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The 5 Best Laptops for 3D Modeling in 2018

With 3D modeling, your laptop is pushed to do so much more than watching movies, writing an email, or checking Facebook. You need a laptop that is truly up to the task of graphics intensive work. From processing speed to memory to your graphics card, you need to know that each component of your workstation can handle the requirements of computer-aided design (CAD). So, what sets a laptop capable of 3D modelling apart from your average machine?

ASUS ZenBook Pro

  • Processor – Intel Core i7-7700HQ
  • GPU – Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti
  • Screen – 15.6 inches, Full HD, IPS Panel
  • RAM – 16 GB
  • Price – $1,599*

Summary

Don’t be fooled by ASUS’s ZenBook Pro sleek style. It’s a hard working machine equipped with a powerful processor, high quality GPU, full HD, and a Solid State Drive (SSD), all for under $2000. Plus it’s light, and did I mention it’s got great style?

Pros

  • Only 4 pounds.
  • Dual-fan cooling prevent overheating.
  • SSD hard drive increases the speed of the machine and allows for higher quality work, especially textures and video.
  • At this price, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Cons

  • While the color accuracy has been measured to about 90% sRBG, it only meets around 60% Adobe RBG.
  • Full HD is nice, but if you are looking for 4K resolution, you’re out of luck.
  • Unfortunately, you can’t add more RAM, so 16 GB is all you’ll get.

Lenovo Thinkpad P50 15.6-inch Laptop

  • Processor – Intel Xeon E3-1505M
  • GPU – Nvidia Quadro M2000M
  • Screen – 15.6 inches, Full HD, IPS Panel
  • RAM – 16 GB
  • Price – $1,800*

Summary

There’s something comforting about Lenovo’s pared down design and the solid build of their machines. The Thinkpad P50 is no exception. What does make it exceptional, however, is the professional-grade processor and graphics unit, plus a solid state drive and IPS panel for $1,800. Combine that with good battery life, and you’ve got a good quality mobile workstation.

Pros

  • RAM is upgradeable to 64 GB
  • Top of the line processor and GPU for under $2,000
  • Equipped with SSD

Cons

  • No data available on color accuracy
  • This model does not come with 4K Ultra HD
  • At 6 pounds, it doesn’t tip the scale, but it’s not exactly light

MSI WS60 7RJ-675US

  • Processor – Intel Xeon E3-1505M
  • GPU – Nvidia Quadro M2200
  • Screen – 15.6 inches, Full HD, IPS Panel
  • RAM – 32 GB
  • Price – $2,449*

Summary

This is a laptop designed for professionals, and the specs (and price) prove it.  It’s a machine that can handle multiple graphics-heavy CAD programs at once, plus video editing, without slowing down. And MSI’s proprietary True Color Technology boasts nearly 100% sRBG. It’s incredibly light and sleek, too. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is how much power and speed it packs into just over 4 pounds.

Pros

  • 32 GB RAM comes standard
  • SSD is standard, too
  • Pretty much the lightest laptop you can find with this level processor, GPU, and RAM

Cons

  • Some descriptions list it as 4K Ultra HD, but closer inspection confirms it is FHD only.
  • High price
  • While the sleek chassis is a design plus, it is easily dented. Invest in a case.

DELL PRECISION M5510 XEON

  • Processor: Intel Xeon E3 1505M
  • GPU: Nvidia Quadro M1000M
  • Screen: 15.6 inches, FHD, IPS panel
  • RAM: 32 GB
  • Price: $2,993*

Summary

Another impressive machine designed to handle professional-level graphics work. Fast and reliable, with a Xeon E3 processor, Nvidia Quadro GPU, and 32 GB RAM. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly heavy workstation, coming in at just over 7 pounds. So consider your travel needs when looking at this one.

