The releases that could shake things up for designers this year.
2019 was another year of rapid technological innovation, bringing us everything from camera-laden smartphones that can outperform laptops in terms of sheer processing power, to a zillion new smart home devices, and then some.
But what was the standout tech for creative professionals in 2019, and what can we look forward to over the next 12 months? Whether you want to turbo-charge your laptop’s graphics power with an eGPU, or take your creativity in a new direction entirely with a powerful new workstation, keep reading to find out what’s got us hyped in 2020.
For more options, see our guide to the best graphic design tools for 2020.
01. Apple Mac Pro
Apple admitted that its previous ‘trash can’ Mac Pro design of 2013 had painted it into a thermal corner. Upgrade options suffered as a result, so the company went back to the drawing board to rethink its approach.
Apple talked up its redesigned Mac Pro for two years before finally launching it in December 2019, and most prosumers would agree that, despite the eye-watering entry price, the new high-throughput tower Mac delivers on its promise of offering blistering performance that can make short work of even the most demanding creative tasks.
The much-mocked ‘cheese grater’ lattice pattern design harks back to the tower Mac Pro of old, but the internals are positively futuristic. The machine uses workstation-class Xeon processors with up to 28 cores with 64 PCI Express lanes, up to 1.5TB of high performance memory, eight PCIe expansion slots, and at the high-end, dual Radeon Pro Vega II Duo GPUs. That should be more than enough to speed up your email and web browsing.
Jokes aside, the new Mac Pro starts at $5,999, so this machine is only for the most serious professional users. Indeed, if you max out a tower Mac on Apple’s website, the most expensive setup costs $53,799. (It also recently released the rack mountable version, starting from $6,499.)
02. MSI Creator 17 Laptop with Mini LED Display
MSI used the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 to unveil the Creator 17, which it claims is the “world’s very first” laptop to feature a Mini LED display. Sounds neat in theory, but what does it mean in practice?
By adopting much smaller 2mm LEDs for the backlight, the laptop’s 17-inch 4K display offers a lot more accuracy than LCD displays that use a traditional LED backlight. For creatives, that’s a boon for viewing rich visual content. The tech promises high contrast and HDR using 240 local dimming zones, so that it can dim the backlight behind areas of the screen that are displaying black while keeping the bright parts of the screen bright.
According to MSI, the Creator 17 is also capable of displaying 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut at 1,000 nits brightness, which is the standard benchmark for displaying HDR in all its glory. We might not yet know the internal specs or the price of the machine, but this announcement was all about the Mini LED tech, which could do for laptops what OLED screens did for smartphones.
Excitingly, there’s also speculation that Apple’s 2020 MacBook and iPad Pros could feature the same game-changing display tech.
03. Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro
Apple’s latest MacBook Pro arrived late in 2019 and is being considered by many as a blueprint for MacBooks to come over at least the next year or two. On the surface, little appears to have changed, but take a closer look and you’ll notice that certain key features have been considerably improved with creative professionals in mind.
First off, Apple has slimmed down the bezels to fit a larger screen into the same laptop dimensions, so you get a 16-inch Retina display with 500 nits of brightness and a P3 wide colour gamut. It’s also swapped out the controversial butterfly keyboard that dogged previous models and replaced it with a much more reliable scissor switch key mechanism.
As for the internal specs, even the basic option is a bit of a beast. Apple promises up to double the performance of the older 15-inch model, thanks to a 6-core ninth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and a Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card. It’s not cheap though, with the base 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD costing a cool $2,399 (£2,399).
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