11 Best Laptops For Architecture in 2020 [Expert Recommendations]

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Contrary to popular opinion, architecture is a multi-faceted domain. While professionals require exceptional skill sets and powerful computing resources to handle some of the more intricate layouts, students of architecture must have the vision to succeed, followed by the willingness to learn every aspect of 3D modeling.

In case you are looking for a reliable machine for your architecture work, you must opt for a machine that takes every aspect of designing, modeling, rendering, and even simulation into account. Mostly, one application program is never enough for your professional architects. While the likes of 3D Studio Max and Rhino take care of 3D modeling, you would have to rely on Revit, for other CAD indulgences.

Revit, as a matter of fact, allows an architectural fanatic to design columns, walls, roofs, and almost every building component with precision. AutoCAD also comes across as a pretty usable resource, in case you want to start with 2D layouts and eventually scale up 3D layouts. Besides, you would also need to work with V-Ray, Lumion, and even Corona Renderer for bringing the layouts to life and rendering them as per client or project preferences.

Rendering often entails realistic visualizations, and you can use the mentioned software sets as plugins for your go-to architectural software. Finally, you might have to work with SketchUp as well, if you want quicker outputs and using predefined samples is your thing. Seasoned architects and students might also need to work with Adobe Creative Cloud to handle the graphics-intensive tasks related to shading, sketching, and drawing, especially to produce an all-inclusive render.

Basic Computing Resources for Architectural Designs

Planning to purchase a laptop for architectural designs and professional activities? Here are three of the primary aspects that you need to care about and that too in the same order:

  • RAM: As a professional, you might have to render models frequently. Each render involves storing the geometry, data, and textures on the RAM for quicker retrieval, especially in real-time. Realistic renders even use 4K textures, with each taking up more than 64 GB of system memory. One such scene often comprises 100 4K textures at times, thereby validating the importance of RAM.
  • CPU: Rendering requires CPU in general, although the likes of V-Ray offer GPU acceleration support. Therefore, faster rendering or visualization requires additional cores or threads. As a rule of thumb, doubling the number of cores reduces the rendering time by half. Besides, if you are a high-end professional with a penchant for 3D simulations of the modeled designs, the processor becomes all the more important.
  • GPU: While GPU doesn’t affect the rendering performances significantly, it is necessary for 3D modeling, especially for drawing wireframe previews. However, if you are using iRay or VRAY renders, you could benefit from the CUDA processing API and the Ray-Tracing support, if available, for better results. To simplify things further, GPU mostly enhances the Viewport or UI experiences associated with rendering and modeling.
  • SSD: Once you max out the RAM, the textures page out right to the storage. Although this slows down rendering by a factor of ten, an SSD with NVMe and Optane memory support can still help you get respectable speeds. Besides, once the rendering is complete and RAM needs to be freed for the next processing frame, the visualizations, previz renders, and animations move to the storage.

While these are some of the primary aspects to look at, display resolution for deeper blacks and efficient color grading, durable keyboard, and diversified port arrangement for connecting external workflows are some of the other aspects to look at.

Minimum & Recommended System Requirements

A good laptop with basic computing resources wouldn’t suffice for architectural requirements. Therefore, our minimum set of specifications aims to achieve optimal system performances when rendering and modeling are concerned. In case you are into Rasterization and Ray-Tracing rendering involving 4K textures are more, anything comparable or better than the recommended system settings would do.

 Minimum System RequirementsRecommended System Requirements
CPU8th Gen Intel Core i710th Gen Intel Core i7
RAM16GB32GB
Storage512GB SSD1TB SSD or better
Display15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)17.3-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)
GPU3GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10506GB NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 Max-Q
BatteryUp to 4 hoursUp to 6 hours

11 Best Laptops for Architecture in 2020

Laptops suited for architecture usually cost a fortune. Therefore, our experts have personally tested and reviewed each one of the 11 laptops, based on rendering speeds, 3D modeling precision, simulation throughput, the correctness of the designs, and even the portability quotient.

Be it the external attributes or the internal processing conglomerate, we have analyzed every aspect of several premium notebooks before zeroing in on these 11 machines. Besides, a few gadgets on the list are dedicated to academic and entry-level usage, something our experts have considered.

1. Best Overall: Razer Blade 15 Studio

  • CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-10875H
  • RAM: 32GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch 4K OLED Touch (3840 x 2160)
  • GPU: 16GB NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000
  • Battery: Up to 4 hours

According to intensive tests, the Blade 15 Studio Edition performed the best in terms of overall rendering, modeling, and simulating capabilities. Despite being priced at a premium, this is a laptop worth investing in, provided you are a seasoned and experienced architect associated with designing complex layouts, walkthroughs, and more.

As more CPU cores result in better rendering performances, the Intel Core i7-10875H comes across as an undeniably good computing asset. What stands out is the Turbo Boost limit of up to 5.1GHz, followed by the Octa-Core architecture. Besides realistic rendering, the chipset also assists with better simulations and management of demanding architectural plugins.

