7 Best Laptops for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (Ultimate Guide)

Before personal computers and graphics tablets, designers did everything by hand, and they relied on many different analog tools to do their jobs effectively.

These days, with the help of graphics software programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, laborious tasks that took hours can now be done with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Given the widespread adoption of these apps, any designer who is going to buy a laptop should make sure it will work with Creative Cloud.

That is why I have decided to outline the best laptops for Illustrator and Photoshop based on several key features, including display, graphics card, processor, memory, disk storage, and display.

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What Is the Best Laptop for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop?

1. Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)

Overview

Apple’s decision to develop its own chips (effectively parting ways with Intel Core processors) has paid off. Simply put, the performance on the new MacBook Pro 14-inch is incredible.

In fact, the M1 Chips are still so new that lots of software applications haven’t been optimized for Apple’s latest hardware yet. Thankfully, Adobe doesn’t fall in that category.

Adobe Lightroom was the first to make the transition earlier this year, followed by Photoshop and Illustrator. According to Adobe, “Photoshop performs 1.5x faster” with Apple’s M1 Chip, while “Illustrator users will see a 65 percent increase in performance on an M1 Mac.” 

In other words, these apps run faster than ever on the MacBook. Increased speed and the brilliant mini-LED display are the main reasons why it tops my list of the best laptops for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

My Top Pick
The best laptop for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop

Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)

It’s a fact that Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator run faster on the M1 chip, so for me this is an easy choice. If you’re serious about graphic design and want a laptop that will help you do your job better, this is the best option.

Key Features

  • Display 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR
  • Graphics 14 or 16-core GPU (part of Apple M1 Pro Chip)
  • Processor Apple M1 Pro Chip
  • Memory 16GB unified memory
  • Storage 512GB or 1TB SSD
  • Operating System Mac OS

Bottom Line

While the M1 Chip is reason enough to invest in the MacBook Pro 14-inch, there are a few other reasons I love this laptop, which I will touch upon briefly. 

This laptop feels like a throwback to earlier Macs, which is a good thing. Apple finally got rid of the Touch Bar, the keys are full-height and comfortably positioned, and there’s a nice variety of ports on either side. Add to that a much-improved battery life and an amazing display, and it becomes difficult to find a better laptop for creative work. It is the best laptop for Adobe CC.

The downsides are that it’s expensive and many software applications haven’t been updated for it yet. As mentioned earlier, this doesn’t include Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, which have been optimized and run faster than ever on the M1 Chip.

2. Dell XPS 17 9710 (2021)

Overview

MacBooks are popular with designers, but there are a few laptops that are AMAZING alternatives for people who prefer Windows. First on that list is the Dell XPS 17.

Dell’s XPS line has been one of the MacBook’s main competitors for years. It’s not hard to see why with the beautiful new XPS 17.

The build quality is fantastic. The machine-milled aluminum chassis, coupled with a carbon fiber palm rest, looks and feels luxurious. The 17-inch screen size is huge for a portable and offers 100 percent RGB coverage. For those who spend a lot of time image editing in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, this is one of its key advantages over smaller laptops.

Then, there’s the hardware. The baseline specs are excellent, but Dell gives you the option to upgrade the 11th Gen Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series graphics card. These upgrades offer a serious boost for Creative Cloud users.

Also Great
Dell XPS laptop for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop

Dell XPS 17 9710 (2021)

I like the XPS 17 because it feels ultra-premium. When you’re sitting at your laptop all day working on raster and vector files, comfort is a huge factor. This makes the large screen a plus. Overall, this is the best option for Windows users.

Key Features

  • Display 17-inch FHD+ InfinityEdge non-touch anti-glare 
  • Graphics Intel or NVIDIA GeForce RTX Graphics
  • Processor 11th Gen Intel Core i7 11800H or i9 11908 HK
  • Memory Up to 16GB, 2x8GB, DDR4, 3200MHz
  • Storage 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Operating System Windows 11 Home

Bottom Line

With its gorgeous 17-inch touchscreen display, this is an ideal laptop for anyone transitioning from a desktop and wants something more substantial than most portables can offer.

