You are an on-to-go type of person, you like to do programming and graphic design anywhere you travel. That is why you are looking for the best laptops for programming and graphic design. But do you need two separate machines to be the best at both? Or can you get one laptop that is the best of both worlds? 

The best laptop for programming and graphic design needs to have a tremendous amount of RAM and a great GPU. The RAM helps the most handle the heavy computations that programming brings.

The GPU helps graphic designing processes stay efficient. If you are a multi-focus user dabbling in both graphic design and programming, read-on to learn about the top four laptops for you. 

Dell XPS 15 

The Dell XPS 15 is a sleek 4.5-pound laptop with an impressive 16:10 resolution display packed into a screen size of 15.6”. The display offers an almost edge-to-edge view, all in 4k Ultra HD+ resolution. The XPS 15 also provides lightning-fast Wifi with their advanced AX1650 wifi card. Here are the available hardware specifications on the Dell XPS 15. It comes standard with Windows 10 Home Edition. 

Processor (CPU) 

The Dell XPS 15 is available with 10th generation Intel Core i5 (4.5 GHz), i7 (5 GHz), or i9 (5.3 GHz) CPUs. Intel’s 10th generation processors have over 10nm transitions, a new memory controller for DDR4 3200 and LPDDRX 3733 support, Wi-fi 6 integrated support, and Thunderbolt 3 support. 

Graphics Card (GPU)

The base model of the Dell XPS 15 comes with an Intel UHD Graphics system with an optional upgrade to a top-of-the-line NVidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6 graphics card. The NVidia graphics system packs a lot of performance into a small package, keeping the laptop thin and light-weight. 

RAM (Random Access Memory) 

The Dell XPS is configurable to include 8, 16, 32, or 64 GB of DDR4-2933MHz of memory. Whether you are doing graphic design or programming, you will be sure to have enough memory to finish your tasks smoothly. 

Programming and Graphic Design Performance 

With its large screen, powerful processing capabilities, and a large amount of dedicated RAM, the Dell XPS 15 is an excellent laptop for both programming and graphic design.

You will easily be able to code in python, C++, JavaScript, or HTML and use resource-heavy graphic design programs like Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, Sketch, and Xara Designer Pro X on any version of the Dell XPS 15.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is a vibrant, ergonomic laptop that packs a ton of features into a well-executed package. The Surface Laptop 3 comes in two sizes, a large 15” and a smaller 13.5” size. Whatever size you get, you will be able to optimize your performance with the VibrantPixelSense touchscreen. 

Processor (CPU) 

The Microsoft Surface 3 Laptop 13.5” version comes with either an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. Whereas, the 15” version comes with the high-performance AMD Ryzen 7 3780U CPU. The AMD processor offers better performance over the i5 and i7 processors, so if you want to maximize your hardware, get the 15” version. 

Graphics Card (GPU)

The 13.5” models have an Intel Iris Plus graphics card, while the 15” has a significant step up in graphics performance. Depending on the configuration, the 15” Surface 3 laptop has either the AMD Radeon Vega 9 or the Radeon RX Vega 11 GPU- both AMD GPUs provide outstanding performance for all types of graphic design. 

RAM (Random Access Memory) 

The 13.5” and 15” models can both come with either 8 or 16GB of memory. However, there is a difference – the 13.5” has the LPDDR4x RAM, and the 15” has the standard DDR4 RAM, which has a bit better performance. 

Programming and Graphic Design Performance 

Depending on the specifications you choose on your Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, the performance with programming and in graphic design applications will vary somewhat. 

The 15” model offers additional screen real estate over the 13.5”, so it may be preferable for graphic design tasks. If you have more RAM and a faster CPU, you will also handle more applications faster. 

Additionally, the 10 point multi-touch capabilities add another excellent feature for graphic designers. The Surface Pen can create stunning drawings directly on the laptop screen. 

Regardless of which configuration you choose, the Surface Laptop 3 is an excellent choice for both graphic design and programming. 

