The best laptop for animation should let you navigate through any scenario with buttery smooth framerates and ALSO render 3d models in half the time.
Not everyone needs to spend a lot of money to get that kind of peromance. It all depends on how big your models are and what exactly you are modeling in 3D animation software.
If you want an extreme scenario like one with high resolution texture details, a large number of particles and ~100 lights & shadows & an insane amount amount polys & rigs to viewport with more than 15fps:
You need to have every bit of computer power you can get out of a laptop and grab one with as much clock speed (CPU) and vRAM(GPU) as possible.
The issue here is…
That most websites think every 3d animator needs to spend that much money which is NOT true: Most animators don’t need to spend that much money especially beginners.
Not all animators do the same kind of work. Most will work on models like the one shown below:
For which even a commodity 4GB vRAM machine (if beginner) such as the Lenovo Ideapad with the 3050Ti will do.
What To Look For In A Laptop For Animation ?
Here’s how we’ll organize this post:
- First we’ll go over the 10 best laptops for Animation of 2022. These should be able to run 3DS Max, Maya and hence any 3D animation software. We’ll also include a small section dedicated to laptops for 2D animation (the specs are going to be significantly different and cheaper).
2. We’ll go over all the hardware details and explain why you to focus on some specs for a specific part of the animation process.
I will briefly summarize PART TWO before going over the 10 best laptops for Animation so you can find other alternatives on your own.
3D animation: visual effects software (VFX) or 3D animation software like Maya, Blender & 3DS Max & 3D game development software too.
2D animaton: No viewport, all in 2D. Ex: Pencil 2D , Adobe After Effects, stop motion software,etc.
Core i5 CPUs (8th ,9th, 10th, 11th & 12th gen) or Ryzen 5 CPU (3rd,4th, 5th, 6th gen).
11th or 12th gen Core i7/Core i9 from the H series. Ex: Core i7 11750H, Core i7 12700H.
5th or 6th gen Ryzen 7/Ryzen 9 CPUs from the H series. Ex: Ryzen 7 6800H. Ryzen 9 6900HX.
If on budget and want to ONLY maximize speed on a particular step of the animation process:
Editing & Viewport: Choose the highest clock speed and get as much vRAM as you can afford.
Rendering: Focus on number of cores over clock speed.
Any graphics card is fine but aim for the latest integrated: Intel Iris Xe or AMD Radeon 660M.
*Also benchmarks show a slight advantage when using for gaming cards, especially RTX cards, for GPU rendering.
TL;DR: grab any of the NVIDIA GTX & RTX “gaming” graphics cards. Forget Quadros & FirePros (more details in last section).
Students : 4GB vRAM GPU minimum. Ex: 1050Ti, 1650GTX, AMD Radeon RX 540/550/550/560. This is all you need for a smooth viewport w/ small project loads & game development classes.
Professionals: 6GB vRAM GPU recommended. Ex: 1660Ti, 3060RTX, 2070RTX. Enough to handle 3D viewport of lots of rigs, a huge number of polygons, particles, etc, with decent framerates.
Workstation GPUs: only useful for a specific niche in the animation industry. I will include some tips & a laptop down the list.
8GB RAM: okay to get started. If bigger (3D) projects start coming up, you can manually upgrade RAM to 16GB as shown in this post.
16-32GB: the biggest objects (such as the christmas tree example) will need at least 16GB with 32GB being fool proof.
Rendering: the more RAM you can get, the faster the rendering will be. There seems to be a RAM cap though at ~32GB but most models will render plenty fast with 16GB.
SSD is a requirement for nearly every software to run fast these days. Most laptops have SSDs but if you buy a 2 storage drive SSD, make sure both are PCIe NVMe IF you want to get a slight performance gain when reading/writing data files (it’s minimal though).
Professionals: 1TB SSD. Min 512GB.
*128 GB is okay for 2D animation.
Resolution: the higher the better: you’ll see more frames, tools, quick actions, etc. FHD (1920x1080p) is minimum but if you look long enough you can find QHD (2.5k or 2.8k) resolution displays even on commodity machines. 4k displays are the best but are too expensive.
Size: Avoid 13” displays unless working with 2D animation only.
Top 10 Best Laptops For Animation 3D & 2D
All laptops here not only meet the requirements but also have great cooling systems and this point is also important especially if you’re going to render on a laptop as the temperatures can get to dangerous levels when doing so for long periods of time.
Laptops 1-7: These are exclusively for 3D animation. The first one has the best bang for buck hardware for PRO 3D animation. The second one is aimed for beginners with the remaining ones being increasingly more expensive due to additional hardware.
Laptops 8-10: Exclusively for 2D animation too.
Best Laptop For Animation in 3D
Core i7-12700H 4.6GHz
NVIDIA RTX 3070 8GB vRAM
512GB PCIe NVMe
15” full HD 144Hz IPS
The main two check boxes are 16GB RAM and a mid-range dedicated GPU. Obviously, there’s more to it than that such as having Windows on it, a top of the line GPU, Solid State Drive, multi-core CPU (for rendering), FHD display.
But all of that is automatically taken care of when you get the right dedicated GPU, you get the top of the line CPU + SSD + FHD automatically. What you are not likely to get though is the RAM that’s why I emphasized both.
