Selecting the best laptop for animation requires a basic understanding of which components in a computer system impact performance the most within animation software.
And no matter which software you use, there are some common tasks you’re going to perform which apply a similar load on the hardware in your system.
There is a wide range of laptops to choose from, all the way from low-budget (under 600 dollars) to premium (over 1500 dollars).
While a dedicated workstation desktop is always going to be the more practical choice for serious projects, a laptop lets you work freely without being tethered to your office desk or home.
In this article, we shall analyze how animation software utilizes various parts of your computer and which components you should prioritize in order to get the most bang for your buck.
If you want a quick answer, our top pick is the HIDevolution ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503QR. This is a ROG Zephyrus G15, customized by HIDevolution, and it packs some serious muscle underneath the sleek magnesium alloy chassis.
Here is our list of 7 best laptop for Animation:
And we agree with everything they mentioned in that video, it’s a very well-built machine with top-end hardware. Especially, the processor- a Ryzen 5900HS is the absolute pinnacle of laptop processing power.
You see, most gaming laptops also make excellent animation laptops. You could easily choose any laptop from our top gaming laptop articles and we bet you’d be satisfied with the performance in rendering/ animation/ graphic design, etc.
The reason is most gaming laptops have really good processors. And the processor is what makes or breaks an animation laptop. A Ryzen 9 5900HS is based on Zen 2 architecture, it has 8 cores and 16 threads with a max boost clock of 4.6Ghz.
And it isn’t even that power-hungry with a default TDP of 35W, thanks to the 7nm node from TSMC. HIDevolution even adds Gelid GC Extreme/ Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut paste on the CPU for thermals that are far better than stock.
All this combined with the 24GB of 3200MHz DDR4 RAM and RTX 3070 make this a beast of an animation rig. And it’s even ultra-light at just under 2 kilos (just over 4lbs).
The G15 platform makes an excellent choice for anyone who needs tons of power in a very portable form factor. That’s why it can be adapted to pretty much anything just by changing the processor and GPU underneath the hood.
The best part about the Zephyrus G15 is the fact that it doesn’t give off any “gamer” vibes. This is a very restrained, mature-looking device.
Instead of plastic, it uses machined aluminum-magnesium alloy which is both light and rigid. Instead of gaudy RGB lighting shining brightly like a Christmas tree, you get subtle prismatic light effects that shine brilliantly when struck by ambient light at just the right angle.
This is achieved by precision milling 8279 tiny perforations into the metal lid in an asymmetrical pattern. Underneath these perforations, is a sheet of prismatic film which shines when subjected to ambient light.
Lenovo ThinkPads are the most ubiquitous “professional” laptops out there. When we say professional, we’re referring to laptops used by individuals for work.
Like businesspeople and content creators. ThinkPads also make excellent workstations, and the P15 is designed exactly for that purpose.
Firstly, it has an Intel 10th generation Comet Lake processor. The i7-10750H is a 6 core CPU with hyperthreading and an insane maximum boost clock of 5GHz. If you’re using Maya, Blender, 3ds Max, etc. this processor will rip through any workload you throw at it.
The downside to this chip is its power consumption- even though it’s a 10th gen part, it still uses Intel’s dated 14nm manufacturing process. Which is far inferior to TSMC’s 7nm node used by all new Ryzen chips from AMD.
Fortunately, animation (both 2D and 3D) is a task that you normally do sitting down in front of a desk. It isn’t like drawing where you might be on the move while using a portable device. Which means, a slightly less portable laptop with mediocre battery life will work fine as long as it has the performance to compensate.
And the ThinkPad P15 definitely has that level of performance. It even includes a Dolby HDR 500 display (with 500 nits of brightness), which makes it a viable desktop alternative.
Whenever you’re away from your main office rig you can use this laptop to fill in the gaps. It is loaded with 32GB of 2933Mhz DDR4 RAM (non-ECC), and has a massive 1TB SSD.
This is a PCIe M.2 SSD, which is much faster than a SATA III SSD (about 3 to 5 times as fast in sequential read/ write operations).
There’s a reason MSI calls it the “Creator”. It’s part of their new lineup targeted at content creators, such as Youtubers and artists.
If you’re into video/ photo editing, 3D rendering and animation, graphics design, etc. this is the perfect laptop for you. It has the complete package- a fast processor, fast graphics, excellent display, good keyboard, and solid build quality.
Creator laptops are sleek, stylish, without any of the tacky “gamer” looks. No flashy RGB lighting or cheap plastic parts to be found here, it’s all premium stuff. Everything from the trackpad to the display feels like a polished and refined experience.
The display is 144Hz which means you CAN use it for gaming, but it’s way better for professional workloads that require accurate colors and good viewing angles.
