As a graphic design student you need a computer. Graphic design is a digital medium so there’s no doubt about it. But, buying a computer for graphic design students is different from other fields.
You saved up all this money for design college and university but now, you need to spend more on a computer…
When does it end? To make things worse all the graphic design computers you see online cost a fortune. So, if you’re like the thousands of graphic design students who haven’t won the lottery (yet!) you’ll want to keep reading.
With the huge sea of laptops available it can be difficult to decide what is the best laptop for graphic design specifically. In this article, I’ve researched and gathered the 7 best computers for graphic design students under $800.
All the computers I’ve discussed below are tried-and-tested as great budget graphic design computers and recieved tons of positive ratings on Amazon.
How to Buy the Best Computer for Graphic Design Students – Buyer’s Guide
Graphic design students have different priorities than other degrees. For example, in programming you don’t need a high-powered laptop as you don’t need to run any heavy programs.
But, in graphic design the industry-standard software is the Adobe Creative Suite. Adobe apps need a good amount of power to run, no matter the software. Photoshop alone requires 8GB RAM to run. compare that to VS Code, an industry-standard editor for coding, that requires only 1GB of RAM.
That’s why you need to look at a couple of factors before buying a computer for graphic designing. It also comes down to personal preferences so I’ll explain a few guidelines to look for in a budget graphic design computer.
Good performance is essential for choosing a graphic design computer. Having a high-performance computer will allow you to run most of your apps including programs for graphic design, writing, and researching.
Also, if you plan on gaming on the side, you’ll need a performance boost. Performance is usually measured by the internal parts of the computer including its RAM, CPU and GPU.
In terms of performance you need at least 4GB of RAM but ideally you should aim for 8GB RAM. As for the CPUs the 2 most popular brands are Intel and AMD. Intel is the most popular and common meaning you could easily find a replacement for it. Ideally, look for an Intel i5 chip that is 8th gen or above.
As for graphics having a dedicated graphics card costs more but performs better. I haven’t seen much issues with integrated graphic cards such as Intel UHD or Radeon graphics so, better to go for that if you don’t plan on gaming.
If you’re familiar with graphic design projects you’d know they take up a lot of space. Various software, Photoshop files, images, vectors, and graphics all can rack up and take over your computer’s storage.
Even in a tight budget it’s possible to get a 512GB SSD which will be more than enough. At a lower price range you may even be able to settle for 256GB. If you’re looking for the best laptops for cad designers, you may need to increase your budget to incorporate a 1TB SSD because of the bigger file sizes and heavy rendering.
For most graphic design students a Windows 10 or 11 operating system would be ideal. Make sure the windows is up-to-date as most programs nowadays require at least Windows 10 to start. MacOS is most commonly used by graphic designers but a macbook for design students can be expensive as I’ve seen most can’t afford one.
It’s rare that you’ll be sitting in one place your whole university life. You’ll have to carry your computer with you around the campus when going from class to class. That’s why you should choose a computer that is light, can fit in your bag, and be comfortably held.
A popular screen size for most students is 14”. It isn’t too big nor too small and gives you a portable workspace. 15.6” is the industry-standard and is a common choice for many.
Having a sharp, color-rich display is important for graphic designing. You’re going to be doing a lot of projects on your computer, so you need to make sure your designs are displayed properly.
When looking for a computer keep in mind the following display factors:
- IPS panel for better color precision
- A matte surface to avoid light bouncing off it
- High color gamut with Adobe RGB and sRGB
- High color contrast ratio
- Bright display with 300-500 nits
- 1080p HD resolution or higher
You may not be able to get the best specs in a smaller budget but the above should act as good guidelines when looking at the display.
If you were looking for a laptop for just graphic designing I would recommend focusing on the above. However as a student you’d have to attend different classes on different subjects.
Every teacher would assign you different projects/tasks which means your computer should be versatile. It should allow you to take notes, write documents, create presentations, design, and join online classes.
To ensure the above you would have to choose a computer that has:
- Good audio quality
- Decent video memory
- High performance
- Access to common education programs (like Google Docs, Sheets etc.)
That’s about it. Now that you have a good idea of what to look for in a computer for graphic design students, let’s explore your options.
7 Best Computers for Graphic Design Students
If you’re in a rush check out my best pick for the best computer for graphic design students:
Now let’s dive into a detailed review of each one with pros and cons.
