There are quite some things to consider when looking for the best Laptop for Animation. You will want specific Hardware of the Laptop to have certain specifications and very specific parts should be built into the Laptop for maximum speed.
The best Laptop for Animation is the culmination of optimum hardware and mobility and, in fact, there aren’t all that many great Laptops for Animation out there.
Before we dive into what specific components you should be looking for in a Laptop for Animation, let’s take a look at how the task of animating on a Laptop actually uses the underlying Hardware Components.
In this way, we will be able to see clearly what components we will need to optimize as much as possible in order to pick the right Laptop.
If you feel like you already know your way around the individual Hardware components & Laptop Features, follow this link to skip directly to our Best Laptop for Animation Recommendations.
How does Animation utilize the Hardware?
Animation in itself is making virtual objects move in a way we define.
This can be in 2D or 3D and there are lots of Programs we can use to tackle the task of animation.
Now, what we do when we animate, is usually pose a rig, set Keyframes and adjust certain parts and objects, so they are placed to our satisfaction. One important thing to note here is that we usually do this not while looking at a final quality image, but a rough Preview Viewport, a Wireframe or simple Shaded View.
Why is this important?
As there is not a lot of graphical calculations going on, we can pretty much already say the Graphics Card (GPU) is something that won’t be quite as important in finding the Best Laptop for Animation.
But if it’s not the Graphics Card that does the heavy lifting when animating, what other Hardware Component might be the crucial part in speeding things up?
You might have guessed it already, it really is the CPU or Processor, that is the most important Hardware Component in a Laptop when using it mainly for animation.
Although animation seems to be a very visual task, it’s the CPU that has to do all the calculations for the scene’s objects, rigs, simulations, hair splines, soft body dynamics and so on, to be calculated, and only after these CPU calculations are finished, the Graphics Card visually displays the result.
In other words, the GPU is almost never the bottleneck in a 2D or 3D focused Workstation / (PC) Computer or Laptop. (Of course, unless you are doing some heavy rendering)
You will want to make sure the CPU is as fast as possible.
That said, of course, you should still have a strong enough GPU but it does not have to be unproportionally fast compared to the other hardware components.
The best Hardware Components in an Animation-Laptop
The best CPU in a Laptop for Animation
This brings us to the CPU specifically.
What makes a CPU fast, anyway? Is it the number of cores, the clock-speed, or the cache size, or maybe just the Brand of Intel or AMD?
To make it short: For animation, the most important CPU feature to look for is the clock-speed. The CPU clock speed is more important than having lots of Cores or getting a certain Brand.
If your CPU has a low clock speed, your Viewport will become very sluggish and you won’t be able to animate in real-time. The CPU usually has a Base Clock Speed, such as 2,6 GHz in the Intel i7-10750H and a higher Turbo-Boost Clock that can boost the CPU up to (in this case) 5,0 GHz on some of those Cores.
CPU Boosting technologies can overclock your CPU automatically if:
- Not all Cores are in use at the same time
- The CPU’s temperature is below a certain threshold
- The CPU’s power draw is below a certain threshold
In Animation it is often the case, that only one or two CPU Cores are being used because of how animated objects are calculated by the software you are animating in.
This means, having a high Turbo Boost clock will do lots in speeding up the Viewport snappiness while animating as will a higher base clock speed.
Recommended CPU Models to get for your Animation Laptop:
- Intel 9th gen mobile CPUs: i7 9750H, i9 9880H
- Intel 10th gen mobile CPUs: i7 10750H, i7 10875H, i9 10980HK
- AMD Ryzen 4000 Series CPUs: 4800H(S), 4900H(S)
All of the CPUs above are excellent for animation as they have a high Base-Clock and a great Turbo-Boost Clock.
Of course, you’ll find the CPUs above will usually be built into somewhat mid-range to higher-end Laptops. If you don’t have the means to spend that kind of money you could settle with lower tier CPUs. Be sure though to always maximize your base and boost clocks.
RAM (Memory) for the Best Laptop for Animation
The second most important factor in getting the Best Laptop for Animation is the RAM, or Memory.