Pros

  • Best processor and GPU for 3D modeling
  • Plenty of RAM
  • SSD comes standard

Cons

  • The heaviest of the laptops reviewed here
  • No data on color accuracy. Be sure to calibrate your colors.
  • Professional quality comes at a high price

MSI VR Ready GS73VR Stealth Pro

  • Processor: Intel i7 6700HQ
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
  • Screen: 17.3 inches, Full HD, IPS Panel
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • Price: $1,365*

Summary

Marketed as a gaming machine, the MSI GS73VR Stealth Pro is an excellent choice for 3D modeling, as well. That’s because many of the key components of gaming and modeling are the same — powerful graphics card, substantial processing capabilities, enough RAM, color-accurate screen, the list goes on and on. Altogether, this is a good machine at a decent price that will definitely fit the bill for 3D graphics.

Pros

  • Large screen for better viewing
  • Color accuracy is 94% NTSC
  • Lowest price of laptops reviewed here
  • Fairly light at just over 5 pounds

Cons

  • Some users have reported needed to tweak this machine a bit, including doing a clean install of Windows 10, to maximize performance.

How to Choose a Laptop for Rendering

Here are five of the specifications we checked out to make our recommendations:

Processor

For a laptop to do the complex operations necessary at the right speed for 3D modelling, you want one with at least an Intel Core i7 H series processor, preferably HQ or HK. These processors have nearly twice as many cores as a standard Intel processor, making them a good choice for graphics (and gaming, too). The most powerful processor on the market, and the best processor for 3D modelling, though, is the Intel XeonE series. Both the i7 and the Xeon are compatible with most CAD software, but you can always check the system requirements of your software to make sure. The downside to such powerful processing is a relatively heavy machine with a short battery life.

GPU

When you are working with graphics, an exceptional graphics card is essential. You want your graphics card to be quick, powerful, and have plenty of memory. Luckily, these days you can find graphics processing units (GPUs) at the consumer level, and the laptop level, that approach professional-grade quality. Ultimately, you want a GPU that is powerful enough to handle the task of producing the visual aspects of your models, sparing your CPU from the extra work. Nvidia is widely considered the best on the market, and the laptops below all come equipped with Nvidia graphics cards.

Screen

What’s the point of making amazing 3D models if you can’t even see how amazing they are? You want high resolution — Full HD (1920 x 1080) at a minimum, though 4K Ultra HD is best — and good color accuracy (a high percent of Adobe RBG, sRBG, or NTSC color fields). After that, consider your comfort. Working on a laptop can be ergonomically challenging, so try to make yourself as comfortable as possible otherwise with a glare-resistant screen and comfortable viewing angles (look for an IPS panel or 178 degree view). And while screen size is definitely a comfort issue (who wants to spend hours squinting at a small screen?), for 3D modeling a large screen is pretty important, especially if you’re not planning on using a secondary display. All of the laptops reviewed below are at least 15.6 inches.

RAM

The bare minimum of RAM you want is 16 GB. But with most larger machines (over 15.6 inches) you can add RAM if you find yourself needing more. And if you’re planning to use your laptop for many years, you’ll probably want to increase to at least 32 GB at some point.

Price

A machine that fits all the above specs is not going to be cheap, but there is a range of prices for different budgets. There is not much you’re going to find under $1000, and those that are decent would not quite be good enough for professional work. Laptops with i7 Core processors tend to run a little cheaper than those with Xeon processors. The machines we’ve listed here are priced from around $1400 to about $2600.

Conclusion

When deciding which laptop to buy for 3D modeling, remember that your laptop is a tool. What are you going to use it for? Do you plan to do some gaming on your machine, or is it all business? Do you travel extensively, or will it be set up with a secondary display?

But ultimately, the laptop you choose should fit not only your work, but also your goals. Are you a hobbyist who likes making 3D models for fun, or are you a professional (or aspiring professional) making a living with your graphics skills? Do you want to take your skills and your work to the next level? With laptops at a range of prices and specifications, you will be able to find the one that fits your needs now, and is also an investment in your future.

*Disclaimer: Prices listed were accurate at the time of publication but are not necessarily reflective of current prices on Amazon.com or other retailers.

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