Laptop being used for graphic design in Photoshop

11 Best Laptops for Graphic Design [Updated 2019]

If you’ve decided on a laptop rather than a desktop, you need to know exactly what you’re after. You’re looking for a lean, lightweight computer that can handle Photoshop and 100 Chrome tabs without a hitch. And, of course, you want the freedom to move around as you create, but without compromising on specs or quality.

The best laptops for graphic design all have solid battery life and crisp, beautiful graphics. But to stay on top of your game, you need more than that.

For example, every graphic designer requires a responsive mouse and touchpad for precision work. But some laptops also come with special tools such as dials or touch bars. Depending on your personal style, these may seem superfluous, or they could open your eyes to new possibilities.

If you’re looking for a laptop that fits the conflicting demands of the job, one of these might be right for you. Note that we included different screen sizes in our list. If you really need a big screen, you can always hook up your laptop to a good monitor.

1. Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

Here is the top-of-the-line Dell XPS with incredible graphics. It’s an excellent choice for video editing because of the Dell Cinema feature. Since this is a 2-in-1 model, you can flip the keyboard around the back and use it as a tablet.

Features

This convertible laptop comes with a 15.6-inch touch display. The 4K Ultra HD screen has an exceptionally thin bezel. Vivid graphics are the standard these days, but the precision offered by this Dell stands out. The display comes with 1500:1 contrast ratio. Due to the intense brightness levels, you can use this laptop outdoors, and the viewing angle is as wide as it can be.

The laptop is easy to carry and use. It comes with an ultra-thin keyboard that uses magnets, resulting in a smooth typing experience. It also boasts a practical design with four ports, including two Thunderbolt 3 ports with up to 40Gbps transfer speed.

If you’re a stylus user, this laptop is a great option for you. The Dell Premium Active Pen offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. As it’s tilt-sensitive, this stylus is an excellent option for shading. It also doesn’t lag and it’s comfortable to hold.

Pros

  • Bright, realistic colors and deep blacks
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports and two USB Type-C ports
  • High-quality security system
  • Recyclable parts and an eco-conscious design

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • The Active Pen costs extra

Who Is It for?

If you’re looking for a sturdy convertible laptop with the latest processors, consider the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1.

2. Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Broadly speaking, graphic designers prefer to use Apple products. All historically significant graphic design apps were designed for Mac. That’s mostly due to the more predictable color reproduction, but Apple’s Support functions and superior security measures are also part of the appeal for creatives.

If you’re hoping to find a Mac that will match your workflow perfectly, consider the MacBook Pro. This laptop comes with both 13-inch and 15-inch screens. In this review, we’ll look at the 15-inch version.

Features:

This laptop comes with touch ID. If you’re worried about protecting your confidential data, the MacBook Pro can set your mind at ease. The innovative Apple security chip provides you with encrypted storage capabilities.

But it’s the Touch Bar that makes it really stand out. This bar replaces the function keys on your keyboard. Instead, it lets you change the brightness on your screen and browse through content in a new way. Easier to adapt and use than you might think, the Touch Bar will speed up your work process in no time.

Pros:

  • Excellent graphics – Retina display with True Tone
  • Large and sensitive touchpad
  • Exceptionally quiet keyboard
  • Thorough but comprehensible security measures

Cons:

  • A major investment
  • No SD card slot

Who Is It Good for?

The Touch Bar makes this Mac especially appealing, and it’s also a good option for anyone who is concerned with data privacy.

3. Dell XPS 13 (9380)

If you demand an even more portable flagship laptop, take this 13-inch Dell into account. It is a top-notch laptop that you can get for a reasonable price (for the base model).

Features:

The newest Dell XPS 13 comes with a few remarkable improvements. It is an excellent choice for digital nomads due to the lightweight and utilitarian design. But the 9380 is more comfortable to use than its predecessors, and it offers a display of 13.3 inches that reaches the edges of the screen. It’s the same InfinityEdge screen that Dell introduced two generations ago, but now the resolution goes up to 4K.

This laptop can support a vivid palette of colors and offers a high contrast ratio. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth investing in a touch display, which raises the price of this laptop by approximately $400.

But the most important innovation is the webcam. In this model, the camera got moved to the top side of the screen, and it also became smaller, with a quality four-element lens. This alone may be worth the upgrade if you own an older XPS 13 with the quirky camera on the bottom left.

Pros:

  • Widescreen HD (720p) web camera
  • Affordable base model to start
  • Up to 12 hours battery life
  • Weighs as little as 2.7lbs

Cons:

  • Limited number of ports – which is the case for all Ultrabooks
  • Opting for a higher resolution reduces the battery life dramatically

Who Is It for?

If using a webcam is a part of your process, this laptop might be a great option for you. Its portability is another huge plus.

