Laptops, for artists, can be a critical tool in making a living. For some artists, their entire livelihood can depend on the laptop they work on. When digital files are how you generate income, you need the right tools to get the job done. The best laptop for artists to buy might be up for debate, but knowing what kinds of features you need can help you make the best decision for you.
Laptops make sense if you often meet clients in-person, if you work remotely, or if you simply don’t have the space for a full desktop setup in your home. In this day and age, many of us can’t even imagine not having a laptop to tote around.
So what are the best laptops for artists to choose from? We’ve looked at a variety, and came up with some pros and cons that are important to weigh when choosing your next computer.
8 Best Laptops for Artists to Buy in 2021
Here are some of our top recommendations for the best laptop for artists.
The Surface Pro 7 has a detachable touch screen that converts to a tablet. It’s a favorite laptop for artists because it has a great-quality display and high-functioning graphics capabilities. It is also compatible with a stylus, although you’ll have to purchase that separately.
2. Acer Spin 3
The Acer Spin series is another convertible laptop, with a larger display than the Surface. One of the main draws of an Acer is the budget-friendly price tag, and the Spin 3 also has an impressive list of features: included stylus, i7 Intel processor, and 16 GB of RAM — making it an easy choice as one of the best laptops for artists.
3. Lenovo Flex
The Lenovo Flex is an entry level 2-in-1 laptop/tablet. It makes our list because it’s affordable, has a high-performance Ryzen processor and a 1080p touch screen. The included active Pen is a nice bonus, and the battery life is on the higher end.
4. MacBook Pro
Macs have long been a favorite with the creative crowd, and for good reason. While on the pricier end of the spectrum, the MacBook Pro is on most best laptop for artists lists, both because of its superior performance and because there are still a handful of creative applications only available for the Apple interface.
A Chromebook might bring to mind low-end public school computers, but the full Chromebook lineup is varied and quite impressive. The HP Chromebook x360 is considered a premium consumer product. This style of Chromebook offers a full range of features, including a 14 inch touchscreen, so there’s plenty of room to clearly see your work—making it one of the best laptops for artists.
The HP Spectre is pricier than the Chromebook, but the extra dollars gets you a fast i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. Setup is easy, and the touchscreen is a high-quality display that makes for a smooth drawing experience.
7. Dell XPS 13
The Dell XPS 13 is famous for being one of the smallest convertible laptops with InfinityEdge touch screen technology. Along with the sharp monitor resolution, this Dell is one of the most customizable laptops on the market. That makes it easy to upgrade your RAM. And this one comes with a full terabyte of storage.
If you like to work with double monitors, but need a portable option, the Zenbook Pro Duo from Asus might be a viable solution. The unique second screen rests above the keyboard and integrates with the main display. Anyone on the hunt for the best laptop for artists knows that screen real estate is one of the most valuable features for digital art.
All of the above options are great for different reasons.
If you do a lot of video, you’ll want to choose one with a processor on the faster end of the spectrum. Photographers will be looking for the best color display, and some artists will want the best touch screen/stylus configuration available.
Many creatives are in the art business as a side-gig or hobby. If this is you, you might need additional features, such as access to the software you use in your day job, or gaming capabilities.
But the simple answer is — the best laptop for artists really depends on the type of art you do, and what else you need the laptop for.
So instead of a one-size-fits-all recommendation, let’s focus on some of the best questions to ask yourself as you begin your search.
What to consider when buying your laptop
One thing to ask yourself during your hunt for the best artist’s laptop is, what programs do you need to run? Not every computer can run complex software without making you want to pull your hair out.
Try making a list of the software you use on a regular basis. It’s easy enough to find out what hardware requirements you need for each application. That way you’re not unpleasantly surprised if your new laptop can’t run your favorite drawing program.
In general, you’ll want to make sure any computer you purchase has at least an i5 or higher processor.
Features are important to consider when shopping for the best laptop for artists. The most important feature might be stylus support. Not every artist needs this feature, but those who draw will find it invaluable.
You don’t necessarily need an integrated stylus capability—many laptops will support a detached tablet made specifically for digital sketching. Just keep in mind that this option means one more thing to keep track of and transport.
Ask yourself what features are deal-breakers for you. Is a large, high-quality monitor vital to ensure you capture details the way you envision them? Do you need vivid display colors? Top of the line graphics integration? Is a touchscreen an absolute must?
Each feature adds to the overall cost, so decide which tools are the most important to you upfront.
3. RAM (speed)
I know for creative-minded people, sometimes tech terms start to make your eyes gloss over.
RAM is really just the amount of memory available to handle information in real-time. It’s kind of like short-term memory, so the less RAM you have, the more likely it is that your projects will feel like an annoying goldfish in a Disney movie is managing them.
The best laptop for artists needs at least 8GB of RAM. That’s enough to seamlessly run multiple, high-functioning programs at the same time. In the case of RAM for processing dense art files or videos, more is definitely better.
4. Battery life
Not all laptops are created equally when it comes to battery life.
For some artists, this isn’t a big deal. The question here is – how do you intend to use your computer? If you mostly work in a single space, like a shared co-op or a traditional or home office, you can probably afford to trade battery life for other features.
However, if you travel a lot, need to take your setup outside to sketch, or collaborate with others in a variety of venues—you need a laptop that can keep up.
Most of the laptops on our list claim to have 10+ hours of battery life, although data-heavy art programs tend to use energy faster than average software.
5. Storage space
Storage is one of the areas where the best laptop for artists is different from the best laptop in general. Art files can take up a massive amount of space.
While storage space on laptops can come at a premium, fortunately, external hard drives are an inexpensive, simple solution. You can get a reliable, 4 terabyte drive for around $100 (!)—enough to hold about 66,000 RAW photos.
Cloud storage is another option if you’d rather not deal with extra equipment, but you will have to pay extra for that privilege.
If you’re dealing with huge quantities of large files, you’ll likely need an alternate storage source in any case. Even with an external drive, you’ll want plenty of space on your laptop—otherwise, you’ll end up spending a huge chunk of your time off-loading files when you could be doing billable work.
6. Customer service
Not all digital artists are also tech experts. Having a customer service team you can rely on makes a big difference in your end experience.
To get a feel for what kind of customer service you’re buying along with your laptop, read customer reviews and talk to your friends and family to find out what kind of experience others have had.
If access to IT professionals is important to you, consider visiting a physical store or picking up the phone instead of purchasing directly online. This way you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.
Brands also offer lots of different incentives to potential customers. 24-hour helplines, extended warranties, easy returns and free cloud storage are just a few that might matter to you. It never hurts to ask.
Having a hard time deciding?
In the end, the best laptop for artists is more about the artist than it is about the laptop. Go with what you like!
Every laptop has pros and cons. Don’t let the choice paralyze you.
Remember what Ansel Adams said about photography? “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”
Find a computer that has the features you can’t live without and fits in your budget, and then dive in. Choosing a laptop is an important decision, but a great artist can create amazing work no matter what tools they are using.
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