The last 12 months have been host to a wealth of new hardware launches and a veritable parade of impressive tech advances. Happily, plenty of it has been designed with creative professionals in mind, which means we're moving into 2018 with the best kit we've ever had – everything from unique takes on traditional desktop and notebook computing, to innovative new input devices fine-tuned for digital artists.
Whether you're a budding graphic designer working from home or a veteran visual effects wizard, there's sure to be something that will pique your interest in our standout technology picks from the last year. Keep reading to find out what impressed us the most in 2017.
01. Elgato Thunderbolt 3 dock
A slick looking dock with a decent set of ports
Ports: x2 Thunderbolt 3, x1 Display Port, x3 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, x1 Gigabit Ethernet, x1 headphone output, x1 Microphone input
In their desire to be ever slimmer, several pro-level laptops have shed several ports in recent years, but happily third parties like Elgato exist to fill the void. Its latest Thunderbolt 3 dock allows you to connect everything to your computer through a single cable, and even charge your USB-C devices through its 15W ports.
Not only does this dock provide Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 connectivity, it's also capable of driving one 5K monitor or two 4K displays simultaneously, making it the perfect hub for both Windows and Mac-based creative workstations.
02. iMac Pro
Apple's fastest and most powerful product ever
Display: 27-inch 5K Retina | Processor: 8-, 10 or 18-Core | Turbo Boost: up to 4.5GHz | Memory: 32GB | Storage: 1TB | Graphics: Vega GPU | Size: : (h) 51.6cm x (w) 65.0cm | Weight: 9.7 kg | Connections: 10Gb Ethernet, four Thunderbolt 3 (USB‑C) ports, four USB 3 ports, SDXC card slot
In response to criticism that it was failing to cater to creative professionals, Apple launched perhaps the fastest Mac ever in December with the slick-looking space grey iMac Pro.
The iMac Pro can be configured with a mammoth 18-core Intel Xeon processor. To put that power in perspective, consider that a 10-core iMac Pro is almost twice as fast as a high-end 5K iMac and up to 45 percent faster than a 'trash can' 2013 Mac Pro.
Hidden behind that beautiful 5K display is up to 4TB of SSD storage, up to 128GB of ECC RAM, and 16GB AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics. With four Thunderbolt 3 ports, the iMac Pro can power two external 5K displays or four 4K displays at 60Hz simultaneously. There's also a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port, an SD card slot, four USB-A 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack lined up on the rear.
03. Logitech CRAFT Wireless keyboard
Brilliant for designers and creatives
Compatible: Mac OS 10.11 (and above) and Windows 7 (and above) | Connection: Logitech Unifying 2.4GHz wireless tech, Bluetooth low energy tech | Size: (h)32mm x (w)430mm x (d)149mm | Weight: 960g
Taking cues from Microsoft's Surface Studio, Logitech's advanced wireless CRAFT keyboard incorporates a creative input dial into its layout for controlling configurable, app-specific functions.
The Crown, as it's called, is touch sensitive, so you can tap or turn it to adjust various settings depending on the application you're using. With custom profiles for all Adobe's Creative Cloud apps – including Photoshop CC, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and InDesign, it's ready to go out of the box.
The CRAFT can pair with up to three devices over Bluetooth, and also features backlighting that detects hand movement and automatically adjusts illumination based on lighting conditions.
04. Dell Precision 5520
A quality mobile workstation with solid components and a fine screen
Processor: up to Intel Core Xeon E3 | Memory: up to 32GB DDR4 2400MHz | Storage: up to 1TB SSD | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro M1200 | Display: 15.6-inch UltraSharp FHD IPS or 15.6-inch UltraSharp™ PremierColor UHD IGZO | Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB 3.0 with PowerShare and more
Typical mobile workstations focus on offering powerful internal components capable of running demanding creative applications, but that all too often leads to an inelegant exterior. Not so with Dell's Precision 5520, which manages to pack the power of a workstation-class machine into a sleek space-age chassis with a luxurious feel.
Apart from its solid-looking Full HD 15.6-inch display, the 5520 is powered by an Intel Xeon processor and includes two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3, an SD card reader, and an HDMI connection around the side.
05. iPad Pro 10.5-inch (2017)
This is the best iPad you can buy
Processor: A10X Fusion Chip | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Display: 10.5-inch Retina | Size: (w)250.5mm x (h)174.1mm x (d)6.1mm
Say hello to the best iPad yet. While this tablet is slightly larger than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro it replaces, the size and weight difference is negligible. Add into the equation a 20 per cent larger display – made possible by shrinking the tablet's bezels – and you begin to appreciate its refined aesthetics.
