Purchasing a laptop for school can be an overwhelming task consisting of hours of research. Being an architecture student myself and having a background in computer repair services I am able to provide you with research about the most current laptop deals, saving you research and time that you can spend on getting ready for the school year.
Where to Start
Check to see what programs your laptop will need to run. If you are starting as a freshman you may not need a laptop that can run advanced renderings but it is a good idea to see what programs your laptop will eventually need to run in the future. Architecture programs include AutoCAD, AutoDesk 3DS, Rhino 3d, Revit and at a basic level Google Sketchup. I have researched the specific requirements for these programs and all of the following laptops meet the requirements to run the programs you need smoothly.
Minimum Laptop Specifications:
Hard Drive: You will need at least 250 gigabytes as some programs and files will take up a lot of space. I would also recommend a SSD (solid state drive) as they are much faster at reading/writing data and are much less likely to fail because there are no moving parts.
Video Card: The graphics card is the most crucial aspect for architecture students as rendering programs require mid to high end graphics cards. This means that you will need a laptop that a dedicated video card, typically Nvidia Geforce. Do not purchase a laptop with integrated intel graphics as this will not be adequate for you.
Temporary Memory (RAM): You can usually upgrade the RAM in your laptop fairly easily yourself in the future, but I would recommend a laptop with at least 8 gigabytes of RAM.
Processor (CPU): This is a very important aspect other than your video card. I would recommend a CPU with at least the newest (6th gen) i5 or i7 (i7 is usually better).
Mac or PC? Most programs are compatible with both so it comes down to your personal preference/budget. I would personally recommend a PC because programs are usually built for PC first, with an exception of Rhino which was intended for Macs but can be used on either Mac or PC. Screen Size: I recommend at least a 15″ screen with a high resolution for a crisp and clear view. Back-lit Keyboard: a lit keyboard helps you see the keys for those late nights before projects are due.
Times has evolved from drafting tables to computers. The computer has become as important as a drafting table (if not more important). It is important for you as an architecture student to invest a part of your educational allowance towards this portable technology.
When it comes to buying a laptop you need to consider a handful of aspects such as the hard drive type (SSD vs HDD), hard drive storage, the amount of RAM (random access memory), type of graphics card (very important for rendering), and last but most definitely not least, the CPU (central processing unit).
As a recent architecture graduate I have already done much of this research and would like to share what I believe to the best laptops for architecture students for 2020.
1. ASUS ZenBook Duo
The ZenBook Duo is a one of a kind laptop. Not only does it contain some of the best specs on the market fitted within a thin and light metal chassis, it also has a great screen – TWO great screens, to be exact. This powerhouse of a device has an extra touch display just above the keyboard that can be used for a variety of things. For instance: watch a video, moving documents back and forth, chatting with your fellow students, changing music, and as a screen where you can place all your toolbars for AutoCAD and the like. There’s really nothing like it. As mentioned, the specifications are amazing: 1 TB SSD storage, 16 GB of RAM, a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card, touch displays, and an i7-9750H processor. If you want the best of the best and feel a little futuristic using your device with two displays, then this device is a safe bet to achieve exactly that. Check it out on Amazon
2. Surface Book 2
The Surface series from Microsoft have been around since 2012 and has since then been a strong competitor in the marketplace. It’s a 2-in-1 laptop that consists of a detachable keyboard and a tablet part. The Surface Book 2 has a full-scale 64-bit Windows OS and no drawbacks when it comes to its capabilities and functionalities. As a tablet, it’s one of the most powerful options out there, and its capabilities doesn’t even stop there. When you clip on the keyboard, you’re essentially just transforming one of the world’s most powerful tablets into one of the most powerful laptops. The keyboard part of this top-grade laptop is the powerhouse of this 2-in-1 and stores a GTX 1060 dedicated graphics card and a battery that ups the battery life for this laptop to 17 whole hours. The Surface Book 2 also comes with a stylus that you can use for drawing and sketching, which is great for an architecture student or the like. Check it out on Amazon
3. ASUS VivoBook S
Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean that it’s bad – at all. The Asus VivoBook S is an excellent example of this statement since it’s an overall great device with very few drawbacks. This laptop doesn’t seem to have cut any corners regarding its specifications since it comes with an i7-8550U processor, a 128 GB SSD, a 1TB HDD and 8 GB of RAM. The VivoBook S outperforms most of its competitors in its price range and is doing it brilliantly. Although its chassis is mostly made out of plastic, it’s a stunning device with lots of options regarding the components and the color of the device. One of the only drawbacks of this device is the display’s color accuracy and brightness level. The display is a Full HD display, but the colors shown on the screen are a little overexposed, due to its lack of color accuracy. If you don’t want to spend a fortune purchasing a laptop but want the greatest laptop for the price, then the ASUS VivoBook is the right choice for you. Check it out on Amazon
4. Dell XPS 15
If you’re looking for the best and most powerful Ultrabook, that you can get your hands on this year – then look no further. The Dell XPS 15 has some of the best specs for running architectural software like AutoCAD, Rhino and Revit. The Dell XPS 15 (model 9570) comes with a beautiful 15,6” UHD 4K screen, a dedicated GeForce GTX 1050ti graphics card, 16 gigabytes of RAM, and 512 TB of lightning-fast PCIe SSD storage. All of this, while only being 1,7mm thick. This Ultrabook has some of the best specs that you’ll be able to find in a laptop this thin. Check it out on Amazon
5. MacBook Pro
Aesthetics, fantastic build quality and powerful product that will outlast any PC – I’m of course talking about the MacBook Pro. Apple products are known for combining software and hardware in such a way that the macOS and the MacBook’s hardware will work seamlessly together as one. The 2018 and 2019 model of the MacBook Pro is the right way to go if you have already decided to go with Apple. A lot of architectural software like AutoCAD and Revit wasn’t available for macOS for a long time until 2015, and MacBooks have therefore had a bad reputation among architecture students and still has till this today. Most software developers have come around the last couple of years and have made the most common architectural software available for macOS. So, don’t worry about what your classmates may tell you about the MacBook Pro – It’s become a great device for architecture students. Check it out on Amazon
6. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The X1 carbon. Some would argue that it isn’t the prettiest device on the market, but it sure is a powerful device with design in mind. The X1 Carbon carries the same well-known timeless design as all the other ThinkPad’s before it and comes in a chassis in all carbon fiber. The carbon fiber makes for a very light yet extremely sturdy laptop. The X1 Carbon is praised for its amazing 14” display with excellent color accuracy and brightness levels. The display is great for designers and architecture students, especially when doing work on the go. On the go, you will also get about 11 hours of battery life and a bunch of connectivity options. It is packed with an Intel i5-8365U processor, 256 GB of SSD storage, and 8 GB of RAM. It’s essentially one of the cheapest and yet most powerful options out there. Check it out on Amazon
7. HP OMEN
If you’re looking for a laptop with great specs for working, but also want to use your computer for gaming, then the HP OMEN is the perfect laptop for you. The build quality of this laptop is great and has an aluminum chassis with a plastic back. It comes with a RX580 8GB graphics card, 12 GB of RAM, and an Intel i7-7700Q processor, which makes it perfect for running programs like AutoCAD and Rhino. Programs like these are usually very hungry for processing power from both the processor and the graphics card, and a gaming laptop like this one is, therefore, often one of the best laptop options for running architecture software. The only drawback is that it’s rather bulky and a little louder than most other laptops within this list. So, if you can comprehend these drawbacks, it’s a great laptop-choice to consider. Check it out on Amazon
8. Surface Pro 6
You may not find the Surface Book perfect, and you may want a device that’s also a more dedicated tablet towards the popular 2-in-1 design. If this is the case, then the Surface Pro series is the right choice for you. The Surface Pro 6 doesn’t have a hinge that allows the screen to stay put at any given angle, but rather uses a stand that pops out the back of the tablet itself. This is generally a sturdier solution compared to every other laptop that uses a hinge. Especially when you’re using the included surface pen to draw or write on the tablet while using it in laptop-mode. The Surface Pro 6 is the perfect travel companion for the architecture student and houses the full-scale Windows 64-bit OS just like the Surface Book. The drawbacks being that the Surface Pro 6 doesn’t match the Surface Book regarding specs. It doesn’t have as many ports to connect devices, only comes with up to 8 GB RAM, doesn’t come with a dedicated graphics card, and is, in general, less powerful than the Surface Book series. Though this doesn’t mean that it’s a bad device, but it sure is less powerful. On the upside, the Surface is less power-hungry. It’s also lighter, sturdier, more customizable, and the price for this device starts at a lower price point. Check it out on Amazon
What are your thoughts on these laptops? Let us know below!
