Since the website is just for you, there is no need to worry about direct-access security (other than a password or biometrics), and there is no need to worry that much about durability because clients are not going to be pressing their greasy noses against your screens (or however you operate). In short, when you buy something for yourself, you can have “Nice things.” You can have a slightly nicer screen, a more elaborate keyboard, and even a light-up gaming mouse without fear of your stuff going missing or getting knocked around during a fire drill. Here are five specs to look out for when you are buying a graphic design laptop for yourself.
1 – Laptop Dimensions, Screen Size and Weight
Experience is going to teach you very quickly that your laptop dimensions, screen size and weight have the biggest impact on your user experience. A light laptop doesn’t matter if you always use it on a work surface, but if you use it on your lap or on your bed, the weight will have a massive effect on your user experience.
As a designer, you want a larger screen, but you need to temper this with your general comfort. Unlike a PC, you have to keep your laptop screen pretty close (within arm’s reach), and a large screen can actually become very uncomfortable. On the other hand, a smaller screen means you need to zoom in more to see finer details, so it is tricky.
Again, with things like dimensions, experience is a very fast teacher. For example, if you are a designer who has ever used tablets, you quickly learn that the size of the tablet makes a massive impact on how often and easily you use the tablet (you need big hands if you have a big screen). A similar thing happens with your laptop. Even something like a base that is too big, or a screen that has too large screen margins, will dramatically affect your comfort when using it. Even the type of material that is used for the case will annoy or delight you.
2 – CPU Processing Power
For the longest time, people have been told that they need a strong CPU and strong GPU in order to run a good machine. However, the 2020 pandemic and subsequent chip shortages showed us that we can live without a strong or advanced GPU. The CPU is the workhorse of your professional laptop.
This is because computing technology has come so far that the CPU monkey can juggle almost all the circus balls on its own. Besides getting the dimensions and such correct, the next big thing is your CPU.
As a designer, you want the best CPU you can afford because your design program will be running on your CPU. You want a faster processing speed and a fairly advanced processing unit. Don’t worry too much about core numbers. Two to four cores is fine. For some design programs, you won’t see any improvement past four cores because the software isn’t built to split the workload evenly among more than four cores. Before you buy that octacore device, but sure that your software will actually benefit from it.
3 – GPU Processing Power
In truth, modern laptops have a fair amount of GPU power. Yet, on the other hand, you can easily live without a powerful or high-end expensive GPU. If your laptop doesn’t have a fancy/advanced GPU, you are still going to do fine. Sure, you won’t be able to play the most recent games, but you will be able to do all of your work so long as the other stats (on this list) are up to par.
Many designers rely on their GPU to churn out their 3D renders in a timely fashion. Again, you can do it with your CPU, but that is like driving your melons to market using your motorbike instead of your van. Still, even if you are planning on doing a lot of rendering or compiling, you can use third-party services like Rebus Farm these days. Third-party cloud computing services pay for themselves these days because A: they are so cheap, and B: you don’t have to buy an expensive GPU that pushes the price of your laptop up 300%.
4 – Amount of RAM
As mentioned above, you can skimp in the GPU costs so long as your CPU is up to par and your RAM levels are adequate. Now, if you are on a super tight budget, you can draw back your RAM levels and still run your design and rendering programs. The only problem is that, please excuse the phrasing, but it is a massive pain in the ass. Checking your work takes longer, moving from one section to another takes longer, using new tools takes longer, changing viewpoints takes longer, getting a preview takes an achingly long time, and to top it off, your program may freeze when it decides “Not” to unload data before loading in new data. As a full-time designer, do yourself a favor and opt for higher amounts of RAM, even if it means drawing back your plans for a super-sophisticated CPU.
5 – Operating System Compatibility
This is one for the designers of the world because it is a deal breaker. You need to make sure that “ALL” the software you plan to use can be used on your laptop. For example, you may really want an Android operating system because you plan to use the same apps and same cloud-save files on your phone. Then, you discover that Android has some of the worst vector image drawing apps of all the people operating systems, and the web browser alternatives are just not good enough. Perhaps you want to use Windows but you discover that Sketch and ProCreate are MacOS programs.
You have just been told that size matters more than power (CPU power that is), you have been told that the CPU matters more than the GPU and that you can get by without very much RAM but you probably shouldn’t.
One of your questions is probably, why so much compromise? Why do we have to weigh up the pros and cons of vital machine components?
The reason is cost. Having a powerful CPU is important, and having more cores and faster speeds is important too, but such things are very expensive and even professional designers can get away with less power. A GPU is very important, but even the cheaper AMD Radeon GPUs will work exceptionally well with your design programs, rendering and display programs.
Adding RAM and RAM-related hardware is expensive, but there is no need to go above 16GB or 32GB for detail-heavy and/or AI-powered design programs. You can live with 8GB of RAM, but it gets very inconvenient if you are a full-time designer. But, again, it is all about cost.