The 8 Best Laptops for Graphic Design in 2020

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The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
Introduction

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The Rundown
"This model features an improved Retina display with P3 color gamut calibration for more accurate colors, making it perfect for illustrators and animators."
"The HP Spectre x360 sports a 4K UHD display with AMOLED technology for incredible color range and detailing so every aspect of your art comes to life."
"The Lenovo ThinkPad P14s gives you a truly impressive 15+ hours of use on a single charge, as well as support for USB-C Quick Charging so you can get up to 80 percent battery in just an hour of charging."
"With a price tag that sits under $800, even the most financially-conscious buys can make it fit their budgets."
Best Mid-Range Option:
Apple MacBook Air 13 at Amazon
"This laptop retails for under $1,000, making it a less expensive option than its big brother, the MacBook Pro, but the price-point doesn't skimp out on features."
"he Microsoft Surface Pro X is just over 11 inches wide and weighs just under 2 lbs."
Best for Illustrators and Animators:
Acer ConceptD 7 at Amazon
"This laptop features a 15-inch, 4K UHD display that gives you 100 percent Adobe RGB color gamuts and is Pantone validated for color accuracy for incredible paintings, drawings, and video."
"It's built on an Intel core i7-10875H, 8-Core CPU that can be overclocked to 5.1GHz for incredible processing power."

Graphic designers and digital artists have very specific needs when it comes to choosing a laptop to work on, and the best graphic design laptops give you a balance between processing power, graphics capabilities, and battery life. Some models prioritize battery life, sacrificing a bit of CPU power in order to give you a full work day of use on a full charge. Others make graphics and the CPU a top priority so you can tackle everything from sketching concept art and painting backgrounds to rendering 3D models and rigging animation skeletons. While laptops still lag behind desktops somewhat when it comes to power and storage, they're perfect for freelance and contract workers who need a portable computer to take to client meetings or shared workspaces. 

If you need a multi-monitor setup, many modern laptops feature DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB-C inputs to connect external monitors for when you need to pull up reference images or do research while you work on a project. When it comes to storage, some manufacturers allow you to drop in your own hard drives or solid state drives as your needs change, while others allow you to configure builds with SSDs up to 8TB so you can anticipate future needs. There are many factors to consider when shopping for a new graphic design laptop, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed or spoiled for choice. We've gathered our top picks from trusted brands like Razer, Apple, and HP to help you decide which best suits your needs.

Best Overall: Apple MacBook Pro (16-Inch)

What We Like
  • Supports dual 6K external monitors

  • 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports

  • Great battery

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Not user upgradable

Creative professionals know that Apple laptops dominate the market when it comes to graphic design capabilities, and the new 16-inch MacBook Pro is no exception. This model features an improved Retina display with P3 color gamut calibration for more accurate colors, making it perfect for illustrators and animators. It also has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, allowing you to quickly transfer data between computers and storage devices, use wired peripherals, or connect up to two 6K displays for when you need to multitask or prefer a multi-monitor setup. The keyboard sports a touch bar for setting up custom shortcuts as well as a fingerprint reader for password-free log-ins and extra security for purchases. 

The MacBook Pro is built with either an Intel Core i7 or i9 processors and up to 64GB of RAM to give you all the processing power you need to edit videos, render 3D images, or create digital paintings and drawings; with up to 8TB of storage in an ultra-fast solid state drive, you'll never have to worry about running out of space for your raw files and finished pieces. With built-in security and encryption, you can rest assured that your work and personal information will be safe from unauthorized access and theft. The battery gives you up to 11 hours of use on a single charge so you can work all day without needing to plug into a wall outlet.

Best Display: HP Spectre x360 15

What We Like
  • 4K AMOLED display

  • Fast charge battery

  • Stylus included

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Expensive

  • Not many inputs

Whether you're an illustrator, 3D modeller, or animator, your laptop's display is an important part of making sure your art looks its best. The HP Spectre x360 sports a 4K UHD display with AMOLED technology for incredible color range and detailing so every aspect of your art comes to life. The laptop uses a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD to give you all the power and space you need to create videos, photographs, and digital paintings. With an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics card, you won't have to worry about overtaxing your CPU in order to get the best images possible. The Spectre x360 has an infrared camera that works with Windows Hello and a fingerprint reader to give you extra layers of security to protect your personal information and creative work. The laptop also has Alexa and Cortana virtual assistants built in so you can use voice commands to set calendar events, reminders, alarms, and even have hands-free control over your laptop when you need it. 

This laptop has a 2-in-1 form factor so you can use it as a traditional laptop while editing videos or setting up animation rigs, or as a tablet for easier drawing and digital painting; it also comes with a stylus pen for more natural note taking and sketching. The battery gives you almost 8 hours of use on a full charge, and supports USB-C fast charging to give you 50 percent battery in just 30 minutes. This is perfect for topping up your battery on your lunch or while you're in a meeting to make sure you have enough power to get through your work day.

