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 graphic design software, Graphic Designers 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 Mac Studio is the best Mac for graphic design with the most powerful M1 Ultra chip giving it the edge over any other Mac on the market.
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 with the M2 MacBook Pros and M2 Mac Minis released in January 2023 the latest to join the lineup.
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Why Macs Are Still Best For Graphic Design
Macs have always been the most popular computers for creatives in a wide range of fields ranging from desktop publishing to 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.
Although Windows PCs have caught-up a lot on Macs, many of the best graphic design software are now Cloud based anyway such as the industry standard Adobe Creative Cloud.
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 20 CPU cores in the top of the range M1 Ultra chip although the Ultra chip is only available in the Mac Studio 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 with 28 CPU cores).
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 and not notice any difference in performance.
The M1 chip has already been through several upgrades since 2020 and the M2 chip was released in July 2022 with 14/16 inch M2 MacBook Pros and M2 Mac Minis released in January 2023.
At the moment, different versions of the M1 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 Ultra Chip with 20 CPU Cores: Available in the Mac Studio
- M2 Chip with 10 CPU Cores: Available in the 13 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
The only Intel Mac that can really compare with the power of the Apple Silicon Macs is the Mac Pro with 28 cores.
However, with prices for the Mac Pro starting at $5,999 and considering it’s still got an Intel processor, we wouldn’t advise it as a good future proof investment for graphic designers.
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 MacBook Pros support up to 96GB 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.
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.
Apple has removed the 27 inch iMac and effectively replaced it with the Mac Studio with the Apple Studio Display which also provide 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 2022 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 if you get it with the M1 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 Pro Macs support 2 external displays: two with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt/USB-C and HDMI
- M1 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 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.
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 M1 or M2 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.
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.
M1 and M2 Macs ship with 8GB of RAM as standard but you can upgrade to 16GB when you purchase it.
The M1 Pro can be upgraded to 32GB RAM, M1 Max up to 64GB RAM, M2 Max up to 96GB RAM and Ultra up to 128GB 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 Mac Pro.
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:
With this in mind, here are the best Macs for graphic design of 2023.
1. M1 Mac Studio
The Mac Studio is Apple’s newest Mac aimed at creative professionals and is our pick for the best Mac for graphic design due to a mix of incredible power and connectivity.
The Mac Studio is squarely aimed at creative professionals in the graphic design, video editing, music production, Virtual Reality and game development fields.
The M1 Mac Studio was released alongside a new monitor the 27 inch 5K Apple Studio Display which, when combined with the M1 Mac Studio, offers the ultimate graphic design setup.
The Mac Studio is like a Mac Mini on steroids and the only Mac available with the unbelievably fast M1 Ultra chip with 20-core or 64-core performance.
Apple calls the M1 Ultra chip “the worlds most powerful chip for a personal computer” and it’s certainly going to be hard to beat with up to 64-core performance.
It also includes 128GB of unified memory, 800GB/s or memory bandwidth and an 8TB SSD which dwarfs the processing power of both the M1/M2 Mac Mini and M1/M2 MacBook Pro.
The Mac Studio is also jam packed with ports for connectivity including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10GB ethernet port, two USB-A ports, HDMI 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 M1 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.
On top of this ideally you would add the new 27 inch 5K Apple Studio Display which starts $1599 (£1499) although you could also use an alternative to the Apple Studio display instead.
You might also be interested in our look at the best monitors for the Mac Studio too.
Check-out our full Mac Studio review to see what we thought of this unbelievably powerful compact Mac.
- The most powerful Mac on the market with M1 Ultra chip
- The only Mac with the Ultra chip
- Up to 64-core processing power
- Up to 8TB internal SSD
- Supports up to 5 external monitors
- Incredibly high quality images when paired with Apple Studio Display
- Not upgradable after purchase
- No M2 version as yet
- Requires monitor, keyboard and mouse
2. M1 MacBook Pro 16 inch (M1 Pro/Max)
The 2021 M1 MacBook Pro with 16 inch screen and the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip is the best Mac for graphic designers on the move due to a potent combination of power and portability.
We think the 2021 M1 MacBook Pro gives graphic designers the best of both worlds – a reasonably sized screen when on the move but plenty of options for connecting an external display when at the desk.
Launched in October 2021, the M1 MacBook Pro is by far the most powerful MacBook on the market and is tailor made for graphic designers that need maximum graphic processing power.
It’s twice as powerful as the older 2020 M1 MacBook Pro and the M1 Max is even twice as powerful again as the M1 Pro chip so we strongly recommend getting the M1 Max chip MacBook Pro if your budget allows.
