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The best laptop for animation students will have a higher standard of laptop specs recommended. This is because when a student animator chooses the minimum specs, the laptop may not hold up since technology advances so quickly. The bar is constantly being raised in the field of animation.
If you are just dabbling in animation, then you can get away with something like the surface pro, which actually works quite well for 2d animation and some 3d animation.
However, if you’re a serious animator and plan to expand your skill set then getting a laptop with the highest possible specs along with a Wacom drawing tablet is highly recommended.
If you’re looking to work in an animation studio, then many veterans and experts will tell you to grab the highest performance laptop you’re budget allows because you’ll want the laptop to last you years down the road instead of struggling to run the newest update in a year.
Which you choose is up to you and in this post I’ll cover the best laptops for animations students. I’ll go over how we tested these laptops, their benefits, their disadvantages, as well as the limitations they bring forth and alternate choices that are ideal depending on your scenario.
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- Recommended laptop specs for 2D animation
- Recommended laptop specs for 3D animation
- 1. MSI Leopard GL75: Best Overall Laptop for Animation Students (Windows)
- 2. Macbook Pro 16 inch: Best Laptop Computer for Animation Students
- 3. Microsoft Surface Pro 7: Best Animation Laptop for Students with a touchscreen (2D, 3D Animation)
- 4. Acer Nitro 5: Best cheap Laptop for Animation Students (college)
- 5. Asus Rog Zephyrus: Best Laptop for Animation, Graphic Design & Gaming
- 6. Lenovo Legion 5: Good Laptop for Students using Rendering & Drawing Animation software
- 7. HP Omen 15: Good Laptop for Animation for Students on a Budget
- Graphics Card
- Performance & Rendering
- Operating system
At a Glance – Top Picks
- MSI Leopard GL75: Best Overall Laptop for Animation Students (Windows)
- Macbook pro 16 inch: Best Laptop Computer for Animation Students
- Microsoft Surface Pro 7: Best Animation Laptop for Students with a touchscreen (2D, 3D Animation)
- Acer Nitro 5: Best cheap Laptop for Animation Students (college)
Requirements for Choosing a Good Laptop for Animation (students in college)
Choosing the perfect laptop for animation college tasks isn’t easy. Especially for those of you who are freshmen animation students, it is logical to be overwhelmed and unsure about your decision.
The requirements for a good animation laptop are conditional. To be more precise, as an animation student, you’ll need to decide whether you’re doing 2D, 3D animation, or both. In general, 3D animation requires a stronger laptop, with a hardware set similar to advanced gaming computers. On the other hand, 2D animation students can get away with slightly less powerful specs.
Recommended laptop specs for 2D animation
A crucial parameter that applies in both 2D and 3D animation projects is that CPU and RAM are the most important features. Unless you want a laptop for huge 3D animation projects that require high-quality rendering, your CPU will manipulate most of the animation data.
Likewise, especially for those of you who need a laptop for 2D animation projects, or those of you on a budget, you should invest in a top-tier CPU. If you are a student who needs a laptop for 2D animation, you will be using software like After effects, photoshop, Adobe Animate, Krita, Toon Boom Harmony, TVPaint, etc.
A reliable CPU, a big amount of RAM, and an SSD are the key elements for a great 2D animation experience:
- Processor: You should go for the latest i5 or i7 Intel CPUs (Ryzen 5s or 7s for AMD laptops).
- Ram: Although 32GB of RAM is useful for large projects, 16GB is more than enough for 2D animation.
- Hard Drive: You should always go for an SSD drive, as HDDs make the animation experience slow and tiring.
- GPU: Entry-level gaming GPUs (like Nitro 5’s GTX 1650) can easily handle 2D animation software.
Recommended laptop specs for 3D animation
On the other hand, If you need a laptop for 3D Animation, you have to cope with more demanding software such as Blender, Maya, and Cinema 4D. Although most of your college projects won’t require an insane amount of polys, lights, texture details, and particles, 3D animation software requires top-tier hardware:
- Processor: Although you could get away with less, i7 or Ryzen 7 CPUs or higher are the best chipsets for 3D animation.
- Ram: 32GB can be useful, but 16GB of RAM is enough for most small-medium 3D animation projects.
- Graphics Card: Although GPU doesn’t matter as much, having a great one (like the GTX 2070) will help with rendering textures and manipulating large-scale projects.
- Display: Having a large display (minimum 15,6’’) should be your priority as a 3D animation student.
