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Mobility and remote work are becoming more critical in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction. This can range from architects wanting to maximize their efficiency while traveling to contractors getting up-to-date documents while on site. Laptops also take up less physical space and are more energy-efficient.
I’ve prepared this guide to help you choose a good laptop for use with AutoCAD, including an overview of preferred specifications, as well as specific laptops that may suit your needs.
I have noted the importance of processor, memory, storage, graphics, and operating system and how they impact your CAD software’s performance.
The CPU is the heart of any computer, and as a result, there are myriad options available now, primarily from Intel and AMD.
Over the years, CPU increased its speed primarily by making its transistors smaller and thus faster. As it has become more difficult to shrink the transistors’ size, CPU designers have started adding more cores, which is similar to adding more CPUs to the computer. This means that different applications can run on separate cores; some applications are also designed to utilize multiple cores.
AutoCAD is not optimized to use multiple cores, meaning that the primary benefit of a chip with a high number of cores will be that you can run other applications reasonably fast. This also means that you may want to emphasize clock speed (GHz) over the number of cores if given a choice. Since you will almost always be multitasking and running other applications, you should consider a quad-core processor common in laptops today.
Intel i7 and AMD Ryzen 5 chips are good options. However, Intel i9 and AMD Ryzen 7/9 series chips often have a “Turbo Mode” which shuts down unused cores and lets the active cores run faster, so you may want to include them in your comparisons.
If you are using the rendering features of Autodesk products or using 3rd party render engines with 3ds Max, those functions are multithreaded and can benefit from additional cores. For those uses, we recommend you select a CPU with the fastest clock speed and number of cores you can afford. As of January 2020, we recommend AMD Threadripper or Intel i9 chips.
As the saying goes, you can have size, speed, or low cost, but you can’t have all three. AutoCAD primarily relies on hard drive speed for file operations (open, save, and back up), so fast storage is not always the most critical factor. I’d still recommend M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD (solid-state drive), but NVMe SATA drives can also do a good job. You should specify at least 512Gb of storage space.
AutoCAD is primarily producing lines in a 2D or occasionally 3D environment. Thus it’s not typically a demanding application for graphics. Autodesk applications (including 3Ds Max and Revit) usually rely on the CPU, rather than graphics, for rendering. As a result, you can use a variety of graphics cards, including ones intended for gaming. Although it is not a critical component, I still recommend selecting a laptop with a dedicated graphics card and at least 2GB of VRAM for the best performance. You
In addition to the hardware overview and guidelines above, I have recommendations for specific laptops. There are many laptops that I deem the best value for the money and at different price points. The first ones on the list are those on a budget, mid-range laptops, and the premium machines that offer top specifications.
This is a gaming laptop, good for users on a budget or students.
The Acer Swift is a good combination of affordability and lightweight. However, you may want to increase the RAM if you use it regularly; also note the use of an integrated graphics card.
ThinkPads are a classic option; in this case, falling in the middle in terms of weight and performance.
The X1 is Lenovo’s ultralight option, great for working in the field or for constant traveling. The performance will be a little slower than the P15s, but it will be much easier to carry in your bag.
The Dell G7 is a gaming laptop that offers a lot of bang for the buck, including more RAM. It’s a little heavy, starting to get into “desktop replacement” territory. As always, it’s typically easy to customize Dell models to add more RAM or a different HD right from the factory.
The ZenBook’s display is a bit on the small side but adds a touch screen. Combined with its lightweight, it can be an excellent option for doing markups in the field.
The HP ZBook offers a lot of performance, almost in the high-end territory with the i9 chip and NVIDIA Quadro GPU. However, it’s more of a desktop replacement due to its weight.
Boxx Technologies is one of the best designers and manufacturers of computers for the AEC industry, hands down; they know how to optimize their offerings for high performance, with 32GB of RAM and a Quadro RTX Mobile. At 4.2 pounds, it’s a portable powerhouse.
The MXL 17 is the big brother to the SLM 15, with a 17″ display, a full RTX card, a weight of 8.6 pounds, and (in terms of clock speed) the fastest CPU on the list. This is intended as a desktop replacement option.
The P17 is another laptop with a 17″ display. It won’t have quite the same performance as the Boxx MLX 17 but weighs 2.6 pounds less.
The Precision 3550 is the lightest and most affordable of the high-end options, but still has plenty of RAM and a Quadro card.
In terms of hardware and operating system, it all comes down to your personal preference. High-end Apple and PC laptops are well geared to handle the challenges offered by the job.
All of the above computers use Windows 10, and most will include Windows 10 Professional. Windows 10 is arguably more user friendly as it supports a wide array of software but is exposed to more viruses than Mac. So here’s an option to use Apple OS X.
The MacBook Pro supports multiple resolutions, offers four Thunderbolt ports, and a pressure-sensitive trackpad. While Autodesk does offer a version of AutoCAD for Mac OS X and works with BIM 360, Autodesk offers very few applications for the Mac platform.
