2018’s Best Laptops For Graphic Design – Top 5 Picks Reviewed

TOP PICK
Microsoft Surface Book 2 (Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB) - 15"
BEST 4K
ASUS VivoBook Pro 15 4K Touchscreen Laptop, Intel Core i7-7700HQ, Gaming GeForce GTX 1050, 16GB RAM,  256GB SSD+1TB HDD, 15.6” UHD (3840 x 2160) WideView, Backlit Keyboard, Fingerprint,N580VD-DS76T
BEST FOR VIDEO EDITING
Apple MacBook Pro MLH12LL/A 13-inch Laptop with Touch Bar, 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, 256GB, Retina Display, Space Gray (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Dell XPS9560-7001SLV-PUS 15.6" Thin Bezel Display, 7th Gen Core i7 (up to 3.8 GHz), 16GB, 512GB SSD, Nvidia Gaming GPU GTX 1050, Aluminum Chassis
Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro Black Edition Gaming Laptop, 17.3” Full HD, Tobii Eye Tracking. Intel i7, NVIDIA GeForce GTX1060, 16GB DDR4, 256GB SSD, VN7-793G-709A
BLW's Score
92
88
87
87
80
MSRP
from $1,303.96
$1,287.99
$1,699.99
$1,499.99
$1,398.38
Processor
Intel Core i7-8650U 1.9 GHz
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz
Intel Core i5 2.9 Ghz
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz
RAM
8GB DDR3L
8GB DDR4
8GB DDR3L
16GB DDR4
16GB DDR4
Hard Disk
256GB SSD
256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
256GB SSD
512GB SSD
256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Display
13.3" PixelSense (3000 x 2000)
15.6" UHD (3840 x 2160)
13.3” Retina (2560 x 1600)
15.6" UHD (3840 x 2160)
17.3" FHD (1920 x 1080)
Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
Intel Iris Graphics 550
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
OS
Windows 10
Windows 10
macOS
Windows 10
Windows 10
Weight
3.62 pounds
5 pounds
3 pounds
3.9 pounds
7.05 pounds
TOP PICK
Microsoft Surface Book 2 (Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB) - 15"
BLW's Score
92
MSRP
from $1,303.96
More Information
Processor
Intel Core i7-8650U 1.9 GHz
RAM
8GB DDR3L
Hard Disk
256GB SSD
Display
13.3" PixelSense (3000 x 2000)
Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
OS
Windows 10
Weight
3.62 pounds
BEST 4K
ASUS VivoBook Pro 15 4K Touchscreen Laptop, Intel Core i7-7700HQ, Gaming GeForce GTX 1050, 16GB RAM,  256GB SSD+1TB HDD, 15.6” UHD (3840 x 2160) WideView, Backlit Keyboard, Fingerprint,N580VD-DS76T
BLW's Score
88
MSRP
$1,287.99
More Information
Processor
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz
RAM
8GB DDR4
Hard Disk
256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Display
15.6" UHD (3840 x 2160)
Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
OS
Windows 10
Weight
5 pounds
BEST FOR VIDEO EDITING
Apple MacBook Pro MLH12LL/A 13-inch Laptop with Touch Bar, 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, 256GB, Retina Display, Space Gray (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
BLW's Score
87
MSRP
$1,699.99
More Information
Processor
Intel Core i5 2.9 Ghz
RAM
8GB DDR3L
Hard Disk
256GB SSD
Display
13.3” Retina (2560 x 1600)
Graphics
Intel Iris Graphics 550
OS
macOS
Weight
3 pounds
Dell XPS9560-7001SLV-PUS 15.6" Thin Bezel Display, 7th Gen Core i7 (up to 3.8 GHz), 16GB, 512GB SSD, Nvidia Gaming GPU GTX 1050, Aluminum Chassis
BLW's Score
87
MSRP
$1,499.99
More Information
Processor
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz
RAM
16GB DDR4
Hard Disk
512GB SSD
Display
15.6" UHD (3840 x 2160)
Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
OS
Windows 10
Weight
3.9 pounds
Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro Black Edition Gaming Laptop, 17.3” Full HD, Tobii Eye Tracking. Intel i7, NVIDIA GeForce GTX1060, 16GB DDR4, 256GB SSD, VN7-793G-709A
BLW's Score
80
MSRP
$1,398.38
More Information
Processor
Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz
RAM
16GB DDR4
Hard Disk
256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Display
17.3" FHD (1920 x 1080)
Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
OS
Windows 10
Weight
7.05 pounds

When graphic designers look at laptops, they require specific requirements for running the programs and software inherent to their industry.