Best Laptops for Animation students
1. MSI Leopard GL75: Best Overall Laptop for Animation Students (Windows)
If you don’t know what kind of animation projects you will be dealing with in college, MSI has the ideal all-rounder. The brand-new Leopard has everything an animation student could ask for and more. Thus, this laptop is a great choice for those of you who don’t want to miss out on any features.
Leopard isn’t a budget choice, but it is not one of the most expensive laptops for animation either. For this reason, this is a great choice for both freshmen students who want a reliable choice, but also for more-experienced 3D animators on a budget.
Performance-wise, Leopard’s main hardware kit includes one of the best CPUs for animation, the brand new i7 10750H, and 16GB of RAM. The CPU will easily manipulate any animation project, no matter its size, and the provided RAM is perfect for large-scale tasks and multitasking.
Although the provided GTX 1660Ti isn’t one of the most expensive GPUs on the market, it is a great choice for 2D and 3D animation. For this reason, Leopard is also suitable for demanding software (like Maya and 3DS Max) and will provide a quick rendering process. The 256GB SSD is extremely fast and reliable. MSI has also included a second, 1TB HDD for you to save all your previous projects and assessments.
Leopard also has an amazing, 17.3’’ screen, which is perfect for 3D animation and a slick, beautiful design. The only disadvantage we could find, it’s the device’s size and weight (5.51 lbs or 2.5 kg), but this is fully justified due to the large display.
In a few words, this laptop provides an amazing animation experience, can cope with every demanding software or game, and comes at a reasonable price. Thus, if portability isn’t your number one priority as a student, the latest MSI Leopard is the best laptop for you.
2. Macbook Pro 16 inch: Best Laptop Computer for Animation Students
The latest Macbook Pro is specially designed for animation professionals, artists and students. For this reason, it is the perfect Apple device for both 2D and 3D animation projects.
No matter if you are a freshman student or a professional animator, Macbook pro 16 will get you excited. It is basically one of the most powerful laptops on the market and has everything an animator needs.
You can choose between two of the best Intel CPUs ever created (i7 or i9). Even though the i9 chipset will provide an amazing experience for years, the i7 can also be considered a great choice for animation students. Apple also included 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and the high-end Radeon Pro 5500M GPU.
Because of this hardware set, MacBook Pro is perfect for experienced animators, as the device’s CPU and GPU will handle any rendering processes or large-scale animation projects. Thus, this device isn’t only great for animation, but it is one of the few Apple devices that can handle demanding games too.
See our post: Is a MacBook Air Good for Video Editing (The Truth)
MacBook Pro 16’’ has one of the best displays someone can find, as the color accuracy and gamut are pro-level. The 16’’ screen size is also perfect for artists and animators. If you add to that, the great battery life and that MacOS is now compatible with almost any animation software available, MacBook Pro is an amazing premium choice.
The latest Macbook Pro 16’’ is a great choice for you as a student, if you want the best Apple device for animation. Thus, if you have the budget needed, there is simply no better option.
3. Microsoft Surface Pro 7: Best Animation Laptop for Students with a touchscreen (2D, 3D Animation)
Surface Pro 7 is the most flexible device on the list and offers numerous features you won’t be able to find easily in this price range. As a 2-in-1 device, Surface is extremely suitable for any animation student, who needs a lightweight, reliable device for 2D and 3D animation projects.
Although it isn’t the most powerful laptop, the Surface has everything an animation student needs. Microsoft has improved its flagship’s specs, meaning the latest Surface model can cope with 3D animation too.
At a relatively low price tag, Surface Pro 7 is the only touchscreen laptop (with a removable keyboard) on our list. Thus, it is an ideal solution for those who want to draw directly on the screen with an active pen.
When it comes to animation performance, the Surface includes the best i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM. This kit will easily cope with any 2D animation project and small to medium scale 3D projects. Therefore, Pro 7 will quickly manipulate all high-res details in multiple layers, providing a fast animation experience.
The device’s integrated graphics won’t provide much help when it comes to the demanding rendering of numerous lights, shadows, or polys.
For this reason, this isn’t the best choice for super-complicated 3D animation projects. Apart from that, Microsoft Surface has an amazing (yet quite small) 12.3’’ display and one of the best batteries on the list.
Although this isn’t the best choice for professional animators, Surface will handle all entry-level animation tasks. To sum up, if you need an extremely light (1.70 pounds), ultra-slim laptop with a touchscreen display, Surface Pro 7 is the best way to go.
