Your animation skill is the first thing that matters, the second factor that determines the end results of your animation work is the computer you use. The more advanced you are as an animator (in terms of using animation software, animation type, and additional tools), the higher the computing power you need.
When choosing a laptop, a significant part of what determines your choice has got to do with whether you want to use the laptop as your main workhorse computer or as a secondary computer where you can work on the scenes and transfer them for renders to a powerful desktop. For the former requirement, having a premium laptop that packs top of the line hardware configuration will help you maintain your productivity at its best. And for the latter, you will be good with a mid-range laptop that has reliable performance.
In this thoughtfully-curated list of the 10 best laptops for animation, you can get a brief overview of different laptops positioned at different price points and performance benchmarks. We encourage you to go through the entire list (and the conclusion part) to help you make an informed decision which, in turn, will help you make the most out of the budget you put in. We both know that finding an all-in-one laptop for animation is next to impossible, but the laptops we have compiled come close.
Minimum hardware requirements for the best laptop for animation
A list of minimum hardware requirements, like the one we’ve included here, will help you (especially newbies) narrow down your options so that you don’t get overwhelmed by the myriad choices available online.
- CPU – a core i7 processor is a must-have whether you are learning animation or working as an animation professional. If your budget permits, go for core i9 for smooth and lag-free 3D animation rendering performance.
- RAM – professional-level animation software such as Autodesk Maya have more geometry which 16 GB or higher RAM will be able to handle efficiently – more RAM can handle heavier scenes in the viewport.
- GPU – a powerful dedicated GPU will help you maintain the frame rates of your animation when working on scenes and 3D rendering.
- Storage – many animators prefer SSD storage over HDD storage for fast loading times and rapid access to files and programs. A 512 GB SSD storage is good for long-term laptop usage.
- External connectivity – availability of different ports such as mini display port, HDMI port, Thunderbolt 3 port, and USB ports will help you scale up if your animation technology evolves down the road.
Lenovo ThinkPad P53s – Best laptop for animation
Using a laptop as your main computer can be risky for you as an animator, especially if you are working professionally. The laptop you plan on fully depending has to be powerful enough to meet your animation computing requirements and reliable enough to assure you peace of mind. Lenovo ThinkPad P53s checks all these boxes; with an ISV Autodesk certification, it definitely stays true to the ‘one among the best laptops for animation’ eminence it deserves.
Powering Lenovo ThinkPad P53s is its 8th generation Intel i7 4 core CPU that operates at a base power of 1.80 GHz and can overclock up to 4.60 GHz. Together with NVIDIA Quadro P520 2GB DDR5 GPU, the CPU can easily take on even the most computing and graphically-intensive animation software and tools. This laptop is well-positioned to be the go-to computer for animation professionals and freelancers with its best-in-class combo of 40 GB DDR4 RAM and 1 TB SSD storage. The higher RAM and SSD storage numbers mean that you can fire up multiple tools and programs as well as carry all your animation productions along with you. When attending client meetings, you won’t face any technical difficulty in showcasing your productions live.
heavyweight performance in a lightweight chassis
Lenovo ThinkPad P53s sets itself apart from other laptops with a myriad of connectivity options that it includes. The connectivity options include two USB 3.1 ports, one Thunderbolt 3 port, one HDMI port, one USB Type C port, one ethernet port, one micro SD card reader, one smart card reader, one docking connector, and one headphone/mic jack. An extra perk that you get with this particular model is a USB 3.0 hub that comes bundled with it. The 15.6 inches display of this laptop does a good job of letting you view your animation work in full HD (1920×1080) resolution.
- Powerful and reliable performance
- High-quality and durable build
- Not the best aesthetics
MacBook Pro 16 inch – comes close to perfection
There is a misconception that MacBooks aren’t well-suited for animation; this may have got to do with compatibility issues. However, it is just one side of the story as there are plenty of animation software that are compatible with macOS. Apart from the ultra-smooth performance that MacBooks are popular for, their premium build quality and clean aesthetics don’t fail to inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. Categorizing the new MacBook Pro 16 inch as one of the best laptops for animation would do it total justice.
