Computer-aided Design is one of the more resource-intensive professional domains, involving 2D and 3D drawing, manual mechanical drafting, and preferential scaling of machines, based on specified measurements. While the intricacy of this professional indulgence is best handled by a beefed-up PC or a desktop replacement laptop, you can consider purchasing a relevant laptop with enough processing firepower to manage diverse aspects of rendering, image drafting, 3D modeling, and simulations, etc.
As far as system requirements are concerned, majority of CAD applications (especially the ones related to modeling and drafting) are CPU-intensive and make use of single-core proficiency. Contrary to popular opinion, GPU isn’t the restrictive resource you need to worry about unless your loyalties are stacked towards rendering and simulation-centric resources like KeyShot and Ansys.
Then again, the graphics-centric activities of CAD applications have always been a matter of debate and often end up determining the viewport rendering qualities of the images and projects. These include 3D modeling to a certain extent followed by photorealistic and real-time 3D viewport rendering, and simulations. Unlike 3D modeling and graphics design, CAD layouts need not be detailed and, therefore, texture processing doesn’t always require a massive chunk of VRAM and a top-of-the-line GPU.
As far as CAD software modules are concerned, there are options for every professional indulgence and level of expertise. However, before you can even zero in on the preferred application, you need to separate the elements of CAD and Digital Content Creation tools like Maya, Blender, Cinema 4D, and more which also support 3F animation, texturing, and more.
Then again, if you are more into mathematically calculated designs and drafts, SolidWorks, FreeCAD, AutoCAD, Creo Parametric, and VectorWorks are the more preferred applications in play. Therefore, if you are planning to purchase a notebook that can run either one or each of the mentioned applications, there are quite a few aspects that must be taken into account.
For starters, you must invest time in getting an insanely powerful processor as AutoCAD usage and the related drafting and 3D modeling processes are mostly single-threaded. Also, with AutoDesk slowly but steadily introducing multi-threaded processes into the mix for ensuring faster rendering outputs with third-party DCC rendering resources like Maya and VRay into the mix, it is advisable to get at least a quad-core processor to rely on.
Then again, if you want additional firepower, HK-series i9 laptops are better choices courtesy of the overclocking support. However, the H or HK series of i7 machines are highly suitable for CAD-centric activities. For ECC accuracy, you can rely on Xeon-processors, but we wouldn’t be recommending them purely for CAD.
Furthermore, it is imperative to get a sizable chunk of RAM as system memory is often the restrictive element and comes across as the bottleneck if the notebook doesn’t have an upgradeability feature of up to 32GB of RAM. However, if your work premise involves 2D workflows, 8GB RAM is more than adequate.
Finally, if you are planning to sum up the considerations, it is necessary to look for gadgets with sizable SSD modules, the largest and widest possible displays, and the availability of Thunderbolt 3 ports for professional CAD indulgences.
- Minimum & Recommended System Requirements
- Best Laptops for CAD in 2021
- 1. Best Overall: Razer Blade 15 Studio
- 2. Best Runner Up: HP Zbook Studio G7
- 3. Best Gaming Laptop: ROG Strix G15
- 4. Best For Designers: MSI GL65 Leopard
- 5. Best 17-inch Display: HP Omen 17
- 6. Best with RTX 2060: MSI P65 Creator
- 7. Best from DELL: Alienware M15
- 8. Best Budget-Friendly: Acer Predator Helios 300
- 9. Best Workstation: Lenovo ThinkPad P52s
- 10. Best with MacOS: Apple MacBook Pro
- 11. Best Value For Money: Gigabyte AERO 15
- 12. Best with Dual Storage: Dell G5 15
- 13. Cheapest Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad L340
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a CAD workstation?
- Why do you need a higher chunk of RAM for CAD operations?
- What are the benefits of opting for workstation-grade GPUs over consumer-grade ones for CAD operations?
- What is the best storage configuration for CAD operations?
- What is the best display size for running CAD applications?
- The Verdict
Minimum & Recommended System Requirements
Readers must understand that laptops with minimum system requirements mostly correspond to 2D drawings and basic 3D modeling with minimum reliance on real-time and photorealistic rendering. However, machines with recommended specifications or a higher set of specs are equipped enough when it comes to handling professional CAD and CAM tasks using Fusion 360, SolidWorks, and more.
|Minimum System Requirements||Recommended System Requirements|
|CPU||9th Gen Intel Core i5||10th Gen Intel Core i7|
|Storage||256GB SSD||512GB SSD|
|GPU||4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650||6GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060|
|Display||15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)||15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920 x 1080)|
|Battery||Up to 4 hours||Up to 8 hours|
Best Laptops for CAD in 2021
|Razer Blade 15 Studio|
|HP Zbook Studio G7|
|ROG Strix G15|
|MSI GL65 Leopard|
|HP Omen 17|
|MSI P65 Creator|
|Acer Predator Helios 300|
|Lenovo ThinkPad P52s|
|Apple MacBook Pro|
|Gigabyte AERO 15|
|Dell G5 15|
|Lenovo IdeaPad L340|
The specifications and professional capabilities vary according to the skill levels and technical adeptness of an individual. This is why it is necessary to be very selective with the laptop selection. Moreover, there are several CAD and CAM resources in the market with each requiring a different set of computing specifications to work efficiently.
