What’s the best Mac for graphic design?

“What is the best Mac for graphic design and layout?” Mark Hattersley asks for Macworld UK. “It’s a question many of our readers ask. Apple Mac OS X computers are especially useful for designers, and many creative professionals need to invest in the latest Mac hardware.”

“But choosing the right Mac for design work can be a challenge,” Hattersley writes. “Apple creates a whole range of Mac OS X laptops (MacBooks) and desktop computers. Although all Apple Macs are great, some are better suited to design than others.”

Hattersley writes, “In this article we take a look at what a computer requires to be truly great for working with professional design software, and the features you pay more for. We then look closely at the range of Mac computers available, and the custom built to order options available that make sense for designers. We also look at some of the accessories, software and services available that make sense for keen graphic design professionals.”

Read more in the full article here.

29 Comments

      1. IF you can dock to a large color-correct display, and IF you can accept relatively slower processing, and IF you have relatively few peripherals, and IF you are budget-limited, then indeed you have the best solution.

        For anyone else, the only answer is the Mac Pro.

        1. Not true sir… I connect to a 27″ Apple LED and can do just about anything I need to do. That includes Apple Motion and Final cut pro.

          Having said that, the iMac is a great machine that would get in a second if I could be locked down at all times.

    1. I’d suggest a MacBook with 16GB of RAM and an external display. Have you ever heard of an external display?

      I won’t ever go back to a desktop computer. Ever. I can’t standing being tethered to a damn desk and not being able to take my work with me. I stopped using desktops years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

      1. Anyone who claims to be able to capably work as a professional level designer on a paltry laptop is not doing real design work.

        I would rather have the RAM and processing to get real work done in a reasonable amount of time than have the workflow roadblock that is a laptop.

        As for portability, I have a work-supplied station at my office, and my own at home. Coupled with an external HDD (or large capacity thumb Drive), I have 0 issues taking my work with me. Personally, it sounds like some of you are too cheap to buy your own machines, and want a company-supplied laptop to do personal work on at home.

        1. I have a 17″ MBP with 16 gigs of ram, 256 gig SSD drive, a 500 gig 7200 rpm mechanical drive, and a 27″ Thunderbolt LED monitor. If you know how to work properly, unless you are working with 2 gig files all the time, I have no problem whatsoever! I edit video, do high rez PSD work, etc.

          You might want to look at how you work pal 😉

        2. I knew somebody would say that you can’t do “professional level” design on a laptop. Hilarious. Ridiculous, too.

          My MacBook Pro has a Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM in it. I plug it into a 27″ display and run Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Bridge, along with Safari, Chrome, Mail, and a bunch of other crap, and I have no problems at all. Could it be faster? Of course – no matter how fast of a computer you have, you always want faster. Regardless, it’s a considerably faster and more powerful computer than were even most desktops a few years ago.

          So, what exactly is it in this machine which is a “workflow roadblock”? More to the point, by your logic, how could ANY designer do “professional level” work five years ago when even the fastest desktops were slower than my “paltry laptop” is now?

          Too cheap? No, I just like to be smart about how I spend my money, and I’d rather take the family on vacation every summer instead of buying a second computer I DON’T NEED.

          BTW, how does that external drive or thumb drive work when you want to meet a client onsite or travel with your work? Talk about a workflow roadblock!

          1. I stand by what I said. I don’t consider playing around with static 2D images to really be upper echelon stuff. It’s child’s play, and yes you can do child’s play on a laptop.

            The real heavy lifting, the true top tier stuff is motion graphics, 3D animation, and HD video editing and compositing. You’re not doing ANY of that stuff within a reasonable amount of time on some laptop, believe me, I’ve tried.

            Are today’s portables more powerful than the towers of yetseryear? Sure they are, but the demands of bleeding edge motion graphics design have grown at a faster clip than the technology has.. making it an always delicate balance.

            As for my clients, well you see they have this wonderful invention called the internet. Using said invention, I can post renders to a client access page on my site and let them post any notes or comments they may have.

            I guess though if you want to play about with the tinker toys feel free. I can go on vacations and have my hardware, so I do. Maybe you need to broaden your skills so you can make some real money.

