Powerful laptop for 3d work etc
October 9, 2006 9:25 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is looking to buy powerful laptop to use Autocad software on in it for work. Any suggestions?

Here are the system requirements...I tried several searches, but need help...

System Requirements

System requirements for AutoCAD 2007 for users who are focusing on 2D drawing creation are as follows:

* Intel® Pentium® IV processor recommended
* Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional or Home Edition (SP1 or SP2), Windows XP Tablet PC Edition (SP2), or Windows 2000 (SP3 or SP4)
* 512 MB RAM
* 750 MB free disk space for installation
* 1024x768 VGA display with true color
* Microsoft® Internet Explorer 6.0 (SP1 or higher)

System requirements for AutoCAD 2007 for users who are taking advantage of the new conceptual design capabilities are as follows:

* Intel® processor 3.0 GHz or greater
* Windows XP Professional (SP2)
* 2 GB RAM or greater
* 2 GB of disk space available, not including installation
* 1280x1024 32-bit color video display adapter (true color)
* 128 MB or greater, OpenGL®-capable workstation class graphics card.
Get information on graphics hardware certified for use with AutoCAD 2007.

The preceding requirements are recommended for effective use of AutoCAD 2007 software.

We tried to buy the HP Pavilion dv9000 at best buy for it fit the bill, but they ended up being out of stock. When I look to buy elsewhere it was nowhere to be found....any sugestions would be great...


posted by matthelm to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Mechanical engineers at my company bought Dell Precision M70's to use SolidWorks. The main driving factor was finding a graphics card that was listed as "preferred" by SolidWorks. I'm sure that Autocad has graphics cards that it likes; maybe find out what those are and narrow your field to laptops with one of those.
posted by hammurderer at 9:41 PM on October 9, 2006

You could look at something like the Alienware MJ-12® m7700i Mobile Workstation, which meets your high end specs easily, and has a 7200 RPM disk, compared to most laptop's 5400 RPM units. But oxford blue is right; machines like this are more properly considered "transportables" than laptops. The MJ-12 for example runs a desktop Intel processor, has a high performance GPU (video chipset), and a high performance disk. You want to add a boat load of RAM, too. The result is going to be a machine that uses gobs of power, and runs hot enough your girl freind won't want it on her lap long, and shouldn't put it on upholstered surfaces for any length of time. It will have comparatively short battery life, and will be noisier than other laptops with more efficient power budgets, because of having to move a lot of cooling air. [Moving enough air with small form laptop fans is a noisy business, and also tends to drag lots of dust into the machine quickly, which coats the internals, and makes for shorter component life, and worse heat problems.] She'll be tethered by a power cord a lot of the time, but for many people, this is not so serious a limitation. One thing to check out, if she is interested in that particular machine, is the availability of a DVD drive, as it is not listed in the specs.

Most mainstream laptops use Intel Mobility family processors and chipsets, which use far less battery power, and create far less heat. They would generally be able to meet the performance requirements for 2D drawing in AutoCAD 2007, although you may want to bring them to 1 GB memory if she will be working with detailed drawing sets regularly, to avoid excessive disk swapping.

Overall, the form factor demands of a laptop, and the power storage capacity of batteries, limit what laptops are able to do, performance wise. If your girl friend needs the capabilities of a mobile workstation machine like the MJ-12, she needs to be willing to put up with the heat, noise, and limited battery operation an extreme solution like this creates in providing the performance that it does. If she's willing to sacrifice a bit of speed, for better general package balance, she may be far happier with a cooler, quieter, long lived mainstream notebook.
posted by paulsc at 10:33 PM on October 9, 2006

If I may whore out my laptop spiel yet again, I've never met anyone who regretted a ThinkPad purchase.

I just quickly threw together a T60p on Leonovo's website with a FireGL™ V5200 graphics card (256 megs, claims (desktop version, same chip) to be AutoCAD approved), the standard processor (Intel Core Duo processor T2500 (2GHz, 2MB L2, 667MHz FSB)) and 2GB of ram for $2,099.

I have no connection to IBM Lenovo other than a satisfied customer, that's all just paraphrased copy from their website, but it's what I'd go with if I had your requirements.
posted by Skorgu at 10:35 PM on October 9, 2006

Matthelm needs 3GHz; is that possibly with the T60p?
posted by oxford blue at 11:02 PM on October 9, 2006

Surely, you want a MacBook or MacBook Pro with the RAM upgraded to 2gb, and running XP via Boot Camp?
posted by armoured-ant at 12:26 AM on October 10, 2006

OK, here's the deal. I use AutoCAD as part of my everyday job on a laptop, so I feel like I'm an expert on this question.

I will throw in a caveat - I do not run any 3D or conceptualizer models. Strickly 2D mechanical stuff.