Keeping everything in mind, our experts have tested more than 41 notebooks over a period of 4 weeks, to finally come up with a curated list of 13 machines. Each of the mentioned laptop fits into a specific domain of CAD-usage and varies as per processing capabilities, leisure inclusions, residual professional support, workstation-like perks, portability, budget, and other metrics.
1. Best Overall: Razer Blade 15 Studio
The Razer Blade 15 Studio, without a shred of doubt, is one of the most powerful notebooks to run CAD applications on. Better tagged as a workstation laptop, this gadget is certainly priced at a premium but justifies every bit of the splurge, in case you would be interested in making the purchase.
Powering the same is the octa-core Intel Core i7-10875H CPU, best known for the Hyper-threading, VPro, and Turbo Boost technology. While this processor is capable of handling diverse forms of 2D, 3D, and parametric modeling with ease, even the likes of complicated 3D rendering, simulations, and CAM projects are initiated with enviable speed and accuracy, courtesy of the single-core turbo clock speed of up to 5.1GHz.
Not just that, the Octa-core or rather the 16-threaded architecture makes this a future-proof device, provided the AutoDesk resources start relying heavily on multi-threaded processes. When it comes to graphics support, the NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 GPU is overkill for basic CAD applications but can come in handy if you are equally invested in DCC tools like Blender, Maya, Revit, and other BIM tools.
The existing GPU clubbed with 16GB GDDR6 VRAM, is currently the strongest laptop graphics card in play, best characterized by its visualizing prowess and bespoke features, including RTRT and DLSS. With 3072 CUDA cores to work with, this is one of the fastest graphics modules in play when GPU-acceleration during real-time rendering is concerned.
The Blade 15 Studio Edition brings 32GB RAM out of the box, segregated further as two 16GB RAM, processing data at 2933MHz. This configuration empowers the gadget to handle massive projects, intricate textures, and on-site rendering requirements with considerable ease without slowing down the system. In terms of storage, you get a 1TB solid-state drive with NVMe support.
This powerful mobile workstation also brings a 15.6-inch 4K UHD panel to the party, boasting an overall resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. In addition to the integrated touch properties and the ever-reliable Gorilla Glass protection, the existing screen also flaunts a 100 percent DCI-P3 color gamut for creative and visual brilliance. Last but not least, the OLED panel ensures a more coherent viewing experience followed by unimaginable levels of color accuracy.
If you are more into gadget productivity, the nifty little additions, including the per-key backlit keyboard, integrated webcam, and amplified speakers are expected to come in handy. However, it is the vapor-chamber cooling technology that keeps heat generation within manageable standards. The Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition, despite the amassing feature sets, is still quite portable at 4.9 pounds.
Moreover, it is the connectivity suite that enthralls our experts the most, as, despite the slimmer chassis, Razer accommodates blazing-fast Thunderbolt 3, USB Type-C, Wi-Fi 6 support, and other functional specs for setting up a more cohesive professional workflow, if and when desired.
The device offers a 5.5-hour battery backup, which is more than acceptable considering the OLED panel, 10th gen processor, and the most powerful mobile processor in play. However, in real-life when you’re multitasking or using resource-intensive apps, you shouldn’t expect it to last for more than 3-4 hrs.
Overall, if you have the money the spare, this is the most ideal workstation gadget to get, especially if you are knee-deep into CAD, CAM, DCC, and BIM applications.
- Future-proof processor
- Most powerful workstation-grade GPU
- Stellar display
- Upgradeable memory slots
- Feathery chassis
- Wi-Fi 6 support
- Thunderbolt 3
- Supports USB charging
- An OLED screen isn’t typically power-efficient
2. Best Runner Up: HP Zbook Studio G7
In case you are interested in a storage-heavy workstation notebook, the HP Zbook Studio G7 is the perfect gadget to invest in.
As a matter of fact, you get a pretty dated, Intel Core i9-10885H processor, capable of clocking at speeds of up to 5.3GHz. The 8-core processor, however, is still equipped enough to handle a majority of CAD applications that require 2D and 3D drafting and rendering skills. Assisting the same is the NVIDIA Quadro T1000 GPU which is more of an entry-level module for workstations.
With 384 CUDA cores and Pascal architecture to rely on, this is one of the best graphics cards for CAD operations, provided you are more interested in correct and precise viewport rendering. The 4GB VRAM takes good care of the more intricate 3D textures.
