I’m sure you were quite confused looking for the best laptop for AutoCAD as much as I was. The truth is AutoCAD may have different requirements depending on your specific job, degree, the specific version being used & the complexity of the projects you’re involved with. Yes, shopping for one can be a complicated quest that may become an expensive mistake you wish to avoid.
Not all is lost…
If you give this article some time (especially the guide), you will know exactly what to look for in a laptop regardless of what version or project sizes you’re dealing with.
What will you will find in this article?
This article is divided in two parts: a list of the best laptops for AutoCAD as of 2017 for every budget and every level followed by a guide on how to find more options yourself.
Top 5 Best Laptops for AutoCAD
Depending on the work you do and the level of complexity of your projects, you should find the best laptop from these choices whether you are a professional, a student or in a budget. However if you don’t know exactly what to look for when shopping a laptop for AutoCAD or something is not clear, then you can always jump to the guide and come back here.
The Best Laptop For AutoCAD
CPU: Intel QuadCore i7-6820HK (Up to 4.1Ghz) | RAM: 32GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 256GB SSD PCIe NVME | GPU: NVIDIA Quadro M1000M 2 GB GDDR5 | Display: 15.6” UltraSharp FHD IPS (1920×1080)
As far as I am concerned there’s no better laptop for the money, the build quality & portability for AutoCAD work than the DELL Precision especially this model. As you’ll see soon it’s without doubt the best Laptop for AutoCAD.
Let’s start with the performance. This model gives you pretty much everything you need for the best performance with AutoCAD work especially if you are a professional dealing with highly detailed and complex designs or drawings. It will blaze through through the most complex projects within your industry be it with regular AutoCAD or all other 3D versions of it.
How? Besides having a graphics card fully supported and approved by AutoDesk ( NVIDIA Quadro M1000M) , it’s processor has the one of fastest clock speeds coming from laptops: Intel i7 HK series. According to a study by PudgetSystems, the intel K series is the most ideal and best processor for AutoCAD software. The reason behind it’s unrivaled performance is its base clock speed which is around 4.0GHZ up to 4.1-4.2 using Turbo Boost.
On top of that, the 32GB of RAM this model has and you pretty much end up with the most powerful laptop for AutoCAD in all its versions.
However if you are just sticking with models in 2D then you may want to consider the Dell XPS 13 or Dell Inspiron, they are much more cheaper versions that do not include a workstation graphics card which is totally unnecessary if you are designs are mostly in 2D.
It also comes with an SSD. Not only does it have the latest and fastest technology: PCIe but this one comes with the latest protocol to take full advantage of its clock speed: NVMe. In other words, you’ll get the fastest launching and booting up speeds from your software and along with an even greater increase in performance from your software compared to other laptops having : SATA SSDs or simply PCIe SSDs without the NVMe implementation. The only issue is the storage capacity which is 256GB if you are a professional having multiple projects and huge file sizes with them then you may want to invest on an external HDD to get the best out of both worlds. If you are a student however that may not be necessary yet. It’s worth mentioning the SSD technology will give you the fastest transfer rates from your laptop to an external device a few hundred MB/s. Alternatively, you can buy the DELL Precision 5510 which has an SSD but uses a SATA interface, it’s a little slower but you’ll get more storage : 512GB. The call is on you.
That’s just the performance. The display comes in two versions: a 4k display with a glossy finish and a matte display with 1080p. Ideally for CAD design an 1080p will do just fine, color accuracy and higher resolutions are not a priority this is more useful for graphic designers who deal with multimedia files. Plus if you stick with the full HD resolution you’ll also get the Matte finish so you don’t have to worry about the reflections off your screen and seeing your face on it when you design, it also offers a bit of an increase in battery life ( up to 5 hours) which is not bad at all for a workstation laptop and it’s more affordable. As a bonus, the laptop’s weight is only: only 4.6 lb which is not bad at all for a workstation laptop and will be hard to find in other brands.
