The upside of Revit is that it doesn’t require a powerful graphics card and that makes Revit a lot more suitable for laptops. Knowing that I’m going to guide you through the requirements for a good Revit notebook and my picks for the best laptop for Revit.
November 16th update. Updated CPU, GPU write-ups, added MSI GL62 6QF and Dell XPS 15, updated the spreadsheet (290 laptops compared instead of just 58)!
What are we looking for?
I’m very glad that Autodesk put in the effort to outline various levels of Revit hardware/software requirements instead of just putting up a list of minimal requirements. This allows us to understand which parts scale better than others and where we should put our focus on.
Major Requirements for the best Revit laptop
Autodesk makes it very clear that the processor should be #1 priority:
“Highest affordable CPU speed rating recommended.” – Autodesk
Unlike other visual software (AutoCAD, Solidworks etc.), Revit does not need a powerful graphics card for rendering the drawings.
So what do I recommend?
For an entry model under 950$ – a higher-end Intel Core i5 model is a necessity. Anything above that should have a 5th-7th generation “i7” processor. In some rare cases (covered at the end of the guide), there are laptops under $900, that come with a fast i7 H-series CPUs.
Exact models, I am talking about are:
- Intel Core i7-6700HQ, i7-4720HQ, i7-4710HQ or equivalent for 950$+ models
- Intel Core i5-6300HQ, i7-6500U, i7-7500U for anything under 950$
As per usual, 8 GB of RAM should be your starting point and 16 GB is the magic spot where you don’t have to worry about the memory (for the most part).
Right now, 1100$ is a good line to draw for what amount of memory is acceptable. Any laptop under 1100$ can have 8 GB of RAM and anything above must come with 16 GB on board.
It does not matter whether it’s DDR3/DDR4 – the DDR4 potential isn’t yet fully used due to higher memory access time which is just as important as the memory frequency itself. In short, don’t worry about it.
Solid State Drive
For Point Cloud interactions, it is required to have either a 10,000+ RPM hard drive or a Solid State Drive (SSD). That leaves laptops with only 1 option – SSD. SSDs have fallen dramatically in price and apart from budget laptops – should be the standard package.
Now you need to draw a line on how much storage you need – 250, 500, 1000 GB? Most likely, something like 250/500 SSD + 1 TB HDD is enough. In that case, your OS, Revit, and projects you’re working on should stay on the SSD while older projects and general media can be moved to a spacious HDD.
There are some well-rounded laptops that don’t come with an installed SSD. In that unfortunate case, I recommend keeping 100$-200$ extra for 250/500 GB SSD (I’ve had the best experience with Samsung EVOs, but there’s plenty of good brands to choose from).
Minor Requirements for the best laptop for Revit
We’ve got down our 3 major requirements – processor, memory, and storage. Now any leftover budget should go towards making sure it lasts long, it has a great screen to look at and it can perform well when using other professional software apart from Revit.
You’ll be looking at it throughout the day (and once in a while – throughout the night), so we might as well make sure it looks good.
A good screen is essential in 3 simple ways:
- it allows working during bright sunlight without straining your eyes
- it helps you see your work as it should be seen (as it will be in real life and how your clients will see it)
- it makes your work a bit enjoyable
Every screen can be broken down by its resolution, contrast, brightness and color gamut.
When talking about the resolution – go for Full HD (1920×1080). There’s not much reason to go above Full HD, especially when Revit developers do not recommend going above 150% DPI scaling. That simply means, that fonts and buttons in Revit will not scale properly at high resolutions.
Contrast should be 800:1 or more, average brightness should be 280 cd/m or more (which is ~20 cd less than usually advertised maximum brightness). Good contrast and brightness are mostly important when working outside or near a bright window.
Finally, color space/gamut is not usually mentioned with other specifications but some reviewers measure it. In that case, 90%+ sRGB coverage and 60%+ Adobe RGB coverage indicate a wide color space. That means that the screen can produce vivid colors. In some cases, you might need to manually calibrate the screen to minimize its color bias – tendency to be a bit too blue/green or red.
Importance of battery run-time varies person-to-person.
Someone like me might not care about battery life past 4 hours – I almost always have a plug nearby. But maybe you are dependent on your laptop not failing for a full work-day.
There’s nothing much to it – if you need a lot of battery life, make sure you look out for it. Just be aware that most manufacturers tend to overestimate the battery time by 1-3 hours as they measure it in a lab setting with lowest brightness settings, no internet connection, and various small optimizations.
Requirements for a graphics chip are practically non-existent.
For an entry-model, “basic graphics” requirement is a “Display adapter capable of 24-bit color” which is just a mouthful way of saying “everything works”.
And for more advanced graphics you should have “DirectX 11 capable graphics with Shader Model 3” which has been an industry standard for the past 5 years. Even old integrated graphics modules as Intel HD Graphics 4000 have DirectX 11 support with Shader Model 5!
So why am I even bringing this up?
Yes, this is not a major requirement for Revit, but in many cases getting a beefy graphics card can be a lifesaver when using a lot of other professional software. If you’ll need to work with video editing/AutoCAD/Solidworks – a better graphics card will help you out tremendously.
