Whether you have a custom gift shop or use sublimation printing to make banners or promotional materials, the first step to the finished product is creating the design. To do that, you need a laptop that can handle various types of design software, from web apps like Canva to resource-hungry options such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw.
Today’s market offers a variety of laptops that can run design programs, but choosing the right one for you can be challenging. If you don’t want to waste time comparing specs, check out our ranking of the best laptops for sublimation printing you can buy today.
- #1 Best Overall: Apple 2023 MacBook Air
- Best for Portability: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3
- Best Sublimation Printing Laptop with Big Screen: MSI Creator M16 Laptop
- Best Sublimation Printing Laptop with Touchscreen: HP 2023 Pavilion Laptop
- Best Budget-Friendly: Acer Swift X Creator Laptop
#1 Best Overall: Apple 2023 MacBook Air
The Apple 2023 MacBook Air provides power and velocity and is the best laptop for running sublimation printing software.
This model comes with a powerful 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU that can support Adobe Creative Cloud, CorelDraw, Cricut Design Space, and other similar programs. Two Thunderbolt ports also make it easy to connect it to the sublimation printer, and up to 18 hours of battery life give you enough stamina to keep working on designs even when you don’t have access to a wall outlet.
We particularly like the seamless compatibility of the macOS system with most Microsoft and Google apps. For instance, you can run any app in the Microsoft Office Suite, access Google Workspace, and save data to Google Drive if you’re not too fond of iCloud.
The laptop’s streamlined design is another highlight. This model is thin, lightweight, and easy to carry around. Some people may find the touchpad a bit too large, but you can always pair the MacBook with a wireless mouse.
|The system supports most design programs, including Cricut Design Space and CorelDraw.||The oversized touchpad can be a nuisance.|
|Up to 18 hours of battery life make it easy to work on your designs anywhere.|
|The 2023 MacBook Air is compatible with most Microsoft and Google apps.|
Check out the Apple 2023 MacBook Air on Amazon.
Best for Portability: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3
- Very light and portable
- It comes with a 12th-generation Intel Core processor
- Available in Platinum, Sage, Sandstone, and Ice Blue
- Fingerprint power button
Small, light, and powerful, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 is a good choice if you need a truly portable laptop for sublimation printing.
Sure, it won’t run the most resource-hungry design apps, but it works perfectly with most web apps and cloud-based software. Its compact size and weight of only 2.5 pounds make it easy to fit in a small bag, which is perfect for commuters.
At first glance, the 12.4-inch screen might seem too small for creating designs. However, the 3:2 aspect ratio increases the vertical screen of real estate, letting you browse better and see more. The only real downside is the ARM Mali-T604 graphics coprocessor that can’t handle the most graphically demanding software.
Connectivity-wise, this laptop comes with a USB-A and a USB-C port that you can use to connect the machine to your sublimation printer. Printing aside, the 12th generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM provide sufficient power for most day-to-day tasks.
|At 2.5 pounds, this is one of the lightest laptops designed for portability.||The laptop’s ARM graphics architecture doesn’t support all design software.|
|The 12th generation Intel Core processor can power most web-based graphic design apps.|
|USB-A and USB-C ports allow for seamless compatibility with your sublimation printer.|
Check out the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 on Amazon.
Best for Productivity: MSI Creator M16 Laptop
- 16-inch screen
- 13th Gen Intel Core i7 processor
- 16:10 aspect ratio
- Simplistic design
If you’re not into Apple, the MSI Creator M16 is the best laptop for sublimation printing — and professional use — you can get.
While its massive size makes it more suitable for the office than use on the go, the 13th generation Intel Core i7 CPU and the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 GPU provide enough power for all graphic design apps. The 16-inch screen is also plenty large for all your design needs, while the 16:10 aspect ratio provides sufficient vertical screen real estate for seamless designing.
Other highlights include 32GB of RAM, 1TB of internal storage, and a 180-degree lay-flat base that makes it easy to share your creative ideas with your coworkers or customers.
We also like that you get two USB-A and one USB-C port, in addition to a DC-in, an RJ45, and an HDMI port. The speaker volume and audio could be improved, but apart from this downside, this laptop might satisfy all your sublimation printing requirements.
|The 13th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and the RTX 4060 GPU can power most types of design software.||This laptop’s audio quality is not the best.|
|A lay-flat base allows you to share your creative ideas with customers and coworkers.|
|The 16-inch screen and 16:10 aspect ratio also make this laptop ideal for content creators.|
Check out the MSI Creator M16 on Amazon.
Best Sublimation Printing Laptop with Touchscreen: HP 2023 Pavilion Laptop
- Touchscreen is ideal for multitasking
- Seamless portability
- Intel Core i5-1335U Processor
- WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3 built in
The HP 2023 Pavilion laptop is a great choice for sublimation printing if you constantly need to shift between applications.
Its greatest highlight is the 15.6-inch touchscreen designed to streamline multitasking. The 16:9 display aspect ratio doesn’t provide the same amount of vertical screen real estate as the 16:10 or 3:2, but considering this is the standard aspect ratio for most laptops, it doesn’t bother either.
Performance-wise, you get an integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics card, a 13th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, and 16GB of RAM. That’s enough for handling most design software, including the Adobe Creative Cloud — just don’t expect it to be fast. We also like the built-in Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3, which make the laptop perfect for wireless sublimation printers.
|The touchscreen is ideal for multitasking and shifting between windows, especially when you want to show the designs to your customers.||This computer is slow when running demanding processes, and it could sometimes test your patience.|
|The Intel Iris Xe GPU is ideal for running Photoshop and other similar applications.|
|A standard size and weight allow for seamless portability.|
Check out the HP 2023 Pavilion laptop on Amazon.
