Ask DN: Your computer setup—desktop or laptop with display?

over 10 years ago from , Designer at Square

Anyone have opinions on whether a desktop computer or a laptop with display setup is preferable for designers?

Things to consider: mobility, working with a team, power and speed, cost, transportation, convenience... other stuff.


  • Tim SmithTim Smith, over 10 years ago

    Personally, I love having a 15" MBP with 27" Thunderbolt Display. It offers me a great home office setup and at the same time allows me to take the laptop to the coffee shop and get out a bit. I upgraded my MBP to 16GB of RAM so… it's insanely powerful.

    2 points
  • Jordan Price, over 10 years ago

    +1 With a Mac Book Air and Cinema display. Love my setup!

    0 points
  • Krystian FrencelKrystian Frencel, over 10 years ago

    I've always ran a powerful desktop with dual screens. I find myself looking at getting a third screen now for improved workflow.

    Working on an Air or a Pro with an external display will most definitely work, but I find that if you're used to multiple displays, it will be a bit hard to swallow.

    0 points
  • Dan Shin, over 10 years ago

    Looks like the MBP or MPA with a display is the way to go. Thanks everyone.

    0 points
  • Ash AtkinsonAsh Atkinson, over 10 years ago

    I have a 27 inch iMac with a 24 inch cinemas display. I love it so much, all the screen room is great! Best Mac I have ever owned.

    The only downside is that it isn't mobile. I would love to have an air or Retina macbook pro as well one day.

    0 points
  • Jung ParkJung Park, over 10 years ago

    I use MBA 13" + 27" Thunderbolt Display at work. have a display on a stand(~4" tall) and place MBA in front of Cinema Display.

    This setup allows me to have same experiences of typing and using trackpad and also cleans out my desk because I don't need an extra keyboard and a mouse.

    +---------------------+ | | | | --> thunderbolt display | | +------+-------+-----+ | | +-------+ / \ -------> mba +---------------+

    0 points
  • Antonio PratasAntonio Pratas, over 10 years ago

    My preferred machine was an iMac I had in my first workplace. I loved it, really great screen and worked really great. But I have a Macbook Pro 15 from '08 and since I bought I've been thinking of getting my own iMac. I need the specs that an iMac offers, and love a bigger screen (minimum 24''), but the mobility my laptop offers is bigger than anything an iMac could give me. Specially because I write, I code and I design, and often I find myself needing to change workplaces to work better in certain things. But I miss an iMac, but don't see myself spending money on a machine that will make me stay in the same place everyday.

    Anyhow, Macbook Air is enough for web design? I never thought that it could handle a bit of bigger Photoshop, like image intense websites. I don't see it being as robust as a Macbook Pro.

    0 points
  • Jordan BrownJordan Brown, over 10 years ago

    I'm with tim. I love my 15" MBP with 27" Thunderbolt Display. I also use the rain laptop stand which allows me use the laptop screen as well. http://www.raindesigninc.com/mstand.html

    0 points
  • Cat NooneCat Noone, over 10 years ago

    For me, it's a laptop with display. I have the option to stay home and work using my thunderbolt (which helps oh so much) or be mobile and go to a co-working space or starbucks.

    Bottom line, I don't ever like to to limit myself in any regard and a desktop is a surefire way to do that.

    Here's my workspace: http://dribbble.com/shots/899910-Workspace-2013?list=users

    0 points
  • Marcos MejiaMarcos Mejia, over 10 years ago

    For us designers, power and speed is important but now and days even the macbook air provides adequate power for any front-end, photoshop tasks unless you plan on handling extremely large file sizes.

    I personally have the 15" MBP + Cinema Display and for the most part it's the best set up in my opinion when it comes to mobility and working with team members, also provides plenty of space to work. Good thing about the Cinema display is that it comes with the macbook power adapter integrated so you don't need to carry around the power brick. Other than that you'll be fine with any other large display.

    Good luck finding your solution!

    0 points
  • Dakota ChichesterDakota Chichester, over 10 years ago

    15" MBP w/Retina which lets me hook up multiple monitors. I have a 24" Dell as my primary monitor. It's good, not as good as a cinema display which I actually like because it is a more realistic screen that most users will have. Then I run a smaller cheap 20" monitor to the side for tool panels in Photoshop or a browser window. Plus the laptop display of course. If I had more desk space I would add another monitor.

    I greatly prefer a laptop to a desktop these days. Performance is just as good and the portability is hard to beat. I can keep my active projects on one machine and just grab it and go meet with a client or just work from the couch for a change in scenery. In the past I preferred a desktop since laptop screen resolutions were so poor. However the 15" retina machine lets me run at 1920px which means I can still work fairly well on just the laptop display when I'm on the go.

    0 points
  • Sam SolomonSam Solomon, over 10 years ago

    I used to have a desktop, but about three months ago I bought a new MBA. It is light, and has great battery life. It works fine for all my front-end/design work.

    The only drawback is HDMI connectors break easily if you don't own a Thunderbolt display.

    0 points