The job of graphics design happens to be tremendously demanding and relies on powerful software. Most of these types of software can only be properly installed and run on in powerful systems, which are typically desktop computers. However, with the latest of powerful processors and graphics cards being used on mobile devices, it has led to the emergence of laptops, which are very powerful in terms of processing, on the current market. Most of the powerful machines are often thought of a strictly gaming laptops, but the software and tasks required by a graphic designer often require similar high-end features found on a gaming laptop. Some of the best laptops for graphic design should possess the quality of not only being powerful, but also portable and versatile at the same time. These laptops should have powerful components, and they must also be light enough to be carried around.
Graphic design is not something that you strictly do in your office. Sometimes, you would need to bring the work with you when you happen to be in the middle of some recreation, or resting in your home with your family. Keeping that in mind, you would need a laptop that has the processing power of a desktop, as well as contain the portability characteristics of a simple tablet. If you have your own preferences for a good lightweight laptop, it might help you in selecting the perfect device.
As of now, there are various versatile choices that have ended up becoming very well known in the recent years; current trends indicate that smart phones may be very commonly known and noticeable to the public. However, it does not in any way imply that the creators of the gadgets have backed away from the advancements in the laptop section. If anything, laptops have been able to increase their capabilities, coming up with new colors, and excellent structural designs that have been brought to the table. When you combine these features with excellent smaller cooling alternatives, along with top-quality slender looking hard drives, the notebooks still happen to be extraordinary and good enough for every assignment. They can handle a lot of crucial things in regards to the graphics design field. Not to mention that these features have now been making their way into some of the best high-performance laptops. These features will need to be considered in order for a laptop to stand out in a selection.
In this complete guide for the best laptops for graphic design, we highlight some of the important features to consider before making a purchase. This is then followed by in-depth reviews of some of our favorite laptops for beginning or advanced graphic designers.
Best Laptop for Graphic Design Complete Guide
Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition VN7-792G-797V 17.3-inch Full HD Notebook (Intel Core i7-6700HQ,16GB, 1TB, Windows 10 Home)
Apple MacBook Pro MJLT2LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop with Retina Display (512 GB)
Samsung NP900X5L-K02US Notebook 9 15" Laptop
If you are an amateur in purchasing a personal computer, always remember that one of the most critical aspects for a decent computer is RAM. You should start low at about 4 GB and move higher. The higher you go, the more capacity storage you will have while working in your graphic designs. Most graphics design software need a lot of RAM, and heaps of it. So, begin your search by looking at the new DDR3 2133, which typically goes for the same asking price as the DDR3 1600. However, going lower than that is not recommended. This kind of RAM is a consideration most of the gaming laptops have taken into play also. It is the memory that has been used repeatedly to store any kind of temporary work like graphic design, which is often done through software like Adobe Photoshop and others. At the very least, you would need an 8 GB RAM; however, it is best to go with 16 GB. This is an area which you cannot afford saving money.
If the laptop is to be used purely for the purposes of graphic design and visual rendering, then you can do with a less costly video card, something which is impossible for a gamer. Spend the money you can save on the video card to getting a better and higher configuration RAM.
If you are just looking to create 2-D work, then you can easily save money by not going for a high-end graphics card. The only difference that you get with a high-end graphics card is a humongous amount of detail in terms of 3-D modeling without any kind of lag. In terms of laptop comparisons given below, when there is a mention of a mid-range graphics card, it means that it is a graphics card suitable for 3-D work with a large number of polygons located in wireframe mode, and it may lag when it comes to the textured board reviewed. Going for a high-end graphics card ensures you can handle the 3-D texture scenes and move around without any lag. One of the very best graphics cards in this field happens to be the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780. It has a 3 GB VRAM and a 980 MHz base clock which is quite good in terms of visual settings which can be turned to the maximum. If you are looking for the best budget laptop, then having the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 may be your best bet.