Razer brings in the NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 GPU with 16GB of VRAM. The existing graphics processing unit comes with certified drivers and outperforms even the likes of RTX 2080, based on CAD, DCC, and visualization accuracy. If you are into creating detailed architectural walkthroughs via high-end 3D modeling, the 12nm graphics chipset is expected to come in handy courtesy of the Real-Time Ray-Tracing support and advanced shading technology.

The larger VRAM makes way for extensive viewport previews even when multiple workflows are connected. Besides, if you are also into leisure gaming, you can hit more than 50 FPS on some of the most demanding AAA titles at 4K presets. Moreover, if you have been working with V-RAY or IRAY renderers, this processing component quite appropriately assists with GPU acceleration.

Razer accommodates a dual-channel RAM module, amounting to 32GB RAM. Therefore, it comes easier to indulge in photorealistic rendering without running out of space to accommodate textures and visualizations. Our experts, however, found the storage to be slightly middling, despite the Blade 15 Studio making way for a 1TB NVMe solid-state module. While the storage capacity might be slightly controversial, the SSD module loads demanding programs like Revit, 3D Studio Max, and Rhino in a heartbeat. Furthermore, you get Windows 10 OS, completely bloatware-free, right out of the box.

The 15.6-inch color accurate, touch-supported panel deserves a special mention. Besides, Razer offers the perfect working base for architects that prefer completing renders with touch ups, via the 100 percent DCI-P3 color gamut. Moreover, the 4K OLED panel flaunts an overall display resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, thereby resulting in the sharpest possible viewing angles. Razer also flaunts deep blacks, riding on the ‘HDR 400’ True Black visual enhancement.

As far as structural innovations are concerned, you get an intuitive per-key backlit keyboard, inclusive of the Chroma RGB functionality. In addition to that, there is a ‘Precision Glass’ touchpad to rely on, followed by an IR webcam with Windows Hello functionality, serviceable mics, and amplified speakers. The aluminum-clad chassis doesn’t heat up all that much, owing to the Vapor Chamber thermal layout.

The gadget is exceedingly portable at 4.9 pounds and flaunts a pretty extensive port arrangement. These include USB 3.2, Type-C, Thunderbolt, HDMI, and more. Wireless connectivity feels instantaneous as the Blade 15 Studio comes equipped with backward-compatible Wi-Fi 6 standard. Besides, the battery on this premium laptop is capable of churning out almost 4 hours at once, which is quite acceptable considering the internals in play.

Overall, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is the best for architectural endeavors that money can buy. Although every feature is worth applauding, it is the Quadro RTX GPU and 4K display that steal the show.

Pros
  • Octa-Core processor
  • 16GB VRAM for better rendering performances
  • Stellar display with Corning Gorilla Glass protection
  • 1ms response time for lag-free simulations
  • Innovative cooling tech
  • Class-leading Quadro RTX GPU
Cons
  • Only 1TB storage
  • Pricey

2. Best Runner Up: Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17

  • CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Xeon E-2276M
  • RAM: 32GB
  • Storage: 2TB SSD
  • Display: 17.3-inch WUXGA FHD+ (1920 x 1200)
  • GPU: 6GB NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 Max-Q
  • Battery: Up to 3 hours

Be it the sheer size of the gadget or the restrictive battery backup, the Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17 is a workstation in the truest possible sense. Besides, this is one of the few notebooks in the retail space to flaunt workstation-grade internals with almost no processing feature reminiscing consumer-grade hardware.

Asus takes the professional experience to a whole new level with the Intel Xeon E-2276M chipset. While the featured processor is capable of turbo clocking at 4.7GHz, Xeon is the only Intel CPU series that can be packed into workstations whilst making way for ECC memory support. Furthermore, the single-core processing performances are more than commendable, thereby helping the gadget with faster rendering.

However, in terms of core availability, it is still bested by the Intel Core i9-9980HK variants. 3D modeling, GPU acceleration, and GPU-assisted rendering with RTRT, and DLSS support is made possible by the Quadro RTX 3000 Max-Q GPU. The 1920 CUDA processing cores ensure better modeling and viewport or UI rendering performances. Moreover, 6GB VRAM is more than sufficient for 4K textures.

ASUS also brings forth a new breed of Error-Correcting or ECC system memory into the mix. The 32GB RAM comes with an additional Error-Correcting chip that keeps memory corruption and crashes to a minimum. The server-grade system memory is upgradeable up to 64GB if desired.

Visualizations, app cache, previews, culminated projects, and Windows 10 Pro OS can be stored in the 2TB SSD module that flaunts the RAID 0 technology. The high-speed, zero redundancy storage setup is shaped as 2 separate 1TB units, working in tandem.

As far as display is concerned, the massive 17.3-inch NanoEdge screen flaunts 1920 x 1200 pixels, to be exact. However, as a professional, you need not worry about the color accuracy, as ASUS showcases the 97 percent DCI-P3 color gamut. The Pantone color-certified panel also makes room for a color depth of 8-bits, which is more than sufficient for designing exceptional workflows and even VR ready, complex designs.

