Are you a graphics designer creating popping web content? Or are you an artist who loves to draw masterpieces? Gone are the days when making art is solely through pencils and brushes. Now, there are digital versions that allow you to widen your creative horizons. The best laptop for artists will run these applications smoothly given the proper configurations.
Graphic designers, on the other hand, need an optimal graphics processing unit (GPU) power. There are some specs boxes we need to tick here to get the best-performing portable computer. This is especially true if your talent is also your livelihood.
Be it for artists or graphics designers, here are some of the specifications that you need to look for a laptop.
What do I need for a laptop?
As a graphics designer or artist, you’ll need memory power, both in the hard drive, RAM, and VRAM aspects. For sure, you’ll use applications like Adobe Creative Suite, AutoDesk Sketchbook, Palettes Pro, and more. These all eat large memory space during operation. And if you can’t feed it to the software, it will crash or freeze entirely. Here are some points to keep in mind:
When it comes to laptops, there are two types of hard drives: the SSD or solid state drive and HDD or hard disk drive. HDDs are common in budget laptops. It’s made of a coated disk that spins when in use, much like a compact disc. Meanwhile, SSD is made of memory chips which don’t move. Also, SSDs are faster even if they have a smaller storage capacity.
For graphics designers, 512 GB of SSD is the best bet. Another great thing about SSDs is that it’s more durable than HDDs in the event of sudden falls or bumps from your desk. For an artist traveling regularly, an SSD is much better. It’s not the cheapest graphic design laptop but worth the investment.
As for data transfer, SSD storage is a champ. It can transfer data for as fast as 20 GBPS given impressive configurations.
But if your priority is a larger storage space, you can always find 1 TB, 2 TB, and even 4 TB SSD. However, this is very, very expensive. This is one reason why HDDs are still big players in the tech industry. Anyway, experts say that tech products tend to get cheaper as years go by.
Get at least 8 GB of RAM or higher for the best performance. If you don’t have the money to splurge on better configurations, I advise that you invest in upgradable units. Beware of sealed laptops as these can’t be upgraded in any way. Some MacBook models are notorious for this.
If you don’t need big storage, I advise that you put your money on RAM. Since this hardware handles the working memory of your laptop, you’ll need more if you’re using multiple CPU-intensive apps.
💽Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The GPU of your laptop is responsible for the rendering of 3D elements on your machine. So if you’re designing and creating graphics, it makes perfect sense that this part for the best laptop for artists. If you’re a serious graphics designer, avoid purchasing laptops that use integrated graphics cards. These are low-level hardware and usually used for general purposes.
Like modern gaming, you need the most powerful graphics possible. Although this isn’t the case for some, it’s best to invest in an advanced model. For sure, you’ll be testing new applications in the future that will require more GPU power.
The NVIDIA GTX series is a good choice as well as the AMD Radeon RX 570, AMD Radeon Pro, and the likes. As a rule of thumb, you should get at least 4 GB of GDDR memory. If you have the money, 8 GB is the best option.
💽Screen size and quality
We’re talking about visual arts here so it’s important that your laptop’s screen is no lackluster. For graphics design and other visual arts, a resolution of 1920 x 1080p is the bare minimum. Of course, 4K laptops are the best if you can afford it.
Nowadays, the cheapest graphic design laptop will use Twisted Nematic panels. However, color reproduction in this type of panel is poor and designing would be a pain. If you want a better option, opt for either VA or IPS panels. VA stands for Vertical Alignment which is notches better than the TN. But for the best option, IPS or In-Plane Switching Panels are unbeatable.
There’s also the so-called Retina which is a proprietary technology of Apple. Unlike typical panels that average 72 Pixels Per Inch (PPI), Retina has around 218-401 PPI. This makes images appear extremely sharp with much-defined details. But like any of Apple’s higher configurations, this is great if you can afford it.
This isn’t a big factor especially if you have a specific workstation. But for those who are traveling a lot, say photographers or video makers, it’s tiring to have a bulky laptop in tow. I know, MacBooks are light, but you still have other options.
I’ve seen many slim laptops before running in Windows without compromising memory performance.
For most artists, the touchscreen feature can prove to be very useful. Using a stylus, they can directly create their masterpieces without a separate drawing pad. Still, the responsiveness and accuracy of the screen are important to check.
A detachable screen is a big plus but not always the best laptop for artists. It depends on what you need and what will be convenient for you.
MAC vs. Windows
This is the which-came-first-chicken-or-egg argument of the computer industry. In their own rights, MAC and Windows are excellent operating systems. If you’re going to ask me, it’s all about familiarity. If you grew up to Windows, it would be much easier for you to use it the same way a MAC-accustomed person will find MacBooks a breeze to use.