RAM Speed isn’t that much of a factor but the size of the memory will do wonders when working on complex scenes, long animations, multiple characters, high resolution meshes and images and the ability to keep preview Playblasts in your memory for comparison and checking the current animation state, if you don’t have Real-time playback.
You will want to go with 8GB as an absolute minimum and target 16GB for a much better experience.
32GB will help in some cases, having more usually isn’t necessary but might help with an extremely complex scene, large textures, animation simulations and dynamics that are not keyframe-driven but will need to be cached. Or, of course, when you’d like to have multiple Apps open at the same time.
The thing about RAM is, that it doesn’t impact performance all that much unless you have too little.
If you don’t have enough RAM, the System will start swapping active working Files to Disc and at this point, the overall Speed will crawl to a halt.
You definitely want to avoid having too little RAM.
My recommendation for the amount of RAM in your best Laptop for Animation:
- 8GB of DDR4 RAM for beginners
- 16GB of DDR4 RAM for everyday, mid-sized scenes
- 32GB+ of RAM for highly complex scenes and/or multiple opened Programs
(If optimization is something you crave, you can slightly improve overall RAM Speed by carefully choosing RAM with higher Clock Speeds and lower CL Latency as a general rule.)
Best Graphics Card (GPU) for Animation in a Laptop
As discussed above, although not as important a factor as the CPU, the Graphics card is responsible for displaying to your in-built Screen or any attached display device.
It will also help in displaying textures and any other Shaders and Real-Time Effects such as SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion), Realtime Shadows, Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, for an experience that is closer to an actual (final) rendered image.
The Maya Viewport 2.0, for example, makes heavy use of such effects and makes great use of stronger GPUs.
Although these types of effects can be computationally intensive, the GPU is specialized for this and can usually handle them quite well, meaning in most cases it won’t be the Framerate Bottleneck when updating your 3D / 2D Software’s Viewport.
The CPU, though, usually is.
So having a fairly strong GPU will definitely help, but only to a certain point.
As soon as your CPU is maxed out and becomes the bottleneck, the GPU will not be able to help at all in speeding up your viewport. It is basically just waiting for the CPU to finish with its calculations so it can then display the result to your screen.
Here are four Laptop GPUs that will perform nicely in an Animation Laptop:
- NVIDIA GTX 1650
- NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti
- NVIDIA GTX 1660
- NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti
Now, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that the GPU is not an important factor in the active process of animating.
This changes entirely if you plan on using GPU Render Engines.
These Render Engines utilize the Graphics Card instead of the CPU to render out your scenes and can be quite a bit faster than using the CPU.
If this is the case and you plan on using GPU Render Engines, then you should invest in a better GPU.
My GPU recommendations if you are looking at a stronger Laptop or want to use GPU Render Engines:
- NVIDIA RTX 2060 (Super)
- NVIDIA RTX 2070 (Super)
- NVIDIA RTX 2080 (Super)
Beware though, that having extremely strong GPUs in a Laptop will almost definitely make the Laptop more Bulky, Heavy, Larger and draw more Power, it will also make the Laptop quite noisy when GPU-Rendering.
You might want to consider external GPUs for Rendering on a Laptop. Or try to use an extra Computer or Rendernode that you can offload any Rendering-intensive tasks to.
Some of you might wonder why there are no AMD GPU recommendations here. The reason is quite simple. Currently, Nvidia’s GPUs have wider Application and Render-Engine Support, and in many cases perform better than AMD’s GPUs.
If you absolutely know you will only use Software that supports AMD GPUs though (like ProRender), then by all means, get an AMD GPU.
Storage Devices, HDD/ SSD for the Best Laptop for Animation
There has been quite an update in terms of storage hardware over the past few years, and almost all laptops now have Solid State Drives (SSDs) built in.
In the past, these storage devices used to be Hard Disc Drives (HDDs) that were very slow and bottle-necked many aspects of a running system.
SSDs are much faster at reading and writing and you can now boot the operating system faster, start your programs faster and load / save your scene updates in a fraction of the time it used to take.
