We've picked out the best computer for graphic design among all the options out there – and believe us, there are a lot. There are computers for all different ability levels and budgets, from the cheaper entry-level options to the top-of-the-line computers for professional graphic designers. And, of course, there's the big selection for those who sit somewhere in the middle of those extremes.
You can figure out which is the best graphic design computer for you by asking yourself a few simple questions. How much computing power do you actually need? What kind of files are you working with – big ones in 3D software, super-high-res images, or simpler files that'll load up in Adobe Illustrator? There's no point paying over the odds for bleeding-edge computing power if you're not going to need it, and there's also no point in spending money on a computer that isn't equipped to handle your processing needs.
If this seems a little bit complicated, then we've tried to simplify it for this guide. While everyone's graphic design needs are different, as a general baseline, you're going to want a computer with at least 12GB of RAM, and that is one of the criteria we have worked with when coming up with our list for this guide. We've also picked a range of computer types, including all-in-one machines that include both computer and monitor, and simpler computers that require an external monitor – see our guide to the best monitors if you're going to need a display as well. We've stuck to desktop computers for this guide – if you think you might want a laptop, take a look at our selections on our guide to the best laptops for graphic design.
We've made our picks based on our product reviewers' experience with the machines in question, using their findings to inform our comments in the guide. We've also included a quick FAQ at the bottom of the guide to help those who may not be too computer-savvy. Scroll on to see our chosen computers, and don't forget to download the best graphic design software, too.
The best computer for graphic design available now
The iMac (27-inch, 2020) still stands tall as the best choice of Apple computer for graphic designers – in our opinion, anyway. There are newer options out there, some of which you'll meet on this list very shortly, but the large screen and discrete graphics card of the iMac make it a superb choice for graphic designers, and the newer models also mean that its price has come down a little.
There's a reason that iMacs are so enduringly popular among professional designers; they just do everything you need them to. Even if it doesn't sport one of Apple's swanky M1 processing chips, the 27-inch iMac still does very well with its 10th generation Intel Core processors, providing more than enough computing power for pretty much any design task. The AMD Radeon Pro 5000 graphics card also makes sure that everything looks great on the other star of the show: the hugely impressive 5K Retina display.
In our review, we found very little to fault with the iMac 2020. The screen looks fantastic, and the performance is exemplary. The processing barely stutters, even if you've got no shortage of other programs and tasks running while doing your design work. The slim design also impressed us – the iMac incurs minimal clutter, and having one doesn't mean a mess of cables everywhere.
See our in-depth iMac 2020 review for more details.
The 2021 24-inch iMac uses Apple's own M1 processing chips, and with eight cores and 16GB of processing power, it's not messing around. Everything looks gorgeous on the 4.5K Retina display, and the redesign of the exterior of the computer has made the whole affair a lot sleeker and more defined.
So why doesn't it get our number-one pick? After all, our review was absolutely glowing. Well, the 2021 24-inch iMac is weaker in terms of its GPU, i.e. its graphical processing power. In our review, we noted that the 2021 24-inch iMac's GPU performance achieves a GPU score of 19,188 in Geekbench 5’s compute benchmark. This is blown out of the water by the AMD Radeon Pro 5300 in the 27-inch iMac, which scores around 37,000, which gives that computer a lot more headroom for intense graphical tasks.
We shouldn't get carried away: the 24-inch 2021 iMac is going to be more than good enough for most purposes, and many graphics designers will appreciate its slick design and responsive performance. It places very honourably indeed in our number-two spot.
Check out our full hands-on M1 iMac (2021) review.
Not everyone wants to use Apple products, and Apple is certainly not the only game in town when it comes to graphic design computers. We really rate the Microsoft Surface Studio 2 – a fantastic choice for Windows users who want a powerful machine for graphic designers. It boasts a few smart features that the big boys from Apple don't have.
You can read more detail in our full review of the Surface Studio 2, but in brief, we really rated the high-resolution 28-inch display, which is touch sensitive, essentially meaning the computer can also be used as a huge graphics tablet if you want to pick up a Surface Pen along with it. Being able to switch instantly between colour profiles – from sRGB to vivid and DCI-P3 modes – is cool too. The Studio 2 can be configured to have up to 2TB of SSD storage, and 32GB of RAM.
The older quad-core processor from Intel does mean that the Surface Studio 2 is slower than its Apple rivals, and the GPUs also lag behind the iMacs – the Surface Studio 2 uses either an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or 1070, which is plenty of power, but again offers less headroom than the iMacs.
