What laptop is the best for designers?

9 years ago from , Designer @ Smoocer

I've always used a Windows OS computer but I've been having to workaround several software solutions that are only available to Apple laptops. I have to get a new laptop and it seems that getting a Mac Pro seems like the best choice but I wanted to know if there are any alternatives.


  • Florent GosselinFlorent Gosselin, 9 years ago

    Depends on your work process & habits... My favorite combo would be a MB Pro Retina 13" (to keep it mobile & light when I transport it by bike) + a very big screen when I'm in desk mode.

    22 points
    • Zethus SuenZethus Suen, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

      I agree with this. You can shove the rMBP 13" into "More Space" mode if you're working on the go. Otherwise, having a Thunderbolt display works wonders (and gives you the flexibility of @2x and @1x comparisons).

      Also you get access Sketch, Adobe CC, and a *NIX environment if you ever need to work on dev.

      0 points
    • Jeff ShinJeff Shin, 9 years ago

      Agreed, but the only problem with the rMBP 13" is the lack of a dedicated GPU... which won't affect a lot of people, but I use my 15" retina for casual gaming and the dedicated card comes in super handy.

      2 points
      • Eric REric R, 9 years ago

        Macs aren't meant for gaming.

        1 point
        • Jeff ShinJeff Shin, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

          Well I, depends on what you mean by 'meant for gaming'. Sure, if your priority is the ability to play games, by all means don't get a Mac.

          But that doesn't mean I can't play games on my Mac. Check out the plethora of good games available on Macs on Steam, most of which run perfectly on a 15" retina.

          Also, note that I said I use it for casual gaming, so I don't really care about getting a laptop that is 'meant for gaming'.

          0 points
        • Andreas Ubbe Dall, 9 years ago

          Macs may not be designed for gaming, but that doesn't mean they're not meant for gaming as well.

          Your comment is a terribly stereotypical way of looking at "mac vs pc". Where's the downvote button?

          1 point
          • Eric REric R, 9 years ago

            They really aren't "meant" for gaming either. If it was, that would be a selling point. Typically when they boast an upgraded GPU they throw in their machines they associate it with being able to run VMs, more screens, better Adobe performance, etc.

            There are games that work with Mac, but compared to what is available on PC it is laughable. I am not saying people SHOULDN'T play games on their mac. I am just saying they will be limited if they choose to do so.

            0 points
            • Andreas Ubbe Dall, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

              "If it was, that would be a selling point."

              Image alt

              1 point
              • Eric REric R, 9 years ago

                So "And Play." is the allocated marketing for gaming. Two words. Hardly a selling point. And of course they are going to mention that there are games in the app store on way or another.

                A real selling point would be "Play your favorite next-gen game at 1440 @ 60FPS!"

                0 points
        • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, 9 years ago

          I play Battlefield 4 on my iMac (BootCamp) on full graphics every day. It runs more stable than it does on most of friends' gaming PCs. What are you talking about?

          0 points
    • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, 9 years ago

      The 13" rMBA really is the bomb, certainly for the price. I used to work on a 17" Windows and never thought I could go to a smaller device. And I also used a 27" iMac, so all about the large screens. But when I started using the 13" rMBA at my current job, wow! Totally usable and worth it!

      3 points
    • Chris De La FuenteChris De La Fuente, 9 years ago

      I am going to jump on the 13" rMBP train. I bought one for my freelance work and then I joined a company and they bought me one as well. Love this little guy, throw it on a 27" display and you are gold.

      0 points
    • Ryan Hicks, 9 years ago

      15" all the way. It's really not that much bigger. Heck I still have the 17" model. Lug that sucker around!

      0 points
    • Carlos BruscoliCarlos Bruscoli, 9 years ago

      That's my setup :D

      0 points
  • Robin RaszkaRobin Raszka, 9 years ago

    Wait for new MacBooks.

    12 points
  • Gavin AnthonyGavin Anthony, 9 years ago

    I have a 15" Macbook Pro Retina and it's perfect for what I do. Very light/portable and has a bigger screen, which I also like too. After going retina, I would never want to go back because I notice every pixel now. Not anymore difficult to design on than a 1x computer either.

    8 points
    • Kyle ConradKyle Conrad, 9 years ago

      Same that I use - use to have a 13" Macbook, but when upgrading, went with the 15" and I've found it's much more comfortable for daily use and work while still being small enough to just throw into my bag to carry around. Plus, the guts are a bit stronger so I can play some games and stuff on it too without worry.

      1 point
  • Coulter PattonCoulter Patton, 9 years ago

    The best laptop is one that works!