You get 100% Adobe RGB coverage and adequate brightness. It’s not an HDR panel, nor is it 10-bit so there is still no comparison to true pro-grade desktop displays. Still, it’s better than 95 percent of gaming laptop screens.
And the chassis itself feels premium, made from a machined solid block of aluminum for maximum strength without compromising on portability. This is a light and slim machine despite all that power underneath the hood.
And it looks mature unlike most of MSI’s gaming laptops. Gaming laptops are usually targeted at people who want their computers to look like a Decepticon from the Michael Bay movies. This one is not a gaming laptop despite the GTX 1660ti, it is truly different.
Note: If you’re a fan of the design, and have a little extra money to spend, check out the 4k version of this laptop with an i7-10875H. Not only does it have a far superior display, but it’s also faster with an 8-core processor instead of the 6-core in this model. You also get a much faster GPU in the RTX 2070 Super and twice the RAM (32 vs 16GB).
The highlight feature of this laptop is its brilliant OLED display. It stands out from the crowd with better colors, higher brightness, and excellent pixel response times.
Also, the display is nearly bezel-free which feels very immersive and modern. If you are concerned with color accuracy in a professional environment, the AERO 15 is probably what you need since it has the best display of any laptop on this list.
And yes, this is a 4K resolution panel with X-Rite Pantone certification. Each display is individual calibrated from the factory to meet a set quality standard. There is a reason the AERO 15 costs so much.
But if you really think about it, this might just be the most value-for-money animation laptop you can buy. For reference, most other laptops at the same price range come with IPS panels and 6-core processors.
This AERO 15 packs an OLED panel and Intel i7-10870H instead of an i7-10750H. The i7 10870H is basically an i7 10875H with base and boost clocks that are a couple hundred MHz lower (not going to have a meaningful impact on performance in most applications).
Razer Blade laptops are basically the PC version of MacBooks with a gaming twist. You get the best balance between performance and portability. All while maintaining that sleek, premium look that we’ve come to expect from a Blade.
This one is no different, as it combines everything- power, efficiency, good build quality, and aesthetic into a package that anyone would be proud to own. If they could afford it, that is.
This particular Blade 15 has a 6-core Intel 10th generation i7 processor. With hyperthreading, you should have a pretty solid portable workstation capable of handling anything you throw at it.
The FHD 144Hz display is nice, but not top-tier. Especially if you compare it to the OLED screen of the Gigabyte Aero 15.
And the RTX 2070 Max-Q is more than adequate for most people, whether it be for rendering or gaming.
A clean design, no unnecessary features, and premium build quality- the HP Envy X360 is a 2-in-1 laptop that’s focused and elegant.
It isn’t trying to be 20 things at the same time like is the case with many modern laptops these days. The sleek metal chassis and Gorilla glass-protected touchscreen tell you that this is a laptop for creative professionals and content creators.
The edge-to-edge keyboard layout makes sure that no space is wasted, just like the screen with its narrow bezels. This lets HP package a 13.3” inch laptop into a footprint that doesn’t feel much larger than a regular tablet.
It even has the SureView privacy technology which dims the brightness and reduces visibility from the sides so nobody can snoop on your laptop screen when you don’t want them to (like in a library, or public transport).
The 11th gen Intel Tiger Lake i7 processor with Xe graphics is both ultra-efficient as well as incredibly fast. For rendering, it isn’t as impressive because of the 4-core design.
However, for literally everything else in animation, it trounces most other processors while consuming a fraction of the power. That’s because of the IPC improvements Intel made with 11th gen and the improved 10nm manufacturing process.
This is the most budget option in our list, coming in at under 600 dollars. And that’s why it’s an excellent choice for students or aspiring animators on a budget.
The Ice Lake Core i5 processor is pretty good for most tasks. While it isn’t equipped to take on large projects like what you’d get in studios, the power vs efficiency curve is perfect for a budget laptop such as this one.
Overall, this isn’t a bad laptop at all. Especially for the money. It is a long way behind machines like the Gigabyte Aero and Razer Blade, but literally costs a fraction of the money.
And you still get a decent processor with a solid 8GB of RAM. It also has the latest in WLAN, Wi-Fi 6. And the keyboard is backlit. What more can one ask for at this price?
How To Select The Best Laptop For Animation
These are the components you need to focus on (in the exact order specified)
1. Processor: Most animation tasks don’t involve parallelized workloads, so single core speed is what matters. That means you need a processor with good IPC and high clock speeds.
Any Intel Core i5 or higher will do, and for AMD you want a Ryzen 5 or higher. Preferably a processor that isn’t behind the latest tech by more than one generation.
