Best laptop for undergrad architecture student?


Any opinions out there on which is the best laptop for an undergrad architecture student? Any must-have specs or software? 

The first couple of years shouldn't be too intense, but I am looking to make a wise investment that will grow with me and my needs. If I can. I know tech changes rapidly.

Thanks in advance!

Jul 25, 18 6:19 pm
Non Sequitur
No laptop is ever considered an investment. Buy the best gaming rig you can afford or, build a tower and get a separate netbook.

Also, search these forums. This question literally gets asked several times per week.
Jul 25, 18 6:28 pm

Will do! Thanks!


I actually agree with Non. Built your own, spend the money. Octa-core, Titan graphics card, Samsung SSD harddrive. 32gb ddr 5 memory. Don't get a workstation card. It's a rip off, the new gaming cards have integrated cuda architecture that supports live rendering, get at least gtx 1080. Don't use AMD cards, live rendering is not supported unless you are using v-ray. Don't get AMD cards.

Jul 25, 18 9:19 pm
Non Sequitur

I literally had the same conversation regarding AMD cards in the office earlier today but honestly, is DDR5 not limited to GPUs and consoles? DDR4 is typical.


Non, you are correct, I misspoke cause I got excited reading news about a new DDR5 memory today.

Jul 25, 18 11:44 pm

I think asking what you want to do with the computer is also important. ^ doing what they said and building your own is one way to go but I didn't really care about any of that when I started school. I still don't. When you work in an office all the work is done on their computers retrofitted with their own settings. (Almost every legitimate firm I've ever heard of anyways.) (Mostly for non-disclosure and legal reasons.) My personal computer I used for school was a MacBook pro and it was the best decision for me personally. I used the recommended specs and got the best one available and I haven't had any problems and never looked back. I run windows through a partition in my hard dive and thus have access to Revit, 3ds Max, Vray, Rhino, grasshopper, Autocad, Enscape... anything I want really. If you are interested in having the most powerful and all the bells and whistles and what not then you can build your own or go for the gaming route but I was more interested in design and things like Adobe software ran much smoother in my opinion on the mac. (This is also what I primarily used my laptop for throughout undergrad) I would model in Rhino and then export to Illustrator for post-production. When I needed to do big renders or something I didnt feel like downloading on my own computer I would just use a computer at the school since I had access 24/7 to the labs. 

When I started school my first year was all drafting and drawing and a little adobe, my laptop was really just for writing papers and accessing the internet. Once you get a computer that you want, I wouldn't buy any  extra software even if its recommended until you get to class and know for sure you will need. Same goes with textbooks and other architecture supplies. Most you can get for free but even an adobe subscription can get expensive if you aren't actively using it. I saved myself hundreds of dollars simply by waiting to purchase things, since a lot of the "required" materials to purchase were never  actually mentioned ever again. 

Jul 26, 18 4:34 pm

Wow! Thank you for this comment! I appreciate hearing what worked for you, especially early in your studies. I am at Auburn University for the BArch. 5 yr plan. My guess is that a laptop will only keep up with me for about 3 yrs, maybe a little more if I choose the right one. When I am more settled after school and working, a desktop setup is definitely in the plan. But for now, I need the mobility and space saving advantages of the laptop. The school has great resources for doing the heavy lifting so I will definitely make the most of those. Thank you again!!!

Non Sequitur

Don't waste your money (or parent's, or bank loan) on a macbook. You can get equal performance at half the cost if you know what to look for. You'll just have to live without the sex appeal of the shiny case.


