Best Desktop for Graphic Design – Buying Guide & Reviews – 2019

As a graphic designer you want the best tools to give your best effort and best work. And as a graphic designer, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in this field for a while, the most important tool of your trade is going to be your computer. Whether you’d prefer working on a laptop, with its mobility and portability, or a desktop, with its superior performance capabilities, the device that you work on has a huge impact on the quality of your work.

A desktop, while obviously nowhere as portable as a laptop, is much superior in performance in comparison to the laptop. This is not to say that laptops cannot have powerful specs, it’s just that desktops have a much better chance to offer superior hardware. Desktops also have generally much larger screens, which is of the utmost importance to design professionals, than laptops. And on top of that, their screens are of much higher quality for the kind of work a design professional is going to do.

But if you really want a laptop for your design work then make sure to check out our other article on the Best Laptops for Graphic Designers.

But for now, we are assuming that a laptop is not your jam and you’re looking for something more powerful for your work requirements. There is an incredible abundance in the amount of pre-built desktops currently available in the market currently.

Best Desktop for Graphic Design in 2019

Here’s a compiled list of the best desktops in 2019:

1. Apple iMac with 5K Retina Display

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New Apple iMac (27-inch Retina 5k display, 3.7GHz 6-core 9th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 2TB)
  • 27-Inch (diagonal) 5120-by-2880 Retina 5K display
  • Stunning 5-mm-thin design
  • 6-Core 9th-generation Intel Core i5 Processor

Even though we claim that the list is in no particular order, we start with the one that is the first choice for most designers. For many years running, most designers either work on one of this or want to work on one of these. With its powerful performance, sleek style and brand image that shows no bounds, the iMac is an incredible choice for professional design work.

Though not as powerful as its iMac Pro sibling, the iMac is still an impressive machine. One of the main selling point of the iMac is its beautiful retina display, with 5K resolution on a 27” screen. A smaller 21.5” model with 4K display is also available with minor changes in specifications. The screen itself is incredibly thin with just 5 mm across. The display supports up to a billion colours and 500 nits brightness. The retina display uses the DCI – P3 colour space, mainly meant for cinematic work, and covers about 95% or so of it.

With the 9th Generation Intel core i9 processor, the iMac can hit up to 5.0 GHz on turbo boost while running normally on 3.7 GHz. More impressively though, with the new processor the iMac has now 8 cores to use.

As for graphics, the iMac comes with the Radeon Pro 580X which gives an incredible 8GB of VRAM to the iMac for incredible graphic performance. With this incredible GPU, one can truly experience the proper 5K feeling on the Retina display for the iMac with its DCI-P3 colour space. The iMac also has two DDR4 4GB RAM for a total of 8GB of RAM that can be upgraded without voiding the warranty.

Though the iMac doesn’t come with any SSD it comes with either 1TB or 2TB fusion drive space giving you plenty of space to store your work without worrying about space anytime soon. As for connectivity ports, the iMac comes with the 2 Thunderbolt 3 slots for incredibly fast transfer of data along with 4 USB 3 ports (compatible with USB 2), Ethernet Connection slot, SDXC memory card slot, 3.5 mm headphone jack slot and a Kensington lock slot.

As for the price, the latest model can range from $1499 – $2299 depending on the size and specifications one chooses. Though we have only review the latest model in details, the older models of the iMac are nothing to scoff at either and are available for around $1000-$1499 depending on the specifications. The older models are still impressive machines with slightly older processor and GPU units but offer a very competitive price compared to most other products on our list.

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Pros
  • Incredible 5K Retina display
  • Incredibly powerful processor
  • Ergonomic mouse and keyboard
  • Powerful GPU unit
  • Plenty of storage space being provided

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Cons
  • No proper SSD
  • No AdobeRGB coverage
  • No option to adjust the monitors position

In the end, even though the iMac is one of the best desktops in 2019 with its incredible hardware and performance, the fact that it relies on the DCI-P3 colour gamut, a colour space intended mostly for cinematic work, brings it down. As design professionals, most people will be working with the AdobeRGB colour space and the coverage of the same is what is required by most. The fact that the iMac doesn’t have a SSD, even though it does have its fusion drives, is also a slight negative for the powerful machine. All in all, the iMac is an incredible machine, especially well suited for those graphic designers who work with video editing but not as much for others who rely on AdobeRGB.