The ProArt StudioBook Pro 17 redefines productivity further by pairing a backlit keyboard with decent key travel, a dual-functional and responsive touchpad, and a one-touch system lock feature for handling webcam, microphones, and snip tools with precision. It also makes way for an exceptional thermal layout, riding on the potential of the cooling fins and strategic vent placement. In addition to that, this workstation-grade notebook also brings decent-enough speakers to the party.

This gadget, obviously, isn’t the lightest one in the market and weighs almost 5.3 pounds. Then again, despite the heft, there are no port and connectivity compromises with the ProArt StudioBook Pro 17 featuring USB 3.2, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, Gig Ethernet, and top-notch wireless standards.

The battery, however, isn’t its strongest suit, and our experts could only churn out 3 hours on heavy usage. This minor bottleneck further validates the stead of the Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17 as a high-end workstation or rather a desktop replacement for professional architects interested in Building Information Modeling or BIM workflows.

Pros
  • Workstation-grade processor
  • GPU supports RTRT and CUDA processing
  • ECC system memory
  • Sizable Pantone-certified display
  • Exceptional port arrangement
  • 2TB storage support
Cons
  • RAID 0 increases the risk of data loss
  • A Subpar battery even from Workstation standards

3. Best Workstation: HP Zbook 15V G5

  • CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
  • RAM: 32GB
  • Storage: 2TB SSD + 2TB HDD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)
  • GPU: 4GB NVIDIA Quadro P600
  • Battery: Up to 10 hours

The HP Zbook 15V G5 should be your first choice if you plan to go berserk in the storage department. However, the gadget isn’t just about storage but comes across as one of the more portable workstation laptops.

Under the hood, HP stacks in the Intel Core i7-8750H chipset, boasting of Turbo Boost and Hyper-threading technology. The Hexa-Core processor is known for decent single-core performances, with the maximum speed going up to 4.1GHz. Be it intricate 3D rendering tasks, via Corona renderer or managing a barrage of third-party plugins, the existing chipset can be quite a handful.

Graphics-intensive 3D modeling or viewport rendering is perfectly handled by the NVIDIA Quadro P600 GPU. Despite being an entry-level workstation-grade graphics card, this is still a better option for architectural workflows than most consumer-grade GTX-series GPUs.

As far as multitasking and handling massive rendering textures are concerned, HP comes equipped with 32GB RAM. In case you are relying on GPU acceleration with the V-Ray renderer at the helm, the 4GB Video RAM comes in handy for processing some of the more intricate textures.

Then again, it is the storage setup that deserves a special mention with the Zbook 15 V5 offers a 2TB SSD and a 2TB hard disk drive. In case you are planning the storage hierarchy, we would advise installing the Windows 10 OS, demanding BIM tools like Revit, SketchUp, and ArchiCAD on the solid-state drive. Static renders concluded projects, and PSD files can be stored in the hard drive, in addition to leisure media and games that are seldom accessed.

HP ensures that the 15.6-inch workstation-level display isn’t a pushover and features multi-touch support. However, we expected a matte display for better sunlight visibility while the Zbook chose to persist with a glossy panel. Productivity is taken care of by the structural inclusions like the backlit keyboard, responsive trackpad, fingerprint sensor, B&O speakers, HD webcam, and serviceable microphones.

The Zbook 15V G5 also brings forth a decent thermal layout followed by a durable chassis, weighing a mere 4.7 pounds. The port arrangement exceeds expectations courtesy of Thunderbolt 3, USB Type-A, HDMI 2.0, and other functional slots for transferring data and pairing external displays. Connectivity is top-notch, with Wi-Fi 5, Gig Ethernet, and Bluetooth 5.0 standards to rely on.

Furthermore, the featured battery offers a 10-hour backup, which is clearly one of the better traits on display. Overall, if you seek a workstation-grade laptop at a decent price range, the HP Zbook 15V G5 should definitely be on your wishlist.

Pros
  • Massive storage space
  • Stellar touchscreen display
  • Workstation-grade GPU
  • Excellent port arrangement
  • A sizable chunk of system memory
  • Long-lasting battery
Cons
  • 8th gen processor isn’t future proof
  • No Wi-Fi 6 support

4. Best for Professional Architects: MSI P65 Creator

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
  • RAM: 32GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160)
  • GPU: 6GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours

Shifting to a more RTX-centric world, the P65 Creator from MSI is a formidable notebook for the professional architects and even the students who are progressively learning about CAD and BIM tools.

MSI brings forth the exceptional and sought-after Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, with six cores to work with. The HyperThreading technology ensures that the processor has 12 independent logical cores to work with, especially for advanced 3D rendering. For handling plugins better, the single-core turbo clock speed of 4.5GHz is a resourceful attribute.

GPU-intensive tasks like optional rendering and 3D modeling using Ray Tracing and AI-Enhanced graphics are possible with the RTX 2060 GPU at the helm. You also get access to 6GB VRAM for assisting the graphics card, in case of GPU accelerated renders and processes. While the RTX 20-series GPU isn’t as accurate as the Quadro processing units, it still gets the rendering and modeling job done perfectly enough.