    No, but seriously, I think any of the Apple laptops will work perfectly fine for design.

    I'm writing this on a 2006 Macbook Pro that I also use for design work.

    While not ideal, I can do pretty much anything I need. I can even do some basic Cinema 4D work, though not a lot.

    Photoshop, Illustrator, etc... run perfectly fine without any issues.

    Even the lowest priced Apple laptop today is better than this one.

    Get the best you can for the money you have.

    Like I said, I've had this one for 8 years and It's still chugging along.

    I should probably update soon though! :-P

    4 points
  • Will BakerWill Baker, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

    I went from a series of fully-loaded 17" Macbook Pros to a fully-loaded 11" Macbook Air a couple years ago and haven't looked back. I do some serious heavy-lifting and never run into performance issues. The portability of it is unbeatable, and you can just get a 27" Thunderbolt display for extra real estate when you're at home or in the office.

    Or, like me, you can wait to see whether Apple or Wacom will release a 4k display first and just pick that up with all the money you saved getting an Air instead of an MBP.


    I should add that my MBA is my personal computer which I use for freelance and contract work. I use a Mac Pro with a 27" Thunderbolt display in the office, but it's overkill until I'm editing HD or UHD video.

    4 points
  • Cole RobertsCole Roberts, 9 years ago

    13" rMBP + Thunderbolt. The luxury of the large screen when you need it and the portability of a lightweight laptop when on the go. Making it a win-win in my book.

    1 point
  • Andrea MazziniAndrea Mazzini, 9 years ago

    In my opinion a fully loaded MBAir 13" is hard to beat. It has good performances, it's tiny and light, and the battery is insane.

    1 point
  • Abhishek SureshAbhishek Suresh, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

    I have a Windows 8.1 running Asus Laptop (I tend to play a lot of games and LAN parties) I have Adobe CC Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom and Balsamiq for quick wireframing. I am comfortable with it as it gets the job done. It also has a touch screen which makes it better for demonstrations. (http://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/ASUS_ZENBOOK_Touch_UX31A/)

    However, My vote and my suggestion is a MacBook Pro. Reason being: The OS itself is more beautiful than Windows. The little details like hovers, shadows, blurs, animations, colors, etc. heighten your sense of designing. Its more of a passive effect which I believe counts a lot while designing.

    1 point
    • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, 9 years ago

      Ignoring the aesthetics I just find OSX to be more productive out of the box in regards to window management (haha), and available apps.

      Add BetterTouchTool and Moom and it blows Windows out of the water. Windows 8 does have that nice app pinning feature.

      0 points
      • Abhishek SureshAbhishek Suresh, 9 years ago

        True that, the window management in windows 8.1 is quite weird. However since I have familiarized myself more on Windows, as I help build enterprise applications on that. My productivity tends to be better on windows and I think thats only because I have familiarized myself well with it, created my own shortcuts and customized it using shell commands and stuff. If I continuously use a mac for a few months, I guess I wouldn't turn back (Except for the gaming part)

        0 points
        • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, 9 years ago

          Gaming on my iMac is fantastic.

          I install more casual games like Civ 5 or RTS games on the OSX side, and play FPS and action games (or performance heavy games like Kerbal Space Program) on my bootcamped Windows side and it runs like butter.

          0 points
  • ポール ウェッブポール ウェッブ, 9 years ago

    If you have the money, get a Mac Pro. If you need to be mobile, get a durable laptop. I was in your boat recently (earlier this year anyway). I have a MacBook Pro, courtesy of my job now though. Just in time, as my Acer shit the bed.

    1 point
    • wojtek w.wojtek w., 9 years ago

      Mac Pro? Did you mean a MacBook Pro?

      Mac Pro would probably be an overkill for everything but video.

      0 points
  • Christina Warren, 9 years ago

    I think the 13-inch rMBP (with 16GB of RAM) is a pretty bad-ass machine. Yes, I love the tricked-out 15-inch rMBP with dedicated GPU, love it -- but if you have to be portable at all, it really does add a lot of bulk. Now, if you are mostly plugged in, that plus a nice 27-inch monitor (Thunderbolt Display or a 4K screen, depending on what you're doing) is awesomely badass.

    As for Windows-based alternatives, you can custom configure some to be quite good, but you still face the software issue. Still, of the best Windows laptops I've tested in the last year, the Surface Pro 3 is quite good. It has a built-in pen, the only shame is that Wacom no longer does the input and as a result, it isn't quite as precise (with pressure points anyway) as it was when Wacom did it. Still works quite well and Photoshop CC 2014 support is coming.

    Some of the higher-end Zenbooks are good too.

