Last updated on November 29th, 2019 at 08:28 pm
Specialised areas of 3D graphics such as animation, video game design, realistic modelling and professional CAD all depend on owning a computer that’s powerful enough to render complex 3D visuals. Here are some great laptops that are up to the job.
Rendering realistic visual scenes and creating detailed 3D objects is a demanding computing task that needs a very powerful computer. Working with highly detailed models with complex lighting using 3D software such as 3ds Max, Solidworks and AutoCAD as well as tools such as Blender and Maya involves millions of calculations. It all depends on having plenty of processor performance, a good graphics card, lots of system memory and fast internal SSD storage.
So what laptops fill those needs? We dive in below!
#1 Best Value – HP Pavilion 17
Superb rendering performance for a great price
Our pick for a brilliant budget buy is this 17.3-inch powerhouse from HP. The specification is absolutely capable of good 3D rendering performance, with an optional six-core Intel Core-i7 9750H processor and a highly capable 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti Max-Q graphics card, but the associated price is only just over $1000, making it better value than many competing models.
A few corners have been cut to fit this price bracket. The large display is an IPS panel but it only goes up to 1080p resolution rather than 4K resolution, that you will find on more high-end models. 8GB of system memory is all that comes with the base model, and likewise, the SSD is only a miserly 256GB capacity. But if you upgrade these two components, you’ve got a great 3D rendering computer without having to spend too much.
- Six-core Intel Core-i7 processor for reduced rendering times
- Powerful Nvidia graphics card
- Large display
- Good value
- No 4K resolution
- Limited base SSD and memory capacity
- No Thunderbolt
#2 – Acer ConceptD 5 Creator Laptop
A good value 4K laptop that’s great for 3D
Acer’s ConceptD laptop line is aimed squarely at design use, with eight tiers that go from the entry-level ConceptD 3 all the way up to the ConceptD 9 Pro, adding more useful features for creative professionals as the price steadily increases.
The 17.3-inch ConceptD 9 Pro is particularly impressive, as it’s not just a super powerful rendering rig with Quadro RTX graphics, but it also has a highly colour accurate touch-sensitive 4K display. And in that top-end model there’s a unique hinge that lets you separate the display from the keyboard, swivelling it round to become like a portable desktop computer. It is incredibly expensive though.
The more affordable ConceptD 5 is just as remarkable. It drops the rendering performance down a notch or two, with AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics and a quad-core Intel Core i7-8705G processor. Although this combination may not render as quickly as a six or eight-core chip and Quadro RTX graphics, it’s still enough to chew through whatever complex scene you create.
Crucially though, the Concept D5 retains a 4K colour-accurate display that supports 100% Adobe RGB colour gamut. It looks great, and the ConceptD 5 squeezes all this into an incredibly thin, beautifully designed chassis that’s truly portable. And it comes in under half the price of the next tier up.
That’s a fairly good proposition, given that some desktop colour-accurate displays can cost as much as this laptop alone.
- 4K colour-accurate display (100% Adobe RGB)
- 4.1 GHz quad-core Intel processor
- AMD Vega graphics (GeForce RTX 2060 available)
- 16GB memory
- 512GB SSD
- White casing may not be to taste
- Six-core processors better for rendering
#3 – Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019)
Apple’s new laptop offers next-generation AMD graphics
Apple’s new flagship laptop is a great choice for all kinds of design work, packing a real 3D rendering punch as well as being a great choice professional video and photo editing. It’s one of the first laptops on the market to offer AMD’s newest Radeon Pro 5500M and 5300M mobile GPUs. These are the first AMD RDNA 7nm discrete mobile GPUs for professional users, with up 4 TFLOPS of single-precision performance.
Additionally, the latest MacBook Pro now has a 16-inch Retina display and Apple has abandoned the older keyboard design that led to many owners having problems with stuck keys. Configuration options include up to eight processor cores, 64GB of system memory and a whopping 8TB PCIe 3.0 SSD, if your budget can stretch that far.
- Radeon Pro 5500M GPU
- Up to 8 Cores
- Up to 64 GB RAM (!)
- Up to 8 TB SSD (!)
- No possible configuration with Nvidia graphics (or Cuda)
- MacOS can be restrictive for rendering compared with Windows
- As with any laptop at this level, the price is up there. However, you get what you pay for.
#4 – Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17
Powerful Intel Xeon and Quadro RTX performance
With the 2019 updates to Asus’s ProArt StudioBook range, the firm is aiming to offer the most high-end 3D laptops that you can buy anywhere, by offering both an incredibly beefy rendering specification along with a few high-end features you simply don’t find on other manufacturer’s laptops.
In particular, when the Asus ProArt StudioBook One is released at the end of 2020, it will be one of the only laptops in the world that offers the most powerful Nvidia Quadro RTX 6000 graphics card. Expect an eye-watering price tag.
However Asus’ slightly more affordable StudioBook laptops have plenty to offer right now. The StudioBook Pro 17 stands out as a slightly more affordable option but still with a really great internal specification that will work wonders for 3D rendering.