Multitasking requirements are addressed by the dual-channel, 32GB RAM. However, our experts experienced slowness of rendering speeds despite this not being an ECC-powered memory. App caching, previews, and read & write speeds are nothing but exceptional with the 1TB SSD module in place. The Teton Glacier Solid State drive flaunts the H10 Optane Memory technology for better throughputs and loading the Windows 10 OS, faster than a SATA SSD.

The featured 4K display is one of the major highlights, featuring exceptional levels of color accuracy for better architectural touchups. The 15.6-inch panel offers a wide-angle viewing experience, allowing you to identify the minutest of structural elements with precision. Furthermore, the screen flaunts anti-glare properties for keeping ocular strains at a fair distance.

Other innovative specs include a standard backlit keyboard, larger touchpad with a silky finish, and an integrated fingerprint scanner. MSI is also accommodative of a webcam, microphone, and amplified speakers, for students who are supposed to attend online classes and lectures.

At 4.19 pounds, this is one of the lightest professional notebooks on our list. Despite the sleek aluminum-clad chassis, MSI P65 Creator doesn’t compromise on the connectivity specs. Be it connecting external displays or transferring data, you get access to Thunderbolt 3, Type-C, and other ports to work with. The battery on offer performs as per expectation and can last up to 8 hours before requiring a refill.

In conclusion, the MSI P65 Creator is a portable notebook with ample processing firepower for professional architects and students alike.

Pros
  • Stellar display
  • Light chassis
  • Fastest possible SSD
  • GPU with Ray-Tracing support
  • Hexa-Core processor
  • VR Ready notebook
Cons
  • Slower RAM
  • Middling speakers

5. Best with RTX 2060: Acer Predator Helios 300

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-10750H
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)
  • GPU: 6GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
  • Battery: Up to 6 hours

Despite being tagged as a gaming notebook, the Predator Helios 300 is a great architectural resource, considering the innovative GPU and a 10th gen processor.

Processing performances, especially the ones related to 3D rendering and simulation, are taken care of by the Intel Core i7-10750H chipset. In addition to the hexa-core architecture, the CPU is also capable of reaching turbo clock speeds of up to 5.0GHz. The 12-threaded CPU can offload some of the more intricate graphics-intensive tasks to the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU.

Rasterization and even Ray-Tracing rendering styles are supported by this graphics card with 6GB VRAM to rely on. Viewport 3D rendering and Wireframe modeling are also supported with 1920 CUDA processing cores on offer.

Although this variant comes with 16GB of on-board system memory, the dual-channel setup allows you to upgrade the same, if and when required. You also get a 512GB NVMe SSD storage module that allows you to store and load preview files, demanding apps and the Windows 10 OS at lightning speeds.

The 15.6-inch screen is extremely color accurate and flaunts the LED-backlit technology, more so as a power-efficient addition. The IPS panel flaunts a more than decent refresh rate of 144Hz. Then again, the higher refresh rate clubbed with a 3ms overdrive response time ensures faster image loading and better realistic simulations. Color grading for touch ups via Illustrator and Photoshop is a highly productive experience, courtesy of the 72 percent NTSC color gamut.

Acer features a 4-zone backlit keyboard as a productivity-enhancing feature followed by amplified speakers with DTS X audio support, HD webcam, responsive trackpad, and serviceable microphones. Despite working for several hours at a stretch, the Predator Helios 300 doesn’t emanate a lot of heat with the efficient thermal layout and AeroBlade Fan technology at the helm.

The port arrangement is pretty standard, with Acer making way for Mini DP, USB Type-C, Type-A, and HDMI 2.0 slots. However, our experts were expecting a Thunderbolt 3 port for connecting external workflows at enviable speeds. What stands out is the elusive Wi-Fi 6 support for establishing the fastest possible internet connections.

At 5.07 pounds, the Acer Predator Helios 300 isn’t the lightest notebook on our list. Besides, the 6-hour, modest battery backup doesn’t contribute a lot to the portability quotient. To sum it up, Helios 300 is predominantly a gaming machine that can be considered for 3D architectural rendering and running BIM tools with decent efficiency and precision levels.

Pros
  • 10th gen processor
  • Upgradeable RAM
  • RTX 2060 GPU with RT cores
  • Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Color accurate display
  • Excellent keyboard
Cons
  • Comparably heavier
  • Restrictive storage capacity

6. Best for Rendering: Lenovo ThinkPad P53s

  • CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U
  • RAM: 24GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)
  • GPU: 2GB NVIDIA Quadro P520
  • Battery: Up to 10 hours

The ThinkPad P53s from Lenovo is a surprisingly efficient workstation-grade notebook, capable of modeling and rendering 2D and 3D architectural layouts with ease. Despite featuring a U-series processor, this gadget has a lot of potential for the students and entry-level professionals.

