The Top 10 Best Laptops for Architects and Designers

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Technology marches onward, and the field of architecture is no different. These days, designing and drafting are most easily done on computers. Plenty of factors – system specs, supplementary apps, and clean erase functions – render this a lot more efficient than the old pen-and-paper drafting system. Of course, you’d need something capable of handling Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software such as Revit, 3DS Max Architectural Interior Visualization, or Rhino 3D.

After their second year, architecture students are introduced to computer-aided design (CAD) software to supplement classic tools and methods. Architecture students pretty much need to use laptops for this purpose, because of the constant in-class usage of software for tasks.

Computer laboratories may no longer be used on a consistent basis as a result of the development. Professionals could feasibly get away with desktops, but the portability and relatively comparative processing power keep laptops very viable in their trade.

That being said, the cutting-edge of technology is often far too costly for what’s needed, even among professionals. Beyond power, weight, and price, value is king. The best computer for architecture is likely to be a laptop rather than a desktop unit.

Expensive computer workstations – while seemingly impressive – just don’t offer the sheer practicality and availability students and some types of professionals need, especially with the more fluid and prevalent client-to-provider interactions in the business.

While some do make this work, college students don’t have a say in the matter. They – you included– need to find a good laptop to work on outputs. The decision can be difficult in such a flooded market, but this article seeks to provide a selection of good laptops for architecture students and help you make an informed decision you won’t regret.

Price does not determine value: a 500-dollar laptop can prove just as effective as a 3 grand one. Even if you could afford to splurge on the purchase, portability, battery life, and design take priority over raw power and monitor size that’d be difficult to utilize fully. This extends even to professionals, and good laptops could easily last four to five years with decent maintenance.

PLAN - PRICE

Description

Apple MacBook Pro

Battery Life: 10 hours

Weight: 3.1 pounds

Screen Width: 13 inches, Retina Display  

Storage Unit: PCIe (SSD- 512GB) 

Processor: i7 3.3GHz

RAM: DDR4 (16GB) 

Graphics Card:  Radeon Pro 560 4GB vRAM

Dell XPS 9570 Laptop

Battery Life: 8 hours 

Weight: 3.97 pounds

Screen Width: 15.6 inches, Ultra-High Definition Touch In-plane switching

Storage Unit: PCIe NVMe (SSD- 1TB) 

Processor: i7-8750H 4.1 GHz

RAM: DDR4 (32GB) 

Graphics Card: GTX 1050Ti 4GB vRAM

Microsoft Surface Book Laptop

Battery Life:  11 hours

Weight: 3.62 pounds

Screen Width: 13.5 inches, Pixel Sense 

Storage Unit: PCIe NVMe (SSD- 1TB) 

Processor: i7 8th gen 4.2GHz

RAM: (8-16GB) 

Graphics Card:  GTX 1050 2GB GDDR5 vRAM

MSI GL62M 7REX-1896US Laptop Computer

Battery Life:  4-6 hours

Weight: 5.66 pounds

Screen Width: 15 inches, Full HD 1080p 

Storage Unit: (HDD- 1TB) + (SDD- 128GB) 

Processor: i7-7700HQ 3.8GHz

RAM: DDR4 (8GB); upgradable to 16GB

Graphics Card: GTX 1050TI 4GB vRAM

Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop

Battery Life:  11 hours

Weight: 5.3 pounds

Screen Width: 15 inches, Twisted Nematic

Storage Unit: (SSD- 256GB) 

Processor: i5-8250U 3.4GHz

RAM: DDR4 (8GB) 

Graphics Card: MX150 

Recommended Computer Specs for Architecture

If you happen to be a computer aficionado or working architect, you’d already have a good grasp on what you’ll need. Brand itself tends to be irrelevant, so long as they meet your needs in these aspects.

Display – Unit Size

A 15-inch and above display size is recommended. The extra screen size grants wider perspective for projects. It’s also important to note that your working display will always be smaller than its specifications, due to a huge chunk of it being subsumed by toolbars and options. You’ll want to maximize your available space to accommodate the entirety of the designs you want to make.

The trade-off is portability, with larger screens and heavier units being quite cumbersome. It also greatly strains battery life, but wide screens are a necessity in the field. 13-inch displays and below are very tedious – and quite frankly, annoying – to draft with, despite their superior weight-ratio and power consumption. You’ll need to find your own personal balance of size and portability.