4. Acer Spin 5

If you have a passion for clever design choices, the Acer Spin 5 is worth taking into consideration. This convertible laptop comes with a dual torque hinge. You can use it as a sketch pad or set it up vertically for comfortable video viewing.

Features:

This laptop is a good choice if you have a limited budget. Investing in the Acer Active Stylus is a good idea, as this laptop is fairly responsive and doesn’t tend to lag. The touchpad is responsive and easy to use as well.

The display options for this laptop are more than satisfying. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor on a 13.3” FHD IPS display. If music is a significant part of your creative process, this is definitely an excellent option to consider. It offers clear an immersive sound in any mode you choose.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Great sound quality
  • Very responsive to the stylus

Cons:

  • The advertised battery life of 13 hours is for the lowest brightness level
  • A lack of connectivity options

Who Is It for?

We recommend this laptop to beginners who want an affordable but flexible laptop with sharp graphics.

5. Microsoft Surface Book 2

Here’s Microsoft’s most popular convertible laptop. You can flip your laptop around and use it as a tablet, and you can also detach the screen if you want to view videos.

Features:

This laptop is designed to support the most demanding graphics software packages. For example, you can use it to easily perform complex tasks in Adobe Premiere Pro or Autodesk Revit. If you also use Office extensively, this is the ideal laptop for you.

This model comes with a Surface Dial. With the Dial, you get an easier way to interact with your software, and it lets you store and reimagine the tools that you use in your designing process. If you’re open to experimentation, give the Dial a try.

Note that this laptop comes in two different sizes. The 13.3-inch Surface Book 2 is an excellent option for shoppers on a tight budget. But if you can make the extra investment, go for the 15-inch version instead, as it comes with a touchscreen function and enhanced color quality.

Pros:

  • Battery lasts up to 17 hours of video playback
  • Gorgeous graphics
  • You can use the Surface Dial to add a boost to your work

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Outdated chassis design

Who Is It for?

The Surface Book 2 is an incredibly powerful laptop that offers various innovations and an immersive design experience.

6. Lenovo Yoga C930

Lenovo’s latest Ultrabook is sleek and practical. It’s an excellent all-purpose laptop with a few extra features that make it particularly interesting to graphic designers.

Features:

The Lenovo Yoga C930 is designed with ease of use in mind, and it comes with a number of practical innovations that make your job easier.

For example, this laptop is a great option for users who worry about protecting their privacy in the era of webcams. The laptop comes with a privacy shutter. If you need to use your webcam, you can open the shutter, but our advice is to keep it closed the rest of the time.

Additionally, there’s an opening on the chassis where you can store the digital pen. This pen is included along with the laptop, and it’s equipped with 4096 pressure sensitivity points. Using it is a real pleasure, and you can rest easy knowing you won’t leave it behind.

Pros:

  • Dolby Vision ensures bright colors and strong contrast
  • Responsive digital pen and a place to store it
  • 8th generation Intel Core processor
  • Thunderbolt 3 ports

Cons:

  • Glitchy fingerprint scanning system
  • Battery life lower than average – doesn’t go beyond 6 hours with extensive use

Who Is It for?

If you prefer to use a laptop while working at home or in the office, try this Lenovo. As long as regular charging is possible, the Yoga C930 can provide you with everything you need to complete your projects.

7. Apple MacBook Air

Apple redesigned the MacBook Air and equipped it with a dazzling Retina display. No longer a stepchild, it became an instant success among creatives.

Features:

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use laptop with stunning graphics, consider the MacBook Air. It offers a resolution of 2500×1600, featuring 4 million pixels on a 13.3-inch screen.

Apple promises 48% more color than the previous model. For graphic designers who use a wide range of colors, this Mac is a great option. The trackpad is large and responsive, and the keyboard is particularly easy to use.

Pros:

  • 12-hour battery life
  • Intuitive and efficient security measures
  • Large trackpad
  • Weighs only 2.75lbs
  • Made with 100% recycled aluminum

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Limited storage options
  • No Touch Bar

Who Is It for?

This Mac is entirely environmentally-friendly, so if ethical product choices are important to you, why not go for the Air?

8. Samsung Notebook 9 Pen

If you’re looking for an all-purpose laptop that offers fast charging, consider this Samsung. It comes with a 360-degree touchscreen, which you can use as a tablet.

Features:

The Samsung Notebook 9 Pen is a lightweight laptop, weighing around 2 lbs. To make sure it stays charged throughout the day, you can invest in a USB-C battery pack and charge your laptop while you’re on the move.

The best feature is perhaps the S Pen. You can use this stylus to jot down notes and sketches while you’re brainstorming. But it’s also comfortable to use and a good choice for precision work.

Pros:

  • The S Pen is designed with graphic design in mind
  • Great processing power (8-core processor)
  • LED backlighting for working at night
  • Lightweight design

Cons:

  • The keyboard isn’t sturdy enough for intense use
  • Lower battery life than other Samsung Notebooks

Who Is It Good for?

