Best computer for Glowforge?

Hi friends, I just got my Glowforge and I have this 2016 Macbook Pro (with touchbar) that’s never even been out of the box. It was meant in part for the Glowforge, but I’ve been feeling like it’s way too much computer for me. I’m thinking of selling it and getting a used 2015 MBP, or just living off a tablet like I’ve been doing. Computers can set off horrible migraines for me, for one thing, and I don’t know if I can make it work. I’m also not used to any kind of design software but had been hoping to learn some eventually, so for the moment I feel like I don’t need much. Can anyone advise me on what might be best? I can’t see any obvious solution, I’m just worried I overdid it with the Macbook Pro and concerned I won’t even be able to use it due to visual problems.

The GF can be operated with almost any computer that runs a browser. But you will need a computer to design projects for upload. Personally I don’t care much for tablets but some of the high end tablets with a stylus or other input device are likely OK.

If I were the type of person that enjoyed sitting at a desk I would prefer a desktop with large monitors. But I tend to sit in my easy chair with a mid-range tablet for design using an optical mouse. When I want to Print, the laptop follows me to the basement where the GF lives. The $800 laptop will easily run any 2D design package with no noticeable limitations. I prefer Inkscape since it’s free. If I had the cash then Illustrator would be the preference. And even a 3D modeling program such as Fusion 360 works just fine. But 2D drawing packages are what most folks use.

Not going to suggest a particular machine since there will always be someone who insists their machine is better. Just know that you don’t need something high end.


There is no such thing as “overdoing it” for a computer for me (other than budgetary restrictions), so I can’t speak to that question, but if a tablet doesn’t trigger your migraines, there are people who work entirely on one. I would not find it convenient at all, but they make it work.

You should plan on learning design software if you’re serious about using the GF in a creative way.s.


I agree with both Rick @rpegg and @ChristyM above even though at first glance they look to be going in different directions.

You can run the :glowforge: with just a little bit of computer but there is no such thing as overkill, I personaly use a gaming PC to run 3d modeling software (Fusion 360) but If I had to I could live off of my iPad as the higher end iPads with an apple pencil run Affinity Desinger (a 2d art program) just fine.


I’ve always been a fan of saying “never break the bank.” Most people use their computers for web searching and email, with an occasional program. Unless you are a gamer, doing video work, or professional picture editing, go cheap.

My current PC is a 3 year old Lenovo with 16 GB of RAM. The RAM upgrade for one specific purpose of rendering large web page (10 million images at 10,000 iterations) in as short of a time as possible. I also have a 5 year old Gateway 2000 (8 GB of RAM) and an HP Stream (4 GB RAM and 32 GB hard drive). I’ve also considered running this on a Raspberry Pi.

I use Inkscape, GIMP (eventually) , and Chrome for software.

If you aren’t planning on doing any “heavy lifting” specifically for your Glowforge, I suggest an i3 or i5, where the i5 is better, processor (sorry, I don’t know the AMD equivalent), 8 GB of RAM minimum, and any size hard drive. I also suggest some kind of backup device for your files. I’d suggest one of those HP Passport drives, or a large capacity thumb drive (the SD cards are nice, but can get lost). Laptop or PC doesn’t matter, but the laptop gives you some additional mobility. You can always hook up a monitor if it has an HDMI port.

The thumb drive is quite handy in case you accidentally delete something (but you MUST back up your stuff). Create a specific “Glowforge” folder and just copy the files over 2x a week.


Thing about high-end computers is they don’t stay that way.
Seems I can squeeze about 8 years out of a setup before it’s a dinosaur.


Wow, ain’t that the truth! I always buy right where the turn is in pricing.

If you look at power to price, there is always that place where you start paying an additional premium to have the current best. I back off one step from there and get something that is still kind of okay 6-8 years later.


Great advice here, guys, thanks! Maybe one of you could remind me why I bought this laptop in the first place? I have trouble remembering, I just think it must have had to do with my plans for the Glowforge because I purchased them close together, back when I had a few bucks. :slight_smile: A lot has changed since then. I’m scratching my head because I’m not even sure what the advantages of this laptop are anymore. It’s the late 2016 Macbook Pro with 256 GB SSD and touch bar. Space gray seemed like an advantage somehow. :slight_smile:


I was a desktop person for many years. I had a 386 “lugable” that was essentially a mini tower with a screen on the side but the screen was 256 shades of gray and proprietary so it was essentially a mini tower with a carry case I could take to work. more recently I have now a HP “envy” with a full keyboard, 15" wide touch screen and screen off the side and it rarely even hiccups even with huge images in Gimp so I can get very clean results.

For most design work I use the laptop, in part for the speed but mostly for the real estate, with the laptop screen for the work window and the spare screen for all the extra windows wanted by Inkscape particularly. I also have two tablets and a phone that can manage the Glowforge when I am doing many copies of the same thing and can be in the same room. But other than pushing the GFUI start button I do not find the screens big enough to do real work.

Sometimes I have fairly complicated vector designs in Inkscape. If I have a lot of apps and tabs and other files open, screen refresh is a bit slower on my surface book. My desktop is beefed out and it does the redraws instantly.


Oh yeah, I don’t regret a penny I spent building a new machine. It only runs @ 3.2 GHz, but stocking it with 32 GB of RAM made it really snappy. 5 seconds before PhotoShop is ready to go, instead of the 20-25 seconds on the 8 year old laptop.


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