Laptop Vs Desktop – Which One is Best for Graphic Designers?
As a graphic designer, your work setup can be just as (if not more) important as the work you put out.
Whether it’s digital design such as logos and graphics, UI/UX design, or 3D work and video rendering – it’s essential to find a setup that makes the most sense for your workflow, location, and style.
A question that has been posed and debated for years is – Which is better for graphic designers and design work in general?
A laptop or a desktop? MacBook or PC? Is power most important, versatility, or ease of being able to travel with your work wherever you go?
Ultimately what it boils down to is your workflow and what you personally need or use most efficiently to streamline and better serve yourself and your clients while designing.
Cybersecurity and other security features may be necessary to you, which Mac tends to have the upper hand in – and is worth keeping in mind.
In an ideal world, of course, it would be easiest to situate yourself with both – a desktop for the office or home, and a laptop to take while travelling, meeting with clients, or just wanting to lounge on the couch while you work without sitting at a desk all day.
Why choose between laptop vs desktop?
Consistency and compatibility
It should be consistent and compatible with your setup, your clients and be easy to navigate and work with when it comes to your graphic design work.
Choosing between or even working between a laptop and desktop is essential to always have that smooth, streamlined process going from start to finish – without worrying about technological hiccups interrupting your workflows, such as incompatible programs or drives.
Such as working between PC and Mac products, for example.
Differences in what runs smoother with certain file types is also a key to keep in mind.
Keeping up with technology
Desktop computers are much easier to upgrade and swap out parts for, such as adding more RAM (computer memory) or upgrading your GPU (graphics card) is easy and keeps costs down, as you don’t have to get a whole new setup every few years – swap what you’d like to change when you can.
Laptops, on the other hand, are generally more challenging to upgrade and keep up to date.
Most will need to be entirely replaced after a handful of years, give or take six years, depending on how much you use it and put it through the paces.
Some can be customised and upgraded but tend not to be – due to the parts and limited casing space that laptops have.
Travelling vs office
If you’re set up or will be situated in an office setting and will be static more often than not, then a desktop computer would make the most sense for your situation.
On the flip side, if you’re mobile between offices, travelling often, or prefer to take your work with you between rooms, investing in a laptop would be ideal.
- SUPERCHARGED BY M3 PRO OR M3 MAX — The Apple M3 Pro chip, with an up to 12-core CPU and up to 18-core GPU, delivers amazing performance for demanding workflows like manipulating gigapixel panoramas or compiling millions of lines of code. M3 Max, with an up to 16-core CPU and up to 40-core GPU, drives extreme performance for the most advanced workflows like rendering intricate 3D content or developing transformer models with billions of parameters.
- UP TO 18 HOURS OF BATTERY LIFE — Go all day thanks to the power-efficient design of Apple silicon. The MacBook Pro laptop delivers the same exceptional performance whether it’s running on battery or plugged in. (Battery life varies by use and configuration. See apple.com/batteries for more information.)
- BRILLIANT PRO DISPLAY — The 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display features Extreme Dynamic Range, over 1000 nits of brightness for stunning HDR content, up to 600 nits of brightness for SDR content, and pro reference modes for doing your best work on the go. (The display has rounded corners at the top. When measured diagonally, the screen is 14.2 inches. Actual viewable area is less.)
- FULLY COMPATIBLE — All your pro apps run lightning fast — including Adobe Creative Cloud, Apple Xcode, Microsoft 365, SideFX Houdini, MathWorks MATLAB, Medivis SurgicalAR, and many of your favorite iPhone and iPad apps. And with macOS, work and play on your Mac are even more powerful. Elevate your presence on video calls. Access information in all-new ways. And discover even more ways to personalize your Mac. (Apps are available on the App Store.)
- ADVANCED CAMERA AND AUDIO — Look sharp and sound great with a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, a studio-quality three-mic array, and a six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio.
Weight and cost play a significant factor with laptops and should be given some thought, significantly bulkier rigs if you’re using them to render more intensive graphic design works.
Nevertheless, MacBook’s and other lighter PC laptops are still trendy and used essentially worldwide, especially when having to travel and work on the go or show clients your work while out of the office.
Tips for narrowing down your choice
Durability and performance
The meat of your choice can or should come down to durability and performance, along with the topic after this that covers display and colour accuracy.
The speed at which you can open web browsers and how others can perceive your site and work is equally as important.
