Finding the best laptop for solidworks can very subjective.
Solidworks is a very versatile software, people will need different hardware specs depending on the kind of projects they are working with.
Most users(like engineering students) will deal with projects that will need nothing more than a consumer grade laptop with a dGPU (which costs aprox. ~700$) , while some professionals (like those working for an automobile company) may need to buy a workstation laptop that has a workstation GPU with plenty of vRAM (which can cost anywhere from ~1500-4000$).
That’s where it usually gets tricky…
What kind of user am I? What kind of hardware specifications will my projects need? We’ll answer that soon.
A more important question however is…
Where can I get reliable and accurate information without making the fatal mistake of wasting hundrds of dollars on a computer that will simply not handle the size and complexity of my models ?
You could start with the official website which will list a bunch of certified workstation laptops and there’s nothing wrong with their recommendations.
However, that’s all you’d get from the official website. They’re not as detailed as you’d want them to be. They don’t tell you what workstations will give you the best bang for your buck nor if you really need those heavy bricks.
And chances are you probably won’t.
What can you do then?
The best thing you can do is to talk to people who have used the software on both regular computers and workstations.
I’m going to be honest here and I don’t use Solidworks on a regular basis however I deal with projects of different size scales from time to time on different machines
So I have a pretty good idea of what CPU, GPU, RAM and storage specs you need based on the type of user you are (student or pro), the size of your projects(creating/modifying large assemblies with +1000 parts or simple parts+low assemblies with some drawing) or the tasks you perform most regularly (modeling, drafting or rendering w/ simulations).
Recommended Hardware For SolidWorks
Just to avoid all the jargon and make it easier for you I’ve put up a table where you can see the specifications you will need for a model of a given size.
If you want all the details, jump to last section using the TOC.
If this will be your main tool of work, I think it’d be helpful to learn why solidworks requires this or that.
Beware it’s not only long but quite technical so you’ll need to understand a few computer terms beforehand. I’d recommend reading my posts on the sidebar if you are a newbie to computers first.
Laptops listed here can be separated into student laptops (by this i mean people getting started with solidworks or using the software for some engineering class) and professional laptops (those working for a company or just dealing with very large assemblies).
A student of SolidWorks does not have to buy any workstations at all. They can settle with most gaming/consumer laptops well below 800$.
This table isn’t 100% detailed but this should give you a rough idea of the specs you should be after according to the models you are working with.
|Small ~100||Large +500|
|GPU||Any||NVIDIA MX350,Intel Xe Max ,AMD RX 555*||NVIDIA RTX Series
Quadro T/RTX Series
|NVIDIA RTX Series
Quadro T/RTX Series
|Storage||256GB SSD||1TB HDD +X size PCIe SSD|
|CPU||Intel Core i3 8th+
AMD Ryzen 3+
| Core i5 8,9,10th gen
Ryzen 5 3rd 4th gen
| Intel Core i7 H 8th+
Ryzen 7 H 8th+
| Core i7 /Core i9
Ryzen 7 / Ryzen 9
Why is the hardware for modeling different than rendering?
If you’re going to use your laptop not only for modeling and rendering, then get the specs based on the recommendations on the right. If you’re going to use it for modeling only and use another machine to render, then use the specs on the left if you want to save a few bucks of course. If not, just go for the specs on the right regardless of what you plan on doing.
Top 6 Best Laptops for SolidWorks
In this list I’ve tried to assmeble a laptop for every type of user: from the newbie in college getting started with solidworks to the professional working on the most intricate and detail model for a company.
Note that I’m aware there are thousands of models to choose from but I’ve already compared them on a spreadsheet and found the ones with the best bang for your buck. This is ESPECIALLY true for the last two laptops which are workstation laptops, they can be very tricky to buy because the terminology behind their hardware can be quite confusing so vendors (not the companies) take advantage of this and sell them for a lot more money than they are worth.
If you want to buy the right machine, don’t skip the reviews/descriptions as I will go over the most important points in a laptop.
Best Laptop For SolidWorks & 3D Modeling
NVIDIA RTX 2060
512GB PCIe NVMe
15” full HD 120Hz IPS
This year, I want to start with a 2060RTX laptop because the GPU has the best performance/money ratio AND it’s the most ideal if we are talking about performance against investment.
