Tech

The 7 best laptops for graphic designers in 2022

Apple’s professional users — especially those working in the creative industries — have welcomed the company’s renewed focus on its professional Mac products, following the long-awaited introduction of the 2019 Mac Pro desktop and the 16-inch revamp of its flagship MacBook Pro laptop. But there’s no doubt that Apple took its eye off the ball in the Mac market while it spent years concentrating on the iPhone, and that has allowed rival PC manufacturers to capture a slice of Apple’s creative pie.

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Intel got the ball rolling back in 2018 with its Creator PC initiative, which was further boosted by Nvidia’s Studiocampaign the following year. Nvidia aimed to extend the company’s graphics technologies beyond its traditional gaming audience and into the creative industries.

 As a result, all the main PC manufacturers, including market leaders such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo, now offer extensive portfolios of laptops and desktop PCs that are specifically aimed at creative users in fields such as graphic design, photography, video editing, and animation. The involvement of Nvidia, with its RTX ray-tracing graphics technology, has also attracted gaming specialists such as Razer and Gigabyte, whose expertise with high-end gaming graphics has allowed them to design some impressively powerful laptops for professional users.

Creative users are now spoilt for choice, with dozens of laptop and desktop systems now vying for their attention. Here, we’re focusing on “creator” laptops. 

Also: Best graphic design monitors 

pros

  • Excellent display
  • Fantastic CPU performance
  • Great battery life

cons

  • An expensive option
  • New design won’t wow you

CPU: Apple M2 | GPU: M2 integrated graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256 GB SSD | Display: 13-inch Retina with True Tone 

The newest version of the Apple MacBook Pro elevates performance with Apple’s M2 Chip. This chip contains a zippy 8-core CPU, allowing you to get more work done without sacrificing in other areas.

For designers, it provides you with enhanced graphics performance. And best of all, with Unified Memory, you can run and toggle between multiple apps without a reduction in performance–a must for designers working on multiple projects concurrently.

Check out: Apple MacBook Pro review

Overall, the laptop’s performance continues to set the benchmark for creative professionals. 

pros

  • 4K display
  • Ample customization options
  • Workstation performance
  • Good connectivity

cons

  • Expensive
  • Has a 720p webcam

CPU: Up to 11th gen Intel Core i9 | GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX A4000 | RAM: Up to 64GB | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD | Display: FHD or 4K 

The ZBook is HP’s mobile workstation range, but there are several models within the range that are specifically designed for particular tasks and applications. The ZBook Fury — recently updated with this 8th generation (G8) model — is very much a top-of-the-range option, suitable for 3D graphics and visualization, game development, and 4K video editing.

HP’s website provides an almost dazzlingly wide range of customization options, including both 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch displays, but if you’re aiming for no-compromise performance then it makes sense to opt for the 17-inch model that we review here. It’s a bit of a beast, measuring 27mm thick, but it packs all the power of a high-end desktop graphics workstation.

There’s an entry-level model with i5 processor, integrated graphics, and 1080p display for around $2,300, but serious graphics and video work will require a few upgrades. You can expect to step up to $4,164.00 for a more powerful model with an 11th gen i7-11800H, Nvidia RTX A2000, full 4K display, 16GB memory, and 256GB solid-state storage. 

And, as mentioned, there’s a wide range of further upgrades also available, including i9 and Xeon processors, and up to RTX A5000 graphics. The high-quality display doesn’t cut any corners either, providing HDR400, 120Hz refresh rate for clear, sharp graphics for game developers, and DCI-P3 colour for video editing.

pros

  • Slimline, lightweight design
  • Good connectivity
  • Lots of customization options
  • Robust 17-inch display

cons

  • No audio line-in
  • Heavy power supply
  • Upgrades add weight

CPU: Intel Core i7-11850H | GPU: Nvidia RTX A2000 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 17-inch 3840×2400

Dell made quite an impact with its 17-inch Precision 5750 last year, combining impressive workstation levels of performance with a slim and (relatively) lightweight design that could go head-to-head with Apple’s revamped 16-inch MacBook Pro. As you might expect, the new Precision 5760 is this year’s follow-up, bringing new CPU and GPU upgrades, whilst still retaining the slimline profile of its predecessor — just 13.2mm thick.

There are three standard configurations on Dell’s website, although all three provide a wide range of customization options, so you can effectively build your own laptop to suit your needs. The entry-level model only costs around $2,000 but relies on an i5 processor with integrated graphics and a relatively modest 1080p display. 

Creative users will therefore probably prefer the i7 model, which steps up to an 11th gen, 8-core i7 processor, Nvidia RTX A2000 graphics, 16GB memory, and 256GB solid-state drive. That costs $3,085.75 with a UHD touch-screen display with 3840×2400 resolution (266.4dpi), which supports HDR400, Adobe RGB, and 99% of the DCI-P3 colour standard for professional-level video editing work. There are also additional options for memory and storage upgrades, as well as a choice of i9 and Xeon processors, and RTX A300 graphics.

