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The best laptops for architects in 2022

An architect using one of the best laptops for architects at a construction site
(Image credit: Morsa Images via Getty Images)

The best laptops for architects need to be far more powerful than your average piece of kit. Architects need to use power-hungry design software like AutoCAD, 3DS Max and SketchUp - often simultaneously - with enough storage to back up work and the battery life and portability to do all of this on the go.

It’s not easy to find a laptop that meets all of these criteria, but we’ve used our expert reviews and testing experience to compile a list of laptops that will meet an architect’s needs. After testing these machines for several days and in different use cases, including for running demanding design programs, we’ve assessed the performance, features, screen quality and value of each laptop to select the best laptops for architects with different requirements. For more insight into our review processes, see how we test laptops.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a student just starting out in architecture or even a DIY home renovation enthusiast, there are plenty of laptops to choose from here. You might also find our guide to the most powerful laptops useful, and if you’re looking to join the many architects opting for a more cost-effective but still powerful option, you can join the many architects using the best laptops for gaming instead. 

If you’re wanting to try out other transferable skills to enhance your architecture practice, check out our picks for the best laptop for drawing or the best laptops for animation. You might also find our guide to the best office chairs useful if you work from home and find yourself glued to your screen. 

The best laptops for architects available now

MacBook Pro 16-inch, one of the best laptops for architectsCB

(Image credit: Future)
The best laptop for architects overall

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 10-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 16-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely long battery life
+
Plenty of ports

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey

We think the latest MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) is the best laptop for architects overall. It's the most powerful MacBook yet thanks to the choice of either the M1 Pro or M1 Max chips – both super-fast chips made by Apple, and both offer excellent results when it comes to working with demanding architectural software. And if you have especially high demands, you can pretty much upgrade the entry configuration as high as you could possibly need, with up to 64GB RAM and 8TB storage.

The 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display is the best screen we've seen on a laptop, and it offers plenty of space to work with. The latest MacBook Pro also comes with a wider selection of ports than previous generations, including next-gen Thunderbolt 4 ports and a full-size HDMI port as well. It's expensive, but you get a stunning laptop that will last you for years. And, of course, it's Apple, so it looks impeccable for meeting clients.

See our MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) review for more details.

MacBook Air (M1, 2020), one of the best laptops for architects, on a tableCB endorsed

(Image credit: Future)
The best more affordable Apple laptop for architects

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1
Graphics: Integrated 7-core /8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61cm; W x D x H)

Reasons to buy

+
Silent to use
+
Amazing battery life
+
Good value for a MacBook

Reasons to avoid

-
No new design
-
Fanless design can impact performance

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is a more affordable alternative to the ultra-expensive MacBook Pro above. These days, you can get it for around $900/£900 if you wait for a discount, and they're becoming more and more frequent now that the newer 2022 MacBook is hitting the streets. It may not be as powerful as the laptop at number one on our list of the best laptops for architects, but it still offers good enough performance for most architects' needs, though highly complex 3D rendering may cause it to struggle.

It's also wonderfully thin and portable, making it a practical option if you often need to carry a laptop with you. Excellent battery life helps with that too. 

See our complete MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review for all the details.

Surface Laptop Studio, one of the best laptops for architects, on an office tableCB endorsed

(Image credit: Future)
The best Windows laptop-tablet for architects

Specifications

CPU: Up to Quad-core 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i7-11370H
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe or NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050
RAM: 16GB or 32GB
Screen: 14.4in 2400 x 1600p 3:2 PixelSense Flow touchscreen
Storage: 256GB – 2TB

Reasons to buy

+
Useful 2-in-1 form factor
+
Comfortable keyboard
+
Beautiful screen 

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

If you love the idea of a MacBook, but prefer using Windows to macOS, then the Surface Laptop Studio is an excellent choice. It boasts a gorgeous design and a premium build quality that challenges Apple's superiority. Windows 11 runs brilliantly and the PixelSense touch screen is a pleasure to use. 

Best of all, it has a useful 2-in-1 form factor that allows you to slide the screen forward into an easel-like position, or completely flat over the keyboard, effectively turning the laptop into a large tablet with a touch screen that's compatible with a stylus, which can be a real game changer for design work, sketching and note taking.

The keyboard is very comfortable to use, and battery life is excellent. All in all, it proves that Macs aren't the only option if you want a sleek, stylish and powerful laptop for working on. In fact, Windows alternatives can actually now offer versatiles form factors that give them the edge for many users.

See our detailed Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review for more information.

Dell XPS 17 9710, one of the best laptops for architects, on a table

(Image credit: Michelle Rae Uy)
The best laptop for architects with a larger screen

Specifications

CPU: Up to 11th Generation Intel Core i9-11980HK
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GDDR6
RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4-3200MHz
Screen: 17.0" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 17.0" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit
Storage: Up to 4TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Reasons to buy

+
Great performance
+
Gorgeous design

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of ports

The Surface Laptop Studio is a supremely useful Windows laptop with its 2-in-1 form, but many architects will want something larger than a 14.4in screen to work on. In steps the Dell XPS 17 – a 17in laptop that's actually impressively portable. Laptops of this size tend to be large and uncomfortable to carry around, but when we reviewed the XPS 17, we were amazed at how slim it is for a 17in laptop. It's also not too heavy, weighing in at 2.21kg for the starting model, just a little heavier than the MacBook Pro 16.

This means you can carry it around while still benefitting from a much larger screen to comfortably work on. Power-wise, with configuration going up to an Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM and an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, you should have no problem with any software you might use for rendering.

See our full Dell XPS review for more details.

