Laptop or PC for architecture?


Hey guys, 

I am an architecture student working in a rather tight budget (500-600 USD) to get the best bang for the buck in terms of the performance and portability of a device. First of all, I am not sure whether I should go for a laptop or a pc build machine, because I usually take my work with me when I leave home from uni , which is every  week or two.

I use programs such as AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop, Rhino, Lumion, 3ds Max, ArchiCAD etc. so it would be used for 3D rendering and conceptual design, oh and for the occasional gaming session or two. 

Also, sometimes laptops are in use within classes for  "on the fly" demonstrations, in which I use my current laptop ( a shitty HP 250 G3 ), and I felt that a change was inevitable because the workload gets larger and larger.

My biggest dilemma is contained within the price to performance ratio - If I decide to get a pc, I lose the portability aspect, and if I get the laptop, there is no possibility for an upgrade, the performance is worse and I'll probably end up overpaying the entire thing. I was thinking of maybe upgrading my current laptop with additional sticks of RAM, and going with the pc build. 

Aug 13, 18 2:15 pm

If that's your budget, get the Desktop (Also, it's called a desktop, not a "PC")

Aug 13, 18 2:20 pm
Non Sequitur

$500 can easily be the cost of your tower's GPU.... not sure sure how you'll manage all those softwares with a non existant budget.  Best to build a tower and spend the max you can now on the CPU and MB and add to it when you have the funds (GPU and RAM) 

Aug 13, 18 2:26 pm

My desktop setup must be nearing $1.5k total. I've used Lumion and according to the internal benchmark, I'm at the maximum recommended level for everything except for the CPU. If you're looking for that, you might have to raise your budget a bit.

I would highly recommend using PCPartPicker to help check for compatibility and general organization of your build. You can also save a link for later reference.

If you need an idea of how different components shape up, you can check PassMark's benchmark tests. From what I've heard they're good place to start.

Good luck with your build!

Aug 13, 18 2:53 pm
Non Sequitur

2 of my favorite sites.


Why is these questions constantly asked?

Here is a simple answer:

You'll want to get both a decent gaming desktop PC and a basic laptop. Really, the desktop is what you should use for the work horse. The laptop is for power point presentation and things like that. The laptop should be used for powerpoint presentation (or equivalent presentation programs like Prezi or whatever "hipster" presentation tool). Also, you can use the laptop to look things up and research information and inspirations. Another thing to invest in.... a decent SLR digital camera. Take photographs of objects and buildings that are sources of inspiration. I'd even suggest sketching by hand but sometimes you just don't have the time to do it. Weather might not be permissive long enough to sketch it while you are out there but photographs are good tools for a variety of reasons. There is both practical and convenience. 

The laptop really doesn't need to be super powerful. It should be a modest lower to mid-rang "gaming" while the desktop should be a bit more of the muscle car here as you can upgrade it but the laptop isn't as easy to upgrade things like the GPU and CPU. You really don't need to use it for processing the rendering. A good i7 quad-core and a Geforce 1080 video card will outperform any laptop GPU. 

The laptop needs only enough processing power and RAM to display images, powerpoint, and play video and suitable web browsing capability. You could argue that you can do that with a tablet but a laptop is likely to be ready to display on a projector but yes, you could do that as an alternative for laptop for your mobile.


Aug 13, 18 4:10 pm
Non Sequitur

and all this for under $500usd?


Then my suggestion is use the computers in the labs until he or she saves up enough money to actually buy a decent computer if she doesn't already have a decent computer. Rule #1: Don't waste time rendering as maximum settings. It's a waste of time and doesn't make noticeable differences in printing or on the screen. Most difference in in the quality of printer and quality of the display (projector or LCD screen). If you do that, and focus on developing better skills in visual communication of design, it will go more mileage than a polished turd. Keeping design simpler and more coherent is better than some garbage that becomes a serious battle of water leaks and other problems daily for the next 5-10-50 years or whatever. Architecture is a profession that you can design just as good a building by hand as you would with a computer. While you might not render as photorealistically but who cares.


Great information Rick, thank you very much!


A lot of architecture programs no longer maintain computer labs. My alma mater hasn't had them in more than 10 years. There are plotters, laser cutters, large scanners, 3D printers, etc. maintained by the architecture school, but not ordinary desktop or laptop computers.  There are still a few computer rooms or banks on campus, mostly in libraries, but they don't have the software that the typical architecture student would need.


Does that $500-$600 include the software licenses?

Aug 13, 18 4:43 pm
Non Sequitur



My God, 

Who would have thought that I'd get such snobbish answers from people of such noble profession. I am not from the US or any western country ,so sometimes the world is not built within a vacuum of perfection where everyone has a large income at hand and  sometimes you have to work around the law itself in order to perform the best you can (i.e. pirating). But, what amazes me the most is the perfidious relationship without any sort of empathy towards a fellow architect in the making that is purely judgmental and hair splitting. I came here seeking for advice from people that should have experience in dealing with this sort of thing,and ended up just getting confused. 