If you want to read a more in-depth analysis of the Dell Precision 5760, you can check out our full review. 

pros

  • Competitive price
  • Wide range of customization options
  • Great connectivity

cons

  • Heavy
  • Entry-level model only has 1080p display

CPU: Intel Core i5-11500H | GPU: Nvidia T1200 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Display:  15.6-inch 1080p

Lenovo’s updated ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 isn’t as light as previous models in the range, but it provides an affordable mobile workstation for students and professional users in fields such as engineering and CAD.

The p15 Gen 2 measures 31mm at its thickest point and is probably more suited for indoor use on the desktop rather than outdoors. However, the low price and Lenovo’s wide range of customization options will still appeal to many users. There are a dozen “ready to ship” models available on Lenovo’s website, with prices starting at $1,709 with a 6-core, 11th generation Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia T1200 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. That price includes a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution, which should be adequate for 2D graphics and simple video editing. 

But you can upgrade to a 4K display for a little over $300 if you need it. Lenovo also provides a “Build your own ThinkPad” option which allows you to start with a clean slate and select all the core components yourself, including the Intel Core i7, i9, and Xeon processors and a variety of Nvidia graphics cards. There is also a high-end display option, which will set you back another $500 or so, which supports Dolby Vision and HDR500 and sports a 17-inch screen.

pros

  • Slim, lightweight design
  • Adjustable easel display
  • Solid build
  • 1600p display

cons

  • Limited customization options
  • Limited connectivity
  • Less suited for video editing

CPU: Intel core i7-11370H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Display: 14.4-inch 1600p

The Surface Book was Microsoft’s first attempt to lure creative users away from Apple, but the new Surface Laptop Studio for Business goes all-out to focus on graphics and design work.

Like other Surface models, the Laptop Studio has a convertible, 2-in-1 design that allows you to fold the screen flat so that you can use it either as a tablet or a conventional laptop. However, the screen also has an additional hinge that lets you tilt the screen like an easel; this is perfect for use with Microsoft’s Surface pen for illustration work.

The built quality is excellent, and the Laptop Studio feels very sturdy, despite its lightweight design and slimline profile. The 14.4-inch, touch-sensitive display is bright and sharp with 1600p resolution, and it is a delight to work with. However, Microsoft makes no mention of Adobe RGB or DCI-PE support, so you’ll probably still need an external display for high-end graphics or video work. And, to be fair, the Laptop Studio isn’t meant to act as a mobile workstation in the same league as some of its rivals, focusing on portability and ease of use rather than high-end performance.

Prices start at $1,700 for a model with an i5 processor and integrated Iris graphics. However, you’ll need to double that price for the top-of-the-range model that we tested which costs $3,399.99. Our testing model was outfitted with an 11th gen i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 TI graphics card, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD. Connectivity is a little disappointing, though, with just two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone socket. So Microsoft is clearly hoping you’ll pay another $260 for the additional ports provided by its Surface Dock 2.

pros

  • Attractive, slim design
  • Nvidia RTX 30 Series GPU
  • High-quality display

cons

  • Heavy
  • Limited upgrade options

CPU: Intel Core i7-12700H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti | RAM: 32 GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Display: 17-inch 1600p

Last year’s Creator 17 model with 10th gen Intel processors is still available on MSI’s website, and a few online retailers, but if you want to get bang up to date then the new Creator Z17 provides a powerful mobile workstation with a stylish design that MSI describes as “tech meets aesthetics”.

Like Apple’s MacBook range, the Creator Z17 has a ‘unibody’ design carved out of metal. It measures just 19mm thick, and its ‘lunar grey’ colouring is also designed to shimmer and change hue as the ambient light around it changes during the day. However, its 3.0Kg weight reminds you that this is a mobile workstation, rather than a stylish ultrabook.

There’s plenty of power hidden within that stylish design too. Prices for the Creator Z17 start at $3,050 for a model with a 14-core, 12th-gen i7 processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti Laptop GPU, 32GB memory, and 1TB memory. There are also upgrade options for an i9 processor and RTX 3080 graphics, but it’s a shame that all Z17 models share the same 2560×1600 display. To be fair, it’s an attractive, touch-sensitive display, with a 16:10 aspect ratio, smooth 165Hz refresh rate, and support for DCI-P3 for video editing work. It’s a shame, though, that there’s no option to upgrade to a 4K display, so high-end graphics and video work will require an external display.

pros

  • 4K display
  • Slim, lightweight design
  • Powerful, 14-core i9 processor

cons

  • Limited customization options
  • Only one Thunderbolt port

CPU: Intel Core i9-12900H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch 4K

Razer is well-known for its range of gaming gear and its popular Blade gaming laptops, but the recent move towards hybrid and remote working has encouraged it to move into the business and professional market too. Its new Razer Book laptops are an attractive convertible rival for Microsoft’s Surface range, although their integrated graphics are more suited for general office work rather than content creation. 

