What computer should I buy for school?

I’m starting my Graphic Design program in August. What should I look for in a desktop computer when shopping around? I’m currently looking at a Dell because I have credit with them. But my budget is $800. I’m also sharing this computer with my 2 grade school kids. Any suggestions are helpful, thanks!

If I were starting now I would get an older used Mac desktop as a work horse and a newer used Mac laptop as a design tool, or maybe a tablet. I wouldn’t buy anything brand new. I would plug the older Mac into my living room TV instead of buying a monitor.

If I knew I was only going to do electronic media publishing and no print publishing, I would get a Microsoft surface instead.

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I’ve got a Dell Latitude E6530 with a terabyte solid state drive, and although it’s not new, it’s a strong workhorse. I have an added large monitor that’s color-calibrated.

But a Mac OS might be good too, so you can work on either platform.

Personally, I believe you should choose whichever, windows or mac, that you’re comfortable with. Both are good for print, and both are good for digital.

Thanks, this helps!

Multiple used computers are more reliable and more productive than a single new computer for almost the same price.

I’m looking now at a website that sells used Mac computers. iMac under $300. I already own an iPad Pro w/ the Apple pencil. This is a lot more inexpensive than the Dells I was looking at, thanks!

You can find some great deals on eBay. I got a “broken” 2011 Macbook Pro 15" for $150. Matte screen too. All I had to do was change out the hard drive. To be fair, I haven’t seen another deal like that posted since I found that, but if you keep an eye out you can find some really great deals.

I’m thinking of getting an old MacBook Air as a backup for my 1st Generation MacBook Pro that I still use as a primary computer 12 years later. I screen share with newer computers sometimes, so it’s like having a newer laptop when I need it.

I paid $4k for it then, but it’s only worth around $120 now. I’m surprised you can get one 5 years newer on ebay for not much more. I definitely got my money’s worth out of it, but it’s starting to run pretty hot. I have to use extra fans to keep it cool.

I’d suggest going to pc part picker and building a pc( a virtual one) with a decently higher end CPU which can run adobe products decently well and getting a minimum of 8GB ram. I’d also suggest you to check out YouTube videos like these:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a9DBU4sROA&index=195&list=PLpem338Sb8AJTSOTXHbCuhltM7GONWDfA&t=0s

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X47JuW84pyk&index=194&list=PLpem338Sb8AJTSOTXHbCuhltM7GONWDfA&t=0s

  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ63w5_vXbg

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Used is good and all, but I’d only go that route if you are completely comfortable with getting your fingers in there and swapping out parts when it becomes necessary, while also having all necessary backup systems in place.
Where your job is depending on your hardware to perform, it better do so at all costs.

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I am a big believer in Mac for graphic design. Also if you are looking for a job in the industry everyone uses a Mac. Just need more memory it comes with standard 4. I have 12 and it works fine in iMac mid 2010. You can upgrade it to 16. I buy memory from Crucial good price.

If you are partial to the Mac OS and Apple hardware for your own reasons, that’s fine. I don’t understand it, but you’re entitled to it of course. However this:

. . . is outright misinformation.

Not everyone uses a Mac, and statements like that posted to a student forum imply there isn’t any other viable choice. This was never true. I’ve been gainfully designing on the Windows platform for decades; and both platforms for about 2/3 of my career. Now completely free to choose one or the other for about the last 8 years, I’ve happily kissed Mac goodbye for good.

Tati: If you prefer the Windows OS, or shopping more than one brand for your hardware, choosing products other than Mac/Apple will pose no threat to your career potential.

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I’m sure 90% of the industry designs using a Mac. I’ve been doing graphic design since 1995 and every job I had uses a Mac. Those jobs here in NYC in high profile companies that was PC driven except the design dept. Mac I’m sure is industry standard.

