Computers with processing power and graphic capabilities can install Photoshop or other design software with few issues. However, certain models are designed explicitly with graphic designers in mind. Ergonomics, preloaded software and mechanics offer a better overall feel, presentation and usability.
Here are the top laptop and desktop computers for graphic design work in 2023.
Everyone has four figures to drop on a graphic design setup. Apple’s Mac Mini M2 Pro is a noticeable upgrade from previous models for a more reasonable price. It has an MSRP of $599.99 and promises to be 5.5 times faster for Adobe Lightroom Classic functionalities and 4.4 times faster in Final Cut Pro than the 27-inch iMac. It achieves this with a 16-core GPU, variable RAM — 16-32 GB — and solid-state drive (SSD) space. It’s available in 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB for even the most avid image and video designers.
It’s a compact computer, but it doesn’t come with displays out of the box, which is something to consider for the price. Its faster performance will make designers happy when there’s no lag when rendering images in their software, despite not being user upgradeable.
Apple is renowned for catering to the design sector, and the Mac mini M2 Pro is no exception. The non-pro version is also a worthy contender if the higher specs aren’t necessary for your purposes.
The Microsoft Surface Studio 2 is a high-caliber machine, and the price reflects it. There are variations, depending on if you want 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM, and its current price is around $4,299.99 for the machine with the highest specs. It includes a 1 TB SSD, an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. Buyers can immediately see where the investment lies — stunning graphics capability but with a slightly underwhelming processor.
Even though there aren’t versions of the Surface Studio 2 with a more potent processor, its powerful 28-inch touch-screen display shines bright. It has mobility with its hinges, allowing artists to view their pieces from any angle. It is perfect for illustrators because it offers Surface Pen support to draw directly on the screen without damage. The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is another variant that’s worth looking into.
Buyers can expect to drop a pretty penny on the HP Envy, but not as much as some of the other machines on this list. The benefits of an all-in-one device come strong at around $2,000, and it is ideal for illustrators, game designers or social media graphics creators. It can do it all, with 32 GB of RAM and another terabyte of SSD storage for every minute of video and every pixel of art.
Customers will get an easily upgradeable display and machine if they want the cheapest version to invest in over time. The name touts its gorgeous 34-inch display, which gives designers an excellent 5120 x 2160 resolution to explore and develop their art. Again, the Intel Core i7 processor is nothing to write home about, as it decreases the computer’s speed.
Among its other parts, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 is highly configurable and adaptable to the experience designers want to have. It is the most malleable machine on this list, making it a durable option for people who don’t want to go tech shopping for a while.
The Intel Core i5 isn’t ideal, but the iMac 27-inch is the quintessential graphic design setup you have seen in movies or universities. They’re one of the most accessible kits for any designer level, with around a $1,500 price tag. However, plenty are available in the secondhand market. A refurbished Mac can be just as valuable and viable, regardless if you’re a student or professional.
The boon behind the 27-inch iMac is the 5K Retina display, sitting at a 5120 x 2880 resolution. That’s 1 billion colors designers can see on a luxurious screen. Alongside the AMD Radeon Pro 5300 GPU, designers can see everything in crisp and vibrant colors.
Not everything has to be Microsoft or Apple — Linux has its share of offerings for graphic designers, too. Linux has always been known for its versatility and security, a phenomenal workspace that provides peace of mind for designers.
The Precision 7920 Tower might not be the best graphic design setup for those unfamiliar with the Linux OS, but if you already know your way around or want to learn, it has competitive specs. It has an AMD Radeon Pro WX 3200 GPU and an Intel Xeon Bronze 3204 processor with many ports for all your peripherals. It works well for designers in all niches, but Linux appeals greatly to 3D modelers and video editors.
There are varied laptop and tablet setups for graphic designers. Some even have dual displays where a screen rests above the keyboard. However, the Galaxy Book3 Ultra is one of the more balanced options on the market if you’re taking graphic design seriously — and want to pay around $2,100. Battery life is one of the most critical specs for a laptop running heavy-duty software, and this has it while keeping performance at the top of mind.
If you’re designing for video, it also has an OLED screen and 1080p webcam that integrates with Windows Studio Effects. As with Apple products, if you have other Galaxy line products, expect seamless integration of these tools for a more comprehensive experience.
Computers are out there that can help graphic designers make their work better, whether with peripherals or a stunning display. Though prices range on the heavier side, these machines are top-ranking and a long-term investment into years of graphic design capabilities. Each has pros and cons, with some promising more flexibility or power than others. You must determine your priorities to align with the machine for you.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.