Best Battery Life: Lenovo 14" ThinkPad P14s

What We Like
  • Excellent battery life

  • LTE capable

  • User upgradable

What We Don't Like
  • Not 4K

Along with storage disk space, battery life is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a new laptop. The Lenovo ThinkPad P14s gives you a truly impressive 15+ hours of use on a single charge, as well as support for USB-C Quick Charging so you can get up to 80 percent battery in just an hour of charging. This is perfect for long work days and topping up your battery on your lunch break, in a meeting, or a quick plug-in during a project. Along with remarkable battery life, the chassis of the P14s is tested against 12 points of military specifications for durability and water/dust proofing; so if your workspace is in a traditional office or an experimental outdoor area, this laptop can handle moisture, dirt, and extreme temperatures. If you travel a lot for work, you can take advantage of the SIM card slot for LTE cellular data access when a Wi-Fi network is unavailable or unreliable; this makes it easy to still email art samples and updates to clients or upload work when you're away from the office. 

It also supports Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi 6 for incredibly fast internet speeds for working with video. An integrated fingerprint reader, encryption chip, and infrared camera work together to give you extra layers of security to keep your work and personal data safe. The laptop is built with a 10th gen Intel Core i7 CPU and an Nvidia Quadro P520 graphics card to give you all the power you need to render video and 3D model files and animate. The 256GB SSD can be replaced whenever you need to expand your raw file storage. Along with plenty of USB 3.2 and USB-C ports, you can use Bluetooth to connect wireless peripherals and mobile devices for more efficient file transfers and multitasking.

Best Budget: Lenovo Yoga C640

What We Like
  • Aluminum chassis

  • 2-in-1

  • Under $800

What We Don't Like
  • No Stylus included

  • Limited inputs

  •  Not user upgradable

Laptops meant for creative professionals can be quite expensive. Fortunately, the Lenovo Yoga C640 offers itself as a more affordable option than its competitors. With a price tag that sits under $800, even the most financially-conscious buys can make it fit their budgets. It features a 2-in-1 form factor that lets you use it as a traditional laptop or as a tablet for more natural drawing and note-taking with available styluses. The 13-inch display gives you 1080p resolution for great detailing and color and supports touch inputs so you can zoom, swipe, and rotate your images and canvas for enhanced control over your art. 

With a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, integrated graphics, and a 512GB SSD, you'll have plenty of power and space to take on almost any project. The body of the laptop is made of aluminum to give it a premium feel without weighing it down, and the battery gives you up to 12 hours of use on a single charge so you can work all day, worry-free. The USB-C port allows you to connect an external display when you need to multitask or if you prefer a multi-monitor setup. A fingerprint reader lets you log into your accounts without passwords and gives you extra security for sensitive work projects and personal data. 

Best Mid-Range Option: Apple MacBook Air 13

What We Like
  • Under $1000

  • Siri voice commands

  • Good battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Not user upgradable

  • Not 4K

  • Limited inputs

For those looking for a solid graphic design laptop that won't break the bank, but also don't want to limit themselves to budget options, the MacBook Air is a solid, mid-grade choice. This laptop retails for under $1,000, making it a less expensive option than its big brother, the MacBook Pro, but the price-point doesn't skimp out on features. The laptop is built with a 10th generation Intel Core i3 CPU and integrated Intel Iris Plus graphics for plenty of power to draw, paint, and edit video files; the 256GB SSD gives you plenty of storage for raw files and faster, more reliable access to programs and files when you need them. The 13-inch display uses Apple's Retina Display technology for enhanced color ranges, detailing, and brightness. 

The two Thunderbolt 3 inputs allow you to quickly transfer files or connect external displays for a multi-monitor setup. The built-in microphone gives you access to Siri so you can search, set calendar events and reminders, or open apps with just a word. The keyboard has a fingerprint reader so you can set up Touch ID similar to an iPhone or iPad for an extra layer of security when logging into apps and accounts or making purchases. The battery gives you up to 11 hours of life on a full charge, so you can work all day before needing to plug in. The laptop comes in gold, silver, or space gray so it can blend into your office decor or show off your personal style.