3070RTX (8GB vRAM)
Mid-range dedicated GPUs are usually those with 6GB vRAM (3060RTX).
However, as of 2023, due to the release of the NVIDIA 3070Ti & 3080Ti & RX 6800M. The 3070RTX (8GB vRAM) , although high-end on paper, now costs more or less as much as the 3060RTX.
It would be a waste of money to grab a 3060RTX when you have a 3070RTX with 2GB of extra vRAM for about the same price.
And what better way to make sure there are bugs, erros or lag when rendering large scale 3d models with lots of texture in software like Maya than adding more vRAM?
TL;DR: 3070RTX has more vRAM than a 3060RTX and is currently about the same price on laptops.
CPU: 12th gen Core i7 12700H
Now there are literally HUNDREDs of 3070RTX laptops but none of them are close to 1000 dolars AND have this very same CPU which is the latest of the latest.
This CPU is not rare, obviously but it’s usually found on 1500 dollar laptops (with a dedicated GPU) and if cheaper than 1000 is only found with no dedicated GPU (making a laptop useless useless for animation).
Since RAM is maxed out too, at least for modeling purposes, it’s going to be very unlikely any of the functions or quick action tools as going to make you wait anything more than 1 second, they are clock-frequency dependent and this CPU has clock speeds up there with the much more expensive Core i9 and Ryzen 9 CPUs.
Multicore Performance: 12th gen Core i7
Now if you want to know about the “P” and “E” cores, you’re welcome to check online for what they mean but let me just say this, the number of cores is pretty much the same as the 11th generation model. Yeah it says 12 cores but in reality it has 16 threads which is the same as older Core i7 CPUs. If we are talking about CPU-rendering tasks, the # cores is not what makes it perform better, it’s the clock speed of the P cores which are more evenly spread than previous generations.
Below you can see a blender rendering performance comparison between the 3060RTX & 3070RTX. I know those are desktop GPUs but they’re relatively performance is still relevant on laptops since they are the same GPUs and both are simultanously downclocked.
As for real time modeling and rendering, I’d say you’ll be fine for most objects and characters (walkthroughs) as long as there isn’t a crazy amount of particles and texture such as the christmas tree example.
Now you’ve probably come across a few videos claiming that RX 6900M GPUs (AMD) perform better for software like Blender, Maya, etc, and that may be true but remember that NVIDIA GPUs are optimized for Unity and Unreal so if you ever plan to work on these type of software you want to choose a NVIDIA GPU over an AMD GPU.
2. HP Victus 15
Core i5 12500H
NVIDIA RTX 3050Ti 4GB vRAM
512GB PCIe NVMe
15” Full HD IPS
The MSI laptop we just went over is a great choice if you’re on a fast track to get paid for very complex and big projects within a year or if you’re already in the industry and want to move on bigger projects.
However, if you’re JUST getting started there’s no need to spend that much money. You could in theory do well for the first year and then for several gigs after with a entry level dedicated GPU.
Now, entry level dedicated GPUs no longer have 2GB vRAM , they now have 4GB vRAM (1650GTX, 1050Ti & 3050Ti) and the 3050Ti is actually an RTX GPU that’s significantly faster (GPU rendering is also dependent on GPU clock speed) than the 1650GTX despite having the same vRAM.
So even if you have scenes with tons of light sources and the effects of shadows + the average amount of polygons on a typical character a shown below ~26:38 in the video, you’ll still have a speedy workflow with a 4GB vRAM GPU:
As for GPU-rendering tasks such as the one shown in the last part of the video below, the 3050Ti does struggle a bit and the GPU usage skyrockets to 100% nonetheless it gets the job done and do take into account that the rendered scence is in 8k resolution.
What about the 1650GTX or other 4GB vRAM GPUs?
Well the first video was testing a 1650GTX so a 3050Ti is going to give you slightly better performance (due to more CUDA cores and clock speed), if you find a cheaper 1650GTX laptop you can afford, it also works out pretty well for the same type of scenes and viewporting them.
Now that’s all assuming you are limited to those kind of gigs, which are moderate scale scenes, anything high texture like the christmas tree example or the DONUT in 8k resolution example, will massively struggle.
What about the 3060RTX or any 6GB vRAM GPU?
Some scenes like the one in the video below will eat up more than 4GB vRAM and if you can’t get that much vRAM, you’ll lag. It isn’t ncessarily going to crash the software but viewport and rendering will be somewhat slower significantly affecting yoru workflow. Im talking about the kind of work below though:
The chances you get to do the kind of stuff in the video when you’re getting started is very slim. You are likely to be working with models shown in the first video of this review.
So 4GB or 6GB vRAM?
If you’ve got the cash, go for 6GB vRAM. As a beginner, you may not find it useful within the next few months but definitely if you are on a fast track to work on bigger gigs. If the software you use to model in 3D uses a lot of ‘real time rendering’ you also want to pick the 6GB vRAM GPU , not due to vRAM but rather due to the larger amount of CUDA cores (these are responsible for real time GPU rendering).
Tip: I taught myself 3DS Max and Blender on. 4GB vRAM GPU laptop from 2016 (960M back then) and never faced any problems at least when drawing and making characters. The only problem was waiting for things to render but that was largely due to the CPU more than the GPU.