2. Microsoft Surface Studio 2

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Microsoft Surface Studio 2 (Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB) - Newest Version
  • Our most powerful Surface yet with Intel Core i7 processors, discrete NVIDIA GeForce GPU, and SSD storage
  • The strikingly large 28" PixelSense Display is a stunning touchscreen with 13.5 million pixels of true-to-life color
  • Tilt the display weightlessly to work at 20 degrees down in Studio Mode or upright in Desktop Mode

While long may have Apple reigned until now in the terms of what designers wanted for desktops, Microsoft shot out first with its answer to the iMac with its Surface Studio. The first one, while not a roaring success like Microsoft was hoping for, it was still an impeccable machine which could give the iMac of its generation a run for its money. Now with the Surface Studio 2, we can easily say that if money is not for you, then it is the 2nd best desktop for graphic designers.

The Surface Studio 2 comes with the 7th generation Intel Core i7 processor which runs at a modest, if not measly, 2.7 GHz clock speed. The slow clock speed is somewhat offset by its quad cores. It is also equipped with either 16GB or 32GB of DDR4 RAM so that there are no bottlenecks for the processor to handle.

The surface studio comes with a beautiful and large, 28” PixelSense display which supports touchscreen and 4500 x 3000 pixels. This unusual 4K aspect ratio is the 3:2 aspect ratio instead of the more commonly found 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the true cinematic aspect ratio. The 3:2 ratio however is the ratio most commonly found in 35mm film photographs, is much easier for a reading experience and generally better for digital design based on photography. The colour gamut for the Surface 2 is around 167% for sRGB and 87% for AdobeRGB according to independent testers. The main thing is however its incredibly low dE of 0.13 which is among the very best that one could ask for.

And with this incredible accuracy and gamut, the PixelSense dense offers a fantastic display to work on. Especially as the monitor can be tilted down 20 degrees to work in studio mode, making it much easier to draw directly on to the monitor using the Surface pen that the Surface Studio comes with. The keyboard and mouse are also similarly designed, with ergonomics for design professionals in mind. And for that reason the Surface studio has the NVidia GTX 1070 with 8GB of VRAM, which is the best GPU out of most of its peers and competition.

As for storage, the surface studio comes with a full 1TB or 2TB SSD for you to work around. The complete reliance on SSD makes the Surface 2 a fast performing desktop, even though its mediocre processor would suggest otherwise, and at the same time makes it one of the most expensive products on our list.

Where connectivity is concerned, the Surface 2 is outfitted with four full-size USB 3.0, one USB-C, full-size SD card reader (SDXC compatible), 3.5mm stereo headphones/microphone jack, and Gigabit Ethernet connections. However since the connections are off to the back of the curved rear panel which makes it hard to access while just working on it. It also doesn’t have any Thunderbolt connections either.

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Pros
  • Large Screen with 4K resolution
  • Great colour gamut and incredible accuracy
  • Easy to work on and ergonomically inclined
  • Powerful GPU
  • 2TB SSD
  • Touchscreen and aspect ratio makes it easier to work on

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Cons
  • Incredibly slow processor
  • Dated hardware in some respect
  • Price
  • No Thunderbolt connections

At the end, the Surface Book is a desktop designed for graphic designers and design professionals. It is a solid piece of machinery that has a lot to offer and offers a unique and easy experience to work on. However, is plagued by its dated hardware, especially in terms of its processor which in the end bottlenecks a lot of the speed that the Surface 2 could theoretically achieve. Its price is another prohibiting factor. It costs nearly as much as our number choice but doesn’t perform as well. True, that the Surface Studio doesn’t claim to be a workstation but rather geared towards design professional, it still is slightly disappointing that they haven’t upgraded their hardware yet considering their peers and competition has.

3. HP Envy 34”

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HP Envy 34" Curved QHDAll-in One Desktop PC (1TB HD/256GB SSD/Ash Silver)
  • 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7700T Quad-Core processor / 34" Curved QHD Ultra-Wide (3440x1440) LED Backlit Micro Edge display / Windows 10
  • Technicolor Color Certified Display / 16GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM Memory / 1TB 7200RPM Serial ATA hard drive
  • 256GB Solid State Drive / AMD Radeon RX 460 graphics card with 4 GB GDDR5 dedicated memory

The most unique feature of this top end all-in-one desktop from HP is definitely its ultra wide Curved monitor. With 3440 x 1440 QHD resolution, the Envy 34” offers a LED backlit micro-edge monitor with impressive audio systems. In terms of its colour gamut, according to independent testers, the Envy 34” has 108% coverage of sRGB and around 75% coverage of AdobeRGB, with a fairly low dE value of 1.07. Which means that colours would be accurately replicated over the impressive screen that the Envy had. The contrast ratio is lower than 1000:1 but the brightness is around 350 nits which makes the screen decently bright but the contrast ratio leaves a little more to be desired.

