The best laptop for animation will offer you power and a nice, big display so you can see what you're working on. Though this used to mean a bulky device or even desktop PC, nowadays you'll be able to choose a thin, powerful, versatile laptop.
Modern laptops are more than capable of handling animation tasks, with huge screens hiding inside a compact and portable design. You can even get 2-in-1 models with the power to tackle all your rendering and processing needs.
Clearly this is all very positive, but it does present a challenge when choosing which is best laptop for animation for your needs. We've selected the following laptops based on our own tests, or on the very good authority of industry experts and our sister sites. You can see how we test laptops for more information.
Every laptop on this page can run the best animation software, including After Effects, Blender, Maya and more, but will differ in terms of cost, screen size and other important features. If you want something to see to your drawing needs, check out our picks of the best drawing tablets for animation, or alternatively branch out to other creative endeavours with one of the best laptop for graphic design or best laptop for music production.
The best laptop for animation available now
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If you want the absolute best laptop for animation you can buy right now, then you won't get better than the new MacBook Pro 16-inch. Powered by a choice of Apple's new M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, the MacBook Pro can easily handle even the most complex animations.
It doesn't just offer a huge amount of power, but when we tested it we found that it has one of the best screens you'll see on a laptop, thanks to mini-LED technology, which will make your animations look their very best.
Apple has increased the screen size slightly, and boosted the selection of ports, including HDMI and a memory card slot, so you can easily plug in additional peripherals such as drawing tablets and external monitors. We found it very comfortable for working at a desk, but it is rather large, so if you're after something more portable, check out the 14-inch model below. See our full MacBook Pro 16-inch review for more details.
Apple's super-charged MacBook Pro is definitely one of the best laptops for animation. It comes with Apple's very own M1 Pro or Max chip, which allows this MacBook Pro to provide some seriously impressive performance, while keeping its thin and (relatively) light design.
As we outlined in our Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch review, it's hard to overstate the power this little machine holds, so let's just say it can handle your creative animation workflow with ease, and will do so virtually silently. It's also got the longest battery life ever seen in a MacBook. We've tested it ourselves and it's seriously impressive, allowing you to work all day and still have battery life left. This means it's a great choice for animators who often travel a lot. If you'd like something a little bigger to work on, then the 16-inch model above is a great alternative.
The Razer Blade 17 is a great laptop for animation, combining Razer's well-known build quality with some of the most powerful mobile components money can buy right now. This includes the cutting-edge Intel 12th generation of processors, along with Nvidia's latest Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti laptop GPU.
This is the most powerful GPU you can get in a laptop without spending a seriously huge amount of money, and we found that even the most complicated and detailed 3D animations run brilliantly. You can also add realistic lighting effects with ray tracing, taking your animations to a whole other level.
It's very expensive, but for your money you're getting some of the best mobile tech available. Combined with a great build quality and stunning 17-inch screen, this is a brilliant creative workstation for people who need a lot of power. For people doing 2D animations for the web, however, it may be overkill. Read our Razer Blade 17 review for more information.
When you look at the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16, one thing is immediately clear (aside from the mouthful of a name) – this is no ordinary laptop. That’s because it has a second touch-enabled screen that rests just above the keyboard. But far from being a gimmick, this panel makes it an excellent laptop for animators.
You can move apps and windows down to the lower touchscreen while working on an animation on the main display. That’s perfect for multi-tasking or just clearing your app’s workspace and moving tools and panels to the lower screen. It could change the way you animate for good.
But let’s not let that overshadow the rest of the device. There are two options for the main screen – 4K or mini-LED – both of which cover 100% of the P3 colour gamut. You can power it with a mighty AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU and up to an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti GPU, and stuff it with 32GB of memory and 4TB of storage. It’s expensive, of course, but you get a superb animation laptop for your money.
Yes, another MacBook on this list, but the brand-new 13-inch MacBook Pro is a worthy addition. It comes with Apple's new M2 chip, and can be configured with up to 24GB of unified memory, and this means it is an excellent, easily portable, laptop for animation.
It comes with the Touch Bar across the top of the keyboard, giving you quick access to tools and shortcuts, and can dramatically speed up your workflow.
The new MacBook Pro 13-inch also boasts an incredibly long battery life. We've tested it ourselves and it's seriously impressive, allowing you to work all day and still have battery life left. It's not as powerful as the MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch models, but it's more affordable, making it a great purchase for many animators.
Read our MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) review for more information.
If you want a stylish laptop with Apple-like build quality, but don't want to use macOS, then Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 is a great Windows alternative. While Microsoft may be better known as a software company, it's been putting out some great laptops and this one is thin, light and easily portable.
