Finding the best laptop for solidworks is very subjective. Solidworks is a very versatile software, everyone will need different hardware specs and those specs depend on the kind of projects they are working with.
Most users (like engineering students) will only need a consumer laptop (which costs aprox. ~500$) , while pros (like those on working on an automobile company) may need to buy a workstation laptop with the latest workstation GPU in it (which can cost around ~2000$) and the rest might be fine with a mid range GPU that can cost you.
That’s where it gets tricky….
What kind of specifications do I need for my projects?
A more important question is…
Where can you get reliable and accurate information without making the fatal mistake of wasting all of your rent money on a computer that will simply not handle the size and complexity of your projects?
You could start with the official website which will list a bunch of certified workstation laptops.
Unfortunately that’s all you’d get from their website. They’re not as detailed as you’d want them to be. And they will never tell you what workstations will give you the best bang for your buck .
Worse of all…
Nor does it even tell you if you really need to spend thousands of dollars on a certified workstation laptop or if you could just settle for a consumer level laptop well below a 1000$.
What can you do then?
The best thing to do is to ask people who have actually used the software on both regular computers and workstations.
Having used the software during engineering school & for a few jobs after that. I know exactly what kind of specifications you need for your CPU, GPU, RAM and storage based on the type of user you are (student or pro), size of your projects(creating/modifying large assemblies with +1000 parts or simple parts+low assemblies with some drawing) and the tasks you perform daily (modeling, drafting or rendering w/ simulations).
Top 6 Best Laptops for SolidWorks
Just to avoid all the jargon and make it easier for you I’ve put up a table where you can see where the specifications you will need for a model of a given size.
If you want all the details, jump to last section using the TOC. If this will be your main tool of work, I think it’d be helpful to learn why solidworks requires this or that. Beware it’s not only quite technical but long so you’ll need to understand a few computer terminology that you may not have come across before. I’d recommend reading my posts on the sidebar if you are a newbie to computers first.
Anyways, laptops listed here can be separated into student laptops(by this i mean people getting started with solidworks or using the software for some engineering class) and professional laptops (those working for a company or just dealing with very large assemblies).
A student of SolidWorks does not have to buy any workstations at all. They can settle with most gaming/consumer laptops well below 800$.
Professionals should only consider buying workstation laptops after they’ve done the research and know for sure they’ll specifically need the specifict features and stability of “workstation GPUs”.
|Small ~100||Large +500|
1050Ti,AMD RX 555*
|NVIDIA RTX Series
Quadro T/RTX Series
|NVIDIA RTX Series
Quadro T/RTX Series
|Storage||256GB SSD||256GB SSD||1TB HDD + PCIe SSD||1TB HDD +PCIe SSD|
|RAM||8GB RAM||8GB RAM||16-32GB||16GB-32GB|
|CPU||Intel Core i3 8th+
AMD Ryzen 3+
| Intel Core i5 8th+
AMD Ryzen 5+
| Intel Core i7 U/H
| Intel Core i7 /Core i9
In this list the best solidworks laptop recommendations you’ll find that satisfy the above 4 requirements for every type of user.
While there may be more options to choose from , I’ve already compared and researched a whole bunch and know these offer the best bang for your buck (plus they’re the most reliable in terms of endurance & build quality).
I’ll start with the highest (and more expensive) ones and then go with the more simple (and cheapest ones) so just keep scrolling down until you find your match.
1. Acer Nitro 5
Budget Laptop for Solidworks
Intel Core i5 9300H
GeForce GTX 1650
256 PCIe SSD
15” FHD 1080p IPS
For this year’s edition of this post I decided to start with a non workstation laptop because I realized that most readers who land here are either students or those getting started with solidworks.
Now this Acer Nitro isn’t really a “beginner” level machine nor does it have “entry level” hardware. It’s quite the oppossite.
It’s got a late generation high frequency CPU and a mid range consumer GPU.
This combo should be able to handle simulations with >100 parts easily and may even be able to handle simulations with +700 parts depending on exactly how you’re doing it. So this is definitely is kind of overkill for an engineering student and is actually more useful to those working with SolidWokrs independently or those studying SolidWorks as a pure concentration.
But, I had to post this model first because it’s really a great deal. The most “affordable” laptop which we’ll post after this one is only 80 bucks cheaper and this model’s has both a CPU & GPU far more powerful.
If you ever find yourself bogged down as you increase the mechanics of your simulation, then one thing you could do is update the RAM to 16GB, that might make a huge difference. This is only a tip for the Pros, 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, here are your choices:
As you can see the prices are pretty ridiculous so I think we can both agree that it’s best to just deal with those minor hiccups consumer GPUs may bring.
Core i5-8250U 3.4GHz
8GB RAM DDR4
15” full HD IPS
This is the cheapest and most affordable laptop for Solidworks. It used to be around 600 bucks but this year for some reason it’s hovering around 650 bucks.
