Best 2 in 1 Laptop for Illustrator

Hi Everyone,

I made a similar post a while ago, although I don’t think I was specific enough and after some further research I was looking for some advice on what the community thinks would be the best “2 in 1” laptop for using Illustrator.

After looking through other forums and general review sites I’ve narrowed it down to a few options that fit into my price range and “seem” to tick all the necessary boxes.

Before I continue I know the majority of the community would advise to go with a desktop/laptop with some sort of drawpad combination, (At least thats what I have taken from my personal research) but for my situation and needs a 2 in 1 laptop with the touchscreen being used as my “drawpad” seems to be my best option at the moment.

So here are three options I have picked out that appeal to me for one reason or another…

What would your pick be?

Dell Inspiron 14 - 5000 Series
14" Screen
8 GB RAM
256 GB SSD
Intel Core i5 Processor

Of my three picks this is the budget option that still hits all the key points and still has decent reviews.

Microsoft 13.5 Surface Book 2
13.5" Screen
8 GB RAM
256 GB SSD
Intel Core i5 Processor

Going by reviews I have seen, this is probably my personal pick as this laptop seems to be great for design purposes and I can currently get it for half the usual price of retail as it is on sale at the moment.

HP Pavilion x360 14
14" Screen
16 GB RAM
512 GB SSD
Intel Core i7 Processor

Definitely has the best specs out of the 3 options but at the higher end of price range. I don’t know if the specs alone can push out the more popular option being the Microsoft.

Any feedback at all would be greatly appreciated…

Especially if anyone has any experience working on a 2 in 1 laptop.

Thanks in advance!

I can’t comment on any of those machines since I haven’t used them and have no need of the type of computer you need.

However, I will say that 8GB of RAM is not enough for graphic design work. Yes, you’ll be able to open Adobe apps, but open two of them and most everything will soon get bogged down and running like tar on a cold day. Eight gigabytes might be fine for someone who just browses the web, writes a few emails, watches video and uses a text editor and a spread sheet. But for graphic design work, it’s just not enough to work efficiently.

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It is tempting to try to balance performance with price. This can be tricky and misleading. Buy the best, biggest, fastest machine you can afford, preferably with the latest processor for maximum future-proofing. You save money by spending more now and not having to replace it in 3 years time.

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Hi niallmack!

This is my personal opinion only but I hope it could help you with your choices.

From your picks, it occur to me that you are looking for a computer or a device capable of running Illustrator for pure illustration purpose. Furthermore, what you are looking for isn’t a high-end model but a budget device falling in the range of $1200 USD or under.

While it depends a lot on the type of work you are thinking of doing with this new device, from my experience, the three picks above will not be able to fully satisfy your needs.

First, no matter if it’s illustration or design work, a device capable of processing a large canvas is better. You may think you can make-do with drawing illustrations on a smaller canvas. However, by doing so, you will risk two things: First, you might not be able to catch a good look at your illustration in overall as the smaller your canvas is, the more difficult it is for you to catch all of the details and the general feeling from your illustration. And second, you will lose a lot of details and your illustration will be greatly limited due to the small canvas.

Second, choosing a low- to mid-end device at this stage might not worth the efforts and troubles unless you are a hobbyist and not someone who is looking to work professionally soon. As a professional, more than frequently, we have to work with exceptionally highly detailed images and illustrations. Recently, 4K images have become the new standard (as monitors capable of processing 4K images are becoming widely available) and in many cases (depending on your field), it’s not rare to work with 8K or 16K images. Illustrations and images at these resolution, while can be viewed on mid-end devices, will completely freeze your computer when put into an image processing software such as Photoshop or Illustrator. As such, you should consider finding a high-end device if you are thinking of pursuing this field professionally. A device with a minimum of 32-GB RAM is recommended for professional work, If you are thinking of doing high-res video editing also then at least 64-GB RAM and a dedicated GPU (Graphic Card if you prefer it this way) is required (and believe me, you will still experience lags and such even with machines at this range). 8-GB RAM will only be capable of processing simple images at 1080p at most and will start to encounter problems at higher resolution.

Third, I believe you are putting too much weights on the general performance of the device and not on some other aspects that an illustrator or a designer need to pay attention to. One of the aspects I’m talking about is the quality of the display of your device. As a designer (and a concept artist), I highly value the color accuracy and the high-resolution image processing power of my display. While some might argue that you can adjust the color by yourself, a good display with high color accuracy will greatly enhance the quality of your work even when your work is designed for printing or digital exhibiting. The three picks you’ve listed above are designed for general audiences and convenience usages and are not optimized for creative works. As such, in general, their displays’ capabilities is limited and should not be chosen.