Best Used Laptop Deals
Lenovo Yoga 15 710
This laptop has a dedicated graphics card paired with a crisp touch screen display and also converts to a tablet! The thin profile of the laptop makes it very easy to transport to class or work.
Screen Size: 15.6 inches Processor: Intel Core i7 RAM: 16 GB Hard Drive: 256 GB flash_memory_solid_state Graphics: Coprocessor NVIDIA GeForce Card Description: dedicated
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 series Gaming Laptop
This laptop boasts an amazing graphics card. Its a Dell laptop so it has a reputation for quality. Its a simple, robust laptop with the focus on power and performance.
Screen Size: 15.6 inches Screen Resolution: 1920×1080 Processor: 2.3 GHz Core i5 6300HQ RAM: 8 GB DDR3L SDRAM Hard Drive 256 GB SSD Graphics Coprocessor: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5 Card Description: dedicated Number of USB 3.0 Ports: 3 Average Battery Life: 4.5 hours
Acer Aspire E 15
The new Aspire E Series laptops provide a comprehensive range of choices for every-day users, with many appealing features and an attractive design aesthetic that exceed expectations. Incredible performance for the price point.
Screen Size: 15.6 inches Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels Max Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels Processor: 2.3 GHz Core i5 6200U RAM: 8 GB DDR4-SDRAM Hard Drive: 256 GB SSD (Solid State) Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 940MX 2GB Number of USB 2.0 Ports 1 Number of USB 3.0 Ports 2 Average Battery Life: 12 hours
Microsoft Surface Book
It is ultra-thin, meticulously crafted, with an incredible 13.5” PixelSense touch-screen display with 3000 x 2000 resolution detachable. Use the included Surface Pen to mark-up presentations, sign documents, take notes and much more. The full punch of a high performance laptop with unprecedented versatility of a tablet. This is Surface Book. This is the future of laptop computing.
Screen Size: 13.5 inches Max Screen Resolution: 3000*2000 pixels Processor: 2.6 GHz Core M Family RAM: 16 GB LPDDR3 Hard Drive: 512 GB Solid State Graphics: Coprocessor Nvidia GeForce GPU Card Description: dedicated Number of USB 3.0 Ports: 2
Be productive in the office or in the field. Take advantage of the power processing and graphics, simple scalability, and blazing-fast connectivity of the HP Book 15 G2 to perform and collaborate at the speed of creativity. Work anywhere and be confident the power you need is at your fingertips
Screen Size: 15.6 inches Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels Max Screen Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels Processor: 2.6 GHz Core i5-4200M RAM: 8 GB DDR3L SDRAM Memory Speed: 1600 MHz Hard Drive: 500 GB Serial ATA-300 Graphics: Coprocessor NVIDIA Quadro K610M Chipset Brand NVIDIA Quadro Card Description: dedicated Number of USB 2.0 Ports: 1 Number of USB 3.0 Ports: 3