No ordinary notebook will do — these laptops need to be fast, responsive, and high definition. If you are looking for the best laptops for graphic design work, you have come to the right place.

We have organized a list of the best contenders regarding price, performance and overall value, as well as tips for finding the best graphic design laptop for your needs.

Overall Top Pick: 
Microsoft Surface Book 2

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Review

​Specs

  • ​Battery Capacity (hours) — 17 hours
  • RAM — 8 GB LPDDR3
  • Processor — 4.2 GHz 8032
  • Storage — 256 GB
  • GPU — NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
  • Weight — 3.62 pounds
  • I/O (input/output) — 1 USB-C port, 2 USB-A ports, 1 SD card reader, one magnetic Surface Connect port
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    PriceCheck latest price on Amazon.com

We chose the Microsoft Surface Book 2 4.2 as our top pick because it comes with one of the best tablets on the market for graphic design drawing.

In addition to truly staggering battery life, the Surface Book also provides optimal running capacity for most PC video games and movies.

Instead of folding back, like most two-in-one laptop-tablet hybrids, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 4.2 entirely detaches from the keyboard for optimal creative freedom.

Overall, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 4.2 beats out most other competitors’ technical specifications with its crisp display — crisper than most Mac computers — and revolutionary PixelSense touchscreen.

Benefits

The most significant benefit we can think of is the unbeatable touchscreen drawing potential. With a little practice, drawing on the Surface Book can feel as natural as sketching on a notebook.

If you know you will frequently be working with the cartoon, digital art, or logo design; this laptop is by far the best pick.

However, the long battery life, reasonable storage space, several I/O ports, and lightweight design all make the Microsoft Surface Book 2 4.2 one of the best buys laptops for graphic design.

Drawbacks

Unfortunately, they do not include the excellent surface pen needed for graphic design drawing with the laptop, so you will need to pay extra for it.

The inner design of the Surface Book is not great either. The keyboard can become unresponsive after frequent use, and the trackpad is unreasonably small.

Extra Features

Microsoft Surface Pen

If you are willing to pay a little extra, you can buy the Surface Precision Mouse a must-have for managing Adobe Creative, music and video editing software. 

As we mentioned before, the Surface Pen is another essential extra feature for graphic design drawers.

For artists that want an additional level of interactivity with their color palates and settings, look into the new Surface Dial.

Buying Advice

Usually priced around $1999.00, you can save 27% by buying the Microsoft Surface Book 2 on Amazon.

You can also knock of another $200 when you buy used.

However, make sure to check out the product beforehand to make sure it is functioning correctly. A faulty touch screen or battery can be expensive to replace.

Runner Up:
Dell XPS9560-7001SLV-PUS

Dell XPS9560 Laptop

The Dell XPS9560-7001SLV-PUS 3.5 is a close runner-up to the Microsoft Surface Book thanks to its faster internal components.

However, it falls short on a few design flaws.

The Dell XPS is a PC version of the MacBook Pro — competent, portable and well-rounded.

What Are the Specs?

A vivid display and superior RAM capacity give the specs for the Dell XPS9560-7001SLV-PUS 3.5 an edge over many of its competitors.

Specifically, in everyday performance and usability for graphic design related programs.

​Specs

  • ​Display size — 15.6 inch 4K Ultra HD InfinityEdge touchscreen
  • ​Resolution — 1920 x 1080
  • ​Battery Capacity (hours) 12 hours
  • RAM — 16 GB DDR4
  • Processor — 3.8 GHz 8032
  • Storage — 16 GB (additional memory sold separately)
  • GPU — NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
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    I/O (input/output) — 2 USB 3.0 ports, 3-in-1 SD Card Reader, 1 HDMI port
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    Weight — 3.9 pounds
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​Benefits

Many of the Dell XPS benefits come from its first NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU. With a bit of resolution adjusting, even the hardest video games can run in on the laptop.

Regarding graphic design, the crisp 4k display provides the optimal colour palette for Adobe programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. With over three million more pixels than the MacBook, it has the competition beat regarding RGB potential.

​Drawbacks

The most obvious drawback for the Dell XPS9560-7001SLV-PUS 3.5 is the steep price. Also, the Killer Wireless card that comes with the laptop is incredibly faulty and should be replaced by a $20 Intel one.

Also, the speakers on this laptop are inferior. They can work in a pinch for Youtube videos, but any audio mixing you will need to do with headphones.

​Extra Features

DELL Adapter DA200 For Dell Laptops

For individuals who ethernet and multiple USB and HDMI ports, you may need a Dell DA200 Adapter.

A mouse and drawing pad are also recommended for graphic designers, though you will have to look outside of Dell to find one.

