Art has always been something that was created on the go. Long before we entered the digital realm and were still working in analog, creative professionals, such as painters and photographers, ventured out of their studios and set up shop on location. While post-production generally needed to be completed back at their home base, technology has caught up with the needs of creatives and graphic artists. There are aspects of analog captures that cannot be replicated digitally, but that’s not to say that the digital realm doesn’t have strong advantages of its own. In addition to powerful gear—that is growing more so by the day—there is a convenience to digital that can’t be argued with. Artists can now not only work on location, but can complete the post process from that same location or a hotel room. Thanks to laptops and mobile workstations that have improved by leaps and bounds in the areas of speed, storage, memory, and portability, the days of being tethered to a studio and a desktop workstation are no longer the only options. Let’s take a look at some of the best laptops for creative professionals and graphic artists.
Apple MacBook Pro—Are We Creating, or Are We Creating?
It would be a crime to talk about laptops for creative professionals without mentioning Apple, especially since the 13.3" MacBook Pro was just updated with the M1 chip, an 8-Core CPU, an 8-Core GPU, and a 16-Core Neural Engine. You’ll be able to play back 8K ProRes video in DaVinci resolve, while photo and video editing shines on a 2560 x 1600 display with 500 nits of brightness and True Tone technology. If you need to connect external storage for your media libraries, there are two Thunderbolt™ 3 ports that also support an Apple Pro Display XDR at full 6K resolution. When you need to send off completed projects, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) has you covered.
If you’re looking for a little more display area, the previous gen 16" MacBook Pro is no slouch. It uses Intel® processors but can be customized with large amounts of memory and SSD storage, plus powerful AMD Radeon Pro graphics. A larger display means greater resolution at 3072 x 1920 with 500 nits of brightness, P3 color gamut support, and True Tone technology. The bigger body allows for four Thunderbolt™ 3 ports, but wireless connectivity is relegated to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).
HP: Powerful Creative Tools for PC Users
HP has always dedicated many resources toward creating systems for creative professionals, and its 14" EliteBook x360 1040 G7 Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Laptop may be transformed to accommodate the workstyle of your choice. Built with a 360° hinge, you’ll be able to take advantage of four different setup modes. These include the traditional laptop mode, a stand mode with the keyboard folded back, a tablet mode, and a tent mode where the computer stands on its screen edges. This system includes an HP Active Pen G3 and is powered by 10th Gen Intel® Core™ processors, 8GB or 16GB of RAM, NVMe or SATA SSD storage, and a Full HD or Ultra display. All of these options allow you to configure the system for what you really need. Other configuration options include Intel® Optane™ memory, a Sure View privacy display, and Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + 4G LTE. In terms of connectivity, there are two Thunderbolt™ 3 ports and two 5 Gb/s USB Type-A ports for any peripherals.
HP ZBook systems have always been synonymous with pro-grade performance and three other systems I’d recommend.
Thin at 0.76" and weighing 3.1 pounds, the 15.6" ZBook Firefly 15 G7 is the lightest 15" ZBook yet. It also opens to lie nearly flat, thanks to a 170° clamshell design for easy collaboration, comfortable viewing, and true mobility. It may be configured with a Full HD non-touch, Sure View privacy, or multi-touch display, as well as an Ultra HD display. HP advertises this as more of a business laptop, but there’s no reason it can’t be used by creatives, thanks to 10th Gen Intel® processors, 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of storage. All of this is rounded out by Thunderbolt™ 3, 5 Gb/s USB Type-A, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.0.
Moving up the ladder are the 15.6" ZBook Fury 15 G7 and 15.6" ZBook Studio G7. Since these are true mobile workstations, neither can be used as a tablet, but between the two, you’ll be able to create, render, edit, and simulate using Full HD or Ultra HD displays and Quadro T1000, T2000, RTX 3000, or RTX 4000 graphics.
Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel—Flexible, Literally
If you want to sketch, finalize, and present on one device, Acer’s ConceptD 7 Ezel Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Laptop is a one-stop system for all your creative needs, since you’re free to create basically whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. Bundled with a Wacom Stylus pen, this system features Acer’s patented Ezel Hinge that gives you six different modes to choose from, which allows you to collaborate with others in Share Mode, create efficiently in Float Mode, work on the move with Stand Mode, review content in Pad Mode, present work in Display Mode, and otherwise work in Laptop Mode.
If “one Ezel to rule them all” weren’t enough, the 15.6" IPS display features an Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution, 100% Adobe RGB gamut coverage, a 10-point touchscreen, 10th Gen Intel® processors, dedicated NVIDIA GeForce graphics, Thunderbolt™ 3 and USB Type-A connectivity, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.0.
Weighing 2.45 pounds, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go features a 12.4" PixelSense screen with a 1536 x 1024 resolution and 10-point touch support, plus a 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-1035G1 processor and up to 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM. For storage, there can be up to a 256GB SSD for fast boot times. Visuals are handled by integrated Intel® UHD™ Graphics. With up to 13 hours of battery life, you’ll be able to work for most, if not all, of the day.
Introduced last October, Microsoft has upgraded its Surface Pro X for 2020. The most significant upgrade is the Microsoft SQ2 processor, which delivers more multitasking power than the SQ1. It also features a 13" PixelSense Display with 2880 x 1920 resolution and 10-point touch support, complete with thin bezels for an all-screen design. Operations are kept extra quiet with the chassis’ carbon composite fan-less thermal cooling. The Surface Pro X can have up to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD and has two 10 Gb/s USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports.
Dell’s 15.6" XPS 15 is not to be overlooked. B&H carries this with either a 1920 x 1200 non-touch display and 100% sRGB gamut support, or a 3840 x 2400 multi-touch panel with 100% Adobe RGB coverage. Both displays have 500 nits of brightness for lifelike photos and video. The system is driven by a 2.6 GHz Intel® Core™ i7-10750H Six-Core processor and an NVIDIA 1650 Ti GPU, while other configuration options include up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM and up to a 1TB SSD.
Well, there you have it. No matter how experienced you are, any of these systems will help you get started—or maintain—your creativity. But what do you think? Do you use one of these systems, or is there something else you prefer? Feel free to leave your comments below.