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The best laptops for graphic design in 2020

Best laptops for graphic design [Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash]
(Image credit: Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash)
Top 5 graphic design laptops

Jump straight to the best laptops for graphic design:
01. MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019)
02. Dell XPS 15 (2020)
03. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
04. Microsoft Surface Book 2
05. Lenovo ThinkPad P1

Welcome to our pick of the best laptops for graphic design in 2020. For any graphic designer who is looking for a powerful and dependable laptop for working on, then this list will help you choose.

Regardless of whether your a professional graphic designer, a student, or even if you just like to dabble, then we've got a laptop for you on this page.

So, while many of these laptops are incredibly powerful, we also have more retrained, and affordable, laptops as well, which means no matter what your budget is, we can help you find the best laptop for your graphic design needs.

Every laptop on this list has been picked by us as they offer enough power to run demanding graphic design applications, while also offering features and tools – such as touchscreens and stylus support – that can help boost your creative workflow. 

With all the options out there, it's understandable if you feel unsure of where to start. If that's the case, scroll to the bottom of this article and you'll find handy pointers on what to look for when choosing a laptop for graphic design.

Prefer working on a desktop PC or Mac? Then take a look at our pick of the best computers for graphic design. And if battery life has you worried, then you may want to check our list of the best power banks available. Or if you're not sure if it's a laptop or a tablet you want, see our list of the best 2-in-1 laptops

The best laptops for graphic design right now

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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

(Image credit: Apple)
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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

(Image credit: Apple)
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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

(Image credit: Apple)
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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

01. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

The best laptop for graphic design overall

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M – Radeon Pro 5500M | RAM: 16GB – 64GB | Screen: 16-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 512GB – 8TB SSD

Stunning 16-inch screen
New and improved keyboard
Limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports

Apple's range of MacBook Pro laptops have always been beloved by creatives and graphic designers - in fact, you'll find the (slightly) smaller 15-inch MacBook Pro is also included lower down in our list of best laptops for graphic design. However, towards the end of 2019, Apple really pulled it out of the bag when it released its brand-new 16-inch MacBook Pro.

This new model brings everything we've come to love from the MacBook Pro, including a gorgeous thin and light design coupled with powerful hardware, and somehow made it even better. You get a larger screen with a higher resolution, making it ideal for graphic design where image quality is of the utmost importance.

Apple has also updated the hardware within the new MacBook, so there's some seriously powerful components in there, including professional graphics cards from AMD - again, essential for graphic design. This is, without a doubt, the best MacBook for content creators, designers and other creative professionals. With amazing (and loud) speakers and a much, much better keyboard to boot.

Also read: MacBook Pro 16-inch review

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Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)
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Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)

02. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

Dell's best laptop yet

CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics - Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti | RAM: 8GB – 64GB | Screen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS - UHD+ (3840 x 2400) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Fast performance
Eye-catching design
GTX 1650 Ti is a little weak
15-inch screen might be too large for some

If you're after the best Windows 10 laptop for graphic design, then we can't recommend the Dell XPS 15 (2020) strongly enough. Dell's latest flagship laptop is about as close to perfect as you can get, packing some of the very latest components into a thin and light design that's as gorgeous to look at as it is easy to carry around.

It comes with a stunning 15.6-inch display, which can come in a range of very high resolutions, which makes it an excellent choice for graphic designers who are looking to buy a new laptop. Unusually for a laptop this thin, it also comes with a discrete Nvidia graphics card in certain configurations, which is again ideal for graphic designers who are going to be using this laptop for intensive graphic design work.

Perhaps best of all, its battery life is excellent, which means you don't have to be tethered to a desk if you want to use this powerful laptop.

For more Dell laptop deals, see our dedicated best Dell laptop post.

MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

03. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)

A brilliant compact graphic design laptop

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – 10th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 | RAM: up to 32GB | Screen: 13-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD

Improved specs (on some models)
Larger capacity SSD for starting model
New keyboard is great
Entry-level model still has 8th gen Intel CPU
You still only get Thunderbolt 3 ports

If you're a graphic designer who wants a MacBook Pro, but are after something a bit more portable than the 16-inch model, then this year's 13-inch MacBook Pro is the ideal laptop for you. You can configure it come come with the latest Intel processors and faster RAM, which means this is an incredibly fast laptop that can handle pretty much any graphic design app you'd want to use.

It's also got a new keyboard, which means keyboard issues that plagued previous models should be a thing of the past, and it's all wrapped up in a gorgeously designed svelte body. There's no discrete GPU, unlike the 16-inch model, but that shouldn't be an issue unless you're going to do some very intensive graphic design work.

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04. Microsoft Surface Book 2

The Surface Book is the ultimate laptop for graphic design

CPU: Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15-inch PixelSense (3240x2160) | Storage: 256GB - 1TB SSD

Doubles as a tablet
Amazing colour-accurate screen
Surface Pen not included

Microsoft's Surface Book 2 is an incredible 2-in-1 laptop – even in its lowest spec option. If you're a designer who draws as well, this is the best laptop for graphic design you can get. It’s fast and immensely powerful, thanks to Intel’s quad-core Coffee Lake Core i7-8650 processor and 16GB of RAM. And it boasts an impressive battery life, plus a stunning, crisp display with superb colour accuracy. 

It’s also incredibly versatile: use it as a graphics, video or photo-editing workstation on the go, or as a sketchbook. Just detach the screen and use it as a tablet with the Surface Pen (which doesn't come included, our one gripe) or buy the innovative Surface Dial  and have 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. 

Too expensive? If you can cope with less screen real estate, the 13-inch Surface Book 2 is significantly cheaper, with a similar core specification and only slightly less impressive overall performance. For even cheaper, Microsoft's original 13-inch Surface Book remains a ridiculously accomplished laptop, with a smaller price tag. But if you've got the cash, the Surface Book 2 is an utterly fantastic laptop for graphic designers.

Also read: Microsoft Surface Book 2 review

Best laptop for graphic design: Lenovo ThinkPad P1

05. Lenovo ThinkPad P1

This amazing laptop is well worth the hefty pricetag

CPU: Intel Core i5, Core i7, Core i9 or Xeon | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro P1000 / P2000 | RAM: 8GB-64GB | Screen: 15.6" Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256-4TB SSD

Fantastic screen
Slim design
Oodles of performance

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is one of the most powerful Windows laptops around, and is aimed squarely at high-level content creators. It gives you the option of an Intel Xeon processor and a professional-grade Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics, up to 64GB of memory and has all the ports you could need (two USB 3, two USB-C Thunderbolt 3, an HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort and SD card reader). This machine sports a slick design, with a slim chassis and a 4K display with 100% AdobeRGB coverage. The screen alone makes it a joy for creative work, but with all the performance it offers too, the ThinkPad P1 is a seriously good laptop for graphic designers.

Best laptops for graphic design: Dell Precision 3540

06. Dell Precision 3540

The best laptop for graphic design if you're on a budget

CPU: Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD 620 / AMD Radeon Pro WX 2100 2GB | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB SSD

Large 1080p display
Discrete AMD graphics
8GB RAM may be limiting
Only a single internal SSD

Dell’s new 15.6-inch Precision 3540 has a specification that can handle even the most advanced features in tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom. It has an Intel Core i5 quad-core processor with a 1080P display and an entry-level discrete AMD Radeon Pro WX 2100 2GB graphics card, which will help with 3D and anything that uses OpenCL. A 256GB fast M.2 SSD, 8GB of system memory and support for Thunderbolt 3 round off a package that’s priced incredibly well as an entry-level computer for visual design.

