Choosing a Laptop for 3D Modeling



I’d recommend Sparkbuy for comparisons but the company was sold and the CEO is working on some 3d laser printer thing.


I do plenty of 3D rendering on my MacBook Pro. I mean it’s a quad-core i7, sure it’s not as powerful as my Mac Pro is (dual quad core xeon) but still very, very fast. Unless you are doing legit 3D animation/heavy rendering (like @3d_g33k does for films) in which case no computer ever was fast enough (and the minute you put in a render farm, it’s also not fast enough too :fearful:), your machine isn’t really your limiting step.

The GPU is more limiting in some sense, for 3D display, but depending on what you’re making (I happily work on a CAD model in OnShape with over 500 parts in an assembly and can easily spin it in realtime). At this point of course don’t buy a MacBook Pro (since this upcoming week is WWDC where they are expected to announce some higher end MBPs with finally more RAM).


Have had a Dell laptop for about a year. Had a couple minor problems, but after removing about 40 screws, a dozen flex cables, removing every circuit board, replacing the keyboard and stuffing a sponge under the mother board for a intermittent audio issue, it works great. And I only had 3 screws and a clip left over.


I use a free Dropbox account for all my GF-related files & Google Drive for all my e-NABLE models. Instant access across all my devices, plus ability to access them from any computer, anywhere. Won’t be ideal for everyone, of course, but it works great for me!

For security, I’ve enabled 2-factor authentication for both and use a U2F dongle.


As AvE (on YouTube) would say, that sounds like an Enginerd’s dream.


I don’t do much 3D work at all but use the majority of the Adobe CC suite on my MacBook Pro, including a fair amount of video work. I made the switch a couple of years ago from PC desktops/laptops and am glad that I did for a few reasons.

  • I was going through Windows laptops every 12-18 months (broken hinges, etc). The build quality just wasn’t there - or maybe I’m hard on equipment. Mine fly a lot, get used out in the woods or deserts, etc. The MacBook is still holding up.

  • The Windows laptops and desktops would inevitably just get horribly slow after a while. I don’t have time anymore for reinstalling OS’s just as a part of maintenance. The MacBook is still running as fast and efficient as it was on day 1.

I used to build my own desktops, like a lot of people here I’m sure, but haven’t done that in quite some time so I can’t tell you about all of the new processors as I just haven’t kept up with the stuff. I like the Mac because it just works - I think getting 7 years out of yours is a testament to that! If you can get around any software availability issues, that’s the way I would go. The most frustrated I’ve been software wise is having the Scotttrade Elite software not available on Mac. :frowning:


I switch platforms back and forth throughout the day.

I have an older Surface 3. The pen / touchscreen are a dream to work with, better than every other pen I’ve tried. For intense design I like a bigger screen so use an external monitor.


For what it is worth – I prefer a tablet – the Wacom Cintique is what I use for 3d modeling and sculpture (ZBrush), graphics (Adobe Illustrator), etc.


If Wacom and Apple partnered to make a MobileStudioPro that ran MacOS instead of Windows, plus all the full featured software, I would bite the bullet! Wacom’s MSP is killer and the top model also includes cameras for handheld 3D scanning.


Oh goody, this is turning into a Mac vs PC discussion. /s
To me, Grasshopper’s tenuous support for Mac sounds like reason-enough not to push Mac. I dunno.


just my 2 cents. But this is exactly how I ran while in school. I had an Ipad that a had 3d viewing software and all my books on it. I optimized all my files to run on google drive but i left the muscle at home on a desktop (pc, since i can built it, and I run Solidworks). It was a little bit to set up but i absolutely loved it. You have the best of both worlds. You have the muscle to make it happen and a ballin desktop, but your ultra mobile and can take notes anywhere you need. If you feel like you have the technical aptitude to sync the files and keep your data management in order, i would highly recommend it.


Odds are I’ll be doing a lot more modeling than rendering- if I do any renders I imagine I’ll just use one of the school’s desktops.

