The 5 Best Laptops For CAD and 3D Model Rendering in 2021

In today’s article, we will be discussing the best laptops for CAD, including for the AutoCAD software package and other 3D modeling initiatives. Our main objective here is to create an informative article that will help our readers make the best buying decision possible.

In creating this guide, we have dedicated over 30 hours in researching, fact-checking, writing and editing.

We based our research on expert opinion, market research, and real user feedback.

We spent the bulk of the time finding the best selection criteria (i.e., what factors to look for in a CAD laptop).

We also graded each of our recommended products with a score of 1-10 on each criterion.

After that, we also composed various scenario-specific options such as best convertible laptop, best MacBook, best laptop overall, and more. These recommendations will help you pick a laptop if you have any specific use case in mind.

Enjoy!

How To Choose the Best Laptops for CAD and 3D Modeling

How to Choose the Best Laptops for CAD

 

The following are the most important selection criteria to use when picking a laptop for CAD/3D modeling:

CPU

The CPU or central processing unit (also known simply as a processor) is the main “brain” of a computer.  It executes all commands and is, along with memory/RAM, the main determining factor of whether a computer is “slow” or not.

The two main factors you need to be concerned about picking a good CPU are “Clock Speed” and “Core Count”. We define these below and determine ideal values to look for:

Cores

A processor core is a place where commands are executed. If a processor has multi-cores, each of them is used to execute tasks at once, allowing for what is called “parallel processing”, significantly reducing the time it takes to process tasks. Lower priced processors tend to have lower core counts, while medium or higher-priced processors have higher core counts.

Ideally, you’d want processors that at least have four cores (i.e. “quad core”).  However, for more optimal performance you’d want six-cores (hexacore) processors or higher.

In today’s article, we will be taking a look at processors that have core counts from 4 up to 8.

Clock Speed

The clock speed refers to how many “cycles”, or tasks, your processor can perform in a second. For example, If a processor has a 3.0 GHz clock speed, it means that the processor can perform 3 billion cycles per second.

Clock Speed is measured using GHz (Gigahertz), and to run CAD and perform 3D modeling, a minimum of 2.5-2.8 GHz clock speed is recommended. However, to play things safe we recommend going for processors with more than 3 GHz.

Today we’ve presented you with processors that have clock speeds ranging from as low as 3.2 GHz to up to a 5GHz.

RAM

RAM is short for Random Access Memory. Ram is a temporary data storing space where the computer might need to access immediately or in the next few moments.

As the CPU is processing tasks, it will likely need to make heavy use of this temporary memory, which is why adequate levels of RAM are crucial when selecting a computer that will be doing heavy computational and rendering tasks.

RAM is measured with GB (Gigabytes), and CAD software manufacturers recommend at least 8GB of RAM.

RAM is also a primary contributor to the cost of a laptop, so while more RAM is generally always better, it will have a big impact on price.

In today’s article, we’ll be recommending laptops that have between 8 and 16GB of RAM.  If it is within your budget, we recommend opting for the higher RAM models.

GPU

GPU is short for Graphics Processing Unit. It is a singular or collective set of chips that processing and renders graphics on the screen. Though GPU has little to offer in terms of CAD and modeling, a minimum model is required to run this software at appropriate settings.

The two things you want to look for in a GPU are its model number and the amount of VRAM it has.

At minimum, you’d want at least 2GB of VRAM, but if you want medium to high performance we recommend going for at least 4GB VRAM.

As for the GPU model, we suggest picking up a laptop that has at least the Nvidia 1050Ti or other equivalent models, however this is a requirement for CAD software, the only strict requirement is that it that has at least 2GB VRAM.

In today’s article, we’ll be having a look at a bunch of different GPUs. These GPUs will have VRAM ranging from Stock VRam (2GB) to up to 6GB GDDR6 VRAM from RTX GPUs.

Storage

Storage is used to refer to longer term data storage capabilities, in the form of “hard drives”, either HDD or SSD (see more below).  We will discuss these storages in detail and recommend the minimum range you need to find on your laptop.

HDD

HDD is short for Hard Disk Drive. HDDs are made up of spinning magentic disks where data is stored. If that sounds kind of old school, it’s because it is.  HDDs are generally thought of as legacy technology because they’ve been around since the beginning of the computer age.

They are, however, cost efficiency and can be used for long term storage more effectively than SSDs.

Ideally, you’d want at least 1TB of HDD space if you opt for an HDD drive.

We’ll be looking at HDDs that have storage capacity ranging between 1 and 2TB (Terabytes), and some of the laptops will even have optional space to add an HDD later.

