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How to Buy a Laptop For Content Creation: A Guide for 2021‑2022

For even for the most tech-savvy artists, choosing your next computer—your next digital canvas—can be a bit nerve-wracking, and rightly so. It’s a big decision!

The right laptop enables content creators like you to perform creative tasks faster by accelerating creative apps and dramatically reducing wait times. AI features that handle repetitive tasks are also faster, freeing artists to experiment and invest in honing their skills.

Time is money, so whether you’re an inspiring YouTube creator who owes an assignment for university, or a freelance designer rushing to meet a critical deadline, hardware can be the difference between merely getting things done or meeting your creative ambition.

In this article, we’ll explain all of the decisions you’ll have to make when buying a laptop for content creation so you can get the best one for your needs and budget.

✏️ Thanks to our friends at NVIDIA for sponsoring this blog post!

Quick Tips

  • Start with an NVIDIA RTX GPU: Most creative apps are GPU-dependent, and you can’t upgrade these in laptops. A properly powered NVIDIA RTX GPU will ensure creative apps run faster and smoother.
  • Consider future upgrades: added RAM and storage can be advantageous in heavy-duty creative workflows, especially video editing in 3D modeling.
  • Display resolution over speed: 4K and higher screens will have slower Hz but high refresh rates aren’t necessary in most creative workflows.
  • Accessories matter for on-the-go creating: a high-quality keyboard and mouse can do wonders for comfort and efficiency.


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What GPU should I get?

The graphics card (GPU) is the critical component that breaks up complex information and problems into thousands or millions of separate tasks, then solves those smaller problems rapidly and more efficiently. All computer components matter (more on display, CPU, RAM shortly) but it’s the GPU that drives performance and is easily the most important part.

Modern creative apps are GPU-accelerated, so if you have a discrete graphics card—separate from the CPU and dedicated to visuals—tasks requiring significant computational power will be much faster.

To help decide on a GPU, let’s review the different creative types of work, which creative apps are sped up by an NVIDIA RTX GPU, review some of the more popular features, and decide which range of GPUs make the most sense.

📸 🎨 Photography and Graphic Design

Accelerated apps: Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, Adobe 3D Stager, CorelDRAW, Corel Photo-Paint.

Capturing images is only the beginning. Luckily photographers can touch up photos far easier.

Adobe Lightroom Classic gives images crisper detail, better color rendering, and fewer artifacts with the NVIDIA RTX-accelerated AI-powered Enhance Details feature, and for special projects, Super Resolution can intelligently enlarge photos by 4x the resolution while maintaining clean edges and preserving important details. Lightroom has new features to mask and isolate people, Select Subject and Select Sky respectively, speed up with RTX GPUs and powered by AI to remove painful masking by hand!

Photoshop also has 30+ RTX GPU-accelerated features and effects to rapidly enhance and style images.

Designers specializing in Adobe Illustrator can interact and zoom in and out of complex vector graphics smoothly and effortlessly with RTX GPU-acceleration.

2D artists can easily visualize their 2D art in photorealistic 3D with RTX GPU-accelerated rendering in Adobe 3D Stager.

Verdict: To take advantage of these AI features, one of the GeForce RTX 3050, 3050 Ti or NVIDIA RTX 2000 GPU will do.

🎥 Video Editing

Accelerated apps: Adobe After Effects, REDCINE-X PRO, Adobe Premiere Pro, Vegas Pro, Black Magic Design, Blackmagic Resolve.

NVIDIA RTX GPUs enable shooting, editing, and delivering faster video in 4K, 6K, even 8K.

Playback and edit ultra-high resolution video smoothly without pre-caching or generating proxies in Adobe Premiere Pro, Blackmagic Resolve, REDCINE-X PRO, and more with RTX GPU-acceleration.

Premiere Pro editors get a special bonus by way of a hardware encoder in RTX GPUs exporting up to 5x faster. The RTX GPU-accelerated AI Auto Reframe feature crops landscapes to export files in various formats without having to edit manually and Scene Edit Detection easily identifies cuts in video, all adding up to massive time savings.

Power users in Blackmagic Resolve can use Auto color, Shot match, and RTX GPU-accelerated color grading to get to the perfect color on final files.

Verdict: It depends on the use case. Working with 4K or smaller files, pick up a GeForce RTX 3050, 3050 Ti or NVIDIA RTX 2000 GPU. At 6K the GeForce RTX 3060, RTX 3070, NVIDIA RTX A3000 or NVIDIA RTX A4000 will get the job done. 8K or above for max performance, pick up a GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 3080 16 GB or NVIDIA RTX A5000.

