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Best Laptops for Graphic Design : A Guide for Freelancers & Students

When you’re in the middle of a graphic design or web project that is already going to take a while, the last thing you want to deal with is your Photoshop or Dreamweaver freezing up every 15 minutes. It’s also a hassle when you have to limit how many tabs or programs you have open because you know one too many can cause problems. As a graphic or web designer who relies on your laptop as your key tool, you want things to run smoothly. For all of these reasons, I decided to come up with a quick post on the best laptops for graphic design, whether a student or a professional freelancer.

From my college days of getting a “back to school laptop” every few years to freelancing in-house occasionally for various agencies now, I’ve been through my share of computers.  My favorite was an older iMac (around a 2010 model) that mimicked the ones my university had, but it began to overheat and instead of getting it fixed, I opted to invest in a MacBook for the portability, which I highly recommend if you have a choice between desktop and laptop. Although Apple computers are more in sync with my iPhone, other than that, I’m not a fan of the “cool kid” hype that implies you have to have a Mac. It was really isolating for me during graphic design hangouts in college when I had only whatever Acer or HP my mom could afford to get me that year. So, I decided to break down the laptop specifications that matter for designers. That way, you can focus on those and pick the brand of your choice.

WHAT SPECIFICATIONS MAKE THE BEST LAPTOPS FOR GRAPHIC DESIGN?

ram

Breakdown | RAM is pretty much the memory that your laptop uses to run its operating system, applications, and active data files. The more RAM you have, the more your laptop’s speed is improved and the more applications it can run at once.

What I recommend | 6GB+

Why? | Most laptops on average these days come with 4GB of RAM, which is okay and can definitely be used for graphic design or web design easily in some conditions. However, if you’re like me, running multiple strong programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc) at once, you may need to take it up a notch!

hard drive size

Breakdown | The size of your hard drive is the capacity for storing all files, pics, videos, music, etc. on your laptop!

What I Recommend | 500GB+

Why? | Hey, you’re going to be storing a lot of stuff on this thing! Unlike regular users, you’ll be saving a lot of large graphic design process file types such as PSD or AI. Not to mention still wanting to store music and photos like everyone else.

screen size

Breakdown | The size of your laptop’s display in inches.

What I Recommend  | 15 inches+

Why? | Well, when it comes to your laptop for graphic design, actually being able to see what you’re working on is pretty important! Being used to over 20″ on my iMac, any laptop will be slightly downsizing, but that’s just fine! I recommend the 15.6″ or 17.3″ models, but if you go for the 17″, remember that it’ll be large and may not fit easily into some bags!

processor + speed

Breakdown | Your laptop’s processor (or, CPU) is pretty much the brain of your computer. It’s responsible for processing information! With that said, it’s speed is how quickly it processes that info and carries out instructions!

What I Recommend | Intel or AMD Processors with speeds of 2.0Ghz or better!

Why? | These are the most popular and tried processors, and are found in PCs and Macs. A speed of 2.0Ghz is quick enough to handle your workload and is a student laptops’ requirement of most graphic design programs.


Speaking of graphic design programs, a lot of school’s these days (have the nerve to) require that you have a MacBook or a super high power PC. As a former college student that lived the broke life, it sucks. But, they’re simply preparing you for the graphic design field and being able to work with the most popular operating systems and tools. I get it. In these cases, be sure to check with your program for a list of requirements. I love the way that UNL broke it down here. Their list may also help you with some of the specs I didn’t dive into.

Anywho, without further adieu, here are my 5 picks for the best laptops for graphic design. By “best”, I mean what meet the specifications I listed above and also have 4.5-5 star ratings!  Prices may vary from the original price listed depending on store sales and offers, but if they’re much higher than my estimate price in the stores you find, shop elsewhere!

  1. Apple 15″ MacBook Pro Notebook Computer | around $2000+ here and here
  2. HP – 2-in-1 15.6″ Touch-Screen Laptop – Intel Core i7 – 16GB Memory – 1TB Hard Drive | around $829 here

  3. HP 17-BS011DX Pavilion 17.3″ Laptop | around $599 here
  4. ASUS  ROG GL502VM 15.6″ Laptop | around $1249 here
  5. Lenovo Flex  Convertible 15.6″ Notebook | around $600 here

I understand that these aren’t cheap, but they’re your most important investment in the graphic or web design field! As a tip, if these prices are too steep for you, try going down to options with 4GB of RAM and just making sure all of the other specifications are met!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! What kind of laptop do you currently have? Any awesome suggestions for the best laptops for graphic design? Leave a comment!

xoxo, Lindsey

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