SSD

SSDs are short for Solid State Drive. An SSD uses integrated circuit assemblies to store data continuously. So anytime a request for Data is made, it reacts almost instantly, not needing to physically access the portion of a magnetic disk like HDD does.

Because of this speed advantage, SSDs are mainly used used as the main drive for the operating system.

Ideally, you want a minimum of 256GB of SSD storage, as anything less than this will present some challenges in fitting all the necessary OS and software package files on the disk.

In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at laptops that have a minimum of 256GB SSD storage and a maximum of 512GB SSD storage.

Price

Price is always an important factor when making any purchase.  Based on current market rates, we’ve bundled our selections into the following price ranges:

  • Low – $550 or below
  • Medium – $550 – $950
  • High – $950 and up

Our Product Recommendations

  1. Best CAD Laptop Overall – Acer Nitro 5
  2. Best High-End Laptop for CAD and 3D Modeling – Acer Predator Helios 300
  3. Best Convertible CAD Laptop – Lenovo Flex 5
  4. Best Budget Laptop for CAD and 3D Modeling – Acer Aspire 5
  5. Best MacBook for CAD and 3D Modeling – Apple MacBook Air (2020)

#1. Best CAD Laptop Overall – Acer Nitro 5

Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop

Selection Criteria

  • CPU- intel Core i5-9300H (Quad Core, Up to 4.1 GHz clock speed)
    • Our score – 9/10
  • GPU- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 (4GB VRAM)
    • Our score – 9./10
  • RAM- 8GB DDR4 2666MHz
    • Our score – 9/10
  • Storage- 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD (Optional HDD slot available)
    • Our score – 8.5/10
  • Price- $794
    • Our score – 9/10

About the Acer Nitro 5

The best laptop overall for CAD and 3D modeling is the Acer Nitro 5. It matches all our recommended selection criteria and has a reasonable price.

Raw power is the most important aspect which the Acer Nitro 5 offers. The CPU has some very ample power with a 4.1 GHz clock speed and a quad-Core setup.

It comes with a GTX 1650 GPU, which is a great complement to the other hardware in the system.

While it’s missing an HDD for long term storage, it does have a 256GB NVME SSD, which provides the necessary speed for modeling tasks.

The SSD and GPU will provide a fast interface and boost to the Graphic portion of CAD respectively.

Pros

  • A powerful Processing Unit.
  • Comes with a great GPU.
  • Meets the recommended VRAM and RAM count.
  • NVME SSD instead of SATA ensures a smoother UI.

Cons

  • Does not come with an HDD. However, there is an option to add HDD separately.

#2. Best High-End Laptop for CAD and 3D Modeling – Acer Predator Helios 300

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop for CAD

Selection Criteria

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-10750H (Hexa Core, Up to 5 GHz clock speed)
    • Our score – 9.5/10
  • GPU – NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 (6GB VRAM)
    • Our score – 9.5/10
  • RAM – 16 GB DDR4
    • Our score – 9.5/10
  • Storage – 512GB NVMe SSD
    • Our score – 9/10
  • Price – $1,350
    • Our score – 8/10

About the Acer Predator Helios 300

High-End Laptops for CAD are tablets that have the highest possible specs, but accordingly they also have the higher price points. They comprise the best processing units, GPUs, RAMs, and storage possible.

So for our final pick, the best high-end laptop for CAD and 3D modeling is the Acer Predator Helios 300.

This laptop has a excellent configuration in every selection criteria, surpassing our minimums and recommended ranges on virtually every front.

Take the processing Unit, for example, It has the latest Intel 10Gen processor with a hexacore setup and a massive 5GHz clock speed, so it can handle all sorts of CAD tasks with ease.

Another great thing about this laptop is the GPU it comprises, it features the latest RTX 3060 with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM.

Even the RAM and Storage section is solid with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe SSD storage. There is even an option to pick up additional bundles associated with the laptop, but that’ll add on to the already high price point.

Pros

  • It has the best configuration all-around for CAD and 3D modeling.
  • Robust processing unit with up to 5GHz processing capabilities.
  • One of the first laptops in the world to have a 144Hz refresh rate.
  • Has one of the best RTX GPUs.

Cons

  • High Price Point.
  • Slightly Heavy (from all that hardware!)

