Content Creator and Workstation Laptop Buyers Guide

A workstation laptop is designed for Pro Graphics and Pro Video content creation workloads, and is a great alternative to a desktop workstation. Offering similar performance and capabilities, a laptop allows you to take your creative flare with you wherever you go.

This guide will look at the what considerations you should make when choosing a laptop for graphics or video use and how they differ from the features detailed in our gaming laptop and home and office laptop buyers guides.

How to use this guide

There's a lot to consider when choosing a workstation laptop so we've broken down this buyers guide into topics.
If you don't want to read the whole buyers guide at once, or one topic is more important to you than the others,
you can use the buttons in this index to skip to the relevant topic.

LAPTOP GRAPHICS CARDS Laptop Screen Size & Weight Laptop Screen Resolution Laptop Screen Refresh Rate Workstation Laptop Processors Laptop Memory Laptop Storage laptop Keyboards External Mice & Tablets Speakers & Headsets Laptop Bags The Best Workstation Laptops

Laptop Graphics Cards

The graphics card or GPU or is the most important component in a workstation laptop and the choice of card will depend on what type of creative work you intend to be doing - the more intensive the workloads, the higher specification card you will need. The most popular laptop graphics cards are made by NVIDIA, with two distinct types, GeForce and Quadro cards, each with their own set of features and benefits.

NVIDIA GeForce Graphics Cards

NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards deliver reliable creative performance for the jack-of-all-trades creator. They are most suited for editing video in up to 4K in real-time, animating small to medium 3D models and are also fantastic for gaming. There are two distinct types of GeForce card, GeForce RTX and GeForce GTX.

Max-Q Graphics Cards

NVIDIA also makes Max-Q versions of some of its GeForce graphics cards. These special graphics cards enable even thinner and lighter laptops, but the graphics cards aren’t quite as fast as the standard non-Max-Q versions.

NVIDIA Quadro Graphics Cards

NVIDIA Quadro RTX GPUs feature enterprise-grade technology like massive memory capacity, providing workstation-class reliability for professional creators who make creating their life's work. Designed to tackle the most advanced multi-app workflows they offer 100+ software application certifications, up to 8K RED video editing and 4K professional broadcasting. There are two distinct types of Quadro card, Quadro RTX and Quadro T.

RTX for Content Creators

The latest GeForce and Quadro cards feature RTX technology that provides multiple benefits for content creators in hundreds of applications.

Visualise stunning photorealistic models as you create virtual worlds in real-time with hardware-accelerated ray tracing, or experience lag-free interaction and massive speed boosts with RTX-accelerated ray tracing and AI denoising. The larger the models to be animated a higher rated RTX card will be required.

Play back and edit ultra-high resolution video smoothly without pre-caching or generating proxies in Adobe Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, REDCINE-X PRO, and more. Additionally, use AI to automagically colour grade, track objects, match faces, or slo-mo video in DaVinci Resolve, or reframe landscape video into portrait format in Adobe Premiere Pro. If the video resolution is 4K or above, Quadro RTX cards will be required.

Rapidly apply 30+ GPU-accelerated features and filters to your images such as Content-Aware Fill, Blur Gallery, and Smart Sharpen in Adobe Photoshop. Alternatively you can automatically give your RAW images crisper detail, better colour rendering, and fewer artefacts using the RTX-accelerated AI “Enhance Details” feature in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic.

Create illustrations faster than ever with a GPU-accelerated canvas that enables smooth and interactive panning and zooming regardless of graphic complexity in Adobe Illustrator or instantly visualise your 2D art in photorealistic 3D with RTX GPU-accelerated rendering in Adobe Dimension.

View massive structures and environments in dynamic and brilliantly rendered detail with RTX-accelerated ray tracing. The larger and more complex the building models are, a higher capability GPU card will be a necessity.

NVIDIA RTX GPUs offer broadcasters top stream image quality and maximum performance thanks to a dedicated hardware encoder. Game or create and broadcast with the highest stream quality and performance, all in one performance-orientated solution with your favourite streaming apps, including OBS Studio, XSplit Broadcaster, Twitch Studio, and Discord.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs support DirectX 12 Ultimate, including the latest features such as Variable Rate Shading, Mesh Shading and Sampler Feedback to makes not only look stunning but also play at a smooth frame rate.

NVIDIA GPU Summary

Still not sure which NVIDIA graphics card is right for you? This table shows the key characteristics, rated out of 10, of the main models.

GeForce RTX
2080 Super
GeForce RTX
2070 Super
GeForce RTX
2060
GeForce GTX
1660 Ti
GeForce GTX
1650
Content Creation 8 7 6 5 4
Ray Tracing
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
No
VR Ready
Quadro
RTX 6000
Quadro
RTX 5000
Quadro
RTX 40000
Quadro
T2000
Quadro
T1000
Quadro
P620
Quadro
P520
Content Creation 10 9 8 4 3 2 1
Ray Tracing
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
No
VR Ready
No
No
No
No

*Laptop also has to support VR, not just the graphics card

Laptop Screen Size & Weight

Being designed around graphics and video applications, you’ll benefit from choosing a workstation laptop with a larger screen than a general purpose laptops. The most common options are 15.6in or 17.3in screens and this obviously will have an impact in the overall weight, so if you’re going to take your laptop around with you a lot the smaller screen may be preferable.