✨ 3D Animation

Accelerated apps: NVIDIA Omniverse, Autodesk Arnold, Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, Adobe Substance 3D Stager, Sampler, Designer, Painter, Blender Cycles, Maxon Cinema 4D, Daz Studio, NVIDIA Iray, Keyshot, Unity, Unreal Engine, OTOY OctaneRender, Redshift, Chaos Group V-Ray.

It’s no surprise 3D has the most accelerated apps, considering the heavy rendering and editing workload. 3D artists have the most to gain with NVIDIA RTX GPUs.

Model and render large 3D scenes in real-time and create complex animations seamlessly with RTX GPU-accelerated apps like Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya, Maxon Cinema 4D, and Blender.

Accelerated ray tracing with RTX GPUs lets 3D artists visualize photorealistic materials in real-time.

Blender artists can take advantage of dedicated ray-tracing hardware on RTX GPUs to dramatically increase rendering speeds and RTX GPU-accelerated AI Denoising in the viewport cleans up noise on the fly providing a cleaner palette to work from.

All Adobe Substance 3D apps including Stager, Sampler, Designer and Painter are RTX GPU-accelerated ensuring the best performance across the entire workflow.

Verdict: Getting started in 3D and working with smaller files, get a GeForce RTX 3050, 3050 Ti or NVIDIA RTX 2000 GPU. Demanding 3D work with large files will require the GeForce RTX 3060, RTX 3070, NVIDIA RTX A3000 or NVIDIA RTX A4000. Max performance comes with a GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 3080 16 GB or NVIDIA RTX A5000.

Other specs to consider

Display

Artists have to consider resolution, color calibration, and panel type when selecting a display.

Most laptops start at 1080p, scaling up to 1080p, 1440p, and 4K. Specific creative workflows require the absolute maximum resolution and pixel density such as photography, but any of these will work fine, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Accurate color calibration and brightness are important, DCI P3 color gamut and Adobe RGB coverage provide needed contrast, the former recommended for video artists and the latter for graphic design and photography. PANTONE certification is becoming increasingly mainstream and recognized as a top choice in the creative community.

OLED displays produce the most vivid colors and the purest blacks, 25% more colorful than LCD displays. OLED cut out 40 percent of blue light generated by LCD screens, a strain for creators who spend a lot of time on their laptops.

Verdict: DCI P3 color or Adobe RGB color calibrated, minimum 1080p, OLED or AMOLED preferred panel.

CPU

Raw processing power and cores are needed to run the OS and ensure smooth interaction between vital machine components, removing possible bottlenecks and allowing the GPU’s impressive performance to shine.

There are many CPU options available, Color My Tech has a detailed breakdown of CPUs for laptops in content creation. Remember the GPU is more important, but a CPU cannot be upgraded.

Verdict: An Intel i5 10th Gen or AMD r5 5th Gen or above can handle all but the most demanding workflows. Money spent on an upgraded CPU could be routed to the display or more RAM.

RAM

Memory is a crucial element in digital creative work. More RAM enables artists to work with larger video, photo, or 3D files, increases workflow speeds, and delivers a much smoother experience when working in multiple applications at once.

Verdict: 16 GB is a minimum for working in and out of medium sized files, freelancers and professionals should consider 32 GB or more.

The Bottom Line

NVIDIA’s collection of laptops are specifically designed for content creation, powered by NVIDIA RTX GPUs, meeting the above specs requirements, and are purpose-built with vivid color displays and blazing-fast memory and storage to boost creative workflows: NVIDIA Studio laptops.

Studio laptops come with serious advantages for content creators. The NVIDIA Studio platform uses the power of RTX GPUs to accelerate 70+ creative apps, and comes with exclusive, NVIDIA-developed apps.

  • NVIDIA Studio Drivers: free software downloads, exclusively for NVIDIA GPUs, optimizing creative apps, extensively tested to deliver the performance and reliability you need to create and share incredible work.
  • NVIDIA Canvas: AI quickly turns simple brushstrokes into realistic landscape images to paint with 15 material brushes like trees, mountains, or clouds, and choose from 9 styles, or upload your own, to accentuate painting
  • NVIDIA Broadcast: AI takes livestreams, voice chats, and video conference calls to the next level with AI-enhanced effects such as noise removal and virtual backgrounds.
  • NVIDIA Omniverse: collaborate in a virtual 3D universe with other artists, each with their preferred creative apps.

For a limited time this holiday, get three months of Adobe Creative Cloud ($238.47 value) when you buy a select NVIDIA Studio laptop — good for new and existing Adobe customers.

NVIDIA Studio is also sharing the love by way of featurette videos, created by some of the most popular content creators, discussing their journeys into content creation and sharing tips on how to get started. These one-of-a-kind insights into each creative field will include giveaways, the same model Studio laptop they use! â– 

Find more Process stories on our blog Courtside. Have a suggestion? Contact stories@dribbble.com.


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