Programing and cading laptops

Our team has been looking for new laptops recently for programming and cading. We have a rough idea of the ideal specs we are looking for, but for the most part are pretty lost on what to get. We have a starting point of getting a acer swift 3 or looking into a laptop with a ethernet port. What type of specs should we look for? Or what types of laptops have teams used reliably?

Used thinkpads any day of the week.


I don’t know much about the required specs for CAD, but for code, you can get used Thinkpads in the ~$150ea range with Intel i5 CPUs, 8GB of RAM, and an SSD that will work phenomenally for programming. The most recent model I bought for this purpose was a set of Thinkpad T460 models.

For the DriverStation you may want a dedicated Ethernet Port, though a USB Ethernet Adapter would also be fine. Most people attach a pigtail to their Ethernet port anyway to reduce wear on the laptop itself, so a USB Adapter would serve the same function assuming its never removed.

Code here, no idea about CAD. A few considerations. At least 8GB RAM, if you’ve got the money 16GB is better (you know how Windows gets, with VS Code and a bunch of browser tabs open). SSD is necessary and common, but if you’re trying to cut costs you might find laptops with an HDD. Ethernet port is good - one without a hinge if you can find it, as it won’t wear out as much. And of course fairly durable; ThinkPads are great in that regard. I don’t have much advice for specific laptops but hopefully this helps.

On the used side of things, the HP ZBook 15 G3 has an excellent performance to price ratio. You can find them on eBay.

For both CAD and programming, we bought 4 lenovo ideapads last year. They have an 11th gen i3, 8g of RAM and 256g ssd. The gpu is just the integrated intel one so it’s really nothing special at all. We chose that specific model because it was the one that was cheapest at that time.

We use Onshape and did our robot with it’s 6 subsystems last season. We also use them for slicing before 3d printing and getting g codes. They work very well for everything. Only when our full robot assembly started to take form, it started to take about 15 seconds for the whole thing to load when opening the document, but it was still pretty smooth after that.

What CAD software do you want to run? If you are going to use Onshape, you should be fine with just about anything with relatively new hardware. If you’re planning on using SolidWorks or another full CAD program running locally, you should probably aim for at least an i3 or i5 no more than 1 generation old and 16GB of RAM. Integrated graphics is fine.

I run the latest Solidworks just fine on a 6th gen i7. For Solidworks, integrated graphics usually is not fine. You want Quadro something.

Solidworks will work fine on integrated graphics. It is notoriously Cpu intensive.

cad is extremely single threaded, so newer cpus are more important than higher end (i3, i5, etc). iris Xe is fine because gpu is used almost solely for renders. more ram speeds things up, especially when multi tasking like when you have CAD and chrome open at the same time.

I have an i7 11th gen with iris xe for solidworks it works well. You do need at least 16gb ram but you can also upgrade the ram after you get a computer, it is usually cheaper that way

I run SolidWorks on integrated graphics with 8GB of RAM and a 4 core processor at about 2.4Ghz (I think). I recommend a little bit more RAM and CPU, for anyone actually designing the robot as my computer can be a little slow with multiple large assemblies. I also have integrated graphics on my work laptop with no problems running SolidWorks professionally.

I recommend getting as recent a processor as possible for the sake of longevity.

My real job is in corporate IT. You can’t go wrong with the Lenovo T series laptops. I’ve purchased hundreds of them. You will want at least an i5 processor with 8GB, but if you can afford more go for an i7 and as much RAM as it will take. It is pretty easy to upgrade the RAM yourself.

I am a CAD designer no idea about programming but CAD will more likely be your limitation. I recommend 16g ram, a new gen CPU, so 12th gen intel, and a dedicated graphics card starting with either the letter A, the word quadro, or the first two numbers being 30

We purchased used HP elitebooks and other higher end business laptops from a vendor. So far they’ve been fantastic. A few needed spare chargers off Amazon but that was a tiny expense. We were able to get 5 very nice laptops for $1k.

I have several ThinkPads at home and love them.

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