Best Budget-Friendly: Acer Swift X Creator Laptop
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card
- AMD Ryzen 5 5600U processor
- Lightweight and compact enough to carry with ease
- Comes with Windows Hello with fingerprint reader
The Acer Swift X Creator laptop is a good choice for hobbyists and businesses on a budget but who need a high-performance graphics card for their sublimation printing needs.
At just under $650, this isn’t the cheapest laptop out there. However, the price tag delivers an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and an AMD Ryzen 5 5600U processor that can power most types of graphics design software.
Beyond performance, the 14-inch dimension is optimal for portability and productivity alike, while the 16:9 aspect ratio is similar to the HP Pavilion. Connectivity-wise, this model boasts two USB-A and one USB-C port, and it can also connect to a sublimation printer wirelessly.
We don’t really like that it only comes with Windows 10 Home Edition preinstalled, but you can upgrade to Windows 11 easily. Other than that, it has everything you would expect from a mid-range laptop.
|The RTX 3050 graphics card can handle Adobe Creative Cloud and other design programs.||This laptop is an older model and comes with Windows 10.|
|You can connect the laptop to a sublimation printer via a wire or wirelessly.|
|The 14-inch laptop dimension is lightweight and compact enough to carry with ease.|
Check out the Acer Swift X Creator laptop on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Laptop for Sublimation Printing: Step-by-Step
When choosing a laptop for sublimation printing, there are six main considerations for most buyers:
- Internal storage
- Connectivity options
Let’s see how each of these factors can affect your decision-making.
Creating the design is the first step to successful sublimation printing, but for this, you need a good laptop. The most important components to check before buying are the graphics card and the RAM. An integrated GPU, such as the Intel Iris Xe, is usually enough for simple designs and other basic graphics tasks. If you want to use more graphically demanding software, such as CorelDraw, you should opt for a laptop with a dedicated graphics card like NVIDIA RTX or similar. As far as the RAM is concerned, the rule is simple — the more RAM your laptop has, the better.
If you want to create a library of designs on your laptop, another factor to consider is the internal storage. Most laptops today come with solid-state drives with capacities between 256GB and 1TB. That’s enough storage to save lots of designs, but laptops with a lower-capacity SSD are generally cheaper. If you need lots of space but don’t want to go over the top budget-wise, you could consider a laptop with an HDD (although these options are rather scarce).
The screen resolution and aspect ratio are other important aspects to consider if you want to create your own designs. To create accurate images, the laptop should have at least FHD or 2K resolution — almost all laptops nowadays have at least FHD displays, so finding the right machine shouldn’t be hard. The best aspect ratio for graphic designing should provide you with enough vertical screen real estate, especially if your designs are square or round rather than rectangular. Options include laptops with 16:10 and 3:2 aspect ratios.
If you routinely use a desktop printer, you might be accustomed to connecting your laptop to the printer wirelessly. However, not all sublimation printers are Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled, so you should also consider the type of ports the laptop has. Depending on how old your printer is, you generally need a free USB-A or USB-C port (or a free Thunderbolt port if you have a Mac).
Most folks looking for a laptop for sublimation printing don’t care much about portability — after all, a sublimation printer is challenging to haul around. However, the main reason you might need a laptop in the first place is because you might like to take work out of the office or meet up with customers outside of your shop. Some of the best laptops for sublimation printing, such as the MacBook Air or the Microsoft Surface Go laptop, are lightweight and compact enough to carry anywhere. Other options, such as the MSI Creator M16, are more suitable as replacements for a bulky desktop PC than working on the go.
A laptop for sublimation printing needs enough power to handle graphic design software, so you can’t expect it to be cheap. High-end options will generally set you back over $1,000. Entry-level laptops generally can’t handle design programs, but you might do well with a cheap model if you only use web-based apps like Canva. You can expect to pay over $500 for a mid-range laptop that can handle Adobe Creative Cloud and other similar applications.
What to Know Before Buying a Laptop for Sublimation Printing
If you want to create your own designs, a laptop for sublimation printing should have at least an Intel Iris Xe (or similar) graphics card and sufficient RAM. Before buying, you should also consider the other tasks you want to use the laptop for.
Generally, heavy-duty laptops capable of running graphically demanding software are big and heavy. You could take them anywhere, but they are not the best option for portability. If you only print simple designs and also want to use the laptop for studying, a smaller and lighter option might be a better choice, even if it doesn’t come with the latest NVIDIA graphics card.
Using a Laptop for Sublimation Printing: What It’s Like
Using a laptop for sublimation printing can be a seamless or frustrating experience, depending on the machine’s performance and the type of software you want to use. Most mid-range laptops support popular web apps like Canva, Figma, and Design Wizard. Adobe Creative Cloud is also compatible with most laptops, even though most applications in the suite need at least 8GB of RAM and a higher-end GPU.
Running graphically demanding apps such as CorelDraw or Affinity Designer requires a high-end GPU, a good processor, and, ideally, 16GB or more of RAM. Otherwise, running these apps can turn into a nightmare. To find the best laptop for sublimation printing for you, consider the software you want to use and match its requirements with the laptop’s specs.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©New Africa/Shutterstock.com.