With this particular model, you get to access the beastly power of a 9th generation Intel i9 CPU. The 8 core architecture that this CPU is based on gives it the ability to execute 16 threads simultaneously. The more the simultaneous threads executions, the better the computing resource management. Modeling, texturing, lighting, compositing, simulation, caching, etc – the powerful CPU can take all the animation work you throw at it. But it’s not just the CPU that does all the work; the laptop also relies on its AMD Radeon Pro 5500M 4 GB GDDR6 GPU to deliver stunning frame rates that bring your animation to life. And not to forget about its 16 GB DDR4 RAM that does all the temporary memory storing, making sure you face no lags when multitasking to maintain your work efficiency.
The new MacBook Pro 16 inch excels in areas where its predecessor lagged behind, including thermal management, keyboard, and battery life.
Also, its display sees improvements with the new 3072×1920 resolution that is higher than quad HD.
What’s unique about MacBook Pros, including this model, is they have the nicest trackpad available in the market today. The wide footprint of the trackpad, coupled with its highly responsive multi-gesture and force touch support, helps you use your animation software and order tools in ways you never could have. Providing more accessibility is the laptop’s innovative Touch Bar which you can use to customize your shortcuts so that you have all your animation essentials within your fingers’ reach.
- Improved performance
- Premium look and feel
- Sleek and lightweight
- Not the best GPU
HP Spectre x360 15t – best laptop for animation and graphic design
If you fall into the category of animators who like to get hands-on with ongoing creative processes, there is nothing better than having the convenience of improved accessibility. Tablets can give you that advantage but with a catch, and that is a trade-off for performance. However, some of the best laptops for animation and graphic design like the HP Spectre x360 15t, bridge this gap and let you get the best of both worlds, i.e. accessibility and power.
HP Spectre x360 15t, with its 2-in-1 design, lets you have the convenience of a responsive drawing pad while delivering a powerful performance of the likes of well-assembled desktop rigs. The innovative 360° hinge of the model makes it easy for you to transform the laptop into a full-fledged tablet with just a snap. You can then use the laptop’s pre-included HP Active Stylus pen for drafting initial sketches and illustrating while being nothing short of ecstatic that its Intel i7 4 core CPU is there to back you up with its base 1.8 GHz power. With TurboBoost, the CPU can crank up to 4 GHz of overclocking power which suffices for both 2D and 3D rendering.
the best of both worlds
Completing the core computing units of HP Spectre x360 15t is its 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU and 16 GB DDR4 RAM which make no compromises with their respective graphics processing and multitasking duties. Faster loading times and rapid access to programs and files aren’t a problem at all, thanks to the laptop’s 1 TB SSD storage. Also, the 4K resolution of the laptops 15.6 inch display helps you view your work in progress with the most stunning visuals. Port options include one Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, one USB 3.1 Type C Gen 1 port, one HDMI port, one SD card reader, and one headphone/mic jack.
- Uncompromised versatility with the 2-in-1 form factor
- Good overall performance
- Lack of numeric keypad
Microsoft Surface Book 2 – an unmistakable choice for go-getter animators
Microsoft Surface Books have gained a strong foothold in the 2-in-1 form factor territory over the years. The main factor that separates Surface Books from other 2-in-1 laptops is their detachable display design. With the Microsoft Surface Book 2, you can fold the display with 360° rotation or simply detach it from the keyboard to use it as a tablet. But that’s not where the fun ends, you can use additional Microsoft surface book accessories such as the innovative Surface Dial and Surface Pen to get hands-on with your animation work in ways that previously didn’t exist. While the Surface Pen helps you seamlessly sketch, texture, and illustrate, you can use the Surface Dial to optimize your shortcuts such as color palette and measurements with simple clicks and turns.
