What Is A CAD Laptop?
(And why would you want one?)
Computer Aided Design
Computer Aided Design (CAD), is the act of using computers to aid in the creation of designs. A very broad definition, it generally refers to 3D modelling products, mechanisms and prototypes to assist in designing products and items, though does include some 2D implementations as well.
CAD Defining Components
There are 3 major components of computers that affect CAD performance: the CPU, the GPU, and RAM.
The CPU is the main processor of the computer, and is the main factor in general system performance. High end CPUs will have a high amount of Cores, meaning they are capable of performing a large amount of tasks simultaneously.
GPUs are similar in that they’re also a type of processor, however they’re specifically designed for rendering 2D and 3D graphics. While systems often include integrated GPUs as part of the CPU, CAD computers will require a dedicated GPU which will have vastly superior performance comparatively.
While RAM doesn’t correlate directly to superior performance compared to CPUs and GPUs, it is still very important for CAD. When working on a project, the files are stored in RAM, so ensuring you have enough high speed RAM with the capacity for your projects is crucial.
CAD software varies in its hardware requirements: Some rely heavily on single core performance, others benefit more from multicore, most will require good GPU performance but 2D software might not require as much.
Getting a CAD laptop based on your own requirements and software is important, especially since non-CAD laptops could be slow or simply incapable of running large project files. The larger or more complex the design you work on will add load onto the system, and if the load exceeds what a computer is capable of performing it can cause the software or system to crash. This is largely up to RAM; trying to run a large project that exceeds what your system memory can hold can cause software, or even system, crashes.
This could result in unsaved progress being lost, wasting time spent on that data as well as needing the progress itself to need to be remade. A laptop that is intended for CAD is capable of handling these loads and therefore loss of data due to system stability is far less likely.
Just like loading a website with slow internet will take longer than with fast internet, processing a CAD project will take longer with a slower computer. Especially when rendering, low performance systems can cause choppiness and unresponsiveness. 3D applications, such as CAD software, are particularly susceptible to this when using weaker CPUs and GPUs.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to make sure your CPU is at least an Intel i7 or AMD Ryzen 7, and that your GPU is intended for CAD, such as an NVIDIA Quadro. While not a strict rule for performance, components weaker than these can lead to unresponsiveness and system instability.
This unresponsiveness can lead to time spent struggling with the system, increasing the time it takes to perform tasks, which in turn reduces productivity. Ensuring that you have a computer with enough processing power for the workload you’re working on is hugely important, especially for larger projects where low performance systems would lead to stability issues.
CAD laptops are laptops - just like any other, they’ll be portable and usable for any other tasks that a laptop is for. This applies to standard things all computers can do such as document editing, web browsing and media viewing, but with the hardware for CAD you have other options available as well.
With a powerful CPU and GPU, the world’s the limit - if you’re on break a CAD machine is fully capable of some gaming; 3D rendering for CAD has similar hardware requirements to 3D rendering for games as you’ll need a strong GPU for both, so a powerful CAD laptop is also a competent gaming machine.
Although CAD graphics cards don’t have great price to performance for gaming, they’re usually powerful enough to make games playable. Video editing is also possible, with a strong CPU and a reasonable amount of memory, a CAD laptop can handle small to medium video projects quite well.
Laptops are well known for being portable and CAD laptops are no exception. While this doesn’t separate them from other laptops it is an added bonus compared to CAD desktops, making working in collaboration with others in an office easier, and reducing the amount of space you need to work anywhere else. Due to the hardware required for CAD, a CAD laptop will often be bigger and heavier than most laptops, so while they are portable they’re not “one handed” portable, and shouldn’t be expected.
While desktops have their own advantages, the space saved and convenience of portability will certainly have it’s place for both professional and personal users.
Simply put, a CAD Laptop is one that enables the user to use CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. It has the spec to support such processes in terms of CPU, GPU and RAM. It provides the stability to undertake demanding tasks. It is a high performing machine that will not only carry out demanding CAD tasks, but also support activities such as gaming and video editing (to a certain degree). Finally, it provides you with portability, which the equivalent CAD Desktop simply cannot provide. CAD laptops are a versatile machine for enthusiasts and multi-functional for professionals.