I loved my Mac, but as it can’t support Grasshopper, that’s a really big negative. Is there any major benefit to getting a Mac if all I’ll do is run Windows on it?


Windows programs work fabulously within Parallels on Mac as well. Serial communication for peripherals is cleanly passed through so even non-Mac supported devices work well. I’d go with Parallels before using bootcamp, programs will run in seamless windows and with no need to reboot the machine.

If that’s the only program that’s not supported, it doesnt make sense to me to buy new licenses for all the other software for Windows, if Grasshopper may work fine under Parallels which avoids having to reboot into Windows.


I have a WD personal cloud setup at home for almost all of my files. It’s got two mirrored drives, 8TB and I control security and access. Costs less than my previous Google Drive, Dropbox and One Drive accounts and makes it easier to manage.


I forgot all about Parallels! I don’t think I’ve known anyone who’s done that…will definitely be looking into it. Right now I have windows licenses for all my 3D modeling programs. I have a Mac license for Adobe, but I need to upgrade to CC anyway.


If your open to other laptops that will offer a lot more power depending on what you are looking at here are three other manufacturers to look at 1) ASUS 2) and 3) I have had both Sager a Prostar systems and loved them far more than any DELL, HP, etc… I have also found they tend to offer more up to date hardware as well.


If you upgrade to CC you can install in on both a windows machine and a mac, so don’t let that stop you from going one way or the other… or both.
I have been running macs for quite a while (I have 5 and a half) but two years ago I added a gaming PC, and two months ago I picked up a win10 laptop to run the RIP for my new printer. While I prefer the mac user experience, I think windows feels a lot better than it did a few years ago. My new Lenovo laptop powers up and is ready to login in like 5 seconds. I went with the Lenovo (from Costco: Core I7 @ 280GHz, 16GB ram, GTX 1050Ti, 2T HDD, 256G SSD, ~$1K after tax) because I have friends who have had serious build-quality issues from HP and Dell, and I wasn’t quite willing to spring for a Surface Book. The only thing I don’t like about it is the Red-on-Black keyboard with red under-key lighting… but at least it matches the red dongle that has to be plugged in to run Onyx!


I use parallels almost every day, and on a modern high performance mac you generally can’t tell the difference. That being said, obviously ultra high performance stuff that needs a big GPU won’t get the acceleration they would get on bare metal. Since hardware wise a mac and PC are basically identical, it’s really a question of what licenses you already have/will have and if everything you have already runs perfectly on the mac except grasshopper you can decide the utility of running parallels. Since it seems it is a plugin to rhino, you’d be running the PC version of rhino too, so starting to sound more PC than mac from a simple logistics. Adobe CC is platform agnostic (you can have an install on one of each if you want)


From what I’ve seen, Rhino is pretty CPU-centric and doesn’t use the GPU for much except rendering the viewport. I recorded a little video showing how much a complicated model that I got from GrabCAD taxes the CPU and GPU (in terms of processing, if it’s possible to measure RAM use, I don’t have the right software). I only have Rhino 4 and Rhino 6 WIP installed so I didn’t try Rhino 5.

Here’s the video… (BTW, the render that I start at ~2:07 wasn’t recorded properly by OBS.)

I reset the viewport to Perspective and did a “Zoom Selected” command to keep the tests consistent. The command to spin the model is “TestMaxSpeed”, and as you can see I made myself a lil’ button to make it easier to run that command. The same test in Rhino 4 takes between 2.9 and 3.5 seconds on my first generation i7 SurfaceBook (at 3000 x 2000 resolution, that video was recorded on my desktop with the application windows set to 1920 x 1080), I don’t have the WIP installed on there though.

And here’s the GrabCAD file… (I only downloaded the 3DM file.)


I’m using Fusion 360 on a 2011 Mac mini, it hums along for most things, occasionally I can bog it down if there are a lot of Bézier curves in a drawing. I’ve run it on a Mac Pro too.

Macs make excellent windoz machines. The solid hardware platform makes them quite reliable. However you should occasionally boot it as a Mac to keep the firmware and MacOS up to date.