Also, besides being a 15” screen, an ideal and portable size for AutoCAD Design, the precision like its cousin DELL XPS 15 has an infinity edge display meaning the screen will appear to be (it is in fact) bigger since there are nearly no bezels around it which might make designing and working on it much more immersive than with regular laptops. It also has an IPS Panel and you’ll have no issues regardless of what angle your scree is facing you (up to 90 degrees actually).
Lastly, as far as ports go you get all the ports you need with the inclusion of a thunderbolt 3 port which will allow you to connect to not just one external displays but two. It will also increase the transfer rate of your files if you decide to use it for that as well.
Best Lenovo Laptop For AutoCAD
CPU: Intel QuadCore i7-6700HQ (Up to 3.5 Ghz) | RAM: 32GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD m.2 PCIe-NVMe (for OS) and 1TB 5400RPM Hard Drive (for storage) | GPU: NVIDIA Quadro M1000M (2GB memory)| Display: 15.6″ FHD IPS 1920×1080 Display
When it comes to CAD design and workstation laptops in general, you can’t never leave Lenovo out of the picture.
Although there are Lenovo Workstations far more powerful and better than the DELL Precision, I found out this one is the best you can get for your money while being able to handle professional level AutoCAD projects mainly due to its approved GPU.
It has nearly everything that the Dell Precision has with the sole exception of a lower performance CPU which is 3.5Ghz as opposed to 4Ghz. It’s not part of the HK series but this is the most popular series used by all 3D applications in general: HQ Series. However it does have a workstation graphics card (NVIDIA Quadro M1000M) which is on par with the Dell Precision. All of that along with the 32GB RAM is pretty much what you need to navigate and rotate through the most complex designs in 3D regardless of the amount of polygons or parts your project may have. The extra features are always a nice bonus but not necessary but you’ll be surprised to find out…
It also has the latest SSD technology: PCIe with the NVME protocol for the fastest performance from storage devices. You’ll also get insanely fast boot up times and launching of your software + reading/loading/saving of your applications and overall increase in performance (even greater) when editing your files. That’s not all it also comes with an internal HDD to store any old projects or other heavy files that you may not be currently be editing or using. The only issue is the SSD comes with half the storage capacity of the DELL Precision (256 GB vs. 128 GB) and there are no upgrades for that but this is no problems as long as you keep your working files within only and the rest to the internal HDD whic has 1TB ( 1000 GB) and it’s actually the reason why the HDD was included in this model.
The display has the same features as the dell an the ideal setting for AutoCAD or CAD programs in general: full HD , 15” and an IPS panel for greater viewing angles.
As far as portability goes, it weights +1.2 lb heavier than the DELL but it’s battery is much longer ~8 hours vs 5 hours. Lastly, let’s not forget that it’s a lenovo and consequently it’s keyboard is of great quality, better than the DELL Precision.
If you feel the trade off for portability and the tiny bit lower decrease in CPU speed is worth the money (you will not notice a difference unless you do a lot of rendering), There’s no better choice than the Lenovo.
*AutoCAD users in 2D may want to consider the Lenovo T460 instead if you are still interested in the reliability, durability, rock solid designs and high quality builds of The Lenovo ThinkPads.
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz (Turbo up to 3.1GHz) | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro M1000M | Screen: 15.6 inches Matte FHD display` | Storage: 1024 GB 7200 rpm Hard Drive |RAM: 16GB RAM
You can trust the label reading “Best Laptop for CAD”. While it may not compete with them in all departments it can offer you just about the same performance as the above do but with a much more affordable price.
It has about the same clock speed as the Lenovo (3.1 GHz) but not the Dell’s HK, the graphics card remain the same and certified/approved by AutoDesk for CAD modeling software: NVIDIA Quadro M1000M.
The display quality remains the same and sufficient for CAD Modeling and AutoCAD: full HD IPS display and 15.6”. Great viewing angles and a matte finish for better visibility of your designs. However the color accuracy is not as good as the Lenovo’s and Precision but is the average workstation laptops have.
It also has a great keyboard while also being very lightweight (only 4.4lb) but has the lowest battery life shown here: 3 to 4 hours.