Like its main competitor, the MacBook, this laptop is a bit on the pricey side, especially if you upgrade the processor and graphics card. 

With the XPS 17, you can be sure that you are getting a top-notch portable workstation with high-quality components, good build quality, and sleek design. This makes it the best Windows laptop for Adobe Creative Cloud.

3. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 (2020)

Overview

Apple has built a reputation around making minor improvements to its products every few years, but with the M1 Chip, the MacBook takes a big step forward. 

Oddly enough, the chassis doesn’t look any different than previous Apple MacBook Pro models, which disguises the substantial increase in performance the M1 Chip brings.

This version gives you 3x better CPU performance and 5x faster graphics speed. While not all software programs have been optimized for Apple’s new hardware, Adobe confirmed that Illustrator and Photoshop run faster on the M1 Chip.

Adding to that Apple’s 13-inch Retina display and improved battery life, it’s not hard to see why the MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 (2020) is one of my top picks for the best laptop for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. 

Solid Choice
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch M1

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 (2020)

I still think this is one of the best laptops for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, hands down, because of what you are getting for the price. It feels like a Pro but costs a lot less, so if you’re a graphic designer or professional photographer, it’s a solid choice.

Key Features

  • Display 13-inch Retina with True Tone 
  • Graphics 8‑core GPU (part of Apple M1 chip)
  • Processor Apple M1 chip
  • Memory 8GB or 16GB unified memory
  • Storage 256GB SSD storage
  • Operating System Mac OS

Bottom Line

This MacBook is a solid choice for anyone who wants the power, speed, and hours of battery life of Apple’s M1 devices but doesn’t want to pay the premium prices of the MacBook 14-inch (2021) above.

As excellent as this laptop is, there are a few drawbacks worth mentioning. 

First, it can only support a single external monitor. If you are accustomed to using two external monitors, you’ll need to get a hub such as this one by TOTU

Second, there are only two ports (Thunderbolt/USB 4), so you’ll need a dongle for more expansion.

These drawbacks pale in comparison to the incredible performance you get at a fairly reasonable price. It’s a great middle-ground between the higher-end MacBook models and the MacBook Air.

4. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Overview

The Surface Laptop Studio was built with content creators in mind. It functions as a regular laptop, a digital drawing board/easel, and a tablet, making it a three-in-one device. Like Microsoft’s desktop version, which made my list of the best computers for graphic design, this laptop is ideal for digital artists.

Of course, there are other activities you can do with the Surface Laptop Studio, such as consuming media, gaming, and taking notes. Still, since this is about Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, I want to focus on the relevant key components.

The baseline specs support typical workloads just fine. But if you plan on putting this laptop through its paces with 3D renders and video editing, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a faster processor and dedicated graphics card to get the best performance.

As for the build quality, the magnesium and aluminum body feels luxurious, just like a computer at this price point should. The trackpad is large and responsive, the keyboard is comfortable, and the Slim Pen gives haptic feedback, making it a joy to use.   

Best Flexibility
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

I like Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio because of the flexibility and form factor. It allows you to use it as a tablet, easel, or regular laptop, so it’s great if you like to sketch with a stylus pen before switching to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for fine-tuning.

Key Features

  • Display 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow
  • Graphics Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Processor 11th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7
  • Memory 16GB or 32GB
  • Storage 256GB–2TB SSD
  • Operating System Windows 11 Home

Bottom Line 

This computer has so many cool things going for it that you either forget about its shortcomings or don’t care, as the pros far outweigh the cons.

Short battery life, lack of legacy ports, and a high price tag are areas in which the Surface Laptop Studio could improve.

If you are an artist or illustrator who loves its design and functionality, you’ll be happy with this laptop. I would consider upgrading the hardware if you do a lot of intense tasks involving digital art and photo editing software.

5. Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XC (2021)

Overview

The award-winning Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR was built with content creators in mind. Let’s get right into the details of what makes this my number three pick for the best laptop for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. 

