How to Choose a Laptop for Adobe Creative Cloud

CG Director Author Petar Vukobratby Petar Vukobrat   /  Published 

Picking a laptop for any specific workload can, at times, be a very complicated process.

There are so many models to choose from and, well, you only buy a laptop every few years — making the wrong choice simply isn’t an option, especially if your livelihood depends on it.

To make things even worse, laptops are exceedingly limited when it comes to upgradeability.

Heck, most models nowadays will only allow you to swap out their storage devices and Wi-Fi cards. Apple’s latest and greatest MacBooks don’t even allow that much.

In other words: you’ll be “stuck” with whatever laptop you end up buying as upgrading its internals will not be an option.

If you happen to need more power than it can provide, you’ll have to sell it and buy a new one. It’s also a strange time for laptop buyers: we’re faced with an embarrassment of riches.

Variety of laptops

Some models are downright incredible, but also obscenely expensive. Others only seem sufficient on the surface but are actually landmines one should avoid at all costs.

Others still provide an acceptable blend of efficiency and power but cut corners elsewhere.

At least we’re spoiled for options and while it might be a bit overwhelming at times it is better than the alternative.

Buying a Laptop — Think About the Bigger Picture

Working in the Adobe Creative Cloud (and all the many programs it contains) might be your primary goal, but it’s not the only one; you’ll be using your laptop for all sorts of different things and workflows which is why it’s so important to understand the scope of your use case and all that it entails.

Do you consume a ton of Netflix during your downtime?

What about gaming?

Do you already have a dedicated set of speakers?

What about battery life; will you be “tied” to your desk the whole time or do you plan on working “on the go”?

Will this laptop be your only machine or, perhaps, a supplementary one — a portable computer that’ll round out your set-up and allow you to work when you’re not at home?

These are all hugely important questions so do give them a bit of thought.

How to Choose a Laptop for Adobe Creative Cloud

The point of this article is to give you a better and more comprehensive understanding of the many elements and variables that’ll affect your entire user experience — and that holds true for both working in the Adobe Creative Cloud and any other similar workflow and use-case scenario.

To start things off, we really ought to explain what exactly one has to keep an eye on when buying a new laptop for creative work.

Display

This is your “bread and butter.”

If you’ll be using an external monitor then you don’t have to think about this too much, but having a bright, pixel-dense, color-accurate display is nonetheless of the utmost importance — be it for the Adobe Creative Cloud or any other kind of work.

TN panels that can’t even hit 350 nits of peak brightness are out of the question.

Moreover, your laptop should cover as much of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and Display P3 gamuts as possible.

Color Gamut

We cannot stress this enough. Having a low Delta-E rating is also of the utmost importance if you plan on doing any color-critical work.

You also have a bunch of “nice-to-haves” like a higher refresh rate and a taller aspect ratio but these things, while undoubtedly great and desirable, are not a must.

Internals

Some Adobe Creative Cloud programs are more demanding than others.

The one common denominator, however, is that they all require as powerful a CPU as possible. Having a good graphics card can also come in handy (to say the least), but it’s not as important.

You should, therefore, prioritize CPU performance above all else.

Thin and light ultrabooks should be off the table — their processors are very limited power-wise and are therefore not a good option for (highly demanding) creative work.

Additionally, if your wallet can cover it, try to find a laptop with the latest and greatest internals; by this we mean Intel’s Alder Lake (12th Gen) and AMD’s Ryzen 5000/6000 series CPUs.

They offer an incredible amount of power and are much more capable than their predecessors.

Also think about the amount of RAM you’ll need — complex projects in Photoshop or Premiere Pro, for instance, can eat up 16GB in no time! It’s better to have a bit of headroom in that regard.

I/O and Connectivity

Having the right ports to aid you in your creative endeavors is also incredibly important.

LAptop IO

Will you be working with any external drives and, if so, will they be USB-A or USB-C? What about supplementary peripherals, drawing tablets, control panels (à la Elgato Stream Deck), and so on?

