Help Me, Laptop: Finding a Notebook Fit For a Worksite

Today's engineers and architects don't just sketch buildings on paper like the father from the Brady Bunch. Buying a laptop that runs the 3D programs you need for construction projects in 2017 can be a pricey proposition, depending on what apps you run and how well you want them to perform.

Forum user
SentinelFPS is looking for a competent laptop for their father, who is a "construction foreman and soon to be coordinator." The preferred requirements for this machine include a 15-inch screen, black or silver colorway, and the ability to use powerful graphics apps such as Auto CAD and Sketch up. SentinelFPS would also prefer a 2-in-1 to a traditional clamshell.

Unfortunately, SentinelFPS's stated budget is just $1,000, which limits the choices, unless they're willing to kick in some more money. Fortunately, there are also affordable options that come close to meeting these requirements.

If the budget is the most important part of your needs, then consider the
Acer Aspire E 15, a 15-inch notebook with a speedy 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This machine supports AutoCAD 2018's basic system requirements (4GB of memory, 4GB of storage and a 1GHz CPU), but since there's a huge difference between opening an application and running it smoothly, we're guessing you might need more.

So, for example, if you believe you need an Nvidia Quadro GPU, and not a GeForce card, as the former is targeted at workstations and the latter is meant for gaming, look for an extra $334.  The $1,334
ThinkPad P40 Yoga mobile workstation gives you an Nvidia Quadro M500M GPU with 2GB of memory, a roomy 512GB SSD, 8GB of memory and the 2-in-1 design you asked about. The only issues, though, are its 14.1-inch screen, which is smaller than you'd like, and its Core i7-6500U CPU is a couple generations old.

If you can find an extra $770, though, you've got a great option in the 15.6-inch Dell Precision 5520. For  $1,770, you can get a configuration of the
Dell Precision 5520 with a Nvidia Quadro M1200 GPU with 4GB of memory, an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and an extremely spacious 2TB hard drive.

Another reason why you'll want to spend a little more money is to get a machine that will have a better chance of surviving the dangers of a construction site. Both the ThinkPad P40 Yoga and the Dell Precision 5520 feature designs built for durability, as they each passed MIL-SPEC testing. Those are the same rigors (including drops) that equipment purchased for the U.S. military must pass.

So, while we know you wanted to give your dad a laptop that was accurate to the blueprint of your request, no laptop like it exists. Instead, we recommend each of these, as they're some of your best options.

Have laptop woes and need advice? To get answers fast, head straight to the Laptop Tech Support Forum for the latest tips from our resident experts and fellow members.

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