The right laptop for graphic design work boils down to combination of must-have hardware specifications and components, and a few user preferences. There are hundreds of different laptops for business available on this site, so making a choice daunts even experienced techies. Here we’ll sort through system requirements and specs ideal for pros engaged in design work on a laptop.
Our five picks couple the right hardware with ideal extras and peripherals for designers. For this we’re considering design work on popular professional graphics design applications—Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator) and CorelDraw Graphics Suite. Below we list considerations for the major components inside a laptop for design work.
Which CPU works best for graphic design work?
The CPU is the most important component for professionals engaged in design work. If you\’re working in 2D programs like Photoshop, a CPU that runs at a higher frequency yields performance gains. If your work requires you to run several programs at once, having more than four processor cores helps. A budget model laptop for graphic design will have an Intel Core i5 CPU. You will realize performance benefits with an Intel Core i7 processor. The latter is a must if want to edit video or run 3D modeling applications as these tend to utilize 4- and 6-core processors.
Do you need a powerful graphics card for design?
It seems counter-intuitive, but you do not need a super powerful gaming graphics card for design work. Graphics cards for gaming are designed to process high-resolution images dozens of times per second. When you\’re editing photos, you work with one or a few static images at a time. However, for advanced color correction, computers used in professional design do benefit from a workstation graphics card — like a NVIDIA Quadro P600, P1000 or P2000. Note the amount of RAM onboard the graphics card. It should at least 2 GB to experiment with the full range of visuals Creative Cloud.
How much RAM is appropriate for graphic design?
Having enough random access memory (RAM) is important for designers who work with large files. If you do graphic design for print collateral, the high-resolution images you work with might be 1 GB or larger. Working on files of that size in a program like Adobe InDesign or After Effects, your system will benefit from 16 GB of RAM or more. Since RAM is so closely tied to performance, and relatively inexpensive to upgrade, you routinely find professional designers using laptops with 32 GB of RAM on board.
How much storage should a laptop for design work have?
Since designers work with large files, a large capacity hard drive makes a lot of sense. You want a laptop with 500 GB of disk space, in total, at minimum. We highly recommend solid state drive (SSD) storage for design work. You find that programs open faster, a reduction in load time especially for large files, and better overall system responsiveness. A laptop that uses a hybrid storage setup, with one hard disk drive (HDD) and one SSD built in, is a viable option as well. You would install the operating system, web browsers, and design programs onto the SSD along with any frequently accessed files. The HDD would store less frequently accessed files and any archival materials or projects.
What type of laptop display is best for graphic design work?
A full high-definition (FHD) screen or better (QHD or 4K) is requisite for graphic design work. Designers tend to opt for a larger screen due to the nature of the work they do. A medium-size screen (14 inches to 15.6 inches) typifies the low end of their preferences. Above all, professional designers need laptops with exceptional color accuracy. For that, LCD displays with in-plane switching (IPS) panels have distinct advantage over twisted nematic (TN) screens. IPS displays colors more consistently at different viewing angles. TN displays are comparatively limited in color reproduction.
Our picks: Five great laptops for pro designers
Lenovo ThinkPad P1
PNY PREVAILPRO P3000
HP ZBook 15v G5
Apple MacBook Pro
Display: 15.4″ Retina Display
CPU: Intel Core i7 2.20 GHz
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X GPU / 4GB GGDR5
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
Storage: 256 GB SSD / 256 GB HDD
Dimensions: 13.8 x 0.6 x 9.5″ / 35.1 x 1.5 x 24.1 cm @ 4 lbs.
OS: Mac OS X v10.13 High Sierra
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