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Computer animation can be one of the most fun and rewarding of all creative processes, and once you really get into it you can literally see whole new worlds opening up before you. The elements of storytelling, visual art, movement, music and sound can come together in animation more than in any other art form.
Computer animation can also be the most frustrating of all digital endeavors, and this is almost always due to having a computer that is not up to the intensive data processing animation requires. Lags and delays, crashes, broken up and ragged movement in viewports, incredibly slow rendering – I’m surprised we don’t see a lot more animation depicting an animator banging their heads against the wall.
And yet animation is everywhere, and the demand for good professional animators, or commercial artists who can also animate, is growing at a staggering rate. Fortunately, if you have a machine that can handle the work, and if you have a little creativity and vision, you will be amazed at how easy digital animation can be.
That’s why it is so important to find the best laptop for animation, and why I have put together this guide.
When choosing the best laptop for animation, you simply must have a computer with enough RAM, and a CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit) which are fast and powerful enough to animate, view and render your work.
Now if you are doing 2D animation you are obviously going to need less power, but 3D animation will definitely require the most updated, fastest processors, and lots of system and video memory.
As the name implies, 2D animation animates characters and objects which are flat, consisting of only height and width dimensions, with no possibility of seeing “around” them. 3D animation uses all three dimensions, which means objects and characters have height, width and depth, you can see them from different angles as they move and interact, and the whole scene will be more realistic and sophisticated overall – at least hopefully, depending on the animator, I guess!
2D animation is less power intensive, the software and processes requiring less memory, processor power and speed, but nonetheless older laptops (or even the newest models), if they don’t have enough RAM, have slow processors or inadequate graphics processors, will definitely cause the 2D animator some headaches, even with relatively simple work and lighter software programs.
The most popular 2D animation software includes:
3D animation is very hungry in terms of memory, processing cores and speed, and the best laptops for animation tend to be fairly expensive – but if you are doing 3D you need the fastest and most powerful, so animators are always glad to pay more – well, they are at least willing to pay more, if not always “glad” about it.
The most popular 3D animation software includes:
While 3D digital animation is much more sophisticated, and has very advanced applications not just in entertainment and art, but also in science, engineering, medicine, manufacturing and modeling, education and much more, 2D animation is still used widely in many different ways – films, advertisements, videos, games, education and other applications, even at the very highest level – think, for instance, of Howl’s Moving Castle, The Lion King or, d’oh, The Simpsons.
For 2D animation I would recommend a minimum of:
For 3D animation would recommend a minimum of:
I would also recommend getting a good, larger screen, 15 inches or larger – you may want a small, nicely portable machine, but you don’t want to strain your eyes and get headaches every time you work, or miss important details or errors. As far as resolution and color accuracy go, any computer with any of the above components will have more than sufficient display quality for any animation work.
And let’s not forget the MacBook, which remains a real favorite among both 2D and 3D digital animators at every level and in every area.
While the above hardware requirements are applicable for Windows PC laptops, it is a different world with Apple, and you don’t have any choice, for example, which GPU or CPU you’re going to get or how much VRAM there is. Luckily, the MacBook Pro, which is the go-to machine for serious animators, is more than sufficient for even the most power-intensive work – but more about that later…
At this point you may be saying something along the lines of “huh?” In fact, if you thought you wanted to maybe update your computer and try your hand at either very simple or even more advanced animation, you may now be well put off, wondering, since it seems altogether too complicated and confusing, if it is even worth it.
I mean, what’s VRAM anyway, and why do I need it? Am I supposed to know who Nvidia is, or even Intel for that matter? CPU? GPU? WTD (what the duck) :)?
And what if I don’t get it all right? Will my poor little animation dudes be consigned to a life of ragged movement and repeated near-death experiences as my inadequate laptop continuously lags and crashes? Why can’t I just find a nice new laptop, point my mouse or my finger at one-click shopping and be done with it?
Don’t worry – that’s why I have assembled this buyer’s guide, to make sure you will get exactly what you need. If you know computers and all the tech stuff, you will see that not only are all of my recommendations more than sufficient for whatever kind of animation – or any other art or computer work – you are doing, but are also great all around computers and great values. After all, quality and usability, especially when compared to cheap equipment that doesn’t do what you need, is always the best value, and especially if it is at a good price!
And if you don’t know a GPU from a hole in the ground, and don’t want to, you can be absolutely certain that any computer on my list of best laptops for animation will be the right machine, and you can click with confidence.
You will also find that animation itself – which is admittedly a high level art form – is remarkably easy on the newest software. Much, much easier than it was even a few years ago, and infinitely easier than when we did it all manually, drawing and coloring cel after cel after cel… You will, in fact, be amazed at how fast you can learn even the more complex process of 3D animation, and with either form how quickly your ideas and visions can come to life before your very eyes!