SSDs are also much more robust, they don’t age as fast as HDDs and they are almost completely shock resistant.
Having an SSD in a laptop is an absolute must.
My recommendation what to look out for in terms of Storage:
- 500GB+ SATA SSD
For those of you who want even greater speed in saving & loading and general storage related workloads, the new-ish NVMe SSDs are the way to go.
These SSDs are about twice as expensive, but you get 5-6 times the speed in several use cases. The sequential read and write performance of NVMe SSDs in particular, will be a lot faster compared to conventional SATA SSDs.
Take a look at this comparison of HDD vs SSD (SATA) vs NVMe SSD Write and Read Speeds:
The conventional Hard Drive still has a purpose though.
As HDDs are a lot cheaper per Gigabyte, you can use them as long term storage, archiving, backup systems or storage systems for projects and files you don’t need to access very often or are too big for your built-in SSD.
Basically, anything that is not directly involved in your day-to-day workflow when actively working inside your software.
I usually have external HDDs that I switch on in the evening after a day’s work and backup anything I worked on to the external HDDs, so nothing can get lost.
The best Laptop for Animation should have the ability to be upgraded and expanded within its hardware components.
You will probably want to use this Laptop for at least a couple of years. Because technology progression is so fast though, the Laptop might not quite be up to speed anymore after a few years. If you can upgrade your Laptop, this will give you some extra time before you have to buy an entirely new Laptop.
In most Laptops, there are many components that you can swap out on your own and upgrade or have a repair shop replace for you.
For example, you could buy a Laptop with only 256GB of SSD Storage built in, now, and after a year you might realize that you need more storage space for all the new projects and clients that you are working.
A larger SSD would certainly come in handy.
You can now easily upgrade to a larger and maybe even faster SSD, as the technology has progressed.
Get a 500GB or even 1TB SSD that will take care of your pressing storage needs until it is time to get an entirely new Laptop for Animation or maybe other types of related fields that you have grown into.
The same applies to RAM.
You can usually get a laptop that will have some unused RAM slots, and you can add more RAM later on if you find your memory to be full all the time.
The CPU and GPU, unfortunately, aren’t that easy to upgrade on your own, as these are usually hidden beneath parts of cooling solutions, and you would have to talk to the manufacturer or a repair shop to have these upgraded.
Apple MacBook (Pro) for Animation?
I know of many that would like to just get a MacBook Pro. They look nice and it seems everyone in the Design Industry has a Mac or MacBook, right?
Since this is a topic that is usually heavily fought over with very personal opinions, I’ll just list some facts here and let you decide for yourself:
- Cost: The Laptop(s) I recommend down below are at least 50% cheaper than those exact same parts within a MacBook Pro
- Graphics Card: The recommended Laptop(s) have (for this use case) superior Graphics Cards from Nvidia (CUDA based), that you can also use for GPU Rendering in more popular CUDA based GPU Render Engines
- Industry usage: Any serious 3D Studio I have worked and freelanced at so far, uses Windows-based PCs and not Macs. There are some that only had Macs in their Infrastructure, but those were advertising agencies that always outsourced any serious 3D or Animation work.
- Expandability: Laptops can usually be upgraded easier and cheaper
- Repair cost: Laptops can usually be repaired cheaper
- Connectors / Adapters: A Laptop has all of the usual Connectors already built in. MacBooks usually need additional expensive Adapters for anything external
Now, please do comment down below, if you have had a different experience. This is what I myself have experienced so far, but I would love to hear from you!
Using the Laptop
An absolute must to be productive on a Laptop is a good input device such as a mouse or a tablet & pen.
I have never seen anyone on a Touch-pad come even close to the speed of someone using a mouse or tablet & pen.
I know that using additional Input devices can be quite impractical at times, especially if you are in confined spaces such as on the train or the airplane.
Whenever possible though, especially at home, at work or at School where you have a fairly large desk, use an input device that will greatly speed up your work.
