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The best computer for graphic design in 2020

Best computer for graphic design
(Image credit: Future)

Looking for the best computer for graphic design? You've come to the right place. In this guide, we concentrate on desktop machines. Of course, it's hard to ignore the appeal of a laptop, but for out-and-out power you can't ignore the appeal of a desktop. They're better value in many instances because they can offer more power without needing to ensure portability. 

This guide will help you cut through the jargon of buying a PC or Mac for graphic design. While many designers, of course, prefer Macs, it's hard to ignore the fact that PCs can run all the same software, are often cheaper in terms of raw power for a certain amount of cash, and that the PC market offers a lot of choice. We'll show you several great examples here.  

Best computers for graphic design: Top 5

01. Apple iMac with Retina display (2019)
02. Microsoft Surface Studio 2
03. Lenovo Yoga A940
04. HP Pavilion 590
05. Apple Mac mini
Read on for a detailed look at each of our top picks

Best computer for graphic design: What to look for

Naturally, talent and hard work will get you a lot further than just having a great computer, but having a powerful machine will certainly help you to get things done more quickly.  

A desktop with a processor (CPU) that has four, six or more cores will run apps like Photoshop or Illustrator with ease, while at least 8GB of memory, 256GB of SSD storage and fast memory will help you work on multi-layered, high-resolution documents, without your system slowing you down.

If a desktop or all-in-one PC doesn't really float your boat and you really need a laptop, then we've also got some top options for you in our guide to the best laptops for graphic design .

Many of our models here have displays built-in - these are called all-in-one computers – the iMac is an example. Everything is inside one box. Increasingly PCs have also moved to this form factor.

One drawback is that these are not as upgradeable as a standard, tower desktop PC, so that's still the best option for flexibility and overall performance. 

So here's our pick of the best computers for graphic design right now. Whether you're after a Mac or Windows PC or want something on a budget, you'll find something you'll want from our list.

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01. Apple iMac with Retina display (2019)

This high-end choice is the best computer for graphic design right now

CPU: 4-8 core Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7 / i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 570X / 580X / Vega 48 | RAM: 8GB - 64GB | Storage: 1-3TB

Colour-accurate display
Up to 8 processor cores
Expensive upgrade prices

Apple’s latest iMac was updated last year with new 9th-generation Intel Core processors that offer up to eight processing cores. 

We still think it makes for the best all-in-one computer for graphic design, and a great choice for all kinds of complex image work. Both the 21.5-inch and 27-inch models have brilliant, colour-accurate Retina displays (either 4K or 5K resolution), and AMD Radeon Pro or Vega graphics that will accelerate OpenCL software and plugins. 

Along with the excellent macOS operating system, the iMac offers such a fantastic computing environment for graphic design work, you’ll be amazed at how much performance can be squeezed into such a small space behind the display.

While the 21.5-inch model better value, the iMac is not a cheap option – especially when you add all the extras, such as the largest storage capacities. However, be aware that the 27-inch model lets you make a small saving by installing third-party memory via a slot behind the screen.

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02. Microsoft Surface Studio 2

An incredible Windows PC for graphic design

CPU: Intel Core i7-7820HQ | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB -GTX 1070 8GB | RAM: 16GB - 32GB | Storage: 1TB - 2TB SSD

Vertical hinge
Powerful graphics
No option of up-to-date Intel processor

Microsoft's Surface Studio 2 is an all-in-one that can do a few things the iMac cannot. Its high-resolution 28-inch display (4,500 x 3,000) is touch-sensitive, which means it can be used as a giant graphics tablet when you lay it down flat using the hinge at the back. 

Although Microsoft is still using an older quad-core processor, the rest of the Surface Studio packs a mean punch. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or 1070 graphics card options can deliver some excellent performance too, and there’s up to 2TB of SSD storage and 32GB of memory available. We're expecting this model to be updated in 2020. 

