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The best computer for graphic design in 2021

The best computer for graphic design
(Image credit: John Lamb on Getty Images)
Best computers for graphic design: Top 5

Welcome to our pick of the best computers for graphic design in 2021. The Windows PCs and Macs on this page are all powerful computers that can drastically speed up your workflow. This is thanks to their powerful components, including the latest processors and graphics cards, which can handle complex and intensive graphic design tasks and applications. 

There's a huge choice of PCs out there, and with powerful specs there is often plenty of jargon being thrown around, which can make picking the best computer for graphic design that suits your needs and budget rather intimidating. The good news is that we're here to help.

We cut through all the jargon to give you clear and helpful buying advice. For more information, jump to the what to consider when buying one of the best computers for graphic design section. 

Another thing to note is that while powerful graphic design PCs are often very expensive, with the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals approaching, you should be able to find some great deals that can knock a hefty chunk off the asking price.

The best computers for graphic design available now

The best computer for graphic designCB

(Image credit: Apple)

01. iMac (27-inch, 2020)

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

CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300 - Radeon Pro 5700 XT | RAM: 8GB – 128GB 2666MHz DDR4 | Storage: 256GB – 8TB SSD | Display: 27-inch (diagonal) 5120 x 2880 Retina 5K display

Improved internals
Can be configured to be very powerful
Design is getting old
Just two Thunderbolt ports

Apple’s latest iMac has had yet another update this year, and it now comes with powerful 10th generation Intel Core processors - you can even configure it to come with 10-cores, making this a formidable PC for graphic design.

Perhaps most importantly for graphic design work, the new iMac 2020 has new AMD Radeon Pro 5000 graphics cards, and these offer a huge leap in performance compared to the Vega GPUs of last year's models. 

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 (which gets a few minor upgrades for 2020 as well) is better value, the iMac is not a cheap option – especially when you add all the extras, such as the largest storage capacities. See our in-depth iMac 2020 review for more details. 

Best computer for graphic designCB endorsed

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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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(Image credit: Lenovo)
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(Image credit: Lenovo)

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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(Image credit: HP)
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(Image credit: HP)

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.

Dell XPS Tower Special Edition

(Image credit: Dell)

05. Dell XPS Tower

Affordable, high-performing machine

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i3 – i9 | Graphics: Intel HD – UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB - 64GB | Storage: 1TB HDD – 2TB SSD + 2TB HDD

Fully configurable
Can be pricey

The Dell XPS Tower is one of the best computers for graphic design for a number of reasons. First, the latest models feature some of the most cutting-edge hardware money can buy, including 9th generation Intel Core processors and powerful graphics. Secondly, they are incredibly customisation. 

You can choose from a wide range of options when you order them from Dell, and this means you can easily build a Dell XPS Tower that suits your needs and budget. However, once you start cramming in more high-end components you'll see the price rise quite steeply. And, once you've bought it, you can always open it up and upgrade it yourself later on, making it very future-proof.

Finally, it comes with Dell's top-notch build quality and after sales support, which means you can depend on it for your creative work, and if something does go wrong, Dell is on hand to help you.

Apple Mac mini (2018)

06. 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.

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07. 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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08. 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.

9. 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.

Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

(Image credit: Dell)

10. Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

An affordable and powerful PC for graphic design

CPU: 9th Gen Intel Core i3-9100 – i9 9900K | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 – RTX 2070 | RAM: 8GB – 64GB | Storage: 1TBSSD – 1TB SSD + 2TB HDD

Brash design
More suited to gamers

As the name suggests, the Dell G5 Gaming Desktop is primarily aimed at gamers, but there's some good reasons why it's made its way onto our list of the best computers for graphic design. For a start, gaming PCs pack powerful graphics cards, and while that helps them play the latest games at high definitions, it's also great for graphic design professionals as well, as those GPUs can help create, edit and render complex designs.

Another reason is that as far as gaming machines go, the Dell G5 is impressively affordable, which makes it a great choice for graphic designers looking for a powerful PC that won't cost huge amounts of money. And, if you like to play the odd game as well when you've finished working, then this is a great choice as well.

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.  

But, why should you pick a computer, rather than a laptop for graphic design? While there are some great laptops out there that can help with your graphic design work, they generally can't offer the same level of power and performance as desktop computers due to them needing to be thin, light and portable.

Desktop PCs don't have to worry about that, which means they are much more powerful, and are more affordable as well. However, because the best computers for graphic design need powerful components like cutting edge graphics cards, don't expect any of these PCs to be particularly cheap. 

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

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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