Animation, whether it’s 2D or 3D, AR or VR, is one of the most hardware and software demanding tasks you can do on a computer, and even more so on a laptop, since you need equal parts performance, reliability, and portability.
For one thing, your laptop should be light enough that you can carry it anywhere, but also perform well that it allows you to work on complicated projects, renders quickly, and won’t crash all too often.
Given all these requirements, choosing the best laptop for animation can be difficult, even with all the portable workstations and gaming laptops available on the market. To help you with that, here’s a review and buying guide of state of the art laptops that will give you the best value for your money.
Minimum Requirements For An Animation Laptop
Good laptops for animation should offer the best in terms of hardware, infrastructure, and performance, among others. To give you an idea of what you need, here’s a list of the minimum and recommended requirements for an animation laptop:
|Category||Minimum requirements||Recommended requirements|
|Processor||Intel Core i7||Anything higher than an Intel Core i7|
|Graphics card||Integrated GPU||Dedicated GPU with at least 2GB VRAM|
|Storage capacity||256GB SSD||512GB SSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8 or MacOS X Mojave||Windows 10 or MacOS X Mojave|
|Battery life||5 hours||8 hours or longer|
|Display||14 inch full HD (1920 x 1080||15 inch 4K resolution (3840 x 2160)|
|Weight||No more than 10 pounds||6 pounds or less|
We will explain later in more detail why these specs are important, and what possible alternatives you can find, but for now, let’s take a look at 2021’s best laptops for animation.
Remember that better laptop specs make for a smoother and more reliable performance, especially in the face of complex, demanding tasks. This also lets you enjoy your laptop for longer, since allowing room for newer and bigger animation software allows you to still make use of the laptop rather than having to replace it with a more capable one.
Top 10 Animation Laptops
Here’s a review of the best animation laptops we found in 2021. We’ve included a wide variety of options so you can find one that suits your ideal performance benchmark while fitting within your price range.
Our top pick for the best laptop for animation is the Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop, a pretty powerful laptop that can handle complex animation scenes with lots of lights, shadows, and textures, thanks to its powerful graphics card. And, it comes at a relatively affordable price, too.
You read that right: the Acer Nitro’s GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card is nowhere near like your entry level MX250, so you’re sure to get so much more out of this laptop. In fact, it’s at par with the 1060GTX and the 2060RTX in terms of pure power, which are both significantly more expensive models found in today’s performance laptops.
And, aside from the GPU, the Acer Nitro 5 also boasts of lots of other amazing specs and features, such as the Core i5 processor, fifteen inch full HD screen, eight gigabytes of RAM and 256 gigabytes of solid state drive, and more. In other words, it’s one of the best value laptops you will ever find.
- 15” 1080p full HD IPS display
- Intel Core i5 9300H CPU
- GeForce GTX 1650
- 8GB RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD
- Lightweight 5.07lb profile
- 5 hour battery life
This next one really shouldn’t come as a surprise, what with all its unique features that make it a drawing and animation friendly laptop. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is easily the best two in one laptop in the category, thanks to its detachable display design, for starters.
What this means is that you not only can rotate the display a full 360 degrees and then fold it, you can also detach it completely from the keyboard if you want to use the display as a tablet. It comes with innovative accessories, too, like the Surface Pen and the Surface dial.
We really love this feature since you can get a lot more hands-on when it comes to sketching, illustrating, adding textures, and more. The Surface Dial also lets you optimize your shortcuts, like measurements and color palettes, just with a few simple turns and clicks.
- Versatile 2-in-1 design
- 15” PixelSense display
- Intel Quad Core i7 CPU
- GeForce GTX 1060 GPU
- 16GB RAM, 256GB storage
- Premium build and aesthetics
One of the best 2D animation laptops today, and a pretty capable 3D laptop too, is the Acer Aspire 5. It can easily handle any 2D animation software thanks to its superior processing power and the MX250 dedicated GPU that can do plenty of simple 3D tasks.
That’s because it offers four times the performance you can get from an integrated Intel HD GPU, which means it’s good enough for many 3D animation software as long as you don’t do too much lights, shadows, diffusion, physics, and post processing.
Although, technically, this laptop can still handle those tasks, save for a longer rendering period. Processing steps also don’t take too much time that they seriously impede your workflow, and it can easily handle small scenes at decent frame rates. For an animation student, it’s a great budget-friendly laptop that won’t lag.