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The Best MacBook Pro for 2D Animation
The Best MacBook Pro for 3D Animation
Best Value in a 2D Animation Laptop
Best Overall Laptop for 2D Animation
Best value in a laptop for 3D animation
Best mid-priced laptop for 3D animation
Best overall 3D animation laptop on the market today
Ok, let’s get the good stuff out of the way first (I’m required to say that, you know, because I’m a proud and partisan MacBook, iPad and iPhone user).
Yes, there are lots more choices for the best laptop for animation on the Windows platform, but there are not necessarily better computers, and the MacBook Pro is truly one of the best computers of any type available today for either 2D or 3D animation. And not just for animation – the MacBook Pro is a superbly constructed machine, beautifully designed, intuitive and imminently usable, and one of the finest laptop computers there is for any artist.
Depending on the configuration, you can get a Apple MacBook Pro which is ideally suited for 2D animation, or a MacBook Pro which is ideally suited for 3D animation, either of which will have perfect performance and trouble-free operations with even the most advanced animation projects and software programs, and will match or better the best of the equivalent Windows machines in this and other areas.
(You will notice that my recommendation for best Apple MacBook Pro for 2D animation has only a 13 inch screen, smaller than I suggest earlier in this article, but when you see the superb Apple Retina display you’ll realize that with the Apple MacBook Pro screen size is not so important.)
If you are already a Windows user, there may not be a compelling reason to switch to Apple OS just for your laptop for animation, but if you are, like me, a die-hard Apple fan and user, you can rest assured that you don’t have to give anything up to stay with Apple, and the Apple MacBook Pro is without question one of the very best laptop computers for either 2D or 3D animation.
The Best MacBook Pro for 2D Animation:
The Best MacBook Pro for 3D Animation:
A powerful computer for 2D animation, the Acer Aspire 5 is also a great overall laptop for any commercial or fine artist, with a beautiful high resolution screen, a super-fast Intel I5 processor and separate graphics processor, plenty of memory and video memory and a big, reliable and speedy 512 gigabyte solid state storage drive.
Indeed, the Acer Aspire 5 could even act as a decent 3D animation machine – it’s that powerful – and is a great idea if you are on a budget but still want to have all options open to you. As it stands, the Aspire 5 can handle the highest resolution graphics and complex and demanding animation sequences with perfect smoothness, pure speed and no lags, glitches or problems – a fully capable computer for even the most advanced 2D animation software and work, or other top-level art projects, with plenty of reserve for whatever you throw at it.
Fast, powerful and fully capable, with a beautiful screen and excellent overall look and feel, the Acer Aspire 5 is the whole package, a fantastic computer for any artist and the best laptop for animation with the best value.
Gaming computers are something of a rage these days, and not just because of the Big Bang Theory. People realize that gaming computers are absolutely brilliant everyday computers as well, largely because they offer two things in one great package – incredible toughness and incredible performance. Indeed, the performance aspect of the gaming laptop also makes them absolutely perfect laptops for animation work, as they really focus on video speed and quality, high resolution, lots of memory and storage and overall processing speed – all ultra-important elements in any animation project.
While lots of gaming laptops are also ultra-expensive, the Asus Tuf, with its glorious 15.6 inch full high definition screen, is actually quite moderately priced. It is a no-compromise machine, however, and you can expect absolutely flawless performance with even advanced, power-hungry and memory intensive 2D animation work. It has, after all, a full 16 gigabytes of RAM, 4 gigs of video RAM, a blazing I5 quad-core processor working in concert with the wonderful Nvidia GeoForce GTX discrete graphics co-processor, and a huge 1TB solid state storage drive.
Which all means that doing animation work on this laptop is a joy, and if you are using the Tuf for other art work, you will find that it is equally perfect for any and all creative projects. It could even handle most 3D animation with ease, although the units listed below, in the best laptops for animation section, are more suited for the highest-level 3D animations.
A truly premium machine, the Asus Tuf 15.6 inch FHD gaming laptop is not an inexpensive computer, but it offers astonishing performance for the money and is very well built. While the laptops below will be even faster and more powerful, they are all also significantly more expensive, and the Asus Tuf is the best laptop for animation you will even need, and for pretty much anything else.
A remarkably powerful computer for the price, the new Asus VivoBook has the minimum requirements for fully productive and trouble-free work in creating, reviewing and rendering 3D animation projects.