We were impressed with the PixelSense touchscreen and it comes with cutting-edge integrated graphics from either Intel or AMD, depending on the configuration you go for. It also has very decent battery life – we found it lasted around 13 hours in our tests.
Read our Surface Laptop 4 review for more details.
Apple’s MacBook Air has been updated to the M2 chip. While it’s an incremental improvement over the already-excellent M1, it sees the chip get even more powerful and efficient.
That last point is one of the key advantages of the MacBook Air. The M2 is so efficient that this laptop doesn’t even need a fan, making it completely silent in operation. Because the M2 is able to perform so effectively without breaking a sweat, you likely won’t miss the fan (although it might struggle a bit on super-heavy workloads).
We also love how thin and light the MacBook Air is. Combined with its incredible battery life, it’s ideally suited to working on the go. If you need to do your animation work away for the office, this is a great laptop to bring with you. See our MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review for more details.
The Acer Spin 5 is a much more affordable option than most of the other laptops on this list, but it can handle at least occasional animation work very well (it'll struggle with complex 3D animations due to its lack of dedicated graphics card). It's a 2-in-1, which means as well as being a traditional laptop, its screen can flip back, turning it into a tablet-like device.
We find that this can be a big boon to productivity, as you can use a stylus to draw on the touchscreen. The screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which we found comfortable for drawing and other work since it makes the screen taller. Unlike most other laptops, the Acer Spin 5 comes with a stylus included too, which makes it even better value. It's a fully-featured stylus too and can really help you with your art and animation. With a 15-hour battery life, this is a device that should get you through a day too.
The Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel Pro is another powerful creative laptop that is a brilliant choice for animating on. It features high-end Nvidia RTX graphics, which makes it an excellent choice for people looking to animate complex 3D scenes. The Pantone-validated 4K IPS screen is also by far one of the best we've seen in a laptop, and when we reviewed it we found animations look fantastic.
We found that the power and speed of this laptop also ensures smooth rendering. It's expensive, and it's not the thinnest or lightest laptop on this list, but it's well worth investing in if you're looking for a real workhorse to animate on. See our Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel Pro review for more.
The Surface Book 3 is a stylish, brilliantly-built laptop for animation. It's got one of the nicest displays you can get on a portable, which means your animations are going to look sublime, and it's a touchscreen as well, which works brilliantly with the Surface Pen stylus - which is sold separately.
It's not just a looker, either. It comes with some incredibly powerful specs, and you can even configure it to come with a discrete GPU to handle even 3D animations. It runs Windows 11, so you've got access to the most popular animation suites on the market, and we found this laptop to be thin and light enough to carry around with you with ease.
The Lenovo ThinkBook 14S Yoga is a solid and affordable convertible that is a great choice for animation. It's got some powerful internals, including a 12th-gen Intel Core processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics, which will handle animation apps with ease.
Best of all, its 2-in-1 design allows you to work on its touchscreen, and the included stylus means sketching is a joy. It's nice and affordable as well, compared to some of the more expensive laptops on this list, and while the battery life isn't the longest, at around 9 hours, it's still pretty impressive, and should get you through a work day before you need to plug it in to charge.
How do I choose a laptop for animation?
Choosing the best laptop for animation for you will depend upon what level of experience you have, your budget, and how demanding your work will be. Generally speaking, you’ll need a device with a modern processor and plenty of RAM. As a minimum, we recommend 8GB, but realistically you should aim for 16GB or more.
With the increasing popularity of GPU render engines like Redshift and Octane, you should also think about whether you will be using your GPU or CPU to render animations.
For CPU rendering, you specifically want to look for a high clock speed so the machine can animate in real time and handle the complex calculations needed to render animations.
For more complex 3D animations, you’re probably better off using your GPU, and so we’d suggest looking at laptops with a dedicated graphics card - especially if you’re going to be attempting final-quality rendering. While these will inevitably be more expensive, the drastic impact it will have on the speed of your workflow is well worth the investment.
However, the current cost of living increase makes this kind of investment a lot harder to swallow - which is why we’ve made sure to include laptops at a variety of price points in our guide that are still more than capable to handle your animation needs.
Are gaming laptops good for animation?
Gaming laptops are some of the most powerful machines on the market, and increasingly creatives are finding themselves investing in an RGB-clad laptop to handle their processing and rendering needs - we've even included a laptop from Razer, famed for its gaming hardware, in our selection of the best laptops for animation above. Most of the best gaming laptops will be perfectly capable of meeting an animator's needs.
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