Having the right number of ports — and the right kind — is paramount. Also, try to think long-term; you might not need USB-C right now, but you might in a few months’ time.

Battery Life

For some folks, having a battery that lasts for five or six hours is perfectly fine. For others, it is a complete and total dealbreaker.

Fortunately, we all have an incredibly wide gamut of options to choose from. Nowadays, you can buy a laptop with an Intel CPU, an AMD one, or an SoC from Apple.

All three options are more than viable, but they do have different strengths and weaknesses, and that is perhaps most evident in the efficiency department.

Intel laptops (12th Gen ones) tend to consume the most power but are also among the most potent.

AMD ones, on the other hand, offer a phenomenal mix of both long battery life and competitive single- and multi-core performance.

Apple is in a league of its own as its M1- and M2-based chipsets can compete (if not outperform) the very best that Intel and AMD have to offer; they do, however, come with certain limitations that may or may not be a dealbreaker depending on your line of work.

If battery life is your main concern, then going with an Apple laptop should definitely be at the top of your list of priorities. They run so long that it almost feels like sorcery.

AMD comes in at a very strong second place, with Intel not even being remotely competitive when it comes to efficiency.

If you’re going to be connected to a wall outlet the whole time, then do consider “team blue” as well as their Alder Lake processors definitely stand out when it comes to sheer horsepower.

The “Ancillary” Stuff

Speakers, build quality, overall weight, inputs (keyboard and trackpad), etc. — are all important elements of the equation and things that invariably affect the entire user experience.

To some, they’re an afterthought. To others, they are what guides their purchasing decision.

Their importance, therefore, varies from one user to the next.

What we’re trying to say is this: try to think of the bigger picture — what’s vital for your own use case and what are the things and qualities you cannot “live without?”

The laptop you end up buying will serve you for the years to come, so make sure it ticks as many boxes as possible.

For example: Do you need a “dial”-wheel that’s being advertised as one of the main features of an Asus ProArt Studiobook Laptop? We’ve reviewed that model and didn’t think it worth it.

What’s Better for Adobe Creative Cloud: Desktop or Laptop?

We’ve given this question a deep-dive in this article, but here’s the rundown:

If you don’t plan on moving much or working “on the go,” then there’s really not that big of a reason to go with a laptop over a regular desktop PC.

What you’ll lose out in portability you’ll gain many times over in sheer horsepower and that, in short, is nothing to scoff at.

Desktop or Laptop Workstation Flowchart

Today’s laptops are exceedingly powerful, there’s no denying it, but they still cannot compete on “even footing” (in extended workloads) with a full-fledged computer — although, in all fairness, this performance delta has shrunk over the years.

If you’re not a particularly demanding user then you might not even notice the difference.

If, however, you’re working with very complex projects and tend to need as much power as you can get, then going with a desktop PC is still the better option — or at least the more advisable one.

A regular PC will also allow you to make any kind of upgrade further down the line (should the need arise), and it’ll also have a broader gamut of ports, too — a vital benefit for any creative professional.

It’s not a “closed off” system but rather an ever-changing one.

Best CPU for Adobe Creative Cloud: Intel, AMD, or Apple?

Intel processors are generally a smidge better in most Adobe Creative Cloud programs because of their incredible single-core performance.

The difference, however, isn’t earth-shattering and you’d be hard-pressed to notice it should you happen to switch from one system to the other (that being an AMD one).

Then again, this performance delta can vary depending on the workflow and software used.

In Premiere Pro, for instance, Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake processors have an up to 40% performance lead with DDR5 RAM when compared to similarly priced AMD Ryzen (5000) processors.

In Lightroom, the performance uplift is less than 10% — hardly anything worth writing home about.

Still, there is a difference, and it might not be all that negligible depending on what you’re doing (and which program you plan on using). In any case, Intel seems to be the absolute best option from a price-to-performance standpoint.

Apple’s M1 line-up, on the other hand, offers the absolute best efficiency but it does come at a cost: software compatibility.

M1 Macbook Pro Workloads

If your software suite of choice has been updated for Apple’s ARM-based architecture, then it’ll run about as well — if not even better — than on Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs.