Some Laptops have Touchscreens, that can also be quite fast if you are used to using the Touchscreen as an input device. You might want to try this out in a shop and see if it suits you.
Also, a mouse is not expensive, you can always get one later-on.
As Laptop screens are usually much smaller than external screens that you can buy, you should make sure the resolution of the laptop screen is high enough for you to fit all of your software menus, tools and windows that you need on the single screen.
A Full HD Resolution (1920×1080) usually is a good baseline Resolution to buy, but there are Laptops with even higher resolutions such as 4K, that you can fit much more on.
Beware though that with High-Resolution Screens the pixels are much smaller and as the screen itself doesn’t necessarily get bigger (unless you buy a huge Laptop), individual elements and Window/Menu Texts will get smaller and might strain your eyes.
It’s best to get an additional external monitor for a Multi-Screen setup or even just use your external monitor as the sole Monitor.
I would recommend a 15″ Screen size as the minimum on a Laptop for Animation. You can get away with a 14″ Screen, but that is really pushing it.
IPS or TN Panel?
For those working on projects that need a wider Viewing Angle, higher Color accuracy, better Contrast, and an overall superior Screen, I would recommend an IPS over a TN Panel.
This is not necessary for everyone. Say you are modeling, or animating in your viewport a lot, but don’t color grade or composite all that much, a TN Panel is usually sufficient. If you rely on more accurate color display though, go the IPS route.
Be sure to also check our Monitor Guide which should explain lots of the features and terminology that you might come across when looking for Laptop screens or Monitors.
Now, the reason you are looking for the Best Laptop for Animation and not a Computer or Workstation probably is also for mobility reasons.
You want to be able to take this with you, maybe work while traveling, or you have a docking station at work and home and you just take your laptop with you to wherever you are currently working.
Maybe a Computer setup is just too big and you would like to start with something leaner that doesn’t require a dedicated area with cables running everywhere.
If you are a Student, then having a Laptop might be required by many Schools and you will take your Laptop from Class to Class and back home every day.
Of course, a Computer or Workstation will be better for Animation in almost every aspect because it has more room for faster parts a better power supply and larger cooling solutions.
But a PC certainly cannot compete with a Laptop in terms of Mobility.
You want to be mobile and you probably don’t want to carry a huge 10KG Laptop with you that will give you back pain after a days use.
Trust me, there certainly are Laptops that don’t really deserve this name anymore, as you won’t want them to be resting on top of your lap.
They are loud, extremely hot, heavy and very large and look more like a bulky briefcase than anything else –
What we are looking for is the Best Laptop for Animation that is also somewhat lightweight, yet still has a large enough screen, doesn’t produce too much noise and has a battery that lets us animate for some hours before we have to plug it into a power supply.
I have put together some recommendations of Animation Laptops that will fit your needs in different price ranges below four you to take a look at, but as we are almost through this article let’s see what else is important in a great Laptop for animation:
What else is important in a Laptop for Animation
If you are planning on using the Laptop with external devices, which I would recommend to enhance your speed and workflow, you should make sure it has all the required connectors.
If you have a docking station for your Laptop, the docking station will usually take care of most of the connectors as not all of the connectors will be present on your Laptop directly for space reasons. If you don’t have a docking station, you will want to make sure your Laptop has some of the following connectors already built in:
For external monitors you will want a HDMI and or Display Port Connector. Some of the older monitors also just support DVI or VGA Plugs though these connectors, because they are so big, usually aren’t found on modern laptops anymore. But you can always get an adapter.
If you are using a Local Area Network at your workplace or at home you will want an RJ45 LAN port for attaching a LAN cable that offers much higher speeds than a wireless connection can provide.
For external USB devices such as external HDDs for backup and storage, Input Devices such as Mouse, Tablet or Headsets, you will want enough USB ports that are fast enough such as USB 3.0.
Frequently Asked Questions
So here are the answers to a couple of questions I often get in the comments. Feel free to comment below if you need any other help!
What Laptops do Animators use?
You don’t really need an exotic kind of Laptop or any specific features to animate on a Laptop. There certainly are some features that will make your work more efficient & faster, but any Laptop that meets the minimum requirements for the Animation Software you would like to use, can basically be used to animate on.
