TrioBest is an all round technology guide that covers laptops, desktops, headphones, projectors and more. This week, TrioBest’s experts give their views on the best laptops for the needs of architecture students, based on factors including processing power, graphics and cost…
For architecture students and architects alike, a good quality laptop is essential. Architectural design is made much more efficient with the aid of computational software, making every element of drafting more feasible. However, not just any computer will do. While there are any number of computers that can run the software, that doesn’t mean those computers can run it well; or at least, not well enough to make digital drafting more amenable than longhand drafting.
It’s no good waiting half an hour while a simple model gets rendered. Not when that same rendering on a more powerful computer could take place in a matter of minutes or seconds. So, when searching for the best laptop pertaining to the needs of architecture students or practicing architects, you should consider the following factors:
CPU (Central Processing Unit): Any architecture student or professional architect will be running powerful CAD and modeling software. It is wise to get at least Inteli5 or above to avoid any hassle.
GPU (Graphics Processing Unit): You may be using hardcore graphic software like Rhino, 3ds Max, ArchiCAD, Revit or Vectorworks, all of which require a formidable graphics card. Thus, we recommend getting a laptop with at least 2 GB of dedicated GPU for smooth processing. Personally, we prefer NVIDIA and Radeon.
RAM: Architectural software will account for a big chunk of your RAM, particularly when multitasking. Therefore, a computer with at least 8 GB of RAM is preferable.
HDD vs. SSD vs. Hybrid Drive: Architectural design files often require significant space, so the higher the storage, the better off you are. SSD is faster and more reliable than a mechanical hard drive but comes with a higher price tag. To enjoy the pros of both SSD and HDD, we recommend getting a hybrid drive. You can install the OS and architecture software in SSD and all other files in HDD for optimum performance.
Mac vs. Windows: It all comes down to your personal preference. Both are well geared to handle the challenges offered by the job. Windows is arguably more user friendly as it supports a wide array of software but is exposed to more viruses than Mac. On the other hand, Mac is well perceived by professionals as being great for graphic applications but is considered by many to be overpriced.
Screen Size and Resolution: Considering the level of mobility yet without ignoring the necessary attention to detail, a laptop with a screen size between 15 and 17 inches is the best size for architectural rendering. FHD (full high definition) resolution should be enough for the work involved; however, higher resolutions such as UHD (ultra high definition), 4K or 5K prepare you for the upcoming future trends.
With these points in mind, let’s take a peek at our list of the eight best laptops for architecture students and architects.
1. Microsoft Surface Book
Best ultrabook for architecture students
With the introduction of the Surface Book, Microsoft has fully entered into the laptop industry. For their first-generation laptop, the Microsoft Surface Book is a real game changer when it comes to meeting the needs of those who really need a powerful two-in-one laptop.
There are various configurations of Surface Book, but for architectural needs, we recommend the Surface Book with custom NVIDIA dedicated GPU and at least 256 SSD, as architects have to use graphic-intensive software like 3ds Max, Rhino and so on.
Powered by a dual core 6th Generation Skylake 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5-6300U, it is well geared to render every complex visual. With the dedicated GPU from NVIDIA, you will be unlikely to complain about its video graphics and any lagging problem associated with your software and entertainment gear. Its custom GPU is based on Maxwell architecture with 1 GB of GDDR5, and it’s capable of 4K resolutions at 60Hz.
It can be transformed into a tablet with a push of a button, which separates it from the keyboard panel. The tablet is armed with Microsoft’s famous Surface pen, which comes in handy for students taking notes, designing or drawing. By itself, the tablet can go up to 3 hours on a full charge and can be charged separately. When attached to the keyboard, it will not only triple-boost the performance but also increase the battery life to a staggering 12 hours.
Aesthetically pleasing design with top performance is what you’ll get with this ultra book. It sports a magnesium alloy casing, weighs around 3.48 pounds and has a 13.3-inch display with a unique 3:2 aspect ratio. It has a native resolution of 3,000 by 2,000. It has a full-sized keyboard with a high-quality trackpad that rivals that of Apple’s MacBook. For connectivity, it has two 3.0 USB ports and a mini display port.
2. HP ZBook 17 G2 Mobile Business Workstation
Best laptop for general architectural work
This computer comes with a 4th Generation Intel Core i7-4710MQ processor with a clock speed between 2.5 and 3.5 GHz and features a Quad Core CPU. The screen is 17.3 inches and backlit with LED technology. The computer’s keyboard is also backlit and spill-resistant, to boot.
Furthermore, it has a Full High Definition 300cd/m2 display featuring anti-glare technology and a 1,920 by 1,080 maximum resolution. It has a drive of the SuperMulti DL DVD+/RW Optical variety and exceptional graphics. It has a 2GB GDDR5 AMD FirePro M6100 Graphics facility, a Display Port 1.2, VGA slots and 1600 MHz PC3-12800 RAM.
The hard drive is 1TB in size and runs at 7200RPM, with upgrades available. The battery is an 8-cell 83 Whr battery, and the computer comes with a three-year warranty. The expansive storage space, top-of-the-line graphics card, DTS surround sound system and backlit amenities make it stand out above many others as far as computers for architectural work are concerned.
3. MSI GE72 APACHE PRO-242 17.3-Inch
Top laptop for architectural rendering
Specially designed for hardcore gaming, architecture students and professionals will appreciate this computer’s raw power. With its Intel Core i7-5700HQ 2.7 GHz Processor, the laptop can run demanding programs at an ultra-fast speed.
Its NVIDIA GeForce GTX970M with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM GPU makes it great for architectural software. Based on 2nd generation Maxwell architecture, its GPU is undoubtedly one of the most powerful you will find in today’s market. Also, the 5th Generation of GDDR offers twice the speed than GDDR3.