One option is to use BootCamp, which is the built-in dual boot option; in this case, you set up a separate partition on your Mac and boot into a full Windows environment. Using Bootcamp gives the best performance, but you can’t access your Mac OS environment or programs while it’s running.
The next option is to run Windows 10 using virtualization, such as VMWare Workstation Player or Parallels. Using Parallels runs a virtual machine within the Mac OS, which allows you access to both operating system environments. However, this also means that both operating systems are using the hardware at the same time. If you plan to use virtualization, I recommend considering the higher-end Macbook Pro, which has a 2.3Ghz i9 8-core CPU and configures it with 32gb of RAM.
For design professionals using demanding software on a day-to-day basis, that made for a tough decision — should one opt for a slim model to make trips from the studio to site easier, or a powerful unit to run programs like Revit and 3ds Max, or even Solidworks. Depending on your preferences, many of the laptops listed here offer the best of all worlds when it comes to power, aesthetics, and mobility.
Do you have your own view on which is the best laptop for architects and engineers?
Contact our Microsol Resources Technical Team and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a lot of benefits to using AutoCAD. How will you take advantage of them?
Since the initial release of AutoCAD in 1982, Autodesk has been a leader in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. Prior, the design process for architecture, engineering, or part design was done by manual drawing. Following the industrial revolution and into the 20th century, hand drafting necessarily became a more common profession, and by the 1980s manual drafting on trace paper was the standard production method for architects and engineers. Recognizing the potential offered by computation, AutoCAD was originally developed as digitization of hand drafting tools.
However, over the course of almost 40 years and the release of 35 versions, Autodesk AutoCAD has transformed the way that designs are conceptualized, developed, and ultimately documented in 2D drawings and 3D drawings. This article will discuss the benefits of using AutoCAD as one of the premier drafting and design tools.
If we consider Version 1.0 of AutoCAD released in 1982 as a ‘sketch’, it is safe to say that Version 35 (AutoCAD 2021) is now a very detailed, documented, and refined design. As it has developed over almost 40 years as one of the oldest cad systems, improvements have come from a few places:
AutoCAD started as a simple idea: Computer-Aided Drafting. It has since expanded to facilitate workflows across programs, projects, and trades. AutoCAD is the result of countless hours of collaboration between designers and software engineers and has played a major role in facilitating the profitable delivery of countless design projects. As a dynamic engineering model, AutoCAD is a great software application, but the many end products it has facilitated are testaments to its success and effectiveness.
As AutoCAD has been adopted by designers over the years, Autodesk has provided resources for networks of user groups, strengthening the broad user community. The Autodesk Group Network, the AutoCAD Forums, the Autodesk Knowledge Network, Autodesk University, along with many others, consist of the various ways that Autodesk supports and retains feedback from its user base. These feedback loops inform software development at Autodesk and have provided a unique opportunity for community-driven enhancements, fixes, and features. AutoCAD is available with 14 different language packs, expanding the ease of access across the world and growing the community.
Over time, this resonance between software developers and drafters has put AutoCAD in a superposition as the powerful, user-friendly, and adaptable end product that designers said they needed. Those that use AutoCAD, whether new or experienced, can engage with this vast knowledge network to advance their own expertise of the software, or contribute back to the community.
Add-ons from the Autodesk App Store
The Autodesk App Store contains a large collection of Add-ons available for various Autodesk products. As of writing this post, there are 973 add-ons available for AutoCAD alone. These add-ons have a wide range of applications within the program, but generally build upon existing automation features, allowing users to stay productive.
Most add-on developers have just 1-3 add-ons in the store, but a few developers are companies or firms that are well established, such as JTB World. JTB FlexReport provides important information for tracking usage and managing access for network deployments, which is invaluable to CAD managers. In addition to JTB FlexReport, JTB World has over 80 other apps to help keep users and managers productive and on task.
Other add-ons in the store range in functionality, from very niche such as unfolding ductwork to produce drawings for laser cutting sheet metal, to generally applicable such as finding and purging unused or corrupt objects. There is even an add-on that helps to manage all of the add-ons that have been installed! If you have ever wished that AutoCAD could do something a little bit better, it is possible that the solution is waiting in the App Store.
Industry Specialized Toolsets
In addition to ‘vanilla’ AutoCAD, there are various Specialized Toolsets that have functionality certain trades or disciplines will find invaluable for annotating, dimensioning, working with component drawings, and production drafting in general. These include automated workflows and large collections of intelligent parts, symbols, and building objects. The toolsets are built atop the core AutoCAD installation and productivity studies have found that users can save 60% of their time drafting when using AutoCAD Architecture versus regular AutoCAD.
CAD drawings can remain in the DWG format, but each design team member can choose a specialized tool as they develop their part of the design.
Below are the different products available with a subscription to AutoCAD including Specialized Toolsets:
A more comprehensive list of features can be found here.
Data is an important part of the design, and the Express Tools in AutoCAD make it easier to manage. With blocks and intelligent objects, it is much easier to import and export design data. This may include schedules, quantities, areas, volumes, etc. and can be entered manually, or automatically generated. Data can be copied from spreadsheets into tables, or Excel Spreadsheets can be linked to the drawing via Data Links.