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03. Lenovo Yoga A940

A value-packed all-in-one PC for graphic design

CPU: 3.2GHz Intel Core i7-8700 | Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 560X (4GB GDDR5) | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD

Adjustable 4K screen
Not the most powerful PC
Screen not great in direct sunlight

The Lenovo Yoga A940 makes working on this all-in-one PC a dream for designers and digital artists. 

First, you get a gorgeous 4K screen that can be angled so that it turns into a comfortable (and large) digital canvas. It also includes a stylus, digital creation dial and a wireless charging mat for topping up compatible phones. Yes, really!

While the components used aren't as powerful as the ones found in the iMac Pro or Surface Studio 2, they still do a decent job of keeping up with most tasks – and it has enabled Lenovo to price the Yoga A940 very competitively. The pricing really helps the appeal. 

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04. HP Pavilion 590

An excellent graphic design computer that won’t cost the earth

CPU: 4-8 cores AMD Ryzen 3 / 5 / 7, 4-6 cores Intel Core i3 / i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD / AMD Vega Pro / Radeon RX550 / Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti / 1060 | RAM: 8GB - 16GB | Storage: 128-256GB SSD, 16GB Intel Optane, 1-2TB HDD

Highly affordable
Great performance for the money
Slightly bland appearance
No 8-core Intel processor option

In the HP Pavilion 590, HP has come up with a great looking, well built and superb value desktop PC that is great for graphic design. With a choice of Intel and AMD Ryzen processors, it’s all about value for money - but without any huge compromise in terms of graphic design capability. 

Even the astonishingly affordable Pavilion 590 that’s comes with an AMD Ryzen 3 processor will run powerful graphic design software well.

The high-end Pavilion 590 model comes with an AMD Ryzen 7 processor though, an eight-core chip that will outperform Intel-powered PCs and Macs in some tasks, featuring discrete AMD Radeon Pro Vega graphics as well.

Apple Mac mini (2018)

05. Apple Mac mini (2018)

This tiny but mighty machine is the most affordable Mac around

CPU: 3.6 GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 - 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD 630 | RAM: 8GB - 64GB | Screen: Sold separately | Storage: 256GB - 2TB

Small desktop footprint
Powerful processor
No dedicated graphics
Expensive storage upgrade

The Mac mini is back, in exactly the same small desktop form factor, but now sporting an optional six-core Intel processor that will deliver outstanding Photoshop and Lightroom performance. Unlike the all-in-ones in this list, you’ll need to connect an external display via the HDMI or Thunderbolt 3 connector. 

However, Mac mini is no longer a budget entry point to macOS, while higher tier storage options are typically astronomically priced. However, you can keep costs down by opting for modest internal storage (512GB or so) and then using a fast external USB or Thunderbolt hard drive array for your biggest media files.

(Image credit: Asus)

06. Asus ProArt PA90

An unusual design with top-end specs

CPU: 6-8 core Intel Core i5 / i7 /i9 | Graphics: 8GB - 64GB | RAM: 8-64GB | Storage: 128-512GB SATA SSD, 256GB-512GB M.2 SSD, 1TB HDD

Ultimate performance
Unusual but attractive chassis design
Needs two power supplies
A pricey prospect

The ProArt PA90 is the first compact desktop PC from Asus to use branding that until now, has been associated with high-quality colour-accurate displays. And the result is an unusually shaped dark blue custom tower, filled with top-end computer parts that makes for a dreamy desktop computer for graphic design.

Squeezed into the chassis is an ultra-powerful Nvidia Quadro P4000 graphics card, capable of outputting 4K video to six separate displays. It’s powered by a 9th generation Intel processor with up to 8 cores, up to 64GB of memory, dual M.2 SSDs and a hard disk.

Be warned, while compact, it’s not actually that small, and it needs two power supplies. But it certainly features a brilliant specification that’s absolutely capable of even the most demanding graphic design tasks.