Core i5 vs. Core i7
The existence of Hyper-Threading technology on Core i5 and i7 is evident. It is this technology that can significantly improve the performance of your laptop when heavy work is done. In other words, you can run several applications at the same time, and get the best performance from your laptop. While the Core i5 can easily put up with various applications running on the same time without causing any glitches or lag, the Core i7 offers a better performance and an even faster processing speed. The Core i7 has been built keeping graphics design in mind, and it will demand that your laptop performs at its best at all times. Therefore, Core i7 is among the best CPUs available in the market, and can undertake a wonderful job in terms of speed, graphic design, photo editing, video editing, music production, and color accuracy, as well as in its great overall performance. If you happen to be a professional designer, then the Core i7 should be your companion.
In the last few years, high-end laptops have gotten progressively lighter, and the batteries can take on a lot more strains over a certain amount of time. This has led to the laptops becoming more versatile, which is entertaining of course. If you are conducting graphics design in an office or probably in a home setting, then portability is a must. Since you are purchasing a laptop, portability should be a concern. If you happen to bring your laptop around various places, then it is better to get a lighter one. However, in terms of performance, you have to remember that performance laptops are not going to be extremely light.
Screen Size and Resolution
Depending upon the kind of graphics design that you do, the image quality happens to be crucial for you, more than for a gamer. IPS screens are superior screens for laptops in adherence to such quality. The screen size, as well as the resolution will be affecting the productivity of your work. Going for a 1920 x 1080 resolution will provide you with an ample space for working, and it will be able to show you the necessary features in your screen. The next consideration should be the size of the screen. A larger screen will enable you to witness the details clearer; however, that depends upon the resolution as well. It makes it easier for you to click on the control palettes and the menu options. On a safety side, going for a 15 inch screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution should be a good bet.
For a graphics designer, you need enough space to work. If you go for a tablet with a 13 inch screen, you will not make use of it for long. Instead, go for a screen size of 15 inches or even better, 17 inches for a laptop. Nowadays, there are various screens which are able to offer a higher resolution than 1080p. For example, the 4K screens have 3840 by 2160 pixel resolution. However, if you want a higher resolution, always make sure that you have pertinent software that can be used as support to the interface. Conduct the appropriate research first. It is obviously the best to go for an IPS panel screen that comes with the best viewing angle. To make matters simpler, you would be able to see the same color in the screen, irrespective of the angle of your screen. For some of the laptop comparisons given below, there is no mention of IPS, which simply means that there is no information in regards to the type of panel.
One of the most important things that you need to know, is what kind of operating system you will be using, Mac or Windows. Most applications are not cross-platform. That means that software like Autodesk or 3-D Mark can only be run on Windows. However, most of the Adobe applications, including Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop can be supported by both Windows and Mac. For those making use of Adobe Photoshop, you have to know that the Chrome operating system does not support this software, which makes it an immense turnoff for various graphic designers. Windows and Apple operating systems does support the software, which means that these two happen to be one of the most preferred operating systems among graphics designers. However, other software like Pixlr Touch UP, Magisto and WeVideo can be used on the Chrome operating system.
The flaws with the chrome operating system do not only end with the Adobe compatibility. Chrome computers don’t have enough hard drive space compared to the Windows and Mac computers. As an example, the HP chrome book 14 only has about 16 GB of local storage, and an additional 15 GB as free cloud storage by Google. However, you can get access to hundreds GBs of free cloud storage for two years, but after that you would need to pay for the services. In contrast, most Windows laptops come with 500 GB or more in hard drive capabilities and an additional 15 GB as OneDrive cloud storage options.
For the casual users, and the ones not interested in graphics design, chrome operating system would be just fine. For professionals, a Windows or an Apple operating system laptop happens to be a must, considering that you would keep thousands of photos and videos on your hard drive.
It is a well-known fact that graphical applications can be very intensive on the processor, and hence, use up a lot of battery power. That’s why it is always good to have a laptop which contains a long-lasting battery, but in reality, you would most often be keeping it plugged into a power supply.
Should You Upgrade Your Existing Setup?
Before thinking about upgrading, it is always important to evaluate what you are using Photoshop for. Is it something professional? Do you think that a faster laptop will make you more money, by being more efficient? What is the total sum you are willing to invest, keeping the above considerations in mind? When you mention your budget, you would potentially get more specific responses and results as to whether you need to upgrade or not.