There are animation workloads that do take advantage of parallelization, such as rendering. That’s where core and thread count can really give you an advantage by cutting down on the time needed. This increases productivity.
If you work in a professional environment, you probably have access to a heavy-duty workstation provided by the studio. The laptop is merely for filling in the gaps between home and office.
2. RAM: This is the next most important thing, so make sure you get at least 16GB of RAM. You don’t need a TON of RAM for animation unless you are working with extremely large projects.
If you are working with tons of polygons, displacements, high-res textures, or large particle caches you might need 32 or even 64 GB of RAM. Speed isn’t super important, always prioritize capacity over speed for RAM.
3. Graphics: For most animators, a mid-range graphics card will get the job done. Usually, you want to go with NVIDIA because they have CUDA. Not to mention the Tensor cores in RTX GPUs which come in handy for AI acceleration in certain applications.
4. Storage: Wherever possible, get the fastest SSD you can (usually a PCIe NVMe SSD). You can use an external HDD for mass storage, but most of your project files should be on the SSD for faster workflow and quick access. Around 256GB is the bare minimum, 512GB to 1TB is what we recommend.
5. Display: A larger display helps a ton since you don’t have to strain your eyes as much for larger scenes, even the UI looks better on a larger screen. Also, get a laptop with some kind of display output like HDMI or DisplayPort so you can connect an external monitor.
We do have an article on how to connect an external monitor to your laptop so check that out if you’re interested.
More screen space lets you do more work at the same time, or run different tasks on each screen. Always get IPS over TN, and make sure it’s at least 1080p resolution.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can a gaming laptop work for animation?
A. Absolutely, we’ve explained this before- in general, gaming laptops tend to have fast processors paired with powerful dedicated GPUs. That’s pretty much all you need for animation, and you can easily beef up the RAM in a gaming laptop depending on your needs.
Q. Which brand of laptop should I choose for animation?
A. There is no specific manufacturer or brand you should look out for. Of course, there are the usual names like Dell, HP, Acer, ASUS, etc. but don’t limit your choices by sticking to one brand or the other based on word of mouth or your previous experiences.
Laptop manufacturers are constantly evolving and so is the hardware (CPU, GPU, etc.). Choose what fits your needs based on your budget, and look for the brand that offers the best features that are the most relevant to you. There is no “best brand”, only that which is the best for YOU.
Q. Does portability matter for animation laptops?
A. Not really since most of the time you’ll be working from a desk anyways. It is just for filling in the gaps between your workplace and home.
Whenever you don’t have access to a powerful desktop, you can continue your work on the laptop. And it also lets you do other stuff like art design, gaming, watching movies, etc.
In general, a portable laptop gives you more options. It’s good to have it but prioritize performance over portability when your budget is limited.
Q. What kind of display should I look for?
A. The size of the display matters, as does the resolution. At a minimum, it should be a 13” display with 1080p resolution. Ideally, you want a 15.6” display.
And try to stay away from TN, get a laptop with an IPS display wherever possible. That shouldn’t be too hard unless your budget is below 500 dollars.
Q. Is it okay to get second-hand laptops for animation?
A. We don’t recommend it because animation puts a lot of load on the hardware, especially if you do a lot of rendering which takes time and stresses the cooler. Unless the laptop is under 2 years old, it’s not worth buying second-hand.
And even then, make sure its cooler is working right and the internals are clean. Check temps, and try to get a premium model (XPS, Spectre, Envy, etc.) if you can because those are made with higher quality materials and hold up better over time.
Nothing really comes close to the HIDevolution ROG Zephyrus G15 in terms of performance and portability, it combines both aspects of a laptop seamlessly.
And the end result is as close to perfection as you can get on a gaming/ workstation machine. Unrivaled processing power thanks to the Ryzen 9 5900HS processor, and tons of RAM.
Plus, you get an RTX 3070. Considering all this and the exceptional build quality, the price of this laptop doesn’t seem ridiculous at all. In fact, we feel it’s very reasonably priced. Good value for money even.
On the other side of the price spectrum, you’ve got the dainty little Acer Aspire 5 A515 with its Ice Lake quad-core i5 chip and 8GB of RAM.
It’s adequate for beginners and students due to the low price, but don’t get fooled by the modest specifications- this is still a zippy little machine thanks to the PCIe SSD. It even has an FHD IPS display for under 600 bucks, and you can upgrade the RAM for some extra oomph.
Saurav has been writing about technology for the past 4 years, but has been a fan of all things computer related since he was 7 years old. He is a ghostwriter for multiple sites, and covers everything from PC hardware to chainsaws and mobile game development (yep, the guy has a lot of range).