As far as multitasking is concerned, you get a standard 16GB RAM, capable of running almost every project, regardless of the polygon complexity and even the nature of the render in play. Also, this might not the most powerful device suited for 4K video editing, data science, game development, machine learning, but the performance was very smooth during our tests.
The dual-storage module deserves a special mention with HP making way for an ultrafast 1TB SSD for accommodating CAD programs, pressing data sets, and the Windows 10 Pro OS. As far as display is concerned, you get hold of a 15.6-inch with touch screen support, featuring an overall resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. However, it is the glossy panel that exhibits exceptional viewing angles and unmatched color accuracy levels, sans visibility compromises.
Moving on, HP also makes room for a backlit keyboard, responsive fingerprint scanner, FHD webcam, serviceable microphones, and a minimalistic thermal layout. Not just that, at 3.8 lbs, the Zbook Studio G7 is still one of the lightest workstations in the retail space. The port arrangement, on the other hand, isn’t as dated as the processor with HP making way for Type-A, Thunderbolt 3 with DP 1.4 support, HDMI 2.0, and other legacy slots.
As far as connectivity is concerned, you get access to WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.0, and Gig Ethernet support. Despite being a mobile workstation, the battery on the Zbook Studio G7 is capable of lasting for up to 18 hours, making this one of the best, all-inclusive notebooks to invest in.
- Workstation-grade GPU for CAD operations
- Vibrant touchscreen
- Thunderbolt 3 port
- Massive storage support
- Fingerprint scanner
- Long-lasting battery
- Dual storage would have been great
3. Best Gaming Laptop: ROG Strix G15
Apart from the workstation notebooks, you can also consider powerful gaming laptops for your CAD-centric indulgences. This is where the ROG Strix G15 comes into the scheme of things with a powerful consumer-grade GPU and several CAD-friendly resources.
When it comes to the processor, you get a standard Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, exhibiting turbo boost clock speeds of up to 5GHz. The turbo boost technology comes in handy if you are looking to handle a majority of single-threaded CAD processes. Moreover, the Hyper-threading support also keeps the possibilities open for the gadget, if and when a certain important rendering and simulating processes from AutoDesk start making use of the multi-core architecture.
Graphics support is rendered by the high-end NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 GPU and 8GB of integrated VRAM. However, it is necessary to understand that being a gaming-specific graphics card; you cannot expect the same levels of mathematical accuracy for the renders and models, as with Quadro cards. In our tests, it didn’t outperform the above-mentioned devices, but the experience was smooth and faster than many other gaming laptops under $1500 price range.
The 16GB RAM takes good care of the more complex 3D models, in case you consider adding VRAY and other renderers into the mix. As far as storage is concerned, the 1TB SSD module is more than enough for a mid-level professional. Asus also offers Windows 10 Home OS, straight out of the box, as the perfect platform to use for the CAD tools and applications.
The Pantone-certified display is one of the highlights of this notebook, bolstered further by an overall resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Then again, if you are an enthusiastic gamer, the 240Hz refresh rate and 3ms of overdrive response time for minimizing screen tearing and ghosting, are expected to come in as handy resources.
Asus also makes room for a durable RGB backlit keyboard based on ROG ‘Aura Sync’ technology. Apart from that, you also get access to the entire professional suite in webcam, powerful speakers for the best music listening experience, and microphones followed by an Intelligent Cooling technology with ADC support and dual fan setup at the helm. Despite the bell and whistles, this gadget weighs a mere 5.28 lbs.
Asus still makes room for a decent connectivity conglomerate, featuring USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, Type-C, Gen 2 Type-A, USB charging support, Wi-Fi 5 standard, and a host of other options. The battery on offer is capable of lasting for up to 5.5 hours, on standard usage, which is decent enough for a high-end gaming notebook. Overall, this gaming machine can also be used as a reliable and efficient CAD resource.
- Powerful processor
- High-end, consumer-grade GPU
- Excellent display
- Sizable storage capacity
- Reliable keyboard
- Brilliant thermal layout
- Thin and portable
- Comes with select operating modes for gaming and working
- Lacks Thunderbolt 3 port
- Lacks Wi-Fi 6 support
4. Best For Designers: MSI GL65 Leopard
At the core, there is a future-proof, Intel Core i7-10750H chipset to work with. The existing processor can reach turbo clock speeds of up to 5GHz, making it one of the better bets for single-threaded processes. Assisting the hexa-core CPU is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 GPU, paired with 8GB of ultrafast VRAM.
The graphics card is a capable professional ally for BIM and other graphics-intensive application programs like SolidWorks, AutoCAD, and more. Note only that, be it playing high-end games like PUBG, Fortnite, SIMS 4, Minecraft RTX, or performing professional tasks like editing videos, music production, etc, this machine won’t let you down.
As far as memory allocation is concerned, the dual-channel, 16GB RAM module takes care of the projects, complex renders, and demanding on-premise modeling workload. Storage-wise, it is the 512GB SSD unit that does a majority of heavy lifting, considering the boot-up speeds related to the Windows 10 Home OS, games, and relevant CAD applications.