What is a good Computer for Animation?
If you’d rather like to use a Desktop PC instead of a Laptop for Animation, be sure to read on in-depth Guide on what the Best PC for Animation looks like.
Is 8GB of RAM enough for Animation?
As we already discussed in this Article, 8GB of RAM can be enough for doing Animation on simple Scenes. You’ll be much happier with 16GB (or even 32GB) though, especially if your Scenes have lots of geometry, or if you’d like to use other Software in parallel.
Are Gaming Laptops good for Animation?
Yes, absolutely! Many Laptop manufacturers market Laptops at Gamers, because the Gaming Target group is much bigger than the Animation or Content Creation Target Group. This doesn’t mean you can only game on a “Gaming Laptop”.
After some quick answers to those questions, here are our Animation Laptop recommendations:
Recommendations: The best Laptop for Animation
If you don’t necessarily need a numbers-pad but a lot of RAM and a fairly strong GPU, then the MSI P65 Creator is the right Laptop for you.
First Choice: MSI P65 Creator 15.6″ 4K Content Creation Laptop
Considering all aspects in this article such as, Size, Weight, Mobility, and especially Performance & Price your best Laptop for Animation that I can recommend is the MSI P65 Creator 15.6″ 4K Content Creation Laptop.
Some Features include:
- Ultra Thin
- CPU: i7-9750H (6 cores)
- Graphics Card: RTX 2060 with 6 GB VRAM
- RAM: 32GB RAM
- SSD: 1TB NVMe SSD
- Win 10 Pro
- 15,6″ IPS Screen with a 4K UHD Resolution
Some notes on this Laptop:
The MSI Creator Series is purpose-built for creative work, and it will keep you working efficiently even in complex Animation Projects. The 6-Core i7-9750H will help in rendering out some of your playblasts or even final scenes, and with its 4.5GHz Turbo Boost keeps your viewport snappy.
The Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU is quite strong and can be used for fast GPU Rendering of most Scenes.
This Laptop weighs under 2KG (4.2 Pounds) and is extremely portable and slim. You can configure this MSI Laptop to the next higher Tier GPU, RAM Size, and SSD Size if you want, though I don’t think this is necessary.
Second overall Choice: Gigabyte AERO 15 OLED
If it’s Maya (with its Viewport 2.0) or GPU Rendering that you’d like to use most, you will want to lean towards a better GPU such as the RTX 2070. A Numbers-Pad can be important for some too, and you will find it along with other great features in the Gigabyte AERO 15 OLED Laptop.
The Gigabyte AERO 15 OLED XA-7US5130SP 15″ Ultra Slim Laptop too is purpose-built for Content Creators and comes with all the bells and whistles you need for efficient Animation work.
The Features are:
- CPU: i7-9750H
- GPU: GeForce RTX 2070 with 8GB of VRAM
- RAM: 16GB RAM
- SSD: 512GB NVMe SSD
- Win 10 Pro
- 15,6″ IPS OLED Screen with a 4K Resolution
Some notes on this Laptop:
This Gigabyte Laptop again has a higher Tier Graphics Card, the Nvidia 2070 RTX with 8 GB of VRAM which will be excellent for GPU Rendering and working on other GPU demanding tasks. It weighs just slightly over 4 Pounds (~2KG).
Another great choice is the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 (2020) with an AMD 4800H CPU and an Nvidia 1660Ti, which is quite affordable.
If there is nothing suitable in the above recommendations, you might want to take a look at the Razer Blade 15 Series Laptops, which are quite popular among Content Creators and Gamers alike.
More Laptop Recommendations
If you want to get the best Laptop within your budget you should definitely have a look at the Web-Based PC & Laptop-Builder Tool that we’ve created.
As the main purpose you can select Animation and after adjusting your budget you’ll see some more recommendations.
If you are planning on doing Video Editing on your Laptop too, check out this Article on finding the best Laptops for Video Editing.
What Laptop are you thinking of buying?