Whether you are designing the next innovative workspace, a top-secret phone for Apple or Google, or even just a 3D-printable part of making DIY repairs with your 3D printer, you are probably going to come across AutoCAD sooner or later.
When it comes to 3D and 2D modeling, AutoCAD is one of the most popular computer-aided design software. Despite its ubiquity in professional, educational, and hobbyist circles, running AutoCAD requires quite a bit more horsepower out of a machine than is commonly available.
That said, with the power and efficiency of 8th gen Intel Core processors as well as the latest dedicated graphics cards, it’s feasible to find the best laptop for AutoCAD and AutoCAD 3DS.
In this article, we will explore some of the best AutoCAD laptops to fit your budget.
- Our Recommended Laptops For AutoCAD
- Best Laptops For AutoCAD in 2020
- 1. Microsoft Surface Book 2
- 2. Apple MacBook Pro
- 3. ASUS ROG Zephyrus S Ultra Slim – Ready Gaming Laptop for AutoCAD
- 4. HP Spectre x360 13T – Best Notebook for AutoCAD
- 5. Asus VivoBook PRO
- 6. Acer Predator Helios 300 – Recommended AutoCAD Laptop Under $1000
- 7. Dell Gaming Laptop G5587
- 8. Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop
- What To Look For In An AutoCAD Laptop?
- Final Verdicts
Our Recommended Laptops For AutoCAD
When looking for a powerful laptop for AutoCAD, you mostly want to find a configuration with: a multi-core processor, a dedicated graphics card with at least 4GB GDDR5 video memory, and enough RAM to multitask and render, more than that SSD storage is also nice to have.
We have reviewed and tested these machines which we believe are some of the best CAD modeling laptops in their respective categories.
|Product Name||CPU||RAM||GPU||Storage||Display||OS||Battery Life||Weight|
|Microsoft Surface Book 2||i7-8650U (4-core)||16GB||Nvidia GTX 1060||512 GB SSD||15”||Windows 10 Pro||17 Hours||4.2lbs|
|Apple MacBook Pro||i7-8750H (6-core)||16GB||Radeon Pro 555X||256 GB SSD||15”||macOS Mojave||10 Hours||4.02lbs|
|ASUS ROG Zephyrus S Ultra Slim||i7-8750H (6-core)||16GB||Nvidia GTX 1070||512 GB SSD||15.6”||Windows 10 Home||2 Hours||4.6lbs|
|HP Spectre x360-13t Quad Core||i7-8550U (4-core)||16GB||Intel UHD Graphics 620||512 GB SSD||13.3”||Windows 10 Home||14 Hours||2.78lbs|
|Asus VivoBook PRO||i7-7700H Q (4-core)||16GB||Nvidia GTX 1050||256 GB SSD + 2 TB HDD||15.6”||Windows 10 Home||4 Hours||5lbs|
|Acer Predator Helios 300||i7-8750H (6-core)||16GB||Nvidia GTX 1060||256GB SSD||15.6”||Windows 10 Home||7 Hours||5.51lbs|
|Dell Gaming Laptop G5587||i5-8300H (4-core)||8GB||Nvidia GTX 1060||128GB SSD +1TB HDD||15.6”||Windows 10 Home||6 Hours||6.28lbs|
|Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop||i5-8250U (4-core)||8GB||Nvidia GeForce MX150||256GB SSD||15.6”||Windows 10 Home||15 Hours||5.27lbs|
Best Laptops For AutoCAD in 2020
1. Microsoft Surface Book 2
Its diminutive form deceptively packs a massive punch with its quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core processor, especially while docked to the keyboard which itself houses a powerful Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card and additional battery cells to extend its usable life.
The hybrid nature of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 makes it an extremely versatile tool for modelers and engineers who may need to bring their projects on-site and make edits and changes while on their feet. Its active Surface Pen stylus—sold separately—makes this even more intuitive and natural to use.
If you’re considering the Surface Book 2 to use for AutoCAD, make sure to look into getting the higher end model with the bigger 15” screen and 16GB RAM. The cheaper 13” model is too small to use while working on projects, and its included keyboard doesn’t house a dedicated graphics card at all.
It’s one of the most expensive options on this list, but its versatility makes the Surface Book 2 an excellent laptop for AutoCAD.
2. Apple MacBook Pro
If you are entrenched in the Apple ecosystem or have inclinations to join the Mac team, you’ll be happy to know that Apple’s latest MacBook Pro with touch bar is a competent AutoCAD machine.
The Intel core i7 model is equipped with the latest 8th gen Intel Core i7-8750H hexacore processor, which boasts six full processing cores of computing power allowing your projects to render at blazing speeds. And if you’re feeling extra indulgent, there’s even an i9 model with a more powerful processor to take your productivity up to 11.