This is true, if you keep all your files on your computer and then simply have a backup somewhere else, itll get pretty bogged down regardless of the type of machine. I don't actually store too many files on my computer, when I'm finished with things from a previous year I back it up twice and then remove it from my computer. I started working with photography and videography during school and I don't think that I would have been able to get into it without having a MacBook pro. Because those are important to me I like my apple computer ( not to say they don't run on the PCs also, but in my opinion the workflow was a lot smoother on the mac). But there are people in my class who dont need stuff like that and would rather have the power over the options. I don't think theres one thats better than another on any single level, I think it comes down to personal preferences and budgeting. For me the higher upfront costs of the MacBook pro was worth it because I only ever had to buy two personal computers in my whole adult lifetime. My friends who buy the gaming computers and lenovos have had to replace them every few years. I still have one of the original MacBooks that still works like a charm. With the popularity of apple continually increasing, the customer service is definitely changing sometimes for the better and sometimes causing more of a headache, but theres the bonus of if anything goes wrong I can simply take my computer to the apple store and have it looked at as opposed to having to send it in and then maybe hear back several days later and not have a computer. People like to say that the macs are just overpriced and not good at all but it worked out for me. I like it and even it being as expensive as it and how much I would rather it have been cheaper, I still think I made a wise decision. And this is what worked best for me and my workflow and what I was using the computer for. It's not going to be the best for everyone but just my personal experience. Goodluck!


The big problem with MacBook Pros now is that more and more components are being soldered together. They have the build quality to last (I am still using a 2008 MacBook Pro) but you can’t upgrade them after initial purchase. My aforementioned MacBook Pro does not have its original hard drive, battery or RAM and they were all officially user upgradable. Upgradability can help you spread out your costs. I also would not recommend building a big expensive desktop towards the end of your schooling unless it’s really something you will use as outside of architecture. Once you’re working you’ll be using your employer’s hardware and software so you don’t want an expensive desktop sitting around that only gets used for simple tasks.


More good advice. Thank you for commenting. My family has always had Mac laptops and desktops, so I am a fan for sure. But the advice I got around school was that they weren't the best option. For program compatibility with a Mac you have to utilize additional bridge software and that isn't always the smoothest. I love Macs. Don't get me wrong. But I don't want to handicap myself right out of the gate by making my computer work more complicated.


Mac OS includes Bootcamp which will let you install Windows. It’s not really complicated, you just hold down a key when turning on the computer. But you are right that it doesn’t make sense to pay if you really are going to be using Windows most of the time.


As you are undergrad architecture student. So you will need it later also, and technology is changing everyday. As per your requirement you need to buy latest processor with higher ram capacity. 

Sep 13, 18 9:11 am

This has partially been touched on, but I'll reiterate.  BACK UP your work.  Just as you buy a computer, laptop or otherwise, buy an external hard drive with a hefty amount of storage.  Don't be the guy that loses all his work the night before review.

Personally, I had an HP for undergrad and it was fine.  I liked that I didn't have to run bootcamp or parallels just to get my CAD to work.  My HP lasted for about 3 years to the day before it died - just never turned on one day!  Thankfully I was done with all of my studio work by then.  I know some are recommending a laptop for classes and a tower for studio.  That sounds great, but sometimes I liked to work on studio work (anything that wasn't rendering) while sitting with friends who were studying or at a coffee shop, etc.,  It was easy on a Saturday when I had a break between things to pick up an hour or two of studio work without going into studio and getting distracted by all of the people.  They're right though that you'll probably never get the same power out of a laptop that you would a tower; you'd get more bang for your buck that way.  But it's really all up to what you prefer.

Sep 13, 18 10:16 am

Wow! Thank you for this comment! I appreciate hearing what worked for you, especially early in your studies

AOL Gold Download

Oct 9, 18 2:03 am

I bought an Apple that worked great until I needed to run some heavier rendering programs and then I bought an Alienware. I wish I could still run an apple but definitely get a good gaming laptop.

Jan 30, 19 10:43 pm
good details

I'm running a Lenovo W530 with i7 2.80ghz processor, dated 2gb Nvidia gpu, 16gb ram, Samsung SSD, and 1920x1200 HD screen.  Heavy work in Adobe programs and complex Rhino modeling doesn't even faze it. No heat issues or hiccups. Can easily have AutoCAD, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Rhino all running.  Not bad for a $600 refurbished laptop.

It has no sexy appeal unless you're into 1990s business chic, tho...

Feb 17, 19 12:33 pm

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