Many attractive laptops are now available for graphic designers. Still, only a desktop PC is often capable of delivering the computing power, screen size, and scalability required for high-end graphics, design, and video work.
In recent years, the stylish all-in-one (AIO) models of Apple’s iMac have proven popular with many graphic designers. These have inspired many models similar to Windows PC manufacturers. Many of these models are borderline imitations of servility, but some PC makers have found interesting angles, with features like Microsoft’s Surface Studio’s adjustable touchscreen, which can be lowered to the desk and used. like a traditional drawing board for design and illustration work.
In the meantime, HP has outperformed the 27-inch iMac with massive 32-inch and 34-inch curved AIOs. The weakness of these all-in-one models is, of course, their low expandability. It took Apple several years to revamp its ill-fated “trash” Mac Pro, before finally launching a new Mac Pro in late 2019. After the recent launch of the M1-based iMac, creators now have a wide choice of desktop and form factor platforms: Mac Intel (Mini, iMac, Mac Pro), Mac M1 (Mini, iMac), and Intel / Windows (mini-desktop, small form factor, AIO, tower).
editorial staff share with you their selection of the best desktops for graphic designers.
Apple Mac Mini
The Mac Mini has always been Apple’s “low cost” Mac for consumers. The launch in late 2020 of a new Mac Mini based on Apple’s SoC M1 gives the compact desktop system a massive graphics boost that could grab the attention of creative home users.
Apple claims that the integrated 8-core GPU in the M1 processor boosts graphics performance six-fold over previous Mac Mini models, and our testing found very respectable performance for such a modestly priced system. And, unusually for Apple, the Mac Mini M1 has even benefited from a price drop, as it now starts at $ 699, with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage.
Developers need to update their software and applications in order to take full advantage of the M1’s performance, but as Microsoft and Adobe already provide native versions of Office and Photoshop respectively, this process is well under way. It’s just a shame that Apple continues to charge such high prices for its RAM and storage upgrades.
If you like MacOS and the form factor of the Mac Mini, but you are not convinced by the M1 platform, an alternative solution is to pair the Mac Mini from Intel, whose prices start from 1000 euros for a device equipped with an i5 core of 8e generation, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage, and to boost its integrated graphics performance with a powerful graphics card in an external GPU box connected to Thunderbolt 3.
Apple iMac 27 inch
Apple’s move to the Arm-based M1 SoC platform is clearly the future of the Mac (and high-end iPads), but Intel-based Macs will still be around for a while – especially for professionals, being given that the M1 platform currently caps at 16 GB of RAM and is limited to integrated graphics cards. It will also be some time before all of the key creator apps are optimized for the M1 (although most of them will still perform well thanks to Rosetta 2 code translation).
In the meantime, the 27-inch iMac mid-2020, equipped with Intel Core i5, i7 or i9 processors of 10e generation, remains an interesting AIO option for creators. It doesn’t have the expansion slots and tower case scalability of the Mac Pro, but the 27-inch Intel iMac includes an impressive 5K display (5120 x 2880 resolution, 217.6 ppi) that supports l DCI-P3 color space widely used in video editing, and it comes with powerful purchasing options.
The Apple Online Store offers three basic configurations for the 27-inch iMac: a device equipped with a 3.1-4.5 GHz 6-core Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of SSD storage and an AMD Radeon Pro 5300 graphics card with 4 GB of dedicated video memory; a device equipped with a 3.3-4.8 GHz processor, a 6-core Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB of SSD storage and a 4 GB Radeon Pro 5300 graphics card; and finally a last device equipped with an 8-core Core i7 processor, 3.8-5 GHz, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB of SSD storage and an 8 GB Radeon Pro 550XT graphics card.
Customization options include nano-textured glass, 10-core 3.6-5 GHz Core i9 processor, up to 128 GB of RAM, up to 8 TB of SSD storage, 8 GB Radeon Pro 5700 graphics cards or Radeon Pro 5700 XT 16 GB, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Activate them to the max, and you end up with a powerful but expensive system.
Apple Mac Pro
When Apple announced the switch to Apple Silicon in June 2020, the brand was careful to point out that Intel-based Macs would continue to be shipped and supported for several years to come. The arrival in August of this powerful 27-inch iMac was proof of this, even if it made the now-discontinued iMac Pro redundant. Apple unveiled the new version of the Mac Pro in 2019, some critics arguing from the outset that it took Apple six years to simply revert to the aluminum tower design it used before the cylindrical “trash” Mac Pro from Apple. 2013.
However, the vintage 2019 Mac Pro is a whole different beast, designed to tackle modern tasks like 4K / 8K video editing and VR, and it has done a lot to restore Apple’s credibility with its most demanding professional users. And, with customization options like a 28-core Xeon processor, it seems likely the Mac Pro will hang on to its high-end Intel processors for a while.
Expansion has always been Apple’s Achilles heel, but the 2019 Mac Pro revived the expansion slots of previous models, with seven PCI-e 16 slots and support for two Radeon GPUs. It is expensive, even by Apple standards, with a starting price of around 6,000 euros or for an 8-core Xeon W processor running at 3.5 GHz (4.0 GHz with TurboBoost), 32 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD and a single Radeon Pro 580X graphics card with 8 GB of dedicated video RAM.