A big, clear and impressive 15.6 nano-edge screen displays full FHD graphics, and the NVIDIA GeForce MX350 GPU makes sure that graphics and animation present smoothly and without delays or lags. The main computer processor is the latest Intel I7, with a super-fast clock of up to 4.7 GHz. One of the main money savers that make this high-performance animation laptop so affordable is the inclusion of a mechanical hard drive rather than a large (and expensive) solid state drive – the Asus VivoBook 15 has both a smallish 256 GB SSD and a large 1 TB HDD, which actually works quite well for animation work – the solid state used for current working projects and the mechanical drive more for finished work and portfolio pieces.
The Asus VivoBook is not quite as stout as the two more expensive gaming laptops below, and won’t take the same kind of abuse (not that I advise you to abuse any of these sweet, innocent computers!), but it is also a little easier to tote around, and is still very well built and durable.
An amazing bargain, the Asus VivoBook 15 K513 laptop has an unbelievable array of top-notch hardware components, and unheard of performance at this price, and is easily the best laptop for animation on budget on the market today – and one of the best values period!
ASUS VivoBook 15 K513 Specifications
While not quite as absurdly fast and powerful as the behemoth MSI Titan, reviewed just below, the Acer Nitro 7 is still an astonishingly quick and capable machine, and more than enough for virtually any 3D animation work.
It turns out that the same things that go into a gaming computer are exactly what you would want for an animation workstation, including the best and latest system and graphics processors, lots of memory and video memory, bright and beautiful displays and large on-board SSD drives for storage. And the best gaming computers are also built like tanks, designed for the abuse gamers can, and often do, throw at them – and while animators are, I’m sure, altogether more peaceful and responsible creatures, a good gaming computer should last for ages with normal use.
And the Acer Nitro 7 is a brilliant example of both a good – indeed, very, very good – gaming computer and an ideal animation workstation, with a latest generation Intel I7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics, with 4 GB of video memory and a full 16 GB of system memory, a large, sharp and bright display with glorious detail and colors and a big 512 GB SSD drive.
Again, the MSI Titan is bigger, stronger and faster than this still formidable Nitro, but it is also basically two and a half times more expensive, and it is hard to imagine any work situation – even the most advanced, complex and detailed animation projects – that this amazing Acer Nitro 7 laptop couldn’t handle with ease. A great bargain, then, as a reasonably priced entry into the lofty realm of fully flowing, trouble free 3D animation creation, and the best value for a full-power 3D animation computer in 2021.
One of the most powerful computers on the market today, the MSI GT75 Titan is the best laptop for animation. Definitely overkill for 2D graphics or more casual endeavors, the Titan is up to the challenge of the most advanced 3D animation projects of any kind.
Designed to be the ultimate gaming computer, the GS75 has extremely fast and powerful graphics processing and main system processing units, lots of RAM and VRAM and a very strong, tough and durable construction. With a brilliant 17.3 inch thin-bezel display and 4G HD graphics, the Titan makes even the most precise, highly detailed or demanding work much easier to see and accomplish, and the two 1 TB SSD drives allow you to keep both work in progress and full finished projects locally.
A massive laptop computer, built to perform and to last, the MSI GT76 Titan handles the most memory intensive, complex animations with absolute ease and reliability, with perfectly smooth movement and stunning visual screen display, making creation, viewing and rendering a completely problem free and joyous experience. And even though I said it is overkill for “lesser” work, you will find that the Titan will actually perform flawlessly and effortlessly with absolutely any kind of computer tasks, and its screen is amazing for painting, drawing, photography or any other visual work.
Yes, it is insanely expensive, but if you are working at this level you know that the MSI GT76 Titan DT 10SGS-055 is more than worth it, and the best laptop for animation on the market today.
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When you look at the incredible quality of both 2D and 3D movies, videos, TV shows, commercials and lots more out there, it can be incredibly intimidating, and easy to feel discouraged before you even begin.
But in fact the newest animation software – either 2D or 3D – is so simple and intuitive, and does so much for you, that if you have an idea and a vision you can create super-beautiful, professional looking animations much more easily than you could possibly imagine. And I’m here to tell you that, no matter how much I paint or draw, how many beautiful pictures I might create and display proudly, there is something incredibly exciting, something really special, when I can actually create art that is not just beautiful or compelling, but actually moves and flows, taking on a life of its own.
At any rate, the demand for animation artists will just keep increasing, and so even if animation is not your primary interest it’s not a bad idea to get a computer that, in addition to serving beautifully and capably as an artist’s tool, will handle animation as well, should you decide at some point to try your hand at it. Every computer on this list will do just that, and so now it’s all up to you – after all, the sooner you get moving, the sooner your artwork can get moving too!
Thanks so much for reading my latest article – The Best Laptops for Animation: A Guide to Selecting the Best Notebook Computer for 2D or 3D Animation – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.
We looked at the best and cheapest drawing tablets with screen for artists to to see which one you should get. Check them out in this review!