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The best laptops for graphic designers, according to experts who use them

ZDNET breaks down the best laptops from Dell, HP, and Lenovo, among others for graphic designers.

Today, most PC manufacturers offer extensive portfolios of laptops and desktop PCs that are specifically aimed at creative users in fields like graphic design, offering thoughtful, custom features all meant to make your job easier and help you flourish at work. 

Also: Best graphic design monitors 

However, it is not always so easy determining which laptop is best, so ZDNET set to task. We screened the market and talked to graphic designers, artists, and users alike to identify the very best laptops for graphic design purposes. 

Based on factors like operating system, performance, features, and construction, the Apple MacBook Pro with the M2 chip is the best graphic design laptop. Without a doubt, it's the top dog. However, our list also includes options from HP, Dell, and Lenovo so there is something for every type of creative professional out there. 

The best laptops for graphic designers in 2023 

Pros & Cons
  • Excellent display
  • Fantastic CPU performance
  • Great battery life
  • An expensive option
  • New design won't wow you
More Details

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch specs: CPU: Apple M2 | GPU: M2 integrated graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256 GB SSD | Display: 13-inch Retina with True Tone 

The newest version of the Apple MacBook Pro elevates design performance with Apple's M2 Chip. This chip contains a zippy 8-core CPU, allowing you to get more work done without sacrificing in other areas.

Principal and Creative Director of ArtVersion, Goran Paun, told ZDNET that their company exclusively uses the MacBook Pro for graphic design work. 

"Apple MacBook Pro models offer high-performance processors, ample RAM, and powerful graphics capabilities that are optimized to the type of work we do and to handle these tasks efficiently," he said, adding, "[The laptop] offers vibrant colors and sharp details, which are crucial for precise design work."

Plus, with Unified Memory, you can run and toggle between multiple apps without a reduction in performance -- a must for designers working on multiple projects concurrently.

Read the review: Apple MacBook Pro review

Pros & Cons
  • 4K display
  • Ample customization options
  • Workstation performance
  • Good connectivity
  • Expensive
  • Has a 720p webcam
More Details

HP ZBook Fury 17 G8 specs: CPU: Up to 11th gen Intel Core i9 | GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX A4000 | RAM: Up to 64GB | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD | Display: FHD or 4K 

The ZBook is HP's mobile workstation range, but there are several models within the range that are specifically designed for particular tasks and applications. The ZBook Fury -- recently updated with this 8th generation (G8) model -- is a top-of-the-range option, suitable for 3D graphics and visualization, game development, and 4K video editing.

HP's website provides an almost dazzlingly wide range of customization options, including both 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch displays, but if you're aiming for no-compromise performance then it makes sense to opt for the 17-inch model that we review here. It's a bit of a beast, measuring 27mm thick, but it packs all the power of a high-end desktop graphics workstation.

There's an entry-level model with i5 processor, integrated graphics, and 1080p display, but serious graphics and video work will require a few upgrades. You can expect to step up in price for a more powerful model with an 11th gen i7-11800H, Nvidia RTX A2000, full 4K display, 16GB memory, and 256GB solid-state storage. 

And, as mentioned, there's a wide range of further upgrades also available, including i9 and Xeon processors, and up to RTX A5000 graphics. The high-quality display doesn't cut any corners either, providing HDR400, 120Hz refresh rate for clear, sharp graphics for game developers, and DCI-P3 color for video editing.

"As a marketing expert with a focus on graphic design, I've found the HP ZBook Fury 17 G8 to be a standout choice," says Kevin Groh who serves as the Director of Content Marketing at Streamline Health. "This laptop is a powerhouse, designed to handle complex graphic design tasks with ease." 

"Whether you're working on 3D graphics or 4K video editing, the ZBook Fury 17 G8 delivers high-end performance," Groh adds. "The 4K display, 16GB memory, and 256GB solid-state storage are all top-tier features that make this laptop a great tool for graphic design."

Pros & Cons
  • Cheaper than other Windows options
  • Powerful GeForce RTX GPU
  • 1TB of storage space
  • Lacks a 4K display
  • Battery life isn't the greatest
More Details

Acer Swift X 14 specs: CPU: Intel Core i7-13700H | GPU: 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 | RAM: 16GB LPDDR5 | Storage: 1 TB SSD | Display: 14.5-inch WQXGA Plus 16:10 120HZ

Laptops aimed at graphic designers tend to be pretty expensive. Manufacturers of these machines tend to install some high-end to ensure quality like 4K displays. Acer, however, recently launched a budget-friendly laptop aimed at creative professionals: the Swift X 14.

