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Best Mac For Graphic Design of 2024 For All Budgets

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Macs are by far the best computers for graphic design work but which is the best of them all? We decided to test a range of Macs to see which one is the best one for graphic design in 2024.

Macs have always been the most popular computers for creative professionals especially in graphic design.

This is mainly because Macs have always been better than PCs when it comes to color accuracy, typography and layout design.

When it comes to the demands of the best graphic design software however, you need a lot of graphic processing power, RAM and screen estate.

In 2024, the best Macs for creative and design work are undoubtedly the new generation of Apple Silicon Macs which offer much faster graphics and processing power than the older Intel chip.

There’s now an impressive range of Apple Silicon chips to choose from with the M2 Mac Mini released in early 2023, the M2 Mac Studio, M2 MacBook Air and M2 Mac Pro released in summer 2023 and more recently, the M3 MacBook Pro and M3 iMac became the latest to join the lineup.

In our extensive testing and research, we found that the M3 MacBook Pro is the best choice for graphic design of 2024 due to its incredible power, display and portability.

What To Look For In A Mac For Graphic Design

Display

Arguably the most important factor 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 (and incredibly expensive) 6K Pro XDR Apple Display.

Apple displays also offer other unique touches which are ideal for graphic designers 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 and 16 inch M3 MacBook Pro
  • Automatic color calibration with Macs

The latest 16 inch M3 MacBook Pro has the best screen in any laptop out there with the mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR supporting:

  • Stunning resolution of up to 254 ppi (pixels per inch).
  • 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.
  • 3024 x 1964 pixel resolution
  • (DCI-P3) color gamut and and professional precision (DeltaE <2).
  • 1600 nits of brightness which previously, you could only get if you bough the Pro XDR display.
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) which provides greater contrast and depth of color compared to Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) displays.

However, the main drawback of the MacBook Pro for graphic designers is that the maximum display size is only 16 inches which is why many designer end up having to buy an external monitor for it or go for the desktop 24 inch M3 iMac instead.

Processor

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, M2 or M3 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, M2 and M3 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
  • M3 Chip with 8 cores: Available in M3 MacBook Pro 14 inch
  • M3 Pro/Max Chip with 12/18 CPU Cores: Available in M3 MacBook Pro 16 inch and M3 iMac 24 inch

Note that Apple only sells refurbished versions of the M1 chip Macs now. The M2 and M3 models are the only Macs Apple sell from new in the Apple Store.

There are however other retailers such as Amazon where you can still buy M1 chip Macs from new but we’d advise getting either an M2 or M3 chip where possible simply because they’re faster and the latest version of Apple’s Silicon chip.

Graphics Card

When it comes to graphics cards, Apple Silicon Macs are again a much better option than Intel Macs.

In Apple Silicon Macs, the graphics card and the RAM are integrated (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 chip 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 Apple Silicon 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.

Apple Silicon 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.

Memory

The latest generation of Apple Silicon 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 and M3 chips for faster performance known as “Unified Memory”.

An M-series Mac will easily outperform any Intel Mac with the same amount of RAM so we strongly recommend buying an Apple Silicon Mac.

It’s therefore important that you add as much RAM as possible when you customize and purchase any Apple Silicon Mac for the first time.

Base level M1, M2 and M3 Macs ship with 8GB of RAM as standard but you can upgrade to 16GB when you purchase them.

The M1/M2/M3 Pro can be upgraded to 32GB RAM, M1/M2/M3 Max up to 64GB RAM, M2 Max up to 96GB RAM, M3 Max up to 128GB 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.

Storage Capacity

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 Apple Silicon Macs is not upgradable after purchase so it’s best to add as much as possible when you purchase the Mac.

You can customize the hard drive in higher-end Macs like the 16 inch M3 MacBook Pro with a whopping 8TB of internal storage space.

Unlike RAM however, all is not lost if you can’t afford to upgrade our storage space on purchase.

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.

With this in mind, here then are the best Macs for graphic design of 2024 in order of ranking.

1. M3 MacBook Pro 16 inch (Best Overall)

m3 macbook pro 16 inch

The M3 MacBook Pro was released in November 2023 and is the best Mac for graphic design when it comes to power and portability.

