What is the best laptop/pc to get for a new designer?

6 years ago from , Apprentice Designer

I'm a new designer, and was wondering what would be the best laptop or pc to get for running photoshop and illustrator. Most cost effective if possible.


  • Ronja V., 6 years ago

    What type of design work will you be doing? I'm going to guess you are a graphic designer, since you said you wanted to run photoshop and illustrator. I would invest in a Macbook pro if you're an aspiring designer. There are a lot of great design programs only available on a Mac, and Macbooks hold up for a long time so it is often worth the investment.

    I recently bought the newest 12 inch macbook pro with 8gb ram, i5 processor and 128 ssd storage. It cost me about $1000 (I bought refurbished!) and it works excellent. My work macbook is much stronger (i7 with 16gb ram) but I can still work on my giant files and it won't slow down. It does overheat when I have more than 2-3 programs running simultaneously though.

    Even the macbook air is a good choice, because they have i5 with 8gb ram, and its cheaper. Buying a used macbook from a reputable electronics store is also not a bad idea if you want to save money.

    8 points
    • Adam SzakalAdam Szakal, 6 years ago

      Refurbished Macbooks are defo the way to go! Save money and polar bear cubs. Still using my late-2012 MBA for graphical work, editing movies and web dev tomfoolery without the slightest hickup.

      7 points
      • Frédéric AudetFrédéric Audet, 6 years ago


        1 point
        • Alex HoffmanAlex Hoffman, 6 years ago

          +1 as well, although...I had an experience where I got a referb and it had issues with the graphics card. Apple kept wanting to replace parts in it and after the third part replacement it still wasn't fixed. I was pretty upset bc I had been without a computer for two weeks. I take the computer home and boot it up, still obviously hadn't been fixed. Their techs put in new hardware and didn't even boot it up to see if it solved the problem before returning it to me. It was an older version than the one's they had on the shelf so technically I got upgraded to a newer machine through the manufacturer warranty. It was a real pain in the arse and I imagine it might have been much easier to replace if I had purchased applecare. That's my 2¢

          0 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, 6 years ago

    If you are on a budget, MacBooks are not a good idea. The starting models (which are already not very cheap), are pretty weak and apps like PS/AI or Sketch are very poorly optimised and need a lot of resources to run well. Unless you really need the portability, I recommend the iMac. For $1300 you get:

    iMac: 3.0Ghz Quad Core i5, 8GB 2400 RAM, 1TB HDD, Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB and a large 21.5" 4k Display

    MacBook Pro: 2.3Ghz Dual Core i5, 8GB 2100 RAM, 128GB SSD, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, no touch bar, 13" Display

    With the iMac, I would however recommend getting the Fusion Drive (128SSD + 1TBHDD that looks and acts like one drive and the OS keeps the most important stuff on the SSD), the speed differences are huge and it is only $100 more.

    The Air is too weak for design work and not that cheap at $1k, considering it doesn't have a retina screen and hasn't been updated in ages.


    Windows has improved in recent years (I would argue still not close to Apple and still not great for designers), and while you could build a decent PC, I'd say it would cost more to get the same things you get with the iMac: 4k display, good specs, good mouse and keyboard included, all the built in stuff like webcam, mic, bluetooth, speakers, cables.


    Edit: Don't be tempted by the cheaper $1100 iMac, for $200 you get a much slower dual core processor, slower ram, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, and no retina display.

    Edit 2: If you are a student, or know someone who is and is willing to go with you to the Apple Store or login with their uni credentials online, Apple has great discounts of 10-15%.

    4 points
    • Interested Curious, 6 years ago

      While im with you

      I don't think a person needs a 4k display, a specific type of mouse or keyboard, or webcam or blue tooth speakers to do graphic design. Those are all certainly bonuses but are details and things that should be purchased after there is some income coming in.

      Pc is flat our more efficient if the OP wants to do 3d work for example.

      Luckily im fortunate to have both a personal built PC and the 2017 15 inch Mac Book Pro, but PC's are far and away more powerful for less when built properly.

      1 point
      • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, 6 years ago

        While you don't need a 4k display for graphic design, you can't really do it on the shittiest $100 monitor right? And while I agree you don't need fancy speakers or the magic mouse, you do need speakers and a mouse right? And all of these add up to the cost of a PC.