1. HP Envy x360 – Best Laptop for a Graphic Design Student
|High power 2-in-1 Laptop||Heavy when used as a tablet|
|Highly responsive touch screen||Stylus not included|
|16GB RAM and 512GB SSD|
The HP Envy x360 is a 2-in-1 budget graphic design computer that can be used as a laptop and tablet by rotating the screen 360 degrees thanks to its 15.6″ Full HD touchscreen display. Unfortunately, a stylus is not included meaning you would have to buy one separately.
It comes in two variants. One includes the AMD Ryzen 5 5625U processor whereas the other is an Intel 11th gen i5 processor. If you plan on going with the Intel chipset it’ll cost you about $120 more. Personally, I think the AMD processor is great for handling most photo editing, video editing and graphic design tasks.
The 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD makes it a versatile machine. It effectively completes most tasks, runs programs with ease and has spacious storage for all your university/college files.
It also has a backlit keyboard and a fingerprint reader which are excellent features in this price range.
However, if you plan on using this laptop as a tablet it can be uncomfortable to hold it around. You’ll be carrying your 4 pound laptop in your hands which could wear you out if you carry on long enough.
Buy the HP Envy x360 from Amazon
2. Acer Swift 3
|Great battery life|
|Exceptional color accurate display|
The Acer Swift 3 is the best budget laptop for graphic design students looking for a no-nonsense machine that can handle most of their design work and assignments with minimal issues. It features a 14” FHD anti-glare display which will keep it clear under bright settings and a 100% sRGB color gamut giving you a richer color display.
It has Wifi-6 which will give you faster wireless speed for most of your online work and an octa-core AMD Ryzen 7 5700u with Radeon graphics which can easily process most graphics in power-intensive apps.
The 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD makes this the best laptop for beginner graphic design you can find in the $700 price range. It also has a fingerprint reader for stronger security so you don’t have to worry about your classmates messing with your files.
Buy the Acer Swift 3 from Amazon
3. HP Pavilion 15
|Great specs and overall experience||Poor battery life|
|Big, bright HD IPS display||No keyboard backlight|
|Sleek modern design|
|Lightweight, easy to carry around|
The HP Pavilion 15 is a fantastic graphic design student computer. The second you turn it on, you’ll be blown away by the beautiful 15.6” HD anti-glare display. With thin bezels and a bright IPS display, the screen looks much more colorful and bigger than advertised.
Pavilion’s shining star is its amazing specs including an 11th gen i5 core processor and 8GB RAM which gives you lightning fast speeds. It has super fast boot times, is perfect for multitasking and doesn’t heat up either – making it the best laptop for media design.
There are some obvious downsides to this high-performing laptop though. The most noticeable is its poor battery life. Having the latest processor with a wide range of colors and fast RAM compromises on battery and it shows.
HP Pavilion is advertised as having an 8-hour battery. But if you’re running Photoshop, Lightroom and multiple chrome tabs the battery usually averages 4 hours. This may be difficult to manage throughout the day so you may have to keep a charger in hand.
Finally to hit home, it has a magnificent keyboard. It has a backlit full-sized keyboard with numpad and smooth pressing which makes it comfortable to see at night and write on.
Buy the HP Pavilion 15 from Amazon
4. Dell Inspiron 7000
|Solid build quality||Dull battery life|
|Affordable 2-in-1 laptop||Heats up quickly|
|Powerful specs||Loud fan noise|
|Highly accurate and responsive touchscreen|
Dell launched their inspiron series to give people access to features of a premium laptop with an affordable price tag – and it never disappoints. Their Inspiron 7000 is a 15.3” 2-in-1 laptop with a solid build quality made from durable premium quality plastic.
The dell graphic design computer display features a wide, color-rich panel with 300 nits brightness. Colors appear crisp not sacrificing any detail and give you clear image quality. Its bezels are thin at the top but thick at the bottom, but overall gives you more space to move around on the screen.
Unsurprisingly the 15.3 inch size weighing about 4 pounds doesn’t make it suitable to be carried in tablet mode. A few hours holding this will make your arms worn out so it’s best to use it as a regular laptop.
With a fast processor and high amounts of RAM the Dell Inspiron 7000 is ideal for video editing, photo retouching, and general graphic design work. It handles most power-intensive apps with ease but starts overheating rather quickly.
