Macs are by far the best computers for graphic design work in here we’ve looked at the best Macs for graphic design in 2023.
When it comes to the demands of the best graphic design software, you need a lot of graphic processing power, RAM and screen estate.
In 2023, the best Macs for creative and design work are undoubtedly the new generation of Apple Silicon M1 and M2 chip Macs which offer much faster graphics and processing power than the older Intel chip.
In our research we found the amazing M2 MacBook Pro is the best Mac for graphic design with the powerful M2 Max chip and convenient portability giving it the edge.
The rapid evolution of the Apple Silicon M1 and M2 chips however means that there are also many other options for graphic designers worth considering.
There’s now an impressive range of M1 and M2 Macs to choose from with the M2 Mac Minis released in January 2023 and more recently, the M2 Mac Studio, M2 MacBook Air and M2 Mac Pro released in summer 2023 the latest to join the lineup.
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- Why Macs Are Still Best For Graphic Design
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- Graphics Cards
- RAM: Upgradable vs Non-Upgradable
- 1. M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch (M2 Pro/M2 Max)
- 2. M2 Mac Studio
- 3. M2 Mac Mini
- 4. M1 iMac
- 5. M2 MacBook Air
- Best Macs For Graphic Design Compared
- External Monitors For Graphic Design
- External Hard Drives For Graphic Design
Why Macs Are Still Best For Graphic Design
Macs have always been better than PCs when it comes to color accuracy, typography and layout design.
In general, Macs are also far more stable and less prone to viruses and slow downs compared to Windows PCs.
Therefore the platform that designers are using is become less important than the speed of their internet connection as everything moves towards the Cloud but Macs are still the machine of choice for designers.
And let’s face it, Macs also look a lot better than PCs so all things considered, it’s no surprise designers in the creative fields prefer Macs.
M1/M2 Macs vs Intel Macs
The biggest change to the Mac range in recent years has been the replacement of the Intel chip with Apple’s own faster ARM Apple Silicon chips in November 2020.
All new Macs now have either the M1 or M2 chip which has replaced the older Intel chip.
Apple Silicon chips are much faster than the Intel chips offering up to 24 CPU cores in the top of the range M2 Ultra chip although the Ultra chip is only available in the M2 Mac Studio and Mac Pro at the moment.
In comparison the most powerful Intel CPU could only go up to 12 cores (apart from the incredibly powerful Intel Mac Pro which has 28 CPU cores).
Why is this important? Because the more cores you have, the more tasks your Mac can handle at once.
This means you can be running several powerful graphic design applications at once or have several projects running simultaneously and not notice any difference in performance.
At the moment, different versions of the M1 and M2 chip are available in different models of Mac and the currently availability is as follows:
- M1 Chip with 8 CPU Cores: Available in the 24 inch iMac, MacBook Air, 13 inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini.
- M1 Pro Chip with 10 CPU Cores: Available in the 14 inch and 16 inch MacBook Pro.
- M1 Max Chip with 10 CPU Cores: Available in the 14 inch and 16 inch MacBook Pro and Mac Studio.
- M1/M2 Ultra Chip with 20/24 CPU Cores: Available in the Mac Studio and Mac Pro
- M2 Chip with 10 CPU Cores: Available in the 13 inch MacBook Air, 15 inch MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13 inch, Mac Mini
- M2 Pro Chip with 19 CPU Cores: Available in Mac Mini M2 Pro
- M2 Pro/Max Chip with 16 CPU Cores: Available in MacBook Pro M2 Pro/Max and M2 Max Mac Studio
Note that Apple only sells refurbished versions of the M1 chip Macs now (apart from the 13 inch MacBook Air which can still be bought from new). The M2 models have replaced them in the Apple Store and only M2 Macs can be bought from new.
There are however other sites such as Amazon where you may be able to still buy M1 chip Macs from new but we’d advise getting an M2 chip where possible simply because it’s faster and the latest version of Apple’s Silicon chip.
When it comes to graphics cards, M1 & M2 Macs are again a much better option than Intel Macs.
The M1/M2 chip, the graphics card and the RAM are integrated on M1/M2 Macs (known as “Unified Memory”) for much faster performance.