Durability for a laptop is critical, as a desktop case can generally take a knock or two. However, a dropped laptop can mean your entire livelihood being destroyed in one accidental swoop, and we don’t need to tell you how costly a good laptop can be.
A solid laptop case is a good start, especially if you’re using a pricier MacBook or expensive PC build.
Laptops are more durable than you’d expect, though, and if you’re lucky, they won’t tank after one drop or minor accident.
- Take your game to the next level with the 12th Gen Intel Core i5 processor. Get immersive and competitive performance for all your games.
- RTX, It's On: The latest NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 (4GB dedicated GDDR6 VRAM) is powered by award-winning architecture with new Ray Tracing Cores, Tensor Cores, and streaming multiprocessors support DirectX 12 Ultimate for the ultimate gaming performance.
- Picture-Perfect. Furiously Fast: With the sharp visuals of a 15.6” Full HD IPS display with a lightning-quick 144Hz refresh rate, your game sessions will be fluid, unbroken, and unmatched.
- Internal Specifications: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz Memory (2 DDR4 Slots Total, Maximum 32GB); 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD (2 x PCIe M.2 Slots, 1 x 2.5" Hard Drive Bay Available)
- Killer Connectivity: Get an edge on-line by taking control of your network and prioritizing your gameplay with Killer Ethernet E2600 and Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650.
Luckily if your laptop does take a tumble – it’s easy to get your saved files off of your hard drive using a universal USB drive adapter and another computer to load everything onto.
Performance should go without saying. It’s difficult to design anything when your computer gets bogged down and lags with only one program running, crashes in the middle of a design, or a couple of web browser tabs slow your entire system.
Be sure to check the specs for whichever desktop or laptop you’re eyeing to purchase for design work, these two being the most important.
RAM (computer memory) is critically important to performance and will determine how much you can run at a time, how responsive those apps are, and how well your computer can perform without lagging or crashing while running said applications or browser tabs.
More RAM alone won’t solve every issue, but it’s generally the thing that could use an upgrade first when a computer starts to fall behind in performance.
- Hand-sorted memory chips ensure high performance with generous Overclocking headroom. SPD Speed-2133MHz
- Vengeance LPX is optimized for wide compatibility with the latest Intel and AMD DDR4 motherboards.
- A low-profile height of just 34mm ensures that vengeance LPX even fits in most small-form-factor builds.
- A high-performance PCB guarantees strong signal quality and stability for superior Overclocking ability.
- A solid aluminum heatspreader efficiently dissipates heat from each module so that they consistently run at high clock speeds.
8GB and 16GB should be enough for most graphic designers, with options available for nearly any amount you can stuff into a desktop case – 32GB, for example, is considered rather overkill.
GPU (graphics card) directly affects your systems speed. A larger/newer GPU will be able to tackle almost anything you throw at it.
- NVIDIA Ampere architecture, 2nd Gen Ray Tracing Cores, 3rd Gen Tensor Cores
- 12GB 192-bit GDDR6, 15 Gbps, PCIE 4.0; Boost Clock 1807 MHz
- IceStorm 2.0 Cooling, Active Fan Control, Freeze Fan Stop, Metal Backplate
- 8K Ready, 4 Display Ready, HDCP 2.3, VR Ready.Avoid using unofficial software
- 3 x DisplayPort 1.4a, 1 x HDMI 2.1, DirectX 12 Ultimate, Vulkan RT API, OpenGL 4.6
At the same time, a smaller or older card will fall behind and not perform up to par with what you’re trying to do, especially if your graphic design line of work falls under 3D renders or video that need much power to flow smoothly.
Display sizes and colour accuracy
Monitors can be used easily with desktops and laptops and are available in nearly any size you could imagine – Such as Samsung or ASUS’ staggering 49” curved and crisp widescreen monitors.
iMac comes in 21” or 27” sizes for their desktop setup screens and are often touted for their crisp colour and detail.
Like with any design work, and more so still in graphic design, colours being correct and what you need them to be is imperative.
A larger screen doesn’t always constitute a colour and contrast correct screen, and smaller doesn’t mean better, especially for larger projects or wanting to get a good look at what you’re working on.