This table compares the key physical specs of two laptops from the same manufacturer, the laptop on the left is the 17.3in model, with the 15.6in model on the right.


Gigabyte Aero
17.3in laptop

Gigabyte Aero
15.6in laptop
Weight 2.5kg 2.0kg

Laptop Screen Resolution

Along with your decision on screen size, it’s also worth thinking about the screen’s resolution - especially if your usage involves a lot of higher end video or graphics. The minimum you should look for is 1920 x 1080 resolution - often described as FullHD, but for improved images and intricacy of detail you may want 3840 x 2160 (UHD or 4K). However, it’s equally important that the graphics card is powerful enough to run applications smoothly at the screen’s native resolution. For instance, we’d only recommend a 4K screen with a high-end graphics card.

Most workstation laptops also have at least one graphics output for you to connect external monitor(s). Check out the Specifications tab on the product page on the Scan website to find out how many DisplayPort and HDMI ports each laptop has.

Laptop Screen Refresh Rate

The higher the refresh rate of the screen that faster is redraws the image and this is essential for fast action complex graphics and games. The bare minimum in terms of screen refresh rate is 60Hz, with different manufacturers offering a multitude of higher refresh rate screens such as 144Hz and higher.

Workstation Laptop Processors

After the graphics card, the most important component in a laptop is the processor or CPU as this will ultimately determine its performance. Processor choice essentially comes down to what workloads you have - graphical tasks such as Adobe Creative Cloud or large 3D modelling or more intensive needs like 4K broadcasting or advanced ray tracing. You should make your decision on the most intensive workloads to ensure the laptop doesn’t struggle with any work you wish to do - even if you don’t intend to use a processor hungry application very often, you’ll still notice problems you have when you do use it if your processor is underpowered.

Your main choice is between an AMD Ryzen processor or an Intel Core CPU. Both are available in a wide variety of models, but for workstation applications its essential to choose one of the models shown below to ensure responsive performance.

AMD Processors

Intel Processors

Laptop Memory

Following your processor choice, it is important to ensure that its performance will not be hindered by lack of memory or RAM within your laptop. Usually the base memory listed will be in line with the processor’s capabilities – an entry-level to mid-range laptop workstation will feature 16GB, while a higher-end laptop will feature 32GB or more of memory - if you intend to use numerous applications together, then consider upgrading the memory capacity. This can be done at the time of buying or a later date, as your needs develop.

Laptop Storage

An SSD is essential in a laptop, not just to make applications and projects load fast but also because they consume less power than a hard disk, helping to boost battery life and weigh less too. We recommend a laptop with at least a 500GB SSD or larger, as with applications and media files taking up a lot of space, you can never really have too large an SSD in your laptop. If you do run out of storage space, many laptops will have a spare M.2 slot or 2.5in bay to add in another SSD. However, this isn’t always possible with thin and light laptops, so check the specs carefully before buying an extra SSD.

Laptop Keyboards

Every laptop workstation will include a keyboard - a standard one on 15.6” screen models and maybe a larger one with a separate number pad on larger 17.3” screen laptop. However, you may still want an external keyboard as these give more feedback and will be more comfortable to use longer term. Alternatively, a particular graphical software package such as Adobe Lightroom or DaVinci Resolve may benefit from a dedicated keyboard to make life easier and more productive.

External Mice and Tablets

While every laptop includes a touchpad in front of the keyboard they’re only really usable for everyday Windows tasks such as web browsing and word processing. For more precise control you should a mouse is a must by. Although not every aspect of mice choice may not be relevant for professional laptop use, you can learn more about the options by reading our gaming mice buyers guide.

Additionally, as a creator you may want dedicated external professional mice aimed at ease of use with CAD applications, or a separate tablet for added control and productivity.

Speakers and Headsets

Although every laptop includes speakers, because these are integrated into the underside or sides of the laptop and feature tiny drivers the sound quality and maximum volume isn’t usually sufficient for professional creative purposes. External speakers can be connected to the laptop to achieve the sound required at this level. Additionally wired or wireless headphones and headsets can be added for privacy whilst editing or gaming needs when you’re not working.

Laptop Bags

If you’re planning on taking your laptop workstation with you on the road make sure you invest in a good quality bag. This not only makes carrying the laptop and accessories such as mouse and headset a lot more convenient, but also will protect it from damage. We stock a wide range of backpack and executive style laptop bags at a wide range of price points.

VIEW OUR RANGE OF LAPTOP BAGS

The Best Workstation Laptops

There you have it, everything you need to know about choosing a new workstation laptop for working with graphics or video. We sell a wide variety of models from top laptop brands such as Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI, PNY and Razer.

We hope you've found this buyer’s guide helpful. Don't hesitate to contact one of our friendly advisors if you still have questions on how to select the perfect laptop workstation.