In Intel Macs, these are separate meaning it doesn’t process data as efficiently.
The top of the range M2 Mac Studio with M2 ultra chips supports up to 192GB of unified memory which is more than enough for any professional graphic designer.
The only remaining advantage that Intel Macs have over M1 & M2 chip Macs is that you can boost the graphics capabilities with an external graphics card known as an eGPU.
eGPUs are incredibly powerful and in some cases can even outperform the capabilities of Apple Silicon Macs.
M1 & M2 Macs don’t work with eGPUs as Apple Silicon chips don’t support them and there seems no chance of them being supported in the future.
RAM: Upgradable vs Non-Upgradable
The latest generation of M1 & M2 Macs aren’t upgradable internally which means that you can’t upgrade the RAM in an Apple Silicon Mac after purchase.
None of the Apple Silicon Macs can be upgraded because the RAM is integrated into the M1/M2 chip for faster performance known as “Unified Memory”.
An M1/M2 Mac will easily outperform any Intel Mac with the same amount of RAM so we strongly recommend buying an M1 or M2 Mac.
It’s therefore important that you add as much RAM as possible when you customize and purchase any M1 or M2 chip Mac for the first time.
Base level M1 and M2 Macs ship with 8GB of RAM as standard but you can upgrade to 16GB when you purchase it.
The M1/M2 Pro can be upgraded to 32GB RAM, M1/M2 Max up to 64GB RAM, M2 Max up to 96GB RAM and M1/M2 Ultra up to 196GB RAM.
Nowadays, there are very few Macs on the market that can be upgraded later. The exceptions include the older 27 inch Intel iMac, the Intel Mac Mini and the the latest M2 Mac Pro which has six additional PCIe Gen 4 cards.
With this in mind, here are the best Macs for graphic design of 2023.
The M2 MacBook Pro is Apple’s latest version of the MacBook Pro released in January 2023 and is the best Mac for Graphic Design of 2023.
The M2 MacBook Pro is the replacement for the M1 MacBook Pro and features modest speed improvements on the M1 chip although it does cost a few hundred dollars more than the M1 version.
The new M2 Pro MacBook Pro with M2 Max chip supports up to 96GB of unified RAM with the 16-inch M2 Pro MacBook Pro version capable of up to 22 hours video playback on battery power and 15 hours of web surfing.
Apple claims the new M2 MacBook Pros render video six times faster than an Intel MacBook Pro and perform color grading twice as fast.
Compared to the M1 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip, the M2 Pro chip offers up to 20% faster performance according to Apple with 200 GB/s of unified memory bandwidth.
It also has a 19 core GPU that offers up to 30% more graphics performance compared to the M1 Pro.
There’s also a 40% faster Neural Engine for video/image processing and other graphic intensive tasks.
If you max out the M2 MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip, it has a whopping 38 core GPU which promises another 30% faster graphics performance compared to the M1 Max according to Apple.
This includes 400 GB/s of unified memory and 96GB of unified memory which will handle the most demanding graphic intensive applications.
Apple claims the M2 Max 12-core CPU is 20% faster than even the M1 Max.
The display on the M2 MacBook Pro is a graphic designer’s dream with the Liquid Retina XDR display offering 3024 x 1964 pixel resolution, (DCI-P3) color gamut and and professional precision (DeltaE <2).
The display also features TrueTone to adapt colors according to light and with a maximum brightness support of up to 1600 nits, you can work without reflections even in direct sunlight.
With a maximum of 16 inches however, you may want to extend your display with a selection of some of the best external monitors for the MacBook Pro.
The new M2 MacBook Pros have also been upgraded with Wi-Fi 6E connectivity which is twice as fast as the previous WiFi standard on the MacBook Pro.
There are an additional three Thunderbolt 4 ports, MagSafe charging connector and a headphone jack.
In terms of portability, the 14 inch M2 MacBook Pro weighs just 1.6kg and the 16 inch marginally more so it’s not heavy although if this is a concern, you might be better looking at the 15 inch M2 MacBook Air instead.