MacBook Pro 2019

(Image credit: Apple)

07. Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Still one of the best MacBook Pros ever

CPU: Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X - Radeon Pro Vega 20, Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.4-inch, (2,880 x 1,800) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD

The best MacBook Pro ever
Super fast performance
Not a huge generational leap

Apple is on great form with its 15-inch MacBook Pro 2019. If you need sheer power – and have the cash – this is one of the best graphic design laptops you can get. The new Macbook Pro offers a substantial upgrade over previous versions. Aimed at creative professionals, this is the most powerful MacBook device ever created, with more RAM, a choice of six and eight-core Intel processors, and better discrete graphics cards. It also comes with blisteringly fast SSDs and a quieter keyboard. This makes this year's model an incredible device and easily one of the best laptops for graphic design, even if there are newer MacBooks out there.

However, it's not all good news. On the downside, there are just four USB-C ports and one headphone jack port, so you’ll need an adapter if you want to plug in an Ethernet cable or legacy hardware. And while the screen is absolutely gorgeous, 4K would have been nice. Nevertheless, the Apple MacBook (2019) gives you the CPU and memory horsepower to make mincemeat of large files and complex tasks – and it absolutely looks the part too. 

It's also worth noting that the 15-inch model, while still available to buy, has been replaced by the larger 16-inch model (which is our pick for the best laptop for graphic design).

However, this does mean you could find some great deals for the 15-inch model.

Best laptop for graphic design: Huawei MateBook X Pro

08. Huawei MateBook X Pro

Design and performance to rival the mighty MacBook Pro

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 , Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch 3K (3,000 x 2,080) | Storage: 512GB SSD

Fantastic display
Terrific battery life
No SD card slot
Webcam not great

Huawei may not be the first name that springs to mind when considering the best laptops for graphic design, but with the Huawei MateBook X Pro, the Chinese company has proved it has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the biggest names in the laptop market. This is a gorgeously designed laptop with a stunning screen (albeit with a rather odd aspect ratio), and it comes packed with cutting edge components that allows it to perform brilliantly, and a battery life that runs rings around many of its rivals. It has a design and performance that rivals the mighty MacBook Pro. Also, it runs Windows 10, so you can install all the digital art apps you're used to using.

 Read: Our sister site TechRadar’s Huawei MateBook X Pro review

Best laptops for graphic design: HP ZBook Studio G4 DreamColor

09. HP ZBook Studio G4 DreamColor

Power meets portability – the G4 has repeatedly proven that it's a fantastic laptop for graphic design

CPU: Intel Xeon CPU | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro M1200 | RAM: 32GB | Screen: 15.6-inch 3840x2160 | Storage: 512GB SSD

Excellent screen
Top specs
Relatively slim for power

If you’re looking for all-out power, check out the rip-roaring HP ZBook Studio G4. The top-end model isn’t cheap, but it packs incredible specs including a 15.6-inch 4K DreamColor display that can easily be colour calibrated, a blazing-fast Core Intel Xeon CPU, 32GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and NVIDIA Quadro M1200 dedicated graphics with 4GB VRAM. If you like to connect up your favourite peripherals and monitors, then there’s also a healthy range of ports – it features a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI port, a legacy VGA connector, SD card reader, one USB 3.0 port, and two USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports. Oh, and let's not forget the Bang & Olufsen speakers in case you want to crank up the tunes while you work. 

At just over 2kg (4.6lbs), it won’t break your back carrying it around, and it’s pretty thin at 18mm. If you're worried about security, then you'll be glad of the built-in fingerprint reader and the optional (and extremely fast) HP Z Turbo NVMe PCIe SED (self-encrypting drive) SSDs.