MSI puts a price tag on the 15.6-inch display, best known for the 72 percent NTSC color gamut and the 100 percent sRGB color palette. Therefore, as a creative, this is one of the best 1080p displays to rely on. As far as professional productivity is concerned, there is an RGB backlit keyboard with anti-ghosting support to rely on.
You get access to other resourceful specs, including an HD webcam, massive speakers, and a top-of-the-line thermal layout bolstered by the Cooler Boost 5 technology. Other functional specs on offer include USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port and additional slots for connecting legacy devices.
Nonetheless, the thermal hardware does add to the chunkiness of the profile as the MSI GL65 Leopard weighs close to 5 pounds. The battery life is mediocre as our experts were able to churn out a mere 5 hours, and that too on minimal usage. Then again, if you are willing to make compromises in autonomy, this laptop is certainly worth considering.
- 10th gen processor
- Powerful GPU with RTRT support
- Color accurate display
- Ultrafast storage unit with NVMe support
- Exceptional SteelSeries keyboard
- Lacks Thunderbolt 3
- Runs hot without Cooler Boost turned on
5. Best 17-inch Display: HP Omen 17
The HP Omen 17 isn’t for the faint-hearted and enthusiastic CAD users but reverberates perfectly with the high and mid-level manufacturing professionals.
As far as processing prowess is concerned, the Intel Core i7-9750H performs adequately enough. Be it running beginner CAD layouts using TinkerCAD or indulging in relevant CAM resources with Fusion 360, the turbo clock speed of up to 4.6GHz takes care of every user requirement. In case you want to bring Mental Ray or VRay renderers into the mix, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card can assist with requisite levels of GPU-acceleration.
Besides, the 8GB VRAM can also help with 3D sculpting and real-time rendering, in case you expertise portends CAD applications. When it comes to project handling and multitasking, the 16GB module is quite a handful. Moreover, you also get access to two upgradeable slots, in case you feel like adding more to the existing chunk of system memory. In terms of storage, the 512GB solid-state drive seems more than adequate.
If you are looking at the efficacy of the user platform, the pre-existing Windows 10 Home OS is quite a reliable interface to work with. What makes it look better is the massive 17.3-inch display, boasting edge-to-edge paneling, and WLED-backlit technology. The 1080p IPS screen also offers a lot to the occasional gamers, including the screen refresh rate of 144Hz.
Next in line are the basic productivity specs, including a VR ready interface, amplified speakers with DTS: X support, a backlit keyboard with 4-zone support and anti-ghosting compatibility, and advanced cooling technology. As a matter of fact, the Omen 17 is more of a desktop replacement, considering the 6.43-pound chassis.
In case you are looking to connect workflows, external data rigs, and more, the HDMI 2.0, Type-A, Type-C, and other specs come in as resourceful inclusions. As a matter of fact, you also get the innovative G-SYNC feature on this gadget which is more of a gaming asset for limiting fps to the permissible standards.
Despite being a processing giant with an expansive screen real-estate to work with, the pre-supplied battery is capable of lasting for up to 5.5 hours. Therefore, if you are planning to replace your existing desk-bound workstation, the HP Omen 17 is quite a reliable notebook to consider.
- Fast processor
- High-end GPU
- Comes with G-SYNC support for gamers
- Reliable cooling technology
- Upgradeable system memory
- Chunkier than usual
- Lacks Thunderbolt 3 support
6. Best with RTX 2060: MSI P65 Creator
According to the name, the MSI P65 Creator is definitely a creator-ready device, with capabilities extending beyond CAD applications. However, if CAD processes, 3D modeling, and photorealistic rendering comprise a majority of your workload, there aren’t many commercial-grade notebooks that perform better than the P65 creator.
Despite this being an all-inclusive notebook, we shall keep this discussion and review restricted to the CAD-centric processes and applications. This is why the Intel Core i7-9750H chipset deserves a special mention. As a majority of CAD processes are single-threaded, the excellent turbo boost clock speed of up to 4.5GHz is expected to come in handy. However, the hexa-core architecture covers you if and when specific processes relevant to CREO, AutoCAD, and SolidWorks are concerned.
Coming to the GPU, MSI features the high-end, RTX 2060, clubbed with 6GB of VRAM. In case you are more into 3D modeling, AI-enhanced professional indulgences, and architectural rendering, the existing graphics card is expected to be more than handy. However, you wouldn’t require more than 6GB of Video RAM if you are a hardcore AutoCAD or even SolidWorks professional.
The 32GB RAM is what puts a smile on our faces. Firstly, the sizable chunk of system memory ensures a lag-free machine, regardless of what you throw at it. Besides, if you are neck-deep into CAD-centric processes, the high-speed DDR4 assists with solid modeling, weldments, and computations. As far as the storage support is concerned, you get 1TB of PCIe-compatible SSD, which is best known for storing projects and loading the Windows 10 OS, in almost no time.