The rendering speeds are more than acceptable with Lenovo making way for the Intel Core i7-8565U processor. The existing CPU can turbo clock at 4.60GHz, which ensures excellent single-core performances. Furthermore, there are 4 cores, 8 logical threads, and 8MB of cache memory to work with.

The CPU is further assisted by the NVIDIA Quadro P520 GPU, which comes with certified drivers and makes way for more accurate renders and models than consumer-grade graphics cards. Besides supporting GPU hardware acceleration, the featured processing unit comes with 2GB VRAM and 384 parallel processing CUDA cores.

Memory allocation is one of the major highlights of the ThinkPad P53s with this laptop featuring 24GB SODIMM RAM, a module that takes up less space and helps envision a sleeker chassis. In terms of storage, the 1TB SSD unit is quite a handful, speeding up the app and Windows 10 Pro OS loading and boot-ups.

Lenovo persists with a conventional 15.6-inch panel, flaunting a cumulative display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The color-accurate screen is a charm to work with, and the modelers can precisely benefit from the 16:9 aspect ratio. In terms of professional productivity, the ThinkPad P53s is a virtual powerhouse and makes room for a backlit keyboard, fingerprint sensor, HD webcam, amplified speaker, and resourceful microphones.

Courtesy of the SODIMM RAM and innovative cooling tech, this laptop is one of the more portable workstations in the retail space. At 3.9 pounds, this ThinkPad is worth all the accolades and accommodates a decent enough port arrangement, including Thunderbolt 3, Type-C, USB 3.1, and more.

With a 10-hour backup to boast of, the battery on the ThinkPad P53s is certainly one of its strongest suits. Overall, this workstation-grade device from Lenovo is an excellent choice for the more mobile students who are into BIM and CAD tools for architecture.

Pros
  • Light and portable
  • Excellent battery life
  • 24GB RAM for accommodating complex 4K renders
  • Innovative port arrangement
  • Workstation-grade GPU
Cons
  • Not for high-end professionals
  • Low-power processor

7. Best Battery Life: Microsoft Surface Book 3

  • CPU: 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7
  • RAM: 32GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch IPS PixelSense (3240 x 2160)
  • GPU: 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
  • Battery: Up to 17.5 hours

Microsoft Surface Book 3 is one of the best detachable notebooks for the students and even architectural professionals. Although there are several variants to choose from, according to requirements, budget, and processing meat, the most advanced version, as reviewed by the experts, is a force to reckon with.

Under the hood, Surface Book 3 features the Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor. The graphics-optimized chipset might be underpowered when compared to the H and HK-series of Intel CPUs but offers decent 3D modeling support. The turbo clock speed of 3.9GHz is one of the more reliable attributes followed by 4 cores and 8 threads for better rendering experiences.

Assisting the CPU is the high-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU. Despite being a consumer-grade GPU sans Ray-Tracing and Smart DLSS support, the graphics card is still equipped enough for handling V-Ray and I-Ray renderers. Viewport rendering and wireframe 3D modeling assistance are also offered in addition to standard GPU hardware acceleration.

Next in line is the 32GB RAM that clocks at an insane speed of 3733Mhz. Many demanding architectural tools like Rhino, Autodesk Revit, and 3D S Max can benefit from this ultrafast and sizable chunk of system memory. The 1TB SSD storage unit is handy but not as fast as the NVMe-compatible modules. In terms of OS, you get Windows 10, straight out of the box.

The 15-inch display is as vibrant as a laptop screen can get, courtesy of the overall resolution of 3240 x 2160 pixels. The innovative PixelSense panel is worth taking note of, bolstered further by multi-touch support.

Furthermore, Microsoft allows you to use the Surface Book 3 either as a table or a laptop with the innovative backlit, dockable keyboard to work with. Besides, you also get a dual-camera setup, studio-grade mics, front-firing speakers with Dolby Atmos enhancement, and an innovative TPM 2.0 unit for safeguarding privacy. 

This gadget, if and when paired with the keyboard, weighs close to 4.2 pounds. In addition to that, the cumulative battery backup is somewhere around the 17.5-hour mark, and our experts were able to churn out the same on light to moderate usage. Connectivity-wise, Microsoft offers USB Type-A, Type-C, Surface Connect slots, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, and other innovative specs.

To sum it up, the Surface Book 3 allows you to model and render layouts on the move, courtesy of the exceptional processing conglomerate and unmatched portability.

Pros
  • 10th gen processor
  • GPU with Turing Architecture
  • Dependable battery
  • A massive chunk of RAM
  • Support multiple form factors
Cons
  • No Thunderbolt 3
  • The processor is slightly underpowered for high-end BIM tools

8. Best 17-inch Laptop: Dell G7 17

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 17.3-inch FHD IPS (3240 x 2160)
  • GPU: 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours

Dell G7 17 boasts of an expansive screen real-estate, allowing the professional in you to experience a panoramic view while modeling and rendering. In addition to the exceptional screen size, the Dell G7 17 is also processing-heavy and brings forth a decent conglomerate of resourceful specifications.