Anyhow, I wish you all the best and God bless you all! 

Aug 13, 18 5:42 pm

well, pirate the computer parts as well, no shame in that. I've had the same dilemma for years, it would be great to assemble a portable gadget with the desktop capabilities, so far I haven't seen anything like it. god bless y'all as well.

Non Sequitur

God is as false as the idea 500usd is a respectable budget for a performance pc. Things cost money? What a concept.


I asked a simple question, no need to drag your god into this.

Non Sequitur

Rando, my god is better than your god.


So, better than nothing

Non Sequitur



Rule 1 of internet.... do not bring religion and politics into internet discussions or any discussions with strangers and acquaintances such as most of the students in class. 

Besides, God can give a f--- less about computers and internet. After all, hasn't paid the electric bill in 3 trillion years. 

Aug 14, 18 2:26 pm

I bring "religion" or politics in any discussion I feel like.

Non Sequitur

Ricky, jesus would be pissed.... if he existed.


The reason was simple. People just can't have proper polite and respectful conversations about religion. Too much emotional conflict to be able to do so. People are raised too much of "My religion is better than yours" message and the "My religion is right, your religion is wrong". Therefore, it is usually grounds for banning in a moderated forum because it almost ALWAYS devolves into uncivil conduct. For there to be meaningful, respectful conversations, this was a basic rule of behavioral conduct which users should self-moderate because without self-moderation, we almost always result into a dumpster fire. I know this forum is a bit more relaxed but I've known many that weren't. When I ran a dial-up BBS many years ago, it was a policy which didn't always get enforced heavy handed. Usually, it's a "knock the shit off" or equivalent stern response. It's about civility of conversations and to avoid the inevitable douche-baggery behavior. For example, this is a forum about architecture so religion should be avoided as much as possible but there are times when it does fit into a topic of architecture and when the context is reasonable, it would be acceptable. We've all been douche-bags.... including myself. This doesn't mean it should continue. So what if Jesus would be pissed. I'm the sysop of my BBS, not him. If he can't behave, he'd too would get the boot even if I agreed with his religious points. The BBS is not the place for that kind of conduct. A forum such as this is not the place for religious evangelism. The danger of religious topics being discussed is too much strong emotions are tied that behavior devolves to social barbarism, name calling, and utter stupidity on all sides of the topic. We fail our mission and purpose. That is why netiquettes include avoid engaging in such topics.

Non Sequitur

but Ricky, to my earlier point: my god is better than your god. Seems pretty black and white and more importantly, religious dogma is absolutely relevant to a "should I buy a mac" type discussion. 8-)


Non Sequitur, my initial response was to Kenann. I wasn't being critical of you but point made nonetheless. You didn't bring God into it. I think we understand the points made so no need to keep beating the dead horse.

Non Sequitur

Ricky, you know I'm all about them dead horse beatin's


Indeed.... and that and your charming personality!


Don't listen to any of these fools.

Buy a Macbook Pro, it's the only correct choice. There is a reason fashion conscious men and women choose Apple devices. It's because they are the best performing and most beautifully designed devices ever created.

On a budget? Purchase one used. Even a 5 year old Macbook Pro destroys all competition.

Aug 15, 18 4:35 pm
Non Sequitur

I have a first gen intel MBpro doing nothing at home. It's 11y old but I'm sure it still runs and I'm sure some hipster will give me $1000 of his parent's money for it. It's pretty much vintage mac by now.


You're kidding me..... Trog


No, they're the best and American. USA! USA




I always recommend Desktop with good processor and ram. Or get any 2017/2018 Macbook Pro.

Aug 16, 18 8:50 am
Non Sequitur

terrible pedestrian "advice"



Aug 16, 18 9:21 am

Workstation laptops are designed for CAD and more business activities. The Precision model is Dell's Workstation type pc's.

Aug 17, 18 3:08 am

If I were in your place I would increase my budget a little bit and go for both laptop and desktop. If possible buy a desktop( 2 gpu Sli nvidia gtx 10 series go as you said you like to do gaming and another nvidia quadro workstation gpu) to work home efficiently and a cheap laptop which has the ability to run such programs so that you can work at school and tutorials whenever its needed. 

Right now Im using Alienware 15 R3 and it works fine but the main problem of the laptop is no matter how good specs it does have, while rendering cpu process is hampered due to the power limitation for thermal throttling. You wont experience such problem in desktop. 

You have decide between portability and performance.

Aug 17, 18 4:14 am

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