As far as performance goes, the Envy 34” comes with 7th Generation Intel Core i7, a quad core processor which goes up to clock speeds of 2.9 GHz. This makes for a relatively fast user experience especially with the 256 GB SSD, in addition to 1TB HDD, memory that the Envy 34” has. Not to mention the 16 GB of RAM that the Envy has to work with.

In order to enjoy the most out of the impressive screen that the Envy has, it also comes with the Radeon RX 460 which supports 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM, making it a lot better option for video quality in comparison to its competition especially for its price.

It also has the following ports; four USB 3.0, a Thunderbolt 3, along with HDMI Out and HDMI In, 10/100/1000 Base-T Network, plus a 3-in-1 Media Card slot. Going with the sleek design standards, the ports are all located at the base of the desktop, which might cause a little problem for some due to non-ease of access.

One additional nifty feature that the Envy 34” has is the fact that you can wirelessly charge your Android phones through the desktop’s charge base. It also comes with a year long limited warranty, with 24 hours, 7 days a week web support access.

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Pros
  • Beautiful wide screen QHD display
  • Good colour gamut and accuracy
  • Decent processor speed
  • Good quality HDD and SDD
  • GDDR5 VRAM in GPU
  • Good connectivity options
  • Terrific audio

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Cons
  • Contrast ratio is not the best
  • Not ergonomically designed
  • AdobeRGB coverage might not be high enough for some design professionals

In the end, the Envy 34” is an all-in-one desktop that fulfills most of the needs that a design professional will have, while not being the best in any of them. The Envy 34” is a jack of all trades, good for various work one might have, including professional design work, without dedicating itself to just that niche of users. It is a solid machine though its processor is getting old at this point, the same as the Surface Studio 2. Its price is not quite as low as the lower end iMacs but not as exorbitant as the Surface Studio 2 or our final entry in the list. A good choice for anyone who is just beginning their career in the field and doesn’t have that much money to spend, the HP Envy is a solid choice and one of the best desktops of 2019.

4. Apple iMac Pro

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Apple iMac Pro (27-inch Retina 5K display, 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD) - Space Gray
  • 27-Inch (diagonal) Retina 5K display
  • 5120-By-2880 resolution with support for one billion colors
  • Stunning 5-mm-thin design

And here we are with the final entry in our list and our number one choice for the best desktop for graphic designers. The iMac Pro is what Apple calls their most powerful device, and one which is specifically marketed towards professionals, especially design professionals.

With its beautiful 5K 5120 x 2880 retina display on its 27” screen, the iMac Pro also boasts of an incredibly paper thin 5 mm design like its sibling. With a pixel density of 261, the iMac pro delivers crisp clear images with impeccable clarity with its 500 nits brightness and its 1000:1 contrast ratio. The display on the iMac Pro is 10 bit supported. The colour accuracy is the best of any all-in-one desktops and approach the quality of higher end monitors from Eizo with a dE value of 0.06. On the side of its colour gamut, the iMac Pro, just like its iMac sibling, relies on the DCI-P3 colour space, which lies between the sRGB and AdobeRGB spaces. Consequently, it reproduces around 167% of the sRGB gamut which is higher than the average but not as great as the Surface Studio 2. Still, the iMac pro supports over a billion colours, nothing to scoff at.

Though in terms of processors, where the Surface Studio 2 faltered hard, the iMac Pro soars head and shoulders above its competition, with the Intel Xeon Processor which has up to 18 cores and supports hyper-threading and clock speeds of up to 4.5 GHz. There are many more details we can get into in terms of the iMac Pro’s processor but it should suffice to say that the iMac pro is incredibly powerful.

In terms of its GPU capabilities, the iMac doesn’t disappoint here either. With Radeon Pro Vega graphics it provides you with 16GB of GDDR5 VRAM. This means incredible speeds for rendering or computing work that you have on the iMac Pro. It is even smart about how it uses its resources, using sophisticated technology to deliver incredibly fast work if it’s not as complicated.

But what about RAM? No matter how fast your processor or GPU is, if the RAM gets bottle-necked then your entire PC will slow down. Well not to worry for you see, the iMac Pro can have up to 128 GB of GDDR4 RAM. Up to 128 GB.

And to provide additional support to the lightning fast speeds of the iMac Pro, it has up to 4TB of SSD storage space, which additionally comes encrypted with the Apple T2 chip for safety and security.

Finally as far as connectivity goes, it has an impressive 10GB Ethernet connection slot, four USB 3 slots, four Thunderbolt 3 slots, and an SDXC card reader slot.