#3. Best Convertible CAD Laptop – Lenovo Flex 5

Lenovo Flex 5 14-in 2-in-1 Laptop

Selection Criteria

  • CPU- AMD Ryzen 5 4500U (Hexa Core, up to 4 GHz clock speed)
    • Our score – 9/10
  • GPU- AMD Built in Graphics
    • Our score – 7.5/10
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4
    • Our score – 9.5/10
  • Storage – 256GB SATA SSD
    • Our score – 8/10
  • Price – $629
    • Our score – 9/10

About the Lenovo Flex 5

Though being portable and stylish is not a must-have criterion for CAD laptops, many people may prefer a laptop that has these elements, and a convertible laptop fits the bill very nicely.

The Lenovo Flex 5 comes with one of the best CPU setups for any convertible laptop, and while there’s an Intel version of the same laptop, this AMD version is our choice because of the Hexacore processor and boosted clock speed of 4 GHz.

The RAM count and storage amount of this laptop reach our recommended range as well. Furthermore, you’ll also find an active pen included with the packaging.

One of the more attractive elements is the price, coming in at under $700.

Pros

  • Highest RAM count and Storage amount for convertible laptops.
  • Powerful CPU with Hexacore and 4 GHz clock speeds.
  • Easy to carry around as it can also be folded to use as a tablet.

Cons

  • The built-in AMD GPU just meets the minimum requirements for CAD.

#4. Best Budget Laptop for CAD and 3D Modeling – Acer Aspire 5

Acer Aspire 5 A515-55-56VK

Selection Criteria

  • CPU- Intel Core i5-1035G1 (Quad Core, Up to 3.6 GHz clock speed)
    • Our score – 8.5/10
  • GPU – UHD graphics G1
    • Our score – 7.5/10
  • RAM – 8 GB DDR4
    • Our score – 9/10
  • Storage – 256GB SATA SSD
    • Our score – 8/10
  • Price – $550
    • Our score – 9.5/10

About the Acer Aspire 5

While a budget laptop isn’t the most powerful laptop on the market, it can still get the job done.  Budget options are good for beginners and hobbyists that don’t want to commit to a large purchase just yet.

While the Acer Aspire 5 is an entry-level laptop for CAD users, the performance is still quite decent. Both CPU and GPU meet the minimum requirements for CAD, and the RAM count and Storage amount meet the recommended range.

Pros

  • Very Affordable Price.
  • Recommended RAM and Storage amount ensure a fast UI.
  • Meets all the minimum requirements for running CAD and 3D modeling.

Cons

  • Like the Flex 5, the integrated GPU is an area that could’ve been improved upon.

#5. Best MacBook for CAD and 3D Modeling – Apple MacBook Air (2020)

2020 Apple MacBook Air Laptop

Selection Criteria

  • CPU – Apple M1 (Octa Core, Up to 3.2 GHz clock speed)
    • Our score – 9/10
  • GPU – Apple M1 (7/8Core)
    • Our score – 8.5/10
  • RAM – 8 GB DDR4
    • Our score – 9/10
  • Storage – 256GB/512GB PCIe SSD
    • Our score – 8/10
  • Price – $949
    • Our score – 7.5/10

About the Apple MacBook Air

If you love Apple/Mac, then the best laptop for CAD would be the MacBook Air. It scores high on our selection criteria, and it also comes with all the comforts and facilities that the Apple ecosystem has to offer.

Both processing units (CPU and GPU) are above our recommended range for ideal CAD and 3D modeling tablets. Most notably, it comes with the much-talked-about Apple M1 chip. This processor has 8 cores and a 3.2GHz clock speed. Both combined make this MacBook an excellent choice for CAD and 3D modeling.

And like the other products of the Apple ecosystem, the MacBook Air also has a diverse storage range to choose from. You can pick between 256GB and 512GB versions (Both are PCIe SSD).

Additionally, the GPU has 7/8 cores instead of a regular 4/6 core setup. The extra cores provide a much-needed performance boost during the retouch and mapping phase of 3D modeling.

Pros

  • A splendid Processing Unit in terms of both Processor and Graphics.
  • The M1 chipset provides better performance than any other Macbooks at the moment.
  • Light and Fast UI makes the name “MacBook Air” justified.

Cons

  • You could get similar performance laptops for much less price.

Conclusion

This is the end of our guide to the best laptops for CAD and 3D Modeling. In this article, we’ve discussed how you can identify the best laptop for your specific needs and a CAD designer or 3D modeler.

We explained why criteria such as CPU, GPU, Core Count, Clock Speeds, RAM, Storage, and Price are key deciding factors in choosing a laptop for CAD and 3D modeling. We have defined these selection criteria and have left recommended ranges for each.

After that, we went on to discuss our recommendations which covered various use cases, this will help make a more precise buying decision for your specific situation.

Thanks for reading, we hope our suggestion helps you fetch your desired product.

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