            1. Apparently you’re completely oblivious to the fact that there is an entire industry of people – designers – who make very good livings doing identity, environmental, print, web, and even interactive design. Many of these people do nothing at all with 3D animation, motion graphics, HD video or compositing, and want or need to be mobile, and therefore have no use whatsoever for an expensive desktop. Are these obvious facts beyond your myopic existence, or are you simply ignorant by choice?

              It’s blatantly obvious from your childish know-it-all rant (complete with insulting labels like “tinker toy” and “child’s play” referring to others’ computing choices), that you’re in your twenties, probably not long out of college, toiling away in a dark room doing grunt work production in front your “upper-echelon” desktop, thinking you’re all bad ass.

              That, or you’re just an insecure, childish, troll who feels the need to put down others and their choices on the interwebs where you can hide behind an anonymous username. Most likely, you’re a combination of both.

            2. Strangermode is right. A laptop cannot replace a desktop for serious workloads. I have to mull over thousands of high res RAW photos weighing in at least 250mb each – as much as a laptop is capable of rendering images in Lightroom I can do it so much faster on my Mac Pro and when time is money the desktop trumps. When I’m out on location I have my Macbook Pro…best of both worlds.

            3. What the hell is wrong with you guys? Do you have reading comprehension problems, or are you just incapable of thinking more than ten feet beyond your immediate vicinity? Yeah, he’s right about what HE needs a computer for, not what everybody else is doing.

              Yes, if you’re a photographer and you’re processing thousands of RAW images, or you’re a visual artist doing 3D, or you’re a video guy editing/compositing HD video, then of course you’re going to want a desktop computer. Nobody is disputing that because THOSE AREN’T GRAPHIC DESIGNERS!

              But for just as many people who are GRAPHIC DESIGNERS, who are doing identity, environmental, print, web, and interactive, THEY DO NOT NEED A DESKTOP COMPUTER! AT ALL!

              BTW, what the hell camera is making a 250MB RAW file? A large/medium format back or something?

  1. That’s a stupid question, because it is so simple, when you are a pro user.
    – In the office: A fast MacPro plus a 30″ display, period. Put in as much RAM as you can (at least 32 GB), as much SSD as you can, as much HD as you can.
    – On the road: Retina MacBook Pro, 16 GB RAM, 768 GB SSD.
    Yes, it costs a lot of money, but you really get what you pay for.
    (Tim, by the way, we all are waiting for the new MacPro. You may remember your pro users who supported Apple during the dark ages. Don’t let them down.)

  2. I’m finding a lot of employers these days allowing you to ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD). So while I would love a 17 inch retina MacBook Pro, I only have my 15 inch retina MacBook Pro.

  3. Silly question. Is it extremely complex graphics requiring a maxed out Mac Pro? Or is it more important to show and work with clients? And then a MacBook Pro might be a better choice. It all depends of the kind of graphics needed and mobile or desktop.

  4. I think this article and commenters should understand the difference between prepress operator and a designer.

    If you are doing color critical work then you will have a calibrator on your screen.. And glossy will not be a problem since you should have the lights anyways.

    A MacBook Pro can be plenty for a designer as I’ve used them with my photography. Currently the newest is equivalent to a Mac mini or the smaller imac. Creative suite loves Ram. So load it up and use an ssd drive.

    It really annoys me when people complain about the glossy screen. If you knew anything on color you would know to use a calibrator and that screens never reflect the printed piece. And if your designing for a small shop they will probably open up your site in windows internet explorer and think their colors are way off because of their crappy dell monitor with the contrast blown out.

    No designer needs a pro unless they are into video and sound or just want a super fast video card. I’ve had the pro and for adjusting gigs of wedding photos with 20MB raw files my mini handles very well. Especially since I have a main ssd and a secondary ssd as a scratch and 16GB ram. All of which was around $1600 new end of 2012. (I put in my own drives I bought new and ram)since apple doesn’t provide a 480GB ssd option.

  5. Use whatever you want. Not everyone does exactly the same kind of graphics design work.

    I prefer the bigger screen and less desk clutter of an iMac 27″

    I’ll use a MacBook when on the move.

    1. Comparing penis size specs misses the whole point.

      You can have the most advanced technology in the world and clueless what to do with it.

      On the flip side of that coin, you can have the basic setup and skate gold in the Olympics …

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