[2019] Best Laptop for CAD: Everything You Need to Know

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What to Look for in the Best CAD Laptop

Best Laptop for CAD

When it comes to hardware requirements, those of CAD software are notoriously demanding. Because of the sheer size of the files that are involved in 2D and 3D modeling, using CAD software becomes a lot more resource intensive and requires more memory and processing power than ever before. Lately, it’s become more and more of a need to optimize both hardware and software settings to get the most out of your CAD programs.

We’ll be covering the different aspects of optimized CAD hardware such as memory size, storage size, processor speeds, and software settings in this article, and based on those, we’ll take a look at the best laptops for CAD work.

Processor

When it comes to processors, the Intel units such as the i3, i5, and i7 are standards for PC and laptops for consumers while Xeon processors are used for drawing and drafting offices. However, there are brands apart from Intel that work just as well. AMD is doing especially well as of late with their Ryzen line of products, although they’ve still got a ways to go to match up to Intel.

When it comes to processors, you have to consider the number of cores the processor and the clock speed of the processor measured in gigahertz (GHz). Most processors nowadays have a minimum of four cores, with more higher end versions of the i7 line having 6 cores, AMD’s Ryzen with 8 cores, and the Xeon line having 12 cores and more.

You’ll have to look at the specific requirements of the preferred program you’re looking to know if you should prioritize core number or clock speed, but for simpler 3D modeling programs like AutoCAD, you’ll find that they’re more likely to be single threaded. This means they only really use one core to perform their calculations, so you’ll have to go for higher clock speeds rather than more cores. It’s worth noting, however, that Autodesk is working on enabling multi-threaded support for their programs.

With newer rendering programs such as V-Ray, Blender, or Maya, they can work with multiple threads, so getting a standard quad-core processor with hyperthreading capabilities is recommended. For projects that aren’t too complex, that set up should be just right.

More complicated simulation software like Ansys or high-quality rendering software such as Keyshot will require additional cores, so investing in processors with more cores for programs like these will be worth the price.

RAM

The physical memory of your PC, most commonly referred to as the RAM, determines the amount of simultaneous programs and software that can be running at one time. For more complex modern software, RAM size has become much more important and pertinent.

For simpler CAD programs and work processes, 8GB should be enough. Any lower, and you’ll notice a significant drop in work quality and speed. For more complex applications, you’re going to want to shoot for at least 16GB of RAM. These are just the minimum recommendations though, try to shoot for more RAM when you can. When your program requires more memory than your RAM can handle, the spillover is redirected to virtual memory (a section of your hard disk allocated for this) but the operations will be noticeable slower.

But it’s a mistake to assume that more RAM is always better. If you have 64GB of RAM installed but the usual number of programs you use only needs 9GB, a lot of the money you spent on the RAM is wasted.

As such, it is recommended to go for 8GB for simpler CAD operations and 16GB for more complex 3D modeling.

Hard Drive

There are two standard types of hard drives available commercially – solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs). The HDD is the more traditional and cheaper option, while most modern laptops and desktops come with SSDs.

Try to invest in solid state drives. SSDs make sure your laptop is running at its fastest and lets you stop and restart your machine with ease. They’re traditionally more expensive but are well worth their price.

Graphics Card (GPU)

CAD can be demanding when it comes to graphics-intensive workflows, so selecting the right GPU will be important for laptop buyers. This is only true for certain programs though, so be wary. Autodesk programs rely mostly on the CPU, so always double check the requirements of your CAD program.

For graphics processors, Nvidia is the industry standard. There are certain AMD cards that should be able to work just as well as the Nvidia ones, but you’ll have to do your research to find one that’s suitable for the program you use. For less of a hassle, it’s best to go for industry standards.

Display

The rule of thumb is: the bigger the screen, the better. You’ll want ultrawide screens for CAD programs, and preferably something that can take 1080p. Although wider screen displays are more pricey and might be hard to justify allotting a budget for sometimes, more screen real estate is important for multi-tasking and having enough modeling space – two very important factors when it comes to using CAD software.

