CAD Notebook, Bulk isn't too much of an issue

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by brexdab, Aug 19, 2014.

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  1. brexdab

    brexdab Newbie

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    I'm going to be doing civil engineering in college and I will need a notebook with the ability to operate cad software, possibly gaming. I have about 2500 to budget, bulk isn't a big concern.
     
  2. Jarhead

    Jarhead 恋の♡アカサタナ

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    Well, if you're running CAD software, you should be looking at workstation laptops. Take a look at the Dell Precision, Lenovo Thinkpad W, or HP Elitebook -w or ZBook series.
     
  3. Regnad Kcin

    Regnad Kcin Notebook Evangelist

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    As I say to many who are asking to get a CAD machine for their freshman year of college... don't bother. $2500 is a huge budget. Spend $800 now and save the rest for later. You don't need big computer power early on. Personally I would go with something that is relatively small, has a good screen (high resolution) and good battery life. I know many grad students who do CAD with Intel integrated cards. Nothing too fancy but they don't need fancy to do basic CAD. Basic cards are just that good anymore. Save the bucks, wait until you are a Jr and then reevaluate.

    Of course when I was your age I don't recall wanting to hear such advice either. So next let me answer your question rather than give you advice you didn't ask for. I would 100% stick with the workstation laptops. In general that means Dell Precision, some Thinkpads and some Zbooks. I was actually looking to spend almost as much as you 9 months back. I got Dell M3800. I was strongly considering the M4800 as well as the Thinkpad W540. I picked the M3800 because it had a touchscreen with great color and because it was light. I was tired of lugging my 6lb M4400. The 4lb weight is more like my old M20.

    The W540 wasn't out yet. I wasn't blown away by the quality of the Thinkpads used by my coworkers. They just didn't seem to live up to the old IBM systems. They also were not as cost competitive as the Dell and I don't think touch was an option.

    M4800: I hated to go bigger than my already big M4400. The M4800 seemed to be the bridge too far. It's a beast with all sorts of power, the same 3800x1800 screen as the M3800, all the ports I could ever want and a number pad. Too bad it's just SO big.

    The M3800 is MBP sleek while still being light enough to carry. The keyboard feels great to me but I hate that it lacks proper home/end pgup/down keys. I really miss those keys. While I hate the gloss of the touch screen (I've always had a strong matte preference). Ports are limited. Regardless, it looked so cool and it was easy to carry without sacrificing screen resolution.

    Since I bought several new systems came out and thus added to the list would be the ZBook 15 and 14. I don't recall much about the 15 but the 14 was very interesting. Even smaller and lighter than the M3800 but the best screen it offered was just FHD (as if that is a bad thing). If you wanted touch you had to go down in resolution. That was a non-starter for me. The other is the Dell M2800. This one would have been high on my list. The M2800 is based on the 15" Latitude vs a stand alone CAD chassis. The price is MUCH lower yet the system is still powerful. It looks like a great compromise between power and cost. It's not as big and heavy as the M4800. It's also $1000 cheaper as I would likely have equipped both. Sadly, "only" 1920x1080 and not a touch screen. Still, for your budget you could get a a low end M2800 this year and a new one when your a Jr!
     
  4. thelargechic

    thelargechic Notebook Enthusiast

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    custom gaming laptops - Welcome to Sager Notebooks this is the best you can do for cad notebooks, it supports desktop processors, i have an older version of this and absolutely love it, use it for 3DS MAX and its been going solid for 5 years now 24gb ddr3 i7 920 with a GTX 680m(newer than the rest of course)
     
  5. Kent T

    Kent T Notebook Virtuoso

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    His laptop MUST HAVE a FirePro or Quadro or his CAD software won't run or run very poorly if that. And he is best served by a Dell Precision or a HP ZBook for his needs and with business class tech support and warranty, which Sager does not have though Sager makes an otherwise good laptop/
     
  6. thelargechic

    thelargechic Notebook Enthusiast

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    i get by just fine with my gtx680m and i use a GTX TITAN for my desktop, both work perfectly also he said he wants a little gaming, which the GTX 880m will pull off greatly
    Quadro vs GTX for Architecture Laptop (Heavy Viewport Usage) [Solved] - Nvidia - Graphics & Displays
     
  7. thelargechic

    thelargechic Notebook Enthusiast

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    id also like to throw on that you can upgrade to a k5000
     
  8. jcvjcvjcvjcv

    jcvjcvjcvjcv Notebook Evangelist

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    The Quadros are ISV Certified, if that is what you mean. W/o changing anything in the settings, Solidworks looks fancier on my W520 than on a T530

    NVS != Quadro
     
  9. win32asmguy

    win32asmguy Moderator Moderator

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    If bulk isn't a concern, I think the Dell M6800 probably offers the most bang for the buck in the mobile CAD workstation department. They have a couple of models under your budget. Get one of those, add an aftermarket SSD and RAM, you should be set until you graduate.

    Mine has been great and I wouldn't be selling it other than the fact that the Firepro card isn't supported very good under Linux.
     
  10. tijo

    tijo Sacred Blame

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    This always depends on how long you intend to keep the laptop.

    I'll go off the beaten path so far and offer a couple of possibilities. Before I start, your options in terms of overall performance are from worse to better: integrated graphics -> GeForce -> Radeon -> Quadro/Firepro. go for a quad core CPU before deciding on the GPU in my opinion.

    Now, as an undergrad, during your first few years, you won't be doing anything too intensive and will be able to get by with pretty much anything.

    You can definitely go for a mobile workstation (and try not to go too expensive), so something like a W540 or a M4800 so that you won't break the bank too much.

    The other approach that was suggested: something cheaper and change in 2-3 years is also something I'd personally consider a viable approach. IT would give you time to really evaluate your needs as you progress along your studies.

    Personally, I like my M6700 a lot, but I suggest you go for a 15". You say bulk isn't a concern, but space might be at a premium at your college's desks and a 15" laptop is a good compromise when you take that into account.

    If you can see if your department has system suggestions for your program, that's a good idea too. I mean, sometimes they can be surprising. My sister was in urban planning and ended up needing some pretty beefy laptops to do her projects, especially in the GPU department. The students without dedicated GPUs were really pulling their hair out in their last year. I've seen the opposite too though, engineering programs that didn't require that much computing power. The chemical engineering program at my college ended up having some surprisingly intensive stuff in recent years. Talking to recent graduates or students who are farther in the program than you might not be a bad idea.

    Speaking of which, at my college, it is currently "orientation week" where new students get to meet with professors to discuss the program before classes actually start. If there's something like that at your college, it might be a good time to discuss this with the professors. Like I said, the actual computing requirements to complete your degree could swing both ways depending on the type of projects and software used.

    Personally, I use solidworks from time to time and I'm glad for the firepro card, but I could definitely get by with something else.

    Whatever you get, go for a 1920x1080 display or above! You'll be glad when you get to work on CAD software or insanely huge Excel spreadsheets and when I say huge, I mean huge (I know I was). also, you'll likely have to deal with MATLAB, VB or C++ programming too and again, that extra resolution will be a boon.
     
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