Best laptops for graphic design: Huawei MateBook 13

10. Huawei MateBook 13

The best laptop for graphic design if you're on a budget

CPU: 8th-gen Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 , Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13-inch 1440p (2,160 x 1,440) | Storage: 256GB-512GB SSD

Relatively affordable
Plenty of processor performance
Optional Nvidia graphics
Limited to 8GB memory

If you aren’t willing or able to fork out the high sums demanded by the most high-end laptops, but you don’t want to compromise on performance, the Huawei MateBook 13 is made for you. Huawei has sensibly built a mid-range MacBook clone that delivers the goods when it comes to processing, so is perfect for students and anyone on a budget. That means ultra-responsive Photoshop performance that can be used for any demanding graphics task you throw at it. With a bright 1440p screen, portable design and Nvidia graphics, it’s not much of a compromise in other areas either. 

Best laptops for graphic design: Apple MacBook Air (2020)

11. Apple MacBook Air (2020)

A brilliant laptop for graphic design

CPU: 10th generation Intel Core i3 - i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61cm; W x D x H)

Lovely design
Good price
Dim colours
Lack of ports

After a much-needed refresh, the MacBook Air (2020) has had a few choice updates that make it a real winner for graphic design work. Although it’s not quite the powerhouse the MacBook Pro is (or some high-end Windows laptops), it now has a bright Retina display, which is a great upgrade over the dated screen in the old Air and better for working with graphic design software. New 10th generation Intel processors in the 2020 model are much faster and will cope with Photoshop, Illustrator, and so on with ease. But Apple has sensibly ensured the Air is as portable as ever, with a seriously lightweight design that makes it a great choice for graphics work on the go.

However, it's important to note that the entry level model of MacBook Air (2020) doesn't come with the new Intel 10th generation processors. Instead, it sticks with 8th generation processors and slower RAM, making it not as good a graphic design laptop as the more expensive models.

Best laptops for graphic design: HP ZBook X2

12. HP ZBook X2

HP's stunning 2-in-1 option takes on the Surface Book 2

CPU: Intel Core i7 | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro M620 with 2GB dedicated GDDR5 graphics memory | Memory: 32GB RAM | Screen: 15-inch 1920x1200 | Storage: 512GB SSD

4K multi-touch Dreamcolor display
Hefty price tag

Created specifically with creatives in mind, the HP ZBook X2 packs a serious amount of power, and with it a pretty hefty price tag. But if money is no issue and you're contemplating abandoning a desktop or laptop as a primary creative tool, the HP ZBook X2 deserves a look. It boasts some seriously impressive designer-focused specs, including a stunning 10-bit, 100% Adobe RGB, 4K multi-touch UHD dreamcolour display and extra ports to keep you well connected. 

It also comes pre-installed with Adobe's Creative Cloud desktop application for easy access, and sports a fully detachable Bluetooth keyboard so you can switch from laptop to tablet whenever inspiration strikes. That's all backed up with the power of an Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB RAM – double that of its Microsoft rival – and NVIDIA Quadro graphics. 

However, power requires more juice, so battery life on the ZBook2 is shorter than some of the other laptops featured in this list. It's also heavier than some of its competition, which isn't ideal when you're on the go. That said, while the X2 doesn't come cheap, it's still a serious option for designers looking to liberate themselves from a desktop without compromising on apps and performance. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

13. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Microsoft’s touchscreen is sleek, light and powerful

CPU: Intel Core i5 - i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB - 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD

Touchscreen sketching
Great battery life
Too few ports

The Surface Laptop 3 is Microsoft's latest high-end laptop, and it's once again a great device for graphic design students and professionals. The new Surface Laptop 3 comes with boosted hardware for better performance, and it's all wrapped up in a gorgeously-designed body.

As with its predecessors, even the lowest-end model 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. You get the full Windows 10 experience, which means you can install Creative Cloud apps and other programs easily.

Laptops for graphic design: What to look for

So how do you pick the best laptop for your graphic design work? Clearly you'll be guided by what you can afford, which is why we have the best options for all budgets here. But there are a few other things to consider too. 

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. You also 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 machines here will give you all the power and performance you need to hit the ground running with your latest, greatest project. 

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