What Computer Should You Get as a Graphic Designer?
Basic Specs Your Computer Should Have
You have learned where you need to start your road as a designer and which programs you need to master, but now you have to find a machine that can handle all the capabilities of these programs and perhaps the most debated question of all designers: “Should I buy a Mac or a PC?”
This question alone has sparked countless debates and has divided friends and family. OK, maybe not that last one (hopefully) but it is a big decision because it is a big investment. The “Mac vs PC” is a bigger discussion that I will save for another article, but for now I will help you look for some raw specs in any machine. I know when I was first starting out, I did a ton of research trying to figure out what I should buy and what I could afford because there are so many different factors you need to account for. I will try to help you streamline your research on some basic requirements your computer should have to help optimize your workflow and to help figure out what is the best route for you to take.
Your processor is probably one of the most critical components of your machine as it regulates the machine. Yes, there are other factors when taking into account the speed of a computer but the processor is a major part of that. I personally use an Intel core i7-5820K processor on my home PC and I absolutely love it. It allows me to have multiple programs opened at once (as you will most likely need to as a designer) without seeing any decrease in performance, even on huge files. This is (at the time of writing this article anyways) one of the best if not the best processor Intel has created. There are however some cheaper options and other competitors out there. The Intel core i5-4690K processor is also a good option with a cheaper price tag. I understand that starting out money is usually tight, so you have to figure out what configuration is best for you and your budget. Because of the brand name, Intel might be a bit pricy for you, but don’t worry there are great alternatives. AMD is a brand I have used on previous machines that were very comparable to Intel.
If you plan on doing a lot of animation or video editing I would recommend making sure the GPU is decent quality but don’t blow your entire budget on the processor because you can make up speed and performance in other parts especially if the video card is built into your motherboard because it might be overkill and you can spend your money a little more wisely.
I would recommend utilizing at least 16 gigabytes of RAM. I personally use 32 gigabytes of RAM on my home machine as to help my workflow on large files and using multiple apps and programs simultaneously. If budget is a factor I would do no less than 8 gigs of RAM but keep in mind you want your computer to last at least 5 years without upgrading parts so it might be worth the initial investment to go for the 16 or if you can afford it 32 gigs of RAM.
I personally think your motherboard isn’t as important when building your computer as other factors. Your primary focus when choosing motherboards will be compatibility to parts and room for upgrading it to make sure it can support any possible upgrades you may want to do in the future, especially if you can’t afford the specs for other parts now. Make sure to do some research on pcpartpicker.com or other sites to check for compatibility.
I like to have at least a two hard drive system as you will see great increase in speeds compared to a single hard drive machine. My current configuration on my machine is a 256 gig solid state drive (SSD) where I put my OS and main apps and programs on and a 1 Terabyte hard disk drive (HDD) drive to store all my files. By investing in an SSD for your main operating system your boot up time for the computer itself and the applications will be ridiculously fast which allows for less stress especially if you’re working on tight deadlines and you can’t wait forever for updates. The only drawbacks to SSD drives are they are more expensive. I recommend going with at least a 120 GB SSD drive but if you can afford it go higher. Also if you can afford two SSD drives fantastic, but it will get expensive. Right now storage is cheap especially in external HDD drives so if your startup budget is a little tight go with as high as you can afford now and you can always invest in externals later, which I recommend anyways to back your files up. I will go more into smart file storage in future articles.
This applies more to desktop users but is also good advice to those who use laptops or docking stations. I recommend having 2 monitors especially if you do a lot of video or photo editing. Now with today’s monitors out there, two monitors might be overkill especially if you opt for the widescreen monitors or those with a really large screen (anything over 27 inches) However, if you are working on a smaller desk size or can’t afford the large screen, look into dual screens at a cheaper price. Crunch the numbers and see which is more cost effective for you. I recommend two screens however (when going standard monitor size) so you can optimize one screen for your work space, and use the other one for your tool panels, timelines, and music station of choice. The more screen real estate you can get and fit well on your desk the better. I will go into some desk setup guides and tours in future articles as well.
There are many other factors that come into play when building your computer from scratch but whether you’re buying pre-built or doing it yourself, this list will help you find some solid numbers to help you in your research. I will list some links below on where to buy some of these parts at the best prices I can find. Always remember to do your research and invest in a computer that will last you five to ten years, no matter how fast technology is advancing today.
I have included links of my recommendations to help you get an idea on what you might want. I want to stress that I personally use all of these brands and I recommend these products because they have worked well for me, and I will go more in depth on each item I recommend in a product review series in the future to help you figure out what is the right product for you.
If you have any questions about these products, please leave me a comment or email me with any questions you might have and I will do my best to help you understand the product to help you make a better informed decision.
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