Purchase the perfect laptop for creative work

Your essential guide to laptop specifications

We’ve all had the experience of waiting for a computer to do its thing…and waiting… and then… 

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

A very cheap laptop (which in the UK will cost up to around 350 pounds when new) may cope with basic image editing, but modern creative software requires a device with more power and storage space. If you plan to have a go at all of our creative themes this year (and why wouldn’t you), it makes sense to check you have a device that will see you through to the end.

We focus on laptops in this article as they’re portable and suitable for students, though equivalent desktop computers will also serve you well. As most creative software does not require a ‘gaming’ laptop, we don’t go into the benefits of discrete gpus here – If gaming is higher up your priority list than content creation have a look here: www.howtogeek.com/772558/best-gaming-laptop/amp/

For a detailed run-through of laptop components and detailed purchasing considerations, this article is useful: https://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/article/556585/top-10-things-consider-when-buying-new-laptop/

Here’s the Pixels.cool essential guide to what to look for

Last updated February 2022

Minimum laptop specifications

Here is the bare minimum to look for in a Windows-based laptop. Cut any additional corners and you risk needing an early upgrade, slow workflows and finding software won’t run at all:

  • 14 or 15.6 inch, full HD screen. (Most video content is targeted at 1080p – Lower resolution screens are not acceptable in 2022). Also consider a 17 inch screen if you won’t be carrying the laptop around.
  • 8 GB RAM.
  • Intel i3 10th generation processor (The 11th generation came out in early 2021 and the 12th generation early 2022) OR an AMD Ryzen 4th , 5th or 6th generation processor. (Earlier generations were significantly slower and more power-hungry).
  • 256GB SSD storage (The modern version of having a ‘hard drive’). This will give you enough space to install creative software and work with introductory projects, but remember this is a minimum.

Examples of minimum specification laptops

Recommended laptop specifications

…for a laptop that will let you run everything and should give you at least a couple of years’ use.

  • 14 or 15.6 inch Full HD or higher resolution screen with 100 percent SRGB coverage or DCI-P3 coverage. In simple terms these screens can display a wide gamut of colours, making them suitable for professional creative work. Consider a 17 inch screen if portability is not a major concern.
  • 16GB RAM. Video editing and motion graphics software will consume as much memory as you can give them. 16GB is plenty for most workflows and all software will run comfortably. 
  • Intel i5 or i7 10th generation processor or newer. Older generations remain capable but the modern software we’re running may present advisory messages about old drivers and unsupported features. OR Ryzen 4600, 5600 or 6600 processors and higher. These chips have at least 6 cores and offer smoother performance than chips lower down the Ryzen line-up. New Ryzen chips are very power-efficient so you can expect impressive battery life in normal use. 
  • 512GB SSD storage or higher. SSDs are usually easy to upgrade, but starting with at least 512GB (sometimes advertised as 500GB) will give you space to install all the software we use this year and work with lots of small projects. 
  • A backlit keyboard makes it easy to continue your work in darker environments. This can be very useful while on the sofa or trying not to disturb others in the room.

Examples of recommended specification laptops

The Apple option

The majority of enthusiast to professional level software, including Adobe Creative Cloud, Autodesk Maya and Unity runs happily on Mac and PC. There are exceptions though, including Vegas Pro video editing software that’s PC only.  Basic, cheap software is often created for only one of the platforms. 

Any Macbook with the ‘new’ M1 chip will meet the requirements of our software workflows, but the base model only has a 256GB SSD which is the absolute minimum for a creator’s device. For this reason we consider the 8GB/512GB model the baseline:

We hope you’ve found this guide useful. It’s checked regularly and updated.