Like a lot of the other entries on this list, the Swift X 14 comes with a Nvidia-made GPU, but what's unique about it is its graphics card is typically seen in gaming PCs. It comes with the GeForce RTX 4050. According to Acer, having this hardware makes the Swift X 14 a great choice for rendering 3D graphics, video editing, photography, and more. Additionally, it comes pre-installed with Nvidia Studio, "a software suite" comprised of apps like Canvas for graphic design. It even supports "next-gen ray tracing for realistic lighting effects".

Of course, the GPU isn't the only piece of hardware that performs well. It does come with an Intel Core i7-13700H, 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and a 1TB SSD for storage.

There is one area where Swift X 14 falters and that's the display. It's a 14.5-inch WQXGA Plus screen (2880 x 1800 pixels) with a refresh rate of 120Hz. That's not bad at all. It's actually quite good, but not "4K resolution" good.

But still, this is a great laptop for professionals looking to save some money. The more expensive model will run you about $1,500. There is a cheaper option out there that runs an Intel Core i5-13500H processor and a GeForce RTX 3050 GPU instead. Do note the less expensive version has less storage space as well.

Pros & Cons
  • Competitive price
  • Wide range of customization options
  • Great connectivity
  • Heavy
  • Entry-level model only has 1080p display
More Details

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 tech Specs: CPU: Intel Core i5-11500H | GPU: Nvidia T1200 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Display:  15.6-inch 1080p

Lenovo's updated ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 isn't as light as previous models in the range, but it provides an affordable mobile workstation for students and professional users in fields such as engineering and CAD.

The P15 Gen 2 measures 31mm at its thickest point and is probably more suited for indoor use on the desktop rather than outdoors. However, the low price and Lenovo's wide range of customization options will still appeal to many users. There are a dozen "ready to ship" models available, starting with a 6-core, 11th generation Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia T1200 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It also includes a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution, which should be adequate for 2D graphics and simple video editing. 

You can upgrade to a 4K display for a few extra hundred dollars if you need it. Lenovo also provides a "Build your own ThinkPad" option which allows you to start with a clean slate and select all the core components yourself, including the Intel Core i7, i9, and Xeon processors and a variety of Nvidia graphics cards. There is also a high-end display option, which supports Dolby Vision and HDR500 and sports a 17-inch screen.

"As a Senior Digital Marketer with hands-on experience in graphic design, I must say that I absolutely adore the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2," says Tetiana Sira of EnergyCasino, calling it her trusted companion for design projects. "

"The ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 allows me to handle graphic design tasks efficiently, ensuring smooth performance and quick rendering of complex designs," Sira adds. "Its performance, stunning display, reliable battery life, and versatile connectivity options make it an ideal choice for any designer."

Pros & Cons
  • Slim, lightweight design
  • Adjustable easel display
  • Solid build
  • 1600p display
  • Limited customization options
  • Limited connectivity
  • Less suited for video editing
More Details

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio tech Specs: CPU: Intel core i7-11370H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Display: 14.4-inch 1600p

The Surface Book was Microsoft's first attempt to lure creative users away from Apple, but the new Surface Laptop Studio for Business goes all-out to focus on graphics and design work.

Like other Surface models, the Laptop Studio has a convertible, 2-in-1 design that allows you to fold the screen flat so that you can use it either as a tablet or a conventional laptop. However, the screen also has an additional hinge that lets you tilt the screen like an easel; this is perfect for use with Microsoft's Surface pen for illustration work.

The Laptop Studio feels very sturdy, despite its lightweight design and slimline profile. The 14.4-inch, touch-sensitive display is bright and sharp with 1600p resolution, and it is a delight to work with. However, Microsoft makes no mention of Adobe RGB or DCI-PE support, so you'll probably still need an external display for high-end graphics or video work. And, to be fair, the Laptop Studio isn't meant to act as a mobile workstation in the same league as some of its rivals, focusing on portability and ease of use rather than high-end performance.

Read the review: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review

"Overall, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is a great device for graphic design, offering a good balance of power, flexibility, and premium features," shares Thoriq Noor, an experienced content designer and marketer. "Based on my experience with the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, it's a powerful, flexible, workstation-style PC that's perfect for artists, engineers, and some light gaming." 