One of the reasons this laptop stands out is its best-in-class GPU, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series. Tech Rader calls it an “absolute powerhouse of a graphics card, bringing about one of the largest generational leaps in GPU history.” That means the Aero 17 can maneuver through any Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator actions with ease.

At 17-inches, the screen size is large enough that you won’t spend all your time squinting at your vectors and JPG files. It has 100 percent RGB coverage, anti-glare, and comes color-calibrated and Pantone-validated out of the box. 

Best Heavy Duty
Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XC laptop for graphic design

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XC (2021)

I like Gigabyte’s Aero 17 HDR XC because of the hardware and large screen. It’s a beast of a laptop that was made for creators, so if you are looking for a graphic design and photo editing PC, this is a solid option.

Key Features

  • Display 17.3-inch UHD anti-glare LCD
  • Graphics NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
  • Processor 11th Gen Intel Core i7 11800H or i9 11908 HK
  • Memory 2 DDR4 slots (max 64GB)
  • Storage 2 M.2 SSD slots
  • Operating System Windows 10 Pro

Bottom Line

There’s a lot to like about the Gigabyte’s Aero 17 HDR, and as far as creative work goes, it delivers in many key areas, including power, speed, and display. There’s no doubt it would make an excellent laptop to use with Creative Cloud apps such as Photoshop and Illustrator. 

However, there’s no such thing as a perfect laptop. The key is determining which features matter most and where you are willing to compromise. With that said, here are a few things that could be improved.

First, while there are ports galore, there’s only one Thunderbolt 4. It would have been nice to have at least one more due to its versatility and usefulness.

Second, at 6.22 pounds, it’s not a light laptop. For me, this is not a huge issue, but I also don’t have to carry my computer around with me all day. 

Finally, the battery life could be better. While the battery itself is huge (the biggest you can bring on an airplane, in fact), it will not last all day if you are doing intense tasks in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. If you’re plugged in at your home or office most of the time, this won’t matter much, but it could be an issue for some.

6. Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Overview

The Apple MacBook Air M1, released in late 2020 with the M1 Chip, is an incredible laptop that gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

There are many similarities between this and the MacBook Pro 13-inch, and with a starting price under $1K, this version is a steal. There are also a few key differences.

First, the MacBook Air doesn’t have a fan. That means the MacBook Pro can handle heavy computational loads easier. However, this isn’t a huge factor for most Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop work

Second, the entry-level Air comes with a 7-core GPU, whereas the Pro comes with an 8-core GPU. The 7-core GPU should work just fine with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. 

One advantage the MacBook Air M1 has over the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020) is that it doesn’t have the Touch Bar.

They both have the same beautiful Retina display that supports P3 color space (previously only available on the MacBook Pro) and excellent battery life.

Best Value
Apple MacBook Air M1

Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)

I like the MacBook Air M1 because it has incredible value. The price to performance ratio is hard to beat. If you travel around a lot like I do, it weighs less than three pounds, so you’re not sacrificing performance for portability.

Key Features

  • Display 13.3-inch Retina with True Tone
  • Graphics 7-core GPU, 8-core GPU (part of Apple M1 Chip)
  • Processor Apple M1 Chip
  • Memory 8GB or 16GB unified memory
  • Storage 256GB–2TB SSD
  • Operating System Mac OS

Bottom Line

The Apple MacBook Air M1 is probably the best deal on this list. For under $1,000, you are getting incredible performance, an amazing display, and excellent build quality. It is the best laptop for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop at this price point.

This is the best choice for anyone who wants high-performance on a budget, something light and portable, and doesn’t anticipate doing a lot of intensive tasks that will push the computer to its limits.

If you’re doing light work with vector graphics, it should be fine.

7. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

Overview

Like the MacBook Air M1, the HP Envy x360 13 sells for under $1,000 and delivers incredible value for a reasonable price. 