- 15” 1080p full HD display
- Intel Core i5 8265U CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU
- 8GB DDR4 RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD
- Relatively lightweight 5.8lb profile
- 7 hour battery life
If you’re looking for a high end laptop that can deliver outstanding graphics and unparalleled speed, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is the way to go, due to its top of the line graphics card and ultra powerful processor, among many other amazing features.
This laptop boasts of an eight generation processor with the most recent NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card that can support any animation or virtual reality application. It even features two cooling fans to maintain an optimal temperature while you’re busy with intensive projects.
Not to mention, the 15.6 inches of full high definition display proudly offers millions of pixels with vivid colors and a more accurate and wider viewing angle. In other words, you’ll be able to work longer and add finer details on your animations without experiencing eye fatigue.
- 15.6″ full HD 144Hz IPS display
- Intel Core i7-8750H CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU
- Responsive keyboard with great travel distance
- Solid and durable overall built quality
Another excellent 3D laptop is the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S Ultra Slim, which boasts of outstanding power and performance with its eighth generation processor that’s capable of handling just about any animation task you throw its way.
Meanwhile, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 is ingeniously paired with Max-Q design to offer unlimited animation and gaming power, while the anti-dust channels and 12 volt fans keep your laptop cool and performing at the top of its game. The laptop even regulates fan speed automatically based on how you use your CPU and GPU.
There’s also nothing to say but good things about the 15.6 inches of full high definition display with a 144Hz maximum refresh rate, three milliseconds of response time, and a slim and sleek bezel that’s just a little over half a centimeter. Even the construction is ultra durable with premium, military grade materials.
- 15.6″ full HD display
- 0.62-inch aluminum chassis
- Intel Core i7-8750H CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 GPU
- Powerful and lightweight construction
- Superior thermal and cooling performance
Want this in a sleek notebook? Check out the ASUS ROG Strix Scar Thin & Light Gamer Notebook
We’ve got a few more Acer and Asus laptops down the list, but for now, let’s talk about the Gigabyte Aero Ultra Slim Gaming Laptop, which features an impossibly thin design that doesn’t compromise on performance, making it ideal for on-the-go animators.
This laptop is chock-full of features, such as the Intel Core i7 that has a 2.2GHz base clock speed and 4.1GHz turbo boost, a powerful NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card, 16 gigabytes of RAM, and 512 gigabytes of solid state drive, along with innovative airflow management and ventilation that effectively prevents the laptop from overheating.
What it all means is that you’re getting a competent and capable laptop that can do most animation tasks with superior speed. And, with the 15.6 inch display that has a full HD resolution, 144GHz refresh rate, and thin bezels, you also get to enjoy snappy programs and games, no matter how graphics-intensive they are.
- 15.6” full HD anti-glare display
- Intel Core i7-8750H 2.2GHz CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 GPU
- 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 8GB VRAM
- Extremely lightweight 4.41lb profile
- 10 hour battery life
One of the many leading brands when it comes to powerful laptops is MSI, and you’ll definitely see the brand’s promise and quality execution with the MSI GS65 Stealth, an excellent gaming laptop that’s portable but delivers plenty of performance for 3D animation and 3D modeling.
Among its many features are the Intel Core i7 processor that has a base clock speed of 3.9GHz that lets you work uninterrupted, 16 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM that allows for multitasking, and 512 gigabytes of solid state drive that gives you so much space to store projects right on the laptop, while also making everything so much faster and snappier.
The most impressive feature, however, is this laptop’s 15.6 inch full high definition display that comes with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and 144Hz refresh rate, allowing you to do animation work that necessitates color sensitivity. And, the latest graphics card with 6 gigabytes of vRAM isn’t bad either, seeing as it can deliver crisp and fine visuals.
- 15.6” full HD display
- Intel Core i7-8750H 2.2GHz CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU
- 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
- Extremely lightweight 4.14lb profile
- 6 hour battery life
Want a slimmer package? Check out the MSI GS65 Stealth Ultra Thin Gaming Laptop
If you’re looking for the most portable laptop for animation that can still offer reliable performance, we highly recommend the ASUS VivoBook Pro, which is popular among animators for so many wonderful reasons.
First, the Intel Core i7 CPU powers superior performance with its 1.8GHz to 4.6GHz clock speed, thereby letting you run even the higher end animation programs. The memory aspect of this laptop is also commendable, since it offers 16 gigabytes of RAM, 256 gigabytes of solid state drive, and an impressive 1 terabyte of HDD storage.