Considering that the main point for choosing between a Mac and a Windows laptop is the operating system, it should help to know that AutoCAD does sell and maintain a Mac version of its popular software.
However, note that the Windows version of AutoCAD remains more feature-filled, more stable, and more updated. If you’re switching from Windows to Mac and have used AutoCAD in the past, you’ll also have to factor in the learning curve of adapting to a different UI.
That said, if you’re an advanced user who isn’t afraid of a little tinkering, it’s still very possible to dual-boot MacOS and Windows 10 with Bootcamp or Parallels to take advantage of the Windows version of AutoCAD on your Apple MacBook Pro. There’s also the fact that Macbooks are stylish and prestigious enough to use and show off as business laptops as well.
3. ASUS ROG Zephyrus S Ultra Slim – Ready Gaming Laptop for AutoCAD
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is primarily marketed and configured as a gaming laptop, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work as hard as it plays. On the contrary, gaming laptops make for excellent productivity machines as well if you can keep yourself from being distracted by video games long enough to get some actual work done.
With its extremely polarizing design, it takes a specific type of consumer to appreciate the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S aesthetic. It boasts a military-grade metal chassis, which houses an extremely impressive array of components – including the latest 8th gen Intel Core i7-8750H hexacore processor and Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU, the most powerful in this list – that is perfect for working with AutoCAD.
Its thermal solution is attractive as well. When opening the Zephyrus’s lid, the bottom of its chassis opens up as well to increase airflow to the internal fans. This helps cool its powerful parts but is also half the reason why it’s incredibly awkward to use on anything but a flat table.
The other half is due to its keyboard placement, which is right along the bottom edge of the laptop instead of in the middle like in regular laptops. This means no sweaty palms due to heat from under the keyboard deck, but also no palm rest to speak.
If you can get over this weird design choice, however, the sheer performance of the laptop makes it the best laptop for AutoCAD on this list by a price-to-performance ratio.
4. HP Spectre x360 13T – Best Notebook for AutoCAD
If you are looking for a laptop that you can use for AutoCAD all day on the go, carrying it around everywhere while still being able to get the job done, the HP Spectre x360-13t is it. At less than 3lbs, it’s the lightest laptop in this list.
It’s no slouch, though; with a quad-core 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor, it certainly punches above its weight class.
Its lightness isn’t without reason, either. The HP Spectre employs a convertible design, allowing you to fold back the lid a full 360 degrees and use the laptop as a tablet, complete with included active stylus.
This is great for working on and showing off your projects and blueprints to your partners and managers without having to all crowd around a small screen. And yes, at 13.3” diagonally, its screen is small. The HP Spectre x360-13t also doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, which will make working on 3D models tedious, if not frustrating.
However, for 2D projects, the integrated Intel HD620 graphics is sufficient. These compromises allow it to keep its handy form factor while still maintaining impressive battery life, however, so it’s hard to fault the HP Spectre x360-13t for being relatively anemic compared to the other laptops in this list.
5. Asus VivoBook PRO
For display enthusiasts, this laptop is for you. With a native touchscreen display resolution of 3840 x 2160, the Asus VivoBook PRO is the only laptop on this list which can honestly market itself as having a 4K screen.
Most of the other laptops here are saddled with 1920 x 1080 Full HD, which is 1/4th (half the height, half the width) the number of pixels as what the Asus VivoBook PRO offers.
In other words, and to bring this back to the AutoCAD theme, this laptop’s 4K screen offers four times the screen real estate to work. With its gorgeous screen, as well as additional perks such as its slim, sleek design, fingerprint sensor, 16GB RAM, decent Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, and even its very reasonable price tag, what’s the catch?
Why consider the other Asus product in this list the ROG Zephyrus S when the VivoBook PRO has all this going for it? Well, unlike its more expensive cousin (which, again, is equipped with the best GPU in this roundup) as well as all the other laptops in this article, this Asus VivoBook PRO is equipped with a processor from the previous generation.
While the last-gen Intel Core i7-7700HQ is by no means a bad CPU it was the flagship consumer i7 of its generation, it feels more dated than it usually would due to the fact that its current-gen replacement is a 6-core processor while this one only has four cores. This puts it at closer to the current gen i5 CPUs, which still makes it a good laptop for AutoCAD 3DS if you don’t mind slightly longer render times.
6. Acer Predator Helios 300 – Recommended AutoCAD Laptop Under $1000
The Acer Predator line is well known for its extremely gamer-centric design and specs, and the Helios 300 is no exception. It’s big and beefy, and its weight is a point of consideration before purchasing.
