Powerful new mobile components from Intel, Nvidia and AMD (as well as Apple on the MacBook side) mean that even complex 3D animation is achievable on laptops these days, and that’s great news for many of us who have adapted the way we work, so we’re sometimes in an office or studio, and other times working from home. Because laptops are thin, light and portable, it means they are ideal for hybrid working.
If you’re an animator, you may not know – or care – about laptop specifications, and as there’s a huge amount choice out there, it means picking the right one for your needs can be daunting. To make things as easy as possible, we’ve collected the best laptops for a range of budgets right here, and every laptop on this page can run the best animation software like After Effects, Blender, Maya and more.
When looking for a laptop for animation, you’ll want a device with a modern processor and plenty of RAM – we recommend 8GB as a minimum, but preferably 16GB or more. If you’re going to be working on complex 3D animations, then a laptop with a dedicated graphics card is worth investing in. This can drastically speed up your workflow, but these laptops can often be a lot more expensive.
Many of us are facing a big squeeze on our finances due to the cost of living crisis, and so with that in mind we’ve made sure to include affordable laptops that still offer a great experience when animating on, as well as more expensive cutting-edge laptops.
Be sure to also look at our guide to the best laptop for graphic design as well.
The best laptop for animation available now
If you want the absolute best laptop for animation you can buy right now, then you won’t get better than the new MacBook Pro 16-inch. Powered by a choice of Apple’s new M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, the MacBook Pro can easily handle even the most complex animations.
It doesn’t just offer a huge amount of power, but when we tested it we found that it has one of the best screens you’ll see on a laptop, thanks to mini-LED technology, which will make your animations look their very best.
Apple has increased the screen size slightly, and boosted the selection of ports, including HDMI and a memory card slot, so you can easily plug in additional peripherals such as drawing tablets and external monitors, so when you’re working at your desk, you’ll be completely comfortable.
It is rather large, however, so if you’re after something more portable, check out the 14-inch model below.
Also read: MacBook Pro 16-inch review
Apple’s super-charged MacBook Pro is definitely one of the best laptops for animation. It comes with Apple’s very own M1 Pro or Max chip, which allows this MacBook Pro to provide some seriously impressive performance, while keeping its thin and (relatively) light design.
As we outlined in our Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch review, it’s hard to overstate the power this little machine holds, so let’s just say it can handle your creative animation workflow with ease, and will do so virtually silently. It’s also got the longest battery life ever seen in a MacBook. We’ve tested it ourselves and it’s seriously impressive, allowing you to work all day and still have battery life left. This means it’s a great choice for animators who often travel a lot. If you’d like something a little bigger to work on, then the 16-inch model above is a great alternative.
The Razer Blade 17 is a great laptop for animation, combining Razer’s well-known build quality with some of the most powerful mobile components money can buy right now. This includes the cutting-edge Intel 12th generation of processors, along with Nvidia’s latest Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti laptop GPU.
This is the most powerful GPU you can get in a laptop without spending a seriously huge amount of money, and it means even the most complicated and detailed 3D animations will run brilliantly on this machine. You can also add realistic lighting effects with ray tracing, taking your animations to a whole other level.
It’s very expensive, but for your money you’re getting some of the best mobile tech available right now. Combined with a great build quality and stunning 17-inch screen, this is a brilliant creative workstation for people who need a lot of power. For people doing 2D animations for the web, however, it may be overkill. Read our Razer Blade 17 review for more information.
The Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) remains one of the most powerful laptops money can buy right now, which makes it an excellent choice for animators. Not only does it pack some of the best mobile tech around right now, but it comes with an absolutely stunning display, and plenty of ports.
That 17.3-inch display comes in a 4K resolution, so your work is going to look its very best, and with up to a Core i9 processor and 64GB of RAM, this is an immensely powerful mobile workstation.
There are trade offs, as it’s an expensive laptop and battery life isn’t great, but if you have the budget and need the power, then our review concluded that this is a brilliant investment. Read our Gigabyte Aero 17 review for more information.