At a certain point, wider screens become a necessity (17-inch and above) for client and company consultations, as projectors won’t always be available. This is perfectly fine, and honestly quite a good mark of success in your field. For now, 15-inch units can suffice for student needs, but feel free to expand your size if you can manage the weight and bulkiness.

Display Resolution

Extremely detailed, pixel-precise resolutions are grossly overrated for running drafting software, and in fact might cause problems should their display resolution surpass application performance ceilings.

4k resolutions might seem awesome on paper, but displaced toolbars and assets will just have you scaling it down to 1080p anyways. Why splurge on something that’ll be useless to you at best, and a completely avoidable complication at worst?

CPU – Clock Rate

Higher clock rate translates to shorter lag intervals between commands, making drafting and editing a smoother process in general. The best laptop for architects needs a clock rate of 3GHz and above to accommodate most types of architecture software in circulation.

3D Rendering

What you’re prioritizing for better rendering for is core count, not core model. A quad core processor is the most effective at this, lowering downtime for rendering processes significantly. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need powerful core processors, and that rendering on desktops, school laboratories, or a more powerful computer is just as viable.

RAM

Having high random-access memory greatly improves general functions. Rendering time goes down, and more intensive programs can be left running properly and concurrently with one another. Also, high RAM does not carry any drawbacks, and upgrades centered on it are actually among the cheaper ones available for computers.

8GB is a good starting available amount, but eventually you’re needs will reach beyond that. 16GB of RAM and beyond are highly recommended for smoother rendering, editing, and animation that contemporary units have gradually become known for.

Storage

Outputs tend to be huge, with images, models, and videos occupying massive amounts of data. There are two primary variations of storage drives, each with their own notable pros and cons.

HDD

Hard-Disk Drives offer the highest capacity, peaking at one whole terabyte (1000GB!). These tend to be far cheaper than their SDD unit counterparts, making them useful if one wants mass storage at manageable prices. HDDs also outlast SDDs by a good margin of time.

Hard-Disks are more fragile and do nothing to bolster performance of the system running it. They’re also bulkier, with moving mechanical parts more at risk of malfunctions.

SDD

Solid-State Drives increase loading time and processing power of their attached device, making operation time faster. It also has the benefit of being able to function as a boot drive, dramatically decreasing startup time and downtime between successive programs.

External hard drives offer performance enhancement, which tends to take priority over storage capacity for beginning and intermediary architects. SSDs are quite pricey compared to HDD and have shorter lifespans as well. Nonetheless, the performance boost offered is too significant to be ignored.

Additionally, an external hard drive can mitigate most of the SSDs shortcomings, and in fact often come required in most architecture colleges. Cloud storage is also available for students, but why stick with just one? Prudence pays off, and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you’ve got duplicate files if and when your laptop starts becoming problematic.

Hybrid Drives

Some computers offer systems that take advantage of both types, making use of the HDDs mass storage alongside SSD boot drives to shorten wind-up and wind-down time between executed programs.

GPU

Graphics cards need to handle intensive software like Autodesk Revit and other computer-aided design applications. Ideally, you’d want the best money has to offer. If you find yourself a little short, don’t sweat it.

There are plenty of graphics card options available, and the most powerful and pricey ones tend to be complete overkill for students and even simple professional outputs.

Workstation Cards

Workstation cards are the pinnacle of the world of graphics cards, with the Quadro and Firepro series capable of running demanding architecture applications with little reason for concern.

Workstation cards come strongly recommended by manufacturers of CAD software as well, further distinguishing their well-earned reputation. Naturally, the price tag can generously be called prohibitive on a student budget, and the stellar performance comes at the cost of a not-insignificant weight gain.

Advantages such as less buggy software behavior, full CAD software manufacturer support, and capacity to run specialized plug ins are simply too unachievable to take full advantage of.

At first glance, it may seem that the best laptop for architecture students would obviously make use of these high-performance workstation cards. In truth, the performance-to-capability disparity wastes most of their features in the hands of novices, rendering its full range of service underutilize.

Gaming Cards

It’s important to note the very different markets the GPU cards cater to. Designed for low polygon counts and pre-defined textures, gaming cards aim to achieve fast loading times and high, constant frame rates.

This sets this apart from the complex, quasi-decimal level of precision warranted by workstation cards and architecture apps. The overlap in priority (smoothness and fast program transitions) allow them to also function very well with rendering and drafting applications. Popular versions include the NVIDIA (Windows) product line and AMD (macOS) series.

Battery Life and Portability

The power demands of architecture software make them a lot more consumption-intensive than regular laptops. High processing power and GPU specs further increase demands, necessitating more increases in bulk and power.