Best Lightweight: Microsoft Surface Pro X

What We Like
  • Keyboard and stylus included

  • Incredibly compact and lightweight

  • LTE capable

What We Don't Like
  • Not 4K

  • Expensive

If your office is wherever you happen to be that day, you need a laptop that can easily travel with you. The Microsoft Surface Pro X is just over 11 inches wide and weighs just under 2 lbs, making it incredibly easy to slip into a tote bag or backpack to take with you to an in-office meeting, coffee meetings with clients, or working lunches. The incredibly thin bezel allows the Surface Pro X to fit a 13-inch FHD display into the 11-inch body, giving you a truly edge-to-edge picture that's perfect for detailed drawing, painting, and photo editing. An ambient light sensor monitors the environment and automatically adjusts brightness and display settings to give you the best viewing angles and experience possible. The Surface Pro X comes with the Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen for seamless transitions between laptop, studio, and tablet modes when your work requires different configurations. 

The Slim Pen stores and charges inside the keyboard to keep all your accessories in one place for easy access; the Surface Pro X is also compatible with the Surface Dial to allow for quick transitions between color pallets, drawing tools, and shortcuts in programs like Windows Ink and Adobe Photoshop. The 1080p webcam uses infrared sensors to work with Windows Hello for facial recognition log-ins to programs and accounts to protect your projects and personal data. Along with reliable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, you can use a SIM card with the Surface Pro X to get LTE cellular data so you can access the internet when a Wi-Fi network isn't available. The Surface Pro X is powered by a Qualcomm SQ1 processor and uses a 256GB SSD to give you fast and reliable access to apps and files. Two USB-C ports let you quickly transfer files, charge devices, or connect external displays. The integrated battery gives you up to 13 hours of use on a full charge, letting you work almost two typical shifts before needing to plug in.

Best for Illustrators and Animators: Acer ConceptD 7

What We Like
  • 4K

  • Pantone validated color accuracy

  • Excellent GPU

What We Don't Like
  • Not touchscreen

  • Only 1 thunderbolt 3 port

For digital illustrators and animators, the Acer ConceptD 7 is the best laptop available for their line of work. This laptop features a 15-inch, 4K UHD display that gives you 100 percent Adobe RGB color gamuts and is Pantone validated for color accuracy for incredible paintings, drawings, and video. It's powered by an Intel Core i7-8750H processor and an 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card to give you all the power you need to render 3D models or animation and create stunning digital art. With 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, you'll have tons of memory and storage space to tackle any creative project as well as faster, more reliable access to your most-used programs and files. 

The Acer ConceptD 7 uses Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity that allows you to use wireless peripherals like Cintiq drawing pads, mice, and keyboards; this eliminates desk clutter from tangled cords and makes it easier to configure your desk space to suit your workflow. If you prefer wired peripherals or use external memory storage, the laptop has three USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and an HDMI input to connect an external display. With the Windows 10 operating system, you'll get access to Cortana to search, add calendar events, set reminders, and even open apps and programs with just a word; perfect for when you can't tab out of a program or prefer voice commands over peripheral inputs. The battery gives you up to 8 hours of use on a full charge, so you can work all day without needing to stay near wall outlets. 

Best Processor: Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

What We Like
  • K OLED display

  • Touchscreen

  • Excellent graphics

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Very expensive

Graphic designers and digital artists know that their work demands peak performance and tons of power from their computers. Fortunately, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is able to deliver. It's built on an Intel core i7-10875H, 8-Core CPU that can be overclocked to 5.1GHz for incredible processing power. And when coupled with the Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU, the only limits this laptop has are the ones set by your imagination. However, all of this power comes at a cost; the battery gives you about 6 hours of use on a full charge, meaning you'll have to stick close to outlets to get through a typical work day. The chassis is made out of CNC machined aluminum for strength and durability while remaining lightweight, and the incredibly thin bezels allow the laptop to fit a 15-inch screen into a 14-inch form body. 

The display uses OLED technology to give you stunning 4K UHD resolution and color accuracy, and touch input capabilities allow you to zoom, swipe, and position your canvas as you need to; it also has a 1ms response time, which is great news for anyone who uses a stylus to draw. To keep everything running at optimal temperatures, this laptop uses a vapor chamber to give you all the benefits of liquid cooling without any of the bulk. The Razer Blade 5 Studio comes with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, but as your needs change, you can add more memory as storage. It also has plenty of inputs to connect peripherals and external displays for a custom workstation; it also uses USB-C charging to quickly top up your battery when you need power in a pinch. 

Final Verdict

Apple has been a top name in graphic design computers for years, and the MacBook Pro 16 is no exception. You can configure a build with up to 64GB of RAM and an SSD up to 8TB to suit current and future needs, and with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, you can connect up to two 6K external displays for when you need to multitask. If raw power is what you need, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is the only option. This laptop is built with an exceptionally powerful 8-core Intel Core i7-10875H CPU and Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 graphics card so you can tackle everything from simple sketches to fully rendered and animated 3D videos. It comes with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, but you can change out these components yourself if your requirements change in the future. 

About Our Trusted Experts:

Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for Lifewire, Digital Trends, TechRadar and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.