Also, being a high-performing laptop, its battery life suffers in the mix. Although the Inspiron manages anything you throw at it, it averages a 9-hour standby battery which drops to around just 4 hours when running power hungry programs or gaming.
Buy the Dell Inspiron 7000 from Amazon
5. Acer Aspire 5
|Cheapest option||Basic specs|
|Upgradeable RAM||Can’t effectively run power-heavy apps|
Another slim, lightweight laptop from Acer that is great for graphic design students is their Aspire 5. It is the cheapest laptop you can find with good performance for designing. It has a 15.6” Full HD IPS Display and an above average color range.
The AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor with integrated Vega 3 Graphics surprisingly gives you a pretty fast response and good graphic rendering for photo and video editing as well.
The main reason for the low price tag would be its 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. Even though the internal memory of the laptop isn’t attractive it does match the minimum requirements to run most graphic design software. If you do feel the need to upgrade it you can add some extra storage and RAM.
It has a 7 hour battery life with a backlit keyboard and Amazon Alexa built-in making this a good portable budget laptop for design students.
Buy the Acer Aspire 5 from Amazon
6. ASUS Zenbook 14
|Slim stylish design||Irreplaceable RAM|
|Lightweight||Reflective display, poor viewing angles|
|Ability to multitask|
The ASUS Zenbook is a great ultra-slim budget laptop for design students. 14” Full HD display with a bright screen that would display everything clearly. Its ultra-slim design makes the laptop portable as it is light to carry, doesn’t take up much space, and can be carried around in your backpack all day long.
It has a quad-core i5-1135G7 processor which is part of the latest 11th gen series making it fast and efficient for design work. It has integrated Intel IrisXe Graphics which isn’t ideal but will get the job done rendering graphics quickly and effectively.
The 8GB fixed RAM and 512GB SSD is great for running power-hungry apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. The spacious storage will also help you store all your precious files on your computer without going over the limit.
The keyboard with numpad might come useful in some situations and the thunderbolt 4 port will allow you to transfer files from your laptop to your phone or drive instantly.
Buy the ASUS Zenbook 14 from Amazon
7. HP Victus
|Beautiful sleek design||Color accuracy could be improved|
|Powers through most power-intensive apps||Below average battery life|
|Dedicated graphics card||Choppy, low-quality webcam|
|Great cooling system, prevents overheating|
The HP Victus is a powerful laptop for graphic design and gaming on a budget. Out of the box it features a modern sleek design with thin bezels and an all plastic body.
Talking about the display, it has a 15.6” FHD screen with a fast refresh rate that makes lag almost non-existent. For a 1080p laptop it has great picture quality but after testing its sRGB color gamut reached only 62%. Compared to other laptops on this list it isn’t the most color accurate display but the power it offers is the main highlight.
It includes a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 which gives you high quality crisp graphics for video editing and gaming. Combine that with its 12th gen i5 processor means you’re in for extremely fast boot times, seamless multitasking and heavy-duty performance.
Unfortunately, the performance takes a toll on the battery life; averaging about 6.5 hours. Despite the battery being below average, it’s still better than most high power laptops for design students at this price point.
Buy the HP Victus from Amazon
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which Laptop is Best for a Graphic Design Student?
The HP Envy x360 is the best laptop for graphic design students as it offers versatile features with premium specs at an affordable price.
Do You Need a Laptop for Graphic Design College?
You need a laptop for graphic design college as most courses in this field require it. The field of graphic designing relies on a digital medium and you can’t create professional graphics without a computer. It’s also possible to have a desktop but you won’t be able to take it with you to class which defeats the purpose of getting a computer for college.
Can I Do Graphic Design with a Normal Computer?
It’s not entirely possible to run graphic design software on a basic computer like chromebooks. Power-hungry graphic design apps such as Photoshop and After effects require high amounts of RAM, a decent GPU and a fast processor. A normal computer may be good for the short term – to perform basic day-to-day tasks and college assignments – but as you work your way up you’ll need a higher powered computer.
Which Laptop is Best for Graphic Design and Gaming?
The HP Victus offers a brilliant combination of power, graphics and speed making it a powerhouse for creatives who plan on gaming.
Is 4GB Graphics Card Enough for Graphic Design?
A budget graphic design student computer with 4GB RAM can start and decently run most graphic design software and programs. If you’re on a tight budget it can be a wise decision to go with a 4GB budget laptop.