Of course, when it comes to mobile processing-power, Apple isn't one to skimp, and the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is powered by Apple's fast A10X Fusion chip. With iOS 11 running, its latest professional tablet also has multitasking props to boot.
Larger iPad Pro (2017)
While the 10.5-inch model wins on portability, if you intend to use your iPad Pro as a graphics tablet, then go for the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The specs are largely the same, but you'll appreciate the extra screen real estate – and the bigger version has a better battery, too.
06. Wacom Intuos Pro
A fantastic update to Wacom’s range of leading graphics tablets
Size: Medium - 338 x 219 x 8mm; Large - 430 x 287 x 8mm | Resolution: 5080lpi | Stylus: Wacom Pro Pen 2 | ExpressKeys: 8 customizable
Wacom refreshed its Intuos tablet line in 2017 with an updated version of the Intuos Pro, available in two highly portable medium and large sizes. Both tablet sizes feature eight customisable ExpressKeys and offer over 8,000 levels of pressure, 5,080 lines of resolution, 60 levels of pen tilt, 200 points per second reporting, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and a multi-function touch ring.
Wacom has also reworked the pen to make it more comfortable to use. It now sports a slightly less tapered design and side buttons that sit flush with the body.
Also read: The best graphics tablets for 2018
07. LG UltraFine 5K monitor
A gorgeous display that delivers breathtaking visuals
Display: 5K (5120 x 2880) IPS | Resolution: 5120x2880 | Brightness: 500 cd/m² | Colour Gamut: P3 wide colour | Ports: x1 Thunderbolt 3, x3 USB-C | Built-in: camera, stereo speaker and power supply
Apple's Cinema Display didn't get a look in last year and instead Apple surprised users by partnering with LG to come up with this UltraFine 5K monitor. While the first units unfortunately had a glitch, LG has since fixed the issue, allowing this display to sneak into our 2018 recommended list.
USB-C Thunderbolt 3 provides performance connectivity, while the display outshines even Apple's Retina MacBook screens, thanks to its native 5,120 x 2,880 resolution (don't worry – it downscales just fine). Fonts and icons look pristine on its exceedingly wide aspect, making this UltraFine display a multitasker's dream.
08. 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
A stunning Retina display and impressive CPU in an impossibly slim design
Processor: up to 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 | Memory: 16GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory | Storage: up to 2TB SSD | Graphics: up to Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB of GDDR5 memory | Display: 15.4-inch Retina | Ports: 4 x Thunderbolt 3
As well as the high price, Apple's 2017 refresh of its flagship notebook retained the same remarkably slim chassis and controversial Touch Bar, but brought in much-anticipated seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors and improved graphics under the hood.
The 2880 x 1800 resolution Retina display looks as impressive as we've come to expect from Apple, which also decided to bump the speed of the onboard memory to 2,133MHz, up from 1,866MHz last year (although it still tops out at 16GB RAM). Add to that a new Radeon Pro 560 GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 memory and integrated Intel HD Graphics 630, and creative pros should be good to go.
09. Wacom Bamboo Ink
A must-have for Microsoft Surface devices
Pressure support: Up to 4,096 pressure levels | Dimensions: (h)147mm x (w)10mm x (d)10mm | Compatibility: Windows 10 pen-enabled devices
Early in 2017, Wacom and Microsoft put their heads together and came up with the Bamboo Ink, a smart stylus for Windows Ink Workspace that lets idea-makers capture notes, sketch ideas or mark documents across most Windows 10 platforms.
Designed to provide a customised, natural writing and sketching experience, the Bamboo Ink comes with three nibs – soft, medium and firm – allowing sketchers and scribblers to switch up the feel. The pen can also be used to navigate windows in Edge browser, write in text boxes, and plenty more besides.
10. Microsoft Surface Book 2
The pinnacle of 2-in-1 laptop design
The impressive two-in-one Surface Book 2 sits at the top of Microsoft’s hardware line up. Two models are available: 13-inch and 15-inch, although the 15-inch likely won’t be available in the UK or Australia until 2018.
With Core i7 and i5 processors, both models are more powerful, thinner and lighter versions of the original Surface Book – our laptop of 2017. The smaller 13.5-inch PixelSense LCD touch display is stunning, with bright, accurate colours – and its compromise on power means it can have a fanless design, so it runs practically silently.
Both models boast brilliant battery life and the docking mechanism is significantly more stable, too. An updated stylus with quadruple the pressure sensitivity of the last pen is also available, just be aware it's $100 extra.
Need a recap? Here's all the best tech for 2018 – and the best prices...