Animation can be demanding work – demanding for both you, the animator, and the machine you’ve chosen to translate your creative vision to screen. Where heavy-duty desktop units are just not practical, the right laptop can fulfil the role just as well. A solid chunk of RAM of at least 4GB is necessary to let you run animation software smoothly and without lagging or glitching, higher gigabytes even better for allowing you to multitask and run a number of applications without counting the seconds to an imminent screen freeze.
Dual-core or quad-core processors are better able to handle the heavy-lifting animating will involve, while hard-drive space is critical to render and save your work quickly, easily and safely (though when it comes to animation, having your own external and portable storage devices is always wise). Wider screens (though not a must) with higher resolution (definitely a must) are critical if you’re either working in animation or are pursuing it professionally – the minutest of details from frame to frame are vital in constructing the perfect, smoothly flowing animation. So which options should you consider? Here are our top picks.
Microsoft Surface Book
Available with 8 and 16 gigabytes of RAM, this machine promises to ensure smooth running of your animation projects – the last thing you’d want, when carefully adding movement and detailing to perhaps hundreds of frames for a two-minute long video, is a device which can’t handle your commands immediately and decisively. A powerful 6th Gen Intel Core i5 processor makes for a hitch-free, smooth-running animating experience, with a sleek, slim and lightweight design making it both an attractive unit as well as a portable one to carry with you for art-spiration sessions anywhere from work, class, home or the neighborhood coffee house.
A 13.5 inch screen is just wide enough to let you get a good look at the visuals you’re working on without being too unyielding and awkward to carry, the trademark PixelSense Display combining 6 million pixels to project crisp, clear and accurate graphics across the detachable touchscreen. In fact, the 2-in-1 laptop basically doubles as heavy-duty graphics tablet designed to run professional-grade software – with the screen detached from the keyboard, flipped 180° and reattached to the keyboard, you have the digital equivalent of pen and paper to get down your artistic vision, 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity making for a very responsive and intuitive user-experience. An impressive screen resolution of 3000 x 2000 makes it oh so much easier to capture, appreciate and pay attention to the most intricate of details, the unit compatible for upgrade with the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU) to let you effortlessly work with animation and 3D modelling.
The laptop also boasts an incredible battery life of 12 hours, meaning you can use the unit on the go without having to anchor yourself by a plug-point. An SSD hard-drive of 128 GB (for the 8GB RAM version) or 256GB (for the 16GB RAM version) leads to smooth, silent and swift operation of your device without any frustrating lags, freezes or crashes – though the storage capacity would be higher in an ideal world, Cloud storage and portable external backup devices cover up for this con pretty well, and it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make for this slim, lightweight and travel-friendly device.
KEN’S BUDGET PICK
Acer Aspire 5 A515-45-R74Z Slim Laptop
For the student on a budget, this is the perfect laptop to get you started on your animation classes, giving you the power you need to run your applications and software without breaking the bank. Ideal when you need functionality over cutting-edge features, this 15.6 inch laptop comes with a high-definition 1920 x 1080 screen resolution and 2GB of dedicated graphics memory, in-built with a NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, so you’re working with sharp, stark, clear and detailed graphics for your animations and 3D modelling. Powered by an Intel i5 Core processor, the 8GB of RAM
Powered by an Intel i5 Core processor, the 8GB of RAM are also a blessing, letting your laptop run multiple applications without freezing up or overworking itself, while a 256GB SSD hard drive offers quiet but decisive performance you’ll need when you’re in a project crunch working towards a submission deadline. Though this doesn’t pack the type of storage space traditional hard drives would, USB ports and Cloud storage are, after all, a college student’s best friend.
Dell Inspiron i7559-5012GRY
A rugged gaming laptop, this machine boasts some pretty impressive specs for a decent price-tag to make it a great option for working with animation. A 6th Gen Intel i7, quad-core processor with 8GB of RAM, this workhorse of a laptop won’t give you any trouble as you work with challenging animation and 3D modelling software, giving you leeway to run the apps you need at a go without slowing you down or glitching out. A dual hard-drive system combining the best of both worlds with a 1 TB hybrid hard-drive and 8 GB embedded flash cache, this laptop has the
A dual hard-drive system combining the best of both worlds with a 1 TB hybrid hard-drive and 8 GB embedded flash cache, this laptop has the musclepower to handle your animation endeavors and serious video gaming without any hiccups, while the incredible screen resolution of 3840 x 2160 makes for crisp, clear and true-to-color graphics for the best animating experience. A wide 15.6 inch touch-enabled screen complements the NVIDIA GTX 960M dedicated graphics for effortless animation, modelling and video gaming with the highest clarity and fluidity of images. Designed to be energy-efficient and let you get the most out of your battery without consuming too much power, the laptop is fitted with 6-cell 74Whr to tide you through your animating sessions.
Acer Predator Helios 300
This laptop is as fierce as its name – and its looks – suggest. With 16GB of RAM to handle all your heavy-duty software without breaking a sweat and a rugged 256GB SSD hard-drive to power the machine, the laptop comes with an Intel Core i7 processor to let you work through each frame of your animation without slowing you down or lagging. A 15.6 inch wide screen with high-definition, 1920 x 1080 resolution and the graphical strength of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 give you the best visual control and the highest degree of precision you’d need for animating.
We also enjoyed the feature of the red backlit keyboard, which both makes it easier for you to see what you’re doing in dim environments and looks pretty cool to boot, the rugged metal chassis and dual-fan cooling system making this something of a tank of a laptop. The only drawback we can think of is the battery life, coming up at about 7 hours – this, along with an estimated weight of about 6 pounds, make this unit better for use when plugged in at a desk or worktable.