It has a six-core Intel Xeon E-2276M, combined with an Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 graphics card, 2TB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage, configured as a RAID 0 array for blistering fast performance and 32GB of memory. And although the 17-inch screen is WUXGA (1920×1200) rather than 4K, it delivers gorgeous image quality, colour-accurate with 97% DCI-P3 gamut coverage.
And in addition to supporting the latest WiFI 6 (802.11ax) standard, it has a number pad built-in to the trackpad, a feature that is usually omitted from laptop keyboards to save space.
- Intel Xeon processor
- Nvidia Quadro RTX graphics
- WiFi 6 wireless networking
- Raid 0 SSD storage
- Touch-sensitive number pad
- No 4K resolution
#5 – MSI P75 Creator
Eight processor cores means faster rendering times
As with all the Asian manufacturers whose product portfolios are now expanding to offer laptops aimed at creative professionals, MSI is offering multiple hardware tiers in its P series of Creator laptops, all of which are (relatively) good value for money for the feature sets they offer.
The 15-inch MSI P65 Creator is notable because it has a great all-round specification for rendering: a 9th-generation six-core Intel Core i7 processor, 15-inch 4K display and a 6GB GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card, all squeezed into a slim and portable laptop design.
Go up to the 17-inch MSI P75 Creator though, and you get a truly superb 3D rendering rig that stands out from most of the competitors. For a start, it has the option of an eight-core Intel Core i9-9980H processor, with those two extra cores giving a real boost in just about all 3D software, leading to lower rendering times across the board. It also has a more powerful graphics card, an 8GB Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q, which will offer even better 3D performance than the RTX 2060, which itself is no slouch.
And while all high-performance laptops are thinner, lighter and more portable than ever before, there is probably no better example of this than the P75 Creator. A 17-inch laptop that weighs just 2.2kg and is just 8.9mm thick is quite some achievement.
- 17-inch 4K display
- 8-core processor
- Thin and light
- Powerful Nvidia RTX graphics
- 100% AdobeRGB display not available on all configurations
#6 – Dell XPS 15 7590
For a long time, Dell’s XPS line has been one of the better-known names in professional high performance laptops, and with the 2019 range, the company has adopted a six-core 9th-generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor, a 4K colour-accurate display and a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics.
It’s a specification that will definitely deliver the goods in 3D graphics tasks and is relatively affordable compared with some of the more high-end Nvidia RTX laptops, which isn’t bad considering the Dell brand name and great build quality you get.
The XPS 15 has a few extras as well. You get 1TB of PCIe SSD storage, Thunderbolt connectivity, and on certain models, the display features AMOLED technology, bringing (slightly) deeper blacks and richer colours, a worthy improvement over the LED IPS screens in other laptops.
- 4K colour-accurate OLED display
- 6-core processor
- 1TB of SSD storage
- Reasonable value for money
- GeForce GTX1650 is overshadowed by RTX cards
#7 – Lenovo ThinkPad P52 2019
If you’re of the mindset that a professional design laptop needs to be built like a tank, Lenovo’s ThinkPad range is probably the one to go for. The (now classic) design is one of the best keyboards and trackpad combinations in PC laptops, notable for including a physical number pad.
The 3D capabilities of this affordable 2019 model won’t quite match the big boy laptops, but it’s certainly enough to get by in 3D without having to shell out a fortune. You get an eighth-generation six-core Intel processor, 16GB of system memory and Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics card, for quite a reasonable price.
The Quadro P1000 isn’t as powerful as the GeForce RTX 2060, or Quadro RTX cards, but not all 3D software or renderers need oodles of graphics card performance, instead pushing all rendering to the CPU. In this case, the P52 is excellent value for money – and with a six-core processor, it’s a great option for artists and animators whose workflow is based on CPU-intensive tasks.
- Six-core processor
- Good value
- Older generation of CPU and graphics card
- Slightly weedy graphics performance
- No 4K resolution
Picking the best laptop for rendering can be a difficult choice. There are many different factors involved that will affect the usefulness of the laptop, including processor performance, graphics card/CPU, lots of system RAM and a fast internal SSD.
On top of fast clock speeds, when running rendering software, processors benefit from having higher core counts, driving down render times by splitting tasks up and spreading their workload across each core. Some software can render using a graphics card as well, relying on OpenCL or Cuda to accelerate processing and reduce rendering times.
The downside is that the most capable laptops for 3D rendering won’t be kind to your wallet. Regardless of the manufacturer, expect to pay a high price for a laptop with the best possible 3D rendering performance, with a top-end graphics card and eight-core processor.
But by knowing the needs of your software, you might not have to spend this much. At the mid range, where prices are around $1500-2000, you can still expect a fantastic laptop with both processing and graphics performance that’s more than up the job of 3D rendering.
Additionally, modern laptops are lighter and thinner, and with better battery life, even with high-end hardware inside. In laptops aimed at designers and creatives, you can also expect colour accurate displays, which are usually capable of 4K resolution, and produce a brilliant image that will make it easier to colour proof your work.
Leveraging the above information and our top choices for laptops, you can surely make an informed decision that gives you best bang for your buck!