GPU rendering: CUDA cores
You may be confused now when I say CPU-rendering and GPU-rendering, they are different, it depends on the software. You could get the best GPU on the market but if your software does not use the GPU for rendering, it’ll be useless. For example: iRAY has always been known to be GPU-dependent, it uses the CUDA cores as extra CPUs to speed up rendering, thus the higher the GPU, the higher the CUDA core count, the faster the rendering.
Maya, Blender and 3DS Max do support GPU-rendering though. Most 3D animation software do. Back then it was only limited to iRAY.
If this HP Victus model is out of stock, which is very likely since it has the latest 12th gen Core i5 CPU + 3050Ti for ~700 dollars (quite a big deal), check out the following. Sure, they may be more expensive and have slightly older hardware but if its out of stock, I’m so sure if its worth waiting several months for it.
|Lenovo||Ryzen 5 5600H||1650GTX||680|
|MSI||Core i5 9300H||1650GTX||699|
|ZenBook||Ryzen 5 4500U||MX350||633|
|MSI||Core i5 10200H||1650GTX||670|
|MSI||Core i5 10300H||1650GTX||650$|
Best Laptop For Animation in 3D – 3070Ti RTX
AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX
32GB RAM DDR5
NVIDIA RTX 3070Ti 8GB vRAM
1TB NVMe PCIe SSD
15.6” Full HD IPS 165Hz
A 3070Ti is not the same as a 3070 (non-Ti) which we talked about in the first review.
Comparing the 3070TI to the 3070RTX is like comparing the 3070RTX to the 3060RTX basically.
Now because both the 3070RTX and 3070Ti have the same amount of vRAM (8GB vRAM), you’re going to get the same number of fps when using viewport on models of the same complexity.
However, the 3070Ti has +800 more CUDA cores, this is a significant increase so there’s going to be significant increase when GPU-rendering.
The sample below has been rendered in 1080p on blender but if you look at the amount of detail and objects on top of the light sources and the amount of frames in that small clip, it’s quite impressive it only took ~10 min to render.
Now that was a desktop GPU but considering the fact that laptop GPUs are downclocked 20% in clock speed, it should be ~15 min.
This is somewhat of a new company and that’s the reason why it’s about 500-700 dollar cheaper than most 3070Ti laptops despite having slightly better hardware (it has a 17” display, more storage, RAM) than 3070Ti + Core i9 laptops found on brands like ASUS, MSI, etc.
You are welcome to buy the ASUS brand if you feel more comfortable but know this: a 17” laptop that’s this big is very unlikely to fail as there’s plenty of room to minimize design errors and it’s much easier to implement a cooling system. In fact, it may last you a bit more if you’re going to render on it quite a lot (this is where temperatures get dangerously high).
Anyways, here’s the ASUS alternative, if you are interested.
The Best Laptop For Animation & VFX – 3080Ti
Intel Core i9 12900H
32GB DDR5 RAM
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080Ti 16GB vRAM
1TB PCIe Gen 4×4 SSD
16″ QHD (2560 x 1600) 240Hz
The next three laptops are going to be VERY expensive but are going to be extremely useful for very large scale scenes, some of which are seen in Mr. Green youtube channel.
These are NOT for beginners or students, they are here for those looking for an upgrade for pros looking for large scale upgrades before resorting to GPU rendering farms or desktops.
I’ve tried to list only the best deals with the latest hardware on them. No 11th gen Intel Core or 5th gen Ryzen CPUs. Eveything that follow’s the latest: 12th gen Intel Core & 6th gen Ryzen CPUs.
Hardware & Performance
The 3080Ti is the most powerful GPU for animation as of 2023. There is the 4000 RTX series but those are only available on desktops and the AMD equivalents do not have this much vRAM.
That is basically what separates the 3080Ti from the rest, the 16GB vRAM. Say you’ve got an scene that’s so complex and the amount of details (especially those high resolution textures) take up so much data, you quickly run out of vRAM. Good examples would be the animation scenes on those big franchises: Toy Story, Lion King, Avatar, etc.
If you’ve been using a 3070RTX GPU, and you’re struggling with viewport, this is what your next upgrade should be (not the 3070Ti which has just as much vRAM as the 3070RTX).
To give you an idea of how much performance gain there is with viewport when you have a 3080Ti (which has 16GB vRAM) as opposed to the 3070Ti, 3070 and 3060RTX…
Imagine a scene with +18m polys +80 lights , a 3060RTX or 3070RTX will get you 2-4 fps when using viewport thus making it impossible to work with.
The 3080Ti will at least get you 20 frames per second (shaded mode with LIGHTS OFF) or 10 frames per second (realistic mode with lights ON).
The scene above is EXTREME, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get 20fps on large scale models, the example should only be taken for relative perfomance purposes. Check out min 10:23 on the AE christmas tree model example, there’s only 2-4 fps at best! You’ll x5 times the performance with a 3080Ti due to much larger RAM.