It isn’t heavy without reason, though, as it sports an all-metal chassis and even metal fin fans in its cooling system that should help keep its thermals in check also while chugging away in AutoCAD.
Another point for the Acer Predator Helios 300 is its 144Hz screen. High refresh rate screens are a prime feature for gamers, but it isn’t completely wasted on productivity tasks like AutoCAD either. A rapid refresh rate display shortens the time it takes for frames to render on the screen, which lowers input lag and provides consumers an excellent user experience regardless of the task.
While there are other laptops in this list that offer a 144Hz display, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is the only one which provides this benefit for less than $1000, if you manage to catch it on sale. When factored in with the rest of its configuration, such as the latest gen Intel Core i7-8750H and Nvidia GTX 1060, this makes for an incredibly excellent laptop for its price – if you can handle its heft.
7. Dell Gaming Laptop G5587
You’d be forgiven if at first glance the Dell G5587 doesn’t seem like a gaming laptop to you. Despite its reasonably neutral, attractive, even—design, this is marketed and specced out as a laptop for gamers. It just so happens that what makes the Dell G5587 a solid choice for gamers also make it a very capable 3D modeling and rendering laptop.
Inside its slim, modern chassis, the Dell G5587 sports an 8th gen Intel Core i5-8300H, an Nvidia GTX 1060, 16GB RAM, and a dual SSD + HDD configuration.
While it isn’t using a flagship CPU, it’s undoubtedly still a high-performance laptop for AutoCAD. It’s also often found available at discounted prices that put it below $1000, which makes it affordable enough for engineering and architecture students to consider this laptop. Or any student, for that matter.
The CPU being an i5 instead of an i7 is forgivable, but what’s less kosher is the fact that the GTX 1060 included in the Dell G5587 is a Max-Q variant.
Max-Q graphics cards are about 10% less power than their regular counterparts, which means you’re not getting as big a kick out of this GPU than you would be getting otherwise. Still, it’s better than no dedicated graphics card.
8. Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop
Just because the Acer Aspire E 15 is the cheapest laptop in this list doesn’t make it the one we least recommend. On the contrary, its price allows us to distinguish the Acer Aspire E 15 as our best budget laptop for AutoCAD. And yes, with its specs as configured, it is still capable of running and rendering AutoCAD projects.
The Acer Aspire E 15 is the perfect antithesis to its bigger, beefier cousin from this list, the Acer Predator Helios 300. Where the Helios 300 is designed to show off its blatant gamer roots in both its design and spec, the Aspire E 15 is about as vanilla as a laptop can get. Nothing about its design stands out, and the same can be said about its hardware.
Equipped with an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U, GeForce MX150, and only 8GB RAM, it’s the weakest of the bunch even compared to the Asus VivoBook PRO which uses the last-gen Intel Core i7.
While working on AutoCAD projects might be fine on the Acer Aspire E 15, its 15-watt processor is probably going to struggle with rendering them as it attempts to maintain a sustained turbo boost.
That same low-power 15-watt U-class Core i5 processor, however, is what allows the Acer Aspire E 15 to stay powered on for up to 15 hours on battery. Such a long battery life laptop is invaluable when going for multi-hour marathons between classes or commutes where you can’t expect to be around an outlet.
And some of the power deficit is made up by the fact that even this budget laptop comes with a 256GB SSD, a Full HD 1080p display, and easily upgradable storage and RAM.
What To Look For In An AutoCAD Laptop?
Like we mentioned earlier in the article, there are some basic things one should look out for when shopping around for a laptop to run AutoCAD.
1. Look for Multi-core Processor
A powerful multi-core processor such as the latest 8th gen Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs will enable laptops to more quickly render 3D projects, as AutoCAD is designed to utilize many CPU cores allowing each one to contribute to the task. It can be tricky deciding which CPU is suitable for your needs, as Intel’s naming conventions leave much to be desired.
However, as a general rule of thumb, all 8th generation i5 and i7 ultra-low-power U-class CPUs are quad-core processors. The i7-8750H, an H-class CPU, is the only 6-core Intel CPU available to consumers. And unless you’re specifically looking to spend as little as possible or value battery life above all else, stay away from the extremely-low-power Y-class processors, as they are restricted to two cores.
- For 6 cores, choose laptops with the i7-8750H
- For 4 cores, look for laptops with i7-8XXXU or i5-8XXXU processors
- For 2 cores, look for budget laptops with Y-class CPUs but only if you’re ok with them being very underpowered
2. The higher RAM the better
More RAM allows for more multitasking. Operating systems also require a minimum amount of RAM to run at all. For this reason, 8GB is the minimum viable amount of RAM anyone should be considering for any laptop, and 12-16GB is our recommendation for serious productivity.
