Best laptop or desktop for SUP 2018


I have put off buying a new computer/laptop for some years, but now must do so. What requirements should I look for in desktop or laptop? Laptop would be preferable, but price may dictate a desktop. But if a desktop, I would still like a fairly portable one.

Any thoughts?


I bought a Dell XPS 15 (9560) at the end of last year and it’s been amazing and faultless. Can run SketchUp, AutoCAD, Outlook, Spotify and Chrome easily at the same time. Super smooth, glitch free, although LayOut would be painful to use on any computer.

The spec is a 7th Gen I7 processor, dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card, SSD, 32GB of RAM (upgraded from 16GB which was in itself easily enough but I wanted more for rendering). The machine wasn’t cheap but it was totally worth. Not a single regret. Check them out.

As ever with any machine for doing what we do the most important factors are:

  • Fastest processor possible (now 8th gen I7)
  • Dedicated (not integrated) high-end graphics card with max memory.
  • Max RAM you can afford (min 16GB).
  • SSD if you can. Super quick access and boot up speed.
  • min 1080p screen res (if a laptop). I didn’t go for the 4K option screen as it eats battery and resources. I also plug it into two monitors, hardly use the laptop screen.
  • Thunderbolt (USB-C) ports. Again super quick access.

Hope this helps.


I have been using Gigabyte Notebooks for years - light gaming notebooks in a business like package [no flashing LED keyboards and outrageous form factors].

I travel a lot and also present realtime flyarounds using twinmotion to clients

Had three notebooks starting with 14" p34 GTX 960, 14" p34 GTX 970 and now have 15" p35x GTX1070… but I will go back to the 14" form factor as it is about 1kg lighter {1.8kg] and 14" easier to use in transit.

I have external monitors at the office [4k samsung 42" TV + Dell 30" monitor ] so 1920 x 1080 notebook monitor is fine. so next one will be Aero 14 - I also heavily use a samsung galaxy note 12.2 with S PEN for sketching, its now almost 4 years old and still no new model from Samsung so I amd toying with the idea of a Microsoft Surface Book 2 with the GTX 1060 and stylus to combine the capabilities , but I do love my Android GN12.2 and not a fan of W10.


SketchUp is pretty light on requirements so I think also it’s going to come down to what else you are doing. I’ve just got a Dell Precision 7520 with Quadro laptop for the first time, its running an external dell ultrasharp monitor AND a 22 Cintiq HD. It still runs my applications pretty well including some CAD heavy hitters and Adobe stuff.

I think at home I much prefer my MAC for light work however. However I doubt my more expensive MAC would be able to power two massive external screens and for sure it can’t run the CAD software.


Like people have said above, it depends what else you will be using it for, if you do (or plan to do) rendering you need to up the specs quite a bit, in any event you’ll want as high a clockspeed CPU possible and a midrange to high end GPU, 16 - 32 GB RAM (more if you want / can afford it, maybe you need more) and SSD drives (m.2 PCIE for the OS drive if you can). Also, how deep are your pockets?

See the following links for highly customizable laptops and desktops, top notch stuff…




It’d be great to know more about what your looking to do, and what are the typical file sizes you work with - as well as if you use SketchUp professionally or as a hobby.

It should also be pointed out that you don’t necessarily need a super powerful machine for rendering these days - there are now cloud based services that allow you access to super powerful render nodes just when you need them. They usually run about a dollar or two per hour of use. I’ll usually do a few super low-res renders on my laptop - and then use a cloud service for the final product.


That’s good to know. I have used SUP for some years in my architectural
work, but only occasionally. Now I’m working with a surveyor who does drone
work and is looking to expand into drone rendering with buildings
superimposed. I just want a computer that can handle this with SU. Like I
mentioned, a notebook/workstation would be preferable, but then some give
me the impression that no notebook can rally give me satisfaction, and if
it did, it would be super expensive. (I’d like to stay under $2K.) From
comments already in this thread, that does not seem to be the case,
especially if the cloud can do final rendering.


You must already be using SketchUp on a computer, so compare the specifications of the one you have to the ones you’re thinking of buying. Is it too slow for you at the moment? Get your surveyor to give you a sample file of the drone scan and see if your computer can handle it.


Can you explain what you mean by ‘drone-rendering’? Are we talking about single images or videos?