Try to shoot for screens that don’t go below 15.6”. IPS panels on laptops also make sure you have a crystal-clear view of your laptop regardless of what angle you view them, so be on the lookout for that. As for the brightness of the screen, go for those within the range of 250-300 cd/m2. With screen contrast, try to go for 1200:1, but if you can’t, anything above 800:1 should be good. Additionally, look for screens with 80-100% sRGB color coverage.

Best Laptop for CAD

There are a bunch of factors to consider when choosing the best laptop for CAD and your work needs. You can check out this video for a quick guide on what to look out for. Below, we’ve prepared a ready list of some laptops that are great for CAD software and 2D/3D modeling work.

Dell Inspiron 15 5000

best laptop for cad

Image source: Amazon

When it comes to laptops for CAD work, Dell’s Inspiron line is one of the brand’s most well-known and trusted product lines for the job. This latest model of the Inspiron 15 has a lot of great new features. The display is amazing, the processors available are top-notch, and the graphics processor and memory are great as well:

  • Price Range: $730-850 (Depending on Processor and availability of touch capability)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-5500U, 2.4 GHz
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • Display: 15.6”, 1366 x 768 max resolution
  • Disk Space: 1 TB SATA
  • RAM: 8 GB DDR3
  • Portability: 0.9 x 10 x 14.9 in; 5.7 lbs

HP Omen 17.3″

Image Source: Amazon

HP’s Omen sports a 17-inch display which is on the larger side of laptop display sizes. It also comes with an i7 quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a solid graphics card.

  • Price Range: $1,500
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 3.8 GHz
  • Graphics Card: NVidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, 4 GB GDDR5
  • Display: 17.3”, 1920×1080
  • Disk Space: 1TB HDD + 256GB NVMe SSD
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR SDRAM
  • Portability: 23.6 x 13.4 x 2.7 in; 8 lbs

MSI GL72M 7RDX-800 17.3″

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MSI, one of the more reliable names in laptop quality, has their GL72M model, which has an  i7 quad-core processor, 8GB or RAM (DDR4), and a reliable 2GB NVIDIA GeForce Graphics processor. For space, it comes with an SSD for the boot drive with a 1 TB HDD.

  • Price Range: $1300
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 2.8-3.8GHz
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX1050, 2GB GDDR5
  • Display: 17.3”, 1920 x 1080
  • Disk Space: 128GB SSD M.2 SATA with 1TB HDD (SATA) 5400rpm
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Portability: 10.6 x 16.45 x 1.16in; 5.95 lbs

Razer Blade 15 RTX

Image Source: Amazon

Here is a great laptop by Razer, a brand known for its quality gaming machines and accessories. This one comes with a great 8th generation Intel processor with great clock speeds, an expandable 16GB RAM size, and a top-of-the-line graphics processor. This one is great for workflows with a lot of renders and simulations.

  • Price Range: $2300-3000 (Depending on graphics processor and storage capacity)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H, 4.1 GHz
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070
  • Display: 15.6”, 1920×1080 max resolution
  • Disk Space: 256GB SSD
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4
  • Portability: 9.2 x 14 x 0.7 in; 4.63 lbs


Lenovo ThinkPad P51 Mobile Workstation 20HH000TUS

Image Source: Amazon

Lenovo’s Thinkpads are some of the most time-tested and reliable laptops around. These professional workstation laptops are especially good for CAD programs. The P51 model comes with a solid Xeon quad-core processor, a Quadro graphics processor, and a 256GB SDD. It also has a whopping 16GB of RAM. Additionally, it has a nifty littly fingerprint reader for added security. Price Range: $730-850 (Depending on Processor and availability of touch capability)

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 3.8 GHz
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA Quadro M1200
  • Display: 15.6”, 1920 x 1080 max resolution
  • Disk Space: 516GB SSD
  • RAM: 16 GB SO-DIMM
  • Portability: 9.9 x 3 x 1.2 in; 5.89 lbs