As far as the display is concerned, this is one of the few gadgets on the list to feature a 4K panel. While the 15.6-inch screen is more of a standard inclusion, the overall resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels adds to the credibility of the same. Besides, the bezels are on the slimmer size, which furthers the screen real-estate.
In case you are also interested in productivity-centric attributes, MSI accommodates a professionally-vetted backlit keyboard, smooth trackpad, potent stereo speakers, a nifty fingerprint scanner for added professional security, and a reliable webcam for staying in sync with the team of modelers. Despite the additional bells and whistles, the MSI P65 Creator weighs a mere 4.20 pounds. Moreover, the thermal design is a minimalist one and relies more on symmetrical fan placement.
Provided you are invested in a diverse connectivity suite, this portable powerhouse comes equipped with Mini DisplayPort, 3 Type-A slots, HDMI, RJ45 Ethernet, and the elusive Thunderbolt 3 slot. The TB3 port makes the most sense to CAD professionals who are looking to set up external workflows for seamless management of the workload. Furthermore, you also get Gig Ethernet speeds for wired connections followed by the Wi-Fi 5 standard.
While MSI promises close to 8 hours of backup despite accommodating the VR-ready GPU and a 4K panel, relentless CAD processes might lead to a restricted autonomy of almost 5 hours. Overall, the MSI P65 Creator is one of the best laptops for running CAD applications and processes, provided you are willing to spend a decent chunk of money on a 4K screen.
- Ultra-fast processor
- A massive chunk of RAM
- Sizable storage
- Responsive fingerprint scanner
- Light and portable
- Lacks Wi-Fi 6 support
- 4K display is overkill for CAD processes
7. Best from DELL: Alienware M15
The new Alienware M15 is one of the lightest notebooks on the list, best characterized by a powerful GPU and advanced cooling technology.
Primarily tagged as a gaming laptop, the New Alienware M15 is quite a resourceful professional ally, courtesy of the Intel Core i7-9750H processor. Although the CPU can reach maximum clock speeds of up to 4.6GHz, it is still equipped enough to handle multi-threaded CED requirements in the future, courtesy of the hexa-core architecture.
Graphics support is rendered by the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, which works closely with 6GB VRAM. It assists with the seamless viewport, real-time, and viewport rendering, when intricate and demanding CAD and BIM processes are concerned.
Assisting the processing conglomerate is 16GB of integrated RAM. As far as the storage is concerned, the 512GB solid-state drive is sizable, fast, and capable of loading Windows 10 Home OS, and CAD applications, faster than a standard HDD module.
The 15.6-inch screen is one of the highlights of this notebook, featuring an overall resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Moreover, the existing IPS display has almost everything for a creative professional, courtesy of the 72 percent NTSC color gamut, and the 300-nit brightness level. Gamers can make use of the 144Hz refresh rate which makes the gameplay smooth.
The Alienware flaunts an AlienFX keyboard with a decent key travel of 1.7mm followed by a glass touchpad, amplified speakers, Tobii Eye-tracking technology, one-touch overclocking support, and a creative control interface for better work-leisure balance. It is then the innovative thermal layout that steals the show with the m15 making way for copper pipes, finstack layout, CryoTech support, and strategic vent placement for keeping heat generation to a minimum.
Despite the class-leading thermal hardware, the alloyed chassis still weighs a manageable 4.76 pounds. As far as the port management is concerned, you get access to Mini DC, HDMI 2.0, solitary Thunderbolt 3, and other functional slots for accommodating external workflows and data transfer units.
In terms of autonomy, you get a paltry 6-hour backup to rely on. However, despite the minor bottlenecks, the Alienware m15 continues to be the most sought after CAD-compatible laptop in the market, when heat management is concerned.
- GPU with DLSS and RTRT support
- Excellent heat-dissipating technology
- Thunderbolt 3
- Stellar display
- A decent chunk of RAM
- Resourceful keyboard
- Middling battery module
8. Best Budget-Friendly: Acer Predator Helios 300
Regardless of the professional intricacies in play, the Predator Helios 300 is equipped enough to handle almost everything and that too without flinching even once.
This variant, however, houses the Intel Core i7-10750H processor, capable of reaching clock speeds of up to 5GHz. Besides being future-proof, this 10th gen CPU also comes equipped with Hyper-threading support for handling multi-core CAD processes, like a few rendering tasks.
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM is also a resourceful addition, assisting the chipset with real-time rendering and Ray-Tracing 3-dimensional jobs.
In terms of memory allocation, the dual-channel module offers 16GB of RAM to work with. While this takes care of the project and associated design complexities, storing the same is made possible by the NVMe-compatible solid-state drive, with a 512GB storage capacity.