Geez Harris, I really wish I could just let this go, but an off-the-cuff statistic:

. . . is something I never accept. Presenting it like data doesn’t make it true or relevant no matter how “sure” you are. Furthermore, Graphic Design isn’t an industry.

To again rebut misinformation presented here in the student forum, there’s nothing magic, superior, or “industry standard” about Mac, and it’s not required for the profession of Graphic Design.
Students: Buy the computer you want.

You win!!! I give up.

I have over a dozen computers in my house. Half are Macs and Half are PCs. I’ve repaired or upgraded most of them on occasion. I find the Macs to be more expensive, but at the same time more reliable. I’ve never had the kinds of problems I’ve had with PCs.

The PCs seem to get worse with age, while the Macs stay consistent, especially with older OSs. I’ve had more slowdowns, corruption, and malware problems with WindowsOS. I’ve also had more problems with RAM in WindowsPCs. I only use them for games and checking compatibility with web. I don’t trust any of them for security. But they are less expensive which is why I keep buying them. I consider them to be more disposable than Macs.

In the 30 years I’ve been using computers for graphics, I’ve noticed that the Mac/PC divide is cultural. Information Technologist like PCs because they are more open standards wise and cheaper. And because they are techies, they don’t mind fixing them. Most of the Mac people I know don’t rely on IT professionals and know how to fix their own Macs, but would prefer not to have to. They’d rather have a more expensive computer that breaks down less often than a less expensive computer that breaks down more often.

I’ve had far better experience with Macs when it came to big files and print. But most of my bad experiences with PCs were from decades ago. From what I hear, there is no difference between PC and Macs in the way of print output compatibility now. The cultural divide is more between old-timers and newcomers now. As a student, it probably doesn’t matter. But there does seem to be more Macs at the professional level of this industry.

When it comes to electronic display, PCs are more compatible because they are more utilized than Mac by the end user. However I’ve noticed that many of the electronic display files developed on PC were never checked on MacOS for compatibility. Since the advent of CSS, most of those problems have been solved. If you don’t think you will ever be doing print, then you are pretty safe with a less expensive PC for graphic work, and especially if you will be getting into coding. I prefer to have both PCs and Macs for cross-platform compatibility. However, these days, there seems to be more issues between OSs and between mobile and desktop than there is between Mac and PC hardware. But I still like the Macs better for personal data.

Macs have always been more expensive because the hardware is a little more sophisticated and reliable. It’s like a sports car compared to an economy car. And the MacOS has always been more reliable too. It takes far fewer steps for me to do things in the MacOS than it does PCs. I have much fewer problems moving files and applications between computers. My biggest gripe with Apple is the lack of backward compatibility and the constant pressure to upgrade the OS before your sold on the new features.


I have no desire to engage in a platform war here, but this kind of thinking never ceases to confound me. I could go on about all the bad experiences I had with Mac OS update incompatibilities while the Windows machines in my department whirred on without a hitch. In my years as a director it happened again and again. Both platforms have problems. All hardware has problems. The ratchet I bough in Lowes looks a little different than the one I bought in Home Depot, and I’ll probably break one of them before the other, but they’re both tools that do what I need. Any assertion that one is far superior to the other would be a ridiculous exaggeration. Mac. v. Windows (or ‘PC’) is no different.

Bloody hell.

Sports car vs. economy car? Exactly how so?

Far fewer steps? How many fewer is “far”?


I’m assuming college or a university, right? If so, some graphic design programs have recommended computer and software configurations to help ensure the students are all, more or less, using the same tools.

Eight-hundred dollars doesn’t buy much in terms of a computer, so I agree with what’s been said above regarding used equipment. To be on the safe side, though, it might be worth checking with the school to see what might be required.

It might be worth checking with the school to see if they have arranged a student discount somewhere too. Student IDs go a long way these days in hardware and software.

I was speaking mostly from history. I haven’t bought a new computer in a long time and my newest computer is a Lenovo.

There’s also the ecosystem factor.

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