Best Laptop for 3d Animation

Best Laptop for 3d Animation – We believe this list of the best laptops for animators helped you choose the right laptop for your needs. As you may have noticed, a lot of the devices are gaming laptops. This is an interesting thing because the kind of specifications you need for gaming can also be used for animation software.

OVERVIEW

That having said, you also get to choose devices like Surface Book 2 and Razer Blade 15 if you want the perks of portability as well as performance.

At the end of the day, it’s best if your budget does not limit the choice you want to make because smooth performance is a deciding factor when you’re a professional animator.

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ROUND UP

So the more complex scenes you have the more RAM & vRAM you are going to need.

It’s always better to have extra vRAM not just for viewport but for rendering.

If you use renderers like iRAY you’ll need even more vRAM with complex scene, if that scenes happens to fit exactly into the vRAM you have avaiable expect your laptop’s case to be able to fry eggs when rendering.

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1.Asus ROG Zephyrus

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2.Acer Predator Helios

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3.MSI GL65

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4.HP ZBook

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5.Razer Blade

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6.Apple MacBook

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7.GIGABYTE Aero

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8.Dell Inspiron

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9.ASUS ZenBook

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10.Lenovo IdeaPad 3

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Best Laptop for 3d Animation – BUYER’S GUIDE

CPU

Yeah, today’s laptops with the 8th generation just released can have up to six cores (pretty dope isn’t it?!).

Here are the reasons according to a very thorough study on 3DS Max vs CPU performance.

Rendering

Rendering speed has always and will always depend on the number of cores.

So if you plan on rendering your projects with your laptop (which is a bad idea if your projects are huge &  got a laptop with a lousy cooling system & weak specs) then you need at least a quad core procesor (six core would be a huge boost though).

 So Opt for processors that end with an HQ,HK, H from the 5th generation onwards. The H processors such as the Core i7 8500H have up to six cores which is perfect for rendering

Editing and Animating

If you are using the cloud to render or another monstrous size desktop to render, then you could settle with a dual core processor on your laptop.

Why?

Editing only requires one processor with the fastest clock speed. 3D Animation plugins and the effects you apply to your models are single threaded.

You can check this by running any animation software and press CTRL+ALT+DEL. Only to check CPU usage, only one core will be fully utilized.

So the faster your clock speed, the faster you’ll be able to see your previews and manipulate your tools as well.

 If your work solely focuses on editing & making animations, opt for the CPU with the highest clock speeds not the number of cores. Processors with the highest clock speeds today have 6 cores in laptops anyway so you may want to opt for a Core i7 from the H series

Viewport

By viewport I mean rotating and viewing any scene in 3D. According to the study mentioned above it does depends on the number of cores more or less. 

Although the study was carried out with desktops, the conclusion was that viewport is mostly single threaded but have significant performance gains with multicore CPUs. A six core CPU would give you about 6% increase in FPS, a 10 core a 15%.

If you want a higher FPS when using viewport however, you are better off investing on a good dedicated GPU with more “vRAM” than worrying about how many cores your CPU has.

Multitasking

Another reason to opt for a quad core or a six core processor is multitasking.  If you plan on running other software along your main 3D application.

For example it’s commong to run After effects and Cinema 4D simultaneously.  A quad core or six core CPU will allow you to share the workload between each cor and give you a faster workflow.

 Conclusion: you’re better off with a six core CPU or a quad core CPU, in the laptop world these also have the highest clock speeds so your editing will be lightining fast as well.

RAM

3D Applications in general will consume a lot of RAM.

Also the more RAM you can get your hands on, the more applications you will be able to run simultaneously without lag.

Rendering in particular benefits from a lot of RAM.

 So aim for 16GB at the very least

RAM in big bulky or 15” inch laptops are always upgradeable.

So even if you are on a budget getting another 8GB RAM and stick it in your laptop shouldn’t cost you much.

8GB vs 16GB vs 32GB

8GB RAM will work fine if you are a student or a beginner.

But let’s assume you decide to work on larger projects especially those that involve generating maps , then you’ll need 16GB RAM.

On the other hand, 32GB RAM will be foolproof for pretty much any project out there. 64GB RAM is pretty much useless for animation.

Most laptops you will find around the net and stores come with 8GB RAM and will only be upgradeable to 16GB. None of them had animation in mind when they were produced but gaming, 16GB is still plenty.

There are only a few  laptops out there that do include a pre-installed 32GB RAM, for example the ASUS ROG  and MSI Stealth series. But generally it’s cheaper to do the upgrade yourself, which it isn’t hard at all*

*Note not all laptops are upgradeable to 32GB. So read carefully before you purchase a laptop if you think you’ll need the upgrade.