While none of the above presents an issue for AutoCAD and CAD Modeling. There are only two major caveats if you want to take advantage of the price: the storage and the RAM capacity.
While the RAM capacity can easily be upgraded to 16GB by yourself and results in a much cheaper route than going for an upgraded model, the storage device is set to 1 TB only without the addition of an SSD. Not necessary to run AutoCAD or to have a speedy workflow but the huge bonus is lost with this one.
I’d recommend this option for those professionals on a budget or students getting into industry level designs, you can always upgrade the RAM and also the storage in case you see you may need to do so.
The Best Laptop for AutoCAD Under 1000
CPU: Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5GHz (Turbo up to 3.1GHz) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 | Screen: 15.6 inches Matte FHD display` | Storage: 512GB SSD |RAM: 8GB-16GB RAM
For those who are on a really tight budget and those who are getting started with AutoCAD 3D especially undergrads . You can’t go wrong with this one, all the laptops above go above 1000$ this one stays below yet delivering a pretty good performance for AutoCAD and CAD modeling projects.
Yes, it’s a gaming laptop but it has more than enough power to handle projects at the undergraduate level and a bit beyond due to having one of most popular graphics card for AutoCAD as far as gaming cards go: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M.
It’s not the latest graphics card today but for its price and performance, you can’t get a better deal than that. It’s one of the cards that some universities recommend and most users have found it useful as well.
It also has just enough RAM, more than enough storage(512GB) and luckily still an SSD for a speedy workflow and your designs too. If you are just starting out you may be OK with the base model which only has 8GB RAM. However if you don’t find this sufficient you can always upgrade it to 16GB RAM after purchase.
The only issue may seem to be the CPU which does not have a quad core processor but as you’ll see explained in the guide below that is not necessary for AutoCAD software, most importantly is the clock speed and this model offers about the same as the Lenovo and MSI shown above : up to 3.1GHz.
The display and everything else remain the same yet under 1000$, a real bargain still in 2017 not just for AutoCAD users but anyone dealing with 3D applications.
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz (6MB Cache) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM| Screen: 17.3-inch Full HD Screen, | Storage: 1TB 5400RPM Hard Drive plus 256 GB SSD SATA | RAM: 16GB DDR4 Dual-Channel Memory
Lastly, if you were disappointing with the last gaming laptop not matching the same processor as the workstations above, here’s a model that has a quad core and 3.5Ghz processor at a quite affordable price.
It also comes with plenty of RAM( 16GB which is upgrade-able to 32GB but that may not be necessary for school or those getting started within AutoCAD).
It does not come with an SSD which again it isn’t’ a requirement but would have been a huge plus. However the display size is the biggest one on the list here at 17.3 inches and the graphics card the same and the most recommended one as far as consumer cards go GTX 960M with 4GB of vRAM for even larger models & drafts.
However as expected its battery life is poor (4 hours vs. 8 or 5 of the Lenovo and Dell respectively) but it’s not that heavy for a 17.3 inch screen and in fact lighter than the Lenovo: 5.1lb.
Despite being 17.3 inch, the display quality is about the same and enough for AutoCAD users: full HD, matte finish and IPS panel.
However it offers a better storage configuration on par with Lenovo: 1TB for HDD and 256GB SSD ( SATA interface) with the exception of not being PCIe but having greater storage capacity in its SSD.
A pretty good deal for being a few hundred dollars than the top 2 workstation laptops on this list yet having nearly everything they do with the exception of the graphics card.
How to Buy The Best Laptop For AutoCAD
If you aren’t satisfied by these suggestions or if you don’t know what type of features make up the best laptop for AutoCAD, then you should give this guide some time before shopping for one. I’ve tried to collect as much info on this section for you to end up with the right information to continue your AutoCad journey without any issues whatsoever.
As mentioned AutoCAD is a broad term used for many different AutoDesk products. They’re mainly divided into two families : 2D or 3D.
Obviously if you buy a laptop for AutoCAD in 3D it will have no issues with any AutoCAD software in 2D.
So for the most part we will focus on what features we need for regular AutoCAD in 3D and other AutoCAD versions in 3D.