There’s one issue that’s going to happen with every single 3080Ti laptop: heat. The 3080Ti is basically a desktop-like GPU fit in a laptop device which due to the high amount of power being drawn will naturally heat up massively. Add the fact that you’ve got a C0re i9 which is a monster-CPU, you’re like to reach dangerously high temperatures quite often. This means theres a high chance your laptop will melt the motherboard if you repeatedly render for long periods of time.
This is why you’re better off buying 3080Ti laptops from well known brands like ASUS & MSI since these are two have the best cooling systems. Regardless, you should still add an external cooling pad and try to use it when you work with 3D animation software especially when you render for more than 15 min.
Best Laptop For Animation & Game Design
AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX
16GB RAM DDR5
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080Ti 16GB vRAM
1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
14” QHD 165Hz
The problem with 3080Ti and even 3060RTX laptops is that they’re heavy as hell, something you don’t want if you have to lug around your laptop to school or if you’re taking game development or 3d animation classes.
The solution is going for laptops “Slim” gaming laptops like the Razer Blade. There are dozens of models for the 3060RTX but as far as I’m concerned Razer Blade is the only laptop that can also accomodate a 3080Ti into a 4.4lb 15’’ laptop.
It’s going to get more portable than this if you’re after the 3080Ti.
Hardware & Performance
These kind of laptops have the exact same hardware used on any other laptop. It’s the same Core i9 and same GPU but they will be ‘down-clocked’. In other words, the power supply is somewhat less than the power supplied to the 3080Ti on the ASUS laptop. The same way, the power supplied to a desktop is different to the power supplied to a laptop.
Anyways, this usually takes a toll on the ‘Clock-speed’ of both the CPU & GPU. Thus a 3080Ti on this laptop will more or less perform slightly , only slightly, better than a 3070Ti running at higher wattages on a bigger laptop.
Nonetheless, for 3d animation purposes, they are still a better choice because ‘wattage’ or the power supplied does not take a toll on the amount of vRAM inherently present in all 3080Ti.
Thus, this 3080Ti laptop will get you the same ‘viewport’ performance as any other 3080Ti laptop but it will not will get you the same GPU rendering performance as a full blown full wattage 3080Ti.
The Best Workstation Laptop For 3D Animation
Core i9-11900H 4.9GHz
64GB DDR4 RAM
NVIDIA Quadro RTX A5000 16GB
2TB NVMe SSD
17” 144Hz FHD
The only workstation laptop on the list.
It’s not something I would recommend unless you’ve been forced because headquarters orders is for every employee to have a workstation GPU.
It’s not that they’re useless, they actually give you the same performance as gaming GPUs at best. If you think about it makes sense. Here’s some of the major points why they’re NOT better than gaming GPUs:
- If you compare the CUDA Cores & vRAM between 3080Ti (gaming) & A5500 (workstation), they’re exactly the same.
- Workstation GPUs are designed to run calculations for industry level objects where there’s more real world physics (cars, engines, tools, machinery,etc) involved rather than ‘surface-level’ design (animation does not care about the physics but rather how the final product looks, in other words, RENDERING)
- 3D Animation software runs more or less the same type of calculations behind gaming (rendering & viewport) so naturally gaming GPUs will be a better match.
Lastly, please check the benchmarks on the following youtube video if you are still not convinced:
**Note a workstation GPU will be the better choice in two instances:
- If it has more vRAM than a gaming RTX GPU. This isn’t the case as of 2023, 3080TI and RTX A5500 both have 16GB vRAM.
- If you are building a desktop, you can stack more ‘workstation GPU’s on top of each other to get more vRAM.
- If you need to unlock special plugins only available for workstation (this isn’t likely the case for animation software but other 3d modeling software).
Outdated “Certified” Workstation GPUs:
Laptops for 2D animation
The next laptops are only for 2D animation. The rule for these laptops is basically:
- Getting at least a Core i5 CPU from the 10th, 11th or 12th gen.
- As an alternative grab a Core i3 from the 12th gen
- 8GB RAM. 16GB RAM is useless and if you get 4GB out of a budget machine make sure you do the upgrade
- SSD. Although virtually all laptops have them. If buying an old laptop , make sure to do the upgrade
The Best Laptop for 2D Animation
Core i5 11300H
NVIDIA GeForce MX450 2GB vRAM
512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
16” 2560 x 1440 QHD IPS
This laptop is a little overkill and the reason is the dedicated GPU on-board which is nice to have but unnecessary powerful for 2D animation (you only need an integrated graphics card, the one that comes by default with all laptops).
MX 450: 2GB vRAM GPU
Considering the fact that this laptop is only 50 bucks more expensive than your average laptop with a Core i5, i’d say it’s still a smart move to buy it.
You could find the dedicated GPU useful in the future if you ever want to get started with 3D animation software, this one should handle basic and small models such as the ones you encounter during first gigs or when you’re taking classes for 3D animation.
Also, if you’re going through all the steps of the 2D animation process that means you may have to render the final product (in a video file format) which means you’ll have to use a video editor like Adobe Premiere Pro. Video editing software makes good use of a dedicated GPU as the ‘extra-cores’ accelerate GPU-accelerated effects & the ‘vRAM’ helps touching up high-quality and long timelines much faster..
