Note: Prices of the laptops listed here were correct during the last update. Because of how market operates, prices could fluctuate in a matter of days.

If you want to skip the introduction, you can directly jump to the table list of the best laptops for CAD.

As an architect, an underperforming laptop is the last thing you can wish for when you are already overwhelmed with the CAD workload.

To help you avoid that situation, we will review 5 best laptops for CAD work. Having any one of these laptops can make your CAD work a lot easier, faster and precise! These are the best workstation laptops out there which are perfect for CAD applications.

More likely than not, you probably already know the system requirements on a CAD laptop.

In case you don’t, in most cases, you will need a high end mobile workstation laptop that has a lightning fast processor, plenty of RAM (professionals recommend 16GB) and a FHD (or better) display that is at least 13 inch wide.

Video card is the single most important factor that differentiate CAD laptop from the others. Before purchasing a laptop for CAD, you must check the system requirements of the CAD software in question. You must make sure the video card on the laptop is compatible or is certified by the developers to run the software in question.


Solidworks video card test

Autodesk Video card test

There are some software that support gaming video cards but others require or recommend NVIDIA Quadro or AMD FirePro GPUs for precision.

The 3D modeling with lots of graphics and light will need powerful specs while the 2D modeling can be done on medium range laptops.

Generally, these best laptops for 3D modeling and rendering cost in excess of $1000, simply because of the type of hardware installed and the precision they are able to offer. They even send these laptops on space stations!

For each reviewed best CAD laptop below, we will tell you which CAD programs are compatible on them. So, pay close attention if you are using this guide to buy a CAD laptop now or anytime soon!

Best laptops for CAD 2017

Processor | RAM | Storage
HP ZBook G3
Quadro M1000M
Intel i7 | 16GB | 512GB SSD
About 2k
Lenovo P50***
Quadro M1000M
Intel i7 | Varies | Varies
Under $2000
HP ZBook 15.6″
AMD FirePro M4170
AMD A10 | 8GB | 256GB SSD
Under $1000
Quadro M2000M
i7 | 16GB | 1TB+256SSD
Under $2000
Surface Book
Varies | Varies | Varies


HP ZBook Studio G3 – Commercial standard laptop for CAD in 2017

HP Zbook Studio G3 is an awesome workstation! Image Source:
HP Zbook Studio G3 is an awesome workstation! Image Source:

The HP ZBook Studio G3 is  a very good deal when you look at the specs it offers. This is a solid laptop to run many CAD programs.

This laptop is compatible with several CAD programs including most latest Autodesk products and solidworks.

This is a windows 7 pro laptop with 15.6 inch screen and has a FHD screen.

NVIDIA Quadro M1000M is the graphic card (2GB) installed in this laptop and the processor is quad core Intel i7 with 6MB cache. The HP ZBook Studio G3 has 16GB RAM which is essential for every CAD program. You can also upgrade the RAM on this laptop if need be.

This HP ZBook comes with 512GB SSD memory. You can simply buy a cheap external SSD drive if you need more space.

This notebook was made specifically for 2D and 3D designers and it will process the CAD program just fine.

Besides, its pricing is fair given the specs it has to offer. As long as your software supports NVIDIA Quadro M1000M graphic card and if you are looking for the optimal laptop for cad, this probably is your best bet.  This top laptop for CAD supports many programs which includes (but not limited to):

  • BricsCAD
  • SolidWorks
  • AutoCad latest versions
  • TurboCAD
  • Keyshot 6 Pro
  • Moi3d

Price & More Details – HP Zbook Studio G3

Recommended For You: Best Laptop for Graphic Design

Lenovo ThinkPad P50- One of the best workstation laptops for CAD work under $2000 in 2017

This is a windows 7 pro laptop that is perfect for CAD work. This laptop comes with NVIDIA Quadro M1000M video graphic card, compatible with most CAD software out there. By the way, M1000M is one of the latest workstation GPU from NVIDIA.

Many professionals prefer and choose windows 7 over windows 8 or 8.1, thus the operating system should be least of your worries as long as your particular program supports it.

The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 has Screen resolution of 1920×1080.

It has 16GB RAM (you can also choose to get 32GB RAM for an additional cost), which in combination with the quad core intel i7-6700HQ will assure the precision of your CAD work.