​Buying Advice

Make sure to buy this laptop online; you can save a significant amount of money.

Stores like Best Buy and Walmart usually charge full retail, but many online retailers knock off $300 from the price.

A used Dell XPS usually goes for around $1300.​

Best 4k Laptop For Graphic Design:
ASUS VivoBook Pro 15 4K

ASUS N580VD-DB74T VivoBook Pro

With the VivoBook Pro 15 4K Touchscreen Laptop 3.6, ASUS made a laptop that is both powerful and affordable.

If you want a good bang for your buck, this is a great option. Unfortunately, the lack of portability is a downside.

What Are the Specs?

The real powerhouse here is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics processor, which pushes this laptop above the two-in-one category, into the competitive world of graphic design territory.

​Specs

  • ​Display size —15.6 inch 4K Ultra HD touchscreen
  • ​Resolution — 3840 x 2160
  • Processor — 2.8 GHz 8032
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    RAM — 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM
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    ​Battery Capacity (hours) — 3 hours
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    Storage — 256 GB SSD
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    GPU — NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
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    Weight — 5 pounds
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    I/O (input/output) — Bluetooth, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI port
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    PriceCheck latest price on Amazon.com

​Benefits

You will be hard pressed to find a laptop with a better array of I/O ports — especially since Apple switched to the constricting Thunderbolt 3 ports. The plethora of different ports on the VivoBook Pro makes for fewer compatibility issues.

Considering the low price, the VivoBook Pro also stands up admirably to its higher priced competition regarding most graphic design related programs.

​Drawbacks

The biggest drawback of the VivoBook Pro is its lack of portability. While they market the laptop as a slim, portable laptop, it is reasonably substantial. It also has a miserable battery life — one that barely lasts 3 hours.

So, if you are on the go a lot, you will need to find various charging stations. The touchpad on the VivoBook pro is also incredibly sensitive — which leads to frequent mistakes in precise editing and drawing programs.

​Extra Features

ASUS VivoBook Pro 15 Review

Besides a much-needed mouse, the VivoBook Pro does not feature any accessories. However, the staggering number of ports means it can support almost anything.

​Buying Advice

As usual, buy online to save money on the retail price. There are also several features you can improve if you are willing to fork out some extra cash.

On Amazon, you can add a 1 TB of memory and a 4k enhancement for a couple of hundred dollars.

Best For Video Editing:
Apple MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro MLH12LLA

While the Apple MacBook may not be the best-designed laptop for photo and vector-based design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, it is the leading standard in video editing platforms.

If you are a university student, you may find many professors prefer or require Apple products.

This usability is mainly due to the ubiquitous nature of their operating systems and the general usability.

What Are the Specs?

What the Apple MacBook Pro lacks in comparable technical specs, it makes up for in smooth design and portability.

The new Touch Bar also adds a streamlined navigating element to a powerful engine.

​Specs

  • ​Display size —13.3 inches
  • ​Resolution — 2560 x 1600
  • ​Battery Capacity (hours) — 4 hours
  • RAM — 8 GB LPDDR3
  • Processor  — 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5
  • Storage — 256 GB Flash Memory Solid State
  • ​GPU — Intel Iris Graphics 550​
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    Weight — 3 pounds
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    I/O (input/output) — Bluetooth, 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports
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    PriceCheck latest price on Amazon.com 

​​​​​​​​​Benefits

MacBook Pros are generally easier to master than many PC laptops, thanks to the streamlined nature of its design.

While the new Touch Bar is a good cry from a fully operational touchscreen, it is a start for fewer mouse clicks and more fine control over video editing and volume adjustment.

​Drawbacks

Unfortunately, the four Thunderbolt 3 ports included on the new Apple MacBook Pro MLH12LL/A 3.9 means you will be carrying around a lot of wires and adapters wherever you go.

These frequent design changes are by far the worst part of being an Apple user. The weak graphics card also means lower quality images for photo editors and designers.

​Extra Features

Thunderbolt 3 Hub

As we mentioned, you will need an adapter for the Thunderbolt 3 ports. Graphic design students who know they will be drawing a lot should invest in the Wacom Touch Tablet.

The iRig is another useful extra feature for audio designers that need an effective midi for their Mac.

​Buying Advice

It might be a bit hard to justify the price increase of the Apple MacBook Pro MLH12LL/A from the entry-level MacBook pro if you are not a video editor but at about 1700$ the performance increase is obviously visible. 

The introduction of the Touch Bar and a slimmer design adds an extra $300 to the price tag.

If this feature is not essential for you, you should consider buying an older, simpler model. Also, if you are a university student, see if your university offers any special discounts or deals on Apple-related products.