What I mean by this, surely, you’ll have better performance with 2070RTX. 2080RTX and maybe the new GPUs of the RTX 3000 series coming up. But the jump from say a 1650 to a 2060RTX is abysmal for a relatively low increase in price. On the other hand, the jump from a 2060RTX to a 2070RTX/2080RTX isn’t and will cost you a lot more IF you decide to get it with the same CPU shown here. It might be worth going for a 2070RTX though (the extra 2GB vRAM will help way more than having more CUDA cores which is what the even more expensive 2080RTX has to offer).
By the way, you should note that this laptop has a 10th generation Core i7 CPU w/ 16GB RAM, which is excellent hardware for solidworks. You can find cheaper laptops with a 2060RTX but the will most definitely won’t have these same specs.
I would not recommend it to engineering students doing the occasional project in Solidworks (it’s too much even for the average senior project).
This laptop is geared more towards professionals and those dealing with models in the +500 parts category and it can even handle larger models depending on exactly how you’re doing it.
Again this is definitely kind of overkill for an students and more useful to those working with Solidworks independently or those doing a concentration with SolidWorks.
Upgrading the RAM:
16GB should be plenty of RAM. However…
If you ever find yourself bogged down when you increase the mechanics of your simulation, you could upgrade it to 32GB on your own which will make a huge difference when handling much bigger and complex projects. It is very unlikely for those getting started with Solidworks to ever run into anything like that, at least not in a foreseable future.
Let me reiterate that this has a consumer GPU and you will sacrifice a little stability if you use it for SolidWorks but if you want the same power as this model with a workstation GPU, check the last three laptops.
2. Acer Nitro 5
This laptop is more geared for students, those in college or those just getting started with SolidWorks.
It is is the lowest configuration your should go for in my opinion because it has a decent “dedicated GPU” and a late generation CPU with plenty of clock speed to assemble/apply effects.
Isn’t there cheaper laptops with a dedicated GPU with a 1050TI,1050 or even a MX250/MX350 or an Intel Xe Max?
The truth is those will work too especially if you pair them with an 8th or 9th gen Core i5 CPU or a 3rd , 4th gen Ryzen CPU.
However, I don’t like to play this min/max game to find the cheapest laptop out there for one simple reason:
I don’t know exactly what you as a student or someone getting started with solidworks is speficically going to do so it gets pretty tough to answer.
You may be assigned a project above 100 parts from a client or you may want to do it yourself to get a higher grade…who knows?
But there’s oen thing I’m sure of: the 1650GTX will be enough for whatever you encounter if you’re getting started with SolidWorks.
MX 350, 1050Ti , Intel Xe Max laptops Price:
As of early 2021, the prices of MX350,1050Ti,Intel Xe Max is either the same or just a few dollars below the price of a 1650GTX laptop. So you might as well grab this one for now. If you find it cheaper and you’re just going to use this laptop for a few projects in college, then you can grab laptops with weaker dedicated GPUs but dedicated GPUs nonetheless!
Integrated GPUs will do too but it’s going to lag a lot, definitely not comfortable!
Quad Core i7 8th gen Processor Up to 4.2GHz
NVIDIA GTX 1050 2GB GDDR5 vRAM
1TB NVMe PCIe SSD
13.5” Pixel Sense (3000×2000)
If you need something portable to take everywhere with you and budget is not an issue, you should really consider the Surface Book 3.
This is an option for both professionals and those getting started with Solidworks.
It’s the most powerful portable machine that can run SolidWork and it’s actually the only official “certified” non workstation laptop to run Solidworks.
There are two models to pick, the 13” model with a 1650GTX which is a great choice for students and has the same power as the Acer Nitro 5.
And the 15” version with the 1660Ti which has about the same power as the 2060RTX (it has the same amount of vRAM just less CUDA cores).
. If you are a student and can’t afford the highest 1650GTX configuration, you could lower the RAM to 8GB and a 256GB, it will be just as useful.
Quick Workstation Laptop Lesson!