Firstly, Photoshop is a hog for memory. So, you would want to put as much RAM as you can on your laptop. This should be your first priority. Photoshop constantly requires a lot of data, which is to be stored in the RAM. Since the RAM happens to be the fastest storage unit for the computer, you need to have a lot of space if you happen to be working with big files. For instance, I have 16 GB of 1666 MHz RAM which is still installed on my system, and there are still recovering memory errors happening (however, there are 60 to 80 chrome tabs open plus music playing at all times). It typically depends on the size of the file that you’re working with, as well. If you have Photoshop documents that do not exceed the 1 to 1.5 GB size, then you do not need anything more than 8 to 16 GB of RAM. Although, upgrading to 16 GB should be easy enough, knowing that RAM is extremely cheap to procure.
Always make sure that you have a 64 bit operating system that can make use of a 64 bit Photoshop, otherwise it is absolutely no use of including more RAM (since 32 bit operating systems use a maximum of 4 GB RAM, irrespective of the amount in your computer). In the performance tab located in the preferences in Photoshop, you can see the percentage of the physical RAM your Photoshop can make use of. You can set yours to 80%, so Photoshop can use a maximum of 12.8 GB RAM. If it requires more, it makes use of the scratch disk, which in your case can be the hard disk or the SSD. The next option is the scratch disk. You need to have the option set up in the Photoshop. The scratch disk acts as the RAM, when you run out of memory. So, it would benefit you a lot if you install the SSD along with the HDD. By installing Photoshop on the SSD, you can open up the application within one second.
However, if you want to make use of the SSD only for Photoshop, going for 128 GB should be fine. There are many people who simply choose SSD for using Photoshop. SSD is one of the best things that you can purchase for your system. It provides a wonderful boost to your system’s performance. If there is only one thing you would need to upgrade, is the SSD. Another important thing to upgrade so you can use Photoshop flawlessly in your system, is the CPU. It is CPU’s job to handle most of the things located within the system. Neglecting this, even if you improve the RAM and the SSD, you would only nullify the performance, and bottleneck everything in regards to Photoshop. So, if you happen to be a multi-tasker, going for a good CPU should help you out a lot. However, keep in mind that most of the CPUs are expensive, so only upgrade them if you have money left after you upgrade your RAM and SSD.
Lastly, go for the GPU. There are various industry grade GPUs which are available in the market, and they are much more expensive than the consumer level GPUs. Personally, if you’re not into 3-D modeling, then do not go for the industry grade GPUs, as the benefits that you get for using it do not justify the cost for only using Photoshop. If you are planning on upgrading the GPU, always make sure to purchase the OpenCL capability GPU. It does not require any CUDA core, and it comes with Mercury engine with CS6 which contains OpenGL and OpenCL, so a simple Nvidia card with CUDA is not required.
As for the question whether you need to upgrade – it depends upon the amount of patience that you have. With the previous setup, if only painting a brush stroke, would take about three minutes to register on the screen, with the current setup of 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 770 M GPU, i7 4700M MQ processor, you will opens up Photoshop within a second, and everything will be very fast. Going back to the previous setup is a strict no-no. You also need to keep in mind that the system should be balanced enough. Simply going for 32 GB RAM along with 512 SSD is not going to help you if you do not upgrade your CPU. Even if you have a great CPU that comes with 32 GB RAM, it would not help you much if you do not upgrade the storage to the SSD. And, it would be overkill if you go with the same GPU that you have right now, as it would only leave you frustrated when you plan on using the computer for Photoshop purposes.
Best Laptops for Graphic Design Reviews
1. Acer Aspire V17 Review
By common outlook, the V17 Nitro only happens to be a bigger version of the Black V15 edition. It makes use of the same design, material, as well as build. However, the overall weight has grown with a slight increase in size, which is 3.1 kg. Interestingly enough, the 17 inch model also happens to be a bit heavier and thicker than the last year’s version. In contrast to the smaller version which trimmed down precious few millimeters, and went light compared to the predecessor, the V17 Nitro is actually going the other way around. However, a small increase in weight is negligible.