Laptops with extreme power efficiency and weight, such as the Chromebook, simply cannot provide for even a fraction of the power rendering applications demand. For your first few years, this isn’t strictly necessary. Just be sure to check in with your school’s department and course requirements to nip potential concerns in the bud somewhere down the line.

Battery life simply won’t compete with contemporaries, so always have a charger handy to deal. Find the balance of RAM, CPU, and GPU that fully meets your needs. Make sure it falls under a price you can afford and a weight you can manage. For laptop performance, it’s better to have what you need and no more over having more then what you can actually work with.

Lighter laptops for architecture tend to still be on the average end of most laptops, falling between three to five pounds generally. Make sure you’re comfortable with what you’ve bought for yourself, because laptops are investments you want to make last.

Operating System of Choice

The majority of architecture applications run on PCs, but the same cannot be said for Apple products. Compatibility concerns can be game breakers for some, and an important example is the Autodesk Revit. That said, there are ways to circumvent this concern.

You could multi-boot and partition the OS systems, allowing you to use one OS at a time but providing access to both sets. You could also run both simultaneously using Parallels or VMware.

Constantly booting between systems can get tedious over time, but both sets of products offer different benefits. After all, both Macs and PCs are quite popular among architects. Some editing software works better on Mac products, chief among them being the established Photoshop.

Macs also provide great durability and option to purchase refurbished products. PCs get better application coverage and very approachable price tags, but to each their own.

VMware or Parallels allow Windows and Mac OSX to run concurrently, demanding SSDs and high RAM (16GB+) just to manage both systems. Even then, the dual booting encounters performance lapses with particularly demanding tasks. As a result, you may have to rely on multi-boot utilities such as Boot Camp to better run Windows on Mac devices.

How acceptable MacBook usage is depends on a given school’s usage of version-exclusive applications. This varies greatly between schools, but the means to run such software – even non-natively – allow this to all work out in the end.

Accessories to Consider

✔ – 23-24-inch external monitor – for turning your laptop into an improvised desktop
✔ – External hard drives – backup your data; go for at least 256GB but seek out 1TB and above
✔ – Video Graphics Array (VGA) or Digital Visual Interface (DVI) adaptors for projectors
✔ – A USB mouse with trackball installed. Wireless is desirable, though not strictly needed

10 Most Popular Laptops For Architecture

This list aims to provide good options to cover every possible system specification and budget range of the majority of buyers, meeting as many different requirements for people in the field. You’re bound to find good laptops for architecture students, professionals, and everything in between here. Just scroll down and take your pick!

1 – Apple MacBook Pro Review

Apple laptops tend to be a common sight in college classrooms, and Architecture isn’t an exception to this. Chances are, you’ll spot that shiny, bitten apple icon at least a couple of times in any given lecture room. Part of their charm is their very light weight, thin side-profile, and unique and appealing aesthetics – sleek and futuristic.

MacBooks are a common sight with architecture schools that do not make use of Autodesk Revit, due to incompatibility. Often, these types of schools are partial to using Maya, Rhino, or AutoCAD in their educational curriculums.

Performance Capability

MacBooks are fairly sufficient to meet all your needs in the course, and really, any 15-inch MacBook Pro model can help you get by in architecture. The model shown here their most recent and powerful entry, with competitive system specifications to meet all general needs from the get-go.

While Apple has yet to incorporate NVIDIA graphics card compatibility to their models, the Radeon Pro 560 has about comparable performance to the 1050 and 960GTXs, falling only marginally short to 1050Ti units. Battery capacity is also very good, with the MacBook Pro lasting just shy of ten hours at 75% lighting.

Design and Display Details

Apple computers have workable quality control, warranty services, and maintenance coverage. For example, a refurbished MacBook Pro could easily be mistaken for a fresh model – at least in terms of performance.

The sheer modularity and availability of reparative services make them an easy model to maintain, with minimal delays and concerns provided at reasonable service charge fees. The MacBook Pro could easily last the entire four years one would be studying, but even if it falls short fast and easy unit restoration can mitigate the possibility of disruption.

The MacBook Pro’s display makes modeling beautiful and enjoyable, with LED backlighting, high contrast ratios, and excellent color depth. With Maya or 3DS Max, scaling isn’t even an issue: the software was written specifically for macOS X usage. No need to worry about condensing those lovely 4k models down to (relatively) lackluster 1080p.

