The Designer’s Guide To Choosing A Laptop In 2021

In graphic design, choosing the tool with which you create your projects is crucial. If you are always on the go, opting for a laptop is ideal, but you also do not want to sacrifice efficiency when you render your designs.

In addition, you will need to pay close attention to the hardware, especially if you plan on using the laptop for a long time. If not, you are only setting yourself up for failure.

To help you make the right choice, here are the top considerations you should look out for when buying a laptop for designing:

Right Screen Size, Resolution, & Type

Graphic design revolves around visuals, so it only makes sense that your screen should be as high quality as possible. For starters, consider a larger screen as your main display and an alternative to a desktop display.

Look for 15 inches, or perhaps a 17-inch screen, but keep in mind that the latter may be too bulky to lug around. It is also best if you opt for a laptop with a resolution of 1600×900 or 1920×1080, as these have a higher density of pixels, allowing you to see more detail.

As for the screen type — the LCD panel and the coating over the screen — look for IPS for higher color and better viewing angles or maybe even OLED for better overall contrast ratios and color.

If at all possible, anti-glare or matte coatings would be nice to have, given how these reduce the amount of external light reflecting on the screen. They also tend to be more durable, making them less susceptible to cracks that are expensive to repair.

Powerful Graphics Card

Many seem to be under the impression that graphics cards only matter to gamers, but it is also important to graphic designers, especially those who primarily deal with complex projects.

At the very least, you should choose a mid-end graphics card so the software you use will run smoother and can handle projects like 2D designing and painting simultaneously.

This is made possible thanks to the ever-evolving technology behind printed circuit boards (PCBs), which, to the uninitiated, are boards that serve as a foundation for the computer’s internal components.

With heavy-duty tasks like design and editing, designers are solving modern PCB challenges, like BGA routing and voltage drops.

This allows them to pack even more complexity into small boards — giving you plenty of functionality even with lighter laptops without sacrificing energy efficiency.

So it goes without saying that you also might want to look into powerful graphics cards like the RTX 2050 or RTX 2060 or, if your budget allows, the RTX 2070 or 2080 to do your best work.

Large Capacity Storage

While you can always depend on cloud storage for keeping your files safe, it is still better to have everything stored on your computer. If you are not willing to pay for an external hard drive, avoid laptops with a capacity of less than 500GB.

Rather, go for ones with over 2TB of storage. This way, you surely will not run out of space once you work across a number of projects.

Moreover, laptops typically come equipped with two types of storage — hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). Hard drives are more common and are found in most laptops, but solid-state drives, albeit more expensive and come in limited sizes, are known for their quick speed.

Newer laptops tend to pack in an SSD, but if you find one that doesn’t, you can always modify the laptop to add one to make it quicker for rendering and loading.

Enough Memory

Laptops also have RAM or Random Access Memory — not to be confused with storage — which functions as their short-term memory. Opt for a more RAM device because it will be more capable of processing multiple things at once.

While the RAM does not make anything faster when you have enough of it, it will slow you down if you do not have enough or if it cannot handle the applications you are using simultaneously.

When it comes to RAM, it is always better to have too much than too little. At the very minimum, you will need 8GB, but if you dabble in heavy editing, you might want to consider increasing that to 16GB.

Fast & Powerful Processor

Lastly, you will also need a powerful processor or CPU, the part of the laptop that controls its main functions. It would help if you chose a quad-core or extreme series processor, as these are usually capable of running complex design programs.

AMD A10, AMD A8, Intel Core i7, and Intel Core i5 are ideal. They can process more data at quicker speeds, which is what you need if you are creating lots of content.

What’s more, do your best to avoid purchasing a laptop with a CPU that’s already a few generations old. When it comes to CPUs, the newer it is, the better they will perform.

If you’re still on the lookout for a new daily design companion, check out more of our laptop buying guides!

I lead product content strategy for SaltMoney. Additionally, I’m helping our broader team of 4 evolve into a mature content strategy practice with the right documentation and processes to deliver quality work. Prior to Instacart, I was a content strategy lead at Uber Eats and Facebook. Before that, I was a content strategist at SapientNitro, helping major Fortune 500 brands create better, more useful digital content.

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