Not just that, the Windows 10 OS and demanding apps like SolidWorks and AutoCAD load in no time with this SSD unit at the helm. Then again, the same is upgradeable courtesy of one open M.2 slot and one dedicated HDD bay, if and when deemed necessary. The 15.6-inch 1080p display is also worth mentioning, courtesy of the 72 percent color gamut and a wide-angle viewing experience.
Acer also makes room for a 4-zone keyboard, HD webcam, Ultra Audio speakers, serviceable webcam, and a thermal layout, featuring the superior cooling setup. The Acer PredatorSense UI is also an innovative resource, in case you want to use the gadget differently for work and leisure.
The Predator Helios 300, at 5.07 pounds, is certainly not the lightest gadget in the retail space. Moreover, the connectivity suite also feels a bit dated with Acer restricting you to Type-C, HDMI 2.0, US 3.2 Gen 2, Gig Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6, and a few other functional specs. The battery on display is capable of offering a steady, 6-hour backup whereas the gadget itself supports USB charging.
Overall, the Acer Predator Helios 300 isn’t actually a head-turner but can meticulously handle diverse CAD processes at a budget. It is highly popular among college students, beginners, and even professionals.
- 10th gen processor
- High-end GPU
- Innovative cooling technology
- Upgradeable storage
- Wi-Fi 6 support
- Dual-channel RAM
- Shorter battery life
9. Best Workstation: Lenovo ThinkPad P52s
In case you aren’t interested in overspending on trivial gaming resources, the Lenovo ThinkPad P52s is the perfect workstation-notebook to purchase.
Despite being one of the more affordable gadgets on the list, it still houses the Intel Core i7-8550U processor, capable of reaching clock speeds of up to 4GHz.
Although you get access to a low-power processor with manageable TDP levels, CAD-centric performances aren’t negatively impacted. The existing chipset works in cohesion with the NVIDIA Quadro P500 GPU, featuring 384 shaders and a 64-bit data bus to work with.
While the featured GPU is based on the Pascal architecture, it still performs satisfactorily, courtesy of 2GB VRAM. Working alongside the workstation-grade, entry-level GPU is 16GB of RAM, capable of handling complex projects and multitasking requirements with ease. Next in line is the 1TB SSD unit which stores and loads files, programs, and the Windows 10 Pro OS, faster than usual.
When it comes to the display, you get access to a 15.6-inch screen, backed by power-efficient LED-backlit technology. The 1080p IPS panel is enviously color accurate and even boasts of sharper viewing angles. Lenovo also features a full-size keyboard with backlighting functionality, powerful speakers, and a 720p webcam for better professional coverage.
A good thing about the Lenovo ThinkPad P52s is the lightness of form, at 4.30 pounds. Besides, you also get access to Thunderbolt 3, Type-C, Docking connector, Type-A, and other resourceful ports followed by Gig Ethernet and WiFi support.
According to our experts, Lenovo also offers gadget 9 hours’ worth of gadget anatomy. Overall, if you want to get hold of a resourceful, affordable, and portable workstation notebook, the Lenovo ThinkPad P52s is the one to purchase, stat.
- Workstation-grade processor
- Thunderbolt 3 support
- Light and portable
- Long-lasting battery
- Sizable storage space
- U-series processor isn’t meant for heavy usage
- Lacks Wi-Fi 6 compatibility
10. Best with MacOS: Apple MacBook Pro
MacBooks, despite being exceptional gadgets, have a dubious distinction when CAD operations are concerned. While AutoCAD comes with limited functionality, you can always consider running Fusion360, LibreCAD, and CorelCAD on the new and improved MacBook Pro 16.
As far as the processing power is concerned, the Intel Core i7-9750H chipset makes an appearance. Moreover, the exceptional turbo clock speed of up to 4.6GHz ensures that a majority of CAD-centric tasks are handled with surgical precision. Apple also makes room for the workstation-grade AMD Radeon Pro 5300M GPU and 4GB of integrated VRAM support.
When it comes to multitasking, you get 16GB of high-speed RAM for handling bigger and more complicated CAD projects along with other tasks. Storage-centric requirements are handled by the 512GB SSD module. Apple also features the macOS Catalina and ensures that the boot-ups are initiated at enviable speeds.
Furthermore, in case you want to use the AutoCAD via the virtualization or the Windows-centric Boot Camp resource, the existing solid-state module also escalates the resource loading speeds.
Apple also makes way for a vibrant and color accurate, 16-inch display, boosted further by an overall resolution of 3072 x 1920 pixels. The existing retina display panel also exhibits a wide color gamut followed by exceptional viewing angles. When it comes to productivity, the Magic keyboard, force touchpad, secure Touch ID, and the amplified speakers steal the show followed by the innovative, accessibility-enhancing Touch Bar.
Despite lacking a dedicated thermal layout, the vents and airflow technology readily maximize the heat dissipation. From a structural point of view, this is one of the most aesthetic notebooks on the list, weighing a mere 4.30 pounds. Besides, the port arrangement is nothing short of revolutionary, with Apple making way for 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports for setting up external workflows and data transfer rigs at 40gbps.