My first advice is to have a docking station with an external monitor. The number one consideration in my mind is screen resolution and size. Having a full size monitor for sitting at a desk makes it much more pleasant. Ditto for mouse/spaceball/keyboard.

Next: RAM. 2 Gigs is good.

I find my hard drive is slow (I have a Dell C800 with a 4200 RPM HD). It really kills on big drawings. Consider investing in an aftermarket 7200 RPM HD if you can't get a 7200 RPM one stock.

Video card. In my mind, not as important as some of the other criteria. You're not running games. However, like I said above, I don't do 3D. 3D brings my graphics card to it's knees, but it's still workable. If you plan on doing 3D primarily, I'd make this important.

And lastly, screen resolution. WXGA+ and below is simply not workable (at least for any engineer I know). My current laptop runs at 1600x1200, and our newer ones at 1920x1200. Also, be aware that most 17" laptops have poor resolution (for whatever reason). If it's not at least 1440x1024, I'd keep walking.

Hope this is helpful.
posted by kungfujoe at 3:12 AM on October 10, 2006

Whoa, hang on.. you don't technically need "3GHz". CPU requirements like these are generally advisory, so you'll get decent performance. However, there are many alternatives that are as fast as a 3GHz Pentium IV. For example, an Opteron, an Intel Core Duo 2, an Athlon X2.. etc.

So when shopping for a notebook you don't just need to see if it has a 3.0GHz processor or higher, just that it has a powerful processor full stop. A Core Duo 2.33GHz would be good for this, for example.

I know for sure that you can get a 17" notebook with Core Duo 2.33GHz, 1680x1050 resolution, 2GB memory, and a 128/256MB graphics card from a few vendors.
posted by wackybrit at 5:25 AM on October 10, 2006

Actually, just looked at alienware.com and found you can get up to a Pentium 4 3.8GHz with 1920x1200 17" LCD. You can even get the Quadro workstation-level graphics card for it as an option. Anyway.. if you have the cash, Alienware are good and you can customize the machines quite a lot.
posted by wackybrit at 5:29 AM on October 10, 2006

I used to work at a company with a lot of CAD users. We found that it was very difficult to get laptops that worked well with CAD. I'd recommend a desktop.
posted by k8t at 6:30 AM on October 10, 2006

I use a Dell Precision M70, and it is a phenomenally fast, reliable machine that's built very, very well.

Despite Dell's bad reputation on their cheaper notebooks, their Precision and Latitude series machines are built like tanks. I use Alias Maya, Photoshop, and several other OGL-heavy applications daily, and this machine never even hiccups, because it has (this is the most important thing) and NVIDIA Quadro card in it. 256mb - - and Quadro.

Quadro means workstation-class and certified drivers that work with your software of choice.After initial configuration it will work flawlessly every time. (*crosses fingers*) The peace of mind and performance are worth every extra dollar. No messing around with gamer garbage cards. If you need a reliable machine, I cannot recommend this machine (or it's successors) highly enough. Mine has been overseas twice, dropped 3x, has handmarks worn into it from 10+hours of hard daily use, and never causes me a single problem. IN addition, it has the wickedly sharp display Kungfujoe mentions- 1920x1200.

I should also mention that you should buy this machine from Dell Small Business. Once, I destroyed the microphone jack (and thus, the logic board) by standing up with a headset on. Dell fixed it the same day, free, with a local Small Business Authorized Repair center. I can't recommend this machine highly enough and I will be buying one again when my gorgeous M70 dies.

You can use sites like Dealnews.com and dell small business notifications to get deals, I knocked over 1000$ off of mine by waiting and watching.
posted by fake at 7:20 AM on October 10, 2006

* 128 MB or greater, OpenGL®-capable workstation class graphics card.

Again, for this you really, really want an NVIDIA Quadro-series card. No matter what machine you buy, get a Quadro and you will be in good shape. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
posted by fake at 7:21 AM on October 10, 2006

The dual boot apples, including the beefier laptops, run Acad 2007 beautifully, and I've kicked the tires on the 3-d stuff, too. As an architect, it's really nice to have an apple to work on for non-Acad work. I work at a 300-person architecture firm, and when I was playing with Acad 07 on a 17" mac book pro, I was the biggest star they'd all ever seen.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:35 AM on October 10, 2006

(Though I do think Acad 2008 will have worked out some of the 07 bugs.)
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:36 AM on October 10, 2006

Like others have said, don't put stock in the 3.0 ghz requirement. The intel core duo or core 2 duo processors are much, much faster than the pentium 4 processors with higher clock speeds.

IPersonally I would look for a system with a Core 2 duo processor.
posted by meta87 at 11:14 AM on October 10, 2006

I've heard bad things about Alienware; I recall from previous AskMes that they are over priced and poorly made.
posted by oxford blue at 4:57 PM on October 10, 2006

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