Below you can see the kind of scenes you can do with a similar dGPU 4GB vRAM GPU:
Do note that this laptop has a much faster CPU and a GPU which is x3 faster too so performance will be slightly higher on viewport at 3:23.
Display: QHD Resolution
This is the biggest reason to pay 550 bucks. Very very few laptops have a QHD resolution, below I’m attaching a list of all QHD laptops with a MX450, some are cheaper, some are more expensive.
|Lenovo Ideapad Pro 5i||Core i5 11300H||MX 450||QHD 16”||549|
|Lenovo Ideapad Pro 5i||Core i5 11300H||MX 450||QHD 16”||559|
|Lenovo Ideapad Pro 5i||Core i5 11300H||MX 450||QHD 16”||619|
|Lenovo Ideapad Pro 5i||Core i5 11300H||MX 450||QHD 16”||609|
|Lenovo Ideapad Pro 5i||Core i5 11300H||MX 450||QHD 16”||669|
Why would that be useful? Well , you are no longer limited to work with FHD frames, you can step it up and work with higher resolutions (Up to QHD), you can obviously set the final work to any resolution when you render it but it’s still nice to see your frames at higher resolutions.
That’s not all, higher resolutions also increase your canvas & the amount of screen space to have more toolbars and quick action tools right next to your canvas.
Best Budget Laptop For 2D Animation
Intel Core i3-1115G4
Intel UHD Graphics
15” full HD IPS
This laptop has no dedicated graphic and this makes it 200 dollars cheaper!
It should only be used for 2D animation software.
Unlike most laptops around 350 dollars though, you get 8GB RAM which is the bare minimum for Windows 11 & 2 2D animation software to run with no lag whatsoever. You could upgrade this laptop to 16GB but that much RAM will only come in handy if you heavily multitask between multiple animation software AND you also have a web browser open with a lot of tabs (20+).
Note that although this laptop comes with Windows 10 in S mode, you can just go to settings and follow the process outlined here to do the upgrade to Windows 10 home free of charge.
Lastly, I want you to be careful when you shop for budget laptops in the 300-400 price range. Some may have a better and more modern CPU (12th gen Core i3) and maybe even more storage but they will ditch the FHD resolution display. 1080p (FHD) displays are PARAMOUNT for 2D animation work, that is the bare minimum resolution for high quality frames.
9. LG Gram 17
12th gen Intel Core i7 1260P
Intel Iris Plus
1TB NVMe SSD
17.3” 2560 x 1600 IPS
We already went over the cheapest laptop on this short list of laptops for 2D animation, so it’s time we go over the other side of the spectrum: the most premium laptop for animation thus the most expensive one.
This laptop sells for about 1300 dollars and it doesn’t have a dedicated GPU thus it is not for 3D animation people HOWEVER it has a LOT of good stuff:
- Latest Core i7 mobile CPU 12th generation!
- While this may not be useful for 2D animation software, it’s still nice to have specially when you have a lot of things to render, this is going to speed up things massively.
- 16GB RAM out of the box.
- This means you will never run out of computer power and you will never resort to upgrading RAM
- 1TB Storage
- Likewise, it’s unlikely you run out of storage during your entire career unless you install dozens of AAA games.
- We already talked about QHD display. If you add the fact that it’s a 17 inch display, you’ve got an insane amount of workspace area.
- This is the # 2 REASON why to buy this laptop.
- This is #1 reason to pay the extra cash.
- While you may find 17 inch laptops with QHD resolution at 800 bucks, all of them will weigh more than 5lbs and be as thick as book, not ideal if you want to carry your laptop to several places.
- This is the only model, as far as I’m aware, that has a 17 inch display and weighs only 3lbs.
10. Surface Pro 9
12th Gen Intel Core i5-1235U
Intel Iris Xe Graphics
256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
13” IPS 2880 x 1920 Resolution
This is a touchscreen 2-1 in laptop tablet. I’m sure you’ve already seen animators using one especially the iPad Pro.
This pretty much works like an iPad except that it has a full blown operating system like Windows 11 which basically makes ALSO a computer where you can install software without being limited to what’s on the ‘windows store’ (which is the case for tablets).
So with the Surface Pro, not only will you be able to draw as if it were a physical notebook but also (after attaching the keyboard) use it as a laptop on a hard surface where you can type & use a mouse for 2D animation software.
Tablet + Separate Laptop:
If you are not interested in buying a 2-1 in laptop device for whatever reason, a cheaper alternative is to buy any laptop of your choice + a WacCom tablet. You can use the tablet to draw or draft then move either through bluetooth or through the cloud, send the file to your laptop or PC for post-drawing work and rendering.
Back to the Suface Pro…
The performance is not going to be like the iPad Pro or any high-quality tablet, it’s going to be like a full blown laptop because it has actual laptop hardware in it. In fact, it’s going to be faster than MOST non-gaming laptops as long as you buy the latest models as they always place the latest Intel Core CPUs on them.
As of 2023, the Surface Pro 9 comes either with a 12th generation Alder-Lake Core i5 or Core i7 and you can also get to choose between 8GB , 16GB or even 32GB DDR5 (the latest RAM).
So which one should I get?