It normally comes with an aluminum base, which is fused with soft rubberized plastic, making use of the Nano imprint lithography process. It is this particular base which provides the grip and the rigidity needed during travel. Also, the lid is extremely stiffer than before, and the area located in between the hinges is not as flexible as you would want. More so, the hinges are not tightly pulled, so opening the notebook with a single hand is much easier. This is a very small, but wonderful improvement. Coming to the bottom piece, it features the same lithography material, but it comes without any strides in the bottom. Noticing the silicone legs, you would also find a vent located in that region for the extra airflow, as well as the loudspeakers which are to be found in the front.
The Acer Aspire V17 Nitro provides 17.3 inch IPS panel with 1920 by 1080 resolution with an aspect ratio of 16:9, along with a pixel pitch of 0.199 X0.199 and a pixel density of 127 ppi. The panel has been expertly manufactured by Au Optronics, and has a model number B173HAN01.0. When viewed from a certain distance equal or greater than 69 cm it can also be considered similar to a Retina display. As this happens to be an IPS panel, you get good viewing angles, even from a 45° incline.
Just to make sure you understand the introduction, let’s have a look at the sRGB and the Adobe RGB color gamuts. According to the CIE 1976 uniform chromaticity diagram, which represents the spectrum of colors visible to the human eye, it can give you a better perception of the color accuracy and coverage. Located inside the black triangle, you can see a whole standard of colors, known as sRGB, which are used by companies integrating HDTVs. As for the Adobe RGB, it can be working with professional cameras, as well as monitors when you are preparing the print. Basically, the colors which are located inside the black triangle are to be used by everyone, so reproducing it accurately provides a good indication of a quality display.
We have tested the display by making use of 24 commonly used sample colors like the blue sky, skin tone, orange, grass, etc. The DeltaE average 2000 is equal to 0.64 after calibration – it means that it has accurate color reproduction. The contrast ratio is 1310:1 before and 1270:1 after the calibration. The results are excellent. Even we were surprised that the panel does not make use of PWM in order to adjust the brightness of the screen. It means that it will not cause any kind of eye fatigue, even to people who have sensitive eyes. The notebook comes with a great panel that not only offers excellent image quality, but it is also user-friendly, and suitable for people with sensitive eyes. This happens mainly due to no screen flickering across the brightness levels. The panel also ensures that you can deal with comfortable viewing angles, high contrast ratio, bright screen and wide range of colors. The results from the test certainly suggest that it would be better to opt for the 17 inch Aspire Nitro Black edition, simply because it offers a better screen quality compared to the 15 inch version.
Just like the predecessor, the latest V17 Nitro Black Edition provides excellent sound quality. There is a provision of 4 loudspeakers in the laptop which can produce excellent sound with a frequency ranging from + -6 dB. This can be further optimized with the presence of the Dolby audio software along with some presets provided in the laptop. The notebook also contains a pre-installed Windows 10, 64 bit version.
Intel Core i7-6700 HQ, which represents the SkyLake family of high-performance chips introduced in this machine. Although this seems to be a step down from its predecessor, it certainly matches the short lived Core i7-5700HQ predecessor. This processor comes with 4 cores, which is constantly at 2.6 GHz, but can be overclocked to 3.5 GHz with one active core, and 3.1 GHz with four active cores. This silicon chip also supports hyper-threading technology that emulates one virtual core for each physical core, thereby establishing a total of eight threads.
The chip is manufactured by making use of the latest FinFET process and it also integrates the Intel HD graphics 530 GPU, that can be clocked at 350 -1050 MHz. This memory controller also supports up to 64 GB of DDR3 RAM or DDR4 RAM at 1600 or 2133 MHz respectively. The CBO can be used for heavy computing applications like gaming and graphics design. The GeForce GTX 960M (2GB GDDR5) is a high-end graphics card, and is mostly used in gaming laptops. It also happens to be a staple part of the Maxwell family of GPU. It comes with 640 CUDA core, and has 2GB of dedicated VRAM. The GTX 960 M makes use of the same GM 107 GPU core which is to be seen in the last year’s 860 M, but it has been mainly included in order to improve the battery life of the notebook, while adding some performance, and not causing extra issues. However, the GM 107 has been clocking higher than last year’s model. It also provides for a supporter of 2048 x 1536 in terms of display resolution through the VGA port for the laptop.
