Best laptops for Architects
So, the time has come to buy a new laptop! If you have arrived here, you might be looking for the best laptops for Architects. If so, you are probably overwhelmed by all the jargon and options. Do not worry anymore, because you have come to the right place. This post is the ultimate guide to find the best laptops for Architects. Because laptops are a very difficult and complicated items, this article is also a very long one. For this reason, we have divided it into two parts, which should be read in order if you want to make the most out of the information.
How is this article divided?
In the first part of the article, called Best laptops for Architects – The Principles, we will explain what is what in the laptop world in a clear and entertaining way. We will talk about what you need to look for and about which components suit the Architect working requirements.
In the second part of this post, called Best laptops for Architects – The Recommendations, we will speak about which specifications and laptops you should be looking at depending on your profile. As there is a lot of variety and the perfect fit will depend mainly on your requirements, we have created different architectural personas. For each persona, we have stated which specifications are required from the list of components that we explain in the first part of the article and then we have recommended specific laptops from Amazon that fit the specific persona.
For your buying process, our recommendation is that you take the list of specifications/components and you shop around for a laptop. Why? We think that there might be better options for a better price that, at the time of this writing, were not available. Moreover, Amazon does not have all the different options (at the time of this writing), so it is a good idea to check other websites. To sum up, look around following the components guidelines to find the perfect laptop at the best price.
After this introduction, let’s start with the principles.
Best Laptops for Architects – The Principles
So, what do you need to know to find the best laptops for Architects?
Well, you need to look at the following components, which, due to the nature of our jobs, are the most important:
- CPU (Central Processing Unit)
- GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)
- Screen and resolution
- Storage Drive
- Operational system
So, let’s get a bit more into detail about these components and what you need to look for.
CPU (Central Processing Unit):
The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the brain of the computer. It is the part of a computer that performs calculations, actions, and runs programs. As a result, it is a crucial part of the buying decision.
However, if you have already been looking around, you will have realised how confusing CPUs’ names are. We will keep it really simple here, but you can follow the links added if you are interested in learning more. Currently, the main CPUs in the market are the following:
- Intel Core family: The most common option. This family includes the Intel Core i3, i5 and i7. The page Best Intel processor: Core i3, i5 and i7 explained from trustedreview.com explains this complicated family very well, with both a short video and a long article. Moreover, their page Intel 7th Generation CPU list has all the different Intel Core processors and their characteristics. It can be very useful as a sort of anchor point when checking computers, as you will know easily all the characteristics of the CPU in each laptop. As far as Architects go, within this family, you should be looking only at i5 and i7. Which one is suitable will depend on your intended use, which we will look at in the following post of this series.
- Intel Xeon family: This family is the one you should be looking at if you are really serious about using your laptop for architecture. Because the Xeon family has more cores, it performs better in tasks like rendering or structural calculation. Why? Well, each core is basically one processor. As a result, in software that takes advantage of multiple cores (like rendering), you have more processors doing the same job, so it gets done faster. For example, a rendering done with a CPU with 8 cores would be done roughly twice as fast as one done with a CPU with 4 cores. You can see that this decision can actually have a massive impact on your efficiency depending on what you use your computer for. Apart from the number of cores, Intel Xeon processors are more stable and therefore crash less often. There are more reasons why Xeon is better than Core for CAD applications. A good and quick explanation can be found at the following link. CAD Workstations: Xeon vs i7 vs i5 Processors. The downside? It comes with a big price increase, so it might not be a good compromise depending on how much you use your laptop and which programs you use more often.
- AMD processors: They are not that common, so we will not go into detail about them. If you come across one laptop with an AMD processor, just make sure it is a multi-core processor and that it is equivalent to at least i5 (depending on the use you want to give it, of course).
GPU (Graphics Processing Unit):
A GPU, or graphics processing unit, is used primarily for 3D applications. It is a single-chip processor that creates lighting effects and transforms objects every time a 3D scene is redrawn. These are mathematically-intensive tasks, which otherwise would put quite a strain on the CPU. A dedicated GPU is a massive boost in your work, especially when using any 3D application such as 3DS Max, Rhino or Revit. Therefore, our recommendation is that your laptop has a dedicated GPU and not only the graphics card that comes with the CPU.