4. Acer Nitro 5: Best cheap Laptop for Animation Students (college)
While reviewing laptops for this list, Nitro 5 simply proved to be the best value-for-money laptop on the market. Acer created an amazing choice for any animation student who needs a budget laptop but doesn’t want to miss out on features or build quality.
Nitro 5 is available in tons of different versions for an animation student to choose from. This is only one of the main reasons why this laptop is the smartest budget choice. In fact, Acer Nitro can easily handle advanced animation projects.
Performance-wise, Nitro 5 includes a powerful i5 CPU, 8-32GB of RAM (we recommend the 16GB version), and the amazing GTX1650, the best entry-level GPU. Therefore, performance won’t be a problem for an animation student, as this build can easily handle 2D and 3D animation projects.
You won’t have any problem running software like Photoshop and Krita for 2D animation, and 3D animation (on software like Maya or 3DS Max) will also run fluidly if you choose the 16GB RAM version.
The laptop’s 256GB SSD is also great, the 15.6’’ IPS is perfect for animation, and the device’s battery can last up to 6 hours of editing. Although Nitro 5 isn’t the most powerful laptop, it is the perfect budget choice for animation students.
5. Asus Rog Zephyrus: Best Laptop for Animation, Graphic Design & Gaming
Asus Rog Zephyrus is simply the most powerful Windows laptop on our list. It is one of the most popular devices amongst professional animators and thus, an amazing solution for students who want to make a long-term investment.
Zephyrus has everything an animation student might need and more. This is both a flawless, high-quality laptop and one of the top-tier gaming laptops available. To be more precise, Zephyrus can easily cope with any animation project or demanding game you throw at it.
Equipped with one of the best i7 CPUs,16GB of RAM (easily expandable to 32GB), and the best GPU for personal use (RTX 2070), Zephyrus is a good-looking, performance-beast. Asus also included one of the best 15.6’’ displays, which reveals up to 100% of the sRGB color gamut at an amazing 240HZ refresh rate. For this reason, Zephyrus is ideal for animation, gaming, and pretty much anything else.
See our post: Can an iPad Replace a Laptop for a College Student?
With its high-quality design, the stunning backlit keyboard, and the 1TB SSD, Zephyrus has everything a professional asks for. Thus, this is the best solution for any student, who wants the best windows laptop for animation.
6. Lenovo Legion 5: Good Laptop for Students using Rendering & Drawing Animation software
Lenovo has become extremely popular for its value-for-money devices. Likewise, Legion is an amazing budget alternative to Nitro 5, which offers similar (or slightly better) performance at the same price tag.
Lenovo has managed to create an amazing budget laptop that can cope with any animation assessment. Legion is a great choice for software like Krita, Adobe Animate, and a reliable choice for 3D software like Blender, Cinema 4D, etc.
When it comes to performance, Legion has a top-tier Ryzen 7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a GTX 1660Ti GPU. Even though this hardware build is similar to Nitro’s, Legion’s CPU and GPU are better when it comes to texture rendering. The only downside we could find is that Legion is not as lightweight or slim as Nitro.
To summarize, this is a great choice for an animation student on a budget. Thus, if you want a slightly more powerful device than Nitro 5 with a bigger SSD (512GB), Lenovo Legion is an amazing choice.
7. HP Omen 15: Good Laptop for Animation for Students on a Budget
HP Omen is the best HP laptop and an amazing choice for any student who wants an extremely powerful device from this trusting brand. If you are thrilled with the top-tier features of Asus Zephyrus, Omen is an amazing, more-affordable alternative.
Omen is an extremely popular, top-tier gaming laptop, that will be able to handle any 2D or 3D animation project. HP has included the latest i7- 10750H CPU, 16GB of RAM, and the powerful RTX 2060. For this reason, Omen approaches the performance power of Zephyrus at a more reasonable price.
HP has also included a vast 512GB SSD drive, and all the connection essentials a professional needs like Thunderbolt 3 with USB Type-C, turbo boost, and water-resistance keys. Omen also includes an amazing battery, a slick gaming design, and one of the best-backlit keyboards on the market.
See our post: 7 Best Wacom Tablets for Photo Editing & Photographers
For all these reasons, HP’s flagship is a very smart choice for those of you who need an extremely powerful laptop for both animation and demanding games. Thus, Omen is an investment you won’t regret making.
Buyer Tips: How to choose the right laptop as an animation student
You’ll want to balance storage, display, performance, your operating system and how all these specs work together to handle rendering 2d and 3d animation. Let’s dive further in depth on what the best laptops for animation need regarding its minimum and reccomended tech specs.
