Best Laptops for Architects and Designers

Our recommended collection of laptops and mobile workstations includes both premium machines and budget options.

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

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Our recommended collection of laptops and mobile workstations includes both premium machines and budget options. These products were curated by Architizer’s editorial team; you can read their reasoning behind the top 10 picks here. Take a look through the collection to identify the ideal choice for your needs as a designer:

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen2

Best all-round workstation for architects

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Best touchscreen laptop for architects

MSI P65 Creator

Best 4k display laptop for architects

DELL Precision 7540

Most powerful laptop for technical professionals

HP ZBook 15 G5

Best G5 mobile workstation for architects

Lenovo ThinkPad P43s

Best compact laptop for architects

LG Gram

Best laptop for architects under $1,000

Acer Aspire 5

Best laptop for architects under $700

Lenovo Flex 14

Best laptop for architects under $600

ASUS VivoBook 15

Best laptop for architects under $500

16″ Apple MacBook Pro

Best 16" Apple laptop for architects

Apple MacBook Air

Best Macbook for architects under $1,000

Acer Predator Helios 300

Best Acer gaming laptop for architects

Alienware Gaming Laptop

Best Alienware laptop for architects

MSI GL65 Leopard

Best MSI gaming laptop for architects

What’s important in a laptop for architects?

Certain key factors should be considered when looking for the best laptop for your individual needs. Whether you are an architecture student, young architect or experienced practitioner, the following specs are worth investigating for each option:

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, the ideal laptop for architect will have at least a 4GB vRAM GPU for smooth processing.

RAM: Architectural software will account for a big chunk of your RAM, particularly when multitasking and producing high quality renderings. Therefore, a computer with at least 16GB of RAM is preferable, though 8GB is sufficient for the majority of purposes.

HDD vs. SSD vs. Hybrid Drive: Architectural design files often require significant space, so the higher the storage, the better off you are. SSD (Solid State Drive) 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.

Laptop for architects

Image via Architizer

Mac vs. Windows: In terms of hardware and operating system, it all comes down to your personal preference. High-end Apple and PC laptops are well geared to handle the challenges offered by the job. Windows 10 is arguably more user friendly as it supports a wide array of software but is exposed to more viruses than Mac. The Macbook Pro in particular is well perceived by professionals as being great for graphic applications but is considered by many to be overpriced.

Gaming laptops: An increasingly popular choice among architects and designers, laptops primarily aimed at gamers can also be ideal for creatives that use programs with high demands on graphics and processing power. While their aesthetics might not be to everyone’s taste, the cost-to-performance ratio of many gaming laptops can be hard to argue with.

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.

Ports: Consider how many USB ports, ethernet ports and other specialist ports you might need; this will vary depending on your preference for wired or wireless peripheral such as computer mice, touch pads and external hard drives.

The changing nature of laptops for architects

In the past, choosing a laptop used to mean weighing up performance specs against weight, size and build quality. For design professionals using demanding software on a day-to-day basis, that made for a tough decision — should one opt for a slim model to make trips from the studio to site easier, or a powerful unit to run programs like Revit and 3ds Max? Gone are the days when Autocad was all an architect used, so questions around performance are more crucial than ever.

Thankfully, those days are largely in the past. Advances in technology and design refinements by the major laptop manufacturers means it is now possible to find a mobile workstation that does it all. Depending on your preferences, many of the laptops listed here offer the best of all worlds when it comes to power, aesthetics and mobility.

Got your own view on which is the best laptop for architects and architecture students? Let us know at editorial@architizer.com.

For more on laptops for architects, checking out these guides:

10 Top Laptops for Architects and Designers (NEW for 2020)

Which Is the Best Laptop for Architects: Mac or PC?

Architizer Journal is reader-supported. When you buy through Amazon links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

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