Most Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software require good graphics cards, displays and CPUs to deliver brilliant image qualities and fast performance. If you’re a Graphics Designer, Engineer, or Architect, you’ll understand the importance of this.
You’ll need to view objects in different representations and run numerous simulations on real-world conditions. So it’s not enough to just buy the cheapest laptop you can find on Amazon.
If you’re clueless about which one to buy, keep reading this post for recommendations on the best notebooks for CAD 2022.
What Makes the Best Notebook for CAD?
GPU & CPU
Low-end graphics cards with 256 to 512MB of VRAM (Video RAM) are enough for 2D work. For serious 3D CAD modeling, you’ll need high-end graphics cards with at least 512MB of VRAM.
As for the CPU, targeting a high-end processor is overkill for 2D work. A dual-core notebook is enough as it can manage multitasking effectively. A few ideas include the Intel quad-core i5 or i7 processors. Preferably, go for the 8th generation i7 processors. They are expensive, but highly efficient.
For 3D work, you’ll need as much CPU cores as you can get because the applications need them to render more designs in shorter time periods.
RAM & Storage
You will need a minimum of 4GB RAM and a 64-bit operating system for optimum results. The more RAM your computer has, the more applications and projects you’ll be able to work with simultaneously and faster. But for software like AutoCAD, you’ll need at least 8 or 16GB RAM.
Don’t forget to check the hard drive space as CAD project files and data become large over time. So you’ll need a big storage capacity to accommodate them. 1 Terabyte or higher is advisable, but if you can’t get a notebook with that space, 320GB is a fair place to start. You can always buy external hard drives and SSD later.
Display & battery life
14 and 15 inch screens having 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 resolutions are the best portable options. You can analyze images, shapes, and colors in high definition, and they typically weigh from 2.5 to 4 pounds.
Battery life is also important. If the notebook is going to be your workstation, then you’ll need a computer that not only lasts long but has a great cooling system. It would keep your computer from exceeding the normal safe CPU temperature ranges while you’re working.
It’d be a shame for you to spend plenty money on a notebook only to have it overheating less than a month later.
Overview of the Best Notebooks for CAD 2022
- Overall best notebook: MacBook Pro 14-inch
- Best battery life: MacBook Air M1 2020
- Best compact design: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
- Best lightweight notebook: ASUS ZenBook 14 UX435EG
- Best for rendering: Razer Blade 15
5 Best Notebooks for CAD 2022
1. MacBook Pro 14-inch
RAM: 16GB | CPU: SoC Apple M1 Pro chip up to 10-core | GPU: Apple M1 Pro chip (14-core GPU) | Display: Liquid Retina XDR display | Weight: 3.5 pounds | Battery: 70-watt-hour lithium polymer battery | Storage: 1TB SSD (Configurable to 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB) | OS: macOS | Connectivity: DisplayPort, 3x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C & up to 40Gb/s), USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s), HDMI & SDXC card slot, MagSafe 3 port, 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The 14 inch MacBook Pro is designed with Apple’s most powerful chip, the M1. It offers a 14-core GPU which is more than enough for running heavy-duty tasks without frame dropping, lagging or skipping.
The notebook comes with a sizable disk space of 1 Terabyte and 16GB RAM. It meets the recommended system requirements for software like AutoCAD. Added to that is a Liquid Retina XDR display that offers a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 1,000 nits of brightness.
What this means for you is sharper images, better color accuracy, higher brightness, and wider color range. It’s safe to say that the MacBook Pro’s display outshines traditional OLEDs and LCDs by far.
In terms of battery life, it boasts of 17 hours of power while using the Apple TV app, watching streaming media content, and browsing with WiFi. While you may get less than that for resource-hungry software like AutoCAD, Maya, and Fusion 360, you’d still have significant hours of uninterrupted workflow.
So if you’re a professional architect or graphic designer, it’s the ideal missing piece for your workstation. But there’s a catch.
Currently, most new MacBooks with the M1 chips need to use the Rosetta 2 dynamic binary translator to run software like AutoCAD. The Rosetta 2 are capable of translating the M1 chips to support the software for smooth performance.
2. MacBook Air M1 2020
RAM: 8GB | CPU: SoC Apple M1 chip (8-core CPU) | GPU: Apple M1 chip (7-core GPU) | Display: 13.3‑inch, 2560 x 1600-resolution Retina display | Weight: 2.8 pounds | Battery: Lithium Polymer | Storage: 256GB SSD | OS: macOS | Connectivity: WiFi-6 (up to 1.2Gb/s), x2 Thunderbolt 3 USB 4 Type-C ports (Data transfer up to 40Gb/s), Bluetooth 5.0, DisplayPort.
The MacBook Air offers a reasonably priced feature combo for budget shoppers. Though it’s still on the high-end side, it’s worth the money if you’re looking for the 14 inches MacBook Pro alternative.