Dell ensures exceptional rendering and modeling speeds with the Intel Core i7-9750H processor at the helm. Besides, BIM software like Revit and SketchUp work like a charm with the hexa-core processor and turbo clock speed of 4.5GHz to rely on. Supporting the CPU with GPU acceleration and optional 3D rendering is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card.

What works in favor of graphics-intensive tasks and advanced modeling requirements is the 6GB Video RAM. The existing VRAM works as the graphics RAM and allows the GPU to handle some of the more intricate wireframe modeling requirements with precision. Then again, if you are also into 3D graphics and CGI that would require Ray-Tracing support, this isn’t the right gadget to consider.

There is 16GB RAM to work with, capable of handling intricate scenes and walkthrough renders with ease. In case you are planning bigger projects where the system memory needs to be freed for the subsequent frames instantaneously, the 512GB SSD unit comes in as a handy and dependable resource. As far as the operating system is concerned, this intuitive gadget runs Windows 10 Home edition, right out of the closet.

The massive 17+ Inch IPS screen qualifies this as a functional professional machine. Besides exceptional levels of color accuracy, the Full HD panel also exhibits 300-nits of screen brightness, owing to the overall resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Furthermore, there is an RGB-compatible backlit keyboard to rely on, followed by Nahimic dual speakers, and an accommodative webcam-mic combo.

Dell G7 cools like a pro, despite the hefty chassis that weighs way above 7 pounds. The thermal layout doesn’t interfere with the port arrangement as you get access to Thunderbolt 3 for connecting an external display, ultrafast graphics rigs, and other resources at speeds of up to 40 Gbps. Besides, Dell also makes room for HDMI 2.0, Type-A, and Gig Ethernet slots.

The battery on offer churns out almost 8 hours at once, qualifying this as one of the more dependable architecture-friendly notebooks to buy, provided you are willing to make weight-centric compromises.

Pros
  • Powerful processor
  • GPU with Turing Shaders for better walkthroughs
  • Thunderbolt 3 support
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Massive screen
Cons
  • Low on storage
  • Heavy

9. Best for Students: Apple MacBook Pro

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 16-inch IPS Retina (3072 x 1920)
  • GPU: 4GB AMD Radeon Pro 5300M
  • Battery: Up to 11 hours

While we wouldn’t actually recommend a Apple MacBook Pro to the professional architects, due to the lack of upgradability, restrictions using software modules like Rhino, and Revit incompatibility, the latest Pro 16 is still a competent machine for the students and mid-levels modelers.

The Intel Core i7-9750H processor makes an appearance and lends exceptional modeling and rendering support, courtesy of six cores, and the highest clock speed of up to 4.5GHz. Although the processor strikes the perfect balance between single-core performances and the number of logical cores to work with, it is ably assisted by the AMD Radeon Pro 5300 GPU.

The graphics processing unit comes with a faster rendering pipeline and an improved cache hierarchy, thereby allowing the MacBook to render modeled 3D layouts onto the viewport sans lags. The 4GB VRAM also comes in handy, in case the scenes, visualizations, and realistic animations are more intricate than usual.

Apple comes equipped with 16GB RAM on the concerned model. The existing chunk of faster system memory is capable of handling previews and larger datasets with precision. Furthermore, the 512GB SSD module is fast and offers a decent storage capacity to the students and even certain professionals. Most importantly, the macOS Catalina loads in a heartbeat, thereby qualifying this as one of the fastest MacBooks in the retail space.

The 16-inch screen deserves a special mention, owing to the overall native resolution of 3072 x 1920 pixels. Color grading, touch ups, animation rendering quality is on the higher side with the P3 color gamut added to the repertoire. The IPS Retina display is probably the sharpest one around, boasting of true-to-life visuals and deepest possible blacks.

In case you are a desk-bound operative, the Magic keyboard is expected to serve you well. Besides, the force trackpad, integrated Touch ID support, and the functional Touch Bar with faster app access make life easier for the professionals. Next in line is the powerful six-speaker system followed by top-notch webcam and studio-grade microphones.

The reviewed MacBook weighs closer to 4.3 pounds and comes with revolutionary cooling hardware. The port arrangement, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward with Apple focusing on four Thunderbolt 3 slots followed by USB 3.1 Gen 2 output. Besides, you get WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.0, and other connectivity perks.

MacBook Pro 16 is best known for the respectable 11-hour battery backup, which further adds to the gadget credibility. Despite not being able to run Revit, MacBook Pro is accommodative of other BIM software like Sketchup. Besides, you can even use Rhino on the same, in case you are willing to compromise on the animation tools and work sessions. Besides, you can even use the KeyShot render as a plugin for the existing BIM and CAD tools.

Pros
  • Excellent processor
  • Radeon GPU is optimized for 3D tasks
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Fantastic display
  • Magic keyboard
  • TouchID and TPM security
Cons
  • Storage space is restrictive
  • Pricey for the existing specs
  • Not compatible with Autodesk Revit

10. Best for Arch Linux: Dell XPS 15 9500

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-10750H
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch UHD+ (3840 x 2400)
  • GPU: 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
  • Battery: Up to 12 hours

The new Dell XPS 15 9500 is probably the best looking gadget on the list. Despite boasting of massive processing firepower, this gadget is best known for the stellar aesthetics and the brightest and most color-accurate display.