GPU ( Graphics Card For Animation )

dedicated GPU is a must have for 3D animation.

Whether you need a mid range, basic or a high end graphics card will depend on how simple or complex your models are or how small or large are the scenes you work with are.

You could always go with the minimum recommended graphics card listed by 3D software manufacturers but if you want smooth performance and never have to deal with lag with any type of scene you’re gonna have to invest the your entire budget on a good GPU after you’ve picked a decent CPU & 16GB RAM.

What’s a good GPU for animation?

One with a lot of vRAM.

vRAM

vRAM is just how much dedicated memory there’s for your GPU to use (just like RAM is reserved to run processes for your CPU).

So the higher the memory of your graphics card, the more information it can hold onto about your scene, map or model. That means bigger scenes, more details,  more polygons, particles, lights, etc.

 This rule only applies to graphics card within the same generation though

Why?

Graphics card with newer architecture can outperform those with the same available vRAM.

For example the GeForce 10xx series will out perform most of its predecessors (those from the 9th generation)  due to their new design not because the amount of vRAM.

 If you have a complex model with a lots of rigs, an scene with quite a lot of polygons or a huge number of particles then you will benefit from the latest 10th generation Graphics Cards with the highest amount of vRAM.

If your scenes aren’t that complex then, you will be fine with the older mid range card like the GeForce 960M or the 1050ti which have 4GB vRAM.

What happens if I don’t get enough vRAM?

Hell witill happen. Performance willl drop dramatically in some apps if you have too little vram (Substance Painter comes to mind immediately).

3DS Max will start making objects dissapear completely at random when using viewport. Although this is rare today because 10th generation & 9th generation graphic cards already have a lot of vRAM so you’re likely to see this when working with large scale scenes .

Quadro/FirePro for animation

A few years ago, the quadro/firepro might have outperformed the GTX Geforce series by a long shot.

Even though these cards are designed with 3D Modeling in mind, for animation the performance gain from these cards may not be worth your money.

NVIDIA Quadro & AMD Fire Pro cards are more beneficial for modeling real products for a market where precision is far more important than looks (for the best simulation possible) so the amount of polygons & calculations end up being extremely high. This is the case for other 3D modeling applications such as SolidWorks.

You will also get support from software manufacturers if you ever run into issues, otherwise they’ll just blame any errors to your “non-certified” graphics card.

But the vast majority of animators (even animation majors during their curricula) will do fine with a regular consumer card.

So if you don’t mind a few pop up erros here and there (which you can just click OK and move on ), there’s no reason to overspend on a Quadro.

To give you an example I started with a 970GTX which was top of the line back then and it wasn’t on the list of certified workstation cards. I only had to deal with a pop up error basically saying the graphics card is not compatible for which I just clicked OK and ran the software just fine ever since.

In fact it runs better than an old “certified workstation” than I have.

Note: Software’s like Maya and Houdini are system extensive. The older versions won’t support on your newer cards like Maya 2012 or Maya 2014.

Nvidia vs AMD for animation

Nvidia cards perform better than AMD cards according to benchmarks studies.

However, AMD offer more speed for the same price Nvidia cards offer. This is only an issue with desktops where you can configure your graphics card to your liking but laptops come with an installed graphics card so your choices are very limited.

Another reason to stick with NVIDIA is their “CUDA Core technology” which basically act as more “mini processors” that many renderers out there like Octane support.

You may find a few bugs (if you have maxwell or 9th generation card) for example with Adobe After effects but there’s always way to overcome it.

Either way stick with Nvidia for now, today it’s still better for 3D applications & gaming.

Storage

Size

The generated 3D files from animation software are no joke, they’ll quickly eat up all of your storage. .

Type

SSD vs HDD

Whatever size you find, always opt for an SSD.

Your applications and files will load much much faster cutting back a lot of time spent on a project.

The only drawback is their size which is most of the time is limited to 256-512GB, some laptops do offer 1TB-2TB SSD but they’re unrealistically expensive.

There are few cheap ones with 1TB SSD but they don’t come up with the proper CPU or graphics card for animation.

You can easily be solved this issue by buying an external hard drive or buying installing another storage device yourself (most laptops allow you to install either a 256GB M.2 SSD or a 1TB HDD).

SSD + HDD set up

You’ll mostly find 256GB SDD+1TB HDD sets up out there or 128GB SSD+1TB HDD on laptops specifically built for gaming and 3D work.

How to use it?

Have all of your applications on the SSD along with any current files/projects you are working on. This should give you quick file access, quick model previews and launch 3D software fast as hell.