MacBook Pro 14-inch, one of the best laptops for architects, in an office

(Image credit: Future)
The best smaller laptop for architects

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 8-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 14-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliant performance
+
Best screen on a laptop

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen may be a bit small for some

The MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) offers a new MacBook size that sits comfortably in between the slightly too small 13-inch MacBook Pro and the larger 16-inch model. We found it offers a nice compromise between screen size and portability, while it comes with almost all of the same specs you get with the 16in device at number 1 in our list. 

The mini-LED screen supports 1,600 nits of peak brightness and the P3 wide colour gamut, looking just as impressive as the larger model. And like the 16incher, you have a choice of the M1 Pro or M1 Max Apple chip. A lot of architects will prefer having the larger screen, hence why this is lower down on our list, but if 14in is big enough for you to work on – or if you'll be hooking up to an external monitor anyway – then this is a great buy since it's a little cheaper too.

Read our full MacBook Pro 14-inch review for more details.

Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel, one of the best laptops for architects, on a table

(Image credit: Future)
A powerful 2-in-1 laptop for architects

Specifications

CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 – 2080
RAM: 16GB – 32GB
Screen: 15.6in 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 16:9 IPS
Storage: Up to 2TB

Reasons to buy

+
Very powerful
+
Pantone 4K IPS display
+
Great looks

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive

The Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel Pro would make a great laptop for architects who have a big budget to spend and want one of the most powerful Windows laptops that money can buy – with one of the most stunning screens – a Pantone-validated 4K IPS display, which we found offers super accurate colours. 

This laptop also has a similarly flexible hinged design to the Surface Laptop Studio above, meaning that you can use it like a standard laptop, like an easel or flat like a tablet. And beneath a very stylish all-white chassis, it has some seriously powerful hardware. You can configure it with a choice of powerful Intel processors, Nvidia graphics cards and up to 32GB of RAM, so it will make light work of 3D mockups and animation. It stands our among the many grey and black laptops out there and makes for another Windows laptop that's challenging Apple's design prowess. 

See our full Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel Pro review for more details.

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020), one of the best laptops for architects, on a table

(Image credit: Future)
The best smaller laptop for architects

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 LED-backlit Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm

Reasons to buy

+
Huge battery life
+
Great performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Still lacks ports

If you want a MacBook Pro, but the 16-inch and the 14-inch models above are too large and expensive, then the MacBook Pro 13-inch model is well worth considering. Despite its age, it comes with Apple's very own M1 chip (rather than an Intel processor), and this allows the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) to provide some seriously impressive performance.

So, even demanding products will run well on this compact laptop. Best of all, we found that the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) boasts fantastic battery life (as do all recent MacBooks), making it a brilliant choice for architects who want a 13-inch laptop they can rely on, even when they are out and about. While the newer MacBook Pros offer more power, the 13-inch model is a great choice if you're on more of a budget, especially as its price often gets cut in sales.

Read our MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review for more details.

Product shot of LG Gram 17 (2021), one of the best laptops for architects

(Image credit: LG)

08. LG Gram 17 (2021)

A powerful but lightweight 17in laptop for architects

Specifications

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB LPDDR4X
Screen: 17-inch WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS LCD
Storage: up to 2TB NVMe SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life
+
Large, high-quality display

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Like the Dell XPS 17 above, the LG Gram 17 is another great large-screen laptop for architects who want plenty of room to work on, but don't want to hook up an external monitor. It's even lighter than the Dell laptop, weighing in at just 1.35kg, which seems incredible for a 17in laptop.

Everything else is correct, with enough power for architectural software. It doesn't have a discrete graphics card so it isn't going to be the best option for large 3D models, but for most workloads, it'll be more than capable. It's got a smart and attractive design, and the battery life is excellent as well.

What should I look for to choose the best laptop for architects?

Above all else, it’s important that laptops for architects have some serious computing power. Some of the software regularly used by architects can be quite demanding, so you’ll want a laptop with a modern multi-core processor and graphics card. To be safe, 16GB of RAM (or more) would be ideal, but you could get away with 8GB at a push.

The screen size is also important, to reduce potential eye strain and ensure you - and your clients - can easily see your work. It’s important to think about peripherals you might want to use too - you’ll want an HDMI port to connect an external monitor if you regularly give presentations, as well as enough USB ports for peripherals like a mouse, touch pads and external hard drives. 

Are laptops or PCs better for architecture?

As an architect, you’ll regularly find yourself on the move, whether it’s to visit a client or to go on-site and check up on ongoing projects. Similarly, students will want to move between labs, lectures and home, so, it goes without saying that laptops are the easy winner in terms of portability.

Are gaming laptops good for architects?

It’s becoming increasingly popular for architects to use gaming laptops, largely due to how much cheaper they can be while still offering the required computing power. A majority of gaming laptops will easily match some of the best laptops for architects, and if you can get past the sometimes aggressive RGB lighting, they make for a great alternative. 

Do architects need touch screen laptops?

No, you don’t need a touch screen laptop as an architect, but it can certainly be nice to have. While it can bump the price tag up a little, having a touch screen can make a world of difference when it comes to design and note taking, especially if you have a stylus. 

Do architects prefer Mac or Windows?

While Apple products are generally the choice of most creatives over Windows, Apple has historically had a much more restricted supported software library, which unfortunately came at the expense of some architecture software. Nowadays, Mac has a lot more architecture software available, but still not all of the most popular programs like Revit and Microstation. Plus, with the computing power needed to run this software, you'd end up spending a lot more on a MacBook than you would a Windows laptop.

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Matt has been a technology journalist for well over a decade, writing for publications such as T3, MacFormat and Creative Bloq. He's a senior editor of TechRadar, Creative Bloq's sister site, where he can be found writing about and reviewing laptops, computers, monitors and more. He often writes for Creative Bloq, helping creatives find their perfect laptop or PC.

With contributions from