What New Apple product to get for Graphic Design?
November 16, 2018 5:12 PM   Subscribe

What current or near future apple product (laptop or iMac) is a good choice to get for someone into graphic design? I'm looking for something near professional level, and definitely something where the screen is a good size and you can see what you're working on. I'd love to hear from anyone, and extra points if you do professional graphic design work (and feel free to link to your work). Thank you.
posted by cashman to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can use any computer that has an i7 processor, and ideally a discrete graphics card. It doesn’t have to be Apple.

I’ve been a designer for 22 years (as of October) and have used a PC for all but the last 4 (when my job required all designers to switch to MacBooks, where previously we were allowed to choose our platform). There is no advantage whatsoever to using Apple products for design. It’s purely a matter of preference.

If you really feel compelled to spend three grand on a laptop for design work, get a MacBook Pro. I currently use a 15” 2017 model at work. It’s fine. It has enough power for me to run Adobe Creative Suite, multiple browser tabs for the web-based tools and CMSes that we use, and various Office programs. I have a Thunderbolt monitor that I use while at my desk. The MacBook is not as technologically robust as the 17” MSI gaming laptop that I use as my personal device, despite costing $1000 more than the MSI. I can also upgrade my MSI myself and install a second hard drive, which one cannot do in a MacBook Pro.

So, if you’re married to the Apple ecosystem and you really prefer having an Apple laptop, then you should buy the most powerful one you can afford, with attention paid to processor speed, RAM, hard drive space (graphics can get pretty big) and graphics capability. But any computer you buy with those specifications will be just fine, it doesn’t have to be an Apple.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:14 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’m a long-time professional graphic designer and long-time Mac user (as in the first Mac), and I am here to say that any Mac would work for you, just pick whatever works for your budget (except for the MacBook). The truth is, graphic design isn’t nearly as processor-intensive as video production or 3D modeling and animation, so you really don’t need to drop three large on a setup.

You get much more bang for your buck with a desktop rather than a laptop, so question yourself honestly whether you need the portability. If you’re going to be doing most of your work at your home office, you don’t. If you’ll be working onsite with clients who won’t provide you with a computer, then of course you need one. I went with an iMac myself and it suits me fine. Sure I can’t bring it to my couch or the bed, but that’s what my phone and tablet are for.

I bought the iMac with the smaller screen, and again, it works just fine. Spring for the larger screen if you can afford it, because of course it’s better, but it’s not necessary.

If you are looking at a laptop, budget for an external monitor. Laptop screens are not big enough to see designs actual size, let alone while having various palettes and other windows open.

The Mac Mini has finally been refreshed, so it’s a good (relatively) low-cost option, since you can use it with the monitor, keyboard, and mouse you already own.

Whatever you get, upgrade the RAM as much as you can afford, because that can’t be increased afterward. Storage space can always be increased later with inexpensive external drives.
posted by ejs at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also be advised that the new MacBooks use USB-C ports. If you have existing accessories that you want to use, you’ll need to buy adapters for them, and they are not cheap. The 13” MacBooks and Airs have one port, the 15” have two, and the MacBook Pro has 4 ports. If you get the model with only one port, you’re not going to be able to plug anything else in (like a mouse or a monitor). You also won’t be able to use any external storage that isn’t USB-C (like a flash drive) without a dongle. You’ll also need separate dongles if you want to plug into, say, an HDMI port (e.g. to display on a television).
posted by Autumnheart at 6:52 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I do motion graphics and animation work full time and freelance on a middling 2012 iMac. I do mostly 2D and After Effects stuff but definitely some 3D as well. It’s showing its age a bit in some ways and I’d like to replace it with a newer model but don’t feel any major urgency to do so. Pretty much any Mac should be more than capable of handling a good amount of Adobe CC heft. I do much prefer working on my iMac desktop than my MacBook Pro just due to screen real estate though.
posted by caitcadieux at 9:53 PM on November 16, 2018

Best answer: I'm still doing graphic design on a late-2009 iMac and it's doing just fine, including a lot of photo retouching and editing. The only thing I have ever done is max-out the RAM. You can't do that yourself anymore on the newer iMacs, unfortunately.

You don't need a discrete graphics chip/card just to do GD, so long as you keep your screen color-corrected. This is especially important if you're doing any sort of print work.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:41 AM on November 17, 2018

Best answer: You're getting decent advice, but I would add to this that high quality 4K monitors have really come down in price. Definitely get an extra monitor (or two!) if you can.

The base speed of computers and Macs has increased to the point where most relatively affordable hardware can do what you need - you know if you're using 6 GB of RAM and 23 layers, and if you know that, you probably know what you need. The fact that you're asking makes me suspect that you don't need something "near professional level" to get the job done. If you don't have to use Adobe software, the alternatives tend to be more lightweight and would actually perform better.

Some Apple stores will have software installed so you can test it out - a good idea is to go to a store and try some of the software on the different computers so you can see the response times and if a given computer is fast enough for you. The staff there should be able to help you out. If you know a friend with the hardware too, try theirs before you buy.

If you need a "default" option, get the 27-inch iMac with at least 16 GB of RAM and you may want to get the SSD option instead of the default fusion drive. And get an external monitor also.

For the record, I edit 45 megapixel RAW photos on a 2008-era Mac Pro. It was an expensive computer at the time, and it's a bit upgraded, but I'm still using the stock CPU, and those computers will come with better graphics hardware than mine. The point I'm making is that my 10 year old hardware is still adequate; you don't need top-end hardware for graphic design. Video work is another story altogether...
posted by Strudel at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2018

Best answer: > Whatever you get, upgrade the RAM as much as you can afford, because that can’t be increased afterward.

Good advice generally, although with the refreshed Mac mini it can be upgraded later (by enterprising end-users themselves, or professionally by Apple or a computer shop that works with Macs, the latter of which will likely be significantly less expensive). In the case of the mini, specifically, it's recommended that you put money more towards the storage side, as the internal storage is ridiculously fast, which does help significantly for graphic design, and it absolutely cannot be upgraded later. You can add external drives, but they will not be as fast.
posted by tubedogg at 7:49 PM on November 18, 2018

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