On top of all that, you also get Bluetooth 5, Siri support, and True Tone display that matches ambient temperature. This comes along with being one of the best laptops for portability, with a compact and lithe unit size, extremely light weight, and cutting-edge accessory range.

The Logitech K830 with its device-to-device compatibility and friction-coefficient optimization of trackpads available only to the Apple product line. The price tag is a tad prohibitive for some budgets, but the scope of available products from this series helps with finding affordable options.

Also, refurbished MacBook Pros can be commissioned for cheaper prices then brand new outputs, providing the same effectiveness at better cost-effectiveness. In fact, the sheer scope of replacements and reparations pretty much ensure a refurbished MacBook Pro is simply a new MacBook making use of a few, slightly used parts.

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2 – Dell XPS 9570 Laptop Review

Performance Capability

The Dell XPS 15 just about meets most of the aforementioned specs above, providing great value for similarly priced workstations. The CPU of the unit is an 8th generation i7 core – a recent release this 2019.

Processing power remains competitive even to laptops that advertise clock speed as their primary selling point (contemporaries peak at 4.9GHz, packaged with notable drawbacks). It also comes packaged with 32GB of RAM to allow even renders of landmarks such as St. Peter’s Basilica and looming, massive heritage sites like the Forbidden City (nearly 2 kilometers of rendered buildings!).

The majority of XPS versions come bundled with the PCLe NVMe SSD. This beauty holds one terabyte, and you could believably hold every single work file you create or download without a single dip in its impressive performance. Keep in mind this doesn’t even consider external storage devices, which tend to be redundant with the SSD’s sheer storage space.

For reference, most movies are 500MB to 2GB in size, and even the (in)famously performance-demanding game Crysis 3 stands at just under 15GB. If ever you somehow find yourself needing more storage, an HDD can be installed to the unit, boosting the combined storage capacity to a whopping 2TB.

What separates Dell XPS 15 models from their contemporaries is their graphics cards. The 1050GTX model and its TI variant are very effective, despite their entry level (10th generation) presence. Either of the models are perfectly qualified to handle every sort of file, application, and project scope a student would likely encounter while studying Architecture.

Even graduate and professional architects are unlikely to encounter problems – even with large walk through processes or multiple Autodesk revit links to contend with. However, non-Ti models may encounter some technical complications due to their lack of available video RAM.

Designs and Display Details

Remember that you’re buying this beauty for its design. The 15-inch screen and Quad High Definition functionality makes this awesome for detailing and precision. 4k displays may complicate certain older iterations of Autodesk, necessitating some reversions to Full HD and lower.

Newer versions – most even provided by the school itself – need not even bother with this concern. The laptop has a great performance-to-weight ratio, boasting essential ports that enable projectors, external displays, SD card readers, and far more at just under four pounds.

About the only thing it can’t accept are ethernet ports of the past, but the need for that is few and far in between in this market of constant and exponential innovation. The Dell XPS 15 is a premium entry in this list. It also provides great versatility and durability, courtesy of its entirely-aluminum body composition.

Last years’ model – also named the Dell XPS 15 – differs only in graphics card. The 960M is sufficient to meet rendering and drafting needs, but the disparity in power between this and the 1050Ti is very blatant for users. We’d recommend this if you’re strapped for cash, but the investment to their recent model is definitely something worth breaking the bank on.

Any Dell XPS models bought for architectural purposes need dedicated GPUs, otherwise they will fail to function with the majority of applications – Sketch Up being a notable exception.

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3 – Microsoft Surface Book 2 HNN-00001 Laptop Review

The Surface line of laptops proves a notable counterpart to the MacBook and its many iterations, with high quality and great battery efficiency of the same league as the MacBook Pro. This Windows-developed item was specifically designed to cater to the student demographic, providing a range of modular options catering to as many different fields as possible.

The first Surface laptop was released just mid-2017 but carved a respectable reputation in the market. It’s actually rather popular among architecture professionals and students, and discussions of the Surface series laptops tend to crop up on Quora, reddit, and other online forum sites.

Performance Capability

The Microsoft Surface Book 2 can support 8th-gen quad core processors – ideal for gaming, photoshop, and modelling apps. In general, applications that need higher clock speed gravitate toward quad cores due to their improved performance.

The system offers clock rate peaking at 4.2GHz, which easily outstrips market competition and stands at the pinnacle of the technology’s capability so far. Power consumption issues prevalent with quad cores and above are compensated for with an increased battery life, with the Surface Book 2 being the longest-lasting entry of the list so far.