I guess one of the defining aspects here is that MAC OS/X always comes with stunning displays and excellent memory performance. Let’s admit it, at some point, Apple has ruled our study tables and offices. It was the quintessential computer for professionals. But not anymore.
Brands like Dell, HP, Acer, Microsoft, ASUS, Lenovo, and more have revolutionized their laptop technologies. You can actually get something close to MacBooks but in the fraction of the price.
In short, the MAC vs. Windows is already an outdated argument. Choose what suits you best based on configurations – unless you want to get stuck on the petty brand war.
Not just about the laptop
As an artist or graphics designer, it’s not just about how advanced the laptop technology is. No matter how premium your machine is, it would be mediocre if your skill isn’t matched for it. Where am I getting at? If you’re planning to purchase a high-end device, take it as a challenge to learn more and improve your craft. Through this, you can maximize the features of the laptop.
But whining aside, graphics designing and other digital artwork can’t be done using a laptop alone. You need other accessories like a stylus, drawing pad or a graphics tablet. Can you imagine drawing using a mouse? Your early 2000s’ experience with MS Paint must’ve taught you enough.
A digital drawing pad or graphics tablet brings in the natural strokes you’ll do in a pen and paper. Also, it captures eye and hand coordination in real time given that your laptop has enough power. The same goes for stylus and other accessories artists use.
Best Graphic Design Laptops for 2019
Looking for the best picks? Here, we reviewed two of the leading options in the design community. Check it out:
Microsoft Surface Book 2
When it comes to design, Microsoft has gone far than any other tech brand. Proof to this is their Surface Book 2. Some say that this new edition of the Surface Book made MacBook a cheap choice. And why not? It has a myriad of features and accompanying accessories that will blow your mind.
The Surface Book 2 runs in quad-core i7 Intel with 16 GB of RAM and up to 1 TB of SSD storage. It uses an integrated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU to give you the best image quality and color reproduction through its 6 GB of GDDR capacity.
The Surface Book also boasts a 15” display equipped with a 3260 x 2160 resolution. Its PixelSense display makes it a total wonder for newbie and professional artists alike.
The Surface Book 2 is made with design in mind. This best laptop for artists actually has a detachable screen that can be used in a 360-degree mode as well. It can be used in laptop mode, tablet mode, studio mode, and view mode.
You know what makes the Surface Book 2 a must-have for designers? It has crazily long battery life. This can stretch up to 17 hours of continuous video playback. Considering that it’s very thin and very light (4.2 pounds) you’ll wonder where all the power is stored. Actually, it uses two Lithium Polymer batteries. Even if it’s light, the Surface Book 2 has a big display and an efficient cooling system.
Microsoft didn’t stop there. You can level up your designing by purchasing their exclusive accessories like the Surface Mouse, Surface Pen, and the highly-acclaimed Surface Dial.
The only caveat we have for this laptop is its small laptop and mediocre speaker. Also, it’s not the cheapest graphic design laptop.
MacBook Pro 15
Giving each other a run for their money, MacBook and Microsoft seem to be the authorities when it comes to digital design. Apple won’t be left behind, especially with their MacBook Pro 15. Their 15” laptop uses an Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, and 256 GB of SSD storage. This Pro unit has a dedicated Radeon Pro 555X GPU that has 2 GB of GDDR memory. This is smaller than what Microsoft has, but Apple isn’t done yet with its prime hardware.
The MacBook Pro 15 boasts a 2880 x 1800p resolution together with the exclusive Retina technology of Apple. Although the pixel resolution is lower than the first reviewed laptop, Retina makes images appear sharper and more defined. Personally, MacBook has one of the best displays in the laptop world.
However, as a sealed laptop, the MacBook Pro 15 can’t be upgraded; you can avail a higher configuration if you want more power.
One thing that many people dislike about MacBook is its limited ports. Like the Microsoft laptop, it only uses Type-C USB ports. It’s also a money-grab, but if you’re going to ask me, it’s worth the splurge if you are an artist.
One of the highlights of the MacBook Pro 15 is the Touch Bar on top of the keyboard. This allows you to navigate and interact with the editing apps and other functions of the device.
Compared to the previous versions of the Pro, this 15” model is considerably lighter and thinner. The chassis is also improved but still limited to the space gray skin. Also, the keyboard has become quieter and with less chance of encountering stuck keys.
The best laptop for artists and graphic designers should have powerful memory and specs tailored for the craft. Always look for a laptop that suits your needs. For example, if you draw, a touchscreen unit would be an excellent choice.
Slim pickings are also great for those who are traveling regularly. Don’t fret because you can always find all you need in small packages.