There’s a huge caveat when shopping for workstation laptops. No it’s not that they suck, it’s quite the oppossite.
Now because these puppies are known to be “very powerful” because of their very confusing GPU names and sizes, not ALL of them are powerful and vendors take advantage of the ignorance behind their power AND they will charge you way more than their actual price.
Take a look at this table before you shop for workstation laptops and make sure you use it when you shop for one. You can see that some workstation GPUs have about the same power or even less than the weakest consumer GPU. And only a few are way more powerful than the latest consumer cards (look at the last one).
|Workstation GPU||Consumer Equivalent||Cores/Shaders||Clock Speed||vRAM|
|Pro WX 3200||RX 550||1082||640||4GB|
With that in mind, let’s go over the workstation laptops we picked:
Intel Core i7 10750H
NVIDIA Quadro T2000 4GB
17” full HD IPS Anti-Glare
Workstation laptops today come equipped with a GPU from the T, P,K and RTX Series.
We’ll leave the P and K series aside because they’re too weak and old and we’ll focus instead on the Quadro RTX and T workstation series which have way more vRAM which the biggest advantage of getting a workstation GPU over a gaming GPU.
This Lenovo P17 is the cheapest workstation laptop with an OKAYISH and MODERN workstation GPU. It could’ve been cheaper and you can probably find cheaper models but they won’t have a 10th gen Core i7 CPU.
Which means this puppy will have 6 cores/12 threads all barking at aprox. 5GHz which should make rendering a walk in the park. Note that this won’t affect drawing because SolidWorks is largely single threaded!
Also note that this GPU is aproxximately as powerful as the 1660Ti. But the great part is that solidworks doesn’t care much about the architecture or how “powerful your GPU” is as long as it’s something DECENT.
This is actually more True with workstation GPUs apparently as long as you get a decent workstation GPU, you should be getting about the same performance regardless if you go for a higher workstation GPU.
This baby right should let run and draw models in the 500 parts range.
It’s going to be more useful than the Acer Predator due to the stability the ability to unlock special functions in the software.
Best Workstation Laptop For SolidWorks
Core i7-9750H 8 Core up to 5GHz
16GB RAM DDR4 (Up to 64GB)
NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000
17” full HD IPS
Note that this isn’t a gaming “RTX” GPU, the GPU here belogs to the “turing architecture” which is the same used in consumer grade laptops but it’s tailored for 3D modeling calculations.
It has a GPU that’s slightly more powerful than the laptops we went so far so it makes this machine more bullet proof model for large scale assemblies.
Although, it does have the same amount of vRAM as the RTX 2060 (which is the spec that really lets you handle bigger models with no lag) there are two main differences:
- It has more CUDA cores: this improves rendering massively.
- The programming paradigm has been slightly redesigned to handle the calculations of simulations in other words, the chances of crashing as you step up the number of parts or add special functions to your model are reduced significantly (they’ll still be there but almost non-existant).
Intel Core i9-9880H
16GB DDR4 (MAX 32GB)
Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 6GB
512GB NVMe SSD
15” full HD IPS
Lastly, one of the most expensive and most powerful workstation as of 2021.
Both the 10th Core i9 and the RTX 5000 series are the latest components released by each of these companies.
This is without doubt the most powerful workstation laptop you’ll find in 2021 (before the new workstation series come up which should be by the end of 2021).
You have here the most powerful series of CPUs and the most powerful workstation GPU so far:
Core i9 CPUs usually have 8 cores which means 16 threads with a clock speed substantially above 5GHz. This is going to reduce rendering massively for example a 500 part model would take less than 20 minutes.
As for the GPU, you’re getting the highest amount of vRAM currently available on gaming cards! And since as you know vRAM is where the model’s data is allocated.
But you should keep in mind what I said earlier, performance increase with both consumer and workstation GPUs, aren’t that huge if you go for more powerful GPUs. That may be true for Revit, AutoCAD and other 3D modeling software but as of 2021…Solidworks still isn’t well programmed to utilize every bit of power in the hardware available today.
You should go for this model if you really have the budget and want to minimize issues and lag with large scale assembles (~1000s) which you will have anyways but it’ll be reduced to some extent with the huge increase of vRAM and CUDA cores.
