Creative work requires a lot of computer power. Whether you are a graphic designer, image or video editor, or a professional photographer, you need a laptop that can comfortably handle the most demanding software. We’ve reviewed several products in the market to help you find the best laptop for creatives.
Top Laptops for Creatives in 2021
Although these models are a bit pricey, the investment pays off in the long run. These models feature the most competitive hardware and software to make your work easier.
While doing our research we focused on features such as processing power, graphics, portability, display, and battery life. We will discuss these features in detail towards the end of this guide, so make sure to check it out.
Best Overall Laptop for Creatives: Apple MacBook Pro
Apple MacBooks are easy to recommend for almost every task. Despite their ridiculous prices, a reputable brand image and powerful features make them a priority for most creative professionals. The Apple MacBook Pro needs no introduction. It is not only one of Apple’s best selling computers but also a darling among many creative workers.
Almost every feature that makes up the MacBook Pro is essential for creative work. Starting from the processor, it is clear off the bat that Apple means business with this laptop. It is not something you buy so you can show off or use it to play games. No, this laptop is made for productivity and should be used as such.
With an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, the MacBook Pro will handle powerful creative software like child’s play. The 15-inch model comes with a Core i9 processor and up to 32GB of RAM. So, if you are doing some really heavyweight creative work, you might want to consider that one too.
The lack of regular USB ports might be a letdown for old school designers but the new USB-C ports are more versatile and should be easy to get used to. There are up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports which are more than enough.
In the long run, you will find this laptop to be a powerful design gem. The hefty price tag might be a turn off for many but if you are willing to invest in your work, this will be the best investment you ever make.
- Display: 16-inch
- CPU: Intel Core i7
- RAM: 16GB
- GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
- Storage: Up to 2TB
- Premium design
- Powerful performance
- Powerful graphics
- High-Quality display
- USB-C ports
- Lack of USB-A ports may be inconvenient
- Ninth-generation 6-Core Intel Core i7 Processor
- Stunning 16-inch Retina Display with True Tone technology
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
Best Laptop for Creatives for the Money: Dell XPS 15 (9570)
The Dell XPS 15 is a good example of Dell’s attempts to make a creative powerhouse. Although the XPS 15 carries a design that is more befitting of an office person, it has a host of features that creatives will find priceless.
Dell used to produce budget laptops that were not good for designers. Now, it’s actively entering the creative market. Although its budget line remains popular, the latest high-end models are also picking up.
While it’s a little bigger than the Apple MacBook Pro, with a 15.6-inch display, it shares similar features like the Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. These two will comfortably take care of the performance aspect of your creative process.
On the other hand, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics processor will ensure that you work on a crisp display so you can focus on all the important details.
The Infinity Edge display is further enhanced by a 1080p resolution and other supporting technologies such as anti-glare. The latter protects your eyes from harmful screen light especially when you work for long.
You might find the lack of touch capabilities a turn off if you are used to it. In that case, our next recommendation, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 will be a good fit.
For peripheral connections, you have a number of port options. These include two USBs, HDMI, Thunderbolt and an SD card reader.
- Display: 15.6-inch FHD
- CPU: Intel Core i7
- RAM: 16GB
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
- Storage: 512GB
- 4K OLED display with Infinity Edge
- Powerful processor
- Good build quality
- Convenient webcam placement
- Powerful graphics
- 8th Generation Intel Core i7 8750H Processor 9MB Cache, up to 4.1 gigahertz
- 16GB 2666 megahertz DDR4, 2x8GB
- 512 GB M.2 2280 [PCIe] SSD, No Optical Drive
Best Cheap Laptop for Creatives: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 combines premium design with a set of features that are perfect for boosting your productivity as a creative. Although Microsoft has of late crowded its Surface lineup, this model stands out for its portability, sleek design, powerful performance, and a top-hole display.
The keyboard is nice and tactile. Its precision touchpad is surprisingly large and a pleasure to use while working on some of your creative projects.
Its Omnisonic speakers fill the room with amazing surround sound. The laptop even has dual microphones built-in, so you can record your stuff more clearly than ever before. The HD screen is touch-enabled and also supports stylus input.
In terms of performance, you’ll be surprised by what this compact ultrabook can do. Tasks like photo/video editing are a breeze, thanks to the Core i5 processor, with Iris Plus graphics. This laptop also supports fast charging and can get up to 80 % full in an hour. However, you’d have to turn it off for fast charging to be more effective.
You will easily fall for the sturdy build quality and flawless design. The matte black aluminum finish gives it an attractive look, reminiscent to that of recent MacBooks. Still, it’s quite unique to other laptops, and the frame helps avoid smudgy fingerprints.
With a 3:2 screen aspect ratio, creatives will love working and browsing on the larger and more squarish display. This screen style also gives off a more usable workspace vibe. However, games and videos have some letterboxing.
- Display: 13.5-inch LCD touchscreen (201 PPI)
- CPU: Intel Core i5
- RAM: 8 GB
- GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
- Storage: 256 GB SSD
- Elegant, premium design
- Excellent performance
- Comfortable keyboard
- Decent battery life
- Sharp, vivid display
- Thick display bezels
- Does Not flip over
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What Makes a Good Laptop for Creatives
Before buying a laptop for creative work, there are specific features you have to look out for. These are the features that make a laptop a good feature for design and set it apart from regular ones. We believe these features should be present in every laptop for creative work.
Most design software requires a lot of performance power to ensure they run flawlessly. Settling on a competitive processor is, therefore, important. The two biggest names in the CPU market are Intel and AMD. For Intel, any processor from Core i5 and above is good enough. Intel Xeon is also great. For AMD, we recommend the AMD Ryzen.
The Random Access Memory temporarily stores data for programs that are currently running. This makes it easy for the processor to access them, making the entire design process faster.
More RAM means more data being processed at a given time and, therefore, faster performance speed. That being said, we recommend 8GB of RAM for basic design work and 16GB for more performance-hungry software.
While the RAM stores data temporarily, the storage drive stores them permanently. More storage accelerates the laptop’s boot and wake time while also boosting processor performance.
A good laptop for creatives should have at least 512GB of SSD storage. 1TB is better. If this is not enough, you can always use an external hard drive which provides more storage but can be noisy and a bit slower.
Bigger screens are better for creative work since it allows you to focus on finer details. They also make it easy to interact with your work and finish projects faster. Go for a display with higher resolution since they provide clearer details and color accuracy. This allows you to produce crisp and impressive work.
If you are working with a client, having a laptop that is easy to use is important. The keyboard and screen are the most used parts of any computer.
So, usability is determined by how easy it is to use these two. A responsive and comfortable keyboard means you will be able to work faster and finish your work on time.
The same goes for the screen. We recommend touchscreens for creative work since they are more flexible to work with than the touchpad. You can easily zoom in and out and quickly select parts of your designs without fumbling with the keys or touchpad.
Creative work requires a lot of concentration and being frequently alerted to a low battery can be annoying. Working in the same place every day is monotonous and can deprive you of creativity. That is why getting out once in a while is a good idea.
For this reason, you will need a laptop battery that doesn’t run out as soon as you get comfortable. A good battery should last for at least 8 hours. Most design software is battery-intensive so it might not last the whole day but should at least take you through more than half a day.
There should be no second-guessing when buying the best laptop for creatives. These laptops are usually very expensive and the wrong purchase could hurt you financially. That is why we prepared this guide so you don’t have to buy the wrong device. We hope that this guide will help you buy a laptop that you will not only be proud of but also boost your productivity as a creative.