Still, there’s a laundry list of things and obstacles one needs to keep in mind when buying an M1-based machine.

The chipset itself is astonishingly powerful (and yet incredibly efficient), but the surrounding complications and hindrances might end up being a dealbreaker depending on your use case and workflow.

With all of that being said, if you’re a Windows user, then going with Intel’s Alder Lake processors would be the best course of action.

They, too, are truly phenomenal at a broad range of workloads with their only flaw being overall power efficiency and, by proxy, battery life.

In any case, we have no shortage of options to choose from!

Adobe Creative Cloud — System Requirements

The Adobe CC suite contains various different programs, some of which happen to be more demanding than others.

To help you better understand what kind of laptop you need (relative to your personal workflow and overall budget), we’ve compiled a list of per-program system requirements:

If your program of choice isn’t listed above, head over to Adobe’s official website — there you’ll find the full list of system requirements for each and every single Creative Cloud application.

Do keep in mind that their requirements are somewhat conservative.

They’re correct, of course, but always try to go above what is required so as to ensure the absolute best possible user experience.

Laptop recommendations for Adobe Creative Cloud

In this article, I focused on giving you the insight to pick the right Laptop specifications for Adobe’s Creative Cloud on your own. That way you should be able to assess whether recommendations you find online might be outdated.

Nonetheless, this article wouldn’t be complete without some concrete Laptop recommendations for Adobe CC.

Because we’ve been critically reviewing Laptops for years now and know how fast the Laptop landscape can change, we’ve created the below recommendation tool (that we can easily update) that’ll show up-to-date recommendations depending on the budget you select.

Give it a try!

Select “Laptop“, set your budget and click “Show Laptops“.

FAQ

Let’s go over a few potential questions you might have regarding this topic:

What’s Better for Adobe Creative Cloud: Laptop or PC?

A desktop PC will always outperform its portable “brethren.” In most cases, it’ll also cost less, too.

You do have to supply your own peripherals and monitor, but that’s an acceptable price to pay given what you’re getting in return.

What’s More Important for Adobe Creative Cloud: CPU or GPU?

Most Adobe Creative Cloud programs tend to favor CPU performance above all else.

Still, having a good enough GPU can, in certain scenarios, improve performance by quite a bit.

A powerful processor, however, is an absolute must.

Can I Use the Adobe Creative Cloud on an Ultrabook?

You definitely can but, depending on the complexity of your project, it might not be a particularly enjoyable experience.

Then again, today’s ultrabooks — those sporting Intel’s 12th Gen U-series processors or their equivalents from AMD — are much more powerful than their predecessors.

For light 4K edits and some design work (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, XD, etc.) they’ll definitely suffice.

PC or Mac for Adobe Creative Cloud?

Both options are perfectly viable.

If you’re only using the Adobe Creative Cloud and nothing else — by which we mean no other software that’s OS-specific — then going with a PC might be the better option.

That being said, macOS has many unique programs that cannot be found elsewhere, and most (if not all) of them tend to run beautifully as they are built with just a singular operating system in mind.

In the end, though, it’s less about the operating system and more about the creative using it.

Over to You

Picking a laptop that can handle Adobe’s Creative Cloud might not be the most complicated thing in the world but it’s still a challenge nonetheless.

There are so many options on the market that it’s totally natural if you find yourself overwhelmed, unsure of how exactly to go about it, and what specifically to look for.

Fortunately, finding the right laptop is actually a lot easier than it might seem at first glance.

What we’re wondering is: are you using Adobe’s Creative Cloud on a full-fledged PC or have you embraced the “portable-first” mindset and are creating your magnum opus while on the go? Let us know in the comment section down below, and in case you need any help, head over to our forum and ask away!

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Petar Vukobrat - post author

I first sat down in front of a Pentium II in 1999 and it feels like I’ve been sitting in front of a computer ever since.

And, well, until mankind comes up with something better and more entertaining, that’ll keep being the case.

If you have any questions — or just want to talk about all things PC and Apple — leave a comment down below!

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