Looking for a laptop for CAD

I am looking for a laptop to run Inventor and LabVIEW. I have come up with a couple options.

My main option is this.
CPU: AMD A8-4500M at 1.9 GHz
HDD: 750 GB
GPU: Radeon HD 7640

I can get this for about $450

What do you think?

I have made a Google Doc with all of the options I came up with.

While I don’t have experience with the AMD processors and Radeon cards, I do know that Intel HD3000 graphics which is on-die with some of the Intel Core i-X series processors is certified for Inventor 2012 and runs rather well. HD4000 is certified for 2013 and HD 4600 is certified for 2014. I should note that Autodesk specifies the P version of these Intel graphics but there is little difference between them. Personally, I’d go with a >2GHz 3rd or 4th generation Core i5 with 4 gigs of RAM and make sure I could stick 8 gigs in it. Generally speaking, I’ve been rather happy with Acer laptops, and not so much with HP. If you aren’t doing much rendering, I’m not sure that you’ll get a lot of benefit from more than two cores, and would probably benefit more from a higher clock speed.

Here is the Inventor 2014 system requirements.
I would recommend a higher CPU clock speed. Autodesk says at least 3 GHz. I would also recommend at least 6 GB of RAM. Make sure that you can upgrade the RAM in the future. As your models become more complex, you will need more RAM. Many new computers won’t let you do that without voiding the warranty.
I have a HP Pavilion dv6-7000 with a Core i7 3610QM at 2.3 GHz (3.2 “Turbo”) 16 GB RAM, and a GeForce GTX 650 with 2 GB GDDR5 RAM. I don’t use all of the RAM most of the time, but the faster CPU is very helpful.

What is your actual budget for this? Are you looking to get one or two computers?

How detailed do you get with your CAD files? How large of an assembly do you typically build?

In your list, you have an Asus N53 with an i7-740M. This is an older processor (2-3 years), but should be just fine.

Any of the systems you posted should easily handle these programs. For reference, my AMD E-450 ran SolidWorks and LabVIEW, and that is just slighly above a dual core Atom.

I picked up a refurbished Lenovo T410 with an i5-520M and NVIDIA NVS-3100 for $340 (+$75 for a new 9-cell battery, was not required) off Newegg last month. It handles SolidWorks much faster and is a great budget buy.

For general CAD work, CPU clock speed is more important that # of cores.
Make sure your graphics work with inventor/solidworks. The newer intel integrated graphics seem to work alright, but if possible you could try to grab a used thinkpad with an actual graphics card in it.

With CAD, you’ll open files faster with a higher clock speed, be able to open more stuff with more RAM, and zooming/rotating will be smoother with a better graphics card.

All the options you have there should be great with labview.

If you do choose an integrated GPU, be sure to increase the system memory as the integrated GPU will use the system memory as its video memory. Almost any discrete GPU with dedicated memory will perform much better.

This. A lot of people seem to over look the clock speed, especially when the processor is multi-core. Most inventor functions don’t actually use more than a single processor core, so it makes much more sense to go with the faster clock.

The computer I’m sitting at right now (work) has the following specs:

  • Intel i7 Processor @ 3.4GHz
  • 8GB Ram
  • AMD Radeon HD 6450 GPU
  • Windows 7
  • 500GB Hard Drive (I think)

My personal computer has specs along the lines of:

  • Intel i7 Processor @2.7GHz (I think)
  • 8GB Ram
  • Nvidia GT640m GPU
  • Windows 7
  • 750GB Hard Drive

Neither of these machines has a problem running AutoCAD/Inventor/ProE (WF4). Things like Autodesk Showcase and certain Simulation Features in Inventor have a tendency to lock the computer up for a while, but much of that should be outside of the FRC realm - at least initially.

I bought my younger brother a computer for X-Mas last year, and it was a decently spec-ed windows 8 machine with internal graphics (Intel HD4000?) and has little problems running Inventor, although he’s never done anything (to my knowledge) outside of basic part and assembly work.

If you’re looking for a computer that you won’t ‘grow out of’ after a year or two (I had this problem until buying my current PC) look for something that’s spec-ed a bit on the higher end. 3GHz or better processor, 8GB of ram (with the capacity to upgrade), a good external graphics card, etc. This should keep you going for at least two or three years before it’ll be too slow for the new software, assuming Inventor keeps progressing at the same rate.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that whatever PC you buy for CAD needs* a number pad. I’ve tried to do ‘real’ CAD work on a computer without one, and it’s a night mare. It’s probably worth springing for a good wireless mouse with the computer aswell, CAD-ing from a track pad is possible, but it’s something that I try to do as a last resort (I.E. while on an airplane).

*Not having a number pad isn’t the end of the world, but if you’re used to CAD-ing with a number pad, not having one will get annoying after about 20 minutes.

what do you guys think of this. Its a gaming laptop so it has pretty good specs and its refurbished.

Although I am not familiar with Inventor requirements, I would like to point out that intel cpus tend to perform better than amd cpus of similar specs but you usually get a better deal with the amd cpus.