RAM is completely dependent on needs and budget allocations, falling between 8GB and 16GB variants. This isn’t the extent of the product’s capacity, though. The Surface 2 can easily accommodate total file size approaching and peaking at up to 1 terabyte of data.

Despite this, the modular nature only works with the initial installment: once you get it, there’s no room for your own installed improvements. Like the MacBook Pro, hardware customization is not very well supported by manufacturers.

Any changes done need to either occur at purchase or mid-repair of the unit, as upgrades are very difficult and unsupported by manufacturer after the initial period of purchase. Graphics cards make a huge difference with the Surface Book series.

1050GTX models and 1060GTX models actually have an astounding difference, though it may not be apparent with their relatively similar name schemes. For comparison between the two, 1060GTX models offer anywhere from 10-40 frames more than their barely older 1050GTX counterparts in triple-A games.

This can be seen in usage of AutoCAD or iRhino, as students to general-scope architects can make do with the 1050GTX. Complex and demanding models often work best with 1060GTX processors for accommodation.

Design and Display Details

For the hefty price tag attached to the Surface, a capable design is to be expected. A full-aluminum body makes the entire unit durable and somewhat drop safe (testing this is not covered by warranty). The Surface Book series lends itself well to actual note taking, drafting, and model canvassing.

The display itself stands with a very detailed resolution for its screen size (3000×2000) that fits within the capabilities of most architecture drafting applications (i.e. AutoDesk) provided the versions are somewhat recent.

Unfortunately, the proudly toted battery life actually has a rough tendency of falling short off their advertised capacity because of power consumption issues with both CPU and GPU. Display size is also controllable, with 13.5-inch (1050GTX) or 15-inch (1060GTX) options. Just add a docking station for whatever other device you’ve got on hand, and you’ll be good to go.

The Surface Pro meets the Surface Book in every aspect save a dedicated GPU. As a result, Surface Pro laptops will experience performance dips with high-resolution objects and complex geometrical structures. It can still run most models and isn’t such a huge loss for the bulk of projects over the course of one’s own career.

The Surface Pro can easily run most Autodesk Revit-derived models with minimal complications. Its counterpart, on the other hand, does away with this concern entirely. The Surface Book 2 was designed for extended workstation use and power computations on a sustained basis rather than inconsistent, ever-changing tasks to meet abruptly.

In short, the Surface Book is better for constant indoor use to create a project in a sitting or two. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro’s superior weight, portability, and size make it a better option for traveling and simple modeling for those with irregular schedules and personal productivity drives.

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4 – Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop Review

The Acer Aspire meets most of the system demands you’re likely to encounter in architecture classes, coming with a price one could actually hope to afford on a student’s budget. The Aspire handles the simple models of 3DS Max, Maya, and Autodesk Revit very cleanly, managing to compete with even the more expensive Surface Pro in that regard.

The Acer’s software is also less strenuous on the graphics card, requiring only a mere gigabyte of video RAM – something all recent discrete GPUs possess. It can accommodate most model sizes due to its available system space, despite its less-advanced processor.

Performance and components allow the Acer Aspire to compete with the best of them. With 3.4GHz clock speed, 8GB of RAM, and quad core processor, the relatively cheap device does not look out of place even among the pricey premium models on the list.

The MX150 is an entry-level graphics card, with nowhere near the potential of other available models. For it’s target demographic (i.e. students), this is sufficient to meet all your planning and drafting needs.

The MX150 actually isn’t all that lacking for its value. In fact, it can feasibly accommodate small upscale in project scope throughout the entirety of your college life. Its use of an i5 processor does leave it behind in terms of cache memory.

Design and Display Details

One of the key advantages of the Acer Aspire is its ease of integration of hardware upgrades. All you have to do to boost RAM or storage capacity is as simple as removing the bottom compartment and plugging in extra RAM and HDDs.

That’s 8GB and 1TB of RAM and storage space, respectively, just as easily as connecting a projector cable. This stands in contrast with MacBook Pros and Microsoft Surfaces, which lack this level of manufacturer support for local, user-driven system improvements.

The display itself offers a matte finish for anti-glare aid alongside full HD support. On top of this, it also makes use of In-plane switching (IPS) for consistent color and mitigating tailing trails on the touch screen.

Coupled with its Twisted Nematic (TN) screen type, the Acer Aspire manages to provide low response times and very little input lag, allowing users to turn this budget drafting device into a cheap, ad-hoc gaming laptop.

