Whether you are an architect, engineer, animator, or from any other design and creative field, having a flexible workstation that can run AutoCAD and other CAD related software in both a professional and educational setting, has become increasingly important, and extremely useful.
Today more than ever professionals are working from home, whilst traveling and/or from co-working spaces to name just a few, and for students; mobility and flexibility has always been an important factor when its comes to studying.
CAD is a specialist item of software, that requires a specific set of hardware specifications to successfully run the programme smoothly and without delay. Fortunately there are many laptops that are more than capable of running such software, as long as you know what to look for.
In this article we aim to highlight the necessary requirements, that as architects we feel are the most important considerations, and provide 5 of what we consider to be some of the best laptops for CAD.
So lets see the lineup…
…So what is the best laptop for CAD software?
Lenovo ThinkPad P53s
Screen Size - 15.6 inches (1920 x 1080 pixels) | Processor - Core i7-8565U | Ram - 16GB | Hard Drive/Storage - 512GB PCIe SSD | Average Battery Life - 8.5 hours | Weight - 3.90 pounds | Dimensions - 9.76 x 14.40 x 0.75 inches
This mobile workstation features a Core i7-8565U processor, and with its energy-efficient professional grade Quadro P520 graphics card, is one of the most powerful laptops in this review.
The 15.6 inch screen unfortunately isn’t 4k but if users really cant get on with the Full HD model here, then 4k is available as an upgrade.
- Large amount of SSD storage
- Excellent graphics card
- Not the best battery life
- Pricey for a laptop without a 4K display
Apple MacBook Pro 16
Screen Size - 16 inches (1920 x 1080 pixels) | Processor - Intel Core i9 | Ram - 16 GB | Hard Drive/Storage - 1TB | Average Battery Life - 11 hours | Weight - 4.3 pounds | Dimensions - 9.76 x 14.1 x 0.64 inches
This MacBook is not the most powerful laptop here, but it is the most powerful laptop Apple have ever made, and for users who prefer to use Mac’s this is more than capable of running CAD software
With a new and improved keyboard, 16GB of memory, and a 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor with Turbo Boost, this MacBook will eat through anything you can throw at it.
With a generous 16 inch retina display, it is among the largest in this review and despite it not being 4k, it is still an absolute pleasure to work on. This larger size does make it slightly heavier than others, but we feel its slim profile more than makes up for this.
- New and improved keyboard
- Stunning 16-inch screen with slimmer bezels
- Lighting fast performance with a Serious power from 8-core Core i9
- Good battery life
- Display not 4K
- Limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports
Dell XPS 15
Screen Size - 15.6 inches (1920 x 1080 pixels) | Processor - 500-NIT NVIDIA GTX 1650 4GB | Ram - 32GB | Hard Drive/Storage - 1TB | Average Battery Life - 10 hours | Weight - 3.96 pounds | Dimensions - 20.5 x 17.5 x 4 inches
This Dell XPS 15 laptop, is an incredibly powerful machine for its size, and one that could rival a fair few desktops! It has a stunning 15.6 inch 4k display, that makes CAD work as pleasurable and easy on eyes as it can be, and with 32GB of RAM will be able to handle any CAD programme with ease, and much much more.
Weighing in at just 3.96 pounds, this years model is 5.5% smaller than the last, but has larger keys for increased functionality and comfort. Its 10th Gen processor and Nvidia GeForce graphics card, make this a great all-rounder that would also be suitable for those who like to game.
- Great overall performance and graphics
- Attractive premium chassis
- Bright, vivid, 4K super high-res display
- A little pricey
Acer Aspire 5
Screen Size - 15.6 inches (1920 x 1080 pixels) | Processor - Intel Core i5 | Ram - 8 GB | Hard Drive/Storage - 512GB SSD | Average Battery Life - 9.5 hours | Weight - 3 97 pounds | Dimensions - 14.31 x 9.86 x 0.71 inches
For those that cant quite stretch to full on CAD power house, this Acer Aspire 5 laptop, provides performance and functionality at an affordable price.
Its 15.6 inch Full HD screen provides a bright and vivid working platform, and with 8GB of ample memory supported by 10th Gen Intel Core i5 quad-core processor, it is capable of most if not all CAD tasks.