3. Large screen means easier to design
Laptop screens already have the disadvantage of being relatively small compared to desktop monitors, which can generally get bigger than 19” at the very least.
In this list, the biggest laptop screens are only 15.6”, and unless you’re comfortable with squinting all day long or working unreasonably close to your screen, we don’t recommend going any smaller than this.
4. Look Laptop with Decent Graphics card
Although Autodesk does not specify a dedicated graphics processor in their minimum requirements for AutoCAD, it’s highly recommended to have one if you intend to work with 3D projects at all. Either Nvidia or AMD generally provides dedicated GPUs in laptops.
If you see “Intel HD” in a laptop’s marketing for their graphics specification, this means the laptop is only using the CPU’s integrated graphics processor which isn’t as powerful as a dedicated GPU.
Key models to look out for are the Nvidia GTX or RTX series, and AMD R9 or Vega series. Generally the higher the number within each series the better and more expensive, but to simplify things further, you can narrow your search to these (in ascending price and performance):
- Nvidia GTX 1050, 1050 Ti, 1060, 1070, 1080
- Nvidia RTX 2060, 2070, 2080
- AMD RX 570, 580, Vega 8, Vega 10
- AMD R9 M470, M470X, M485X
Storage options in modern laptops have largely moved over to much faster solid state drive technology, which is a good thing. Cheaper or more budget-oriented notebooks may still run on traditional spinning-disk hard drives, and if you find yourself stuck with one, you might want to consider upgrading to an SSD sooner rather than later as the improvements to system speed and responsiveness as a whole are well-documented and very tangible.
Nowadays there are a few more terms thrown around that make it even more confusing than merely SSD vs HDD, though. You might see terms like M.2, PCIe, NVMe, and SATA being thrown around. Simply put:
- M.2 is a form factor standard. Only newer laptops from within the last 2-3 years will have this as an option.
- PCIe and SATA are interface standards. PCIe is faster than SATA.
- NVMe is a storage protocol. Like M.2, it’s a recent development and optimizes SSD transfers over PCIe interfaces.
- The fastest SSDs are PCIe NVMe drives. In laptops, the only way to install these is in an M.2 slot.
- Old-school 2.5” SATA SSDs are still miles better than HDDs, so do still consider upgrading to these even if your laptop can’t take M.2 PCIe NVMe drives.
5. Check the resolution size of the screen
Screen types more varied in recent years. In the past, all one had to worry about was a resolution. All of the laptops in our list sport at least a Full HD 1920×1080 resolution, which is the minimum resolution recommended by Autodesk to run AutoCAD. Some of the laptops we mentioned offer even higher resolutions, which will allow you to scale the UI smaller and reclaim some of the screen real estates to use for the viewport. Going lower than Full HD though will result in frustration as you struggle with the UI, speaking from experience.
Nowadays, screen panel technology and refresh rate matter. Whether a screen is a TN (Twisted Nematic) or IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel will determine how good it is at producing accurate colors and better viewing angles, with IPS panels handily beating TN in both regards.
VA (Vertical Alignment) panels offer a solid middle ground between TN and IPS panels and are often the panel technology used in high refresh rate monitors which offer extremely fluid response times and user experience.
6. Long Battery Life
Unless you plan to be tethered to an outlet for most of the day, laptop battery life is a valid point to take into account. How valuable this metric is to you depends on your consideration and circumstance. Just note that there is a tradeoff between power and battery life.
More powerful processors and graphics cards, as well as bigger, higher resolution screens, will all negatively affect a laptop’s battery life. This is how laptops with extremely-low-power CPUs such as the Intel Y-series can achieve battery lives of 15 hours or more. Just don’t expect such low-powered CPUs to perform well when working with AutoCAD.
Laptop battery capacities are generally measured in watt-hours. Most laptops have 40-60Wh batteries, with some of the more specialized ones reaching upwards of 80-90Wh. Note that for airlines in many countries, the legal maximum capacity a cell can be before it’s barred from being loaded onto a plane is 99Wh.
When looking for a powerful laptop for architecture, mechanical engineering, 3D modeling, and rendering, or any other industry or hobby that would benefit from running AutoCAD, there are plenty of options to choose.
It also depending on how much you’re willing to spend, it isn’t merely a matter of picking the one with the latest 8th gen Intel Core processor or most potent Nvidia GeForce GTX GPU either.
Whether or not you value portability, battery life, screen size, input options, and even storage will affect your choice a great deal. Hopefully, our list of recommended laptops along with our guide outlining what to look for in a notebook for AutoCAD helps narrow it down for you, no matter what your budget is.