You can read our full hands-on Microsoft Surface Studio 2 review for more on our experience with the machine.
Apple's computers are hugely popular among creative professionals who need all the computing power they can get, and the Mac Studio is the latest model aimed at exactly this crowd. Powered by either an Apple M1 Max chip or a cutting-edge M1 Ultra chip (essentially two M1 Mac chips welded together), depending on user preference, the Mac Studio can be configured to be one of the most powerful computers Apple has ever created.
When we reviewed the freshly released Mac Studio, we were immediately impressed by how little space it took up, thanks to its compact chassis – it essentially looks like a stacked Mac Mini (see below). We were also extremely pleased to discover how energy-efficient it proved to be. Despite the M1 Ultra offering faster GPU performance than the most well-specced PC GPU, it uses 200W less in power terms. This is mostly down to the efficient architecture of the M1 chips, and in a time of spiralling energy bills, it'll likely go very much appreciated.
If you're performing intensive graphic design tasks like editing huge files in Photoshop, Mac Studio will perform admirably. If you're doing a little less than all that, this is probably more power than you need. The M1 Max version of the Mac Studio costs $1,999, while the M1 Ultra version may offer double the power, but that also bumps it up to double the price, at $3,999. You probably don't need us to tell you that if you don't need to spend this much on a computer, you shouldn't. Still, if you do need the most powerful computer for graphic design around right now, here it is.
Our Mac Studio review runs through all this in more detail.
If you're fussy about using your own display and peripherals, but you like the Apple ecosystem then the Mac mini has been updated to feature the same M1 chip that features in the 24-inch iMac, making performance between the two almost identical, even though the Mac mini is quite a bit cheaper.
This pint-sized secret weapon runs macOS, just like Apple's other computers, which means any graphic design app you can use on the iMac, you can use on the Mac mini, and its size means you can throw it into a bag for portability just like a laptop.
Sure, you need to buy a monitor for it (or use one you already own), so it's not quite as neat and tidy on a desk as an all-in-one, but that gives you some freedom to buy a graphic-design optimized display to further improve your projects. The base model features the Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU and 16-core Neural Engine with 256GB SSD, and there are four expansion ports at the back for either USB or Thunderbolt external storage, plus HDMI 2.0 to simultaneously support two displays.
You can read our full hands-on M1 Mac mini review for more information.
While it's a couple of years old now, the HP Pavilion 590 has garnered a reputation for being an excellent budget desktop computer, and it's a good choice for cash-conscious designers. With a surprisingly generous 12GB of RAM and the Intel Core i7-8700 processor, it'll handle most graphic design tasks just fine, as long as you're not trying to do too many things at once, or working with absolutely massive, billboard-style files.
The processor has an Intel UHD Graphics 630 integrated card that's good enough for advanced tasks like 3D modelling. Also, in a touch we appreciate, the Pavilion 590 has loads of ports, including USB Type-C and Type-A, 3.1 and 2.0 ports, as well as HDMI and DVI. The 1TB of storage is handy – the fact that its a hard disk drive rather than a solid state drive does slow things down a bit, but this is an acceptable compromise for getting a solid desktop computer at this price.
The Dell XPS line of desktop PCs is one of the few remaining desktop towers still being made for a non-gaming market, but thankfully it also happens to be one of the best. Opting for a Windows-based PC is likely to grant you more freedom to customise your components, on top of usually being a far cheaper option to buying an iMac of Mac Pro when you compare performance to affordability.
Even the lowest spec model still packs a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 so those without a tonne of cash to splash on something like an iMac can get a powerful and capable machine for significantly less. Better yet, if you do have some cash to burn then you can opt for the 11th generation Intel i9 processor and an RTX 3070 graphics card.
Outside of being budget-friendly and flexible to your needs, other benefits include having a good selection of ports across the front of the tower (which means you won't have to fuss around with the rear of the machine), a built-in SD card slot and the fact that Dell offers plenty of corporate discounts, so you might be able to save even more cash through your employer.
Gaming computers are far more abundant than family desktop towers these days, but because of the powerful components inside they also tend to be excellent graphic design PCs. This Alienware example is one of the best, with a flashy design and plenty of RGB lighting.
The Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 comes with AMD's latest and greatest processors, and it also features Nvidia's latest RTX 3000 series graphics cards as well. This makes it an incredible performer when it comes to graphic design. Best of all, it comes in a range of configurations, so you can easily pick a model that best suits your needs and budget. This is also a great option for anyone who wanted an AMD-powered desktop over an Intel device, which is becoming more popular in recent years thanks to AMD's phoenix-like rise from the ashes.
