Engineering is excellent, but it can also be frustrating. What is the top computer for graphic design? What additional gear do you need? Where do you even start?
Almost any computer that is more powerful than a netbook will probably meet your basic needs. Everyone does a little picture editing here and there, even if it’s just adding a sepia tone to your baby’s photos.
But once you’ve committed to being a serious graphic designer, you’ll probably want to upgrade your PC. The best computer for graphic design will vary from designer to designer, but there are some key things to focus on: display resolution, processor speed, storage, and something you may not have heard of – hard disk drive speed.
Graphic design software is processor-intensive, and it only becomes more so every year. For most applications, you’ll need a processor that runs at least 1 GHz (meaning the computer can make one billion calculations per minute). That’s the minimum; look for an even faster processor if you can afford it. But there’s more to computer speed than just the processor.
There’s also “memory.” The more RAM you have, the more items you can process at the same time, as it’s faster than going to the drive for the files being used or sometimes even Random Access Memory, or “RAM.” You’ll want, at a minimum, 8 GB of RAM; more if you can afford it.
You may wonder where to invest your money in speeding up your PC even more once you’ve passed these minimums. Once your computer is beyond the gigahertz range, you’re unlikely to find a performance boost by getting a faster processor. The truth is, your money could be better spent on RAM. Even 32 or 16 gigs will certainly make your work fly by.
There are two types of hard drives: Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid-State Drives (SSD). Inside, HDDs are metal drives with a magnetic layer. They actually spin, much like record players, just at higher speeds. SSDs consist of a series of memory chips and therefore have no moving parts.
There are pros and cons to both. HDDs are cheaper, often about half the cost for the same amount of storage. This speed is less important for your additional storage; as long as you’re only storing files and not running software on the external drive.
If you can afford it, higher quality is better. You may be limited in your choices if you plan on buying a laptop for mobility, but anything less than 1280 x 800 may not work well with the graphic design program of your choice.
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely familiar with your computer’s mouse or trackpad. These are great for everyday use, but a crucial tool in many graphic designers’ toolboxes is the graphics tablet. There’s a reason why people have been using paper and pens.
Graphics tablets provide that natural hand-eye connection to the digital age. You have to actually hold the stylus in your hand, rest your palm on the tablet, feel it out. You may spend a few hundred dollars after using it more often on the tablet that aches your hand.