The battery module lasts up to 11 hours on standard usage making the MacBook Pro 16 one of the more portable, CAD-compatible gadgets in the retail arena.
- Powerful processor
- Ultrafast RAM
- A secured device with Touch ID and T2 security chip in play
- Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Excellent display
- Limited AutoCAD functionality in standard mode
- Lacks Wi-Fi 6 compatibility
11. Best Value For Money: Gigabyte AERO 15
For the given price tag, the GigaByte AERO 15 offers the most value for money, courtesy of the brilliant screen, unmatched portability, and an entire productivity suite to rely on.
Gigabyte takes the processing capabilities of the AERO 15 to a whole new level courtesy of the Intel Core i7-9750H chipset. The CPU exhibits exceptional single-core processing speeds of up to 4.6GHz and is perfectly complemented by the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and 6GB of high-speed VRAM. The entire conglomerate is more than capable of handling 3D modeling, rendering, and other CAD-intensive tasks with precision.
Supporting the CPU-GPU association is the 16GB RAM module, processing files, and data at 2666MHz. GigaByte makes room for Samsung’s DRAM memory module and follows up the same with an NVMe-compatible, 512GB solid-state drive. The Intel 760p-series SSD on offer is best known for its unmatched power-efficiency, sans performance compromises.
When it comes to the display, you get access to a 15.6-Inch AMOLED panel, exhibiting 3840 x 2160 pixels, as the cumulative resolution. Needless to say, the display is nothing less than enthralling with GigaByte accommodating the X-Rite, Pantone-certified panel followed by a 100 percent DCI-P3 wide color gamut. Moreover, the CNC crafted notebook also houses a Fusion 2.0, backlit keyboard for added functionality followed by the interactive Azure AI interface and a responsive fingerprint scanner.
Other resourceful specs on offer include Nahimic speakers, innovative cooling, Supra Cool thermal layout, and the durable yet feathery chassis, weighing a mere 4.4 pounds.
As far as port arrangement is concerned, the AERO 15 makes way for Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, mini DP, and other functional ports. Connectivity-centric support is lent by Wi-Fi 6 and Killer E2600 Ethernet driver. Last but not least, this notebook offers a steady 5-hour backup, which is more than sufficient for a high-end gadget with an AMOLED screen.
Overall, if you have a penchant for high-end notebooks flaunting vibrant displays, the AERO 15 from GigaByte is probably the best computing resource to invest in.
- Powerful processor
- Thunderbolt 3 support
- Wi-Fi 6 compatible
- Color accurate 4K panel
- Brilliant acoustics
- GPU doesn’t offer RTRT support
- Might run hot
12. Best with Dual Storage: Dell G5 15
The Dell G5 15 is yet another thermal-intensive laptop that works well with several CAD-centric applications and even doubles down as a decent gaming notebook.
The Intel Core i7-9750H processor offers the best of both worlds, courtesy of the HyperThreading technology, and an exceptional clock speed limit of up to 4.6GHz. However, if you want to indulge in high-end 3D rendering via VRAY, and Mental Ray renderer, the GeForce GTX 1650 is worth relying on, courtesy of the 4GB VRAM and best-in-class Turing architecture.
Dell persists with a 16GB RAM module that can handle complex textures, designs, and drafts while retrieving them for the processor, if and when necessary. Storage-wise, this is one of the few notebooks to offer dual-storage support. While you are better off installing the demanding CAD applications and Windows 10 Home OS on the 256GB SSD for faster boot-ups, the 1TB hard disk drive offers ample storage space for the static files and data sets.
Dell comes equipped with a 15.6-inch screen, boasting anti-glare properties. The 1080p screen exhibits exceptional viewing angles and flaunts the narrowest possible bezels, thereby offering an amplified screen real-estate for the creative to rejoice. Dell duly adheres to your professional indulgences by making room for the WASD backlit keyboard, Nahimic speakers, metallic palm rest, and the innovative Alienware command UI for improved resource allocation.
Dell doesn’t score any brownie points when lightness and portability are concerned as it weighs a massive 3.79 pounds. However, the heft is readily countered by the advanced thermal design, presided over by the best-in-class dual-fan setup. As far as the port arrangement is concerned, you get hold of a solitary Thunderbolt 3 slot followed by HDMI 2.0, USB 3.1, and the RJ45 output.
The battery on offer churns out a steady backup of almost 7.5 hours, which is more than sufficient considering the advanced specs sheet. Overall, if you are more reliant on advanced cooling tech and dual storage functionality, the Dell G5 15 is the perfect gadget to purchase.
- Dual-storage support
- Powerful 9th gen processor
- Mid-range GPU
- A decent connectivity suite
- Dependable battery module
- Heavier than usual
13. Cheapest Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad L340
If you are a CAD aspirant and looking for the perfect machine to start learning about the 2D and 3D layouts, the IdeaPad L340 is the best laptop to purchase.