Pricing for the base model M2 MacBook Pro 14-inch model starts at $1,999 (£2,149) and the M2 MacBook Pro 16-inch MacBook starts at $2,499 (£2,699)
You can read our full M2 MacBook Pro review for more.
- Apple’s latest and most powerful MacBook Pro
- 20% faster than the M1 MacBook Pro
- 30% better graphics performance than the M1 MacBook Pro
- Up to 38 core GPU
- Up to 96GB of unified memory
- Upgraded HDMI 2.1 ports
- Supports multiple 8K, 5K and 4K displays up to 240Hz
- Lots of ports for connecting external devices
- Not upgradable
The M2 Mac Studio is Apple’s newest Mac aimed at creative professionals and is our pick for the best desktop Mac for graphic design due to a mix of incredible power and connectivity.
The M2 Mac Studio is squarely aimed at creative professionals in the graphic design, video editing, music production, Virtual Reality and game development fields.
The original M1 Mac Studio was originally released with an M1 chip in 2022 alongside a new monitor the impressive 5K Apple Studio Display which, when combined with the Mac Studio, offers the ultimate graphic design setup.
Apple now only stocks the M2 Mac Studio from new although you may still be able to buy a refurbished M1 Mac Studio from Apple.
Apart from the desktop Mac Pro, the Mac Studio is the only Mac available with the unbelievably fast M2 Ultra chip with 24-core or 76-core performance.
Even the base model new Mac Studio without the M2 Max or M2 Ultra chip is pretty powerful with a 12-core CPU and up to a 38-core GPU.
The Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip has a 24-core CPU and up to 76-core GPU which Apple claims offer up to 20% and 30% performance improvements respectively compared to the M1 Ultra.
The M2 Max Mac Studio can be fitted with up to 96GB of unified memory and the M2 Ultra Mac Studio a whopping 192GB of unified memory and 800GB/s memory bandwidth which dwarfs the processing power of both the M2 Mac Mini and M2 MacBook Pro.
You can also max it out with an 8TB SSD which you can extend even further with an external SSD drive.
The M2 Mac Studio is also jam packed with ports for connectivity including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10GB Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, HDMI 2.1 and a Pro audio jack.
Pricing for the Mac Studio starts at $1,999 (£1,999) for the M1 Max with the M1 Ultra starting at $3,999 (£3,999).
If you bought a top of the range Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip, 8TB of SSD it would cost $7,999 (£6,100) so it doesn’t come cheap but you wouldn’t need to upgrade for years to come.
You might also be interested in our look at the best monitors for the Mac Studio too which featured the best external displays compatible with the Mac Studio.
Check-out our full Mac Studio M2 review to see what we thought of this unbelievably powerful compact Mac.
- Available with Apple’s most powerful M2 Ultra chip
- Up to 76-core processing power
- Up to 8TB internal SSD
- Up to 192MB unified memory
- Supports up to 5 external monitors
- Incredibly high quality images when paired with Apple Studio Display
- Not upgradable after purchase
- Requires monitor, keyboard and mouse
The M2 Mac Mini is the smallest Mac you can get but it packs an incredible punch and is easily the best budget Mac for graphic design.
Released in January 2023, the M2 Mac Mini starts at just $599 which is actually $100 cheaper than the original M1 Mac Mini released in 2020.
You can customize up to 32GB of unified memory RAM with the M2 Mac Mini when purchasing with the M2 Pro chip with storage of up to 8TB.
Remember that since the M2 Mac Mini has no monitor, keyboard or mouse, you’ll have to buy them separately although you can use pretty much any monitor, keyboard or mouse with it.
Check out our guide to the best external monitors for the Mac Mini for more on the best compatible displays with the Mac Mini.
Although it’s more expensive than the basic M2 chip, we strongly recommend going for the more powerful M2 Mac Mini with M2 Pro chip as it also supports up to three external displays – two via Thunderbolt and one via HDMI.
The basic M2 Mac Mini supports two external displays but only one via Thunderbolt, the other via HDMI.
The M2 Pro version of the Mac Mini also allows you to customize it with up to 32GB of unified memory.
The HDMI 2.1 port in both models of Mac Mini is also useful if you want to connect your Mac Mini to a TV too or for gaming as it supports higher refresh rate.