However, there are several models in the recently updated Blade range that will appeal to creative users. Screen sizes vary from 14.0 to 17.0 inches, but the sweet spot for creative users is probably the 15.6-inch Blade 15 (which replaces last year’s Blade 15 Studio Edition).

Described as “the world’s thinnest gaming laptop,” the Blade 15 measures just 17mm thick and weighs a highly portable 2Kg. Prices start at $1,799.99 for a model with an i7 processor and 1080p display, while a QHD display (2560×1440) steps up the price. 

The new top-of-the-range Blade 15 model pulls out all the stops, offering a 4K display with a super-smooth 144Hz refresh rate and DCI-P3 support for high-end video editing. That bumps the price up to a hefty $3,999.99, but the Blade 15 will earn its keep, powered by the latest 12th gen, 14-core Intel i9 processor, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, along with 32GB memory and 1TB solid-state drive. The only disappointment is that Razer doesn’t provide many customization options, so you simply have to select the handful of pre-configured models listed on its website. 

We chose the Apple MacBook Pro on the strengths of its exceptional processing and graphics performance. This table allows you to compare the best graphic design laptops based on price, screen size, and CPU:

Best laptop for graphic design 

Price

Display

CPU

Apple MacBook Pro

$1,300

13 inches

Apple M2

HP ZBook Fury 17 G8

$2,300

15.6 inches

11th gen Intel Core i9

Dell Precision 5760

$1,639

17 inches

Intel Core i7-11850H

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2

$1,865

15.6 inches

Intel Core i5-11500H

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

$1,400

14.4 inches

Intel core i7-11370H

MSI Creator Z17

$3,800

17 inches

Intel Core i7-12700H

Razer Blade 15

$3,300

15.6 inches

Intel Core i9-12900HI

Creative laptops have to cope with a wide range of tasks. Video editing or 3D animation will require a lot more power than simple 2D graphics or illustration work, so you should be very clear about your requirements before buying a new laptop or mobile workstation.

Battery life varies enormously too, so you need to decide if you need a high-end laptop that can run at full speed for just a few hours or a less powerful laptop that can last through a whole day. And, of course, a laptop with a 16-inch or 17-inch display will be a lot bigger and heavier than a 13-inch or 14-inch model, so regular business travelers may prefer to opt for a more compact laptop when they’re on the road, with the option of using a larger, external display when they get back to the office.

Choose this best laptop for graphic design

If you want or are…

Apple MacBook Pro

The best overall graphic design laptop

HP ZBook Fury 17 G8

A great graphic design device for configuration options 

Dell Precision 5760

Best design laptop for those wanting a blend of performance and value

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2

Best laptop for graphic design students 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Best graphic design laptop for mobile usage 

MSI Creator Z17

Best Apple alternative graphic design laptop

Razer Blade 15

Excellent device for content creators 

A laptop designed for creative users has to provide far more power than a laptop that is designed for general-purpose productivity software, such as Microsoft Office. We therefore focused on laptops that provide a discrete graphics card in order to provide extra power for graphics, design, and video-editing work. 

A high-resolution display is also essential in order to view your work in detail, and many users will insist on a full 4K display for high-end video editing. Support for specific color standards is also essential for some industries — Adobe RGB for print and publishing, or DCI-P3 for video and broadcast.

Battery life is always important for laptops — but perhaps less so for some of these creative laptops. High-end 3D graphics and video work can drain even the most powerful battery in just a few hours.

Moreover, many “mobile workstations” are primarily intended to be used as a desktop replacement PC that is mainly used indoors and close to a power socket. 

Many laptops sacrifice connectivity in order to reduce their size and weight (Apple and Microsoft, we’re looking at you). However, creative users work with a wide variety of devices and peripherals — perhaps connecting their laptop to multiple external displays, audio equipment, or cameras with memory cards — so good connectivity isn’t just an optional extra.

And, bizarrely, many of these powerful, expensive laptops still seem to think they can get away with a mere 720p webcam, which simply isn’t acceptable in these days of hybrid and remote working.

Absolutely! Gaming laptops are often equipped with powerful processors and graphics cards as well as lots of RAM and larger storage drives, which provide all the power and space you need to create digital paintings, logos, and even 3D models. 

They also tend to have faster refresh rates, which makes them a great choice for working with motion graphics and video.

To get the most out of your laptop when working in graphic design, you’ll want to choose a model that has at least 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a dedicated video card like an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, and a newer processor like an 11th or 12th generation Intel Core, AMD Ryzen 5000, or Apple M2.

We chose a variety of laptops based on pricing, performance, display, and much more. However, if these seven don’t work for you, here’s another option to consider:

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Jacky

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

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