Point clouds can be attached to a DWG to generate precise geometry based on scans of existing conditions. These scans, sampled with hardware such as GeoSLAM, can accelerate the documentation of existing conditions, and reduce the number of site visits significantly.
Additionally, Fields were introduced in 2005 which allows for the project and drawing data to automatically be inserted into any Field object, such as MText, title blocks, schedules, etc. Working with data in AutoCAD can take a little time to set up and understand, but once managing Fields gets integrated into the daily workflow, users will enjoy tremendous time-saving benefits throughout an entire project.
These tools to collect, organize, and manage design data are some of the most powerful AutoCAD features for automating the documentation process.
The new version of AutoCAD has powerful new features and enhancements that many will find very useful for automating workflows in AutoCAD:
Included in new subscriptions, AutoCAD is also available as an App for mobile devices (Android, iOS) as well as AutoCAD Web, which is a limited flavor of AutoCAD that brings Computer-Aided Design to the browser. New subscriptions to AutoCAD software include these mobile versions, allowing users access to AutoCAD from anywhere with an internet connection.
While each of these flavors of AutoCAD has limitations, the ability to open and access DWGs from anywhere can help to resolve issues in a more timely manner, which is increasingly necessary and helpful in a mobile, post-pandemic world.
Integrated with the mobile versions of AutoCAD are a select set of cloud storage options:
These allow for easy access to project files from any machine. With Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive, users can take advantage of versioning, which is a technology that preserves each version that has been saved to the cloud. Losing work due to overwriting is now a thing of the past with these new integrations with cloud services.
Autodesk Desktop App
Along with the installation of most Autodesk software, an application called the Autodesk Desktop App will be installed. Some users think this is bloatware and have uninstalled it, but it is highly recommended to ensure the optimal performance of all products. The app will automatically detect all Autodesk software installed on a computer and offer relevant updates.
Updates can be set so that the user can manually select which updates to install, or if desired that any available updates are automatically installed. In addition to managing updates, the Desktop App can help control licensing for all products, which can be very useful for Named Users that are on Subscription. Users simply need to login to the Autodesk Desktop App, and all software that has the licensing mode set to USER will be automatically activated once opened. The Autodesk Desktop App is a great tool that will save a lot of time and ensure that the Autodesk software is running optimally and securely.
Autosave and Drawing Recovery
On occasion, the software may unexpectedly crash due to factors beyond the product’s control. For instance, it is common that Microsoft Windows 10 Updates are automatically installed on a computer, necessitating the update and installation of any hardware or software that is dependent on those updates. Sometimes a Windows Update will require a Service Pack or Hotfix for AutoCAD, and if not installed, the program may crash. Most of the time, the issue can be resolved by updating through the Autodesk Desktop App, but if the crash has already occurred, there is a chance for data loss.
Fortunately, AutoCAD has convenient Autosave and Recovery functionality that is customizable. Autosave files will be saved to a specified location (Default: TEMP) and can be saved at user-defined intervals. Additionally, backup files (.BAK) are saved within the same folder as the current drawing and can be converted to DWGs if the original file is lost. These recovery options ensure that data loss is mitigated, which will save time and help keep projects profitable.
The DWG file extension has been around for almost 40 years, and due to the prevalence of AutoCAD, most other design software that was developed afterward allowed for the import or conversion of DWG files. As a result, the DWG file is one of the most dynamic formats and offers the highest chance of compatibility with CAD software used by outside consultants.
AutoCAD can be used as a precision design tool for 2D drawings as well as 3D models. By default, Workspaces can be toggled from 2D Drafting and Annotation to 3D Modeling so that the appropriate tools and palettes are readily available for producing 3D designs. With a subscription to AutoCAD, the 3D printing tool Print Studio is available, so 3D models can print optimally depending on the 3D printer manufacturer and model.
As a recap, here are all the features and supplemental services that users can take advantage of when using AutoCAD:
The advantages of AutoCAD are many and continue to grow as the supporting tools, services, and community becomes more robust. Over the course of its evolution, it has proven to be a refined tool with time-tested features that designers have asked for.
Customers of Microsol Resources enjoy the added benefit of free Technical Support for AutoCAD, in addition to many other CAD programs. If you would like to purchase seats of AutoCAD, feel free to visit our eStore or send an email to Microsol Resources Sales Team to request pricing.
With the newest release of Autodesk products, we bring you a new list of Autodesk 2021 product keys. Product keys are required for the installation of Autodesk products and are used to differentiate products that are both sold independently and as part of a product suite.
For example, installing AutoCAD 2021 as a point product requires product key 001M1, but installing AutoCAD 2021 from the AutoCAD Design Suite Premium requires product key 768M1. The same version of AutoCAD is in both software packages but the product key differentiates one package from the other.
Note: Please ensure you are using the correct product key for the Autodesk product and version you are installing. Entering an incorrect product key will result in activation errors for that product.
The product keys for Autodesk 2021 products, in alphabetical order. if you need further assistance, email us at email@example.com.
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