This is the regular version of AutoCAD which we are all familiar with. It allows you to model and design both in 2D and 3D. Useful for just about everyone and even though there are far more specialized versions around, it’s still widely used today.
The less powerful version of AutoCAD, it’s only useful for 2D Drawings.
Circuit designs, sketches, etc, only need a 2D represenation so this is a 2D software.
Unlike regular AutoCAD where you have to design everything from scratch here you’ll be given tools with objects already made for your designs: doors, walls, windows, etc. This is in 3D.
AutoCAD Civil 3D
Similarly this is in 3D and optimized for planning roadways, rivers, landscapes , etc.
Recommended Specs For AutoCAD
Regardless of what version of AutoCAD you are running or the size of your projects, this section will tell you exactly what you need look your laptop.
AutoCAD products do not take advantage of multicore CPUs. If you were to follow the advice of other sites or you didn’t visit this website or AutoCAD’s official website, you would have missed out on this.
What’s more important for a speedy workflow is the fastest clock speed you can get rather than the number of cores. Most effects and tools used in AutoCAD are not multi-threaded meaning they do not take advantage of multiple CPUs or multiple cores.
So you aren’t likely to get a hefty increase in performance (if any) if you decide to go for a octa core or quad core CPU over a dual core if they all have the same base clock speed.
Which AutoCAD software benefits from Multiple Cores?
Only two: Revit and Inventor.
Which CPU is better for AutoCAD?
For AutoCAD in 2D: any modern CPU with the performance of Intel Core i5 processors and above.
For AutoCAD in 3D: The latest and highest clock speed is recommended if you wish to get the best performance. Ex: i7 quad core processors.
You don’t have to go for Xeon or octa core processors. A Quad Core is good a choice but still always choose clock speed rather the number of cores even if you have to buy a dual core processor.
For both cases however, if you are a heavy multitasker ( you are using AutoCAD plus other programs at the same time ) then you’d benefit from a Quad Core processor anyways such as the intel core HQ series.
The HK series is however the ultimate processor for AutoCad. Not only does it have 4 cores but also the clock speeds are “unlocked” meaning they can go as high as they can for base clock speeds (no turbo boost) . Their frequency is usually around +4GHz, the highest from laptops today.
All designing applications , especially in 3D, are memory hungry. They’ll take up all of your RAM memory quickly and slow down your computer if you don’t get the proper amount.
For AutoCAD, you should at the very least aim for 8GB but 16GB and higher is far more ideal and safe proof especially for more complex projects and models.
If you are are still an undergrad, then you can get away with 8GB for projects both in 3D and 2D .
If you are a professional and working for the industry , then aim for 16GB or as high as you can afford.
AutoCAD 2D: 8GB is sufficient.
AutoCAD 3D: 16GB or more is recommended depending on how complex your projects are.
There are two types of storage devices: SSD (Solid State Drives) and HDD (Hard Disk Drives).
With the falling costs associated with SSDs, everyone will recommend you to use one for the primary drive that will host your OS, AutoCAD, and any active projects you are working on and with a good reason:
The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard disk drive.
However, SSDs are still more expensive than traditional hard drives per GB – so for long term storage I recommend having a secondary traditional hard drive in addition to a primary SSD for back-ups or to store old projects and files that do not need an increase in reading speeds.
If you can afford it, having multiple SSDs (one for the OS and AutoCAD and a second dedicated for active projects) along with a larger traditional drive for storage (for old projects and all other heavy files that you are not currently using) is even better but you may not find this set up in laptops (I haven’t) only within desktops and if you do find it it’ll be way out of your budget. Here is one with 2 SSD each having a lot of storage. Again this should only be considered for the most complex projects within the industry level.
AutoCAD itself isn’t heavy but if you deal with a lot of projects and files on a constant basis then you need to invest on a high storage device.
For undergrads, it is unlikely you’ll deal with many files or highly detailed and complex projects. So a 256GB device might be enough. Especially if you work with AutoCAD in 2D where file sizes aren’t that big of a deal.