Just like before, the latest V17 Nitro Black Edition is always a great value for the asking price. It is extremely thin, relatively light, and contains a great amount of value in aspect of the keyboards with a few setbacks. Coming at a competitive pricing in terms of hardware and with future room for upgrades, like the replacement of the optical drive, or going for inserting an SSD stick for speedy transfer, this is still a worthy product to purchase.
2. Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Review
The latest MacBook comes with an innovative Force touch trackpad which can perform a lot of commands with a pressure-sensitive touch. It also comes with the optional AMD Radeon R9M 370 X GPU, which, according to Apple, can deliver up to 80 times the performance of the last graphical interface model. Apart from all the changes, you also get the same core i7 processor with a very slim and robust design, along with the very gorgeous retina display which has become a standard for most of the professional laptops from Apple.
The latest 15 inch MacBook Pro comes with a retina display identical to that of the last model, and comes with the very same aluminum chassis along with the black bordered design that has become a staple part of the high-end notebooks by Apple. The MacBook Pro continues to be one of those seamless notebooks that come with two subtle speakers, along with the signature Chiclet keyboard. The underside comes with a lot of noticeable events, namely the iconic logo which is found on the lid.
Measuring 14.13 x 9.73 x 0.71 inches and weighing only 4.49 pounds, the MacBook Pro is known to be pretty easy to carry, and should slide right in to pretty much any backpack. The laptop is gorgeous. It has 15.4 inch screen along with a resolution of 2880 x 1800 which is impressive the second you open up the laptop. The screen would practically be bursting with colors. The MacBook Pro has a wonderful display interface, registering 303 nits on the brightness test. Noticeably outshines the MSI WS 60 (216 nits) and the 254 nits average notebooks. The MacBook Pro is also capable of rendering a staggering 86% of the sRGB color gamut. The clear speakers of Grace can be loud enough to fill a small meeting room. You can hear the sounds and the bass also rocking.
The presence of the new 4 by 3 inch trackpad does not come with the physical click feature, but instead makes use of force sensors in order to simulate the sensation. One of the main benefits is the ability to perform a click, which can activate special functions when you press extra hard on the keypad. The feature of force click allows for new pressure sensitive commands; it enables people to fast forward through videos in the QuickTime video player, depending upon how hard you press it. This can also by applied by pressing the touchpad in order to zoom in and out from maps.
The latest MacBook Pro retains all the satisfying factors, particularly the island keys, along with a very handy function row that comes with the adjustable features of brightness, as well as volume, and enables you to boggle the music playback too. The MacBook Pro sports two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port, two thunderbolt 2 ports, and an SDXC card slot. The thunderbolt ports enable you to undertake superfast file transfers. Even though there is no Haswell processor, the MacBook Pro comes equipped with 2.5 GHz, 4th generation Intel Core i7 processors along with 16 GB RAM, ensuring a very fast performance. You can easily multitask, and not witness any kind of slowdown in the process of doing so.
Apple ensures that there would be a better flash performance with this new MacBook Pro, in the form of PCIe flash storage, and the MacBook Pro has been able to deliver in that front. With our review unit, we have been able to witness a file transfer of 4.97 GB on the 512 GB SSD at a ridiculous speed of eight seconds, with a transfer rate of 636 Mb per second. This kind of flash storage is definitely for the future. The new MacBook Pro’s flash performance certainly cruises through the speed tests, and is much better than the previous year’s 256 GB SSD.
Coming with an AMD Radeon R9M 370 X GPU, the latest 15 inch MacBook Pro has been designed to deliver at least 50 times the graphics performance of the last year’s model. A lower configuration with integrated Intel Iris pro graphics is also available. However, the AMD powered unit does not disappoint; 3-D titles can be easily previewed without dropping any frame. It only took about seven minutes to analyze and convert one 1080p video of one minute and 47 seconds making use of optical flow. Even the hardware intensive Final Cut Pro performs to the best of its abilities with this laptop.