Alienware products usually tend to be quite expensive, but the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 is very reasonably priced, and it has a brilliant build quality and design. This computer for graphic design is well worth the investment if you need a lot of power.
If you love the all-in-one look but you don't want to pay Apple prices then the 27-inch Yoga AIO is an AMD-powered Windows PC that's received great reviews and offers an attractive option for creative professionals and hobbyists who want a product optimised for graphic design.
The 4K display comes with an optional 99% Adobe RGB colour gamut and DCI-P3 99% colour space which is useful for anyone who needs colour accuracy optimisation, the screen can be fully rotated to portrait mode with just a push of a finger if you need a different angle.
With the recent popularity of vertical platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels, many artists and graphic designers are exploring new formats to push their work, so that rotating display could come in handy for things other than finding a more comfortable working angle.
You're also getting up to 1TB of SSD storage and the option for a 2TB HDD. Hard drives might be outdated on gaming devices, but their affordable capacity gives you plenty of space to save projects. For especially demanding applications, the 27-inch Yoga AIO's 32GB of RAM will make running just about any application in the Adobe Creative Suite a breeze.
Dell already made some fantastic desktop solutions across the gaming and professional markets, so it's no surprise that this Dell Inspiron 27 7000 AIO packs some Impressive features that should appeal to creatives. For a start, you're getting a stunning 'Infinity Edge' 4K display that makes the 27-inch iMac's screen, with its thick surrounding bezels, feel positively dated. The tilting stand is also particularly useful for adjusting your viewing angles and really helps to enforce the high build quality of this device.
Specs-wise, you've got plenty of options, as with other Dell machines, which means you can get a configuration that offers you exactly what you need. With 8-core AMD processors and beefy GPUs, this is a brilliant affordable iMac alternative that doesn't compromise on quality.
And of course, being a Dell product you can potentially save some cash by using an employer or educational discount, alongside having the reassurance that, having been made by Dell, this is a reliable, high-quality machine.
What makes a computer good for graphic design?
Desktop computers may have fallen out of favour with general home and office users over recent years, but they still play an important role in industries and markets that require a lot of power. While there are some great laptops for graphic design out there that can help with your graphic design work, they generally can't offer the same level of performance as desktop computers due to them needing to be thin, light and portable.
Desktop PCs don't have to worry about that, and you can usually configure them more easily to accommodate your needs. They can also be more affordable than a laptop with comparable specifications, but because the best computers for graphic design need powerful components like cutting-edge processors graphics cards, don't expect any of these PCs to be particularly cheap.
A desktop with a processor (CPU) that has four, six or more cores will run apps like Photoshop or Illustrator with ease, while at least 8GB of memory, 256GB of SSD storage and fast memory will help you work on multi-layered, high-resolution documents, without your system slowing you down.
A dedicated graphics card is also advantageous, but most graphic design applications won't be as demanding on your system as tasks like 3D rendering. Opting for a gaming PC that's packing a beefy Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU will certainly help (and enable you to use ray tracing-boosted features), but integrated graphics will do at a push.
Many of our models here have displays built-in – these are called all-in-one computers, often abbreviated to AIO's – the iMac is a great example, with everything is inside one box. Increasingly PCs have also moved to this form factor, but one drawback is that these are not as upgradeable as a standard, tower desktop PC, so that's still the best option for flexibility and overall performance.
Is Mac or PC better for graphic design?
The battle between Apple and PC fans has been raging for decades, but as far as which brand is 'best' at graphic design, each has their respective strengths. There are very capable Mac and PC solutions for a range of demanding requirements across the market, but what brand you align yourself with will ultimately boil down to a few personal preferences.
Microsoft PCs are typically much cheaper than Apple alternatives, and desktop towers are usually easy to upgrade which can greatly prolong the lifespan of your machine. For an especially beefy build, you can even opt for a gaming PC as they usually pack a powerful graphics card, more memory (RAM) and a capable processor from either Intel or AMD.
Apple devices on the other hand, while more expensive in some regions, are known for being high-quality and having a simple, easy-to-use operating system. Historically, many graphic designers have used iMac and Mac products because of the Apple ecosystem and simply because it was considered the industry standard for several years.
These days, there's no clear winner (despite our choices on this top ten list) because both operating systems are well optimised to support your hardware and software needs. It's easy to find a product to suit your needs across either OS so we recommend that if you have plenty of experience using either PC or Mac, stick to what you know unless you're looking to diversify your skills across both brands.