Purchase the perfect laptop for creative design work

Your essential guide to laptop specifications for a great creative journey!

We’ve all experienced waiting for a computer to do its thing…and waiting… and then… 

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

A basic laptop (which in the UK will cost up to around 350 pounds new) may cope with occasional photo editing, but modern creative software needs a device with more power and storage space. If you plan to try out our creative themes this year (including video editing and 3d modelling) it makes sense to purchase a device that will see you through to the end and provide extra room to grow.

We focus on laptops in this article. Equivalent desktop computers will also serve you well. As creative software does not require a ‘gaming’ laptop, we won’t go into detail about the benefits of discrete GPUs – If gaming is high on your priority list have a look here: www.howtogeek.com/772558/best-gaming-laptop/amp/

For a detailed run-through of 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 January 2023

Minimum laptop specifications

Below is the bare minimum to look for in a Windows-based laptop. Cut any additional corners and you risk running out of storage space, requiring an early upgrade or discovering creative applications won’t run satisfactorily:

  • SCREEN: 14 or 15.6 inch, full HD screen. (Most video content is targeted at 1080p – Lower resolution screens are not acceptable in 2023). Consider a 17 inch screen if portability isn’t a top priority.
  • PROCESSOR: Intel i3 11th generation processor or newer OR AMD Ryzen 5 4th generation (or newer) processor.
  • STORAGE: 256GB SSD storage (The modern variant of a ‘hard drive’). This is enough space to install creative software and work with introductory projects, but this is a minimum!

Examples of minimum specification laptops

Basic i3 laptop
Basic AMD RYZEN laptop

Recommended laptop specifications

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

  • SCREEN: 14 or 15.6 inch Full HD (or higher resolution) screen with close to 100 percent SRGB coverage or high DCI-P3 coverage. These screens display a wide gamut of colours, making them suitable for photographic and video work. Consider a 17 inch screen if portability isn’t a concern.
  • MEMORY: 16GB RAM. Video and motion graphics software are memory intensive. 16GB is fine for most workflows, including our explainer series. 
  • PROCESSOR: Intel i5 or i7 11th generation processor (or newer) OR AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 processor (5th generation or newer). These chips have between 4 and 8 cores, with the latest Intel chips offering a combination of ‘power’ and ‘efficiency’ cores.
  • STORAGE: 512GB SSD storage or more. SSDs are easy to upgrade but starting with at least 512GB (sometimes advertised as 500GB) will give you enough space to install all the software we use this year and work with numerous small projects. 
  • A backlit keyboard is a quality of life bonus that will make it easy to continue work in darker environments. This can be useful when working on a sofa or bed!

Examples of recommended specification laptops:

Intel i5 mid-range laptop
AMD RYZEN 5 mid-range laptop

The Apple option

The majority of enthusiast / professional level software, including Adobe Creative Cloud apps, Autodesk Maya and Unity will run equally well on Mac and PC. There are exceptions, including Vegas Pro video software that’s PC only. 

A recent Macbook with an M1 or M2 chip will meet the requirements of our software workflows, but be aware that base models have only 256GB SSD storage. We consider an 8GB/512GB model the baseline:

Want to game too?

If you’re in the market for a laptop with gaming abilities, the single biggest upgrade from the laptops above is the addition of a DISCRETE GPU. The ‘sweet spot’ from 2022 is the NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU. Laptops with this GPU offer high framerate 1080p gaming. RTX 4060 laptops will hit the market from March 2023, though will initially be expensive. Advisory: ‘Cheap’ gaming laptops generally cut corners elsewhere – Particularly with screen quality. Always check reviews before spending £800 or more.

Examples of 3060-based ‘gaming’ laptops:

RTX 3060 Gaming laptop 1
RTX 3060 Gaming laptop 2

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful.

The laptops above are indicative of a range of price and specifications. They are not recommendations! Always do your own research 🙂