I have a few links you might want to look at:

  • $549
  • core i7 quad core @ 1.6ghz
  • nvidia quadro fx880m 1gb gpu
  • 8gb ram
  • 250gb hdd
  • 1920x1080 15.6" screen


  • $449
  • core i5 @ 2.6ghz-3.2ghz
  • 750gb hdd
  • 6 gb ram
  • intel 4000 grahics


  • $499
  • core i5 @2.6ghz-3.2ghz
  • 1tb hdd
  • 6gb ram
  • intel 4000 graphics
  • touchscreen


  • $539
  • core i5 1.8ghz
  • 500gb hdd + 24gb ssd
  • 6gb ram
  • intel 4000 graphics
  • 1920x1080 15.6" touch screen with a nice hinge

I would probably go with the first 1 on the list above (lenovo w510) if you intend it just for cad because it has a quadro fx880m graphics card. geforce series is more geared towards gaming and quadro is intended for applications like cad. however, if you intend to do some gaming get a laptop with geforce. if you dont mind paying an extra $200 over your budget i would go with the last asus you listed on the google doc.

This should work well. It is refurbished, so you could be taking your chances–you only get a 90 day warranty.

While the first laptop you linked to does have a workstation graphics card, the processor is slow, which is not good.

2GB RAM minimal. An i5 at 2.5GHz or higher would also be nice. HD3000 is also good enough as long as you don’t start playing computer games. HD4000 is much better, though so if you see that, a few bucks might be worth it. I used to run 2013 on a Netbook, 1GHz, 2GB, dual core amd c-30. It wasn’t the best experience I had.

As of minimal processor, an i3-2367 will cut it (That is the slowest i* processor that intel produces so you will most likely get something faster)


If you want a laptop that can handle a large model without much lag the often overlooked item is the graphics card. For higher performance CAD you want a workstation graphics card, not a gaming card. The link below explains the difference fairly well.


I run SolidWorks and use nVidia cards so I can’t comment on Inventor or Intel/ATI cards.

I like the nVidia Quadro series - the current mobile series is the Quadro KXXXX (Where the higher the number signifies a better, but more expensive card). The amount of RAM is also important (larger is better, but more expensive) I use a K1000M with 1 GB dedicated RAM on my current laptop.

The cheapest place to get a Quadro K series mobile card I know of is HP refurbished business notebooks:


I have used the HP EliteBooks at work and home and they can handle very large SW models. They are not cheap ($1000+), but will offer great performance. The Elitebooks come with 2nd or 3rd Gen i7 CPUs and 8+ GB RAM which are more than sufficient for SW.

While this is an expensive machine it will work well and allow you to open and work with huge models (like the full Robonauts 2013 STEP file)


Not really true, I used to run HD 3000 on my desktop and am now running a very fast 270x. The difference in cad performance is negligible. I would bet that a low end discrete GPU would perform worse.

When I can’t use my desktop I use solidworks on a 13" Lenovo Yoga ultrabookwith HD 4000 graphics and 4gb of RAM. It actually runs solidworks surprisingly well. Not something id want to design a whole robot in but usable. It also has about 5 hours of battery life which is not bad. Sure i could get a laptop for 200$ less with the same performance but the premium is worth it for the convenience.

It does run it well, but not well enough for the price range ;). My $600 ultrabook gives me quite low performance. It takes a couple seconds (more than 5) to open a part in Inventor, while the software is already open. However, that could be because of my i3-2367!

I have run Inventor 2014 on a MacBook Pro with an i5 at 2.5Ghz and Intel HD4000 graphics with 8gbs of RAM quite well under bootcamp. While a MacBook is well out of your price range, you could expect laptops with similar specs to run it about the same.

Well, I’ve had a G55VW for a year now and it works quite well for CAD and certainly helps with compiling LabView code as well.

The only difference between the G45VW and the G55VW (as far as specs go) is the G55VW has a slower-clocked quad core processor in it, and hyper-threading.
Oh, and that G45VW has a larger HDD in it than my laptop.

Also, the cooling on this thing seems ridiculous until you are running Inventor in you lap and realize you aren’t being burnt by it like most laptops.
The only complaint I have with it is that it IS a bit heavy. (which wasn’t a problem until our bus broke down in OKC last year)

A quick observation - Autodesk 2014 products are not optimized for the high-dpi 2560x1440 and similar displays that are becoming standard on higher end ultrabooks.

To be readable, Windows runs at about 125-150% DPI scaling by default on displays with this density. Most applications can handle this scaling fine. Autodesk products are a disaster, however - text overflows regions, icons are way off, etc. Basically makes it unusable. So you have to scale down to 100% which makes everything tiny.

With this in mind, if you do end up with an ultrabook or something in the 13" neighborhood, I’d go for 1920x1080 which is the ideal resolution to run at 100% scaling at that screen size.

Give it a few years once all laptops are shipping with hidpi displays when Autodesk will get around to making their apps scale nicely.

I am really partial to the Dell Precision Line of laptops. They really hold up to the the rough use I put them through and can handle any CAD you can throw at them as they are designed to be mobile workstations. In my opinion if you can spend a bit more on something quality designed for CAD work it will be worth it. Even if you can get a lesser machine to work, you won’t get nearly the performance with lots of parts open and assemblies with a bunch of parts.

Also spending a bit more now will mean it will most likely last longer and be compatible with future version of CAD software.

I also use a Lenovo yoga. It runs pretty much everything I need it too. Great machine. If you have the cash I highly recommend it.