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Pros
  • One of the best processors for all-in-one desktops
  • Incredible GPU unit
  • Good coverage of colour space
  • Incredibly colour accuracy
  • Super fast performance
  • Great connectivity options

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Cons
  • Colour space reliance is on DCI-P3 and not AdobeRGB
  • Screen is glossy so it leads to some errors during editing
  • Price
  • Some cooling issues still persists.

The Apple iMac Pro is a beast of a machine in the body of a Greek god. It offers incredible performance and a captivating display. Some design professionals will complain about that even though it has a very wide colour gamut, it is not necessarily the correct colour gamut for them, and they aren’t exactly wrong. DCI-P3 as we’ve said multiple times is the colour space mostly meant for video editing and not necessarily graphic design work. The iMac Pro’s price is another factor. It is ridiculously expensive, and even though it is mostly worth its price, it’s not something most beginner or even intermediate design professionals can afford easily.

Even though the 2019 model is much better about its cooling systems, making a markedly huge improvement over older models, there is still some concern about overheating. And the constant gripe of design professionals about the glossy exterior screen which makes working with photos a bit of a struggle because it can lead to errors in their work. But despite all the criticisms, the iMac pro is still our choice for the best desktop for graphic designers simply because it does everything and it does everything great. There might be other products which might do one or two things perfectly, but while the iMac Pro isn’t perfect it is incredibly close to it.

Factors to Consider before Buying a Desktop

Few of them are marketed for general use, a few for gaming, and a few for professional work, all in a variety of price ranges.

But how should you decide which one to choose? How to know which features are important and which features are superfluous for your needs? Well that’s why we have established a list of the most important features that the best desktops for graphic design will have.

RAM:

It is the hardware that temporarily stores data in your computer. When looking for a desktop that you need for professional design work, you will be running very resource intensive programs on your desktop. These programs could be vectoring programs like Adobe Illustrator or image editors like Adobe Photoshop, and you’ll need your desktop to keep with the strain on its memory processes.

For this reason we would advise you to look for a desktop with 16B of RAM, but if you’re in a budget then 8GB will be functional but will start to falter for heavier design processing. A good benchmark for seeing if you have sufficient RAM or not is to see that while using draining tasks and applications, your desktop should have enough RAM that at least 25% of it is still free to be utilised for something else. If the percentage of free RAM is less than 25%, then you might be looking for an upgrade. The more RAM you have, the faster your processor will run.

Though do keep one thing in mind, the process to upgrade a RAM stick is fairly easy and one can do it themselves in fact. The only prohibiting factor is the price of the RAM stick currently on the market and the fact that you have to generally install two sticks together.

Processor:

The processor is akin to the desktop, as what the brain is to the human body. It is the hardware responsible for most calculations and computing. The processor is the hardware that also controls all the other components of the desktop. When you’re looking for a desktop for professional design work, you need to look at the two factors of a processor; the number of cores and its clock speed.

While clock speeds aren’t as important for design work, you still want to be shooting for around 1.9 GHz (Gigahertz) as a minimum. As for cores, you should not consider any processor which has at least 6 processors. How efficiently these cores can be utilised is the main factor, but that depends from processor to processor and program to program. A few choice processors are much more efficient when it comes to design related projects, such as the Intel Core i5 (7th Gen and 8th Gen), Intel Core i7 (6th Gen, 7th Gen and 8th Gen), the AMD Ryzen and Intel Xeon.
While it is possible to upgrade your processor, it is not as easy as it is to upgrade the RAM.

Processors are expensive and usually you need to replace the entire motherboard of the desktop since most motherboards are usually compatible with one or two processors each. Buying an entirely new motherboard is not a cheap proposition and is hard to set up if one does not know what exactly they are doing.

For this reason we would recommend that either buy a desktop with a highly compatible motherboard or buy a desktop which comes with higher end processors.

Graphic Processor Unit (GPU) or Graphic Card:

Most, if not all, pre-built desktops come equipped with a GPU these days. A GPU, or your graphics card, is the piece of hardware which assists the CPU by handling all graphics related processing, like rendering, shading, 3D modelling amongst others. These processes are immensely important to the work of a graphic designer, and therefore having at the minimum a decent GPU becomes a requirement. A GPU will also offload work from your CPU, letting your CPU focus on other tasks and generally improving the speed that your desktop runs at. For this reason we recommend, a GPU with a minimum of 2GB of VRAM available. Of course, the higher you go the more it’ll cost you even as it improves the performance of your computer.

Again, upgrading the GPU in your desktop is possible and relatively uncomplicated if you’re at least a bit knowledgeable about your motherboard and the appropriate ports. Graphics card’s rates change through the year because of discounts and newer, higher end products being introduced to the market. So don’t worry if you buy a desktop with GPU that’s not the best, you can always upgrade it later on. Do keep in mind though, that like most components, to make sure that your upgraded graphics card is going to be compatible with the motherboard in your desktop, unless you want to bring in a new motherboard all together.