Keep in mind you'll need to double the price for the top-of-the-range model that we tested. Our testing model was outfitted with an 11th gen i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 TI graphics card, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD. Connectivity is a little disappointing, though, with just two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone socket. So Microsoft is clearly hoping you'll pay more for the additional ports provided by its Surface Dock 2.

Pros & Cons
  • Attractive, slim design
  • Nvidia RTX 30 Series GPU
  • High-quality display
  • Heavy
  • Limited upgrade options
More Details

MSI Creator Z17 tech Specs: CPU: Intel Core i7-12700H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti | RAM: 32 GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Display: 17-inch 1600p

Last year's Creator 17 model with 10th gen Intel processors is still available on MSI's website, and a few online retailers, but if you want to get up to date then the new Creator Z17 provides a powerful mobile workstation with a stylish design that MSI describes as "tech meets aesthetics."

Like Apple's MacBook range, the Creator Z17 has a 'unibody' design carved out of metal. It measures just 19mm thick, and its lunar grey coloring is also designed to shimmer and change hue as the ambient light around it changes during the day. However, its 3.0Kg weight reminds you that this is a mobile workstation, rather than a stylish ultrabook.

There's plenty of power hidden within that stylish design too. There are also upgrade options for an i9 processor and RTX 3080 graphics, but it's a shame that all Z17 models share the same 2560x1600 display. To be fair, it's an attractive, touch-sensitive display, with a 16:10 aspect ratio, smooth 165Hz refresh rate, and support for DCI-P3 for video editing work. It's a shame, though, that there's no option to upgrade to a 4K display, so high-end graphics and video work will require an external display.

The MSI creator Z17 went above and beyond the expectations of Luke Hancock, a marketing manager with graphic design experience.

"The Z17 handles everything with ease, whether I'm running taxing software, creating graphics, or editing films," he said. "Even when doing demanding tasks, the cooling system maintains the laptop from overheating."

Pros & Cons
  • 4K display
  • Slim, lightweight design
  • Powerful, 14-core i9 processor
  • Limited customization options
  • Only one Thunderbolt port
More Details

Razer Blade 15 tech specs: CPU: Intel Core i9-12900H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch 4K

Razer is well-known for its range of gaming gear and its popular Blade gaming laptops, but the recent move towards hybrid and remote working has encouraged it to move into the business and professional market too. Its new Razer Book laptops are an attractive convertible rival for Microsoft's Surface range, although their integrated graphics are more suited for general office work rather than content creation. 

However, there are several models in the recently updated Blade range that will appeal to creative users. Screen sizes vary from 14.0 to 17.0 inches, but the sweet spot for creative users is probably the 15.6-inch Blade 15 (which replaces the Blade 15 Studio Edition).

Described as "the world's thinnest gaming laptop," the Blade 15 measures just 17mm thick and weighs a highly portable 2Kg. A QHD display (2560x1440) steps up the price. 

The new top-of-the-range Blade 15 model pulls out all the stops, offering a 4K display with a super-smooth 144Hz refresh rate and DCI-P3 support for high-end video editing. The Blade 15 earns its keep, as it's powered by the latest 12th gen, 14-core Intel i9 processor, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, along with 32GB memory and 1TB solid-state drive. The only disappointment is that Razer doesn't provide many customization options, so you simply have to select the handful of pre-configured models listed on its website. 

What is the best laptop for graphic design?

We chose the Apple MacBook Pro as the best laptop for graphic designers based on its exceptional processing and graphics performance. 

This table allows you to compare the best graphic design laptops based on price, screen size, and CPU.

Best laptop for graphic designers




Apple MacBook Pro


13 inches

Apple M2

HP ZBook Fury 17 G8


15.6 inches

11th gen Intel Core i9

Acer Swift X 14


14.5 inches

Intel Core i7-13700H

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2


15.6 inches

Intel Core i5-11500H

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio


14.4 inches

Intel core i7-11370H

MSI Creator Z17


17 inches

Intel Core i7-12700H

Razer Blade 15


15.6 inches

Intel Core i9-12900HI

Which graphic design laptop is right for you?

Creative laptops have to manage a wide range of tasks. Video editing or 3D animation will require a lot more power than simple 2D graphics or illustration work, so you should be very clear about your requirements before buying a new laptop or mobile workstation.