We Highly recommended the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 for 3D projects.

This laptop is excellent for both beginners and the professionals. The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 can be purchased for about $1500 (depending on the configurations). Following are the compatible software that you can run on this laptop.

  • ArchiCad 19 and earlier versions
  • Solidworks 2014, 2015 and 2016
  • TurboCAD
  • AutoCAD Lt, AutoCAD 16, Autocad 15 and earlier versions.
  • Autodesk composite 2014, Autodesk inventor 2016 and earlier versions, Autodesk Maya 2016 and earlier versions, Motionbuilder 2016, Revit, Softimage and most other Autodesk products. Autodesk users can go here and see if NVIDIA Quadro M1000M is listed under certified card and you will instantly figure out if you should get this laptop or not.

Price & More Details – Lenovo P50

Recommended For You: Best Animation Laptops

HP ZBook 15.6″-Best laptop (under $1000) for AutoCad, Solidworks and other CAD software

This is “the” best deal if you are looking for the best CAD laptop under $1000!

Although this is not the most powerful workstation, both Solidworks and Autodesk are compatible with the video card of this laptop. Its graphic cards are even certified by the Autodesk. Should seamlessly work for later versions too!

Many other programs besides Solidworks and Autodesk products will run just fine in this cheap workstation for CAD.

This laptop comes with the AMD FirePro M4170 video card (compatible with many Software) along with the AMD A10 processor, 8GB RAM (you might want to upgrade it), a 15.6 inch FHD screen, and is powered by Win 7 pro OS.

We have no doubt that this HP ZBook is THE best laptop for CAD under $1000.

Price & More Details – HP Zbook 15.6″

Recommended For You: Laptops that come with Thunderbolt port

MSI WS72- Best workstation Laptop for 3D modeling under $2000 in 2017

best laptop for cad
Image Credit: Amazon/MSI

This is a great mobile workstation  laptop from MSI corp which is compatible with literally EVERY CAD program ever made. MSI is well known and highly rated laptop manufacturer for professionals and gamers.

Since this laptop was introduced into the market for professionals, designers, architects and engineers just like you, you sure can take advantage of its features for your use.

Price of the MSI WS72 is about $2000, but as a professional, you must already be aware that the cheap laptops simply won’t cut it and you will lag behind on your work with cheap laptops.

This top workstation laptop is compatible with Autocad and other autodesk products, solidworks, solidedge, creo, catia or any other software ever made.

Here is the breakdown of specs; windows 10 pro, NVIDIA Quadro M2000M graphic card, 15.6 inch high resolution and full HD display, 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD along with 256GB SSD flash memory, quad core Intel i7 processor and a fabulous design. This is one of the best laptops for 3D modeling and rendering.


Recommended For You: Laptop for civil engineers

Microsoft Surface Book- BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

A lot of people are expressing satisfaction of using their CAD software in Microsoft Surface book all over the internet and after going through its manual, we can confidently recommend the surface book for CAD.

The Surface book is a relatively new laptop. It has been tested with many CAD software. Microsoft specifically says that it is compatible to run AutoCAD, solidworks and other software without any compromise.

If buying, please make sure you get the right version of Surface book that comes with discreet GPU.

This laptop is very lightweight weighing under 4 lbs, which is way lighter than most of the CAD workstation laptops out there. If you decide to buy it, please check your software requirements and buy the one with the required processor and RAM. This is one of the best laptops for AutoCad. You can use this laptop for several CAD programs, including:

  • AutoCad
  • Visual Studio
  • Solidworks
  • TurboCAD


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Best laptop for CAD under $500 and other choices-2017

Finding the CAD laptops under $500 is tricky, if not impossible. You will need high end specs to run your graphics and in reality most laptops under $500 do not come with such features.

What you can do instead is try to find a refurbished or a used laptop for a cheaper price. To be on the safe side, try finding a refurbished deal with some kind of warranty. Or, buy a used laptop from one of the reputed sellers.

Another choice is to upgrade your laptop and tailoring it according to your need.

And if you are Mac person, these days most of the CAD programs support MAC OS. You can navigate different MacBook For CAD.

That concludes this article about best laptops for CAD 2017. Let us know if you have any questions. Please share this article about the best CAD laptops among your peers and help us flourish!

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