Unlike the MacBook Air, this HP laptop is a three-in-one device. It can be used as a regular laptop, the display can be adjusted into easel/tent mode, or it can rotate all the way around with a 360-degree hinge to lay completely flat in tablet mode. 

While this isn’t the fastest or most powerful laptop on this list, it provides exceptional value, featuring top-notch build quality and components at a low cost. 

Budget Pick
HP Envy x360 13

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

HP’s Envy x360 13 is a solid choice for students or anyone learning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. For a phenomenal price, you’re getting a laptop with an Intel i7 processor and Iris Xe GPU, which can handle most graphic design tasks with ease.

Key Features

  • Display 13.3-inch FHD multitouch IPS with BrightView
  • Graphics Intel Iris Xe
  • Processor 11th Gen Intel Core i7
  • Memory 8GB DDR4
  • Storage 256GB SSD
  • Operating System Windows 10

Bottom Line

This digital art laptop is a solid choice for students or anyone making a transition into creative work and doesn’t want to go all-in on a $2,000 MacBook Pro. 

With an Intel i7 and Iris Xe beneath the hood, it feels like a high-end laptop at a more affordable price.

The components improve Illustrator performance on Windows 10 while the display meets the minimum monitor resolution required for design.

Lightweight (2.92 pounds), comfortable, and versatile, it is one of the best mid-range laptops you can buy. For these reasons, it is the best laptop for graphic design beginners.

What Is a Laptop for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop?

As a starting point, Adobe specifies the minimum system requirements for Illustrator and minimum system requirements for Photoshop

Meeting the minimum system requirements will ensure that these apps run on your laptop, but you’ll want to get the best hardware you can afford to attain optimal performance. 

An ideal laptop for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop will achieve a good combination of speed, power, efficiency, comfort, and mobility. 

Ideally, you’ll get a powerful processor (Intel Core i7 or above), plenty of RAM (at least 8GB, ideally 16GB), a dedicated graphics card, and at least 256GB SDD storage. 

A top-notch display should be a priority. The screen should be bright and have high screen resolution, a wide gamut of colors, and a high refresh rate. IPS monitors are great for photo editing because they have vast color depth with a palette of over one billion hues. OLED monitors (organic light emitting diode) also do very well with color display.

Finally, a good keyboard and responsive trackpad are a must. If you don’t have to think about your keyboard and trackpad too often, that means they are doing their job.

Conclusion

That concludes my picks for the best laptops for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. These will give you the best performance with Adobe Creative Cloud software.

Whether you’re a designer working in-house, a freelancer, or a student, I hope you found this guide useful.

To recap, my top pick is the MacBook Pro 14-inch because the components enhance Illustrator performance. It is the best laptop for heavy softwares.

That being said, all of the laptops on this list are solid choices. The decision should be based on your specific needs.

FAQ

What is the best way to store photos?

If you want to open, edit, and save files quickly, having a computer with a large SSD would be ideal. Many laptops come with 256GB SSD to start, but for designers and illustrators who work with large image files every day, drive space will fill up quickly, so you should consider upgrading to 1TB.

For longer-term storage, I recommend an external drive. That way, you don’t have to take up valuable drive space on your laptop for files you don’t access regularly.

An external disk drive is also necessary for backup purposes, especially with the portable nature of laptops. You don’t want to lose photos or digital artwork if you drop your backpack or someone walks off with it. 

Can I optimize my laptop for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop? 

While buying a laptop with good internal components is the first step, you should also ensure its settings are fully optimized to run well with Creative Cloud apps like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. That way, you can get the best possible performance out of your laptop and get your work done faster. 

Here is the best configuration for Photoshop and Illustrator:

Optimize Adobe Photoshop performance

Optimize Adobe Illustrator performance on macOS

Optimize Adobe Illustrator performance on Windows

Further Reading 

Some prefer an iPad for drawing, while others like to sketch on paper and scan the artwork later. Whatever method suits you best, I’ve got you covered.

For more inspiration, head to the blog, where you’ll find articles on publishingposter design, illustration, logos, and more.