With new tech coming out every year, designers often wonder what is the best computer for graphic design, so I reviewed them all to give my best picks.
Computers are the primary tool of graphic design professionals, so choose wisely.
As a graphic designer, you want to have a smooth workflow, easy multitasking, and quick rendering, but without going overboard with specs or features that you might not use.
Choosing the best computer for graphic design comes down to what you’ll need to use it for, as well as your ideal desk configuration and budget.
Once you find the one you like, I recommend getting slightly higher specs than you need right now, so that it’s “future-proof” to some extent and it will be able to keep up as your programs and workloads become more intensive.
Also keep in mind that some of these computers come with a monitor as a package, but the rest won’t — so you’ll need to set aside budget for a good monitor as well.
Here’s my list of the top 10 best computers for graphic design in 2021.
Best Computers for Graphic Design
- Apple iMac 27“ — Best overall
- Microsoft Surface Studio 2 — Most versatile
- Apple iMac 21.5“ — Best value
- Dell XPS 8490 Desktop — Best for pros
- Apple Mac Mini — Budget-friendly
- Lenovo Legion Tower 5 — Best for gaming
- Dell G5 Desktop — Best multi-purpose
- MSI Trident AS — Most powerful
- Acer Aspire C27 — Budget all-in-one
- Dell Inspiron 7000 — Budget touchscreen
How to choose the best computer for graphic design
There are a few things to look out for when choosing a computer.
When it comes to choosing the best computer for your specific graphic design needs, there are 7 factors to consider:
- Operating System (OS)
- Processor Power (CPU)
- Graphics Card
- RAM Memory
- Disk Storage
Don’t worry, there’s no need to be a tech expert, let me explain what these are and how they make a difference in graphic design work.
Operating System (OS)
First and foremost, you need to know if you’ll be working in Windows or MacOS, based on your personal preference and the programs you’ll be using.
I used Windows when I first started as a graphic designer, then after a few years I eventually switched over to MacOS.
Processor Power (CPU)
The main thing to consider when deciding on which computer to get is how powerful it is.
Any serious graphic design software will require a powerful processor (CPU) to run all your tasks smoothly.
It’s helpful to search for the CPU requirements of specific apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and other programs you intend to use, so that you can get a better idea of what processor you might need.
Sometimes, the programs you plan on using turn out to be less demanding on the CPU and use more of the graphics card instead, so figuring out what hardware your main softwares use can help you with your decision and can even help you save money.
As graphic designers, we often work with large, graphically intensive files, and these often require the help of a processing unit specially dedicated to handling graphics.
This is called the Graphics Card, and its job is to help you seamlessly zoom in and out in Photoshop, quickly scrub through a Premiere Pro project, render a 3D animation, or perform any kind of visual task to make sure what you see on your monitor is produced quickly.
The next component to consider is RAM, which will determine how much multi-tasking you can do.
Plenty of system memory will enable you to not only run multiple programs at the same time, but will also help in handling large, heavy files as projects progress.
I believe you can never have too much RAM, and I recommend getting the most that you can afford so you can open up all your programs and files without having to worry about choking up your system.
As a graphic designer, especially when working within the Adobe Creative Cloud, we tend to switch from app to app very quickly with many files linked to another, and for that, you’ll need all the memory you can get.
Our graphic design work often requires handling and storing many large files, and I’m sure you’ve seen designers walking around with multiple external hard drives in hand.
This is because as projects come in and more things are created, we need enough space for all past, present, and future files.
Apart from size, there is also speed, with SSD drives being much faster than a mechanical hard drive, but often with much smaller storage capacity, while the traditional HDD is much slower in read and write, but boasts much larger storage size for the cost.
For graphic designers, the monitor is not something to hold back on.
You need to have a display that can reach optimal brightness, with accurate colors, high enough resolution to appreciate your work, and with a large enough screen to fit your digital workspace on.
Many of the computers on this list are called All-in-one PCs, meaning the components and monitor are all one piece, so you’ll have to make sure the monitor is good enough for you as it comes together in one slim form factor.
The other computers that I’ve included in this list are standalone towers, so although you’ll have to find space on your desk for the PC, you have flexibility in choosing the best monitor for your graphic design needs.
And finally, you’ll need to make sure the computer you want is affordable enough.
Remember, computers are the main tool that we use as graphic designers, so unlike a new entertainment system this computer will be a serious investment for your work.
That being said, you should determine your budget range first then explore options within it, and with many cool new features out just remember to be practical.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for, check out my guide for the best computers for graphic designers in 2021.
It’s no secret that Apple products are often the preferred choice of graphic designers, and the same is true for their desktop line.
The 27“ iMac’s full package makes it the best computer overall for designers.
The 27-inch Apple iMac is an all-in-one PC that offers a solid combination of power, color accuracy, and elegant design.
The iMac’s Retina display is capable of producing one billion colors and 500nits of brightness, paired with True Tone technology and a high resolution that makes everything you see on the monitor sharp and stunning.
Behind the curtain is a powerful pair of processor and graphics, with up to an Intel Core i9 and Radeon Pro 5700XT to ensure a quick and responsive working experience.
At the top end of the variants, you can opt for up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM for maximum multi-tasking capability, and up to 8TB of fast SSD storage, but at a steep price.
On top of its impressive hardware, the latest iMac also comes with an upgraded 1080p HD camera, fitted with a studio-quality triple microphone array.
The iMac comes with a matching Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2, which give your desk a wireless, minimalistic look that is hard to compete with.
With all variations featuring the same display, the 27“ Apple iMac offers a full package like no other, making it my choice for the best overall.
I was hesitant at first, but ever since I tried using an iMac, it’s hard to compare it with anything else.