Note that unlike Intel Mac Minis, you can’t connect an eGPU to the M2 Mac Mini as eGPUs don’t work with the M1/M2 chip.
If you’re looking for the best Mac for graphic design on a budget, the M2 Mac Mini offers great value for money and portability.
You can read our full M2 Mac Mini review for more on this incredibly powerful budget Mac.
- Great for Beginners or Amateur Musicians on a budget
- Works with Logic Pro X and GarageBand
- Can support 3 displays simultaneously
- Up to 8TB of storage
- Up to 32GB of memory
- Easily portable
- Requires keyboard, monitor and mouse separately
- M2 Pro chip not as powerful as the M1 Ultra chip in Mac Studio
4. M1 iMac
If you’re going to be based permanently in a graphic design studio or at home and don’t have the budget for a Mac Studio, then look no further than the 24 inch M1 iMac.
If you don’t want the expense of having to buy an external display for a Mac Mini or Mac Studio, the iMac is the best value desktop video editor with everything housed within an impressive 24 inch 4.5K display.
Launched in 2021, the M1 iMac also comes with a Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse and Touch ID so you have everything you need to get started out of the box unlike with the Mac Mini or Mac Studio.
Previously, Intel iMacs supported what’s known has Hyper Threading which means more than one core processor can handle instructions threads at the same time.
However, despite not using Hyper Threading, the new Apple Silicon M1 Macs are even faster than the previous Intel Macs.
The iMac comes with silent SSD drives although you can only customize these up to a measly 512GB of storage meaning you’ll definitely need to get an external hard drive for serious graphic design.
You can however customize it with up to 8GB of Unified Memory (RAM) which is as much as any Mac out there.
The iMac also comes with 3 USB ports and 2 Thunderbolt ports so there’s plenty of room for connecting peripherals.
The 24 inch iMac also has a mic input for recording voice overs directly into it.
All of this of course is built into the display which makes the iMac such a clean and clutter free video editing workstation.
Note that the 27 inch iMac is no longer available as Apple has effectively replaced it with the Mac Studio and Apple Studio Display.
At the moment, there’s no M2 iMac although it’s likely to be released later in 2023.
- Ideal for professional graphic design
- Includes everything you need to get started out of the box
- Generous 24 inch 4.5K display
- Fast processing power with M1 chip
- Includes mic input
- Comes in lots of different colors
- Not portable
- Lack of ports
- 27 and 21 inch model discontinued
- No M2 chip version
- Hard drive only customizable up to 512GB
5. M2 MacBook Air
Although the MacBook Air is the least powerful MacBook on the market, it’s also the cheapest MacBook for graphic design and offers the ultimate in lightweight portability for graphic designers on the move.
Apple released the new M2 MacBook Air in 2023 and for the first time, gave it a 15 inch screen making it the biggest MacBook Air and yet still light as a feather.
The smaller 13-inch MacBook Air isn’t ideal for graphic design as the screen is so small but it is the cheapest starting at just $1,199.
However, a maxed-out 15 inch M2 MacBook Air starts at $2,499 and you might want to consider the M2 MacBook Pro instead once you start approaching this price point.
The 15-inch screen provides a decent amount of screen estate although you may want to consider getting an external monitor for when you’re in a studio or using it at home although one drawback is the M2 MacBook Air only supports one external display.
However, there are ways to connect multiple displays to M1 and M2 Macs that by default, only support one external monitor.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, portable laptop for graphic design, then the 15 inch MacBook Air is the best light and portable laptop for graphic designers on the market.
- Incredibly light and portable
- New 15 inch screen in the M2 model
- No fans makes it totally silent
- Lacks processing power and spec of the MacBook Pro
- Not upgradable after purchase
- Only supports one external display
Best Macs For Graphic Design Compared
If you’re still unsure after reading these reviews, here’s how the best Macs for graphic design compare side-by-side.
External Monitors For Graphic Design
One of the most important factors for any graphic designer is the size and quality of the display or monitor.
There’s no question that Apple makes the best displays on the market whether it’s the incredible Liquid Retina XDR screens on MacBooks, the amazing new 5K Apple Studio Display or the stunning 6K Pro XDR Apple Display.