The notebook comes out the box with 8GB RAM and 256 disk space. It also runs on a 7-core GPU, which is strong enough to run software like Fusion 360 and Maya, when paired with the RAM and storage space. Maya uses at least one processor core for 3D modeling and simulation alone.
The MacBook Air can’t run the native version of AutoCAD. So the best alternative is to install the AutoCAD LT version for 2D drawing. Though the notebook doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor on this list, it does have the better battery life. It offers 18 hours of battery use, which means you can work for one hour longer.
3. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
RAM: 16GB LPDDR4x | CPU: Quad-core 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i7-11370H processor | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti laptop GPU | Display: 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow Display | Weight: 4 pounds | Battery: 56Wh (Up to 18 hours) | Storage: 256GB | OS: Windows 10 Pro or 11 Pro | Connectivity: 2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth Wireless 5.1 technology. Can connect with 4K monitors each at 60Hz natively.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is brilliantly designed to arouse your creativity. Its flexible structure allows you to use it as a full laptop while typing long texts or switch to tab/studio mode for sketching your ideas.
But if you’re a sucker for 360-degree hinges, you’d be disappointed as the device’s hinge isn’t that bendy. In studio mode, you can draw, write, and sketch with a rechargeable digital pen on the 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow Display.
Docking is also supported. So if you need to setup dual monitors, your Surface Laptop can become the second or third screen.
Screen refresh rate amps to 120Hz, so input feels more responsive, the chances of tearing is zero, and you’re less likely to see annoying mouse trails. However, it’s an LCD display. This might be a dealbreaker considering that the price is on the high side.
4. ASUS ZenBook 14 UX435EG
RAM: 16GB | CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce MX450 | Display: 14-inch NanoEdge wide-view display | Weight: 2.5 | Battery life: 67Wh (lasts 21 hours & can fast-charge to 60% in 40 minutes) | Storage: 512GB | OS: Windows 10 Pro | Connectivity: x2 Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, Bluetooth, HDMI, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, Wi-Fi, MicroSD card reader, 3.5mm headset jack.
No one likes lugging a heavy device around, especially while traveling. That’s one problem the ZenBook 14 solves. It weighs a mere 2.5 pounds, and the design is sleek. The bezel is made super thin, so you have more screen to work with.
One unique feature is its Ergo Lift design. When you flip the computer open, the screen rests on whatever flat surface you’re working with, while the keyboard becomes slightly raised. This allows for better airflow to and from the vents below. You certainly wouldn’t want your laptop to overheat while designing.
The laptop features a 14 inches FHD display that maxes at 400 nits of screen brightness. It’s also able to display 96% of Adobe RGB. This means that while you’re browsing through websites, editing photos, or drawing and creating computer animations, you’d experience a high degree of graphical accuracy.
Additionally, it comes equipped with a 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB SSD disk space. These should allow you perform day to day tasks like word processing and photo editing at reasonable speeds. You can also run software like AutoCAD, Rhinoceros and Fusion 360.
5. Razer Blade 15
RAM: 16GB DDR4 SDRAM | CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super | Display: 15-Inch FHD 300Hz or 4K OLED | Weight: 9 pounds | Battery: Lithium Ion | Storage: 1TB SSD | OS: Windows 10 | Connectivity: Thunderbolt 3, Wi-Fi, 3 x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI
The Razer 15 is a beastly machine offering the choice between a 4K OLED touch display or fast 15-Inch FHD 300Hz. It’s the dreamboat for gamers, although 300Hz may seem like overkill since most CAD software don’t demand up to 240Hz to 300Hz.
60Hz is sufficient, unless you’re constantly into 3D modeling and content creation. If you also plan to play fast-motion games like eSports titles and Fortnite, then you’d require 144Hz screen for a stutter-free experience.
The screen is made with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, one of the most durable materials on the market. It has a high resistance to scratch and sharp contact damage. It also occupies 100% of the DC1-P3, a color space that digital cinema technicians or video editors commonly use, and is the color standard for the film industry.
As for the battery life, expect to enjoy about 6 hours of battery life while screen brightness is at 60%. Though Razer boasts of an innovative liquid-filled cooling system, the computer does run hot after at least 40 minutes of normal use. For example, browsing or watching a movie.
We’ve seen the best notebooks for CAD 2022, from the MacBook Pro to the Razer Blade 15. Each laptop works fine with most CAD software and run the M1 or Intel Core i5/i7 processor. Those are the bare minimums you need to manipulate or create content from scratch on your PC. However, it would help if you understood the system requirements of the CAD software you plan to use the most before buying a new computer. Otherwise, you’d making plenty sacrifices and substitutions to get work done.
We hope find this post helpful in choosing your notebook!