        I'm saying the iMac is a good deal considering all the stuff you get with it and is perfect for design work.

        You are right, if you wanted 3D work, or gaming, then a mac would not be such a good choice anymore, but OP asked for a computer that can run PS and AI and the iMac is the best choice.

        1 point
  • Jaron SaturninoJaron Saturnino, 6 years ago

    If cost effective really is your goal:

    I use a Thinkpad x220 with an IPS panel, you can find them for $200 - $300 on eBay and there's a ton of parts around. Just throw in an SSD and it's a hell of a machine. I think they're seen as more of an IT guy machine, but I have a thing for customizing Windows the way I want it to look. Affinity Designer and Photoshop will run really well on it, but you'll need to upgrade to 16gb of ram if you want Illustrator to be buttery smooth.

    I also recommend finding a 9 cell stick out battery to go with it. Combined with the trackpoint, you can carry it around the office and make a standing desk out of anything.

    2 points
    • Rick Martin, 6 years ago

      I've been a mac user for most of my adult life, and while I LOVE the software available on mac OS (Sketch in particular) I also really miss the modularity of PCs like the Thinkpad. As a consuimer, I miss being able to easily swap out RAM or a hard drive when I need to, and I resent when companies take away that option.

      If you're working in the Adobe Suite, I think a PC is fine provided that it has adequately powerful internals. One disadvantage, I think, is that you can't always try out the new design software du jour that often starts out exclusively on Mac OS.

      0 points
  • Stef KorsStef Kors, 6 years ago

    For running big photoshop and illustrator files some power and processing might be nice. Keep in might that if you branch out to other programs they might be Microsoft or Mac specific. For example Sketch and Framer are only available on mac.

    2 points
  • Parvez SParvez S, 6 years ago

    I'm little late to this post but if I were you I'd try asking around in PCpartpicker forums. Seriously, the community is super helpful, just be clear about your needs and describe your usage in details.

    A few months ago I asked a question and I was surprised by the responses.

    Start here. in "Create A Part List For Me" section https://pcpartpicker.com/forums/

    Here's the list that some user made for me. https://pcpartpicker.com/list/gD2Zbj

    1 point
    • Mick NMick N, 6 years ago

      PC Part Picker is excellent.

      I used it to build my current workhorse machine.

      1 point
      • Parvez SParvez S, 6 years ago

        Could you share details of your build? I still haven't bought mine.

        0 points
        • Mick NMick N, 6 years ago

          This is part of my build, keep in mind this was built in 2014.


          I already had an Antec p180 case to house everything, along with a coolermaster 700w PSU.

          I added to this a NVidia GTX 760, 2TB HDD, & another 16GB of ram to bring it up to 32GB total.

          These days you can get something much beefier for cheaper.

          0 points
  • Mick NMick N, 6 years ago

    The Dell XPS 13 is a fantastic machine if portability is a key factor for you. Brilliant screen & internals for a decent price. But you'll always pay a premium for that portability. You can spec up a very beefy desktop for around half the price of a similar specc'd laptop.

    BTW, 8gb of ram should be considered bottom rung these days, 16gb or more is ideal really.

    1 point
  • Jared KrauseJared Krause, 6 years ago

    Rumor has it that companies won't even look at your resume if you have a PC

    1 point
  • David SimpsonDavid Simpson, 6 years ago


    But really, any Mac you can get your hands on. If you can't buy new, buy refurb from Apple, or look around on Facebook/Craiglist, there are a million out there.

    1 point
  • Zsolt Istvan, 6 years ago

    A nice Macbook air would do the job IMHO if you want to be able to work on the go. I used to work on an air for years, using Sketch without any serious issues.

    If you are thinking on a desktop computer, I would recommend to buy the parts separately and build it yourself or ask a friend to help you. Also, another alternative you can look at is https://hackintosh.com/#hackintosh_compatible

    1 point
  • Paul Mathis, over 5 years ago

    Really i appreciate the effort you made to share the knowledge.The topic here i found was really effective to the topic which i was researching for a long time.


    0 points