If you have researched a little bit about GPUs, you will have seen that both Nvidia and Radeon produce the highest quality products. However, programs such as Rhinoceros do not recommend Radeon, so we personally think that you are better off going for Nvidia cards. Within Nvidia, the GeForce family is the most common one in the laptop world. Nvidia GeForce GPUs, however, have been designed for gaming, so they are not the ideal option. Nvidia has a specialised (and more expensive) family of graphics processing units called Quadro. A good explanation of the differences between Nvidia GeForce and Nvidia Quadro can be found in this Quora Page: What is the difference between Nvidia Quadro and Geforce? How each of them performs on CAD and Gaming?
As with the CPU, your choice will depend on how much time you will spend using 3D applications and how much money you can spend. If you are looking for top performance in 3D applications, you should choose a laptop with Nvidia Quadro. If not, a good Nvidia GeForce will also do a good job. As an example of this difference, you can read the Autodesk 3ds Max 2018 Graphics Hardware Certification. In here, you will see that Autodesk recommends that you use Nvidia Quadro for 3ds Max, although they also note that they have tested certain Nvidia GeForce GPUs successfully.
RAM (Random Access Memory):
This is basically the memory of your computer. According to Wikipedia:
Random Access Memory (or simply RAM) is the memory or information storage in a computer that is used to store running programs and data for the programs. Data (information) in the RAM can be read and written quickly in any order. Normally, the random access memory is in the form of computer chips. Usually, the contents of RAM are accessible faster than other types of information storage but are lost every time the computer is turned off.
As for the amount of RAM you should be looking for, Autocad asks for a minimum of 4 GB (8 GB recommended), whilst Rhino requests 8 GB and Revit requirements go from 4 GB for small projects to 16 GB for big projects. Bearing in mind this information, our recommendation is that you have at least 8 GB of RAM. Ideally, you should get 16 GB.
Screen Size and Resolution:
This will depend on the use you plan to give to your laptop and how portable it needs to be. We think that your choice should be between 14″ & 17″. In my case, the last personal laptop I bought was 14″ because I wanted to use it also while commuting, so I could you use to write this article (for example). However, if portability is not one of your major priorities, you should go for either 15″ or 17″. As far as resolution is concerned, FHD (full high definition) resolution should be enough for the work involved. However, higher resolutions such as UHD (ultra high definition), 4K or 5 K can be a good add-on.
HDD vs. SSD vs. Hybrid Drive:
There are currently two different types of drives on the market. The traditional HDD drives and the SSD drives. What is the difference between them? SSD drives are faster and more reliable than HDD, but they come with a higher price tag. It is like choosing between a donkey and a horse. The horse will carry you faster and will be more reliable, but you will have to spend more money on it. We would recommend that you get at least 500 GB of storage, as architectural files tend to be quite big. If you can afford it, we would recommend that you pick SSD or, if not, a hybrid drive.
Mac vs. Windows:
This is, we think, more of a personal preference. Macs tend to be more reliable and faster and they have the added value that the brand brings. On the other hand, some of the most used programs for architecture are not available on Mac. That means you might end up having a Windows system within a Mac, diminishing the advantages of having a Mac. We are personally more inclined towards Windows, but both are good options to consider, depending on your personal preferences.
Summary of the principles:
So, to summarise, these are the minimum requirements for your laptop. That doesn’t mean they are adequate for all the tasks you might need it. But it is what we consider the basics for any Architect.
- CPU: Intel Core i5 minimum. Better i7. Go for Intel Xeon if you will be rendering or heavily using the computer with CAD applications a lot. If you come across an AMD processor, check for an equivalent to the Intel you have picked up as suitable for your needs.
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce as a minimum. For some 3D applications such as Rhino or 3DS Max, Nvidia Quadro is a much better choice.
- RAM: Minimum 8 GB. Better 16 GB.
- Storage Drive: Minimum 500 GB. Better if it is SSD (or hybrid) than HDD.
- Screen size and resolution: From 14″ to 17″, depending on how portable you want your laptop to be. FHD for the resolution as a minimum.
Best Laptops for Architects – The Recommendations
As we said in the main introduction, we are using different personas to exemplify the different requirements that you might have. We hope this will make it easier for you to identify the perfect match to your needs.