Footage, old files, completed projects can be stored in the large 1TB HDD.

Storage Speed

Just FYI. Here’s a basic speed comparison for SSS & HDD devices, from highest to lowest.

1. SSD w/ NVMe Protocol
2. SSD on PCI Express interface (some of the M2 slots offer this)
3. SSD on SATA3 interface
4. SSD on SATA2 interface
5. 7200RPM HDD
6. 5400 > 5000 > 4600 > green HDD.

Back up

Whatever storage set up you end up with, you should really think about having an external device to back up for your files on a regular basis..

Heres decent brand that’s hot around the web right now. Choose whatever size your budget allows , 1TB is still better than nothing.

Display

Resolution

Most laptops and computers come with a full HD resolution, this is plenty for animation.

It’s okay to want higher resolutions such as the Retina resolution from MacBooks, or the Pixel Sense from the Surface Pro, etc.

I’d just advice you to  avoid +4k displays.

A few of your programs(and plugins) will not display tools and icons properly since they haven’t been optimized to work with those resolutions yet plus you’ll run out of battery in no time.

If this starts to happen you can try upgradting your software to the latest version but there’s no guarantee that will fix the issue.

Size

Screen size is always useful for just about any application out there.

A bigger display allows you to see more frames and with more detail .

Although laptops can’t really go past 17. But you can always attach an external display to it.

Avoid 13” displays unless portability is a problem, it can be annoying to work with low size screens for long periods of time.

Trackpad

You can forget about track pad quality if you are serious about animation. Get any mouse you’re comfortable with  that can get accurate work done.
If you are serious about drawing and 2D animation, get a  Wacom Cintiq, this is about as “Touchy/Fcv eely” as you’re going to NEED to get.
 If you still insist on a touchScreen laptop for  2D Drawing, the Surface Pro is still tops to this date.

Operating System

Mac

If you are limited to Maya, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Products then you can go for a Mac.

Windows

Windows is a better choice if you are want to dominate several softwar.

You’ll also less software problems and more available tools and plugins. Plus Macs don’t offer NVIDIA GPUs which as you’ll see soon….are in fact crucial.

Rendering

The high end laptops for 3D animation recommended above are fine for rendering most animation projects. The most expensive one will be able to render pretty much everything thrown at you.


Here’s a recap about rendering before you buy a laptop with rendering in mind.

  • Contrary to popular belief rendering is not a visual computation (GPU) but rather mathematical process(CPU).
  • Whether it’s a laptop or a desktop, your focus should be on RAM and CPU, with CPU being far more important for faster rendering time.
  • Rendering takes advantage on the amount of cores your CPU has; physical cores nor virtual cores ( opt for HQ – quadcore or H – six cores).
  • A GPU is beneficial as long as you have maxed on CPU & RAM.So the computations can be off loaded to the GPU.
  • Get a cooling stand for and use it when rendering this will increase the lifespan of your laptop.
  • Lastly not all renderers out there make use of your GPU.

Renderers vs GPU

With Mental Ray you are not going to see much of an effect even with the GI.

Regular vRAY primarily uses CPU.vRAY (regular) supports AMD Cards too

For vRAY RT or iRAY you’ll definitely se an improvement. .

Other renderers like Octane will support CUDA(NVidia).

At a certain point good data management becomes just as important as hardware, and the effect of hardware improvements starts dropping off rapidly.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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What Laptops do Animators use?

You don’t really need an exotic kind of Laptop or any specific features to animate on a Laptop. There certainly are some features that will make your work more efficient & faster, but any Laptop that meets the minimum requirements for the Animation Software you would like to use, can basically be used to animate on.

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What is a good Computer for Animation?

If you’d rather like to use a Desktop PC instead of a Laptop for Animation, be sure to read on in-depth Guide on what the Best PC for Animation looks like.

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Is 8GB of RAM enough for Animation?

As we already discussed in this Article, 8GB of RAM can be enough for doing Animation on simple Scenes. You’ll be much happier with 16GB (or even 32GB) though, especially if your Scenes have lots of geometry, or if you’d like to use other Software in parallel.

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Are Gaming Laptops good for Animation?

Yes, absolutely! Many Laptop manufacturers market Laptops at Gamers, because the Gaming Target group is much bigger than the Animation or Content Creation Target Group. This doesn’t mean you can only game on a “Gaming Laptop”.

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WRAP UP

We discuss and review the best laptops for animation and graphic design. Whether you are a beginner or a high-end pro, we can guarantee that you will find an affordable and budget-friendly laptop that will cater for all your animation and graphics needs in this list.

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