Display: 27“ 5120x2880 Retina 5K Display
Processor: 3.1GHz 6-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300 graphics
Memory: 8GB DDR4
Storage: 256GB SSD
- Stunning display
- Smooth operating system
- Fast storage drive
- Cannot be upgraded
The Microsoft Surface line of products has found its place in the graphic design world in recent years, and their latest desktop computers are in a class of their own.
Microsoft’s new Surface Studio 2 has unique features that make it the most versatile computer for graphic design.
The Microsoft Surface Studio 2 is an all-in-one computer that includes a full touchscreen with pen support, allowing it to double as a desktop drawing tablet.
Although there are other computers with touchscreen displays, the Surface Studio 2’s hinged monitor stand and the seamless integration with the Surface Pen make it unrivaled in the graphic design world.
Sure, you could get any computer you want and pair it with an external drawing tablet, stylus, and touchscreen, but there’s something special about presenting to a client or colleague and having the ability to at any point, fold it down into Studio Mode and start drawing in an instant.
The stand allows you to easily tilt down to 20 degrees for Studio Mode or upright in Desktop mode, and the glass display features full 10 point multi-touch support.
It is of course best paired with the latest Surface Pen and Surface Dial, which could cost you another $99 each, making the whole setup quite a pricey package, but considering it replaces many external devices it’s up to you to decide if it’s all worth it.
If you’re a graphic designer who does a lot of digital drawing, write-ups, or art, you can’t go wrong with this machine.
The Microsoft Surface Studio 2 is sleek, versatile, and powerful enough to handle all your graphic design software from creative apps to 3D simulators.
Display: 28“ 4500x3000 PixelSense Display
Processor: 1.3GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
Memory: 16GB RAM
Storage: 1TB SSD
- Large touchscreen
- Pen support
- Adjustable monitor
- Heats up under load
- Quiet speakers
The smaller iMac offers many of the same package features as the larger one, but with a smaller screen and a smaller price tag too.
The 21.5“ iMac, at around $700 less than the larger version, is my choice for best value.
With the same build quality and form factor, the same camera and microphone setup, and with the same OS, keyboard, and mouse, the 21.5“ Apple iMac is a great deal for graphic designers whose workloads aren’t as demanding.
Although the display isn’t as good as the 5K monitor on the 27“ model, at 21.5 inches having less resolution is less noticeable due to the pixel density, so Full HD resolution should still be plenty sharp enough for most graphic design work.
The processor is dual-core and it uses integrated graphics, so it isn’t meant for designers who run heavy 3D renders, but with the elite optimization of MacOS, you probably won’t feel the difference in specs through most of your daily use.
Competitively priced, the 21.5“ Apple iMac comes in at just the right balance of price to performance, with decent specs that can handle everything from school work, to office work, to moderate graphic design.
If I were looking to use MacOS, but perhaps didn’t need the massive 27“ screen or extra power, I would go with the 21.5” iMac for its smooth navigation and its elegant design.
Display: 21.5“ 1920x1080FHD LED
Processor: 2.3GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
Memory: 8GB RAM
Storage: 256GB SSD
- Practical specs
- No dedicated graphics card
- Small storage size
Dell’s XPS laptop made its way to my list of best laptops for graphic design, and its desktop counterpart carries the same great reputation.
With a muted design covering its powerful specs, I consider the XPS 8940 Desktop to be the best for professionals.
The Dell XPS 8940 Desktop features some powerful components inside an office-friendly case design, making it a great choice for graphic design professionals.
Judging from its look, you might never guess that there’s an octa-core processor and a GTX 1660ti inside.
The case would fit right into an office environment, and with the specs, you could easily game on it when you’re done working.
It still isn’t the most powerful out there, but it has a great combination of specs that should be able to handle all your creative software, and more.
The 6GB dedicated 1660ti will be able to render in Premiere Pro or Solidworks pretty easily, and you shouldn’t have to worry about storage as it comes with a 512GB fast SSD drive, and an additional 1TB hard drive for all your extra source files and backups.
Once you pair it with the monitor and peripherals of your choice, the Dell XPS 8940 Desktop is a highly capable machine and an ideal choice for graphic design professionals.
Processor: 2.9GHz 8-Core Intel Core i7–10700
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660ti
Memory: 16GB RAM
Storage: 1TB HDD + 512GB SSD
- Great combination of specs
- Professional look
- No dedicated graphics card
- Small storage size
Apple’s latest refresh of the Mac Mini, with their introduction of the new Apple Silicon M1 Chip, packs some mighty strength in such a small package.
With next-level computing in the M1 Chip, the latest Mac Mini takes my pick for most budget-friendly, but it performs far beyond its budget range.
The new Apple Mac Mini comes in the same little metal box as before, but with its biggest performance upgrade yet.
Apple created the M1 processor to be fully optimized for their computers, and I was simply blown away by how good they were able to make it.
Although this affordable compact PC still isn’t ideal for massive workloads, the M1 chip manages to go toe to toe with processors several times the price, particularly in creative programs and video rendering times.
You will have to get yourself a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but the Apple Mac Mini will allow you to work with all your MacOS-based programs with ease.
Of course, although they did a great job with their new processor, the disadvantages of getting it are that they’ll release a newer, better one eventually, and that programs are still optimizing their software to make use of the new processor.
Nonetheless, I feel it’s the start of something great, and if you’re considering getting a Mac Mini for graphic design right now, it’s an easy recommendation from me.
Processor: 8-core Apple M1 Chip
Graphics: 8-core Apple M1 GPU
Memory: 8GB RAM
Storage: 512GB SSD
- Small and fast
- Great new processor
- Compact form factor
- Limited ports
Continue reading this article on my blog at: https://www.ebaqdesign.com/blog/graphic-design-computer
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