Best laptops for AutoCAD, budget laptops and workstations for AutoCAD and 3D modelling

When it comes to CAD software, Autodesk’s AutoCAD is very popular for 2D and 3D modeling, especially among architects. If you’re an architect or a graphic design student looking for a laptop to run AutoCAD, you probably already know how difficult it can be to choose the right laptop for your needs.  AutoCAD is a resource intensive application, but simply buying the most powerful laptop money can buy does not always guarantee the best performance.  On the other hand, if you’re on a limited budget, make sure you narrow down your needs in order to get the best hardware for the money. In this case, we can also recommend building your own desktop if you don’t really need portability workstation, but keep in mind that finding a good budget laptop for AutoCAD isn’t impossible either.

Choosing the best laptop for AutoCAD, what to look for?

Processor (CPU): CAD modeling is a very CPU intensive task, and when trying to find the best laptop for AutoCAD you should keep in mind that AutoCAD remains a single threaded application. According to Autodesk, AutoCAD and AutoCAD for Mac only support multi-core technology in specific areas of the product like 2D regeneration and MentalRay rendering. If you don’t know what Single threaded or Multi threaded mean, here is a quick refresh: When it comes to processors, there are mainly two things to consider, the clock speed or frequency (number of operations the CPU can do per second) and the number of cores (the number of physical cores the CPU contains). When shopping for a laptop for AutoCAD, it is recommended to get the processor with the highest frequency. If you’re on a budget, we recommend getting a laptop with at least an Intel i5 processor. If you will be doing more complex CAD modeling, then consider getting an i7 or a mobile work station with an Intel Xeon.

Graphic Card (GPU): If you are going to work on 3D models, getting a faster GPU is recommended. While Autodesk’s certified graphic cards like the NVIDIA Quadro series can be costly, you don’t actually need a dedicated graphics card to run AutoCAD. However, getting a dedicated GPU will greatly benefit your workflow and performance. Most gaming laptops can also run AutoCAD with no issues, so if you’re also into gaming, consider a laptop with a dedicated GTX 1060. If you’re more into doing complex 3 designs, use AutoCAD on a professional scale, or if you want the maximum performance you can get from a laptop, then you should consider looking into mobile workstations.

RAM:  When choosing a laptop for AutoCAD, and CAD modeling in general, RAM quantity is a very important factor. Autodesk recommends a minimum of 8GB of RAM, but it’s recommended to get a laptop with at least 16GB of RAM (or a free slot to add more RAM later). Having more makes multitasking easier, since most users will be running AutoCAD simultaneously along with Photoshop, or web browser, which will usually eat up 2-3 gigs of RAM.

Storage:  You probably already know it, but whenever you have the choice, choose a laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD). For AutoCAD, an SSD will bring a huge boost to performance, boot times, and app launching times. SSDs are more expensive, compared to traditional hard drives; and that’s why their storage capacity is still limited. So if you need more storage capacity, consider getting a laptop that has two drives (SSD+HDD), or simply using an external drive for your files.

Display:  There are three main things to consider when buying a laptop for CAD work: the screen size, screen resolution, and color reproduction. This is a matter of personal preference, but AutoCAD, it is recommended to get a laptop with at least a 15 inch screen and Full HD resolution. Smaller 13 inch laptops have the advantage of being more portable, but unless connected to a bigger external monitor, doing your modeling work on a 13 inch laptop will involve a lot of zooming around. Laptops with IPS displays are also recommended, since IPS panels do a much better job at reproducing colors, and have better viewing angles. IPS is the go to option for designers.

Now that you know what to look for in a laptop that’s going to be used to run AutoCAD, or other programs such as Revit or Solidworks; let’s see some of the best laptops and mobile workstations you can buy in 2018.

 

Best budget and mid range laptops for AutoCAD:

 

  • Acer Aspire E15 E5-576G-5762

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On a budget? you definitely cannot go wrong with the Acer Aspire E15 E5-576G-5762. The E15 is one of the few sub 600$ options out there, if you’re looking for an affordable laptop for AutoCAD. This laptop offers a great bang for the bucks; it comes with an 8th generation I5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive and a GeForce MX150, which is an entry level graphics card. This is an all purpose laptop that is also capable of running design programs such as AutoCAD or Photoshop.