An SSD Storage with at least 512GB storage is ideal to start with because you’ll likely be wanting to save a lot of media as an animation student. Even if you’re using the cloud to save your big projects, an SSD storage and an external hard drive is always useful, especially if you’re using or switching between more than one laptop and want the fastest file transfers.
An overlooked aspect of choosing a good animation laptop as a student is the number and type of ports available. The more ports and different types available, the better. This includes USB and HDMI. Alternatively you can get yourself a good adapter if the laptop you choose doesn’t have them all. The downside is this will bulk up your setup, but its fine for most who don’t mind.
A minimum 14 inch display or higher is ideal for animation students. Some would argue 16 inches or more is ideal, but if you’re on a budget you can get away with 14 inches. I would not recommended any lower if you plan to expand and grow your craft as an animator.
A graphics card is also ideal, shooting for an Nvidia GeForce GTX or an AMD equivalent card is recommended. A strong graphics card will avoid stuttering, lagging, and delays while animating.
Performance & Rendering
Your laptop will benefit from a faster processor for rendering 3d models and massive file transfers; which will become inevitable at some point for most animation students.
If you’re a student animator who doesn’t plan on using software and applications limited to windows, then a Macbook will allow you to run the Adobe suit, Blender, FCP (Final cut Pro), Autodesk Maya, Aurora 3d, Anime studio Pro, and many more. However, windows is the most flexible operating system for animators due to vast selection of animation apps that are compatible with it. It’s a relief to not have to worry about this as you expand your skill set.
Recommended software for animation students using a laptop
A good laptop for animation & animation students will be able to run animation software such as Maya, Blender, Houdini, Cinema 4D, Zbrush, and most 3d modeling softwares. Additionally if you’re only running 2d animation software such as Krita, Toonboom, sketchup, and Adobe animate, then you can get away with 8-16gb ram, though 16 gb or higher is preferred for mult-tasking.
If using sketchup on your laptop, see our post to compare the Best Laptops for Sketchup (designers guide)
On apps like adobe animate you can export your projects to Fash, HTML5, WebGL, or create graphic design projects that includes logo making and cartoons. In general, a device that can run the desired animation software and connect to a pen tablet without stutter, delay, or other issues is a good laptop for animators.
What Drawing tablets do animation students use with a laptop?
The ideal drawing tablet to be used on a laptop for animation students will depend on whether or not you need a built-in screen or not. If you don’t need a 2nd monitor and screen to draw directly on the surface, then an affordable graphics tablet like the Wacom Intuos will work well. If you’re on a budget the XP-Pen and Huion tablets work well with both Mac and Windows for animation students. For more on this visit our article best drawing tablets for photoshop and illustrator.
Keep in mind, you’ll also be using a stylus. If you plan to create advanced artwork and studio level projects, then will likely use the stylus that comes with your drawing tablet like the wacom, huion, or Xp-Pen. These will connect to your drawing tablet, which connects to your laptop or computer.
Should Animation students use an iPad or tablet instead of a Wacom?
If you’re debating on going Mac and iPad with an Apple pencil vs the Wacom intuos and other tablets, then visit our post on iPad vs Wacom, since these standalone tablets are ideal for only specific scenarios. Most Animation students will want to handle certain software that may not be available on Mac… in this case you’ll have to check with your college or exact area of study. In most cases, windows is the safest bet if you want to grow as an artist. If you’re purely using Toonboom or other 2d Software Mac can certainly handle these. However, I haven’t been inside a professional animation studio that uses toonboom use only macbooks.
Are Gaming laptops good for animation
In most cases yes, gaming laptops are great for animation and animation students because they have a powerful graphics card, fast Gpu, large amount of RAM and storage, and are highly capable with most apps. Laptops that are used for gaming can handle cpu-intensive tasks and mult-tasking; making it an ideal choice for animators. If you’re choosing a gaming laptop for animation, then be sure that its running an operating system that will be compatible with your desired apps and software requirements.
In this post I discussed the best laptops for animation students, as well as the pros, cons, and alternatives. I covered how to choose the proper laptop as an animation student and what to expect depending on which drawing and 2d/3d animation softwares you’ll be using.
An external monitor also is an added benefit and recommended but not always a necessity as a student of animation using a laptop instead of a PC.
Rendering plays an important part of choosing a laptop so having the minimum specs of 16gb ram, a strong processor, and up to date graphics card is ideal. While some touch screens like the Microsoft surface pro can work for animation, in most cases you’ll want something stronger that is connected to a pen tablet or drawing graphics tablet.