the i9 version and this one comes with an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M Graphics with GDDR6 memory. It also comes with an Intel UHD Graphics 630.

Internal Memory & Storage

Storage on the MacBook Pro is a 1TB SSD unit. Though you can have it customized up to a maximum of 8 TB. The same way memory on the unit can be 16 GB up to 64 GB. DDR4 and 2666MHz.

Display

About the display, the main reason why we recommend this, even though the 16-inch M1 chip powered unit might just be around the corner (and there is also talk of a 14-inch MacBook Pro in 2014).

Anyways, the 16-inch MacBook Pro will hold its own, so far as display is concerned. It comes with Apple’s formidable Retina display. Plus, it has True Tone technology, the same as the newest MacBook Pro (discussed above as our pick). For graphic design, this is the best display combination (size, resolution, and brightness).

Battery backup

Battery life on the MacBook Pro 16-inch is a respectable 11-hours.

Pros

  • 9th Gen Intel Core i9 processor
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory
  • Large 16-inch Retina display.

Cons

  • At 2 kilos the MacBook Pro is heavy.

Dell XPS 15.6-inch

The Dell XPS 15.6-inch has remained one of the favorite portable platforms for graphic designers. Even though Apple has come up with the M1 powered MacBook Pro, the Dell XPS 15 will appeal to users who prefer a Windows platform.

Processor and GPU

The Dell XPS is powered by a 9th Generation Intel Core i7 processor. Paired with the CPU is a GeForce GTX 1650 GPU.

Internal Memory & Storage

Internal storage on the laptop is 1 TB M.2 PCIe NVMe. The best laptops for graphic work are all powered by SSD. Internal memory includes 32 GB DDR4 SDRAM.

Display

The 15.6-inch display of the laptop offers a resolution of 4K/UHD. The bright OLED display is beautiful in one word. Maybe not as bright as the 13-inch MacBook Pro at 400-nits but the thin bezel-less design is super sleek to view and work with.

Battery backup

The laptop comes with a 6-Cell, 97 WHr, Integrated battery. Battery life is not rated.

Pros

  • 15.6-inch display with 4K/UHD display.
  • 32 GB built-in memory.
  • 1 TB SSD storage.

Cons

  • At 4.5 lbs it is a heavy laptop.

Dell XPS 17 9700 (Best 17-inch Laptop for Graphic Design)

While smaller displays are better for easy transportation, they are not the best when it comes to visual content editing. A large 17-inch display is better suited for graphic designing, photo, and video editing. That’s precisely why we like the Dell XPS 17 9700.

Processor and GPU

Powering the Dell XPS 17-inch is an Intel 10th Generation i9 processor. Paired with the processor is an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM.

Internal Memory & Storage

32GB DDR4 RAM makes up the internal memory of the laptop. Plus, you get 1 TB of M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage. With the entire storage being on SSD, you get faster performance when working with resource-hogging applications like Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop. Larger project files open up quicker and they are saved and or rendered quicker too. No wonder this is one of the best laptops for graphic design if you are interested in the Windows platform.

Display

The large 17-inch bezel-less display is one of the major USPs of the laptop. A larger display ensures that a video timeline can be seen in a big size or a large design element on photoshop can be viewed in full size. Display resolution is UHD+ (3840 x 2400).

Battery backup

It runs on a single battery pack of Lithium-Ion. Battery backup in real-life situations is decent. It is not like the battery backup of the MacBook Pro.

Pros

  • Large 17-inch bezel-less screen with a beautiful 500-nits display.
  • Display resolution is UHD+
  • 10th gen Intel Core i9 processor.
  • Love the NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU.
  • 1 TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage unit.

Cons

  • One of the heaviest laptops in the business.
  • Battery backup is decent but not the same as the MacBook Pro.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Yes, we know Microsoft has had their share of bad luck with product quality (or rather we should say lack of design foresight?) but things have taken a turn for the better. A case in point is the Microsoft Surface 3. We love the design.

Processor and GPU

We recommend that you go for the 15-inch version. This one comes in several hard drive and memory options, but we recommend the highest one. The laptop is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 Surface Edition processor. The manufacturer claims that this unit is 2x faster than the outgoing model. Graphics is powered by the AMD Radeon Vega 9.

Internal Memory & Storage

Storage on the laptop is 256GB of SSD. Internal memory consists of 16 GB RAM.

Display

The display of the 15-inch laptop is 2496 x 1664 pixels.

Battery backup

Battery backup on the laptop is a decent 11.5 hours. Not the same as you would expect from a MacBook Pro but decent enough to last an entire workday. Actual battery backup in the real-life situation will vary and some users have reported just 6 hours.

Pros

  • Comes preloaded with your favorite Windows 10 Home version.
  • Comes with 2 USB 3.0 ports for extended connectivity of devices.
  • Thin, sleek design.

Cons

  • Build quality is much better than before but still not the best in the business. 

Final thoughts

Graphic designing is a resource-heavy job and graphic designers require a laptop that can handle the most complicated applications smoothly without a hiccup. The primary requirement is a fast processor. In that sense, the Apple M1 chip is years ahead of the competition. They make the best laptop for graphic design. Add to that the breathtaking Retina Display of Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro and you don’t need to look any further. That said, if you are invested in the Windows environment, you will probably be looking to upgrade but stay in the same ecosystem. For you a fast Intel or AMD powered laptop with loads of memory and fast SSD storage is the right way to go.

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