Therefore, if the situation is right, I suggest increasing your budget by up to 100$ if that means getting a better graphics module. Sometimes it might not even mean getting a better, dedicated graphics card. For example, you might as well get an otherwise performance-identical 6th-generation processor over a 4th-gen one as Intel has greatly improved their integrated graphics in the few past generations.
If you’ll be working with other 3D software, you should refer to the following table:
|Tier 0 (worst)||Most Intel HD graphics|
|Tier 1||Intel Iris; Intel HD 620; Nvidia GTX 940M/MX|
|Tier 2||Nvidia GTX 950M, 960M; Nvidia Quadro M1000M, M2000M; FirePro W4190M|
|Tier 3||Nvidia GTX 970M, 980M, 1060; Nvidia Quadro M3000M, M4000M, M5000M|
|Tier 4 (best)||Nvidia GTX 1070, 1080; Nvidia Quadro M5500M|
Nvidia Quadro should be preferred if you want a more stable card (less likely to crash) and you’re working with huuuge projects.
Before you get all hyped up, you should know that this particular model might be more expensive at the time you’re reading this. At the time of writing, it costs just $800, which makes it a massive deal. Even at its original price of $1000 it was a good pick and if you’re lucky to find it still at $800 – it’s a no-brainer.
It comes with a high-end Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor and a mid-range discrete 960M graphics card from Nvidia. 12 GB of RAM instead of a more standard 8 GB in this price range is definitely a nice touch. Finally, 128 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD setup offers plenty of space and the benefits of a faster drive for Windows and Revit. Even though 128 GB is somewhat limiting, it’s a great addition to any laptop at $800.
The display has an IPS panel and a matte finish. Going for a matte finish reduces reflections but it introduces its own issues – mainly, the need of a bit brighter backlight to keep up with glossy displays. It seems MSI did not equip this notebook with a strong LED and in result, the display is below average when it comes to lighting. The contrast of 450:1 is significantly below the recommended 1000:1 contrast. That usually betrays a lower quality IPS panel. One surprising metric of MSI GL62 6QF is its color space coverage – it covers nearly 100% of sRGB space and ~75% Adobe RGB. That somewhat redeems the display and its flaws.
Overall, if you need a laptop that’s fast and performs better than anything else under $1000 and you’re OK with an average display and a subpar battery life (just under 3 hours of real-life battery runtime).
If you’d rather get a laptop a larger SSD and a better battery life while trading out 960M for 950M – you can take a look at Lenovo IdeaPad 700.
First and foremost, it has a great processor, a lot of memory + a dedicated graphics card as a bonus.
So what do 1500$+ laptops have that this model doesn’t? SSD, mainly. As you can probably tell, lack of a large SSD is a repeating theme for laptops under 1500$.
Apart from that upgrade, if you’d get this laptop you are be basically set. The screen has no major drawbacks and if you’ve to stay under 1000$, there’s not much else you’d demand from a display in this price range.
One final note – be aware that it is on a heavy side – it weighs almost like a 17.3″ laptop.
This is a very nice and a well-rounded piece of hardware.
To begin with, it comes with the about the same level of performance as previously mentioned models. With 1 big exception. It packs a whole 512 GB of PCIe NVMe SSD. That surpasses any hard drive requirements for Revit by a big margin.
The screen on this baby is leaving me with some mixed feelings. It’s great to have a 4K screen, even if Revit can’t fully take advantage of it. At the same time, touchscreen surface and an IPS panel seem to fully round out the package. On the other hand, when measured, the screen is rather underwhelming, especially when compared to other ZenBook models.
What’s the bottom line? I’d suggest buying this model if you can’t be bothered with upgrading cheaper models and you’re OK without a top of the line screen.
But if you need a better display and you can spare 150$ on it – take a look at a very similar but a bit older Asus Zenbook NX500JK
Finally, if need a top of the line display and great performance all wrapped up in a sleek laptop – Dell XPS 15 should catch your attention.
Just as any other laptop on the list, it delivers the computational power that’s needed for uninterrupted work with Revit. It also has a large and very fast 500 GB PCI-Express SSD.
The display on this beauty is one of the best ones out there. 400 cd/m brightness, 1600:1 contrast and 98% sRGB coverage – all of these metrics match or surpass what’s recommended for work with 3D models. What is more, it even has a 4K resolution. Just make sure you’re using the latest Revit version or you might need to downgrade the resolution to the classic 1920×1080 if you’re having any issues with the default ultra-high pixel density.
You can go for some other more expensive laptop ($2000+) if you need a Quadro/FirePro graphics card, a larger storage drive, and a longer battery life. But for the absolute majority, Dell XPS 15 is the top laptop for Revit they can or should get.
I’m glad you managed to reach this closing section of the article. As a bonus, I’m giving out this laptop comparison spreadsheet including laptops in this article and many others that didn’t make it!
I hope this article helped you to find the best laptop for Revit. Don’t forget to share it with your colleagues and drop a comment down below if you have any suggestions or questions!