The cooling factor of the MacBook Pro is evident from the Guest conductor. After streaming through 15 minutes of HD video, the touchpad of the notebook released about 74°F, while the center of the keyboard in the underside came to 85°. The hottest spot in the laptop was in the monitor hinge at about 88°. It is way lower than the safety factor of 95° comfort threshold for any laptop tests conducted. Still, if you are worried about overheating you might want to invest in a high-end laptop cooler. The new MacBook Pro has been built to deliver at least nine hours of battery life, and upon further tests conducted, the notebook provided nine hours and eight minutes of continuous Web surfing over the Wi-Fi.
This edition of the 15 inch MacBook Pro with retina display has a slim interface, a gorgeous -looking screen, while also gains a lot of new upgrades. The new Optima AMD Radeon R9M 370 X GPU along with the improved flash storage and a host of other features like the force touch trackpad allow for new and exciting ventures for people using the MacBook Pro. An extra half hour of battery life added over the last year’s model also certainly adds to the importance of this new product. If you would want to go for an Apple product, then the latest 15 inch MacBook Pro is certainly the best in the market.
3. Samsung Notebook 9 (15-inch) Review
The 15 inch Samsung notebook 9 is the perfect example of having a bigger screen in a very small body. It also comes power packed with the latest Intel core i7 processor, 256 GB SSD, and 8 GB of RAM, which is reasonable given the price of this configuration.
The display is a non-touch variant HD, with a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. For some extra money, you can get the 4K resolution touch version. You have to note in the beginning that the Samsung Notebook 9 is not the lightest in the market, and it does not have the nearly all looking features of edge-to-edge screen of the XPS 15. Neither does it have the multi-touch trackpad of the MacBook Pro. However, for a 15 inch laptop, it has an excellent battery, which is 2nd only to the MacBook. It is well-built, robust, and the lower resolution of 1080p version is tested, which makes the laptop provide a picture that is clear, very bright and sharp, even from uncomfortable angles.
Although, there is a certain bit of flattery towards the MacBook in the overall design, brought down to the island style keyboard that can sync behind the wrist rest, the keys are on the shallow side. But merely not as much to the extent of the 12 inch MacBook. The best feature is the glass touchpad, which is much better than most of the touchpads on the other non-Apple laptops. A 2 finger swipe can be easily done. It is one of the better Windows laptops in the market.
In a slim laptop, ports and connections are always going to be a problem. However, in the Samsung Notebook 9, there is a good balance of 2 standard type A USB ports, one HDMI output, one single USB -C port, along with one microSD card slot, and a micro-port with optional Ethernet dongle. In the future, date and video charging and sharing can be done through the USB-C port, but we’re still not there. The present lineup of the Intel Core I-Series processors is known as the 6th generation, which is also codenamed the SkyLake. There happens to be a good amount of differences between the lower end “U” chips that have been used here and in most of the other slim laptops, in contrast to the most powerful HQ versions that are mostly used in the XPS 15 and in the MacBook Pro. However, t does not push for a 4K touch display. In terms of battery life and performance, there is much robust in using most of the local applications like Microsoft Office, Photoshop or even cloud-based applications like Gmail or Netflix.
One of the pleasant facts about the Samsung Notebook 9 was the battery life, which lasted 7 hours 10 minutes in the online streaming video playback test. This is only 2nd to the 15 inch MacBook Pro in the recent review of the slim laptop section. However, based on experience, if you trade for the 4K screen option, then it would have a big impact on the battery life of the Samsung Notebook 9. This notebook isn’t the fastest or even the lightest, nor does it contain the best battery life, and the configuration is also missing a variety of premium options. Starting from the backlit keyboard to a touchscreen, a lot of bells and whistles seem to be missing. So, if you need a laptop that is competent, as well as practical, without the thought of being exciting, then this is the choice for you.