The M3 MacBook Pro replaces the M2 MacBook Pro released in January 2023 and uses the same 3-nanometer process used in the latest iPhone 15 Pro with A17 Pro chips.

The new 3nn M3 Pro and M3 Max chips are even faster than the M2 versions delivering incredibly fast graphic processing performance.

If you get the MacBook Pro with M3 Max chip, you can customize it with up to 128GB of RAM. This means you can have multiple graphic design apps open and switch between them swiftly with no slow down or lag.

Whatever we threw at the 16 inch M3 MacBook Pro, it barely breaks a sweat and doesn’t get hot even when rendering 3D graphic designs.

The mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR Display looks truly amazing for graphic design with a stunning 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio using mini-LED technology that also supports HDR.

The display on the M3 MacBook Pro really is a graphic designer’s dream offering 3024 x 1964 pixel resolution, (DCI-P3) color gamut and and professional precision (DeltaE <2).

The M3 MacBook Pro 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.

The factory calibration is near perfect too so you won’t have to calibrate it like most laptops used for graphic design.

The M3 MacBook Pros also have Wi-Fi 6E connectivity and an HDMI 2.1 port with support for higher resolution external monitors including 4k displays up to 240Hz, 5K displays and 8K displays.

There are an additional three Thunderbolt 4 ports, MagSafe charging connector and a headphone jack.

With a maximum of 22 hours battery life you can use it pretty much a whole day without having to charge it.

On top of this there’s a 1080p webcam and a six speaker surround system supporting spatial audio.

You can also order theM3 MacBook Pro in a new mark resistant space black anodized finish or silver.

There’s very little not to like about this Mac for graphic design although it doesn’t support full Adobe RGB coverage which could be an issue for those that need it for printed publications.

Pricing for the 16 inch M3 MacBook Pro starts at $2,499 which isn’t cheap but for graphic designers that want the ultimate in mobility and power, it’s definitely worth it.

Note that there is also a cheaper 14 inch M3 MacBook Pro from Apple but we don’t recommend it for graphic design.

It only comes with a measly 8GB of RAM, the screen alone is too small and it only supports connecting one additional display.

You can read our full M3 MacBook Pro review for our thoughts on this amazing MacBook.

Buy on Amazon

Pros:

  • Apple’s latest and most powerful MacBook Pro
  • Incredible liquid retina display
  • 1600 nits of brightness
  • Amazing battery life
  • Up to 128GB of RAM
  • Upgraded HDMI 2.1 ports
  • Supports multiple displays
  • Lots of ports for connecting external devices

Cons:

  • Price
  • Not upgradable after purchase
  • No Ultra chip option
  • Doesn’t support full Adobe RGB coverage

2. M2 Mac Studio (Best For Pros)

m2 mac studio

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.

The M2 Mac Studio was then announced at the WWDC  2023 with an even faster M2 Max and M2 Ultra chip and support for HDMI 2.1 for connecting external displays.

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 M2 Mac Studio starts at $1,999 for the M2 Max with the M2 Ultra starting at $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.

On top of this ideally you would add the new 27 inch 5K Apple Studio Display which starts $1,599 (£1,499) although you could also use one of the many alternatives to the Apple Studio display instead.

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.

Check Price at Best Buy

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • Price
  • Not upgradable after purchase
  • Requires monitor, keyboard and mouse

3. M2 Mac Mini (Best Budget)

m2 mac mini

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.

Buy on Amazon

Pros:

  • Price
  • Great for graphic designers on a budget
  • Can support 3 displays simultaneously
  • Up to 8TB of storage
  • Up to 32GB of memory
  • Easily portable

Cons:

  • Requires keyboard, monitor and mouse separately
  • Not customizable with the M2 Ultra chip

4. M3 iMac 24 inch (Best Value)

m3 imac 24 inch

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 M3 iMac.

Launched in November 2023, the M3 iMac replaces the 2021 iMac (there was no M2 iMac) and is the fastest iMac ever made.

Apple claim the updated 24 inch iMac is twice as fast as the previous M1 model. It also has a better 4.5K Retina Display with support for 1 billion colors (the same color support as the Apple Studio Display) and a 1080p webcam.

In time honored iMac style, its available in six colors: silver, yellow, orange, pink, purple and blue.

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 Mac for desktop graphic design with everything housed within an impressive 24 inch 4.5K display.

It 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.

The iMac comes with silent SSD drives and you can customize this up to 2TB of storage although you’ll still probably need to get an external SSD hard drive for professional graphic design.

You can also customize it with up to 24GB of Unified Memory (RAM) which should be enough for most graphic designers.

The M3 iMac also comes with 3 USB ports and 2 Thunderbolt ports so there’s plenty of room for connecting peripherals.

Note that there is no 27 inch M3 iMac. 27 inch iMacs are no longer available as Apple has effectively replaced them with the Mac Studio and Apple Studio Display.

Pricing: Starts at $1,299 for the 8-core CPU base model or $1,499 for the 10-core.

Buy on Amazon

Pros:

  • Excellent all-in-one Mac for graphic design
  • Includes everything you need to get started out of the box
  • Amazing 24 inch 4.5K Liquid Retina display
  • Incredibly fast processing power with M3 chip
  • Comes in lots of different colors
  • Up to 2TB hard drive space
  • Up to 24GB RAM

Cons:

  • Not portable
  • 27 and 21 inch model discontinued
  • No ultra chip option

5. M2 MacBook Air (Best For Portability)

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.

Buy on Amazon

Pros:

  • Incredibly light and portable
  • New 15 inch screen in the M2 model
  • No fans makes it totally silent
  • Price

Cons:

  • Lacks processing power and spec of the MacBook Pro
  • Not upgradable after purchase
  • Only supports one external display

Best Macs For Graphic Design Price Comparison

If you’re still unsure after reading these reviews, here’s how the best Macs for graphic design compare side-by-side in terms of pricing.

This comparison excludes the Mac Studio which isn’t available from Amazon but pricing starts at $1,999.

Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Pro chip with 12‑core CPU, 18‑core GPU: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 18GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD Storage. Works with iPhone/iPad; Space Black
Apple 2023 Mac Mini Desktop Computer M2 chip with 8‑core CPU and 10‑core GPU, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Gigabit Ethernet. Works with iPhone/iPad
Apple 2023 iMac All-in-One Desktop Computer with M3 chip: 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 24-inch Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Matching Accessories. Works with iPhone/iPad; Blue
Apple 2023 MacBook Air Laptop with M2 chip: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, 1080p FaceTime HD Camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; Midnight
Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Pro chip with 12‑core CPU, 18‑core GPU: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 18GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD Storage. Works with iPhone/iPad; Space Black
Apple 2023 Mac Mini Desktop Computer M2 chip with 8‑core CPU and 10‑core GPU, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Gigabit Ethernet. Works with iPhone/iPad
Apple 2023 iMac All-in-One Desktop Computer with M3 chip: 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 24-inch Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Matching Accessories. Works with iPhone/iPad; Blue
Apple 2023 MacBook Air Laptop with M2 chip: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, 1080p FaceTime HD Camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; Midnight
$2,299.00
$499.00
$1,199.00
$1,194.00
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
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Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Pro chip with 12‑core CPU, 18‑core GPU: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 18GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD Storage. Works with iPhone/iPad; Space Black
Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Pro chip with 12‑core CPU, 18‑core GPU: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 18GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD Storage. Works with iPhone/iPad; Space Black
$2,299.00
Amazon Prime
Apple 2023 Mac Mini Desktop Computer M2 chip with 8‑core CPU and 10‑core GPU, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Gigabit Ethernet. Works with iPhone/iPad
Apple 2023 Mac Mini Desktop Computer M2 chip with 8‑core CPU and 10‑core GPU, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Gigabit Ethernet. Works with iPhone/iPad
$499.00
Amazon Prime
Apple 2023 iMac All-in-One Desktop Computer with M3 chip: 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 24-inch Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Matching Accessories. Works with iPhone/iPad; Blue
Apple 2023 iMac All-in-One Desktop Computer with M3 chip: 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 24-inch Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Matching Accessories. Works with iPhone/iPad; Blue
$1,199.00
Amazon Prime
Apple 2023 MacBook Air Laptop with M2 chip: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, 1080p FaceTime HD Camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; Midnight
Apple 2023 MacBook Air Laptop with M2 chip: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, 1080p FaceTime HD Camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; Midnight
$1,194.00
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