    Still, for my money, I'd get a rMBP, with 16GB of RAM. You can find ways of upgrading the hard drive after the fact (OWC sells aftermarket SSDs), but the RAM is soldered in at time of purchase. Go ahead and max out now. That'll especially come in handy if you're dealing with massive Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator or Sketch files -- not to mention if you get into any motion graphics.

    0 points
  • Tyrale BloomfieldTyrale Bloomfield, 9 years ago

    The one you are using or can afford. The tool is not very important. I would suggest something that runs OS X, but hey you can design on anything.

    0 points
  • Nathan HueningNathan Huening, 9 years ago

    I'm sure a 13" rMBP will be fine but honestly the 2" extra on my 15" make a lot of difference to me. I work mostly with a TB cinema display but when I can't, every extra inch of real estate matters. Not sure but it sounds like from the comments that the 15" has a separate GPU, which seems right to me. So worth it for serious graphic crunching.

    Also, it goes a little without saying that if you're a maker, then you care about your tools. And expert makers want the best tools they can get, and Apple laptops are the best tools you can get. Build quality, software, *NIX environment, durability, resale value -- from any metric you look at, it's the best tool you can buy for designing or programming.

    Still need a Windows legacy app? Fire up a VM and you're golden.

    0 points
  • Michael Nino EvensenMichael Nino Evensen, 9 years ago

    MBPs are so well manufactured that you can't go wrong. Since I've done the switch to the unibody MacBook's years ago I've been amazed at the durability, as I've given some of those laptops some serious beating and I've only manage to slighlty dent or create small scratches that's it, still runs like clockwork. Theres something to a well developed product that's been refined over the years, like the MBPs compared to other laptops or computers. In terms of desktop / laptop, I have to say, recently went for a 15 inch retina and the retina switch from an old non-retina 13 inch MBP has been one of the biggest changes for me in the latest years (that and SSDs) in terms of design work, working with typography and just generally reading and viewing is absolutely amazing... I actually sometimes prefer just to work off of my MBP instead of the 27inch Thunderbolt display I have just because of this. So I'll jump on the bandwagon here and say get a 15inch (13 is nice too) Retina MBP and you're gold.

    0 points
  • Emil BonsaksenEmil Bonsaksen, 9 years ago

    rMBP 15" gives you enough juice to run everything you need (*.Adobe++). The dedicated GPU combined with a fast CPU and memory makes you almost never waiting for you computer to catch up. Pair it with a 27" external monitor and your set to do anything everywhere (except on flights, where the 13" shine).

    0 points
  • Harouth Arthur MekhjianHarouth Arthur Mekhjian, 9 years ago

    I recently got the Dell Precision M3800 and it has been amazing so far. The specs on this thing are top notch and the video card is desktop grade and made especially for video editing. Another plus is that they actually ripped off the mbp design so thing actually looks really good.

    I would have gone with MBP 15 but since most of my architecture software can't run on OSX I still have to stick with windows(i find dual booting on mbp stupid)

    0 points
  • Karthik KKarthik K, 9 years ago

    Without doubt, its a MacBook Pro with Retina Display. When at desk, I connect it to the 27" Thunderbolt display, and a Lacie 5TB Thunderbolt HDD.

    This has been my perfect setup for a while. :)

    0 points
  • Luis La TorreLuis La Torre, 9 years ago

    I use Macbook Air, but I don't use Photoshop. Ever since I switch to Sketch I feel so light in every possible way.

    0 points
  • Joe Blau, 9 years ago

    If you move to San Francisco and you don't have a Mac, people seem to look down upon you. I have a few designer friends that moved out here with Windows machines and they found it tough. If you don't need a desktop, you can get a laptop with external screens.

    It all really depends on what your team you're working with is using.

    0 points
  • Jan ZhengJan Zheng, 9 years ago

    I use a 13' MacBook Air. I also have an HP running Win7 for testing IE and other stuff. Been a Windows user for a long time and got the new MBA refresh when it first got out. Still finding myself googling how to do this and that from time to time, but man, OS X helps you get stuff done faster. Multiple desktops just makes life so much easier. Used to be that all the good software was on Windows. Now slowly the opposite is true.

    0 points
  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, 9 years ago

    there aren't alternatives when it comes to OS X laptops unless you build your own.

    0 points
  • Bart Claeys, 9 years ago

    Really depends on what kind of design you are planning to do, and what your work environment is. For light design (web design, app design) and portability you could get a MacBook Air. For video animation I suggest a MacBookPro. Either way, always get a Solid State Disk (SSD), it really speeds up things (more than extra RAM).

    0 points