SolidWorks Laptop & Computer Recommendations
In this section I’ll go through everything you need to know regarding how solidworks uses computer hardware for each different function and what kind of specs will benefit that specfic function the most. Those functions are drawing/sketching/viewporting/rendering/drafting, etc.
Knowing this section by heart will make sure you always buy the right machie for your career company or your studies.
Before that, a few questions you must answer are: how much CAE will you be doing? How large are your assemblies? Will you do keyshot rendering? And what are exactly are you going to render?
CPUs on laptops have a lot of features but there’s only two you need to look at: cores, which are basically “more brains inside a CPU for calculations” and clock frequency, “how fast they can think”.
The question then comes down to whether you should go for a faster “single core CPU” or a slower “multicore CPU”.
This is measured in GHz, it dictates how fast your computer can runcalculations.
Solidworks is a frequency-bound application because it uses parametric modeling, in other words, almost all tasks: parts modeling & assembling, rotating models, opening & saving assemblies are linear, meaning, calculations need to be done step by step (one process needs to be solved before the next) , this translates to the need of a CPU with the highest clock frequency.
So the clock frequency of your CPU will determine the overall performance when modeling more than any other variable.
Number of Cores
When we say a CPU has 2 or 4 cores, we mean that CPU is composed of individual mini processors (calculators).
But the number of cores(calculators) only has a positive effect on a few tasks. The two most important are rendering and simulation.
SOLIDWORK simulation: The software can run and solve studies with multiple cores so it will benefit in the most complex simulations becayse they’ll be solved much faster due too multiple calculators working simultaneously.
Photoview 360: uses multiple cores to generate faster renderings. Most CPU based-renderers (Ex: KeyShot) will use up to 10 cores, benefits after that will level off. Laptops are limited to 8 cores as of 2020.
Multiple-sheet drawing will benefit somewhat from a multiple cores.
10 cores is the limit, more cores will just start giving you diminishing returns so it might be pretty useless to waste more money on them. In the world of laptops though, you are limited to 8 cores.
What kind of CPU should I get then?
|i7 9750H||2.6 GHz||4.5 GHz||6|
|i9 8950K||2.9 GHz||4.8 GHz||6|
|i5 9600K||3.7 GHz||4.6 GHz||6|
|i7 9700K||3.6 GHz||4.9 GHz||8|
|i9 9900K||3.6 GHz||5.1 GHz||8|
|AMD Ryzen 9 4800HS||2.2||4.4GHz||8|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3750H||2.3||4.0||4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3700U||2.3||4.0||4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3550H||2.1||3.7||4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3500U||2.1||3.7||4|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3300U||2.1||3.5||4|
- If most of your work in Solidworks consists of designing/drafting/drawing/modeling get the CPU w/ the highest clock speed.
Students: get whatever gives you the highest clock speed making sure it’s cheap. Don’t go below Core i3 8th generation processor or Ryzen 3 processors. If you want to higher grab any of the orange CPUs.
Professionals: Get the highest clock speed you can afford. Preferably something like a 10th generation Core i7 CPU or an AMD Ryzen 7/9. They’ll do wonders to your productivity and severely reduce the time it takes to draft a model. Green and even Purple CPUs are recommended adjust to your budget accordingly.
2. If you render & simulate a ton and if you don’t have another machine for rendering (not even willing to use a cloud service), then get a multicore processor.
Student: Processors with 4 cores is enough make sure. Core i3 is pushing it, stay out of it and get the orange CPUs.
Professional: At least a green CPU but purples recommended. Best are the AMD Ryzen 9 with 8 cores or the Core i7 10th generation with 8 cores, the Core i9 10th generation is nice but expensive!
As of 2020, RAM in laptops can range from 8 GB, 16 GB, 32 GB and rarely 64GB.
How much you need is dictated by the size of your assembly, multi sheet drawing and how many invididual windows you plan on using.
RAM basically acts like temporary storage for project you are working on (the CPU can calculate and move around data a lot faster when your entire project is placed on RAM).
The larger the RAM, the larger the assembly size your computer will be able to manipulate at fast speeds. Not having enough RAM, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to work with larger assemblies, it just means it’ll be slower.
