When choosing your own CAD / design / visualisation machine consider the following broad pointers for specifications.
- Laptop will have the portability and convenience but a desktop workstation is likely to be more powerful for the same price.
- Get as much RAM as possible; 8Gb minimum but 16gb or more recommended
- Discreet Nvidia GTX / RTX or Quadro graphics card if you can – rather than onboard graphics.
- i5/i7 class or AMD Ryzen cpu or higher
- SSD – solid state hard drive; it doesn’t necessarily need to be huge if you store data on an external drive.
- Warranty – check this is not just a basic return to supplier option which would mean you are without a machine for weeks.
- Screen: 1080p minimum resolution; for a desktop setup a 24 inch plus is ideal for CAD / visualisation – and adding a cheaper smaller second screen is a great productivity booster.
While machines without all these specs will still run the more power hungry applications it will likely be a frustrating and limited experience.
Macs won’t natively run some potentially useful software including:
- Vray for Rhino – rendering plugin
- 3D Studio Max – advanced 3d design / visualisation
- ArcView – GIS Software
- Autodesk Recap – laser scanning processing software
You can get discount on Macs via the Apple Eduction / Unidays store. A MacBook Air 13 with an upgrade to 16gb Ram is a pretty solid choice for graphic design students.
A desktop machine will likely be cheaper and easier to upgrade than a laptop – also you can have larger and dual monitor setups which is extremely useful for CAD / design work. Pcspecialist.co.uk have a great online machine configurator for getting a custom specification. A basic configuration could be easily improved later by swapping out for a better graphics card or adding extra RAM.
A refurbished or older machine with good specs is likely to be better than a new basic one – these two suppliers currently have refurbished laptops – with warranty – available for delivery:
Apple also sell refurbished and warranties models on the Apple Refurbished Site