Even the base model (weakest configuration) of the Surface Pro 9 will have way more hardware than you need for all the animation software you have in mind and all the multitasking that goes along with it. Thus I advice you to save yourself hundreds of dollars and get the base Core i5 + 8GB RAM.
How To Choose Laptop For Animation – 3D & 2D
Why should you read this section?
- Unlike other 3D creative fields, there’s a LOT of software for animation. And if you count the different types of animations: 2d, 3d, CGI animation, there’s even A LOT MORE.
- What this means is that you have a lot of software to take into account when shopping a laptop for animation and different software will have slightly different hardware requirements.
- On the other hand, scenes or 3d models that use different textures , shaders , etc, will very different hardware requirements. Ex: The most complex & highly detailed ones we’ll need more vRAM.
The best way to get on your way is to make a list of all the animation softawre you think you’re going to use, then going to the official website of each and check the hardware requirements.
Then look for the recommended hardware requirements (there’ll be a minimum tab, ignore that).
Finally, if buget is not an issue, just buy a laptop based on the most the software that has the highest hardware requirements.
This is a no-fail strategy but the problem is that you will probably be wasting a lot of money especially if you are a beginner or just trying to find your way into the market, as the hardware requirements may be a bit too much for most.
3D Animation Software
The most popular 3d animation software can be found on this wikipedia page. The three most popular ones being: Maya, Blender & 3DS Max.
If you have no idea which one your’e going to be using most of time a good way to find out is by checking out what each of these software can do or have done.
Output files of this software are used on films, tv shows, architecture walkthroughs, game intros and game movies and car simulations. Some films which have used maya are: Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda and Transformers. As for games, its been used on FIFA & Prince of Persia
Autodesk 3DS Max
Also used for TV & Movies mostly.
Examples are: Avatar, Tomb Raider Lara Croft, Transformers, X-men).
Most popular for architecture walkthroughs.
Somwhat popular for more ‘detailed and realistic’ trailers and game intros. Its’ been used on World Of Warcraft & Call Of Duty.
Recommended Specs For 3D Animation
Let’s start by looking at the official hardware requirements.
|Maya||64-bit Intel® or AMD® multi-core processor||8GB||higher than a GTX 680|
|3DS Max||64-bit Intel® or AMD® multi-core processor||8GB||NVIDIA GTX 690 or equivalent|
|Blender*||64-bit quad core CPU (eight core recommended)||8GB||Open GL Support and 2GB RAM (8GB vRAM recommended)|
|Cinema 4D*||Quad Core Processor||8GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660MX or equivalent|
*This is what I mean by these hardware requirements possibly being “innacurate”. 8GB vRAM is ridiculously too much GPU memory for blender even for real-time rendering and viewport of super large scenes.
Yes, graphics card are important too we’ll get to that but we’ll start with the CPU because , all things being equal (same GPU, RAM, etc), small differences in CPU power can have a huge impact on the speed of your workflow.
2022 Intel CPUs*
2022 AMD CPUs
|Ryzen 9 6980HX||3.3||5||8|
Ryzen 9 6900HS
|Ryzen 7 6800HS||4.7||8|
|Ryzen 7 6800H||4.7||8|
|Ryzen 9 5900HX||3.3||4.6||8|
|Ryzen 9 4800HS||2.2||4.4||8|
|Ryzen 7 5800H||3.3||4.4||8|
|Ryzen 7 3750H||2.3||4||4|
|Ryzen 7 5800U||1.9||4.4||8|
|Ryzen 7 5700U||1.8||4.3||8|
|Ryzen 7 3700U||2.3||4||4|
|Ryzen 5 5600H||3.3||4.2||6|
|Ryzen 5 3550H||2.1||3.7||4|
|Ryzen 5 5500U||2.1||4.4||6|
|Ryzen 5 3500U||2.1||3.7||4|
|Ryzen 3 5300U||2.6||3.8||8|
|Ryzen 3 3300U||2.1||3.5||4|
*Same color are basically the same model but upgraded. Ex: Core i3 8130U and i3 115G4 are the same model with different generations. Nothing to do with performance.
Clock speed will have the biggest impact on your workflow (after you’ve taken care of the graphics card).
Editing and Modeling
How fast you make bank depends on how fast you can finish projects which depends on the speed of your workflow which depends on how fast your computer which depends on FAST your CPU is.
More specifically, the clockspeed measured in GHz. Within the editing and modeling part of the whole process, almost all functions are single-threaded threaded.
This means they will only use one core thus your focus should be how fast that core is : clock speed.
Viewport refers to moving around or rotating a model in 3D.
Benchmark studies have shown that viewport is mostly a single-threaded task, that means, more cores isn’t going increase fps when using viewport.
However, they do make use of extra cores. Ex: A 6-core CPU will get you a 6% fps increase as opposed to using only a single core, a 10-core CPU a 15% increase and so on.
Definitely, these performance gains, do not justify the need to favor ‘multi-core’ CPUs over CPUs with less cores but more clockspeed.
Rendering, regardless of software, or the time you read this (it could be a decade from now) WILL ALWAYS BE A MULTI-THREADED TASK.
That is, the more cores you have, the less time it’ll take to render something.
Thus once you’ve maximized on clock speed, you want to choose the CPU with the highest number of cores IF you want rendering to be fast.
