Best graphic design laptops under 500

Top 5 Best Graphic Design Laptops Under $500 | 2018 Edition

Top 5 Best Graphic Design Laptops Under $500 | 2018 Edition 1024 602 Nick Saporito

If you’re going to be running applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or even Inkscape and GIMP — and you want to run these applications as smoothly as possible with minimal lag — you’re going to need more computing power than you would for your standard school work, administrative tasks or casual web browsing. Accomplishing that usually means spending a bit more than $500, but luckily there are some options available if you’re working with a limited budget. In this article I’ll be ranking my chosen top 5 best graphic design laptops under $500, but first let’s take a look at some bare minimum specs you should seek in a device if you’re going to be running graphic design software.

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Processor

The first area of focus is the processor. The processor (or CPU) is the brains of your computer. It’s responsible for processing commands from both the hardware and the software. There’s more to understanding what kind of CPU would be best than I could possibly cover in this post, but a general measuring stick you could reference would be clock speed. From my own personal experiences, a speed of 2.0 GHz is the absolute bare minimum you should aim for. At 2.0 GHz, applications from the Adobe suite may be a tad bit slow to load, but once they do, they should run seamlessly for the most part. You’ll experience a great deal of frustration if you go for anything less than that though, so it’s not recommended.

Memory

Memory (or RAM) is the amount of information your computer can handle at a time. The more memory you have, the more applications you can run simultaneously with less slowdown. Design software tends to hog memory (especially the Adobe suite,) so I recommend going for no less than 8 GB of memory. With 8 GB you’ll be able to work with multiple high resolution photos at a time, while having your browser, email application and Spotify running in the background, and without much slowdown. For a long time I used Inkscape and Illustrator on a machine with 8 GB of memory and it was certainly enough to handle my workload.

Resolution

Resolution is the amount of pixels your screen displays. The more pixels, the more fine detail you’ll see. Although screen resolution isn’t as important as CPU or RAM, as a graphic designer, it’s still important. 4K will quickly become the standard in 2018 (if it isn’t already,) but with a $500 budget it isn’t very likely that we’re going to find a 4K device that meets our hardware requirements. If you mainly handle vector and raster design work, I’d strive for no less than 1080p. 1080p is quickly becoming yesterday’s benchmark, so you’ll be too far behind the times with anything less. However, I understand that when we’re working with a budget, we may have to make some compromises. I’d be willing to compromise resolution before CPU or RAM when seeking the best graphic design laptops under $500.

Storage

I’m sure you already know what storage is. It’s the amount of space you have to store stuff. Luckily, vector and raster design work really doesn’t take up all that much space. Storage is more of a concern if you’re working with video or you’re into gaming. 500 GB of space should be plenty. You could always get an external drive later on to store your client work on (which I highly recommend.) Indexing past client work will likely be what takes up the most space, and even that shouldn’t amount to much. Storage can certainly be compromised for the sake of CPU, RAM and resolution, but I will be looking at it as a ranking factor in my choices regardless because it does have value.

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One final stipulation I’d like to add is that all of these devices will be new and not refurbished. I do not recommend investing in used hardware when it comes to computers. With that said, let’s get started!

Best Graphic Design Laptops Under $500


#5. Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6 inch HD Flagship Premium Laptop PC

  • CPU: AMD A6-7310 Quad-Core, 2 GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Storage: 500 GB
  • Resolution: 720p

This laptop is my cheapest pick. If you’re looking to spend the least amount of money possible in order to get the bare minimum specs I’ve outlined above, this is your laptop. Photoshop and Illustrator may take a minute or two to boot up, but once they do, they should run okay for the most part. And as far as Inkscape and GIMP goes, you should hardly have any problems. My only concern with this device is that the display is 720p and not 1080p as I recommend, but like I said, sometimes you have to make compromises when you’re working with such a budget.

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#4. Lenovo 310-15ABR

  • CPU: AMD A12-Series Quad-Core, 2.5 GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Storage: 1 TB
  • Resolution: 720p

Of the 5 laptops I’ve chosen, this one is my value pick. This device gives you the most bang for your buck. It’s slightly more expensive than my #5 pick, but for that extra money you’re getting a better CPU and double the storage, which in and of itself is worth far more than the markup. Unless you need to cling to every last dollar, I would definitely choose this Lenovo over the previously mentioned IdeaPad.


#3. Dell i3567-5185BLK-PUS Inspiron

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7200U, 2.5 GHz (3.1 with turbo boost)
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Storage: 1 TB
  • Resolution: 720p

With this Dell laptop you’re getting similar specs as the previously mentioned devices, but you’re also getting better performance from its 7th gen Kaby Lake i5 processor by Intel, clocked at 3.1 GHz with turbo boost. If you have the extra money to spare then I recommend grabbing this machine. The performance increase justifies it.


#2. HP 15.6″ Laptop

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7200U, 2.5 GHz (3.1 with turbo boost)
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Storage: 2 TB
  • Resolution: 720p

With this HP laptop you’re getting all of the power as the aforementioned device, but for a few extra dollars you’re also getting double the storage. I’d say an extra TB is certainly worth $20 if you can spare it.


#1. ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7200U, 2.5 GHz (3.1 with turbo boost)
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Storage: 1 TB
  • Resolution: 1080p

If I only had $500 to pick out the best graphic design laptop I could find, it would be this ASUS P-Series. It packs just as much of a punch as any other device on this list, but it also has a full HD 1080p display, which separates this device from the rest if you ask me. As a graphic designer I would just find it too difficult to work with anything less than that. It has half the storage of the previously mentioned HP laptop, but I rank resolution firmly above storage. Storage can always be added later on; resolution can’t. Not only that, but 1TB is a lot of space. If you’re just doing vector and raster design work, you’ll most likely be due for a new machine before you run out of space on this one.


Like I mentioned earlier, you should really be looking to spend more than $500 on a graphic design laptop, but if it’s time for an upgrade and that’s all the budget you have, the ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51 is one of the best graphic design laptops under $500.

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Nick Saporito

Nick Saporito is a Philadelphia-based graphic designer who specializes in branding-specific design. A full portfolio and information regarding services offered can be found at LogosByNick.com.

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1 comment
  • Muhammad

    Hi Nick,

    Thank you very much for posting this post. It’s very informative.

    I am changing career and starting to become a Full Stack Web Developer. Can you please tell me about 2 or 3 options of the laptop to buy for under $1000 and over $500. Which one would you strongly suggest me to buy as I am a new entrant to this field?

    Many thanks for supporting new entrants in advance.

    God bless you.

    Muhammad

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