These are the following personas we will use:
- The commuting Project Architect
- The struggling Architecture Student
- The perfectionist Senior Architect
- The tech-savvy Junior Architect
- The busy Architect Director
The commuting Project Architect
We will call this persona Michael. Michael is a young Architect (30-35 years old) that works at a big Architectural firm, where he has a desktop computer. He uses his personal laptop for all his own matters, including any project or competition he decides to undertake on his own. He wants to use his laptop mainly when commuting from home to work. Micheal will not use Revit or 3DS Max very often in his laptop, although his idea is to use them for the competitions he undertakes, usually, once a year. Although money is not a massive impediment, it is still an important part of the buying decision. With these characteristics in mind, our recommendations for the components we spoke about in “Best Laptops for Architects – The Principles”, are the following:
Components for the commuting Project Architect
- CPU: Our choice for the CPU would be an Intel Core i7. This is, we think, a good compromise for Michael the commuting Project Architect. The Intel Xerox is probably an over specification in this case and the Intel Core i5 might feel short some times. As the laptop will be used a lot during commuting, a long battery life is desirable. Therefore, the Intel Core i7 should be from the U suffix family as explained in the page Best Intel processor: Core i3, i5 and i7 explained from trustedreviews.com. The following is a list of the current ones available:
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce would be our choice here. As the focus on this persona is for non-CAD work while commuting, a Nvidia Quadro appears to be an over specification.
- RAM: 12 GB is the minimum set for this persona due to the potential requirement for calculation-intensive tasks. Better 16 GB.
- Storage Drive: In this case, HDD storage drive is preferred due to the importance of the budget in the decision and also due to the fact that this laptop will be used mainly as a second computer. Hence the speed of the SSD does not become as paramount. However, in the link below you will see that the proposed laptop is SSD. This is because it was the best deal found at the moment of this writing on Amazon.com.
- Screen size and resolution: 14″ as portability is very important.
Laptop for the commuting Project Architect
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E470. There are six variations of this product on our website. For this specific persona, we recommend the variation with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD.
VAR13 Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E470 14 Inch FHD Premium Flagship Laptop (Intel Core i7-7500U
14" IPS Full HD (1920x1080), Anti-Glare, Backlit-LED | Nvidia Geforce 940MX 2GB Dedicated Graphics
7th Gen Kaby Lake Intel Core i7-7500U 2.70 GHz (Turbo 3.50 GHz, 4MB SmartCache, 2 Cores 4 threads)
256GB SSD | 16 GB 2133 MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM (Max 32GB) | HD Webcam
The struggling Architecture Student
Please meet Bob, our struggling Architecture Student. Bob is currently in his second year of university and he is working part-time to pay for the expenses of his degree. Therefore, although Bob would like to have a powerful computer, the budget is now his maximum constraint. He brings the laptop quite often to university, so it would need to be fairly portable within the budget constraints, but also big enough to be able to work on it comfortably for long stretches.
Components for the struggling Architecture Student
- CPU: Intel Core i5. As the budget is the maximum premise for Bob, an Intel Core i5 will do the trick.
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce would be our choice here. Although adding a dedicated GPU is an extra cost, we believe that it is a mandatory requirement for Architects and Architect Students.
- RAM: The minimum also applies here. As a result, 8 GB would be our choice.
- Storage Drive: In this case, HDD storage drive will be the choice as long as there is not a crazy offer that gives an SSD drive for the same price.
- Screen size and resolution: 15″ as a compromise between size and portability.
Laptop for the struggling Architecture Student
For Bob, the ASUS VivoBook V551LA is a very good choice. It is an affordable yet powerful computer that will save him a few hundred bucks while at the same time giving him enough power to do all his tasks in an efficient manner.
ASUS VivoBook V551LA DH51T – Core i5 4200U / 1.6 GHz – Windows 8 64-bit – 8 GB RAM – 750 GB HDD – DVD-Writer – 15.6″ touchscreen wide 1366 x 768 / HD
ASUS VivoBook V551LA DH51T – Middle i5 4200U / 1.6 GHz – Home windows 8 sixty four-bit – 8 GB RAM – 750 GB HDD – DVD-Creator – 15.6″ touchscreen extensive 1366 x 768 / HD
The perfectionist Senior Architect
Our perfectionist Senior Architect is called Jennifer. She has quickly raised to a Senior Architect position thanks to her dedication, organisation skills and her attention to detail. Jennifer values detail and design in anything she does or owes. Luckily, money is not a big concern for her. She needs to bring her laptop to meetings every once in a while, so she needs a laptop that does not weight too much.
Components for the perfectionist Senior Architect
- CPU: Intel i7 (quad-core) or Xeon would be preferable as speed is very important for Architects in a high position.
