The best laptops for graphic design students

Heading to college and not kitted out yet? Maybe you're looking for an upgrade. Either way, this handy list of the best laptops for graphic design students will take you one step closer to being perfectly equipped for your university course. (A student subscription to Creative Cloud will take you another.) 

When choosing a laptop for your daily design work, there are many things to consider. One is power versus portability: you need something that’s thin and light enough to throw in your backpack, but also powerful enough to run your suite of creative tools. 

And you need to decide whether macOS or Windows is right for you. The former used to be the staple of creative professionals, but it really doesn’t matter what platform you use these days. 

Whatever your preferences, each of the three machines here will give you all the power and performance you need to hit the ground running with your studies. Read on for our pick of the best laptops for graphic design students.

Best laptop for graphic design students overall: Surface Book

Spend a tiny bit more and get what could be the ultimate laptop for creative professionals.

Intel Core i5: | 8GB 1RAM: | 128GB SSD storage: | Intel HD Graphics:

Doubles as a tablet
Amazing screen
Use with Surface Pen + Surface Dial
Expensive once you spec it up
Bit heavier than other options

Microsoft's Surface Book is an incredible machine – even in its lowest spec option. The fact that you can use it as both a tablet and laptop makes it the ultimate digital sketchbook. Just detach the screen and draw using the included Surface Pen, or buy the innovative Surface Dial for £90 and get an intuitive way of controlling your creative tools. 

Even better, flip the screen around, reattach it and you can use it to draw at a more natural angle. It’s on offer at £1,299 for the lowest spec at the moment – which is a bargain for such a versatile, powerful creative machine.

Read our review of Microsoft Surface Book.

Apple MacBook

The MacBook perfectly balances power and portability – and looks fantastic to boot.

1.2GHz dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core m3 processor: | 8GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 memory: | 256GB SSD storage: | Intel HD Graphics 615:

Light, thin, looks amazing
Fantastic screen
Only one port (USB-C)

The MacBook might not have a lot of ports (one USB-C to be precise). And it might not have the power or screen size of the MacBook Pro. But for £1,249 it’s a great option for designing on the go. 

A 12-inch screen is at the heart of the MacBook, but you can of course plug it into an external display using an adaptor (via USB-C). And at 2304 x 1440 pixels there’s plenty of real estate. 

If you’re feeling a little flush, you can configure it with up to 16GB RAM – plenty for all but the most demanding tasks. Light, powerful and utterly stylish, the MacBook is a fantastic option for design students.

Surface Laptop

Microsoft’s touchscreen bargain is sleek, light and powerful.

Intel Core i5: | 4GB RAM: | 128GB SSD: | Intel HD Graphics 620:

Thin and light: 14.47mm + 1.25kg
Fantastic screen: 2256x1504 at 201ppi
Touchscreen can be used with optional Surface Pen for sketching
Windows 10 S needs to be switched to install Creative Cloud
Cheapest option has small SSD

The Surface Laptop is one of the best laptops for graphic design students. Even the lowest-end model at £949 is powerful enough to run Photoshop and Illustrator on a daily basis, and the fact you can use the optional Surface Pen to draw directly on screen makes it even more appealing. 

Bear in mind that if you want to run Creative Cloud apps, you’ll need to switch to Windows 10 which is free until early 2018. (The Surface Laptop comes with Windows 10 S – which only enables software from the Windows Store to be installed.) Still, with its sleek looks and fabric keyboard, the Surface Laptop looks great and performs excellently.