Best budget laptops for graphic design 2024

Someone editing a piece on work on Photoshop on a black Dell laptop.
Credit: Timothy Exodus

Someone editing a piece on work on Photoshop on a black Dell laptop.
Credit: Timothy Exodus

The best budget laptop for graphic design can keep your creativity flowing, even when you're on the move.

A lot of graphic design programmes are more demanding than you might think, which can lead to a lot of graphic designers going for something similar to the best gaming laptops in terms of sheer power. To avoid sluggish performance, you will probably need something with at least 8GB of RAM, a decent SSD, and a good 1920x1080p resolution or above.

Getting all of that on a budget is challenging but not impossible. We've made a list of the best budget laptops for graphic design to help you out. Feast your eyes on these great picks.

Best budget laptops for graphic design

  1. HP Pavilion X360 - best laptop overall
  2. Apple MacBook Air - top pick for any Apple fans
  3. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 - a foldable delight
  4. HP Pavilion 15 - a top-tier 15-inch laptop
  5. Microsoft Surface Go 2 - top pick to design on the go
HP Pavilion X360 product image of a foldable white and black laptop with a mountain lake scene on the display.
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Credit: HP

1. HP Pavilion X360

Best budget laptop for graphic design overall

Screen Size: 14-inch - Resolution: 1920 x 1080 - RAM: 8GB - Storage: 256GB SSD - CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 (Quad-Core) - Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics - Battery Life: 9 hours - Weight: 1.5 kg - Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth v5 - Ports: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0, USB Type-C, USB Type-A, Audio Jack

HP's Pavilion X360 hybrid laptop is tailor-made for creative minds, offering a powerful combination of a good graphics card, responsive stylus, and impressive battery life that make it a compelling choice in our view.

It runs on the 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7, clocking in at a maximum speed of 4.2 GHz. Coupled with the integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics card, HP touts its ability to deliver impeccably clear visuals.

For your design and creative needs, it provides you with 8GB of RAM to work with, alongside a nimble 256GB SSD for running applications and storing your artistic creations.

The laptop boasts a 14-inch edge-to-edge display featuring Full HD resolution too, and it features an IPS panel, making it responsive to multi-touch, enabling you to take notes or sketch with ease, transcending the limitations of a traditional keyboard.

The Pavilion X360 offers an average battery life of 8 to 9 hours on a single charge, and with the added benefit of fast charging, it ensures a full day of uninterrupted performance.

So, if you're in the market for a budget-friendly hybrid laptop, the HP Pavilion X360 is well worth considering bearing all this in mind.

Reasons to buy:

  • Good battery life and charging speed
  • Strong specs for an inexpensive price

Read More: Best gaming laptop deals

Apple MacBook Air product image of a thin silver laptop featuring a blue, red, orange, purple, and white pattern on the display.
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Credit: Apple

2. Apple MacBook Air

Best budget Apple laptop for graphic design

Screen Size: 13.3-inch - Resolution: 2560 x 1600 - RAM: 8GB - Storage: 256GB - CPU: M1 Chip - Graphics: Integrated - Battery Life: 18 hours - Weight: 1.3 kg - Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth v5.0 - Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports

While the word 'budget' might not be synonymous with Apple, the 2020 MacBook Air delivers remarkable performance at a price point that won't break the bank.

It houses the Apple M1 chip which seamlessly combines CPU and GPU capabilities, among other features. The 8-core CPU offers exceptional performance while extending battery life, making it ideal for resource-intensive tasks such as video editing.

The 7-core GPU, on the other hand, is hailed for its lightning-fast graphics, ensuring a smooth experience for content creation and editing, with the added bonus of rendering content in stunning 4K quality.

The MacBook Air is available in two memory configurations, 8GB and 16GB. If your budget permits, the 16GB option is highly recommended for graphic design. In terms of storage, the base model comes with a 256GB SSD, but for those with more to spend, there's a 512GB SSD option available for the 16GB variant.

When it comes to design and visuals, the MacBook Air excels. Its 13.3-inch display boasts an impressive 2560 x 1600 Liquid Retina resolution, delivering vivid and crisp visuals to showcase your work. Additionally, the P3 wide colour gamut provides access to 25% more colours than the standard sRGB gamut, making it a dream come true for illustrators and designers seeking an expanded palette.

On the battery front, the MacBook Air impresses with an 18-hour battery life, ensuring that it can keep up with your busy schedule. Furthermore, its lightweight design, weighing in at just 1.3 kg, makes it the perfect companion for on-the-go design work.

Reasons to buy:

  • Perfect if you're dialled into the Apple ecosystem
  • Surprisingly light

Read More: Best laptop backpacks for travel

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 product image of a black foldable laptop.
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Credit: Lenovo

3. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5

Best budget folding laptop for graphic design

Screen Size: 14-inch - Resolution: 1920 x 1080 - RAM: 16GB - Storage: 512GB - CPU: Ryzen 7 4700U (Octa-Core) - Graphics: AMD Radeon - Battery Life: 12 hours - Weight: 1.5 kg - Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth - Ports: USB Type-C, HDMI

Lenovo's IdeaPad Flex series offers a versatile range of 2-in-1 laptops that seamlessly transition into tablets, and among them, the Flex 5 stands out as an excellent choice for those on a budget.

It's powered by an impressive Ryzen 7 4700U processor, boasting 8 cores and clocking up to 4.1 GHz for impressive performance. It also features integrated AMD Radeon graphics, eliminating the need for a separate graphics card, unless, of course, you wanted to upgrade.

On the memory front, the Flex 5 is equipped with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. These specifications are more than sufficient for designers, ensuring that resource-intensive applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator run smoothly without any delay.