Runner Up:
Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro

Acer Aspire V 17

For video editors who adamantly refuse to own make, the Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro Black Edition 3.4 is our next choice for programs like Final Cut Pro.

It also is an incredibly competent gaming laptop, for long breaks from graphic design work.

What Are the Specs?

Slightly bulky and heavy, the Aspire V 17 Nitro makes up for its size with an excellent screen, processor and port selection.

​Specs

  • ​Display size — 17.3 inches HD widescreen
  • ​Resolution — 1920 x 1080
  • Battery Capacity (hours) — 6 hours
  • RAM — 16 GB DDR4
  • Processor — 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7
  • Storage — 1000 GB Hybrid Drive
  • GPU — NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
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    Weight — 7.05 pounds
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    PriceCheck latest price on Amazon.com 

Benefits

The Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro Black Edition 3.4 contains some of the best computer speakers on the market. Excellent for intensive video editing, or casual music listening.

For a gaming laptop, it also runs video editing software at a competent speed.

​Drawbacks

The size is one of the most significant drawbacks of the Aspire V 17 Nitro. If students carry this laptop around in their backpacks frequently, it is going to get heavy.

The display on the laptop is also not great — with slightly dim lighting settings.

​Extra Features

We recommend a mouse for video editing or gaming with this computer. A sturdy carrying case is also a good investment since the laptop is on the heavier side.

​Buying Advice

We recommend buying the Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro Black Edition 3.4 wherever you see a good deal, whether it is in store or online. 

There is not much of a price difference between retail and online, so whatever is more convenient for you.

What to Look For in A Graphic Design Laptop

Unless you want to be slowed down by long loading times, you should look into what qualifications you need for your graphic design laptop.

Specifically, you will want to examine aspects of the screen, CPU, GPU and compatible graphic design software.

Screen

Since your work requires you to stare at a screen for hours on end meticulously, it is essential to know what you are buying.

Size

If you are travelling a lot, portability should be a big concern. The slimmer and lighter the laptop, the better. However, screen size should stay around 13 inches or more to sea tiny, essential details on editing software.

Resolution 

Screen Resolutions on Laptops

Resolution is incredibly vital for graphic design laptops, especially considering many creative programs will now even run if you do not have a large enough decision.

Generally, 1280 x 800 is the lowest possible resolution you can have, but more is preferable.

Does it have an output for an additional monitor?​

If you know your laptop screen will be too small to fit your editing needs, make sure to check if your laptop contains an HDMI, or other output, to connect the computer to a larger monitor for editing.

Touchscreen? 

A relatively new concept for some laptops, touch screens can revolutionize the way you create digital art. However, make sure to try before you buy. An unresponsive or cheap touch screen can significantly affect the quality of your work.

What about 4k? 

 4k is another crucial feature to have, primarily if you will be working with images, video and animation professionally. While it might not seem like a massive leap from 1080p, the 8 million added pixels makes 4k far superior for noticing tiny details that may slip by on lower quality laptops.

What are the benefits of UHD monitors?

​If your laptop does not come with 4k features, but still runs correctly, you might want to consider an ultra-high-definition (UHD) monitor. These monitors’ prices continue to fall, and the added clarity can enhance intricate photo editing details, fast video games and BluRay movies.

CPU

CPUs

Most graphic design software relies on a responsive processor.

As a bare minimum, you will want a CPU in your laptop that runs around 1 GHz, however the more, the better. As slow CPU can lead to frequent freezes and crashes.

When you have a slow processor, you also have to worry about long loading times. This processor can affect deadlines and potentially important save files. Generally speaking, you should put the CPU before GPU regarding importance.

GPU

While CPU is critical to prioritize over GPU, and suitable graphics processors is still essential for professional graphic designers.

 GPU account for a laptop’s rendering ability. Rendering is when a processor turns a 2D or 3D set of codes into a photorealistic image on the computer.

GPU’s assist a CPU when a laptop renders an image. This rendering is essential in video editing because it dramatically affects the quality of the frames as they are made.

Memory space to hold editing software is also crucial.

Often choosing graphic design programs is a matter of preference, but some companies will require specific software. As such, it is important to have room to store some or all of the following.

​Video Editing Software

  • Adobe Creative Suiteand extensive collection of programs that include Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, and many many more. These programs are usually the industry standard when it comes to graphic design programs. Available on both Apple and Window products.
  • Sony Vegas — Windows-based nonlinear video editing software.
  • Final Cut Pro — Apple-based video editing software

​​​We hope our buying guide helped you choose the best laptop for your graphic design needs.

If you stick to any of the selections on our list, you should have a competent editing machine.

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