- GPU: Nvidia Quadro would be our choice here. This will speed up the visualisation process, something very important while reviewing models in 3D. However, as Jennifer loves the attention to detail, she is really into Apple products, which do not offer Nvidia.
- RAM: 16 GB would be our choice.
- Storage Drive: Our choice in this instance would go to an SSD Drive.
- Screen size and resolution: 15″ as a compromise between size and portability.
Laptop for the perfectionist Senior Architect
For Jennifer, we recommend the Apple 15″ MacBook Pro because of her love for Apple products. If you are not an Apple fan, look around for other choices with the specifications above.
The tech-savvy Junior Architect
Our tech-savvy Junior Architect is called Matthew. Matthew is a fan of technology and has already built a reputation within the office of the person who is aware of the latest trends and who knows the developments that technology is bringing into Architecture. He is an expert in Revit, Rhinoceros and 3D Studio Max. When he is not checking render parameters, he is solving some corrupt Revit central file or creating an extremely complex Revit family. Apart from that, he also spends a lot of his time testing new codes and ideas in Grasshopper and Dynamo.
He sometimes needs to bring his laptop to meetings to show his new ideas or developments. Moreover, he does courses for the other employees about, for example, how to set up a Revit model or about how to use Revit families. However, most of the time the laptop stays in its place. Therefore, portability is not a priority.
Components for the tech-savvy Junior Architect
- CPU: Intel Xeon is very important in this case due to the frequent use of 3DS Max, Revit and Rhinoceros.
- GPU: Nvidia Quadro would be our choice here. Very important for the programs that Matthew uses in his laptop.
- RAM: 16 GB would be the minimum here.
- Storage Drive: Our choice in this instance would be an SSD Drive.
- Screen size and resolution: 17″ as portability is not a priority and having a bigger screen will help him (although he has a second screen to make everything faster).
Laptop for the tech-savvy Junior Architect
For this persona, we recommend the following two laptops.
LENOVO THINKPAD P50
Lenovo Thinkpad P50 15.6 2-IN-1 Laptop
Intel Xeon E3-1505M v5 Quad-Core Processor (4 cores, 2.8 GHz up to 3.70 GHz, 8MB SmartCache) with vPro Technology
Nvidia Quadro M2000M 4GB GDDR5 | 256 GB SSD M.2 Opal2 | 16GB DDR4 (MAX 32GB)
15.6" FHD (1920x1080) IPS | Backlit Keys | FingerPrint Reader
MSI WT72 6QL-400US
The busy Architect Director
Melissa is our busy Architect Director. As an Architect Director, Melissa hardly uses her laptop for CAD or BIM, but she brings it always around to the meetings and stores there all the presentations and important documentation. She is around quite often so she tends to get a lot of work done on her computer while travelling from the office to visit clients or team members.
Components for the busy Architect Director
- CPU: Intel i7 would be enough in this case.
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce would be enough. Even some lower alternatives would be suitable due to the inexistent use of 3D applications.
- RAM: 16 GB would be the minimum here, as the computer needs to go fast.
- Storage Drive: Our choice in this instance would go to an SSD Drive.
- Screen size and resolution: 15″ as portability is important but a lot of work gets done on this computer. A slim laptop would be the right choice.
Laptop for the busy Architect Director
We also have two choices for this persona.
ASUS ZenBook UX550VE-DB71T
ASUS ZenBook UX550VE-DB71T 15.6-inch NanoEdge FHD touch Laptop (Core i7 Processor, GTX 1050Ti, 16GB DDR4, PCIE NVMe 512GB SSD, Windows 10) Backlit keyboard, Fingerprint Reader, Black
15.6-Inch 178 degree wide angle view Full-HD Nano Edge touch display with Windows 10
Latest 7th generation Intel i7-7700HQ Quad Core 2.8 GHz Processor (Turbo to 3.8 GHz)
Fast storage and memory featuring PCIE NVMe 512GB SSD with 16GB DDR4 RAM with NVidia GTX 1050Ti 4GB
Dell XPS9560-5000SLV-PUS 15.6″ Traditional Laptop (Silver)
7th Generation Intel Core i5-7300HQ Quad Core Processor (6M cache, up to 3.5 GHz)
8GB DDR4-2400MHz up to 32GB (additional memory sold separately)
256GB PCIe Solid State Drive, No Optical Drive
The above are the components we would recommend and the laptops from Amazon.com that best fit the requirements for each persona. We hope our explanation helped you to decide which laptop you need. Would you like to see any other persona in the post? Let us know in the comments below!