What Kind of Laptop Should Our Students Buy?

What kind of laptop?

What kind of laptop should I buy?” is a question that is often asked at Escape Studios. 

Computer specifications change regularly and much depends on exactly what you want to use your laptop for.  But let’s say you want to buy a laptop capable of running Autodesk Maya, for computer animation and to render out your shots.

What sort of laptop should you buy, and how much do you need to spend? Our animation tutor Amedeo Beretta offers some advice to our students.

Suggested computer specifications for all-purpose CG work, including 3D CG:

Amedeo Beretta
  • HDD: at least 500gb or, (better) 1tb SSD drive as your main drive 
  • Processor: CPU Intel Core i7 9th/10th generation or similar (AMD CPUs will work, too, but make sure you read performance comparisons).
  • RAM: 16GB of ram is the recommended minimum. 32GB would be ideal, but you can work just as fine with 16GB. If you decide to buy 16GB and plan to update in a few year’s time, check that the machine you are buying supports at least 32GB of max ram memory.
  • Graphics Card: NvidiaGeForce GTX 1080/ GTX1660 Ti/ RTX 2060 or similar. If buying an AMD card (some Apple laptops come with it), double check for compatibility with the software you plan to employ (e.g. Redshift renderer might have issues running on some AMD graphic cards).
  • Screen: you won’t have much choice when it comes to laptops, without breaking the bank. Make sure the resolution is at least HD (1920*1080). Compare reviews, and prefer models that put less strain on your eyes. I prefer 15.6″ screens because they make the laptop easier to carry and I usually work on an external screen. If you plan to use your laptop screen as your main one and portability is not a concern, you may want to consider a laptop with a 17.3″ monitor.

What will it cost?
You can expect to buy a Laptop with these specifications for about £1,000 to £1,400 (excluding secondary monitor and secondary hard drive, which are not essential).  Note that you can save money by buying a PC workstation instead of a laptop.  Also, animators who don’t need to render out a lot of high resolution frames can afford a lower specification generally.

General considerations

  • Value for Money: you will get better value for money if you buy technology which is not top of the range, but one or two steps immediately below.
  • Battery: always check the battery life – how long does the machine last without external power?
  • Reviews: check real users online reviews to see how happy or unhappy they are. Check to see if the particular model you are interested in has experienced problems encountered by a significant amount of users (such as flimsy screen hinges, overheating issues, meltdown issues, screen breaks easily).
  • Warranty: check the warranty: what does it cover, and for how long?

Useful sites for Laptops, CPU and GPU comparison:

Of course, you can spend less, and remember that if you’re just using a laptop for animation, you can get away with a lower spec. If you want to do sophisticated lighting and rendering on your machine, you will likely want to spend a little more.
The Escape Studios VFX Blog offers a personal view on the art of visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt, now recruiting for September 2022, follow this link.  



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