Hard Drive:

Your hard drive is where your desktop will store all the information permanently. It is what determines your start-up, or boot speed for the computer. There are generally two types of hard drives currently available for use; the Solid State Drive (SSD) and the Hard Disk Drive (HDD). The HDD relies on moving parts inside it to write data on its disk while the SSD has no moving parts and has a memory similar to one found in USB flash drives. SSDs are more expensive than HDDs but are faster, more efficient and much less likely to break down. However, even though SSDs are much better than HDDs, their price is exorbitantly expensive that it will be incredibly rare to have a desktop that completely uses SDDs. Usually a good desktop might have both SDD and HDD, with the SDD being used for boot-up and essential operating software files. This will ensure faster boot up speeds while still keeping the price down for the desktop. For a design professional work, you would best suited to look for at least 750 GB of HDD memory space for storage. More would be better, but 750GB is the minimum you need without relying on external memory devices or cloud storing services to store your work and data.

Again, like with most components in a desktop, you can completely modify and upgrade your memory devices on your preference. You can switch out your 750GB HDD with a 1TB or even 2TB one. Or maybe you want to expand the size of your SDD. All of it is possible and easily doable. Upgrading the HDD is a relatively inexpensive affair due to the prices of HDDs dropping in recent years, though SDD even with their prices reduces are still very expensive to just upgrade on a whim. Still the option of pursuing that possibility lies with you. Make sure that before upgrading your memory storage devices you take backups and format all storage devices in the proper manner. Some professional help may be required in that regard.

Monitor:

The most important aspect of a desktop for a graphic designer. The monitor is where the designer gets to look at their work. The better the quality of the monitor is, the better the end product would be. A great quality monitor will be able recreate colours, able to display minute details and have accuracy in representing those colours and details.

We already have another guide and review for the Best Monitors for Graphic Design in 2019, but since we are looking are pre-built desktops that product list won’t help us here. What will help us is the list of factors one needs to keep in mind while looking to buy a desktop for graphic design work.

In brief, your monitor shouldn’t be too small. Anywhere between 27” to 32” is a good size for any design professional. While bigger monitors are present, the offer lower returns based on their price. If you’re going for the best then look at a desktop with a 32” monitor because that is the one which can provide you with the true cinematic aspect ratio, especially important if working with video.

Your monitor should also at the minimum have a FullHD or 1920 x 1080 native resolution. Anything up to 4K is also a good choice but again anything above that range offers only marginal return for the price being asked for it. And make sure that your monitor has a 10-bit colour range. Your monitor should also have IPS panelling instead of TN panelling. TN panelling is often the norm for desktops being marketed for gaming purposes because of its high refresh rate. You want IPS panelling because of its higher colour accuracy.

Contrast ratio, maximum brightness and if the monitor is HDR or not are also considerations but the two most important factors are colour gamut and accuracy. As a design professional you will usually be working more in AdobeRGB rather than sRGB, so accordingly you want a desktop whose monitor has at least 92% coverage for AdobeRGB. As for accuracy, you want the dE value to be lower than 3, since you want the best possible accuracy for your work.

Additional Features:

Your desktop might include some additional features that we haven’t factored in separately. Such features could include a touch screen or a fingerprint recognition system or many other features that manufacturers introduce into their products. Or it could be something like the quality of the keyboard, and how easy or hard it is to use the keys provided and how reliable they are. Maybe it the ergonomics of the monitor, and if you can adjust the position of it. Or a stylus or digipen that can interact with the monitor to make it easier for you to work. These additional features can set a desktop apart from its completion, so look out for what additional, if any, your desktop has and if that has any relevancy to your work or is just even generally useful for you.

With that we have finished our list of important factors that one must be on the lookout for while out to buy a desktop for graphic design work. Now just based on this information, you should be able to research and make an informed decision about which desktop might suit you best. But if you’re not in mood, and have much better things than to research through possibly hundreds of models to pick out which one might be the best for you then don’t worry. We have compiled a list of the best desktops for graphic design just for you. These 6 desktops are the best desktops in 2019 currently in the market. The list itself is in no particular order but with that let’s dive in.

Conclusion:

And with that, we have finished our list of the best desktops in 2019 for professional design work along with the factors to consider. We hope that even if you don’t find our list of the best desktops for graphic designers correct, that you will hopefully have found some information in the factors we use to establish this list and are able to research which desktop will suit you and your work best based on our factors.

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