I am searching for a laptop with a screen that is suitable for digital design purposes

What I am particularly concerned about is a statement made by a poster (on here):

(the objective is to) make images in any color space show up correctly in the device's inherent, native color space

How can this be accomplished? Which laptop screens on the market are most suitable for this end?

Unimportant: Fast response time

Semi-important: viewing angles (should be good enough - not severe color distortion due to slight tilting)


As it is not being utilized for print design, or even for professional level design - is sRGB color space suitable (good enough)?

Which laptop screens might you recommend?

  • 1
    I would never do work on a laptop. Just get a desktop with a good screen or two.
    – Onlyjus
    Sep 11, 2012 at 1:47
  • 1
    Sorry, but I'm not seeing the photography aspect of this question.
    – John Cavan
    Sep 11, 2012 at 2:55
  • You don't mention whether pixel dimensions/physical size are important or not - which seems an important consideration.
    – e100
    Sep 11, 2012 at 10:19
  • This question really needs an answer involving calibration...
    – e100
    Sep 11, 2012 at 16:35

3 Answers 3


No will can claim that the MacBook Pro's new retina display is not a step ahead of the rest of the industry. Its also insanely expensive.

Most of the pros in graphics use either a gigantic display, or two or three 23" inches for serious work. This may be connected to a laptop, but using the laptop display is just for non-hard-core work.

  • The question is primarily about colour reproduction - is the Retina display particularly good? How would one calibrate it?
    – e100
    Sep 11, 2012 at 16:37
  • Judging by Alan G's answer below, it sounds like for depth of colour and colour reproduction, the Mac Book Pro screen is not absolutely any better than any other high quality 8 bit display. Sep 16, 2012 at 20:24

There are three main things to consider in a display for graphic work: size, resolution and color depth (not necessarily in that order).

Size should be adequate to working with complex UIs, because professional graphic software uses a lot of screen real estate for panels, toolbars, etc.. This is especially true for video and audio apps, but none of the Creative Suite applications are lightweight when it comes to UI elements. I don't like to work on a display less than 17 inches diagonal, but you may find the next common size, 15.6 inches, to be adequate.

Resolution works hand in hand with size. More pixels allow for more elements to be on the screen. The smaller the screen, the smaller the pixels and the sharper your eyesight has to be for a given resolution. Conversely, a large screen with a relatively low resolution makes everything easy to see, but the space taken up by UI limits your work area. You would be best to try out different laptops to get an idea what will work best for you. My own preference is for 1920 pixels horizontal resolution.

Adequate Color Depth is vital for any kind of accurate graphics work. The modern 10-bits/channl displays are prized by video and film professionals in particular because they can accurately render the widest RGB gamut, but they make accurate color work much easier in any field. These monitors require OS and GPU support for 10-bit output, so are currently worth the extra expense only on the Windows platform. Mac OS still doesn't (as of Mountain Lion) support 10-bit displays. HP and Dell both offer 10-bit displays (HP calls them "Dreamcolor"; Dell has some other marketing name that escapes me at the moment) on their mobile workstations and higher-end consumer laptops.

Of these three criteria, color depth is the one that really makes a difference. Adequate size and resolution are easy to come by.

The only other big recommendation I'd make is to avoid glossy screens. These are consumer displays, strictly. They look sexy because blacks are a bit deeper, but reflections from the glass will drive you crazy when trying to work in anything other than the most carefully controlled lighting (and dark clothing!).

Workstation class laptops are made by Dell, Lenovo, HP and others. Apple doesn't currently have a MacBook Pro model I'd classify as professional grade, even as a replacement for the 2009-model MBP I use on the road.

  • +1 I got confused at first by the 10-bit colour comment, remembering switching to 24-bit colour years and years ago. But of course you mean 10 bits per channel (=30 bits per pixel = potentially 1,024 shades per primary colour, compared to 24 bits per pixel = 8 bits per channel = 256 shades per primary). This article helped me understand: pcworld.com/article/171223/10_bit_color.html I never knew that Apple had that limitation. In, say, Photoshop, on a 10-bit OS/display, supposing I wanted a "deep colour" magenta between #ff0072 and #ff0073: how would I even specify that colour? Sep 16, 2012 at 11:54
  • It's worth acknowledging that I know I'd be unlikely in reality to need to specify a deep colour like this, since the differences are barely perceptible - as I understand it, it's value is mainly for seeing and working with very subtle colour transitions in high quality digital photographs, gradients, etc. I'm just trying to make sense of it at a practical level. Sep 16, 2012 at 12:01
  • One more note - in tech marketing speak, it's 8-bit colour if it's billed as "Over 16 million colours!" and it's 10-bit colour if it's billed as "Over 68 billion colours!" Sep 16, 2012 at 12:05
  • The color (hue, saturation and brightness) difference is distinct and important, because the actual rendered color for a given set of numeric values changes depending on the color model, space, profile and lookup tables. Some of these differences simply aren't visible on an 8 bits/channel display, which is why the newer monitors are so prized by the movie, tv and video industries in particular for exact color grading. Most of my Photoshop work uses 16 bits/channel, so those two extra bits of output are valuable. Sep 16, 2012 at 19:27
  • 1
    That's about the size of it. The math is above my pay grade, so you'd have to ask an engineer for the details. :-P Sep 19, 2012 at 22:33

Get the largest MacBook Pro you can afford and a monitor calibration kit, like this one: http://www.pantone.com/pages/products/product.aspx?pid=1147&ca=2

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