Here’s a few general rules of thumb:
Video Cards - are responsible for moving around / panning around in model space. The better the card the smoother it will be to navigate your model.
CPUs - Most cad software only uses a single core to process calculations, rendering software can make use of many cores. I’d recommend a CPU that has a few cores that is able to maintain a high clock rate. That’ll give you the ability to run AutoCAD / SketchUp / Photoshop on each core with a high clock rate. Avoid the excessive multi-core CPU’s like Xeon’s unless your building a rendering machine because these tend to have terrible single core performance.


I forgot to mention if you’re buying a laptop - it’s good to be aware that CPU clock rates can be a bit deceiving. Most laptop manufacturers now use laptops with what look like low clock rates - but crucially have the ability to boost up to higher clock rates. These CPU’s are actually a great thing because they only spend energy when absolutely necessary - leading to laptops with better battery lives.


Please be aware that the mobile CPU’s only boost a single CPU (that is, if you have an i7 quadcore, that is 4 cores with 2 CPU’s per core, totalling 8 CPU’s) while the desktop CPU’s run all cores at the same speed. So choose wisely, depending on what you’re doing that may / may not be what you want.

The links to the laptops I posted above use desktop grade CPU’s and GPU’s, a truly mobile workstation if that is what you’re looking for.


I’d generally avoid ‘mobile workstations’. They tend to be as heavy as bricks - and are usually quite expensive. They really defeat the entire point of laptops. Something like the XPS 15 or the new Surface Book 2 would be fine for most tasks - and you won’t be cursing yourself everytime you need to go somewhere.

If you need more power - the other option is getting a super cheap and light laptop and remoting into a more powerful desktop at home. This can usually be done for less than what you’d pay for a mobile work station - though it does require access to high speed internet connections.


Good luck with that, let us know how it worked out for you.


I agree in that usually what differentiates a “mobile workstation” from a “power laptop” or “gaming laptop” is that it has a Nvidia Quadro graphics card. Robust but slow. Gaming laptops usually have faster Nvidia graphics and they are quite a lot cheaper.


Thank you for your observation. So what gaming laptops offer the most ‘bang for the buck’? When I have looked at the best maxed out ones, they start running into the thousands. As I mentioned earlier, my target is around $2,000 USD. I have been pricing the i7, 8th generation, combined with a Nvidia 1080, but I really don’t know anything about these components. I am coming from a Mac background.


If you’re a mac guy - you might want to wait until June when their new lineup of macs are going to be released. They’ve said the MacBook Pro will have much better internals this time around.

It might also be worth taking a trip to your local Microsoft Store or Best Buy with a USB key with the files you plan on working with in SketchUp. Have the folks load up a copy of SketchUp Make on a few different machines - and see what internals work best for your use case.


Good practical suggestion. Thanks.


I have been a Mac guy, but it’s getting harder and harder to stay as
enthusiastic as I used to be. I am now switching to the Win World for my
computer needs.


I have been using your “specs” for comparative purposes and they have been very helpful. Now I would like to understand the storage aspects. I just saw a YouTube video on the difference between SATA and PCIe, and then saw a similar one on M.2. I’m now very confused.

You said that one should have “SSD, if you can.” The standard entry offering on most configurations is “M.2 SSD, Drive Slot 1: 250GB WD Blue M.2 SSD.” Do you recommend going to the next level of 500GB?

Then the Slot 2 is left empty and the Hard Drive is 1 TB 7200rpm SATA3. Is that good? Would a 1TB FireCuda SSHD Drive be better? Is 1 TB enough?

Thanks for any input you can give me.


In the m.2 form factor for SSD’s you get the SATA interface and PCIE interface, the PCIE version being much faster.

Take stock of how many programs you use and what their requirements are (libraries, etc.), also remember that SSD’s wear out quicker the more writes there is to the memory modules, thus larger capacity SSD’s will last longer than small capacity SSD’s (based on the same amount of data on them with similar amount of reads / writes per cycle).

Typically a drive for storage needs to be higher capacity, but the SSD versions (either PCIE or SATA) of these drives are more expensive than mechanical drives.

My personal machine has a 512GB m.2 PCIE SSD of OS and apps and for storage I have a 1TB SATA SSD. I also have external mechanical HDD’s for backups and archives.