Best laptops for Blender

March 2, 2017

3D modeling is a very heavy task for today's computers. It requires the best specs you can get in a laptop: not only a fast processor but also a high performance graphics card and sufficient memory. Modern 3D modeling applications offer graphics card acceleration to reduce rendering time.

A few years ago, 3D rendering was mostly done on workstations or large servers. Today, there are many good laptops that can handle Blender and similar applications. Here are some important things to look for in a 3D rendering laptop (if you are more interested in specific laptop suggestions you can jump right to the recommendations further down this page).

Processor

The processor (or CPU) is one of the most important components for 3D modeling. You can’t really upgrade the processor on laptops, you need to get a laptop with a sufficiently fast CPU. Many operations in Blender has a good support for multi core CPUs. Intel’s quad core i7 CPUs are usually a solid choice for 3D rendering in laptops. However, not all laptop i7 CPUs are quad cores. The ones ending in U, like the i7-7500U, are only dual cores. Make sure you get a laptop CPU that ends in HQ, like the i7-7700HQ.

Graphics card

The graphics card (or GPU) can help to speed up 3D rendering. Most 3D modeling applications offer some GPU acceleration. Blender offers this for some operations, which can me much faster than CPU rendering (sometimes 10 times faster).

For Blender it makes sense to get a really strong GPU (ideally a GTX 1060 or better). Since you normally can’t upgrade the GPU on a laptop, you need to pick a laptop with sufficient GPU when you buy it.

Memory

While memory (or RAM) doesn't really improve speed, it is important to get sufficient RAM for 3D modeling. If you don’t have enough RAM, they system will start swapping to disk, which will make the computer very slow. However, once you have sufficient RAM, adding more will not really speed up rendering. It makes sense to get at least 8 GB of RAM for Blender. 16 GB would be even better, especially for production grade rendering.

Storage

When it comes to storage there are two factors to consider: speed and capacity. Most laptops either come with a hard drive (HDD) or a solid state drive (SSD). SSDs are faster than HDDs, so they are generally preferred in laptops. However, SSDs also tend to be smaller than HDDs, so you have to get a drive with sufficent capacity for your files. How much you need depends on your projects. Generally, you will probably need a 256 GB SSD at the very least.

3D rendering is often not that disk intensive, so you can probably use an HDD if you want to get more storage at a lower price. Also, it is often possible to upgrade laptops with an SSD later on if you prefer that.

Screen

Laptops usually either have a TN or an IPS display. Generally, IPS screens have a higher color accuracy and wider viewing angles. Because of that, it makes sense to get an IPS screen for 3D modeling. It is not always clearly specified what kind of screen a laptop has. If that is the case, you can assume that it has a rather poor TN screen. Always ensure that the laptop has an IPS screen.

Screen resolution also matters for 3D modeling. Generally, at least full HD (1920 ×1080 pixels, or 1080p) is recommended. You could also get a higher resolution screen if you prefer that. However, these come in different qualities. The so called pentile matrix screens are not true 4k and should be avoided. If you want a higher resolution screen, the XPS 15 recommended below has a true 4k screen.

Laptop recommendations for Blender

1. Budget laptop for Blender

The DELL Inspiron i7559-763BLK is our favorite budget laptop for Blender. It comes with a quad core i5 CPU and 8 GB of RAM, which is quite good at this price point. It also has an IPS screen for wider viewing angles and better colors. The 960M will be useful for any GPU accelerated rendering jobs. The base configuration is a 256 GB SSD, and you can add an HDD later on if you need more storage. This laptop also has a good cooling system and a long battery life.

2. High performance laptop for Blender

The Eluktronics P650HP6 IPS Graphic Design is our top pick if you want a high performance in Blender at a reasonable price. It comes with the latest generation i7-7700HQ CPU, which is possibly the best CPU you can get at this price point. The 16 GB of RAM should be more than enough for larger projects (you can also upgrade RAM later on if required). It also has both a 256 GB SSD for speed and a 1 TB HDD for additional storage. The GTX 1060 GPU will be great for GPU rendering, and it can also handle heavy gaming and VR if you are interested in that. Finally, this laptop also has a good build quality and a very good cooling system.

3. High performance and very portable laptop for Blender with a great battery life

If you travel with the laptop on a daily basis you may want something more portable than the Eluktronics above. In that case the Gigabyte Aero 14 would be a great option. It has the same CPU/GPU, so rendering performance should be about the same. However, it is significantly more portable with a 14" screen and only 4 lbs. It also has a huge 94 Wh battery for "Full-Day Productivity" (seems you get around 7 hours of battery life in practice).

4. High performance for Blender with a 4k screen

The XPS 15 has the same CPU as the Eluktronics and the Aero 14 above. It only has a GTX 1050 GPU though, so it won't perform as well in GPU rendering. However, it comes with a true 4k screen, which is great if you are rendering in higher resolutions. This laptop also has a very good build quality (aluminum case) and a good battery life.

5. Extreme performance laptop for Blender

If you want the very best Blender performance in a laptop, our top pick is the PROSTAR Clevo P775DM3 . It has a desktop grade i7-7700K CPU, which is around 20% faster than other high performance laptop CPUs. It also has the top GTX 1080 GPU. This combination should result in the fastest rendering times for both CPU based and GPU based rending. You can configure it with different amounts of RAM and SSD. This is basically a powerful desktop workstation in a laptop format.

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