If you want a stylish laptop with Apple-like build quality, but don’t want to use macOS, then Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 is a great Windows alternative.
While Microsoft may be better known as a software company, it’s been putting out some great laptops recently, at its most recent device is an ideal laptop for animators. It’s thin, light and easily portable, and has an excellent PixelSense touchscreen that will make your work look its very best. It’s also got a great keyboard for coding on and powerful specs (including cutting-edge integrated graphics from either Intel or AMD, depending on the configuration you go for). It also has incredible battery life, we found it lasted around 13 hours in our tests.
It’s a fantastic showcase for Windows 10, and it’s more than capable of running any graphic design app you want. Now that Windows 11 is out, it can also be upgraded for free.
Also read: Surface Laptop 4 review
If you’re looking for a flexible laptop for doing some animation on, then the Acer Spin 5 is a great choice. It’s affordable, especially compared to a lot of the other laptops on this list, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on features or performance.
For a start, this is a laptop that can handle pretty much any animation app you rely on (though it’ll struggle with complex 3D animations due to its lack of dedicated graphics card), and with a 12 hour battery life, it’s a device you can comfortably use for a whole work day.
It’s also a 2-in-1 device, which means as well as being a traditional laptop, its screen can flip back, turning it into a tablet-like device. This can be a big boon to productivity, as you can use a stylus to draw on the touchscreen. The screen is also a 3:2 aspect ratio, which actually makes drawing and working on more comfortable, as the screen is taller.
Unlike most other laptops, the Acer Spin 5 comes with a stylus included, which makes it even better value. It’s not a cheap stylus either, but a fully-featured one that can really help you with your art and animation.
The Surface Book 3 is a stylish, brilliantly-built laptop for animation. It’s got one of the nicest displays you can get on a portable, which means your animations are going to look sublime, and it’s a touchscreen as well, which works brilliantly with the Surface Pen stylus – which is sold separately.
It’s not just a looker, either. It comes with some incredibly powerful specs, and you can even configure it to come with a discrete GPU, so it can handle 3D animations as well.
It runs Windows 11, so you’ve got access to the most popular animation suites on the market, and it’s thin and light enough to carry around with you with ease.
The Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is another excellent laptop for animation. It’s powered by Apple’s M1 chip, which is plenty powerful for running any animation apps you rely on. Best of all, it’s thin and light enough to be carried around with you, with a battery life that, as we found in our tests, outlasts many of its competitors (though not the MacBook Pro’s).
It has an excellent Retina screen, that is a joy to work on. It has a fanless design, which keeps it thin and light, and also means it’s practically silent when in use. This does mean that when under intense loads it won’t perform quite as well as the MacBook Pro (which does have fans).
However, for most people this won’t be an issue, and the lower price point will make this a much more attractive purchase for animators.
Also read: MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review
The Acer ConceptD 7 is another powerful creative laptop that is a brilliant choice for animating on. It features high-end Nvidia RTX graphics, which makes it an excellent choice for people looking to animate complex 3D scenes.
The Pantone-validated 4K IPS screen is also by far one of the best we’ve seen in a laptop, which means your animations will look their very best when you’re working on them. And all that power will render your work quickly and easily, so you can move on to new projects with ease.
It’s expensive, and it’s not the thinnest or lightest laptop on this list, but it’s well worth investing in if you’re looking for a real workhorse to animate on.
The Lenovo ThinkBook 14S Yoga is a solid and affordable convertible that is a great choice for animation. It’s got some powerful internals, including an 11th-gen Intel Core processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics, which will handle animation apps with ease.
Best of all, its 2-in-1 design allows you to work on its touchscreen, and the included stylus means sketching is a joy.
It’s nice and affordable as well, compared to some of the more expensive laptops on this list, and while the battery life isn’t the longest, at around 9 hours, it’s still pretty impressive, and should get you through a work day before you need to plug it in to charge.