Microsoft Surface Book 2 definitely deserves a good spot among some of the best animation laptops with its super-responsive 15 inch touchscreen display that has a resolution of 3260 x 2160 pixels. The lag-free performance that you get to experience through the display’s stunning visuals is delivered by a trio of an 8th generation Intel i7 4 core CPU, 16 GB RAM, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU. With 6GB discrete memory, the GPU has more Cuda cores, making it a good 3D rendering graphics card. Even if you max out your animation resolution, the GPU won’t let you down.
Microsoft Surface Book 2 leaves no stones unturned when it comes to offering plenty of connectivity options as well. These include one USB 3.0 Type C port, two USB A 3.0 ports, one Microsoft dock connector, and 1 SD card reader. Battery backup of this laptop averages at 9 to 12 hours of lightweight use and 6 to 8 hours of heavyweight use. Lastly, the snappy and ergonomic keyboard and trackpad layout make this laptop your perfect animating companion.
- Versatility of 2-in-1 form factor with powerful i7 CPU performance
- Premium look and feel
- No HDMI port
MSI Prestige 15 – best laptop for 3D animation
A bulky and heavyweight body design is the last thing you want when choosing a powerful laptop that you can take with you wherever you go. There are few brands that have been able to pull off striking a fine balance between powerful performance and sleek chassis, and MSI is one of them. MSI Prestige 15 is one of the few laptops from the brand that is specifically targeted at creative professionals. And guess what? It does a good job of meeting creative work-related performance requirements.
MSI Prestige 15 can give a tough competition to even some of the best laptops for 3D animation with its unmistakable combo of 10th generation Intel i7 6 core processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 (Max Q) GPU. The 32 GB DDR4 RAM of the laptop helps you use memory-intensive animation software such as Opentoonz and Cinema 4D without breaking a sweat. Adding more speed to the overall performance of the laptop is its 1 TB SSD storage which you can use to keep all your animation essentials within quick reach. If you need more storage to keep all your high-quality production files consolidated under one single entity, the two extra M.2 expansion slots are there to back you up.
adaptability in performance
As a professional animator, your requirements may change as per the projects you work on. Utilizing the computing resource in ways specific to your requirements becomes easy with the laptop’s Creator Centre. You can choose between different adjustable system modes to optimize performance to best suit your work. The True Color feature of the laptop’s 15.6 inch 4K display helps you view accurate colors which, in turn, helps you avoid making color gradient mistakes. Connectivity options in MSI Prestige 15 include two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, one HDMI port, one micro SD card reader, one headphone/mic jack, Bluetooth 5 and WiFi 6 connectivity.
- Fast and low-noise performance
- Excellent 4K display
- Can run a bit hot under heavy loads
2020 Dell G3 3590 – one of the best value additions in 2020
When it comes to packing a powerful hardware configuration in a non-premium price point, Dell knows best. Sure, premium Dell laptops come with heavy price tags, but the brand also doesn’t hold back in offering immense value in their mid-range laptops. A perfect example of this is the 2020 Dell G3 3590; the laptop packs a solid hardware configuration that gives even some of the best laptops for animation in 2020 a run for the money.
The value that Dell G3 3590 has in store for animators lies in its 9th generation Intel i76 core processor that is based on an ultra-low voltage platform which helps maintain power efficiency and give you a long back up. The 4.5 GHz overclocking power of the CPU, combined with its simultaneous 12 threads execution help you crush modeling, texturing, simulation, rendering, and other animation-related CPU-intensive tasks. The powerful CPU is paired with an equally robust NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GBDDR5 GPU to ensure you don’t face the issue of lags even when you set your graphics settings to the max. The laptop’s 16 GBDDR4 RAM is well-suited to meet all your high-bandwidth multitasking requirements.
The combo of 512GB SSD storage and 1 TB HDD storage makes the 2020 Dell G33590 a perfect repository for storing all your animation tools, raw files, rendered files, and final productions. Visuals get interesting and immersive with the laptop’s 15.6 inch full HD display. Unlike many 15.6 inch laptops, this model includes a dedicated numeric keypad which makes it easier for you to execute certain commands and shortcuts common to many animation software. For connectivity, this laptop includes 2USB 2.0 ports, one USB Type C port, one USB 3.1 port, one mini display port, one ethernet port, one SD card reader, and one headphone/mic jack.