Graphic designers who like working anywhere might enjoy using this lightweight Samsung. It’s also a good choice for you if you are on the hunt for a high-quality stylus and a laptop that can keep up with it.

9. Dell XPS 15

Here’s a robust Dell laptop that is perfect for 3D graphic design.

Features:

Like with the Dell XPS 13, there are various configurations that you can choose from when you’re considering a Dell XPS 15. The base model is available for less than $1k, but you can choose to upgrade the processor or to an SSD. Fully loaded, it offers 512GB SSD and comes with an 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8750H Processor.

The graphics on this laptop are also up to you. The most expensive version of the XPS 15 comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti video card with 4GB GDDR5. For designers who plan to use 3D rendering, this is the best option.

The laptop is user-friendly as well. While the chassis is the familiar Ultrabook 15 by Intel, you don’t have to worry about overheating or any other design flaw.

Pros:

  • Great graphics
  • The battery life can reach 12 hours
  • Comes with a Thunderbolt 3 port

Cons:

  • The webcam is placed at the bottom left of the screen

Who Is It Good for?

If you’re looking for a powerhouse of a laptop, this one can be the best choice for you. At the same time, you can get the base XPS 15 for a relatively low price, and its performance will still be satisfactory.

10. Apple MacBook

The MacBook is one of the most elegant laptop models out there, and its ultra-thin design makes it perfect for artists on the move. If portability is a priority for you, take this laptop into consideration.

Features

Like other Macs, this laptop boasts a battery life of ten hours. Apple uses terraced battery cells to fill all of the space inside of the chassis. This keeps the design exceptionally thin – the thickness of the MacBook is only 13.1mm.

It’s easy and comfortable to use this MacBook in any circumstances. Its weight is around 2lbs, which is impressive considering the 12-inch display. The keyboard uses a butterfly mechanism, which makes the keys lighter and more responsive, and you’ll enjoy the way the keys bounce back when you type. The MacBook’s trackpad comes with a pressure-sensing function that helps make drawing feel more intuitive.

The 2304×1440p Retina display guarantees engaging, clear images. In spite of its lean design, this laptop can keep up with intense multitasking.

Pros:

  • Noiseless due to the innovative heat dispersion
  • Great battery life
  • Ultra-lightweight design (2lbs)
  • Pleasant to use

Cons:

  • Only one USB-C port and no Thunderbolt port
  • Relatively pricey
  • Small screen size

Who Is It For?

Anyone who needs a lithe, elegant laptop will love the MacBook. In particular, it is an excellent choice for graphic designers who spend a lot of time typing. Both the keyboard and the trackpad are user-friendly.

11. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Let’s end the lineup with an affordable Microsoft 2-in-1 laptop.

Features:

The Surface Pro 6 offers both a tablet mode and a studio mode. You can set any angle for the screen and use the Surface Pen to create art, or you can opt for Microsoft’s Surface Dial instead. Note that both these accessories are sold separately. If you’re looking for ways to change and improve your work, trying out a new tool might be your best option.

The graphics offered by the Surface Pro 6 are impressive, as you get a resolution of 2736 x 1824 and a crisp color palette. This laptop is equipped with two front-facing and one rear-facing camera, and the portability makes it a good choice for photographers.

Pros:

  • Extremely lightweight, starting from 1.7lbs
  • Up to 13.5 hours battery life
  • Works with both the Surface Pen and Surface Dial
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • No Thunderbolt or USB-C port
  • No HDMI port

Who Is It Good for?

If you don’t mind the limited connectivity options, the Surface Pro 6 is a sophisticated choice. It’s perfect for adventurous graphic designers who are looking for a durable and extremely versatile laptop.

A Final Thought

Choosing your tools is an important part of your work as a graphic designer. It’s frustrating and demotivating to work with subpar hardware that isn’t good enough to capture your vision.

Even if you’re only getting started with graphic design work, you should invest in a laptop that fits your every need. Fortunately, there are some budget options that come with stunning displays and sensitive touchpads. Your options become more varied when you have a higher budget at your disposal.

However, there is no single laptop that fits everyone’s needs. For example, some users require excellent connectivity options. Others need an anti-glare and super bright screen that makes it possible to work outdoors. Quality webcams are a must for some, while some designers require excellent audio playback.

In addition to whatever extras you care about the most, it’s always important to study the basic specs before you make your purchase. In this competitive field, using a slow or glitchy laptop means falling behind and losing valuable opportunities. Don’t forget to take note of the battery life too, especially if you tend to move around a lot.

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Staff Writer DLC

Daily Logo Challenge staff writers focus on creating in-depth guides focusing on mastery of design and development. Let us know what you think in the comments section above.