- Superior 4K Picture: Delivering 4x the pixels (8 million) of FHD, 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution offers an extraordinary landscape of color variation, contrast, and clarity that mirrors the real world.Mounting Type: Wall Mount
- Viewing Angle is 178° (H) / 178° (V); Aspect Ratio is 16:9
- IPS Panel: The IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel cannot be beat when it comes to consistently delivering top color performance & sharp visibility from multiple viewing angles.
- up to 70Hz Refresh Rate: With 75Hz refresh rate, images change faster and smoother than the standard, reducing screen tearing
- 350 Brightness: Detect impressively subtle & robust color variations with 350 cd/m² brightness.
A separate monitor to go with a laptop is an ideal plan of action, especially when you hit those points where you’re tired of looking at a small screen and want to switch up to something more significant and make sure your design is coming out the way you want on different scales, along with the colour differences that do go between displays.
One monitor, screen, or tablet display won’t be identical to others for colour settings, and it’s always good to have a second look.
Another critical point for colour accuracy in the current market world is how important it is to keep social media consistent with colour schemes and branding.
Expansions and upgrading
Some laptops can be upgraded and improved upon, but most aren’t capable due to the small casing of components and the heat that comes with everything being so close together.
Large laptops meant for gaming or video editing that are fantastic for graphic design as well since they can handle anything you throw at them will cost a pretty penny brand new – and will possibly be obsolete within six to seven years, if not sooner, depending on how much you put it through the paces.
Desktops can be upgraded and changed on a whim, at a much lower cost after the initial build. (iMac’s being the exception to that, as they can’t be user upgraded and will need to be replaced over the years for newer models)
RAM and GPU can be replaced and updated, saving you time and money with keeping up to date with current technology as it continues advancing.
Along with performance, how well your desktop or laptop dissipates heat will further help your design work.
Laptops tend to get warmer and become slower than desktops due to their compact design and everything being jam-packed together.
If you want to keep your laptop running smoothly at peak performance, you can buy external cooling fan pads to rest your computer while working that helps keep the heat down and your working applications from crashing.
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Location / Travel
This ties in with earlier points about whether you travel, like taking your work with you to the park or a café or work statically in the office every day.
Ideally, if you’re able – a blend of working at a desktop, laptop, and perhaps even a tablet such as an iPad is the best mix.
With the power of a desktop and relatively no lag, and a large monitor, it’s easy to design more intensive works.
In contrast, a laptop is perfect for designing on the go or doing smaller projects that don’t necessarily need a bigger screen or significant processing power.
If you travel a lot for work, something light but powerful such as a Macbook, would be ideal, or a lighter gaming PC laptop that doubles for design, with its increased processing and cooling features.
There are many laptops to choose from that are more than capable of handling graphic design projects.
Desktops are the most affordable option between laptops and desktops, depending on what you’re aiming for. Mac is at the higher end for costs.
If you wanted to go all out and have the budget – that has the most powerful specs.
The desktop itself starts at $6,000, so unless you need that kind of machine – generally, you can spend far less for a powerful rig for all of your graphic design needs, whether they’re marketing and advertising, packaging, publications, web design, or illustrations.
- AMD Ryzen R7-7700
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 8GB GDDR6X 128-bit
- 16GB DDR5 (2x 8GB)
- 1TB SSD
For a decent desktop rig that can handle everything, including Adobe Suite programs, Blender, or whichever other design programs and apps you prefer to use – you’re looking at around $1500 to $2000, give or take, and also depending on what you want for display monitors.
Those by themselves can be pricey if you want the top of the line, but generally, you can get fantastic monitors with accurate colour display and crisp contrasts for $400 to $600 at the higher range.
Laptops powerful enough to handle graphic design and rendering will cost around the same, if not more, than their desktop counterparts.
They can be pretty heavy to carry around daily if you need a real workhorse of a machine.
So $2000 tends to be the baseline, with those numbers being higher or lower, of course – dependent on brand and features.
That said, they are more versatile and can still be used with external monitors if you need a larger display to work.
Generally, laptops (and most desktops now, if you’re building your own) are fitted with SSD’s (solid-state drives), which are more durable, faster, reliable, and there’s no worry about moving parts like their counterpart, the HDD (hard-disc drive) that used to be the norm.
Admittedly, HDD’s are slightly cheaper, but if you want your work to stay safe and for everything to boot faster while working – SSD is the way to go.
Author Bio: Nikki Lyka is a writer for Rank-it.ca, a product review and comparison site that helps buyers find the best version of what they’re looking for.
Last update on 2023-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API