High Performance Ultrabook?


Yes, I searched the forum. And no, I didn't find similar posts.
I need a new laptop for the usual (CAD, modeling, rendering) and don't want a bulky "gaming" laptop. I want something thin and sleek to use as my main computer, and I'm willing to pay a bit extra. I'm pretty sure this puts me in Macbook territory, but due to the compatibility issues I am begrudgingly going pc.
Best I've found so far that may fit the bill:
3rd gen Intel® Core™ i7-3537U (2.00GHz / 3.10GHz with Turbo Boost) / 8 GB RAM / 1TB (5400rpm) + 24GB SSD hybrid hard drive / 15" screen
only about $1k
Intel® Core™ i7-3517U Processor / 8 GB RAM / 256 GB SSD / 15" screen
$18k guess it's the SSD that kicks it up - do people find this to be worth it?

So what do people think. Would these perform well enough? Have you found any better performers?

Looks like that maxes at 4+4 gb RAM...

I'll give you my input, but i'm not a expert. The graphics card in the machines you linked to are weak. Integrated graphics cards are not design to do to much work in the gaming and rendering areas. If you do click the rendering button, chances are you will not be able to open another program. It will be like watching paint dry waiting for it to finish.
Anyway, my advice is to use the software programs you want to use help you decide what to buy. This way you can pick the right components. Check out Autodesk's Certified Hardware webpage.
Secondly, I would then compare laptop graphic card.
Most students who are a few years into their architecture studies would recommend a killer desktop to render and photoshop stuff and a cheap laptop to take to class and type papers and maybe powerpoint.
Good luck.

If you're going to do any rendering you'll need a good graphic card with plenty of cpu power.
Most laptops you find at your local retailers will look good but not do what you want them to. In order to get something that better suits your needs you'll be looking at a machine that costs around $1,300 on the low end to about $2,500 on the high end.
I personally have purchased two Dell Latitudes at $1800 and $1920 which do everything i need them. Of course you get more bang for your buck if you build a desktop but some of us like to work on the go or in places other than our desk. If you need some references this is what UT Austin School of Architecture recommends for all 2nd year students.

Thanks all. Though a little disheartening... all signs are pointing away from anything reasonably thin / light...

Check out the asus ux32vd. Upgrade the hard drive to SSD and increase ram and it screams. The 1920x1080 res is not for everyone though.

Don't give in; buy a MacBook Pro, run the free version of Rhino for Mac, download the free AutoCAD for Mac, run Photoshop (it's smoother in Mac than PC), and all of this combine for a pretty good workflow. An alternative--if you're not much of a complex 3D modeller--is to use SketchUp and a third party rendering environment like Kerkythea or VRay. Lastly, if you can afford ArchiCAD or Vectorworks, consider that. Try to avoid running Windows on your Mac via Parallels or other. I'm not sure if you're a student or a professional, but it's worked pretty well for me for five years. These machines are beautiful and built to last.

the free Autocad for mac? also no vray rhino for mac as far as I know.

AutoCAD for Mac is free (for students at least). My VRay suggestion was in combination with SketchUp, and though I've never used that tandem, I know a few people that do with success. I use Toucan, the built-in Rhino/Mac rendering engine. With the right settings and texture bitmaps, it produces really nice quality renderings.

I would look at http://www.xoticpc.com. They have a lot of high powered laptops designed for gaming, which coincidentally work very well for the software used for architecture (I have no affiliation with them, FYI). Many of them are also fully customizable, especially the Sager and Asus machines. I recently bought a Sager Np9170, and other than its beastly size it's been great.
Here are some specs:
17" Screen (1920x1080 and 90% color gamut) / 32gb ram / 128 SSD for the OS and program / two 750gb HDs in Raid 1 / Intel core i7-3740QM (2.7GHz - 3.7GHz) / nVidia GeForce GTX 675M GPU.
Totally overkill, but it was about $500 cheaper than my MacBook pro. I also bought it about 6 months ago so I'm sure you can get the same specs for a lesser price. I can run Autocad, Illustrator, Photoshop, Rhino and 3ds Max at once without any issues. Yea, like I said, overkill, but there are plenty of smaller/lesser options on that site that will still outperform a Mac. The Macbook IS pretty though.

If you are looking for a high performance ultrabook, then you can try the latest Asus Zenbook UX31A.. In my opinion, it can suit your requirement the best, and it is one of the most reasonable options as well.

The Acer Aspire V3-771G-9441 is the winner of my research thus far.
Definitely a little bulkier than I would have liked, but it is a 17" screen, and seems to be a legit desktop replacement - good 4GB NVIDIA graphics card, pretty awesome price:

Sony Vaio S series comes 2nd, lighter+ great design (from the pictures...), but slightly less impressive specs

Actually this Samsung slightly bests the Acer, but def. pricier.

In my experience, and this comes from working for almost a decade in IT and architecture, is that anything short of a workstation level graphics card (i.e. Nvidia Quadro or AMD FirePro) is NOT going to give you any significant gains in rendering. Consumer-grade cards (everything noted above) aren't engineered for any render engine to take advantage of. V-Ray RT for 3DS Max can take some advantage with certain GPUs, but nothing you'll find in a laptop, big or small.
That being said, for a laptop, the driving components for rendering are going to be the processor and the ram. If you're going to be rendering on a laptop for press-quality images, I highly doubt you'll multi-task much, regardless of what video card you have. Rendering speed is determined most by the amount of computing threads (the more, the faster). And because graphics cards aren't multi-core, rendering software rarely makes use of it when it comes down to production renders. If you look at a render farm, 90% of them are running on integrated graphics or have no graphics card at al--it's all CPU horsepower.
Gaming laptops are popular and perform better because they tend to offer the fastest processors companies will cram into a laptop form factor.

Thank you Thunderclap! Very helpful.
Also, what is your take on SSDs? It seems many people claim these can offer big performance gains. Obviously it doesn't seem like this would have any direct link to rendering per se, but nevertheless the overall performance increase would help?

SSDs are nice. They will make your computer seem snappier--programs and files will open quickly. Start-up times are reduced dramatically.
Battery life is marginally improved; there is technically a lower chance of hardware malfunction than a traditional hard drive because there are no moving parts. The caveat is that in most ultrabooks, the flash chips are soldered onto the motherboard to achieve the thinness, so if there there is a failure of the hard drive, it can get dicey and complicated since it's no longer a simple HD swap. The likelihood of this is low, but for the sake of clarity, this is the truth.
The big drawback is cost per gigabyte. They're pricey.
I have no personal preference for either SSDs or traditional HDDs.

Doesn't the OS have to reside on the SSD to get any performance improvement?

The OS, and the programs as well, should be on the SSD for the best performance increase which is most noticeable in the time they take to open. I would be wary of getting a small drive, like the 24gb SSD in the Vaio okaydee mentioned, as this is about the amount of space used by Windows itself. I have a 128GB and about 100GB is full with the OS and the programs I use.

Hey Architectage,
thought I'd share my "results". I ended up going with the HP 8570w
Hardly an ultrabook at 1.3" high and 6.8 lbs., but the least offensive of the workstations I found that could really do the job.
I upgraded to i7 2.7 gHz processor, Quadro K1000 card, 500 MB solid state drive, 16 MB RAM, for about $1850. Best combination of performance / aesthetics/ cost I could find...

Opps - Sorry wrong thread - Never Mind

Add new comment

More information
  • Files must be less than 2 MB.
  • Allowed file types: zip rar.