Apple displays also offer other unique touches including:
- True Tone which adjusts colors to the ambient light
- Wide Color (P3) ranging from 500 nits up to an incredible 1600 nits in the Pro XDR
- ProMotion in the 14 inch and 16 inch MacBook Pro which can alternative the refresh rate between 24-120Hz depending on what kind of imagery is being displayed on the screen. This provides faster scrolling and preserves battery life although it’s more useful for video editing than graphic design.
- Automatic color calibration with Macs
MacBooks may not be the first Macs that spring to mind when considering which Mac is best for graphic designing because of their relatively small screen size despite their portable appeal to designers on the move.
However the displays on the latest MacBook Pros are a dream for graphic designers.
MacBooks have Retina displays with the latest M1/M2 MacBook Pros having the amazing Liquid Retina XDR screen with a stunning resolution of up to 254 ppi (pixels per inch).
MacBook Retina displays also support High Dynamic Range (HDR) which provides greater contrast and depth of color compared to Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) displays.
However, the biggest MacBook Pro display is only 16 inches which is why many graphic designers favor the desktop 24 inch iMac which also has a Retina display.
You can easily extend this with an external monitor for a MacBook Pro.
Apple has removed the 27 inch iMac and effectively replaced it with the original M1 Mac Studio with the Apple Studio Display which also provides another alternative to the MacBook and iMac range for graphic designers.
The good news is whichever Mac you choose you can always extend your screen estate with an external monitor.
The Apple Pro XDR and Apple Studio Display connect to any Mac including MacBooks and are easily the best monitors for graphic designers that need support for 6K and 5K resolutions respectively.
However, you can use just about any external monitor with a Thunderbolt or USB-C port with a Mac.
- The latest 2023 M2 Mac Studio has the best external monitor support of any Mac with up to 5 external displays supported: 4 external displays via Thunderbolt/USB-C and 1 via HDMI 2.1 if you get it with the M2 Ultra chip.
- The basic 2020 M1/M2 13 inch MacBook Pros and M1/M2 MacBook Air only support 1 additional display up to 6K resolution at 60Hz although there are ways to add multiple monitors to base level M1/M2 Macs.
- The 2021 M1 Mac Mini and 2023 M2 Mac Minis support up to 3 external displays: 2 via Thunderbolt/USB-C and one via HDMI port.
- M1/M2 Pro Macs support 2 external displays: two with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt/USB-C and HDMI
- M1/M2 Max Macs support 4 external displays: 3 with up to 6K resolution via Thunderbolt/USB-C and 1 of up to 4K via HDMI
- M1/M2 Ultra Macs support up to 5 displays including 4 Apple Pro Display XDRs of 6K resolution via Thunderbolt/USB‑C and one 4K display via HDMI.
- M2 Pro MacBook Pro 14/16 inch up to two external displays: One up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt or one external display up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one external display up to 4K resolution at 144Hz over HDMI.
- M2 Max MacBook Pro 14/16 inch up to four external displays: Three external displays up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one external display up to 4K resolution at 144Hz via HDMI.
For more on using an external monitor with a Mac you can check out the following guides:
- Best Monitors For The Mac Studio
- Best Displays For The MacBook Pro
- Best Monitors For The Mac Mini
- Best 5K Monitors For Macs
Finally, if you’ve got an old iMac lying around you can use an iMac as an external monitor too although we wouldn’t recommend it as it’s become increasingly complicated with the latest Apple Silicon Macs.
External Hard Drives For Graphic Design
Graphic Designers have to deal with huge file sizes for images, layouts, multimedia content and more and your Mac’s internal storage will rarely be enough.
Like RAM, the hard drive or SSD in M1 & M2 Macs is not upgradable after purchase so it’s best to add as much as possible when you purchase the Mac.
Unlike RAM however, you can easily extend the storage capacity of your Mac with an external drive.
We strongly recommend going for an external Solid State Drive (SSD) for graphic design as they are much faster than traditional mechanical drives.
Even better are thunderbolt external drives which are capable of transfer speeds of up to 40Gb/s.
For more on this check out our guides to: