5 Best Laptops For Adobe Illustrator (+Buying Guide) – 2020

Let’s not sugarcoat it, Adobe Illustrator is the most painfully slow software from the entire Adobe Creative Cloud package.

The code is so old and outdated, you’ll always find a post on the official forums of someone complaining how slow it is compared to any other software they’ve used from the Adobe Suite.

What can I do then?

All you can do at this point is to make sure you can take full advantage of computer hardware if you want to optimize the software to work fast and speed up your workflow. AKA, grabing the best laptop for adobe illustrator.

Doing that will make sure you never get the software to run jerky, buggy with unbearable lag time , in other words, totally unusuable even with just simple tasks & operations.

Don’t worry though, it’s not going to get expensive but…

If your budget allows try to push for a few extra features I will talk abotu soon. That should help you avoid choppy response times when you start working with more & more complex designs at a much higher resolution later on.

Hardware Requirements for Illustrator (Short Version)

Look at the minimum requirements set by Adobe:

  • Pentium 4
  • 2GB 
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280 x 800 recommended)
  • A Intel, NVIDIA, or AMD video adapter w/ 2GBvRAM (Optional)

Not only are they too vague and weak but they don’t even mention what’s more optimal or what’s the best hardware nor does it tell you how exactly a spec, say a GPU, will help some people and others not.

What the hell they mean by pentium 4? Does intel even have a 2GB vRAM GPU?

Anyways, just ignore it.  If you want to learn all about the hardware specs you need and how it will help you at every instance of the software, read the last section of this post.

For now we’ll briefly tell you what you should know before buying a laptop then we’ll list 5 laptops meeting these recommendations.

RAM

Windows 10 takes plenty of RAM, mix in other apps running in the background into the soup and 4GB will go down pretty fast. So 8GB as a min. 

SSD
Adobe CC suite uses lots of scratch disk space, you’ll need to read/write files as fast as possible.That’s what Solid State Drives do: any capacity is fine even 128GB will do but you have to make sure it’s an SSD not a flash eMMC or whatever they got these days. There are far more adtanves to grab one but this is the main one, check the last section.

GPU

Recent versions of the software take advantage of a dedicated GPU. Honestly any dedicated GPU will do the trick. Don’t overspend here. Just make sure it’s recent you don’t want to grab an old one that suddenly becomes incompatible with future updates. EX: MX250,1050GTX, AMD Radeon RX are all good.

CPU

In this day and age. Illustrator is still single-threaded, it’s very dissapointing. So just focus on the CPU with the highest frequency you can afford: AMD, Intel, Dual Core or QuadCore doesn’t matter. Just look at the numbers. Anything above 3GHz is great. Don’t get too crazy with clock speeds.

Display

I am not sure if this should’ve been placed at the bottom. It’s very important:1080p resolution, no questions asked.

You are going to be staring at this thing for how long? Right. Be kind to your eyeballs and get an Matte Display or avoid working with the sun in your face. 

If budget allows get an IPS panel (better viewing angles and better color accuracy).

Note: You won’t see miracles with these recs but it should be enough to save you several seconds for operations. This translates to a lot less time working with the software. Ex: if you work to render a vector effect more than you are supposed , then those seconds will will add up to hours during a week.  


Top 5 Best Laptops For Adobe Illustrator

Leaving 2k$ MacBook Pros aside, if you look for hours on the web, these specs translates to laptops ranging from 500 to 800 bucks. What will make them more expensive depends on a lot of factor but it’s mostly the GPU/CPU combo. But I think as long as you grab a laptop with an SSD and plenty of RAM, your CPU/dGPU choice becomes secondary as long as you grab any recent ones.


1. Lenovo IdeaPad 3 

Best Budget Laptop For Adobe Illustrator

  AMD Ryzen 5 3500U

  8GB RAM DDR4

   AMD Radeon Vega 8

  256GB SATA III SSD

  14” TN full HD 1080p

  3.30lb

  8 hours

 Hardware

This isn’t necessarily the most ideal laptop for Adobe Illustrator but if you are on a budget and want to maximize specs and power, this is the best choice right now.

You are getting a full blown SSD, late generation Ryzen processor, 8GB RAM, FHD, 14” screen and it’s even lightweight.

I know there are other plenty 350-500$ laptops with similar specs. But if you look closely, most of them have Windows 10 in S mode, that means you can’t install anything on it unless you have a copy of Windows 10 yourself which sells for 100$ anyways.

 Performance

There are 3 or 4 laptops with these same specs (or a Core i3 10th gen processor) selling for 450-500$ but this is the cheapest one with all the specs mentioned packed into it.

Note that this is just a laptop for those who can’t afford anything above 500$. It doesn’t have a dedicated GPU but that doesn’t make unusable, GPU accelerated effects will be a tad slower especially when working with very high resolutions but that’s about it. You still got enough CPU & RAM & SSD power to blaze through the software.

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2. Acer Aspire 5

Best Laptop For Adobe Illustrator

  Core i5-1035G1

  8GB RAM DDR4

   NVIDIA MX350

  512GB PCIe NVMe

  15” full HD IPS

  5.8lbs

  6 hours

 Hardware

This is probably the best laptop you can right now if you are looking to maximize every bit of power from computers to accelerate operations with Adobe Illustrator.

This is almost 200$ more expensive but you are getting the latest entry level GPU which won’t make a huge huge difference with Adobe Illustrator (Since GPU acceleration for Illustrator is still in the early stages) but still GPU accelerated effects like working with complex paths & high resolution images) will be somewhat faster.

Another remarkable spec is the faster PCIe NVMe, this is going to help you with every operation that needs to read/write data, saving files, opening files, scanning for images, etc, faster than a Sata III SSD (x2 faster) and the recently released 10th Core i5 CPU which is going to help a lot more than the GPU.

Note that there are plenty of 600-900$ laptops with a dedicated GPU be sure to compare the specs here if you think you’re going to find a better deal

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3. 2020 ASUS TUF

Best ASUS Laptop For Adobe Illustrator 

  AMD Ryzen 5-3550H

  8GB RAM DDR4

  NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650

  256GB PCie NVMe SSD

  15” Full HD TN Anti Glare

  4.85lb

   6 hours

 Performance

This is a laptop with a GPU far more powerful than the MX350 and it’s only 100 dollars more expensive. Now that super powerful GPU (it’s actually mid-range in the grand scheme of GPUs) isn’t going to help a lot with the software because it doesn’t use GPU power a lot yet.

But I thought it would be a great alternative for those looking to maximize speed with other software from the Creative Cloud like Premiere, PhotoShop, LightRoom,etc.

The other cheapest laptop with a good deal is the  Acer Nitro 5 with a 1650GTX. I decided to list the ASUS instead because the Nitro 5 keeps running out stock, you should grab either though, they are both great deals at the same price and with the same performace for the Adobe Creative Suite.

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4. Microsoft Surface Book 3 

Best Portable Laptop For Adobe Illustrator

  Quad Core i7 10th gen

  16-32GB RAM

  NVIDIA GTX 1650-1660Ti 4GB-6GB GDDR5 vRAM

  256GB-2TB NVMe PCIe SSD

  13.5”-15” Pixel Sense (3000×2000) 

  3.62lb

  7 hours

This laptop is very expensive but there are good reasons for that. It’s super portable and it even has a touchScreen with a stylus you may find useful for designing in some cases. It also has just as much if not more power than the laptops we just went over (the same GPU but a lot more powerful CPU).

If you are looking for portability and an aluminum chasis, you can configure the specs to whatever your budget allows you to.

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5. HP Pavilion 17

Best Laptop For Adobe Illustrator & Graphic Design

   10th Core i5-9300H

  8GB DDR4

  NVIDIA 1650GTX

  256GB PCIe NVMe

  17.3” full HD 

  4.6lb

  17 hours

The next step or the next super useful thing to get after a dedicated GPU and a fast SSD is a big screen. This will make editing much easier and give you tons of space to put all of your tools right next to your canvas with the downside of being more heavy of course.

17” laptops with dedicated GPUs can be very expensive starting at 1000$ but surprisingly HP has managed to built a 17” laptop not only with a powerful dedicated GPU but with the latest of the latest Core i5 high performance processors.

I don’t know how long this deal is going to last, probably a few weeks and by the time you read it will be unfortunately out of stock. So here’s the Lenovo Ideapad L340 . It’s more expensive alternative that’s still a lot cheaper than your average 17” laptop with a dedicated GPU

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Hardware Requirements for Adobe Illustrator CC

No matter what you do  there will be a few instances with Adobe Illustrator you’ll be faced with major slowdowns especially with traces watecolor images.

Why?

It’s not just because of your hardware. Several other factors affect how quickly and efficiently Adobe Illustrator can run: the two most important are how you use Illustrator and your selected options.

Don’t let that stop you from getting the best hardware requirements and from learning how the software takes advantage of each component to make sure you get the best & fastest workflow and reduce the number of hours you spend on a project.

 
CPU

There are two things to look after when shopping for CPUs: clock speed and #cores.
 Clock Speed

The clockspeed (measured in GHZ) affects Illustrator the most. The software manipulates a large amount of data when you start playing around with your design and for that it needs to do many calculations, these calculations are obviously done faster with a faster processor.

Cores

In a nutshell, cores refers to the number of CPUs within a CPU. Think of it having more than one calculator to solve a problem.

Unfortunately, compared to Photoshop and inDesign, Adobe Illustrator performance is awful, its slow and even at the most basic operations. Why?

The main reason is that it can only use one core. Which by the way it’s totally ridiculous because today nearly every processor has at least two cores. The software has stayed this way for several years now.

Don’t believe me? If you open Illustrator with the task manager and start drawing vectors, you’ll see only one of thread of the available (4-6 from laptops) being used at 100%, the rest at 0%.

My advice is to get any processor with at least 2.5GHz.


If you multitask with simple apps such as a web browser, itunes, office,etc. Any dual core CPU will be okay as long as it’s from a recent generation (from the 6th onward).

 
In the unlikely scenario, you do happen to run another editing software and multitask then get a quadcore processor:
  

RAM

You ought to be be out of your mind to go with the 3GB recommended by Adobe. Windows 10 itself takes +2GB. Other apps in the Adobe Suite will need at least 8GB of RAM.

Even if you don’t plan on using them, if you work with bigger file sizes and add up more effects you’ll need more and more RAM. There will be a few instances where you’ll ran out of RAM even if you go for 8GB but these are rare.

minimum 8GB, max 16GB

16GB will make sure you fly through whatever you throw at it but that may be too much if this isn’t your main tool of work.

Nobody is concerned about the storage size. Illustrator and its file sizes don’t take up too much space. More importantly is the storage speed.

Why?

 
There will be a few instances where a program asks for way too much RAM(that you can’t really install on a computer).
 
In this case the program (any program) will resort to using your storage device to operate (this is called using a scratch disk). Using scratch disk to process information is several times slower than using RAM.
 
Don’t forget what a turtle Illustrator is already, so it’ll be far more slower than any other software using scratch disk.

The situation gets even worse if  your workflow relies too much on using the storage device (Ex: working with an embedded bitmap) and all you have is a slow old fashioned hard disk drive. Needless to say it’ll take way too long to access & process information.

Storage

Solid State Drive

A Solid State Drive can help you in this situation, the fastest one is 17x faster than an HDD. They’re expensive with small storage capacity but who cares, you can always get an external hard drive if you can’t afford a high storage SSD.

That’s not all they can do, they’ll also boot up your system in seconds and start your software in a flash. Saving/Opening and anything related to reading/writing data will be several times faster too.

These are the speeds of SSDs & HDDs from high to low:

 
SSD PCIe NVMe, SSD PCIe, SSD SATA III , SSD SATA II , 7200 RPM, 5400RPM

Aim for the fastest you can afford and go to the Control Panel to set Illustrator to use Scratch disk to the fastest drive you have on your laptop.

GPU

GPUs come more in handy when you are dealing with large situations: Ex: creating very complex compound paths and when working with higher display resolutions.
 
It’s a recent miracle by Adobe to start using GPU acceleration to improve performance, this is still experimental as you can check in their website so you don’t have to go to go bankrupt to buy the latest out there.

More specifically, all the advantages of having a GPU for Illustrator are listed here.

According to their latest post (yeah released a few years ago), as long as you have the latest update of “Illustrator CC you can speed up operations in the entire canvas by 10x

Display

The perfect resolution at this point in time is 1080p.

Nearly every editing software out there is optimized to work with 1080p, if you have to work with 4k resolutions for the rest of the Adobe Suit get a desktop.

Glossy vs Matte

Between a glossy and matte display, the call is yours. Glossy displays will give you more vibrant colors but that’s not necessarily what you’ll see on print or your final work.

Matte displays are the way to go for me. They will protect your eyes from glares if you there’s too much light around your workspace plus they won’t mess up with what you on the screen.

IPS vs TN

There are a few laptops with an IPS panel as well as Matte display, IPS panels cover more  colorspace than a TN display. The difference isn’t abysmal for laptops though. If you do really need extreme color accuracy, then using an external display for the final touch ups it’s the way to go .

MacBooks

What is the best mac Laptop for Adobe Illustrator? 

Pretty much all MacBooks can run Adobe Illustrator without issues (even the weaksauce New MacBook). The only difference in their performance is whether or not they have a graphics card. MacBook Air & Pros without a graphic cards will give you about the same performance when dealing with low resolution while the MacBook Pro with AMD Radeon GFX Cards will outperform the rest of the MacBooks when dealing with large situations.

Last Words

If you have a single core +2.5 GHZ CPU, a decent GPU and enough memory and still way too many problems. You should start looking at the supporting frameworks and your OS configuration.

By Configuring your OS to run efficiently you can increase the amount of resources available for illustrator. There’s a nice post in their Blog  on how to get the most out of your current laptop or computer here.

I am more of a Photoshop guy than Illustrator so if there’s anything you’d like to suggest, add or correct please leave a comments below.