The laptop features a 14-inch display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution to display your content. Additionally, it features an IPS panel with 250 nits of brightness to enhance the viewing experience, allowing your creations to shine with vibrant, true-to-life colours.

For creative flexibility, the Flex 5 boasts a glossy-finish touchscreen. This makes it ideal for graphic designers who want to sketch and design with precision. Plus, you can flip the laptop over and transform it into a tablet, opening up new possibilities for artistic expression.

If you're in the market for a versatile laptop that seamlessly transitions into a tablet, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is a compelling choice that offers the best of both worlds.

Reasons to buy:

  • It's a great 2-in-1 option
  • Surprisingly fast with 8 cores and plenty of RAM

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HP Pavilion 15 product image of a white laptop featuring hot air ballons flying on the display.
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Credit: HP

4. HP Pavilion 15

Best 15-inch budget laptop for graphic design

Screen Size: 15.6-inch - Resolution: 1920 x 1080 - RAM: 16GB - Storage: 512GB SSD - CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 (Quad-Core) - Graphics: ‎Intel Iris Xe Graphics - Battery Life: 8 hours - Weight: 1.5 kg - Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth v5.2 - Ports: USB Type-C, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4

If you're in search of a laptop with a slightly larger screen for editing purposes, the HP Pavilion 15 is certainly worth considering as it boasts a solid integrated graphics card, SSD storage drive, and, as previously mentioned, a 15.6-inch display, which happens to be the largest screen size we've featured thus far.

More specifically, the laptop is powered by an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, which operates at an impressive 4.7 GHz speed. When it comes to graphics processing, it's equipped with an Intel Iris Xe Graphics Coprocessor, which isn't top-tier but is more than good enough for most graphic design tasks.

When it comes to visuals, the HP laptop offers a 15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and minimal bezel, ensuring a satisfying visual experience. With 250 nits of brightness, it remains usable even in low-light conditions too.

In terms of memory, this laptop packs a generous 16GB of RAM, which ensures that your design software runs swiftly and efficiently. Additionally, it provides ample storage with a 512GB SSD, giving you plenty space to save your creative work.

Remarkably, despite its 15.6-inch display, the laptop is relatively lightweight at 1.7 kg. It boasts an average battery life of 8 hours as well, providing you with ample productivity time on a single charge. So, if you're in the market for a device with a larger screen for your work or creative endeavours, the 15.6-inch HP Pavilion is a compelling choice to explore.

Reasons to buy:

  • Good screen size for surgical editing
  • Fairly lightweight considering its size

Read More: Best laptops for illustrators

Microsoft Surface Go 2 product image of a tablet-style grey and black laptop with Windows up on the display.
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Credit: Microsoft

5. Microsoft Surface Go 2

Best portable budget laptop for graphic design

Screen Size: 10.5-inch - Resolution: 1920 x 1280 - RAM: 8GB - Storage: 128GB - CPU: Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4425Y (Two Cores) - Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 - Battery Life: 10 hours - Weight: 550 gm - Connectivity: Wi-Fi + LTE, Bluetooth - Ports: USB Type-C, Audio Jack

If you're in the market for a versatile and lightweight solution to your graphic design needs, Microsoft's Surface Go 2 is a strong contender, especially when you're looking for one of the best budget lightweight laptops around.

The device features a compact 10.5-inch screen with a crisp 1920 x 1280 resolution. Despite its size, the Full HD display ensures vivid visuals with impressive detail. Additionally, the PixelSense Display technology enables seamless touch functionality, and when combined with the Surface Pen, it becomes a fantastic tool for tasks like drawing and note-taking, providing a highly flexible content creation experience.

Under the hood, the Surface Go 2 is powered by the Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4425Y, which can reach speeds of up to 1.1GHz. While it may not be a powerhouse, it's sufficient for most daily tasks. Graphics are handled by the integrated Intel HD Graphics 615, ensuring your work is displayed with vibrant clarity.

In terms of memory and storage, you get 8GB of RAM, which should handle various software applications effectively. The 128GB SSD storage provides ample space to store your projects locally, ensuring you have everything at your fingertips.

One standout feature of this laptop is its remarkable portability. Weighing a mere 550g, it's one of the lightest options available. Furthermore, Microsoft claims it can deliver an average of 10 hours of battery life, making it ideal for on-the-go content creation, whether you're working during a train journey or elsewhere.

Reasons to buy:

  • Absurdly light
  • Amazing flexibility and versatility

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

While on the hunt for the best budget laptops for graphic design, you might have a few questions. Don't worry though, we've answered some of the most common queries right here.

How much RAM is enough for graphic design?

For graphic design, you will need at least 8GB RAM. However, if there is any wiggle room in your budget, we'd recommend spending more to pack your laptop out with as much RAM as possible.

For a smoother experience and to reduce loading times, try to get 16GB or 32GB RAM, especially if you're planning to edit videos. This is because RAM is a short-term storage system and, with more of it, you tend to find an increase in the speed at which your memory transfers information to other components in your laptop, thus speeding up processing times.

How many GHz do I need for graphic design?

Graphic design can be a power-hungry process, so you realistically need a quad-core processor capable of at least 1GHz speeds.

The cores in a processor affect the CPU performance, more cores equals faster output. So, if you can afford it, try and aim for an even faster processor speed if possible to help maximise your design output.

What screen size is good for graphic design?

With any creative endeavour, you generally want to go for a larger screen. However, doing so offsets the additional portability a laptop offers, plus, a lower resolution on a bigger screen doesn't look as good. So, while a 17" laptop can be good for graphic design, you can make it work on a smaller screen if you don't mind more zooming.

Ultimately, it comes down to your preference. Just remember that the bigger you go though, the more expensive the laptops tend to get.

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