5 Of The Best Laptops For Architecture 2018 (With Landscape & Budget Picks)

Planning to embark on a new career as an architect? Besides the knowledge you’ll need to gain in a college program, you are going to want a high end laptop to run the proper programs.

Computer Assisted Design (CAD) tools are extremely memory, CPU, and graphics-intensive. If you don’t want your renders to take hours, you need a certain degree of hardware specs right out of the box.

We’ve got you covered with a roundup of the five best laptops for architecture available in 2018, whether you are a new student or long time architect.

Picking The Best Laptop For Architecture

The ability to draft with CAD software is a critical skill for any architect, whether you are involved in landscape or building design.

All five of our contenders listed below meet or exceed the recommended requirements for nearly any CAD program.

With that issue out of the way, it’s time to decide what specific features you need. Do you plan to draw freestyle with a stylus, or do you prefer a traditional clamshell design without a touch screen?

In either case, we’ve found all the best architecture laptops to fit any budget for both students and professionals!

NBN’s cheat sheet

Top pick

Lenovo ThinkPad P51

In 2018, there’s no question that the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 is the single best machine for architects. With a graphics card built for CAD software and absolutely monstrous specs, this model will be your absolute best pick.

It is a very expensive laptop, however! If you don’t have enough cash on hand for such a big investment, the ZBook 15u G5 will be your next best bet.

The Contenders For Best Architecture Laptop

Microsoft Surface Book 2 – Best Laptop For Architecture Students

  • Very high battery life
  • Hybrid touch screen
  • Great graphics card
  • High price
  • Surface pen not included

Should this be your choice?

Need a laptop with great build quality that will last four years of college and easily run high end drafting tools? The Surface Book 2 should be your choice, if you don’t mind the high price tag.

There was a time when the Surface Book series didn’t feature the power necessary for CAD style programs, but that is no longer the case.

With its hybrid style, the Surface Book 2 is a perfect solution for 2nd year architecture students using design software.

The hardware is high end enough to run anything you need, and you can use the laptop in tablet mode for freehand design.

16GB of RAM and an i7, 8th gen processor will run any tools you need for classes. Add in the GTX 1060 video card and you won’t just get fast rendering — you’ll be able to do some gaming on the weekends as well.

The price may be a bit higher than the average college student wants to spend, however. That issue aside, you won’t find a better student laptop, especially with the huge battery life that will last for a full day of classes.

Hardware specifications for Microsoft Surface Book 2
Processor8th generation Intel Quad Core i7 (1.9GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage512GB SSD
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Display15-Inch PixelSense Touch Screen Display, 3260 x 2160 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Battery Life17 hours
Weight4.2 lbs

 

Lenovo ThinkPad P51 – Best Laptop For Autocad Architecture

  • Huge amount of storage space
  • Very high end specs
  • Graphics card specifically meant for CAD
  • Very high price
  • No touch screen display

Should this be your choice?

Need to the absolute best of the best for architecture programs? This should be your pick, especially since it is future proofed against new CAD software updates down the line.

Anything labeled as a “mobile workstation” will typically sport the specs necessary for running CAD programs.

If you want the absolute best currently available, that designation easily goes to the ThinkPad P51.

With an i7 processor and a whopping 64GB of RAM, you won’t have any problem running AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Fusion360, etc.

With 2TB of solid state drive space, you won’t be running out of storage capacity anytime soon, either.

Want to know the best part?

The Quadro M1200M graphics card is aimed directly at CAD programs, rather than gaming. It offers a significantly more stable experience for 3D engineering and architectural tools.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo ThinkPad P51
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7820HQ (8M Cache, Up to 3.9 GHz
RAM64GB DDR4 RAM
Storage2TB SSD
GraphicsNvidia Quadro M1200M (4GB)
Display15.6-Inch Full HD IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Battery Life8 hours
Weight5.8 lbs

Dell Inspiron 15 7567 – Best Budget Laptop For Architecture

  • Dedicated graphics card
  • Solid state drive
  • Heavier unit
  • Less overall storage space

Should this be your choice?

Need to save money but still get a portable computer capable of running CAD tools for school or work? This should be your best pick at an affordable price.

You can expect to spend above $700 to meet the minimum recommended specs, either as an architecture student or working in a professional firm.

What you are looking for in a budget pick is to still get a dedicated graphics card, but cut down on the other specs. You get a solid state drive here, but only 256GB of storage space.