Small Assembly Sizes
Solidworks generally will need between 4-8GB of RAM for tasks such as rotating models, simulations, and renders. So start with 8GB if you’re only creating simple parts, assemblies and drawings.
Large Assembly Sizes
Complex models and drawings in SOLIDWORKS will require more RAM in order to load effectively. Running regular, data-heavy simulations, for example, increases the need for RAM, because these large amounts of data typically need to be loaded during calculations.
This applies mainly to the size of datasets that need to be loaded when using the software.
If a machine runs out of memory the load time for files can increase drastically due to hard drive caching(basically solidworks will start using your storage device as RAM because it just run out of it, and will run calculations with a CPU-Storage connection, this is much much slower!)
As a minimum get 16GB but I would get 32GB just in case. 64 GB is rarely needed.
|8GB||Entry Level||Simple parts, small assemblies, single page drawings|
|16GB||Midrange||Complex parts, larger assemblies, multi-sheet drawings|
|24-32GB||High End||Very complex parts, very large assemblies,|
|64GB||Extreme||All of the above with the addition of very complex simulations|
In terms of file size :
|Minimum RAM capacity||8-16GB||32GB*||64GB*|
*These rules are not strict. Computers with lower RAM should be able to run a large assembly fast if the file contains only a few errors, SpeedPak & Large Assembly Mode are used, and all other best practices are kept in place.
Pretty much what you read above. You’re also going to be stuck with this graphics card for the lifetime of your laptop, obviously you’ll want it to be good enough to handle your models and hopefully last you through many future versions of the software.
One word I would take with a grain of salt in that pargraph is “supported”.
All GPUs are supported by Solidworks, it’s just that some are “certified” to run Solidworks and some are not.
Those “certified” cards will give you zero errors especially if you are a pro working with crazy models and those “not supported” will give you some errors here and there (that you can just ignore, click OK and keep working…most of the time) and almost no errors if you are just a beginner.
But…if you are already an engineer or someone specialized in SolidWorks you may want to invest on a “workstation GPU” because you plug-ins, special functions and simulations will only be able to work with those.
If you already made the decision to go for a consumer or a workstation GPU, here are my recommendations starting with consumer GPUs:
Which (Consumer) Graphics Card ?
|2060 Super||2,176||8GB||1650 MHz|
|2080 Super||3072||8GB||1815 MHz|
|Radeon 610||320||2GB||1030||Intel UHD 620|
|Pro RX 555X||768||2GB||855||MX150/MX250|
|Radeon RX 550||640||4GB||1287 – 1476||+950M|
|Radeon RX 560X||1024||4GB||1172 – 1275||1050GTX|
|RX5500M||1408||8GB||1327 – 1645||~1660Ti|
a)University Student: You can grab any of the green GPUs and you can even grab the cheapest if you’re on a budget, you will be okay. Models won’t go past 300 parts. 2GB of vRAM is enough.
b) Starting Engineer: At least an orange GPU. Radeon/NVIDIA don’t make much difference, shaders or cores are pretty much the same ram is what will dictate perfomance more (4GB at least). If budget is not an issue grab any of the blue CPUs whichever is the cheapest but try to stay with 20th generation GPUs: RTX 2060 unless the 10th generation ones are on a deal.
c) Pro company engineer: Purple GPUs. Preferably the 2070/2080 Super non-max Q. This will ensure decent FPS with models in the thousands.
Which Workstation GPU?
|NVIDIA Quadro||Cores||Clock Speed(Hz)||vRAM(GB)||Equivalent|
From the table you can see that almost half of these GPUs are equivalent to “mid-range” and even low end cheap consumer NVIDIA GPUs. These workstation cards will perform a lot better in the “error” department and support more functions down the road(although giving you the same framerates and support the same model sizes as their equivalent consumer GPUs)
However, they’re way too expensive for a student and I don’t think it’s worth opting for one unless you are a professional. So only working engineers and professionals should look at these cards and even then weight
Then, why buy a card a “high end” workstation gfx over regular workstation cards?