When it comes to the processing power, Dell persists with the revolutionary and powerful Intel Core i7-10750H processor. 3D modeling speeds are faster than ever with the single-core clock speed of up to 5.0GHz. Besides, as rendering requires multiple cores, the existing chipset is worth relying on courtesy of 6 cores and 12 threads.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti comes equipped with 1024 CUDA cores and can work as a viewport rendering and 3D modeling resource. Besides, this processing component also supports GPU acceleration and can also hold its own when playing demanding games at 1080p is concerned.

The 16GB, ultrafast RAM can handle extensive datasets and renders sans lags or hiccups. Besides, app caching, preview models, and concluded layouts can be stored on the 1TB solid-state drive. The NVMe compatible module ensures that the installed application programs like Revit, Lumion renderer, Illustrator, and CAD software sets load faster than usual. Dell offers the Windows 10 Pro edition as the existing operating platform.

Nothing feels better than working on the vibrant 15.6-inch panel that flaunts an overall resolution of 3840 x 2400 pixels. However, it isn’t just the brightness that makes an impression as the XPS 15 9500 also boasts of a 94 percent DCI-P3 color gamut and the 100 percent aRGB palette.

Experiencing true-to-life visuals is possible with the VESA certified panel, further complemented by the Dolby Vision technology. Other display-centric specs include touch support, anti-reflective paneling for better sunlight visibility, and the EyeSafe anti-glare technology. The protective Corning Gorilla Glass 6 panel also makes quite an impression.

Dell also stacks in a host of other essential features, including the backlit keyboard, responsive trackpad that is 62 percent bigger as compared to the older variants, and an immersive acoustic experience owing to the Waves NX support and 3D surround experience. Dell also takes great care of the thermal layout and features dual pipes and stealth venting support for improved heat dissipation.

Furthermore, this is a finely crafted machine with only 4.5 pounds of heft to show for. Despite Dell packing in every resourceful port, it is the Thunderbolt 3 that stands out as a data transfer and charging outlet, all at once. Although the company promises up to 12 hours of extended battery backup, our experts were able to get at least 9 hours on moderate, professional usage, and that too at UHD+ resolution.

In case you want a gadget that looks and feels class-apart without any performance-centric trade-offs, the Dell XPS 15 9500 is the laptop to consider.

Pros
  • Exceptional display
  • 10th gen processor
  • Flaunts Gorilla Glass Protection 
  • Exceptional thermal layout
  • Ultrafast RAM
  • Brilliant aesthetics
Cons
  • Doesn’t support Ray tracing
  • Comes at a premium price tag

11. Best Budget-Friendly: Acer Aspire 7

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly laptop that doesn’t put a hole into your pocket and is yet able to satisfy your computing needs, then the ACER’s Aspire 7 is for you. With the 9th Gen Intel i7 processor, 16GB RAM and the NVIDIA GTX 1050 combination, this cheap machine won’t let you down. Note: It’s very popular among beginners and college students.

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)
  • GPU: 3GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
  • Battery: Up to 7 hours

If you are starting out with your architectural layouts and seek a budget-oriented machine, powerful enough to run Revit, SketchUp, V-Ray, and other demanding 3D modeling, BIM, and rendering apps, you should consider the Acer Aspire 7.

Acer ensures there is a powerful processor at the helm in the Intel Core i7-9750H. The existing chipset can run every CAD application, including 3D Studio Max, AutoCAD, and Rhino with ease. Clubbed along with the hexa-core processor is an entry-level NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050, dedicated graphics card.

While the turbo clock speed of 4.5GHz makes the CPU capable enough to handle complex 3D modeling tasks, the existing graphics processor can help offload certain tasks via GPU hardware acceleration. You also get 3GB of VRAM for efficient handling of textures, scenes, and games, if and when required.

Allocated memory is standard enough with Acer making room for 16GB RAM, a handy resource for storing and making previews and renders available for the CPU to work with. In case the rendering eats into the RAM, the 512GB NVMe SSD can store certain files, and static renders for freeing the system memory. Besides, the solid-state drive can also speed up the Windows 10 OS loading and boot-ups.

Perhaps the most standout feature of the Aspire 7, the 15.6-inch display, is nothing less than a show-stealer. The IPS screen is enviably color accurate and ensures true-to-life visuals courtesy of Acer’s color intelligent technology. Furthermore, the 1080p panel flaunts LED-backlit technology as a power-efficient inclusion.

The Aspire 7 aspires for perfection with a backlit keyboard on offer. Complementing the same is a responsive trackpad, clubbed along with a responsive fingerprint scanner with Windows Hello compatibility. Acer also makes room for high-fidelity speakers, HD webcam, and voice-purified microphones. Besides the intelligent and symmetrical cooling tech, the Aspire 7 also flaunts a meticulously crafted, alloyed chassis.