Its dedicated dual cooling system prevents the laptop from overheating and excels your creativity without giving any hassle — even when the GPU is “overclocking.” With 16 GB DDR3L RAM, the multitasking is only limited by you, not the laptop anymore.
Its 17-inch IPS panel screen displaying 1,920 by 1,080 pixels offers the crisp, clear image quality with great attention to details. The colorful backlit full-size keypads are designed for easy and fast typing with all the necessary shortcut keys.
The 1TB hard drive at 7200 RPM is enough for storing large architectural files and folders, while its three USB 3.0 ports, DVD drive, SD card slot and Bluetooth make this laptop ideal for multi-connectivity. Also, the laptop is fitted with dynamo premium sound speakers and active subwoofers, making it great for watching movies and listening to music (not that architecture students would ever be caught procrastinating!).
4. Lenovo ThinkPad W541
Best Windows laptop for architectural design
Lenovo’s entry on this list has an Intel Core i7-4710MQ Quad Core Processor. It has a speed, like the previous entry, between 2.5 and 3.5 GHz. Its hard drive has 500 GB at the speed of 7200-RPM.
The RAM on this computer is 8 GB of DDR3, and it includes an NVIDIA Quadro K110M 2 GB GDDR5 graphics card. There is also a featured 16GB RAM upgrade option. It comes with a three-year warranty, and the high rpm of the hard disk make it recommended for architectural software. The terrific NVIDIA graphics card is definitely a highlight and integral to a variety of architectural applications.
Options for different budgets
5. Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition
Best laptop for architecture students under $1,000
Acer’s entry on this list includes an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor of 2.6 GHz. It has 8GB of DDR4 RAM. The hard drive is 1TB in size and is 5400-RPM.
The screen of this computer is 15.6 inches, and a powerful NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M graphics card is included. These features mean it will be able to run those graphic-intense architectural programs with solid proficiency.
6. Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK 15.6-Inch Full-HD Gaming Laptop
Best laptop for architecture students under $800
This computer features an Intel i5-6300HQ 2.3 GHz Quad-Core processor with a 6M Cache and Turbo speed up to 3.6 GHz. While priced under $800, the laptop includes all the bells and whistles needed by architecture students.
To find a laptop with the mighty NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5 under this price range is something that makes this laptop particularly attractive. Based on 1st generation Maxwell architecture, GTX 960M is powerful enough to run any graphic-intense software offered for architectural works. This GPU was tested and approved by professional communities for its hardcore graphics-processing attributes. Meanwhile, the dual cooling fans, three exhausts and large vents help prevent the laptop from overheating.
Its 8 GB DDR3L of RAM is perfect for multitasking and running heavy software. Fitted with 256 GB of solid-state drive, it offers faster data transfer speeds and reduces the hassle of frequent hard-drive crashing compared to a mechanical HDD.
Its 15.6-inch FHD IPS panel screen offers a wide viewing angle, awesome image quality and anti-glare protection. The three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, ethernet ports, Bluetooth capability and media card reader slots gear up this laptop for multi-connectivity. Furthermore, the MaxxAudio Pro audio system with active subwoofers enhances this laptop’s entertainment productivity.
Weighing around 5.65 pounds, you can expect around 10 hours of battery life from a single charge. At 1 inch thick, it is one of the thinnest laptops that can harness great productivity.
7. Acer Aspire E 15
Best laptop for architecture students under $600
Many of us end up buying an expensive laptop only to use a fraction of its actual performance. While our daily activities don’t require high-level performance, effective marketing strategies often change our perspective and make us susceptible to the cost-to-value factor. If you are one of those individuals who is skeptical about the performance and durability of budget laptops, then you should check out this option by Acer.
We are not saying this laptop is better than some of the more expensive laptops, but if you are on a budget and looking for a value laptop that is powerful enough for midlevel modeling and rendering, it will get the job done without any problem.
Acer has equipped this laptop with a 6th generation Intel Core i5-6200U Processor, which actually meets the standard required to run any current architecture software. You will find the 2GB of dedicated GPU from NVIDIA GeForce 940MX inside, which is powerful enough to support any midlevel modeling software. These specs have been blended with its 256GB of SSD drive. These features eliminate frequent crashing and sluggish read and write speeds, foremost drawbacks of mechanical hard disk drives.
Its 12 hours of battery life can be a benefit to architecture students who often have to deal with long college hours. Further, its 8GB of RAM make sure to keep up with your multitasking ability. Its 15.6-inch display FHD resolution is not bad for a computer under $600, and you can connect this laptop to many external devices, as it supports USB 3.0, HDMI and digital media card readers.
8. Toshiba Satellite C55-C5241 15.6-Inch
Best laptop for architecture students under $500
If you are starting your studies as a beginner in the architecture field and want to go easy on your wallet, this laptop might be your best bet. The price tag belies its capabilities: Powered by an Intel Core i5-5200U Processor, this laptop will have little difficulty running and rendering your college works. Its Mobile Intel HD 5500 graphics is obviously not the best in the market, but considering the price tag, it still possesses a GPU that can help get you through your assignments.
Its 15.6-inch screen displays 1,366 by 768 pixels and comes equipped with 1TB of HDD. The 8GB of RAM is good enough for multitasking. This laptop was designed to work with Windows 10. Furnished with three USB ports, HDMI ports, DVD drives and SD card slots, connecting multi-devices will not be an issue.
Weighing around 4.8 pounds with 1-inch thickness, this laptop delivers a stylishly thin “premium” look, and you can squeeze out around 8 hours of battery life. All in all, this is a laptop with a great many features for an extremely modest price.