I have a bit of question though, why do you need the drawing capability of a touch screen? While it’s certainly more convenient to draw directly on the screen, depending on the type of your illustration work, drawing using a mouse is also a viable approach. Personally, I’ve only gotten my drawing tablet recently and for the last few years (ever since I begin doing designs), a good mouse has always been my companion. If your illustrations are not overly complicated, I would recommend sacrificing the touch screen for a better device at the same price range.

Above are my personal opinions and some experiences. I hope they could help you to get a clearer image of what you are dealing with and could help you to find a better choice.

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There are all kinds of illustration and for some, the 2 in 1 is a reasonable option. While a laptop/desktop and tablet are supernice (I just invested in a wacom pro and still learning to use it, LOL) it isn’t always the answer for the illustrator on the go.

I’ve only recently picked back up on illustrating and many of the folks I hang around with online are using the touch screen thing, but mostly for smaller things (though I did recently see a really cute though admittedly simple animation done on one.) I agree though that 8gigs of ram isn’t enough. Always max out your ram to the top of your wallet capability, especially with devices that aren’t made with upgradable ram (a lot of them are soldered in and not owner-serviceable.)

16 will work (that’s what I have in my production machine here at work and have absolutely NO issues with InD, Illy, Photoshop, email, web browser and various helper programs open all at once. Most of the time, the trick with lag is having over 150gigs of free hard drive space for scratch. My home device lags on multi-layer photoshop files because it only has about 80-100gigs scratch on any given day. But it has a small hard drive, and that was another mistake I made. Shoulda paid the extra couple hundred to double the size of the main drive.

Based solely on the Ram gigs and hardrive space I’d go with your last item on your list. I have no experience with the actual machine itself.

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Thanks for the response, I did think that may be an issue so I might need to up the RAM to 16 GB to be on the safe side…
Mostly I will only be running Illustrator with Chrome simultaneously but yeah, more RAM definitely wouldn’t hurt haha!

Thank you for the response, yeah I might just bite the bullet and get the highest spec/newest one within my price range as this would help with future -proofing like you mentioned!

I really appreciate the response and your feedback…
You have certainly given me a lot to think about haha!

To be completely honest, I currently work as an eLearning developer, and I have some background in graphic design and I really enjoy that side of work developing online courses…

More often I’m having to create my own vector images for the courses I create, and since I enjoy it I wanted to start some freelance logo design and general graphic design kind of jobs purely as a hobby but if it makes me a little bit of cash then that’s a bonus.

So yeah, to cut a long story short I am basically starting out on my own so I don’t really need the best tools, at least just now at this early stage - Once I’ve tested the water and a year down the line if everything was going well I would have no issue upgrading to a high spec device…

The reason I want a touchscreen rather than simply using a mouse with a monitor is due to a lot of the work I find myself doing is trace work from photos so the stylus with a touchscreen would be a great additional tool to have, although I am used to using a mouse and would still prefer it in some circumstances, the touch screen would just give me that additional option.
Also you mentioned having a large canvas helps with your perspective, my work around for this, as I often work remotely from home I can use my TV as a monitor if I ever need that extra space and if I’m in the office I have a large 32" monitor so these should hopefully suffice in that regard.

As I mentioned, you have given me a lot to think about, and I am going to do a little more research, especially regarding the display quality along with colour accuracy as I have found this to be an issue in the past…

Anyway, really appreciate the feedback, and thanks for taking the time to to reply to my post!

Thanks, really appreciate the feedback!

Yeah going from most of the comments, RAM seems to be paramount so I’m now leaning towards my last pick, but having a look at other options too…

Would love a Wacom drawpad of some sort but I think i need to justify it first and see if I have a real need for it at this early stage… Not that I’m jealous or amything haha!

Anyway, appreciate the feedback!

Ha ha, I’ve had a lot of people offer to take the wacom off my hands. LOL.
Drawing directly to the computer kinda does take some of the fun out of it though. It makes you not think things through completely when you decide mid-ink that you have all your hatching the wrong way in one particular corner of the drawing. Or find yourself with that missing element that shoulda gone where all that hatching is… Too easy to just flip the pen and erase. Didn’t realize how much I enjoyed the meticulousness of not making an ink mistake. But direct to computer does indeed remove a huge time element that can be deadly in commercial art.

Gotta mention tracing from photos, unless they’re your own, runs a certain risk. It’s fine to use photos for sectional references (ie what does a hand look like in this posture,) but just about everything you find on line belongs to someone. Copyright issues can arise. Here’s a famous case:
http://www.ethicsingraphicdesign.org/was-shepard-faireys-use-fair/

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