Where this does fall down however, is if and when you may want to move into complex 3D models and rendering, where any the above and below laptops would be far more suitable.
- Budget friendly price
- Sturdy build quality
- Limited memory for complex tasks
Screen Size: 14 inches (1920 x 1080 pixels) | Processor: Intel i7-10510U | Ram: 16GB | Hard Drive/Storage: 512 GB flash memory solid state | Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6 GB)| Average Battery Life: 8.5 hours | Weight: 4.19 pounds | Dimensions: 15.08 x 10.24 x 0.69 inches
- Compact and durable design
- Competitive price
- Finicky touchpad
- No Thunderbolt 3
What computer specs do I need for CAD?
Processor – Intel i5’s and up / AMD Ryzen 7 & 5
Autodesk CAD is heavily dependent on processing power, but you don’t need to break the bank for it to run efficiently.
If you’re not on a tight budget, then we recommend aiming for a mid to high level amount of power, as this greatly helps with the smooth running of the programme.
RAM – Minimum: 8GB, Recommended: 16GB
RAM plays a huge role in managing large and complex drawings, as well as enabling users to run several programmes simultaneously.
8GB should be the minimum, 16GB is preferred, but if you can stretch to a 32GB machine, then this really will provide unlimited stability when working with heavy files.
Graphics card – Minimum: Intel Graphics, Recommended: AMD Radeon
Most CAD programmes do not rely on a laptop’s graphics card, and in fact in many circumstances only use it to store texture information.
The above recommendations come fully equipped with a graphics card that will be more than capable of handling everyday CAD tasks.
Storage – Minimum: 256GB SSD Recommended: 512GB SSD
CAD files can quickly become large, and when working full time on multiple projects, the amount of stored data will soon start to add up.
All of the above laptops feature SSD’s (solid state drives) which are a lot faster and more reliable than HDD (hard disk drives) when it comes to accessing and opening files and programs.
However due to their increased performance, they are of course a lot more expensive, and therefore users will often regularly backup files onto a separate external hard drive in order to maintain storage space and avoid increasing their SSD capacity.
Display – Minimum: 14 inches, Recommended: 16 inches Full HD
For laptop screens there is always a small sacrifice for its size versus its portability, and the smallest screen option we are recommending here is 14 inches, with the largest being 16 inches.
Both these options provide a satisfying visual and portable experience, however the larger screens are a lot more comfortable to work with, but when combined with the other key specification requirements, also become relatively expensive.
Which laptop is best for AutoCAD?
Those of us that use AutoCAD on a regular basis, are more often than not just as likely to also be using a small collection of other 2D, 3D and rending based software’s in tandem. And whether this be SketchUp, 3ds Max and/or Revit for example, they all require a powerful laptop and workstation.
So for us, and speaking from experience as i sit here typing on it, the Dell XPS 15 is in our opinion the best laptop for AutoCAD. This isn’t just because it is well above being more than capable of running CAD software, but also due to it excelling in the other tasks and associated programmes that go hand in hand with using CAD.
Yes it is a relatively expensive, but realise that here you aren’t just buying a laptop, you are buying a powerful workstation, to run powerful items of software …and we very much doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Are gaming laptops good for CAD?
In principle yes, the specifications required by many of the most played games are more than capable of running CAD software. However the difference lies in the graphics cards, where a gaming laptop (built for gaming performance) will have different specifications to a dedicated CAD graphics card.
But in terms of processing power and the amount RAM, most if not all gaming laptops meet, and often outperform what is required.
What is the best MacBook for AutoCAD?
As you can see from the above, we highly recommend the MacBook Pro 16, its excellent 16 inch screen combined with its overall performance make this the best MacBook for both AutoCAD and other 2D and 3D applications.
What are the best 2-in-1 laptops for CAD?
2-in-1 laptops used to really struggle with their battery life and therefore their level of portability was slightly compromised, however the new Microsoft Surface Pro 7 now has up to 10.5 hours of adaptor free power, and with 16GBs of RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor, and 256GBs of SSD storage, this is a highly portable CAD workstation. …Best 2-in-1 laptop for CAD? The Microsoft Surface Pro 7.