Choosing a Laptop for 3D Modeling

designing
laptop
3dmodeling

#1

Now that I’m going back to school, I’m finally ready to replace my 7-year-old MacBook! As I’m going to be using it for a lot of 3D and design work (Rhino, SketchUp, Adobe Suite etc) I gave up on Macs right away, since I don’t want to have to bootcamp them.

So far the two options I’ve been looking at are the Microsoft Surface Book and the Dell Precision 5520. The main differences are:
processing: intel i7 for Surface, intel Xeon E3 for Dell
graphics: NVIDIA GeForce for Surface, NVIDIA Quadro m1200 with 4 GB dedicated memory for Dell
screen display: 13.5" 3000x2000 touchscreen for Surface, 15.6" 1920x1080 FHD for Dell

I know there are tons of amazing people here with infinitely more knowledge than I do on the subject, so my question is this: do these differences significantly raise one laptop over the other? Or are they close enough that it can all come down to personal preference?

Their prices are within roughly $100 of each other, so cost won’t play in. The tablet capability for the Surface is a great feature I can see myself using a lot, but I’d be willing to give it up for a significant boost in power on another machine.

If anyone uses either of these two laptops, I’d love to hear about your experiences! :grin:


#2

Huh? I run them on a mac just fine (along with Maya, Fusion360 and OnShape)? Fine, if you don’t want a mac, but that’s a weird reason.


#3

At the time I got my Mac, Rhino was only available for windows…is it different now? All I remember is a bunch of people in my class having horrible times bootcamping their Macs, haha


#4

Yup Rhino is on Mac now!


#5

But we have a couple surfaces at work and they work well but can’t really handle a complex sketch model. I don’t have the specs handy so can’t give you a real comparison…


#6

Oh wow, that’s cool to hear about Rhino! Yes, my main worry about the Surface is how it might handle big files, especially because I’m going to be doing a lot of parametric work with grasshopper.


#7

I would also check McNeels website because I’m not sure that there is a stable form a grasshopper for mac yet…


#8

Oooh, good point. Now that I’m thinking about it I think you’re totally right- no grasshopper for Macs just yet.


#9

The extra pixels in the display will make a ton of difference for designing if it comes down to a final discriminator


#10

Agreed. Fusion 360 on a 5k iMac is freaking amazing.


#11

I don’t know enough to recommend a specific video processor but I’ll say I think you will find the pen useful in certain applications. Not so much 3D modeling but in ai or Corel.


#12

Thanks! I was initially drawn to the Surface Book for exactly that- using the pen for 2D design sounds like it would be really great.


#13

I could never go back to Windows after switching to a Mac about four years ago. I currently use Fusion 360 and it works great on the Mac. I’m glad to hear that Rhino is available… I learned it a few years ago, and it’s nice to have options.


#14

I’ve had a few Dell desktops over the years and they seem to be notorious for having power issues…dont know about their laptops but I avoid the company like the plague now…lol
The last 3 laptops I’ve had are Asus…i7’s. They had always been the best choice at the time I was looking…pricewise and performance.


#15

We purchased two Dell Precision M4800 laptops for the mechanical engineers who primarily use SolidWorks. They were purchased based off of the recommendation of our SolidWorks rep. After 3 months of working with Dell and SolidWorks one was so flaky it was unusable and the other sort of works. And by not working and sort of working I mean for productivity apps, forget SolidWorks. I don’t know what the programs you mention require of the graphics card, but that was our experience. Needless to say we bought a pair of Dell desktops and high end video cards and SDDs from a third party and things are just fine.

FYI - I’m anti-laptop for computing; media playing of course, but not actual computing.


#16

Thanks for all the replies, everyone!! The main 3D program I’ll most likely be using is Rhino with Grasshopper.

@smcgathyfay and @caribis2 To be honest, the main reason I looked into Dell is because it’s the laptop recommended by my school. Figured I’d give it a shot! Hearing about it’s long-term performance is really great info. I would love to get a good desktop setup, but for school I need something to take to classes with me, so…laptop it is, haha.


#17

Are you open to the idea of using a desktop and a laptop? You might be able to have extra power with a desktop and extra portability with a different laptop while still spending about the same amount of money.

Trying to shuffle data between multiple computers can be a pain… there are, of course, lots of pluses and minuses. I’m just wondering if it’s something you’ve already decided against doing.


#18

hmm, I haven’t thought about it, but I would definitely be willing to look into it! The only thing I could think of that might hinder that setup is where I would keep the desktop. I don’t think I’d want to have to always be in my apartment for heavy-duty computing, but I would have to look into how to secure my desktop in the free-range studio spaces at school (sad to think about, but we had a few computer thefts at undergrad).


#19

Usually for my comparisons regarding the latest specs as well as pricing, I go to the digital goddess. Komando.com


#20

I’ve never heard of that site, thanks for sharing!!