Please help me pick a laptop (and understand graphics cards)

It’s time to replace my 4 and a half year old thinkpad for something faster and smaller and less broken. Does anyone have any experience with the new HP Envy 14?The specs I’m looking at are:

Processor: 2nd generation Intel(R) Quad Core™ i7-2720QM (2.2 GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) w/Turbo Boost up to 3.3 GHz
Graphics Card: 1GB DDR3 Radeon™ HD 6630 switchable Graphics [HDMI, Mini Display Port]

I’m really confused by graphics card specs and reviews…they’re all geared toward gamers. I use Adobe Creative Suite, Solidworks, Rhino, and (less frequently) a few different rendering programs (some of which render off the graphics card). Is this mid-range card going to work? Do you have any other recommendations? I’ve also looked at the HP Pavilion (gigantic), the Dell XPSz (seems to have hardware problems), and the HP Elitebook (too expensive).

My biggest comment would be try to avoid the Radeon cards and see if you can find something with an Nvidia board (Dells XPS range perhaps?)

Their driver support for professional apps is typically less then stellar. Your apps will run, but you may hit graphical glitches that range from minor annoyances (flickering lines, slow draw of selection boxes) to major productivity impacts (improper drawing of surfaces, etc).

Rhino is generally pretty good with all consumer level hardware. Solidworks I have not tested recently on any ATI hardware, so other users may be able to chime in, but I know ATI has known issues with Alias and were the reason I switched on my last PC build.

In reality, all of the PC’s in your price range will be geared towards home use or gamers, because the professional workstation is very niche and is pretty much limited to Lenovo, Dell’s Precision series, and the HP Elitebooks.

The Envy 14 is a decent machine otherwise…if you have the opportunity (and a return policy) you can always try it out to see how Solidworks runs - that would be the only app you listed I’d be concerned over. Adobe doesn’t have any issues because it uses minimal graphic acceleration features.

Which programs are you using to render off the GPU? I work off of the GPU with Vray for 3ds Max occasionally, and there are definitely some compatibility restrictions.

I’m looking into this same thing. Is there any key components when picking out a computer. I’m trying to get a straight off the shelf computer to run my Rhino and Keyshot or Maxwell. I’m thinking I need at least 4 gb of memory. Any thoughts or comments for what else I should keep in mind. I haven’t bought a computer in a long time and don’t know what’s good.

thanks in advance.

These days you want as fast a processor as possible, especially if you’re running Maxwell or Keyshot. I wouldn’t settle for anything less than a Quad core i7.

Ram is super cheap and easy to upgrade yourself. If you are buying a machine new, get as little ram as possible bundled with the machine then go spend ~$50 on another 4-8 gigs.

Graphics cards are less relevant but as I mentioned Nvidia hardware is better at the consumer end of things. If you have the money for a professional workstation, then go for it.

The only other upgrade worth mentioning is a Solids State drive - but on laptops this can be a bit more then most want to spend. But for a desktop PC this is a must IMO. The performance gains will be much more noticeable when starting your machine, launching programs, saving large files, etc.

that makes sense. Thanks for the help.

there is a list of qualified harware for Alias …this may be useful for overview of the good 3d software requirements.