As far as the processing performances are concerned, you get a moderately-powered, Intel Core i5-9300H processor, capable of reaching maximum single-core clock speeds of up to 4.1GHz. The quad-core processor is capable of handling almost every basic CAD operation with precision. Assisting the chipset is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU and 4GB of integrated Video RAM.
In terms of multitasking support, Lenovo brings forth an 8GB DDR4 RAM module, capable of processing datasets and files at enviable speeds. Storing the completed projects, CAD softwares, and the Windows 10 OS is made easy with the 512GB SSD module, bolstered further with NVMe support.
When it comes to the display, the IdeaPad L340 exhibits a 15.6-inch color-accurate screen. The 1080p display flaunts the In-Plane Switching technology which in turn makes way for sharper viewing angles. Regardless of the usage, it is the anti-glare support offered by Lenovo that steals the show, thereby keeping blue-light emissions to a minimum.
Lenovo also takes good care of professional productivity by featuring a standard keyboard, powerful speakers, and a sought-after thermal layout. Then again, this budget-centric CAD-compatible gadget weighs a manageable 4.84 pounds and works in cohesion with a standard battery unit, capable of churning out a backup of almost 6.5 hours, on moderate usage.
If and when connectivity is taken into account, you get Type-A, USB 3.1, HDMI 2.0, Wi-Fi 5, and a handful of other legacy solutions to rely on. Overall, the IdeaPad L340 is the perfect gadget for CAD amateurs who are in search of a portable and efficient machine on a budget.
- 9th gen processor
- Mid-range GPU
- Vibrant display with Vantage ‘Eye Care’ mode
- Durable keyboard
- Competitive pricing
- Lacks Thunderbolt 3 support
- Slower RAM
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a CAD workstation?
CAD workstations are high-end computing models that come equipped with high-end processors, preferably with VPro support and professional-grade graphics cards including the likes of Quadro and Radeon Pro. They are also capable of handling computer-aided manufacturing layouts with Error Correcting Code and other resourceful hardware-centric features to rely on. Therefore, if you are into product manufacturing, simulated runs, and advanced prototyping, you should consider getting a workstation.
Why do you need a higher chunk of RAM for CAD operations?
RAM is often the computing bottleneck when CAD operations are concerned. While you need not cross the 32GB mark unless you are into BIM, 3D sculpting and DCC programs. Most of the tasks can be best addressed if the gadget has a minimum system memory 16GB. A higher chunk of RAM allows you to manage more complex CAD designs with ease. However, if you are only into 2D drawings and basic 3D modeling, even 8GB RAM can suffice.
What are the benefits of opting for workstation-grade GPUs over consumer-grade ones for CAD operations?
Workstation-grade GPUs like Quadro RTX5000, P600, and more are optimized for CAD, CAM, and other 3D modeling tasks, courtesy of the ECC, and advanced capabilities of handling high-polygon geometries and even pre-defined textures. Gaming or consumer-grade GPUs have gaming-intensive drivers mainly designed for amplifying frame rates of the concerned AAA tiles sans mathematical precision.
What is the best storage configuration for CAD operations?
As a rule of thumb, you should persist with a dual storage module in case you are a professional. While the first unit should always be an SSD for improving loading and boot-ups speeds, the HDD must be sizable enough to store static files and projects with ease. Moreover, it is even better if there are upgradeable memory slots and a hard drive bay to rely on, allowing you to expand the storage space further, if and when necessary.
What is the best display size for running CAD applications?
While a majority of users prefer 15.6-inch notebooks for the portability quotient, a 17.3-inch screen is the best display size for running CAD application on, courtesy of the wider viewing angles, and the ability to accommodate multiple projects and layouts on the screen.
When it comes to selecting the perfect gadget for Computer-Aided Design, there aren’t any set parameters to rely on. While you can always persist with the mid-range notebook with decent computing elements for handling basic modeling and rendering tasks, a CAD workstation can also be persisted with, if you plan on working on BIM and DCC apps.
Therefore, each of the mentioned gadgets in the list serves a select purpose, based on your skill levels, budget considerations, and residual preferences. According to our experts,
- If your work domain is strictly restricted to CAD-specific activities and programs like SolidWorks, Fusion 360, and AutoCAD, the HP Zbook Studio G7 is the best workstation to rely on, striking the perfect balance between power and pricing.
- If you want a future-proof workstation without worrying about the price tag, nothing performs better than the Razer Blade 15 Studio.
- If you want the best of both worlds i.e. CAD-compatibility and gaming resource, the HP Omen 17 is a good enough choice.
- Lastly, if you are more concerned about the display and the all-inclusive nature of the specs sheet, the GigaByte AERO 15 is the perfect notebook to purchase.
Still haven’t found the perfect machine for your needs? Use our Laptop Finder or comment down below, one of our experts will get in touch with you and assist you in making an informed purchase decision.