Now we could’ve played the min/max game to grab the cheapest laptop that can run the most simple SolidWork model encountered in a typical engineering curriculum and the find out we would only need to spend ~ 400 bucks on a laptop without a “dedicated GPU”. But it gets pretty tough to answer exactly what exactly your teacher will tell you to simulate, you may even be assigned to come up with your own project and the higher the number of parts/complexity, the higher your grade.
This is why it’s always best to just grab the cheapest laptop you can find with an “dedicated GPU”, it will make all the difference not only when working with the software but also when encountering bigger problems to solve in the future.
Like I said, as of August 2020, unfortunately this is the cheapest. If you are a student, you could grab a laptop like the Acer Aspire 5 with the Ryzen 3 processor and may be able to get away with the lack of GPU though, it’s a risk to take. The more you keep adding parts to your simulation, calculations get heavier and heavier but this is not an issue for modern CPUs and even a Core i3 should be able to handle those the problem is when you start using viewport to edit it, you’ll realize you just wasted 450 bucks. That may not happen with other 3D Modeling software but Solidworks is the exception. I’ve seen it kill laptops with integrated GPU and those were able to handle Inventor & AutoCAD just fine, it really need a dedicated GPU.
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 your are taking a SolidWorks course or just need something portable to take everywhere and budgest is not an issue, do yourself a savor and grab a Surface Book.
It’s the most portable and powerful (just as powerful as the Acer Nitro) machine that can run SolidWorks. It’s actually the only official “certified” laptop to run Solidworks.
There are two models to pick, the 13” model with a 1050GTX which is a great choice for students. And the 15” version which now has a 1660Ti/1650GTX (these GPUs are more useful for working engineers). If you really want the SurfaceBook but you still can’t afford either of these, try to configure the specs to your budget. You could lower down RAM to 8GB if you are just a student. And all of you could lower down storage size.
Workstation laptops today come equipped with a GPU from the T, P and RTX Series. We’ll go through each of those groups. If you are a student though, you shouldn’t really invest on any of them unless you’ve been told by your professor.
4. HP ZBook G5
NVIDIA Quadro P1000
2.5TB PCIe SSD + 2TB HDD
The HP ZBook is the cheapest workstation laptop with a modern “PXXX” NVIDIA Quadro GPU. They could’ve made it cheaper but they decided to put one of the beast CPUs of this year, the Core i9 9880HK.
That puppy has 8 cores all hitting 5GHz. So rendering should be a breeze for this puppy.
Now the issue here is the NVIDIA Quadro if you compare it stat by state to the consumer GPUs, it is approximately just as powerful as a 1050Ti, which is an entry level GPU. This is only going to affect viewport though. If you know you’re running models below let’s say 800 parts and you really need the stability and the ability to unlock special functions for your simulation, I’d say it’s a great investment.
Rendering wise, it’s definitely several times more powerful than any of the consumer laptops with an equivalent GPU. There’s also the P2000 Workstation laptop, Dell has updated the Precision with it but it’s a lot more expensive (yet not so powerful). You may be interested though in the 17” 4k display and humongous RAM Size/SSD so here’s the link. I’d just opt for the ZBook though and update RAM accordingly, that is, If I ever see the need to.
32GB RAM DDR4
1TB NVMe SSD + 1TB HDD
NVIDIA Quadro T1000 4GB
15.6” full HD IPS
If I had no choice but to buy a workstation laptop because I know the company’s going to do something very specific AND I wanted to save thousands of bucks, this is the one I would go for.
Not only does it have a more powerful “GPU” than the Dell Precision or the HP ZBook but it’s several hundred dollars less expensive. Now why is that? If you check the specs, this one does not have Core i9 CPU, which is a lot faster than the Core i7 here and has +2 more cores.
This means that rendering will be slower and modeling relatively slower (number of cores has an impact on the former, clock speed on the latter) but you on the other hand using viewport will be faster (more FPS) and handling the load of bigger simulations will be easier for this puppy.
One thing you may want to do is again upgrade RAM on your own instead of purchasing it installed because you may not need 128GB but 32GB-64GB may be all you need.
Core i9-9980H Up to 5GHz
64GB RAM DDR4
NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000
1TB SSD PCIe NVMe
17.3” 4k resolution IPS
This is without doubt the most powerful workstation on Earth as of 2020. Even consumer laptops with the latest gaming GPUs on it can’t match the power of the RTX “QUADRO” Series. Now there’s the RTX 3000,4000,5000. The higher you go the more expensive your laptop will become.
Here are the two other laptops you can take a look at: Lenovo RTX 4000, ASUS Pro Art Studio RTX 3000. You could say the four digits after RTX can be more or less the price of these puppies. But if your company is providing the big bucks and the future of the company rests on the engineers running these simulations, why mess around?
The one I decided to post here is the most powerful workstation laptop on existence today and out of the three RTX Quadro GPUs, the rest of the hardware is also maxed out individually to whatever is the maximum RAM Storage and CPU laptos can witstand today. While the RTX 3000,4000 may handle simulations in the 1000-2000 range, the RTX has so much vRAM (16GB) that it may actually be able to handle up to 5000 parts with fast framerates.
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.