Recently, remote working has grown by leaps and bounds—and many artists, illustrators, and designers who rely on a computer to do their job have awakened to the, erm, shortcomings of their current home system (particularly when it’s being used all the time). Laptops remain a widely popular option, with an incredible range of capabilities and builds. We made an honest assessment of some of the best-selling laptops on the market, across operating systems, budgets, and more. Our research led us to these five recommendations.
1. 2020 Apple MacBook Pro
Ah, Apple. Ever ubiquitous, ever divisive. MacBooks don’t reign supreme in every endeavor (particularly gaming and other pursuits that require a flexible, modifiable operating system), but when it comes to multimedia editing, photography, illustration, graphic design, and more, the Mac family still towers over the competition. Luckily for all, the 2020 MacBook Pro offers a Goldilocks model that improves on the MacBook facelift ushered in by the 2016 MacBook Pro but is more affordable than the 2019 MacBook Pro. The 2020 model offers increased memory speed across specs, which comes in handy if you’re running multiple creative applications at once. As with all of the new MacBooks, you can customize it by storage capacity, core processor type, and color.
2. 2021 HP Omen 15
Gamers and multimedia artists to the front. This brand-new, super-customizable, 15.6-inch stunner comes in all manner of specs, ranging from 8GB RAM/512GB SSD to 64GB RAM/2TB SSD. This gamer-friendly laptop is made to be driven hard, with a special emphasis on video display, editing, rendering, and capture (you’ll never look so good, thanks to the Omen’s HD webcam). The Omen stringently resists the industry trend toward cloacal multipurpose ports; the sides of this computer are practically porous with places to plug in your peripherals. Another sweet feature: The Omen has an internal fan that will keep it comparatively cool to the touch, even during HD video and high-octane gaming. And the internal speakers sound surprisingly great, with plenty of depth and richness. Just make sure you’re parked near an outlet: This high-performance computer poops out after just four hours of serious use. It runs on the Windows 10 operating system.
3. Samsung Chromebook Plus V2
Chromebooks have something of a mixed reputation. It’s hard to argue with any fully functioning laptop for under $500, but the models themselves—produced by different hardware companies and all outfitted with Google’s Chrome-based operating system—are as varied as the laptop market itself. That said, this Samsung two-in-one (a combination tablet and laptop) is one of the smartest investments out there, particularly for young or frugal artists. The V2 comes with a stylus for sketching or touchscreen use when precision is essential (fingers work fine for casual use), and the stylus can be tucked away in a sheath on the side of the computer.
4. 2020 Apple MacBook Air
There used to be quite a gulf between the MacBook Airs and Pros of old, but that’s history. This 2020 Air model also got an update last year, and it is easily competitive with the pricier Pro, especially if you aren’t going to be riding your laptop too hard but still want to take advantage of Apple’s OS. It’s the fastest, longest-lasting, most eye-catching (it comes in gold!) Air yet, which makes up for its more limited customization—it comes in one size, for example, and you can’t pick a core processor type. With 256- and 512-gigabyte options to pick from, expect less storage space, but the latter is comparable to that of a lower-tier MacBook Pro. If you aren’t an app multitasker (and even then, you’d have to toggle between heavy hitters like FinalCut Pro and ProTools), then this Air will work just fine for you.
5. Lenovo Chromebook C330
Like the Samsung model above, this is a two-in-one laptop/tablet of a certain age (both were released in 2018). What sets it apart? In a nutshell, it’s even less expensive than its Samsung counterpart—which is a good thing, but it does show. This Chromebook has a plastic rather than alloy top and lacks an included stylus. Those working with multimedia should avoid the C330; its sound and graphics (on a petite, less than 12-inch screen) are nothing special. However, you’ll get an impressive battery price and a keyboard that’s comfier than those of other low-priced laptops, plus plenty of ports (USB-C, USB-A, and HDMI, oh my!). Like the Samsung V2, you can boost its local 4GB RAM storage easily, thanks to an SD slot.