It’s very very common for animators and artists to be using a couple or more animation software simultaneously. Ex: After Effects & Cinema 4D on top of the 3d modeling animation software. This is where multi-core CPUs also become useful.
How to pick a CPU then?
Whether you are a student or a pro, you should always favor clock speed over number of cores because those CPUs with the highest clock speeds will ALWAYS come with the higher number of cores at least in the laptop market.
In the desktop market, you will have a lot of choices so the processing of picking up a CPU is a little more complicated.
2. GPU ( Graphics Card )
If CPU is the meat , the GPU is your potatoes. The key to getting the best performance out of every nickle you have is to find the right balance of GPU/CPU.
Below you have the most common graphics cards (dedicated) you’ll find in 2023. Take a GOOD look at vRAM because that’s the second most important thing for 3D animation (after CPU clock speed, although it could be the other way, that’s debatable).
|Pro RX 555X||768||2GB||855||MX150/MX250|
|Radeon RX 550||640||4GB||1287 – 1476||+950M|
|Radeon RX 560X||1024||4GB||1172 – 1275||1050GTX|
|RX 5500M||1408||8GB||1327 – 1645||~1660Ti|
|RX 6800M||2560||12GB||2116 – 2300||~3070RTX++|
vRAM is the single most important spec for fast viewport, more so than CPU.
Having more vRAM lets you work with bigger scenes witih ease. If you think about it , it makes sense.
With this knowledge, you can save a lot of money by getting just enough vRAM for the size and complexity of the scenes you work with.
Small Scenes: 2-4GB vRAM
If you are working with just one or two models characters within a scene, then you need nothing more than a 2-4GB vRAM. This is almost always the case for people taking animation classes.
If you are on a budget, grab those with 2GB vRAM but no less than that.
Medium Scenes (Actual gigs) : 6GB vRAM
Anything beyond what you see in school requires a 6GB vRAM GPU. For example, take a look at the aircraft scence in the following tutorial:
That will barely fit in 6GB vRAM nonetheless viewport is still plenty fast.
Large Scenes : 16-24GB vRAM
By this I mean the type you regularly see in actual movies. While laptops are not the ideal choice (desktops are) you can still get something like that kind of work on laptops if you buy any of the latest 16GB vRAM GPUs (3080Ti, RTX A5500).
GPU Architecture: important!
Probably more of an issue for desktop users but it may be the case for laptops too. Basically, when I say a 4GB vRAM GPU for example, that gives you the choice to pick between two or three GPUs: 1650GTX, 3050Ti, 1050Ti, etc.
Despite all of these having the same amount of vRAM, the architecture also has an impact on performance. Basically, the newer graphics cards, will have the better architecture and thus performance.
You should then if you have the choice and budget allows, aim for the newest architecture.
GPU vRAM: What happens if you don’t get enough?
Things like viewport will slow down significantly, that’s about it.
However, if you’re working with an extremely complex scene and if you have say 2-4GB vRAM, then objects and parts of your model will dissapear randomly (like the flickering you see on some games or screen tearing)
Quadro & FirePro: Workstation GPUs
Honestly speaking, they are pretty much useless for Animation. They’re more useful for other instances of 3D modeling such as 3D CAD modeling work where precise calculations are more important than ‘rendering’ or how something looks.
Gaming GPUs, on the other hand, are specialized in ‘rendering’ frames and that’s exactly what animation software does anyways so naturally gaming GPUs will work BETTER than workstation GPUs.
vRAM: However, if a workstation GPU happens to have more vRAM, then you should choose the workstation GPU. All other things being equal, gaming GPUs win.
NVIDIA vs AMD: Which Brand’s best for Animation?
Short answer: NVIDIA.
Chances are you will need NVIDIA’s CUDA Core technology for GPU rendering like Octane. If that isn’t the case, then go for AMD, they will have more speed & vRAM / dollar than NVIDIa GPUs.
This question is only relevant for desktops though, NVIDIa GPUs are ubiqutous on laptops.
Viewport: RAM plays a big role when using viewport. Because that’s basically where any left over data that cannot fit into vRAM goes.
Now because RAM is mostly used to store software & OS, there isn’t going to be much left for a 3D model if you don’t get enough. If you multitask, there chances are there is zero RAM available to use for the 3D model.
Since RAM is cheap , it is the bes and cheapest t way to ‘maximize’ viewport performance if you can’t get a better dGPU due to budget restrictions.
How much RAM will I need?
Everyone using 3D animation should at least get 16GB. Most ‘beginner’ laptops for animation (2GB vRAM-4GB vRAM) come with 8GB thus you have to upgrade to 16GB.
16GB: if you are a student, there’s no need to upgrade beyond this. You will have the maximum viewport performance beacuse your models are small.
32GB: If you are professional and want to improve viewport performance (after maxing out on vRAM as much as your budget allows), you want this much. Anything beyond seems useless unless you want to slightly increase rendering performance (reduce times).
There are two types: SSD & HDD. The former is up to x17 faster and the latter gives you more storage capacity’
This isn’t a choice for laptops, as virtually every modern laptop has a SSD (Solid State Drive).