Apple Macbook Pro 

The 2020 Apple Macbook Pro has some significant updates over previous Pro models, primarily Apple’s new M1 CPU. The new MacBook Pros have an 8-core GPU, with Apple claiming up to 5x faster graphics performance. The Pro comes in 13” and 16” flavors; they both include Apple’s backlit magic keyboard, touch ID, touch bar, and force trackpad. 

Like previous models, they come in space grey or silver configurations in a pleasant and smooth aluminum chassis. Both sizes boast the stunning Apple Retina Display with True Tone and multiple Thunderbolt ports. 

Processor (CPU) 

The 13 inch Pro model has the Apple M1 chip, which is superbly fast compared to previous models with the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. The 16 inch Pro model has not yet been transitioned to the M1 platform and is available with an 8-core 9th-gen Intel Core i9 CPU. Apple is expected to release the M1 CPU on the next update of the 16-inch model. 

Both sizes are impressively speedy and can handle resource-heavy applications well, plus they have beautiful, crisp screens, which are perfect for graphic design. 

Graphics Card (GPU)

Along with the CPU, the GPU of the 13-inch and 16-inch models vary as well. Once Apple moves the larger model onto the M1 architecture, these two sizes will be more similar in terms of available CPUs/GPUs. Here are the GPUs that are currently available: 

Available GPUs on the Macbook Pro
13-inch model with M1 chip 16-inch model

M1 8-core GPU and 16-core Nueral Engine

AMD Radeon Pro 5300 – 4GB GDDR6 memory
AMD Radeon Pro 5500M – 4GB GDDR6 memory
AMD Radeon Pro 5500M – 8GB GDDR6 memory
AMD Radeon Pro 5600M – 8GB HBM2 memory

With all these available GPU options, it may be hard to decide which is best for graphic design and programming tasks. All GPUs perform very well for most functions, with the high-end GPUs providing incremental improvements in speed and latency. 

However, if you are looking to better “future-proof” your laptop, it may be best to get the highest-end GPU available. That way, you can ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck for years to come. 

RAM (Random Access Memory) 

Apple has always offered different RAM sizes on their Macbooks, and with the current generations, this is no different. Here are the available RAM options for the Macbook Pro models: 

  • 13-inch Macbook Pro
    • 8 GB unified memory
    • 16 GB unified memory
  • 16-inch Macbook Pro
    • 16 GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
    • 32 GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
    • 64 GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory

A mere 8 to 16 GB is usually enough RAM to handle most resource-heavy tasks involved in graphic design and programming. However, if you are a power-user, you can get up to a whopping 64 GB of DDR4 memory and breeze through almost all tasks with no delays. 

Programming and Graphic Design Performance 

The Macbook Pro is the premium Apple product for graphic design and programming, with significant upgrades over its lower-cost counterpart, the Macbook Air.

Its ergonomic keyboard provides comfort through long hours of any type of work. The sleek Retina displays offer crisp, clear images that prevent eye strain and display graphics in millions of colors.

The intuitive touch bar seamlessly integrated above the keyboard gives users quick, intuitive control over settings and quick access to applications and shortcuts. 

With the great CPUs, GPU, and RAM options on the Macbook Pro, it is unlikely anyone would have issues performing graphic design and programming work. Whether it’s full-stack development, HTML, or javascript, the Pro will make your work fly by, plus you will look fabulous doing so. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P1

The third generation of Lenovo’s ThinkPad is a mobile workstation powerhouse. Packed into a rugged, carbon fiber body and WiFi 6 capabilities, it is excellent for both on-the-road and work-from-home programming and graphic design professionals.

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is available with 10th generation Intel Core i7 or i9 processors, 8 to 64GB DDR4 memory, and storage capacities of up to 4 TB. The ThinkPad offers the most configuration options on this list. However, it only provides a single screen size of 15”- but with different anti-glare and HDR options.