And in case you need to add more RAM or storage space, the E15 is one of the few laptops that offer decent upgradability: you can add a second hard drive (Acer also provides a kit for that), and you can upgrade the RAM up to 32GB.

Battery life is another thing that will surprise you in the Aspire E15, while Acer claims it can last 12 hours, you can expect an average of 8 hours in real world use. Which is excellent at this price range!

The Aspire E15 also comes in version with the i7-8550U; however, going for the i7 processor won’t give you a noticeable performance boost. You’d be better off spending those extra 200$ on adding more RAM or a second SSD.

Processor Intel Core i5-8250U Processor
RAM 8GB
Storage 256GB, SSD
Graphics Dedicated, NVIDIA GeForce MX 150
Screen 15,6 inch, 1920X1080, IPS
Connectivity and Ports 1 – USB Type C  port

2- USB 3.0 port

1- USB 2.0 port

1 – HDMI port,

Card reader, Bluetooth 4.1, DVD/RW

Battery up to 12 hours battery life

 

  • HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop, 15-cx0020nr

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The HP Pavilion 15-cx0020nr is not only one of the best gaming laptops out there, but also one of the best laptops to run CAD software. And unlike many gaming laptops, the HP 15-cx0020nr has a pretty standard design.

The Pavilion 15 has all the power to handle all your AutoCAD projects and complex shapes: under the hood, there is an 8th generation i5-8300H processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive with 16GB Intel Optane Memory, and a dedicated Nvidia Geforce 1050Ti. The Intel Core i5 8300H is one of the most powerful processors you can find on laptops, and it performs very well in single core and multicore tasks.

Thanks to the dedicated Geforce 1050Ti graphics card, the Pavillion 15 also performs very well as an entry level gaming machine:  you can play most modern titles on medium settings at 1080p without the frames per second dropping below 30.

 

Processor Intel Core i5-8300H Processor
RAM 8GB
Storage 1TB HDD
Graphics Dedicated, NVIDIA GeForce 1050Ti
Screen 15,6 inch, 1920X1080, IPS
Connectivity and Ports 1 – USB Type C  port

3- USB 3.1 port

1 – HDMI port, RJ45

Card reader, Bluetooth 4.1, DVD/RW

Battery up to 8 hours battery life

 

Acer Predator Helios 300 (G3-571-77QK)

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The Acer Predator Helios 300 is one of the most powerful laptops under 1000$ you can find. Powered by a 7th generation Intel core i7 7700HQ quad processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM, a 256GB solid state drive, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM,  the Helios 300 is a perfect choice is you are looking for a laptop for AutoCAD as well as gaming or video editing.

The Helios 300 sports a 15.6 inch IPS display, at a Full HD resolution. The screen is very beautiful, and offers excellent viewing angles. It also has a matte finish and doesn’t suffer from reflections too much.

The build quality on the Helios 300 is also very impressive, with a solid metal body and contained weight/dimensions for a gaming laptop: the Helios 300 weighs 5.95lbs and is 15.35 x 10.47 x 1.05 inches.

Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ Processor
RAM 16GB
Storage 256GB SSD, (with a free slot to add a second drive)
Graphics Dedicated, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB of VRAM
Screen 15,6 inch, 1920X1080, IPS
Connectivity and Ports 1 – USB 3.1 (Type C) port

1 – USB 3.0 ports

2 – USB 2.0 port

1 – HDMI port

Card reader, Bluetooth 4.0

Battery Up to 7 hours battery life

 

Asus VivoBook M580VD-EB76

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The Asus VivoBook M580VD-EB76 is a professional powerhouse that offers a very good quality/price ratio. It has everything to run intensive applications such as AutoCAD, Revit, or Sketchup…thanks to a 7th Generation Intel quad core i7 7700HQ, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB M2 SSD as well as a 1TB hard drive, and a dedicated Nvidia 1050 graphics card.  The VivoBook M580VD-EB76 is also capable of some light gaming, as long as the settings are kept low.