But if you’re building a desktop or going for budget machines (which usually have HDDs), beware that SSDs are pretty much a MUST in the industry. It has a big effect on nearly every instance of the software having to do with writing/reading data:
- Boot up system
- Launching software
- Save files
- Open files
The problem for laptops is now about capacity because high storage SSDs , although they do exist, they are expensive.
Students: Size isn’t an issue for students, 256GB is common and that’s plenty of space for all the animation software you plan on using and a bunch of high quality projects files (30 at least).
Pros: You want at least 512GB because you are likely to keep a repository of old projects for future reference and use.
SSD + HDD on the same desktop/laptop
You may find some laptops with this combo or you can build a desktop with this combo too.
It works fine as long as you do the following:
- Have all of your applications on the SSD along with any current files/projects you are working on. This should give you quick file access, quick model previews and launch 3D software fast as hell.
- Footage, old files, completed projects can be stored in the large 1TB HDD.
- Also use the HDD to store anything that’s not work related.
x2 SSDs in the same machine:
If budget is not an issue, the best thing you can do (if you want to maximize animation software performance even more so) is getting two SSDs and then doing the following:
- Install Windows 10 AND any animation software on ONE SSD and just leave it at that.
- Use the other SSD to store any working files, data files, project files, etc
The performance incrase from this set up will be about 3-5%, this is a small performance gain but a gain nonetheless and if you think about the few seconds you save here and there will add up to hours in the long run.
Storage Speed based on type
For information purposes, here’s the hierarchy of storage speeds. Laptops only have #1, # 3 and #5. The full list below is found on desktops.
1. SSD w/ NVMe Protocol
2. SSD on PCI Express interface (some of the M2 slots offer this)
3. SSD on SATA3 interface
4. SSD on SATA2 interface
5. 7200RPM HDD
6. 5400 > 5000 > 4600 > green HDD.
The bigger the workspace area the faster your workflow will be thus the goal is to maximize workspace when looking at display specifications (forget color accuracy, brighitness, contrast ratios, etc).
For laptops, the best way to maximize screen space without going for a bigger laptop is to get a high resolution display.
FHD is common and is the absolute minimum even for 2D animation.
2k-4k resolutions: animation software is now fully compatible with higher resolution displays (QHD & UHD) and this is the resolution you want if you don’t have budget issues. This will massively increase the screen space by making the interface, toolbars and everything else slightly smaller (without compromising quality) this makes your canvas much bigger and allows you to throw in more ‘quick-action’ toolbars which reduces the needs to go to use drop-down menus.
Just want to make a recap about rendering because i know a lot of people are not going to read the whole guide.
- Rendering is not a visual computation (GPU) but rather mathematical process(CPU).
- So your focus should be on RAM and CPU
- Rendering is faster with more cores. physical cores not virtual cores
- GPU helps rendering too but it is an ‘additional’ factor not the MAIN factor.
- As of 2023, vRAY, Octane and most renders use GPU-rendering.
- Most will only work with NVIDIA GPUs however.
- If rendering on a laptop, get a cooling stand if it takes too long, otherwise the high temperatures may jeopardize your laptop’s durability.
You can find the full list of 2D Animation software here. Two of these are are Adobe After Effects & Pencil 2D. Not necessarily the two most popular but they will give you sort of an idea of the hardware requirements for most:
Stop Motion Animation
“StopMotion Pro Clipse, Animator HD, Stop motion Studio, qStopMotion, IkITMovie,DragonFrame”
This is just another form of 2D animation and the hardware requirements for these are the same.
Post Production Software
It gets tricky here because I dont know how far you’re willing to go in the animation process with a laptop. If you’re making 2D animation then delivering the frames or designs to someone, then all you need is to follow the hardware requirements for Pencil 2D.
However, if you’re using this laptop to RENDER the whole clip. Then you will use Adobe Premiere Pro or any video editing software to do so.
For 2D anime clips, Let’s assume you want to work on the whole production process including the final clip that will be streamed somewhere. Then the most hardware demanding software will ALSO be something like Adobe Premiere Pro which is a video editing and used for the final rendering. There’s a whole variety of software to draw , design and paint each frame they can be found here but they’re not hardware demanding at all.
Recommended Specs For 2D Animation
Like I said before, most 2D Animation and Stop Motion animation don’t require anything special.
The only real hardware demanding part will be the post production process which requires something like a video editor that can put all the frames together and render the final product.
Composition , Art & Coloring Software
If you are not going to use that you are free to ignore the following and just grab ANY of the laptops shown here.
Which are basically:
CPU: Core i3, Core i5 from the 11th or 12th gen.
RAM: 8GB RAM.
Storage: SSD (universal on most laptops)
Post-production (rendering) 2D animation
It’s basically going to be a non-linear video Editor like Adobe Premier or Final Cut Pro.
The hardware requirements are a big higher IF and only IF you want the rendering to be done quickly (otherwise rendering with the above hardware will be good too).
Just add a video card to the the requirements above.
GPU: 2GB vRAM (or 4GB vRAM).
Ex: NVIDIA GeForce 1650GTX or 3050Ti. AMD Radeon Pro 55X.
If you have any questions, questions or any suggestions. Please leave a comment below. Your input is taken seriously in our posts and will also be used for future updates.
- I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.