Keep in mind that 8GB is the bare minimum for the vast majority of CAD programs and architectural tools.

Many developers for programs like Revit have already released their requirements for upcoming 2019 software updates and recommend 16GB instead.

To future proof your purchase, you may want to consider going with a more expensive model.

Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron 15 7567
ProcessorIntel Core i5-7300HQ (Quad Core 2.50GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
Display15.6-Inch FHD Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight6.61 lbs

Apple MacBook Pro – Best Laptop For Landscape Architecture

  • Plenty of storage space
  • High end RAM and processor
  • No touch screen
  • Very high price

Should this be your choice?

Need to run both Mac OS and Windows 10 programs for landscape architecture projects? If you’ve got the money to spend, this should be your top pick!

Many landscape architecture college programs recommend picking up an Apple laptop, but with a dual boot setup.

With both Windows and Mac OS on a computer, you can utilize a broader range of landscape architecture tools.

Our contender listed here is one of the latest MacBook Pro versions, and comes with a very high price tag.

You get a whole lot of bang for your buck though! This combination of CPU, RAM, and graphics card will easily run any tool you need without breaking a sweat.

If you want to save $1,000 you can look at previous year models instead. Just be aware you will typically get smaller storage capacity and less RAM, which will make the dual boot setup less viable.

Hardware specifications for Apple MacBook Pro
Processor8th-generation Intel Core i7 (6 Cores, Up to 4.3GHz)
RAM32GB DDR3 RAM
Storage512GB SSD
GraphicsAMD Radeon RX 560X (4GB)
Display15-Inch Display, 2880 x 1800 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemMac OS
Battery Life10 hours
Weight4.02 lbs

CUK ZBook 15u G5

  • Perfect specs for Revit
  • Lightweight model
  • No touch screen
  • High price

Should this be your choice?

Do you absolutely need to be up to speed with the latest version of Revit? This should be your top pick, as it will continue to run Autodesk well into the future.

The Autodesk Revit support site was recently updated with minimum and recommended specs for 2019 software updates.

In short, your best bet is to go with 16GB of RAM and a 2GB dedicated graphics card.

You get both of those specs with the Zbook 15u, along with a specious solid state drive for storing project data.

While there’s a lot of power packed into this model, it manages to feature a very lightweight design.

If you frequently carry your design station between locations, like from a work site to the office, that’s a huge plus.

Want to save a little money, or prefer an even smaller and lighter laptop? This same model is available in a 14 inch model with a smaller solid state drive for several hundred dollars less.

Hardware specifications for CUK ZBook 15u G5
ProcessorIntel Core i7-8550U (Quad Core, 8MB Cache, 1.8 – 4.0GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage500GB SSD
GraphicsAMD Radeon Pro WX 3100 (2GB)
Display15.6-Inch Full HD IPS Anti-Glare Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight3.89 lbs

How Much Do I Really Need To Spend On A Laptop For Architectural Design?

There’s no way to sugar coat it — laptops that can smoothly run CAD or Revit software usually aren’t cheap.

In many ways, architecture laptops and gaming laptops share a lot of similarities, including high price tags.

With both types of computer, you want a graphics card for rendering 3D objects. A large amount of RAM for running memory-intensive programs is also a must-have feature.

In general, expect to spend more than a grand on your final pick, with the best architecture laptops in $2,000 range and above.

What Are The Most Important Specs For A Great Architecture Laptop?

As mentioned above, a dedicated graphics card is critical, but you don’t need the same kinds of cards as with gaming machines.

Usually, any dedicated graphics card with 2GB of memory will work for rendering in CAD programs.

The absolute minimum acceptable RAM for architecture programs — whether its landscape, engineering, or anything else — will be 8GB. For most programs, 16GB is a better bet.

Don’t skimp on the processor, either! To run high end architecture software you need an i5 or i7 processor, preferably with four to six cores and an 8 or 9MB cache.

Finding The Best Laptop For Architecture Software

Whether you are just starting your architecture journey as a brand new student or have worked for a big firm for years, you are going to need a reliable computer.

All five of our contenders listed above could easily work out as the best laptop for architecture to fit your needs.

Have you found any other models that are tailor made for architecture design? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what we missed!

Andrew knows how hard it is to find the right laptop, that’s why he aims to deliver best know-hows to people in needs.

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