If you’re unsure whether to go for the M1 Max or M1 Pro, we recommend checking out our look at the M1 Max vs M1 Pro.
The only downside of the M1 MacBook Pro is that it is 200g heavier than the 2020 MacBook Pro – but it’s more than worth it.
Other highlights of the M1 MacBook Pro 16 inch with M1 Pro or M1 Max chip include:
- Two ProRes accelerators in the M1 Max to make rendering 3D images a breeze even on battery power
- Up to 8TB of internal storage
- Stunning Liquid Retina XDR display for crystal clear images
- 14 or 16 inch screen to make it easier to edit designs although we strongly recommend extending this with an external monitor for graphic designing.
The 14 inch M1 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro or M1 Max is around $500 cheaper and around 100g lighter than the 16 inch model but we recommend at least a 16 inch screen as a minimum for graphic design.
Note that since this review was written, Apple released the new 14 inch and 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro in January 2023.
The M2 models offer some speed improvements on the M1 MacBook Pro although are yet to be reviewed but you may want to consider this before purchasing.
You can read more about this amazing laptop in our M1 MacBook Pro review.
- The most powerful MacBook on the market
- Incredibly fast 3D graphics rendering even on battery power
- Twice as fast as the old Intel MacBook Pro
- Up to 8TB of internal storage
- Stunning display
- Battery power for up to 21 hours
- Not upgradable
- Now replaced by M2 chip models
3. M2 Mac Mini
The M2 Mac Mini is the smallest Mac you can get but it packs an incredible punch and is easily the cheapest 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 M1 Mac Mini when purchasing with storage of up to 8TB.
One advantage of the Mac Mini over a MacBook is that you can also upgrade this RAM and SSD drive in an M2 Mac Mini even after the original purchase (although this would only be possible by a specialist technician).
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.
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 HDMI port in both models of Mac Mini is also useful if you want to connect your Mac Mini to a TV too.
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
- Easily portable
- Cheaper than the M1 Mac Mini
- 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.
The M1 iMac is a better solution than both the Mac Studio and Mac Mini if you need a desktop Mac for graphic design with screen included.
The 24 inch model has an amazing 24 inch 4.5K display although we recommend avoiding the 21 inch model unless your budget really won’t stretch.
Note that the 27 inch iMac is no longer available as Apple has effectively replaced it with the Mac Studio and Apple Studio Display.
All processors in iMacs support what’s known has Hyper Threading which means more than one core processor can handle instructions threads at the same time.
The M1 iMac comes with up to an 8 core GPU, 8GB of RAM and silent SSD drives although the lack of hard drive space means you’ll need an external hard drive too.
The iMac also comes with 3 USB ports and 2 Thunderbolt ports so there’s plenty of room for connecting peripherals.
All of this of course is built into the display which makes the iMac such a clean and clutter free graphic design workstation.
At the moment, there’s no M2 iMac although it’s likely to be released later in 2023.
- Ideal for desktop based graphic designers
- Amazing 4.5K display
- Supports hyper threading
- Cheaper than a Mac Studio
- Not portable
- 27 inch model discontinued
- Lack of hard drive space
- May be replaced by M2 model soon
5. M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch (M2 Pro/M2 Max)
The M2 MacBook Pro is Apple’s latest version of the MacBook Pro released in January 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 supports up to 95GB 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 will 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 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’s also an upgraded HDMI port with support for higher resolution external monitors including 8K displays and 4K displays up to 240Hz.
There are an additional three Thunderbolt 4 ports, MagSafe charging connector and a headphone jack.
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 and 4K displays up to 240Hz
- Lots of ports for connecting external devices
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.
This article is kind of lame and useless by saying that Windows PC is prone to virus and lack in design, really? We all know that if you want to see innovation in laptop space one can only find that in Windows world.
Look at Surface Laptop Studio or Dell XPS 13 Plus or Lenovo Yoga 9i or Lenovo Thinkpad x1 fold they don’t tacky design and stupid notch which is an eyesore to designers. It lack facial authentication while windows counterpart have it for decades.
Mac and iPhone are prone to virus read your the news dude. Dell XPS line has better 4k and color accuracy display than all the Mac’s mentioned above.
I came to for you to help make a choice not to say trash about another platform. Let’s be real Windows 11 is much better design os than Mac OS Ventura. Windows 11 is modern unlike Mac that uses old preferences panel and some control is archaic and hasn’t been touched for decades. Next time focus on the article and don’t say trash about another platform we don’t want hear it when making choice for MacBook
Thanks for your thoughts. Most professional graphic designers choose Macs mainly for the reasons made in the article and although Windows 11 has come a long way both in terms of design and security, Macs are likely to continue being the computer of choice for graphic designers.