Of course higher storage capacities are always useful for your other applications and such but don’t go overboard with the size if you are on a budget.
If you are a professional or interested in CAD work for your future career, then consider getting an external 1TB storage device for your catalog and completed projects.
Recommended Set up
Get an SSD with your laptop to install your OS, AutoCAD and any active projects you’re currently working with to take full advantage of its speed and a separate internal or external regular hard drive (HDD) to store everything else including old and completed projects.
If you are using AutoCAD for 2D designs, then you can get away with any type of graphics cards even an integrated (Intel HD Cards) will do just fine.
This is where it gets tricky. Going to the AutoDesk website doesn’t really tell you all the graphics cards that can work well with AutoCAD (Source).
As you can see, the list they recommend is short. They haven’t tested every graphics card available on the market and that’s what makes buying a laptop for AutoCAD (3D) risky and tricky. Working graphics cards categorized into two types: gaming cards and certified workstation cards.
FirePro and Quadro Series
These are certified “workstation graphics cards” with optimized drivers and special designs that work best with any CAD software especially for industry level projects where the accuracy of models and product simulations are very important also where the number of polygons are far greater than other situations dealing with 3D software (gaming or animation doesn’t need to go into that high level of detail for most purposes).
If you can afford laptops with these cards, get them. They’re more stable and reliable but they can be costly and sometimes unnecessary for most users but again they are worth the stability, reliability and support given from AutoDesk.
You would be surprised to know that you can use gaming cards to work just as good. If budget is an issue there are gaming cards such as the GeForce NVIDIA GTX series that can even perform on par with some workstation cards for AutoCAD.
But you need to find out which ones have been tested by third parties and also you’ll have to deal with the lack of support from AutoDesk if you have any issues.
Generally speaking from my research these are the cards that can work well with AutoCAD (3D): Nvidia GTX 780, 780 TI, 970, 980, 980 TI. Some universities do recommend the 750 series for undergrads too.
Preferably aim for cards above 860M which are far more suitable as long as they all have +2GB of vRAM. The 960 GTX NVIDIA graphics card is a good starting point: it’s the most popular and reliable one recommended by most AutoCAD users who go with gaming cards while also being available in most laptops that do have a dedicated graphics card.
Which type of card should I get?
Depends on your budget and your personal preferences really but you can never go wrong with workstation cards . If you are a professional and if you have the budget go for it.
If you are still in school or a beginner in AutoCAD , there’s no need to go for workstation cards or laptops that have them. Gaming cards in general will do just fine.
Obviously the greater the display size the more helpful it will be for CAD work, you’ll have far more space available for you to design after all the tools and interfaces have taken up your entire screen.
Unfortunately the greater the display size, the heavier and bulkier your laptop will be and I assume some of you do care about portability since you are shopping for laptops after all.
For serious CAD work and professionals, it is advised to stick with 15-17” inches. For some short-sigthed users and some professionals, it might be painful and cumbersome to work with 13” laptops.
However for those still in school, you could get away with 13” laptops for AutoCAD, remember the size of your projects are not that huge and complex so you won’t be taking ages to finish them.
Far more important than size is resolution. A high resolution display will allow you to fit in more interfaces and tools next to your workspace area therefore increasing your productivity as you won’t be hitting up menus to access a few commands all the time.
Luckily most high end laptops with the specifications needed for AutoCAD do come with high resolution (full HD) displays anyways.
Avoid laptops or computers that go too far in terms of resolution such as 4k displays. AutoCAD and other 3D Modeling applications for the most part aren’t fully optimized to work with such high resolutions. As a result you’ll see your interface too small to be usable and a few instances where everything will seem to be out of place.
For school work, you could probably get away with a Mac as long as you stick with just AutoCAD. But other AutoCAD products in 3D aren’t fully supported on a Mac. For more details check on their website. However you can always dual boot into Windows in which case a Mac should pose no problems with any AutoCAD software or version.
If you are serious about AutoCAD though, a professional or looking forward to be one, always stick with Windows.
If you have any feedback, suggestions or any questions please feel free to leave a comment below.