With its excellent available hardware, the ThinkPad P1 makes a fantastic choice for programmers and graphic designers alike. The backlit keyboard and built-in fingerprint reader are seamlessly integrated into the keyboard chassis. 

Processor (CPU) 

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is available with four different 10th generation Intel processors and one Intel Xeon processor. Depending on your graphic design and programming needs, you can spend the extra money to scale up for faster processing speed. Here are the available CPUs on the Thinkpad:

  • Intel Core i7-10750H
  • Intel Core i7-10850H with vPro
  • Intel Core i7-10875H with vPro
  • Intel Core i9-10885H with vPro
  • Intel Xeon W-10855M with vPro

Graphics Card (GPU)

The Lenovo Thinkpad P1 has impressive graphics capabilities that are unparalleled by other workstation laptops. It is available with three graphics packages:

  • NVIDIA Quadro T1000 with Max-Q 4GB
  • NVIDIA Quadro T2000 with Max-Q 4GB
  • Integrated Intel UHD Graphics

Only certain graphics cards are compatible with the Thinkpad’s CPUs, so you may just be able to choose between one or two if you configure your own. 

The graphics performance with the built display and with external monitors is brilliant. The ThinkPad P1 displays graphic design resources amazingly well and is sharp enough to read miles of compiled code. 

RAM (Random Access Memory) 

The 3rd Generation Lenovo ThinkPad P1 has many DDR4 RAM upgrades- from 8 up to 64 GB. You will never have to worry about closing out other programs to optimize performance. Here are the available options: 

  • 8 GB DDR4 2933 MHz
  • 16 GB DDR4 2993 MHz
  • 16 GB DDR4 2933 MHz – 2 x 8 GB
  • 32 GB DDR4 2933 MHz
  • 32 GB DDR4 2933 MHz – 2 x 16 GB
  • 64 GB DDR4 2933 MHz – 2 x 32 GB

8 GB and 16 GB are great options for more and less resource-intensive programs. However, if you would like a high degree of performance availability, 32 to 64 GB are nice upgrades to add extra resource space for complex programming and graphic design work. 

Programming and Graphic Design Performance 

Lenovo aptly calls this laptop a workstation for a reason- it is a powerhouse of a machine. It has an unassuming black frame, but don’t let that fool you – it is made entirely out of rugged carbon fiber and is tested to 12 military-grade requirements at that. 

In terms of graphic design performance, the ThinkPad P1 has fantastic hardware that can handle all graphic design applications in a breeze. It includes Lenovo highly-rated ergonomic keyboard that will let you type comfortably for hours on end, perfect for the full-time (and overtime) programmers. 

The ThinkPad P1’s basic hardware package works swimmingly well with all programming platforms. Whether you are coding mobile apps, HTML, or computer applications, you will have no hiccups.

The same goes for graphic design capabilities, as the Lenovo P1 integrates a great GPU in this machine, transforming it into a workstation desired by programming and graphic designers alike. 

Conclusion 

In this article, we looked at the top four laptops best for both graphic design and programming. Whether you are a programmer, graphic designer, or both – whichever of the four you pick will be a fantastic choice and keep you working efficiently in all situations. 

Each laptop performs outstandingly and compiles code quickly with all programming languages, such as: 

  • Python
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Swift (Mac specific)
  • Ruby 
  • HTML5 
  • C#, C, C++ 

Additionally, the Dell XPS 15, Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, Apple Macbook Pro, and Lenovo ThinkPad P1 all have excellent hardware support (and nice upgrades) and beautiful displays. All models provide an incredible interface with graphic design applications like:

  • Adobe Illustrator 
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • CorelDraw
  • Microsoft Visio
  • Blender

To determine the laptop that’s best for you, you should consider what features and hardware you want/need the most. Also, depending on hardware and available upgrades between models, you will see a vast difference in pricing.

Consider what hardware, operating system, and price are best for you before deciding on the laptop you will use for your graphic design and programming lifestyle.