When ports and connectivity are concerned, you get access to Type-C, USB 3.1, HDMI 2.0 slots followed by MU-MIMO Wi-Fi 5, and Bluetooth 5.0 standards. At 5.18 pounds, the Aspire 7 is still on the heavier side, but the 7-hour battery backup helps the same with portability.

Overall, this is more of a mid-range notebook, primarily for the students of architecture who are still looking to wrap their heads around the complex software sets.

Pros
  • Powerful processor
  • Stellar display
  • Exceptional keyboard
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Dependable battery
  • Metal-clad chassis
Cons
  • Underwhelming GPU
  • No Thunderbolt 3 support

Mac vs Windows for Architectural Designs: Which One?

Personally, at Freedom 251, we would suggest you to go with a Windows-powered laptop for architectural designs. Tools like AutoCAD, Revit, and SketchUp are far more stable on Windows 10 than the new Catalina macOS. Besides, NVIDIA GPUs seem to work better with Rhino, 3DS Max, and other software sets as compared to Radeon variants.

Besides, the MacBooks only offer a few proprietary CAD or BIM tools, and using minimally compatible ones aren’t expected to offer smoother outputs. Modern MacBooks also lack RAM and SSD upgradability, which is also a bottleneck, in case you are planning to scale up your professional advances. Then again, a MacBook, preferably the new Pro model, isn’t bad. It is simply a bit restrictive for professional usage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the most essential processor trait for handling architectural layouts?

Before zeroing in on an efficient laptop with a decent processor, it is necessary to check for the single-core turbo clock speed at first. This trait directly affects 3D modeling speeds and quality. Next in line is the number of cores as a bigger number directly relates to lower 3D rendering times. Lastly, you must also be wary of the cache memory as the bigger is always better for quicker outputs.

Why is RAM the most important component for 3D rendering and modeling?

RAM or system memory affects the scene or texture complexity. As the CPU doesn’t store any data unless the cache memory is concerned, almost every texture, polygon, and render features in the RAM. Therefore, 16GB is more like a bare minimum, as if and when the textures and scenes, especially those related to particles, animation, and visualization, overwhelm the memory, they eventually page out, right to the HDD or SSD. This eventually slows down the processing performances.

How to select storage modules as per laptop specifications for 3D modeling and rendering?

As a rule of thumb, you must consider laptops with SSD storage modules for achieving better caching speeds, in case you want to free the system memory for handling more intricate renders. However, if you aren’t into dynamic renders and SSD-powered gadgets are way beyond your budget, an HDD isn’t such a bad option. Then again, if you seek massive storage capacity for fitting in numerous layouts, apps, programs, and files, a dual storage module, i.e., SSD + HDD, much like the HP Zbook 15V, is the best possible option.

What is the actual role of GPU in rendering, and how does the VRAM fit in?

Put simply, the GPU helps display the rendered layout onto the viewport or the UI. However, when 3D modeling is concerned, GPU plays a pivotal role, especially via GPU hardware acceleration. Besides, if you are using a third-party renderer like V-Ray with the preferred software or BIM tool like Revit, GPU accelerated rendering eases proceedings for the CPU.

The VRAM, however, helps display the rendering and wireframe modeling results. Therefore, a higher chunk of video RAM automatically translates into lag-free visualizations.

Why are Workstation notebooks better for architectural rendering?

Workstation-grade laptops come forth with Intel Xeon processors, ECC-graded RAM, and Quadro GPUs for better mathematical and probabilistic results. Therefore, the modeling, simulation, and rendering performances are way more accurate. Even the RAM, in select cases, paired with Xeon processors, has an Error-Correcting Chip in place for mitigating memory corruption and displaying accurate results at all times.

However, these laptops aren’t the best bets for gaming as the ECC RAM, and Quadro GPU are slightly slower as compared to standard NVIDIA-tagged entities.

What is the preferred laptop display configuration for 3D rendering and architectural layouts?

Color grading is necessary if you consider using tools like AutoCAD, Rhino, and more. Therefore, a 17.3-inch sizable display with at least 99 percent of sRGB gamut is desirable for architectural layouts. A Pantone or VESA certified panel might also come in handy, provided the screen is at least 1080p.

The Verdict

Each one of these 11 notebooks has the requisite firepower to yield exceptional architectural outputs, based on skill levels and budget.

  • In case you want our expert recommendation while making the purchase, it is advisable to opt for the Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17, provided you are considering a gadget for the more intricate computational requirements, apart from architectural tasks.
  • If you are into 3D graphics designing and relevant resources like Da Vinci Resolve, Maya, and Blender, the HP Zbook 15V is a great choice, as it allows you to store almost anything and everything courtesy of the 4TB capacity.
  • For portability seekers, Surface Book 3 is the perfect option to go with, whereas XPS 15 9500 is a great asset, in case you are invested in top-of-the-line aesthetics.

If you’re still unable to find a device, please check out our laptop finder.

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