This means you won’t ever run out of space, whether it’s for installing animation programs, games, or downloading general data and saving ongoing projects. Not to forget, the display is also outstanding with a full 17.3 inches of high resolution display that is complemented by the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card which really boosts the laptop’s visual real estate.
- 17.3” wide view full HD display
- Intel Core i7-8565U CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU
- 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
- Lightweight 4.85lb profile
- 7 hour battery life
There’s a reason why gaming laptops are often the preferred choice for animation. Take the Acer Aspire VX 15, for example. It’s built with the right hardware, such as an Intel Core i7 processor that can go from 2.8GHz to 3.8GHz, to let you enjoy uncompromised performance in a budget-friendly mobile workstation.
Storage and memory are also excellent with 16 gigabytes of RAM that has been optimized to handle multitasking and hardware demanding tasks, along with 256 gigabytes of SSD storage that provides enough space for storing various data while also being easily expandable with the HDD expansion kit that lets you connect another SATA drive.
Furthermore, the 15.6 inch display panel comes with a full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution that offers great visual clarity and attention to detail. It works well for a variety of animation tasks, save for slightly lower quality graphics on some more complex projects, especially since the GPU only offers 4 gigabytes of vRAM (which is actually more than you can say for some laptops).
- 15.6” full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS display
- Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz CPU
- 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU
- 16GB RAM, expandable 256GB SSD
- Relatively lightweight 5.51lb profile
- 6 hour battery life
Need more space but don’t want the hassle of expanding your storage? How about an external hard drive, like the WD 4TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive?
Last but definitely not the least is the Acer Aspire E 15, which is perhaps the most affordable laptop for 3D animation that you’ll be able to find in today’s market. It’s not the highest-end laptop by any means, but the Acer Aspire E 15 can certainly compete among the other laptops we reviewed on this list.
That’s due to the Intel Core i7 processor that has a turbo boost of up to 4.0GHz, the NVIDIA GeForce MX150 dedicated graphics card, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and 256 gigabytes of solid state drive storage. All of these are decent enough for simple to moderately complex animation programs and games.
Its RAM can easily store operations that the processor is about to take up. The solid state drive lets you save so much on your laptop. And, the graphics card delivers a decent performance that won’t lag excessively. The design and construction is pretty nice, too, with the plastic casing and a matte finish on its lid.
- 15.6” full HD display
- Intel Core i7-8550U CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU
- 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
- Exceptional keyboard and trackpad
Make it perfect and prevent overheating with the havit Laptop Cooler Cooling Pad
How To Find The Best Laptop For Animation
When buying a laptop for animation, it’s important to do thorough research since you need to make sure that the laptop you buy can actually handle the kind of animation you want to do. Remember, there are different kinds of animation, and hundreds more animation software. The kind and size of model or scene you need to deal with also influences your hardware needs.
For instance, a 2D animator can work with any modern laptop that has a modern processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and a Windows operating system, which means huge savings since you can buy a cheap laptop that comes with great hardware specs and display features.
Take the Hp Touchscreen Business Gaming Laptop, for example. It boasts of touch screen functionality, long battery life, and an SSD.
But, a 3D animator needs a more powerful laptop, which is all about processing power, graphics card, RAM, and storage.
The first thing you need to determine is whether you will mostly be doing 2D animation, or if you’ll want to engage with a lot of 3D animation software as well, since this will tell you if you need to buy a laptop for rendering, or just any modern laptop will do.
Let us preface this by saying that any decent laptop for 3D animation can naturally handle and run all 2D animation software, even the most hardware and graphics demanding ones, hence they are typically seen as the more preferable option.
Now, if you are on a tight budget and are only really interested in doing 2D animation, a cheap laptop will be able to handle all the different 2D animation software including more popular ones like Adobe after effects and Pencil2D. For a full list of 2D animation software, click here.
Stop motion: Most, if not all, modern laptops are also capable enough to run stop motion animation software, since these programs make use of pretty much the same things as general 2D software, meaning, you can run StopMotion Pro Eclipse, Stop Motion Studio, Animator HD, DragonFrame, qStopMotion, and IkITMovie, among others.
While 2D animation softwares are hardware-friendly for the most part, 3D animation softwares are another matter altogether, as they are significantly more demanding in terms of processing power, graphics performance, storage, and RAM. below are two of the most common software for 3D animation:
AutoDesk Maya: This software is, by far, the most popular among animators since it allows you to do so much, from visual effects to modeling, matchmoving, simulation, rendering, and compositing, which means you can use it for a variety of applications, including film and TV, architecture, and even automotive design.