Certain applications within the Solidworks realm will require you to have one such as photorealistic rendering, animation and simulation post-processing (particularly CFD fluid flow post-processing, visualizing streamlines/particle flow, etc).
Another reason is that they are certified and tested by SolidWorks . This means that bugs have been reduced to a minimum, less crashes and also you’ll get customer support for any errors or performance issues (if they ever happen).
Lastly, the vRAM, only workstation GPUs (only the RTX 5000 really) have monstrous amounts of vRAM so if you’re going to deal with extremely large assemblies, you’re going to need it.
NVIDIA vs AMD
There are AMD workstation GPUs. So which brand is better?
The choice really comes down to whether or not you’ll run
- AMD cards are not supported by visualize, it’s that simple. Visualize will run, of course, but it will only use the CPU.
- For GPU accelerated rendering, it needs CUDA (= nvidia cards).
Consumer Cards VS Workstation
If you are a student, starting with SolidWorks or on a tight budget , consumer or gaming GPU are the way to go and they’re not that expensive.
Yeah, I know there is this deep fear that if you don’t buy a “supported” workstation GPU you’re not going to run SolidWorks. Its nonsense. Solidworks has been shown to work on consumer/gaming cards, don’t believe me?
SOLIDWORKS now offers limited support GeForce series GPUs in special cases. As of this writing the new Microsoft Surface Book is the only laptop on it. This doesn’t mean only the Surface Book can run SolidWorks but it just goes to shows you that you can run Solidworks on gaming machines.
A consumer GPU is more of an even better choice if:
– You are limited to Drafting/Modeling/Drawing (these do not need a high end dedicated GPU but more of a beefy CPU)
– You are rendering/simulating assemblys that do not exceed thousands of parts.
- RealView will work with consumer/gaming cards by using RealHack.
- Get as much vRAM as you can from “consumer GPUs” if you want to work with more visually complex models(larger patterns/textures).
Problems with your Graphics Card?
The storage capacity of +700$ laptops will never be an issue for Solidworks or your project files. They’ll come with at least 1TB for HDDs and 256GB-512GB for SSDs.
The real issue is whether or not buying or upgrading to the latest SSD(Solid State Driver) is a good investment.
Storage Speed (Solid State Drives vs Hard Disk Drives)
Don’t try to save money by buying 7200RPM HDDs(the fastest hard disk drives).
It would seem tempting to choose one because of the 1TB capacity, the “faster speed than 5400RPM” description and the price.
However, that’s a bad move for nearly every modern software including CAD.
Solid State Drives (SSDs) are now a must for CAD work & they don’t make computers as expensive as before. If you do find them expensive, then you can try and grab the slower version (SATA III) which is still many times faster than the fastest HDD (7200RPM)
If you are still bummed out by the low storage capacity of SSDs, you can have both types installed and virtually ALL laptops now allow you to upgrade your storage set up to this combo and in some cases they already have both installed.
SSDs on Solidworks Performance
An SSD will decrease the time it takes to open/save assemblies. So If you do deal with very large assemblies, get the fastest: PCIe NVMe SDDs.
Medium sized assemblies,(>1000), either SATA III or PCIe NVMe SSDs is fine. Same “SSD” acceleration, if we can call it like that.
Low sized assembles(<300), not a very a subtantial speed increase but there is still an increase with any SSD.
Accoding to pudget systems benchmark studies on SolidWorks:
- if you go for an HDD, Solidworks will take considerably long to load up the interfaces/files
- The software has to wait for your hard disk drive to wake up if it’s launching SolidWorks for the first time or if SolidWorks has gone to iddle mode(that is, unused for~20 min) before it can access the program files which can take several seconds (~10sec). All of these issues are also eliminated with SSDs.
So, If you’re a Pro dealing with large & complex models, there’s no question: PCIe NVME SSDs.
If you are a student or working with low sized assemblies: grab any SSD.
Remember it is always prudent to buy a more capable machine as there will be situations that will need a bit more increase in performance (if you want to finish your projects on time).
If you are a student whos already dealt with a few projetcts (and now know the size & complexity), however, the situation won’t likely change much and these projects will keep with the same level through your curriculum. So your laptop doesn’t really need to be future proof.