Whether you’ve been doing it for years or just starting, you’ve probably picked up that web design is no joke. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to take it seriously yourself by working on your craft and using the right high-tech software for it, which of course, doesn’t run on just any laptop.
Nevertheless, it can be a tad overwhelming to choose a laptop. Which processor is fast enough? Which graphics card is powerful enough? What RAM has enough storage capacity? In short, how do I choose the best laptop for web design? Don’t worry – we’re here to provide you with the needed technical specifications for web design and more.
Operating Systems – Which is Optimal for Website Design?
Web designers mostly use one of four operating systems, so let us walk you through them and explain why you should/shouldn’t choose each one; our sister article covers the recommended requirements for web design, which you might want to have a read of also.
1. Chrome OS X
On the one hand, you don’t get a file browser or run applications with Chrome OS, so you have to take your web design and development elsewhere: browser-run web apps.
On the other hand, Chrome OS X is by far the easiest to work with, and you’ll get along with it just fine if you prefer to code directly in raw HTML and CSS. If you, otherwise, prefer an interactive development environment or code editors, this isn’t the operating system for you.
From the easiest to the most challenging task, Linux can be very demanding. For one, you need to enter commands directly into the command line, and adjusting the operating system isn’t easy, to say the least.
Despite that, it’s still possibly the most powerful operating system out there and surprisingly the most popular among developers. Not only is the OS free, but installing apps is quick too. Once you get the hang of it, you can customize it to your liking and build your ideal web development space.
Tip: Make sure Linux sufficiently supports the computer you're buying before purchasing it because some devices won't work well with it.
It’s no secret that the price tags on Apple computers are quite hefty, and of course, macOS is exclusively available for Apple users. Nevertheless, it’s becoming every designer’s go-to if they have the money for it.
It’s somewhat similar to Linux with a powerful operating system. Firstly, it’s user-friendly. Secondly, the flexibility of the BSD Unix based macOS is impressive, and so is the build quality.
Thirdly, the built-in Terminal allows easy access to git, virtualization software, and other tools. Finally, if you run windows in a Virtual Machine (VM), you can access the most prominent browsers and test your projects for perfect compatibility.
Tip: If you've settled on Mac, choose anything starting from a Macintosh OS 10.13 and higher.
The drawback with Windows is that you might run into issues using Docker containers, Node, and npm, among other advanced web development tools, but not with essential development tools, such as VSCode. But with Microsoft’s open source technologies, you can install Bash terminal so that Windows becomes more like Linux.
Approximately 90% of computers run on Windows, no surprise there, so you’ll find it the most flexible, as it’s used on expensive and cheap laptops alike. Additionally, you can use various programs and tools that you just can’t use with other operating systems.
Tip: Don't think about setting up anything below a Windows 8.1, and it's preferable that you go for a 10 Home or Pro.
Budget – How much should I spend on a laptop specifically for website design work?
There’s much flexibility here, so you’ll find there’s something for everyone, and needless to say, with each price range, come different expectations.
If you’re on a budget, you can find something for $150 to 350. Samsung, HP, and Acer are the most popular for budget laptops. As for the operating system, that’ll either be Chrome OS or Linux.
Tip: Test budget laptops before embarking on a purchase due to the possible disparities in trackpad, keyboard, and screen quality.
This is the middle ground, if you will, with laptops costing $350 to 700 that might be great for web design. The leading players here are Lenovo, Dell, Acer, Samsung, and HP.
If you’re looking to invest in a laptop that’ll last you years, you’re looking at a $700 to 1000 worth unit. The dominant companies in this price range are Sony, Samsung, Lenovo, and Apple.
Tip: We wouldn't bet on Apple's value in high-end laptops, so consider the former three.
La crème de la crème, these laptops cost $1000 or more. If you were to buy a Macbook, this would be the way to do it. Other names here include Sony and Alienware if you’d rather use Windows and Linux.
We’re here to tell you the minimum requirements and recommended specifications so that you can get started, no matter what your budget is.
You need a 13.3 inch HD screen minimum for either Windows or Mac. As for our recommended size, we’d say 15.6-inch FHD or higher would be excellent. However, if web design is your full-time job, it’d be a good idea to get a desktop replacement laptop, as its screen typically ranges between 15.4 and 17 inches.
In a word, color gamut determines the visible color range with a display, compared to that with the naked eye. This is indeed relevant to web design because of its need for aesthetic appeal. There are several standardized systems, such as sRGB and NTSC, with AdobeRGB being professionals’ preference.
Tip: With AdobeRGB, you should convert to sRGB for export. (Adobe Photoshop 5.5 does that for you with its save for web option).
Keyboard & Trackpad
Comfort and quality are non-compromisable here because, as web designers, you have to do plenty of typing. Undoubtedly, Apple has the number 1 spot; however, several brands are just below, such as Lenovo, Samsung, and Sony.
Web design requires no less than 8GB of RAM. And although you can make do with that right now, if you want to future-proof yourself against software and framework updates, opt for 16GB of RAM.
A fast CPU is in demand, especially if you’re going to use Adobe Photoshop or GIMP frequently so that it’s capable of handling effects and computations efficiently. We’re talking Intel Core i7 or higher for both Windows and Mac. On the other hand, less demanding development tools, mainly Sublime Text, can work with a slower ULT Intel i3 or i5 or AMD A8 or A10 APU.
You certainly want an adequate storage capacity because software tends to consume a lot of space. SSD is sometimes used as a storage device for nonvolatile flash memories because it’s much faster than a hard disk.
Speaking of which, what should the capacity of your hard disk be? We’d venture that you need a minimum of 128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD and a recommended 256 GB SSD and 1TB HDD or 512 GB SSD.
Graphics Card / GPU
When it comes to graphics cards, an inbuilt Intel Graphics Card with at least 2GB VRAM will work fine; nonetheless, if you can, we urge you to get a dedicated Graphics Card with 4GB VRAM (for Windows and MAC).
A graphics card can incorporate a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to speed up graphics rendering, create impressive visual effects, and more. Nevertheless, it isn’t necessary per se.
Battery Life & Lightweight
As a rule, don’t go for a battery that won’t last 5 hours at least, and a 10 hours battery life goes a long way, literally. If you’re always on the go, you need a portable laptop with a good life battery. For example, Intel’s ULT Haswell gives laptops up to 10 hours of battery life, and they’re light and have a “turbo boost” mode that provides up to 100% extra CPU power when needed.
Tip: Good battery backup can be useful in powering your laptop during surges, electrical outages, and the like.
At this point, we hope you have the answer to the lingering question of “How do I choose a laptop for web design?” We’ve rounded up all 4 operating systems: the easiest being Chrome OS X, the most powerful being Linux, the most expensive being MacOS, and the most common being Windows. We hope that sums it up!
In terms of prices, you’ll find budget, mid-range, high-end, and performance laptops, and you can find good laptops for web design even in the mid-range. Finally, we’ve illustrated the minimum requirements to get by and recommended specifications to achieve the best results, most notably a fast CPU and adequate RAM capacity, so keep those in mind.