Battery life varies enormously too, so you need to decide if you need a high-end laptop that can run at full speed for just a few hours or a less powerful laptop that can last an entire day. And, of course, a laptop with a 16-inch or 17-inch display will be a lot bigger and heavier than a 13-inch or 14-inch model, so regular business travelers may prefer to opt for a more compact laptop when they're on the road, with the option of using a larger, external display when they get back to the office.

Choose this laptop for graphic design...

If you want…

Apple MacBook Pro

The best overall graphic design laptop. The MacBook Pro with the M2 chip has fantastic performance and great battery life.

HP ZBook Fury 17 G8

A great graphic design device with configuration options. The 4K display works with 3D graphics and visualization, game development, and 4K video editing. 

Acer Swift X 14

The best design laptop as it balances between top tier performance and price. It can even sport a GeForce RTX 4050 GPU.

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2

Best laptop for graphic design students. The competitive pricing and customization options appeal to beginners.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Best graphic design laptop for travel. You can tilt the screen like an easel or fold the screen flat to use as a tablet. 

MSI Creator Z17

Best Apple alternative graphic design laptop. "Tech meets aesthetics" in this powerful mobile workstation.

Razer Blade 15

Excellent device for content creators. This thin gaming laptop works well for graphic design and high-end video editing.

How did we choose these best graphic design laptops?

A laptop designed for creative users has to provide far more power than a laptop designed for general-purpose productivity software, such as Microsoft Office. We therefore focused on laptops that provide a discrete graphics card in order to provide extra power for graphics, design, and video-editing work. 

In addition to speaking with graphic design professionals and considering their recommendations, we paid attention to these factors when making our final picks: 

  • GPU: Creative professionals rely heavily on their laptop's graphics card for the majority of their work like 3D graphic rendering and video editing. When looking for a laptop to do creative work on, a good GPU is the first thing you should look for.
  • Display: Good hardware performance doesn't mean much if the laptop's screen can't accurately display your work. For this reason, professionals tend to opt for 4K resolution screens for the best quality possible.
  • Price: Price is an important factor to consider when shopping for a laptop as the pricier ones tend to have the better hardware. But you also shouldn't discount cheaper options as many still offer great performance.

Is battery life important in the best laptops for graphic designers?

Battery life is always important for laptops -- but perhaps less so for some of these creative laptops. High-end 3D graphics and video work can drain even the most powerful battery in just a few hours.

Moreover, many "mobile workstations" are primarily intended to be used as a desktop replacement PC that is mainly used indoors and close to a power socket. 

"Battery life is a crucial factor for graphic designers, especially those who work remotely," Groh said, adding, "Often, designers need to work on the go, whether it's meeting with clients, working in different locations, or traveling. A laptop with a long battery life ensures that designers can work uninterrupted, without having to constantly search for a power outlet."

Is connectivity important in the best laptops for graphic designers?

Many laptops sacrifice connectivity in order to reduce their size and weight (Apple and Microsoft, we're looking at you). However, creative users work with a wide variety of devices and peripherals -- perhaps connecting their laptop to multiple external displays, audio equipment, or cameras with memory cards -- so good connectivity isn't just an optional extra.

"A laptop with a variety of ports allows for the connection of external devices such as graphic tablets, monitors, and storage devices," Groh explains. "Additionally, strong wireless connectivity is essential for cloud-based work, file transfers, and communication with clients or team members." 

Also: The best 5 laptop docking stations 

Bizarrely, many of these powerful, expensive laptops still seem to think they can get away with a mere 720p webcam, which simply isn't acceptable in these days of hybrid and remote working.

Can gaming laptops be used for graphic design?

Absolutely! Gaming laptops are often equipped with powerful processors and graphics cards as well as lots of RAM and larger storage drives, which provide all the power and space you need to create digital paintings, logos, and even 3D models. 

They also tend to have faster refresh rates, which makes them a great choice for working with motion graphics and video.

Are there alternative graphic design laptops to consider?

We chose a variety of laptops based on pricing, performance, display, and much more. However, if these seven don't work for you, here are other graphic design laptops to consider:


Best design alternative

Dell XPS 15

The Dell. XPS 15 can handle demanding graphic design tasks with dexterity, thanks to its powerful processor and graphics card. 

View at Best Buy

Best thin alternative

Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra is a thin 16-inch laptop with an OLED display that comes highly recommended by graphic design enthusiasts.

View at Best Buy
Apple 2022 MacBook Air Laptop

Best performance alternative

MacBook Air

The M2 chip in the MacBook Air gives it superior performance and appealing value.

View at Best Buy
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