- Powerful performance in a mid-range price point
- Upgradable RAM and storage
- Can run a bit loud during heavy usages
Dell XPS 15 – best laptops for animation students
It is true that the best computers for animation are the ones that excel in the CPU and GPU performance department. Laptops like the Dell XPS 15 that are positioned in the premium range come close to offering desktop-like performance which is a valuable takeaway for animation professionals as well as students. Dell XPS 15 shares its design language with MacBooks. In fact, it’s fair to say that it looks more modern than the latter with its well-pronounced sleek aesthetics.
A 9th generation Intel i7 6 core CPU powers Dell XPS 15 with 2.6 GHz of base processing speed and 4.5 GHz of overclocking power. As an animator, you are sure not to face any graphics-related issue with the laptop’s NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4 GB DDR5 GPU. Intensive multitasking such as using multiple tools, adding multiple layers, and texturing while running the main animation software takes high bandwidth. Thankfully, the laptop’s 16 GB DDR4 RAM backs you up with its 2666 MHz calibration. Also, the laptop achieves an impressive feat in the storage department with its 1 TB SSD storage that has an improved PCle version.
unmatched performance and style
In the context of future-proof design and build, Dell XPS 15 certainly fits the bill as one of the best laptops for animation students, agency professionals, and freelancers. One of the biggest reasons is the display is strong in its color accuracy game with its 4K resolution and 15.6 inch footprint. And not to forget the display’s ultra-modern thin bezels design which makes the laptop look way ahead of its time. One Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 3.1 Type A ports, one HDMI port, one SD card reader, and one headphone/mic jack.
- Powerful performance
- Sleek and modern design
- Can run a bit warm at times
Asus ZenBook 14 – best laptops for drawing and animation
There’s no denying to the fact that the ZenBook series is one of the most creative work-centered laptops lineups from Asus. The ZenBook 14, in special regard, fits into the category of some of the best laptops for drawing and animation. This has largely got to do with a slew of innovative features it packs in a fairly sleek and lightweight chassis. But this laptop is not just all about its bells and whistles as its uncompromised performance does all the talking.
Asus ZenBook 14 powers your creative processes with its 10th generation Intel i7 4 core processor that is able to crank an overclocking power of up to 4.9 GHz. Working in conjunction with the processor is the NVIDIA GeForce MX250 discrete GPU which doesn’t mind efficiently handling graphically-challenging tasks. The performance of the 16 GB DDR4 RAM of this laptop is on par with those of high-performing laptops, so there’s nothing to complain about. Things get exciting with the laptop’s innovative ScreenPad which opens the doors to endless customization options. One of the best ways you can use the ScreenPad to your advantage as an animator is to customize your shortcuts as hotkeys in order to improve your workflow efficiency.
powerful performance backed by versatility
With 92% screen-to-body ratio, the thin bezels 14 inch full HD display of Asus ZenBook 14 helps you view your work in progress at high-resolution and vivid visuals. The 512 GB SSD storage of this laptop lets you enjoy the best of quick file access and faster booting and loading speeds. For connectivity, one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C port, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A port, one HDMI port, one micro SD card reader, and one heaphone/mic jack provide the options. Also, the ScreenPad makes up for the lack of a dedicated numeric keypad.
- Reliable performance
- Plenty of features
- Body material catches fingerprints and smudges
Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Generation 2 – mighty power in a sleek footprint
Although ThinkPads are known for making a strong stand for themselves in the desktop-class performance territory, they score low points in the design and aesthetics department. But’s that has now become a thing of the past as the ThinkPad P1 Generation 2 charts new path towards contemporary design for its successors while carrying the durability DNA from its predecessors. The fairly sleek and modern design of this model doesn’t fail to position it among some of the best laptops for animation students and professional animators who prefer a sleek footprint.