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5 – MSI GL62M 7REX-1896US Laptop Computer Review

Performance Capability

No matter how loaded your architecture course is with computer-aided design software, the MSI can cope with the demand. It surpasses the Acer Aspire E5 in that regard, with the means of handling any models, versions, and software directed with ease. While the MSI does use an older generation CPU (7th), it still possesses a better clock rate than its nearest competitor (3.8GHz vs 3.4GHz).

The presence of an i7 core grants it a better cache memory than the Aspire, and its usage of the GTX 1050TI graphics card allows it better performance to draft more complicated models and outputs both for students in school and professionals at their workplaces – wherever that may be.

A new version – the MSI GV62 8RD-275 – has recently broken into the market. It offers a better clock rate and less demanding of a price tag, along with the same exact RAM and GPU capability. If the pricing is a concern, you can afford a small concession to the graphics card.

There is a GTX 1050 without the TI included, and is the cheapest graphics card option available for the MSI. Expect a noticeable drop in performance should you choose to do this, however.

Battery consumption is rather demanding – almost half the duration of other laptops on the list! The weight and bulk is also noticeable for users who need to carry it for a long time, but the performance perks outstrip the drawbacks in this case.

Design and Display Details

IPS panels provide even coloration, wide viewing angles, and fast refresh rates, making it another performance laptop – capable of running high-power games and apps alike. Full HD allows easier usage of 3D modeling software, such as iRhino or Autodesk.

The Dragon design at the back also has the small side effect of making you a hit with fellow gamers. Dealer’s choice on whether to call it a drawback or a feature. Brand recognition, represent!

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Laptops vs. Desktops

In all honesty, desktops straight outperform laptops in terms of raw performance. Even the most intensive, overclocked laptop falls short of their desktop brethren. All the investments – external hard drive, monitor, USB trackball mouse – seek to improve laptop output.

A laptop matching a desktop in power tends to be several magnitudes more expensive. Why focus on making a good thing better when something else could do it just as well? The key difference is portability, and this manifests very heavily in terms of application.

For rooted businesses such as corporations and firms with enforced hours, desktops are preferred. Clients show up, drop their requests, and pay for it upon competition. This was how the business model functioned at the time – firms and clients, established grounds and expectations.

The increase in feasibility of independent businesses allow small entities – sometimes even a single person – to match the old way of doing things. They do so with face-to-face meetings, local or community-centered advertising, and online information catalogues.

Time is spent to maximize available opportunities and create new ones rather than doing a series of tasks in a set time frame as efficiently as possible. To simplify, the laptop and workstation practically represent different approaches to business, and subsequently architecture in this case.

Laptops allow users to make the most creating their own opportunities with little down time at the cost of some performance. Desktops provide unparalleled power rooted to a set location and timeframe, overall more efficient in its time used but granted less available time to take advantage of such.

As a result, students and up-and-coming architects would likely be partial to laptops if their lifestyles were conducted on a point-to-point basis and more appreciative of desktops should they have stable work environments and less strenuous workloads.

Note that this isn’t necessarily applicable to blanket onto every case, and the choice boils down to personal preference. Some people prefer desktops if they rarely have need to bring their work wherever they go, while others value the portability of laptops and find themselves leveraging this benefit multiple times a day.

6 – Dell Inspiron i5577-7359BLK-PUS Laptop Review

Performance Capability

This is pretty much the exact same thing as the MSI, but with a cheaper graphics card. It aims to provide students with just enough power to scrape on by in both school settings and regular professional commissions in a cheap, efficient manner.

It also comes bundled with a matte finish to grant anti-glare ability. The newest iteration of 2019 (Dell G5587-7866BLK-PUS G5 15 5587) also offers vastly more RAM and CPU processing power then its predecessors for a similar price.

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7 – Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review

The Helios 300 is meant more for professionals rather than student architects, but there’s nothing stopping you other than price. It offers a powerful graphics card that can run any software for whatever project size and scope needed, though the power may be a bit excessive for general expected tasks in the architectural curriculum.

The GTX 1060 offers peak performance for efficiency in terms of modeling and drafting. This is not because the 1060 is the most potent version but rather because the GTX 1060 is the last version that offers noticeable app performance improvements.

It’s also a dedicated gaming laptop at its core. What’s not to love? Other then the weight, of course. It treads six pounds even without accessories. But… gaming. You can only draft for so long until the monotony ruins you.

Design and Display Details

Like the Acer Aspire above, the laptop’s SATA III SDD can be upgraded to match premium storage units – the PCle NVMe SSD. It also has enough space to allow the introduction of a 1TB HDD and doing both turns this into a behemoth of an information archive.

