As a graphic designer you’ll already know that using the right computer is pivotal to the success of your work. Having the right spec and design can make your life so much easier and can give you the power to elevate your art to the next level.
If you’re searching for a new computer for your graphic design work, you’re in luck: there are a huge array of machines on the market designed to do just that. But, with so many options, how do you choose the right one for you?
Begin by considering the following things:
- Processor - most heavyweight graphic design programs need something powerful like Intel Core i7, but if your software usage is more modest go for something cheaper and less like a Core i5.
- Memory (RAM) – try not to drop below 16GB, but if you really have to then 8GB really is the bare minimum for keeping up with complex design tasks. If you’re working with video or 3D, 32GB is ideal.
- Hard drive – Solid state drives (SSD) are faster and more durable, so are preferable to hard disk drives (HHD) as backups will be quicker and stored more safely. 1TB is the minimum storage you’ll need for graphic design projects.
- Screen – Full HD (1080p) is the minimum resolution you should go for, then anything above that will simply increase the detail that’s visible in your work. Touchscreen and a flexible monitor are great if you like to draw with a stylus.
It’s worth noting that, where relevant, we’ve reviewed the top specification model for each machine.
If you’re looking for an all-around excellent machine that’s capable of handling all your design requirements, the Microsoft Surface Pro is our best overall computer.
Processor: Quad-core 6th Gen Intel Core i7
Memory: 32GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce
Storage: 128GB SSD with 2TB HDD
Screen: 28” 4,500 x 3,000 192 DPI resolution
+ Run multiple programs without lag
+ Touchscreen was designed with creatives in mind
+ Flexible screen positioning
- Expensive compared to other PCs
It used to be that a Windows machine wouldn’t have a chance of beating Apple to the top spot in any high-end computer review, but Microsoft has earned the spot with this pro-level model from their Surface range.
We reviewed the top spec model which is ideal for professional designers working on complex projects that require a lot of computing power. A powerful processor and plenty of RAM means that the Surface Studio is more than capable of running demanding software such as Adobe Illustrator or Autodesk without any irritating lag.
The real joy of this PC is its flexibility. The paper-thin adjustable PixelSense display can be positioned however you like, so you can edit, sketch and draw using the Surface Pen. Oh, and did we mention that it looks great, too?
If your heart is set on an all-in-one but your budget won’t stretch to the Surface Studio, the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One is an excellent choice.
+ Immersive widescreen display
+ Secure pop-up webcam for video calls
+ Makes light work of multitasking
- Curved screen can take some getting used to
Processor: Intel Core i7
Memory: 16GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce
Storage: 2TB 5400 rpm SATA with 256GB SSD
Screen: 34” 3,440 x 1440
It’s likely to be love at first sight with this widescreen stunner from HP. The obvious selling point is the beautifully thin curved screen which provides an epic amount of room to work on. This is best for designers who tend to work across multiple programs, or who just want to see their work in all its glory.
There’s less RAM on offer than our top pick, but 16GB is still plenty to handle multi-layered designs in various media. The i7 processor supports this nicely, giving you a great spec for a reasonable price. To top it off, there’s plenty of storage on board, so you can keep your projects to hand even if they’re big.
It may take a little time to get used to seeing your designs on the curved screen, but once you realize its capabilities, you’ll never look back.
If you prefer to buy your tower and monitor separately, this Dell XPS tower delivers a solid performance packed into a deceivingly small body.
+ Compact, space saving design
+ Low price for a high-spec model
+ Option to expansion
- Not amazing if you don’t plan to add to it
- Processor: Intel Core i7-8700
- Memory: 16GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce
- Storage: 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD with 1TB HDD
This is technically a gaming PC, but it has a configuration that’s perfectly suited to designers too. It’s built for speed and boasts excellent CPU performance, so it’ll keep up with demanding processes and hefty projects.
The compact design is great if you’re short on space in your studio but you still want the separate tower, and the chassis is designed to open easily so you can customize your computer. With this option, this Dell makes an amazing PC to grow into as your projects increase in size and complexity. If you don’t have the DIY skills to do so, this tower is still a solid choice but it might not blow your mind.
The accompanying mouse and keyboard are standard issue Dell, so bear in mind that you might need to upgrade your mouse if you tend to use one over a tablet and stylus.
If nothing but Apple will do, their iMac with Retina 5K display will not disappoint.
+ Incredible 5K display
+ Fast and smooth performance
+ Configurable options upgrade its performance
- The top spec model is expensive
- Processor: Quad-core Intel Core i5
- Memory: 8GB RAM
- Graphics: Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB of VRAM
- Storage: 2TB Fusion Drive
- Screen: 27” Retina 5K display with 5120 x 2880 resolution
Controversially, perhaps, we’re not going top-spec for our top mac, because the fact is most designers won’t need that level of computing power (and therefore there’s no point in paying for it).
The 5K screen needs to be seen to be believed: it’s that bright. Apple has gone for a ‘maximum velocity’ approach with this machine and its performance is lightning fast no matter how big or complex your project is. But, if you do find that you’re outgrowing it in any way, the configurable options let you ramp up storage, memory and the processor.
Our only negative is the price. The top spec model with the biggest screen is expensive, which is to be expected with Apple products, and if you do want to upgrade the spec you’ll need to pay even more. But as the old saying goes: you get what you pay for.
If all of the above options are too pricey for your budget, the Lenovo IdeaCentre 720 will do a great job of handling your projects without breaking the bank.
+ Excellent value for money
+ Flexible screen positioning
+ Fast processing
- The display could be brighter
- Processor: Intel Core i7-7700
- Memory: 12GB DDR4
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 1050Ti
- Storage: 128GB SSD, 1 TB HDD
- Screen: 27” 1920 x 1080 resolution
You get plenty of bang for your buck with a speedy quad-core processor and NVIDIA graphics card, which is plenty of power to manage editing and illustrating programs like Photoshop and Inkscape. There’s a fair amount of storage too, so you won’t necessarily need to spend any more on an external hard drive.
The flexible mount for the monitor is a real selling point, and it’s quick and easy to adjust the position between -5 and 90 degrees to suit what you’re working on.
The display is dull when compared to the others though, and as with the Dell tower, you might want to invest in a better mouse. But for the price, this Lenovo is a solid investment.
Wrapping it up
Buying the right machine to work on will allow you to work faster and produce better work, so it’s worth taking the time to do your research and make the right choice.
Always be sure to check that your favorite design software is compatible with your chosen computer before you make the investment.
What computer do you prefer to use for your graphic design work? Let us know in the comments.