In recent years, it has been used in canon movies and games such as the Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda, and Transformers franchises, and the Prince of Persia and FIFA 09 games.
Autodesk 3DS Max: One of the best softwares for 3D animation and 3D modeling is Autodesk 3DS Max, which is crucial in the entertainment and design industries. It’s widely used in television, film, game development, and architectural studies.
This is the backbone of games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, and movies like X-men, Transformers, Avatar, and Tomb Raider (Lara Croft).
The key to choosing the right laptop is to base your decision on your specific needs, requirements, and lifestyle. For instance, how and where do you want to use the laptop? Will it be a permanent addition to your home or office desk, or will you go to meetings with it? What software are you planning to use? How demanding are your animation projects?
These are just a few of the many questions you need to ask yourself before you buy a laptop or computer for animation (or any other kind of laptop, really).
Think of it this way: if you want a mobile workstation that allows you to be productive no matter where you are, you need a mid-range laptop that can deliver reliable performance in a portable package. But if you want the best in terms of productivity and performance, you need a premium laptop with top-shelf hardware that really packs a punch.
To give you a better idea of what you need, here’s a brief guide on how to pick a laptop that meets the minimum hardware requirements of a 2D or 3D laptop:
- CPU – Regardless of whether you’re still studying to become an animator or working in the field full time, you need at least an Intel Core i7 processor to be able to handle both 2D and 3D projects. An Intel Core i9 is even better if you can afford it, since it delivers a smooth, lag-free animation and 3D rendering performance.
- GPU – While an integrated graphics card will get you through several animation and modeling tasks, you’ll still want to invest in even just an entry-level dedicated GPU for better visual real estate. A more powerful GPU will let you work with 3D rendering and complex scenes while being able to maintain your frame rates.
- Storage – Nowadays, an HDD is out, and an SSD is in, since it makes for a speedy performance with rapid program and file access, along with faster loading times. This also prolongs the laptop’s efficient service life.
- RAM – 2D animation software can make do with 8GB RAM, but for most 3D software, like Autodesk Maya and other professional-level software, you will need 16GB of RAM if you want your laptop to handle the added geometry and heavier viewport scenes.
- Connectivity – It’s always a good idea to have a wide availability of different connectivity options such as HDMI ports, USB ports, mini display ports, and Thunderbolt 3 ports, because you’ll be able to scale up as the animation technologies evolve.
Tip: you can also use Maxwell Plugins to make your CAD and 3D animation software run more comfortably regardless of what laptop you have.
Laptops For Animation FAQs
Is a dedicated graphics card really necessary for animation?
The short answer is yes. While an integrated may be able to handle 2D animation software requirements, a dedicated GPU is better able to allocate more resources and provide for better graphics and enhanced visual performance.
What’s the benefit of a 144Hz display for animators?
Higher screen refresh rates create a snappier overall experience, which is useful in dealing with a complex interface. It means you can enjoy a smoother experience. A 144Hz screen also lets you design and test games at much higher qualities.
Do I need to invest in an SSD?
A solid state drive or SSD isn’t only beneficial for animators. It allows any laptop user to enjoy faster and more convenient workflows with quick load speeds, millisecond program boot-ups, better reading and writing speeds, and of course, faster rendering times.
Do I need to spend $1,000+ on an animation laptop?
Again, buying a laptop should be based on your specific needs. If you’re mainly doing 2D animation, there’s no need to buy the latest gaming laptop available, but if you’re doing 3D modeling and rendering, you definitely would want to invest in a better hardware configuration that can effectively meet your demands, and these laptops don’t come cheap.
Can I use the Microsoft Surface Pro for animation?
Yes! This laptop may be expensive, but it’s a worthy investment since it offers the best in terms of performance and mobility alike. The latest Microsoft Surface Pro, for instance, comes with a 10th generation processor, Intel Iris Plus GPU, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD. Essentially, it’s a great mobile workstation. Here’s a more detailed Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review.
Can I use the MacBook Pro for animation?
Also yes. MacBooks are known for their outstanding performance and sophistication, which make them a popular choice for anyone in the arts, design, architecture, or engineering field. There are also lots of animation software that can run on a Mac OS, such as Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Animate, Harmony, Blender, Poser Pro, and iClone.
These are the same reasons why it’s one of the best laptops for Autocad, too.
Found the best laptop for animation yet? Even if the laptops we reviewed are not to your taste, as long as you follow our recommended laptop specs and requirements, and arm yourself with the right knowledge, you will be able to find a suitable laptop that comes with the right specifications for the type of animation you do.