The 2019 version introduces 9th generation CPU speed and the quickest storage device in the market – PCLe NVMe SSD. It also offers a moderately better clock rate and costs about the same as its prior version.

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8 – Lenovo ThinkPad P50 20En Notebook Review

The Xeon processor is practically designed for architects. With 4 cores pushing the output to 3.7GHz, the ThinkPad P50 excels at fast-paced drafts or modeling applications. While the total clock rate is actually slightly less than the Helios 300, it more then makes up for it with a larger (8MB, in fact) cache size.

The cache size/memory is what allows complex collaborative projects to sustain and develop. It also has the unique advantage of an error-correcting code cache memory to expedite the process of rendering. While the SSD is “just” a SATA III, the option to upgrade to PCle NVMe SSD should seemingly be a no-brainer.

In reality, the NVMe SSD is only really useful when transferring obnoxiously large files across devices and has little actual performance improvement in this particular case.

The NVIDIA workstation card also comes bundled with access to CUDA acceleration, in turn allowing execution of compute kernels, subsequently improving render time in architectural software that makes use of GPU acceleration.

At the end of the day, the ThinkPad P50 is a workstation laptop, and as such was specifically designed for technical, business, or scientific application. You’ll undoubtedly be encountering far less errors, glitches, or other noteworthy issues with every 3D modeling application in circulation.

A new version released in 2019 possesses even better capabilities. While the price is significantly higher than its steep beginning, the updated Xenon processor and GPU boasting four times the video RAM makes the professional investment definitely worth considering.

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9 – MSI WE72 7RJ-1032US Professional Workstation Laptop Review

The MSI does away with Xeon processors, doubling down on RAM and SSD capacity. The main (slight) advantage the unit has over the ThinkPad is in rendering only, unless RAM is bolstered with upgrades.

It comes at the cost of more bulk and weight, at nearly six pounds and 17 inches of screen display. The 2019 version released only possesses increased storage capacity over its original iteration.

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10 – Dell Precision M5510 Laptop Review

Dell Precision workstation laptops are essentially the premium among premiums. Some models are even unlocked (Designation HK, like the droid) allowing them to practically over clock their system to maintain a powerful and non-fluctuating 4.1GHz. Another version also has a Xeon Processor. Naturally, it also happens to be the most expensive one.

Clock speed, portability, and workstation graphics cards define the Dell Precision. Even old models can match the performance of the two aforementioned workstation laptops. Unshackled HK models are great with drafting, rendering, and modeling.

All in all, even just the HK processor would qualify the Precision for best laptop for landscape architecture, allowing large-scale collaborations and constant overclock-level performance. All these potent features form just the tip of this very powerful and expensive technological iceberg.

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Choosing “Your” Best Laptop for Architecture

For incoming architecture students, the good news is that most of your curriculums are more or less the same. An Australian architecture student has very little difference from a Filipino one, and both in turn having much in common with their American-taught counterparts. Architecture programs function on pretty much the same principles across the world.

An exception to this would be Japan, with its higher placed priority on engineering and scientific data gathering. Those focused on the research and theory may be better of looking for different coursework and software as a result.

Unless you happen to be undergoing the Japanese curriculum, you’ll get a lot of use out of this article. This is primarily based on the expected USA coursework and expectations, and we’d strongly recommend inquiring with your own local’s architecture department just to be sure.

Even if the general format is the same, small deviations could spell big differences over time. Feel free to check each of the list entry’s included website profiles for more detailed information.

Operating System

The prevalent OS used in the bulk of architectural programs is Windows and their common variations, but there are a few notable exceptions. The mac OS X – Macbook Pro in particular – has gathered a significant following among both students and professionals.

As usual, check your school’s department for further details. The nice thing about the system is that schools rarely shoehorn you into one specific OS type over another, allowing you to use what you know for the most part.

Some apps – such as Autodesk Revit – are not available to Mac users, with the same true in kind to a much smaller extent. We’d recommend you switch over to whatever OS system they make use of to expedite the process, making studying easier and more time efficient.

While learning a new OS is a huge boon for students, budding architects should just try to make do with their professor’s preferences for the time being. Architecture is a bit of a demanding course, and you don’t want to handicap yourself in any way.

Lab

There are great odds that your department has a computer laboratory – at the very least, they have access to one standardized with their OS and system specs of choice. While some could infer that you don’t need to buy a laptop as a result, others could argue the opposite for that same reason.