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07. HP Envy 34-inch Curved All-in-One

The best alternative Windows PC for designers

CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-8700T (six cores) | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 34-inch WHQD (3,440x1,440) curved IPS screen | Storage: 512GB SSD; 2TB HDD

Huge screen area for editing
QHD-quality display
No touchscreen
Slightly smaller than 4K resolution

It's hard not to be wowed when you first lay eyes on the monumental 34-inch curved screen of the HP Envy all-in-one. The ultra-wide QHD (3,440 x 1,440 pixel) LED-backlit Micro Edge display is unlike pretty much anything else you'll currently see on the shelves. It's an astonishing amount of room to let your creations breathe, and displays plenty of screen furniture to let you make edits and changes with the utmost convenience. 

It's like having a dual display, but without the clunky hardware. It's pretty nice for watching films and TV box-sets on your downtime, too. Inside there's 8GB of RAM, a quad-core seventh-generation Intel Core i7 processor (yes, this needs a little bit of an update) and a 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD combination hard drive. This is a top spec for your cash.

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08. Acer Aspire S24-880 All In One

Enough guts for graphic design without the expense of alternatives

CPU: Intel Core i5-8250U (four cores) | Graphics: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB-32GB | Screen: 23.8-inch Full HD (1920x1080) | Storage: 256GB SSD; 1TB HDD

Incredibly thin, no-bezel display
Quad core processor
No discrete graphics card
No SSD in base model

The Aspire S24 is a gorgeous looking all-in-one that can handle the rigour of graphic design work, but carries a slightly smaller price tag than the competition. The key is the inclusion of an eighth-generation Intel quad-core processor across the range, which will certainly cope well with design software tasks, from editing video and animations to processing complex high resolution images with multiple layers and filters. 

It has a 1080p, full HD IPS display that carries tiny bezels and is just 6mm thick, with the computer housed in the base, using a very attractive gold and black design that will really stand out on your desk. And as an all-in-one, it has everything a graphic designer will need right out of the box. 

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09. Apple iMac Pro

For heavy lifting graphic design – with a price tag to match

CPU: Intel Xeon W (8,10,14, 18 cores, 2.3 GHz-3.2GHz) | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 or Vega 64 | RAM: 32-128GB | Screen: Retina 5K (5,120x2,880) | Storage: 1TB-4TB SSD

Incredibly powerful 
Superior graphics
Phenomenally expensive
Limited upgrade potential

Let's be clear: this computer isn't necessary for most of us. The majority of graphic designers simply don't need this amount of power in a machine – and the cost is high. But there's a reason why Apple powered up the iMac Pro - because some people need it. 

The iMac Pro slots in underneath the main Mac Pro and both are workstation-level machines for high-end work.  

The display boasts an incredible 27-inch 5,120 x 2,880 resolution. Apple says it can display in excess of one billion colours with P3 colour support. If you've ever wondered whether you're really seeing your designs at their best, then this iMac's screen is about as true as you're going to get. 

Combined with your choice of either 8GB or 16GB HMB2 AMD Vega graphics, the full beauty – and, of course, any errors or flaws – of your work will be seen in dazzling 5K quality. 

If your workflow doesn't involve intense creative tasks, huge file sizes, major editing or 3D rendering at very fast speeds, you won't need this amount of power.

10. Dell Inspiron 27 7000

Edge-to-edge display in a more affordable all-in-one

CPU: Intel Core i5-i7 / AMD Ryzen | Graphics: AMD Radeon 580 8GB / Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 4TB | RAM: 8GB - 32GB | Screen: 27-inch 3840x2160 IPS display | Storage: 1TB HDD; 256GB SSD

Edge-to-edge 4K 27" display
Powerful core configuration
HDMI input

Our final pick in our guide to the best computers for graphic design is the Dell Inspiron 27 7000. Dell’s Inspiron line has long been a favourite for Windows-based graphic designers, as they’re not just well built and well-specified, but relatively well priced as well. 

In fact, for less than you pay for an iMac, you can get better graphic design performance, along with that 'Infinity Edge' 4K display, that has almost non-existent bezels. Even the configuration equipped with an 8-core Ryzen 7 1700 processor and likely to chew through design applications with ease is relatively affordable, plus there’s an 8GB AMD Radeon graphics card in there too. This is a great choice that doesn’t compromise on quality.

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