Among the several processor core types available, the core i7 range is where media creation performance starts getting serious. Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Generation 2 packs a 9th generation Intel i7 6 core processor that delivers 2.0GHz of base power. A significant percentage of the animation performance of any computer lies in the GPU it uses. The laptop excels in the graphics processing department with its NVIDIA Quadro T1000 4GB GPU. Together with the 16 GB DDR4 RAM, the laptop can crush computing and graphics-intensive multitasking. Although this particular model comes with an average 256 GB SSD storage, you get the option of expanding it if your storage requirement increases down the road. The RAM upgradability option also makes this laptop a future-proof computer.
The 3 button trackpad of the laptop makes it highly compatible with Autodesk Maya. Its classic ThinkPad keyboard with trackpoint eases typing experience when preparing your animation production scripts. Port-rich convenience is another factor that sets Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Generation 2 apart from other animation laptops. Two USB 3.1 Type A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one RJ45 ethernet port, one HDMI port, one smart card reader, one micro SD card reader, and one headphone/mic jack provide external connectivity options.
- Powerful CPU and GPU performance
- Sleek and lightweight chassis
- Can run a bit hot under heavy loads
Razer Blade 15 – make no performance compromises
Razer Blade laptops are synonymous with the best-in-class gaming performance. They are also at the forefront of the sleek and premium chassis realm. Although targeted primarily towards gaming, the well-married hardware components give Razer Blade 15 a fast and smooth performance of the likes of some of the best laptops for 3D modeling, 3D animation rendering, texturing, and simulation.
From the get-go, Razer Blade 15 doesn’t fail to turn heads with its chiseled body design that hints towards a minimalist yet sophisticated design language. Inside its sleek chassis rests a 9th generation Intel i7 6 core CPU that clocks 2.6 GHz of base power and 4.5 GHz of peak performance. Razer Blade 15’s core strength also lies in its NVIDIA GeForce 2070 RTX Max Q GPU which delivers unbounded graphics processing that’s usually reserved for some of the best laptops for 3D rendering. A dual channel-based 16 GB DDR4 RAM helps you best enjoy your multitasking spree.
For giving you the freedom to quickly access all your animation essentials as and when you need them, the laptop’s 256 GB SSD storage comes into play with an upgradability option. The laptop’s cooling system includes a liquid-filled copper vapor chamber that provides extensive cooling in order to maintain consistency in performance. The laptop’s 15.6 inch full HD display, with its stunning 240 GHz refresh rate, comes as one of the biggest highlights. External connectivity options include one Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one mini display port, one HDMI port, and one headphone/mic jack.
- Gaming-grade performance that’s well-suited for animation
- Premium look and feel
- Non-standard power connection
1) Is Microsoft surface pro good for animation?
Yes, although it comes at a higher price tag, it is absolutely worth the investment. It’s the right choice for you if you want the best mobility along with high performance. The range-topping variant of the latest Surface Pro model, Microsoft Surface Pro 7, packs a 10th generation Intel core i7 CPU, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, and 512 GB SSD storage. One of the best ways to use Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is to make it your secondary computer for working on scenes and carrying your production presentation to client meetings.
2) Is mac book pro good for animation?
Yes, the new MacBook Pro 16 inch is highly suitable for animation software that use macOS, including Blender, Harmony, Autodesk Maya, Adobe Animate, Adobe After Effects, iClone, and Poser Pro.
3) What laptops are good for 3d modeling?
Laptops with an i7 (or higher) 4 core CPU, 16 GB RAM (or more), a dedicated GPU, and 512 GB SSD (or more) are good for 3D modeling, 3D rendering, 3D simulation, and other intensive tasks.
Choosing the right laptop is the 1st part to set up a powerful and mobile animation workstation, the 2nd part is to complete the setup with the right software, tools, and add-on accessories. The basic software requirements to give you a good headstart include an animation software (preferably a licensed one), a browser with the latest version, 7Zip or Winzip, an image editor, a video encoder, and a video player that supports scrubbing and playback. External add-ons to get you going include a drawing pad/tablet, a multi-functional mouse, an external webcam for character animation, a low-latency headphone, and a separate mic for voiceovers.