The heavy emphasis on performance and constant influx of work make computer labs a tedious and largely unnecessary step avoided by just buying a drafting laptop or desktop. Being stuck in a computer lab all day seems exhausting and completely avoidable.

You’ll be dealing with 3D models and renders on a regular basis anyway – from your sophomore year to working days under clients – and will eventually need to buy a unit of your own somewhere down the line. Why not do it soon and get it over with?

Software

Throughout the course curriculum, new architecture software is constantly introduced. While not completely homogenized across cultures, the programs utilized serve more-or-less the same roles.

Small, emergent differences can be noted across different specific majors. For example, landscape architecture would focus on wide expanses of sweeping space, prioritizing aesthetics. Regular architecture is rooted more on structure design, prioritizing economic space utilization and efficiency.

Some specific software may be tied to specific OS systems, and you’ll need to clarify your choice device and its compatibility with said software. In extreme cases you may even have to buy an entirely different laptop just to handle their curriculums. Multi-booting is an available option for consideration.

The most common form of this is Dual booting, with the OS systems (Windows & Mac) partitioned on an HDD or SDD unit. This helps with convenience and cost-cutting, but issues of redundancy and component incompatibility are important considerations for choosing this setup.

Common software used:

✔ – 2D sketching – CAD (computer-aided design)
✔ – Linear modeling – SketchUp (does not need dedicated GPUs to function)
✔ – Regular Modelling – iRhino 3D, Grasshopper, Autodesk Revit (iRhino and Revit are Windows-exclusive, but all three are capable of inter-software model conversion)
✔ – Simple 3D Cinematics – Autodesk Maya (node-based scene configuration)
✔ – Post-production Multimedia edits – Adobe After Effects (compositing application)
✔ – Editing and Conceptualization – Adobe Illustrator (Vector-based), Photoshop (Raster-based)

Our Recommendation(s)

PLAN - PRICE

Description

Dell Inspiron i5577-7359BLK-PUS Laptop

Battery Life:  7-8 hours

Weight: 5.66 pounds

Screen Width: 15 inches, Full HD Anti-Glare

Storage Unit: (HDD- 1TB) + (SDD- 128GB) 

Processor: i7-7700HQ 3.8GHz

RAM: DDR4 (8GB); upgradable to 16GB 

Graphics Card: GTX 1050

Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop

Battery Life:  8 hours

Weight: 5.95 pounds

Screen Width: 15 inches, Full HD In-plane switching

Storage Unit: SATA III (SDD- 256GB) 

Processor: i7-7700HQ 3.8GHz

RAM: DDR4 (16GB) 

Graphics Card: GTX 1060 6GB vRAM

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 20En Notebook

Battery Life:  13 hours

Weight: 6 pounds

Screen Width: 15 inches, Full HD In-plane switching

Storage Unit: SATA III M.2 (SDD- 256GB) 

Processor: E3-1505M v5 4 cores up to 3.70 GHz 

RAM: DDR4 (16GB); upgradeable to 32GB

Graphics Card: M2000M 4GB GDDR5

MSI WE72 7RJ-1032US Workstation Laptop

Battery Life: 11 hours

Weight: 5.95 pounds

Screen Width: 17.3 inches, Full HD In-plane switching

Storage Unit: SATA III M.2. (SDD- 512GB) 

Processor: i7-7700HQ 3.8GHz

RAM: DDR4 (32GB) 

Graphics Card: M2200 4GB vRAM

Dell Precision M5510 Laptop

Battery Life: 11 hours

Weight: 4 pounds

Screen Width: 15.6 inches, Full HD In-plane switching

Storage Unit: PCle NVMe (SDD- 256GB) 

Processor: i7-6280 up to 4.1GHz 

RAM: DDR4 (16GB) 

Graphics Card: M1000 2GB vRAM

Workstation Laptop

A workstation laptop makes a very pricey compromise between the two, combining portability and power at the cost of doing so slightly worse than their dedicated counterparts. Workstation laptops can handle the scope of most projects and can serve a good middle ground for people – provided you’re willing to break the bank on this.

Just Buy Both

Desktops and laptops really aren’t mutually exclusive and buying two mid-range models let you match peak performance for both types. There will be occasions in college where you need to run a particular output from their computer labs, so why not save yourself the trouble?

Run the processes through your desktop, then bring them along in your laptops to show them to clients. Start your model drafting when you’re out and free, but leave the rendering to the more capable unit at home.

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