The VivoBook M580VD-EB76 also sports a premium looking chassis, which combines aluminum and high quality plastic. The design is sturdy

 

Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ Processor
RAM 16GB
Storage 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD
Graphics Dedicated, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB of VRAM
Screen 15,6 inch, 1920X1080
Connectivity and Ports 1 – USB 3.1 (Type C) port

1 – USB 3.0 ports

2 – USB 2.0 port

1 – HDMI port

Card reader, Bluetooth 4.2

Battery Up to 8 hours battery life

 

Dell XPS 9560-7001SLV-PUS

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The Dell XPS 9560 is the first thing that comes to mind when looking for powerful PC ultrabooks. If you need a slim and lightweight, yet powerful laptop for AutoCAD, then the XPS 9560 has what it takes. It features a 7th gen Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a dedicated Nvidia Geforce 1050 graphics card. At only 2.9 pounds and 0.6 inch thickness, the XPS 9560 is one of the best ultrabooks out there, with the perfect mix between performance, value, design, and battery life.

Not only does the XPS 9560 pack plenty of power to tackle all your multitasking needs, but it also comes with a gorgeous 15.6 inch IPS display at 4K resolution. It is one of the best displays at its category, offering wide viewing angles and accurate colors.

Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ Processor
RAM 16GB
Storage 512GB SSD
Graphics Dedicated, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB of VRAM
Screen 15,6 inch, 4K, IPS
Connectivity and Ports 1 – Thunderbolt 3

2 – USB 3.0 ports

1 – HDMI port

Card reader, Bluetooth 4.1

Battery Up to 10 hours battery life

 

Best Mobile workstations for AutoCAD:

A mobile workstation is a notebook computer with high-end computing features not typical of the notebook. Designed for professional users, mobile workstations can handle intense graphic applications and faster processing. They are however bulkier and heavier than regular notebooks, and also more expensive.

MSI WE72 7RJ-1032US:

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The MSI WE72 7RJ-1032US is a powerful 17 inch workhorse with plenty of distinctive features. The WE72 actually borrows its chassis’ design from MSI’s gaming laptops, but packs a professional NVIDIA Quadro M2200 graphics card. The MSI WE72 7RJ-1032US also combines a quad core i7 7700HQ, to 32GB RAM and a blazing fast 512GB SATA SSD. This configuration is more than enough to tackle even complex AutoCAD 3D shapes with no issues.

Another point which makes the MSI WE72 a recommended workstation for AutoCAD is the display. The laptop comes with a big 17,3 inch Full HD IPS panel that does a pretty good job, despite being limited when it comes to the color gamut (85% of sRGB and 56% of the AdobeRGB).

Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ Processor
RAM 32GB
Storage 512GB SSD
Graphics Dedicated, NVIDIA Quadro M2200
Screen 17,3 inch, 1920X1080, IPS
Connectivity and Ports 1 – USB 3.1 (Type C) port

2 – USB 3.0 ports

1 – USB 2.0 port

1 – HDMI port

Card reader, Bluetooth 4.2

Battery Up to 5 hours battery life

 

Lenovo ThinkPad P51

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The Lenovo ThinkPad P51 is the perfect workstation laptop for designers, engineers and power users. Thanks to its strong configuration, the P51 is one of the most recommended workstations for AutoCAD and 3D modeling. It comes with a Quad core Intel i7 7820HQ processor, 16GB of RAM (up to 64GB), a 512GB SSD as well as 1TB hard drive, and a professional NVIDIA Quadro M2200M with 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM. There is no need to mention that the ThinkPad P51 is on Autodesk’s certified hardware for AutoCAD.

The ThinkPad P51 is also a perfect choice if you’re a professional multimedia creator; the P51 has one of the best IPS displays on a laptop. The model we recommend here has a 15.6inch display running at 4K resolution. Viewing angles are almost perfect, and color reproduction is simply impressive.

Processor Intel Core i7-7820HQ Processor
RAM 16GB
Storage 512GB SSD, 1TB HDD
Graphics Dedicated, NVIDIA Quadro M2200M
Screen 15,6 inch, 3840 x 2160, IPS
Connectivity and Ports 1 – Thunderbolt 3port

4 – USB 3.0 ports

1 – Docking station connector

1 – HDMI port, mini display port, Fingerprint reader

Card reader, Bluetooth 4.2

Battery Up to 8 hours battery life

 

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