30 Replies Latest reply on Sep 13, 2017 11:38 AM by Stephen Copeland

    Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)

    Oli Sparrow

      Hi all,

      At work I use a Dell Precision 5810, which works just fine, and I can always work on personal stuff on my breaks if I need to.

      However I'm trying to replace my iMac and old old iPad at home with a laptop.

      My requirements whittled down:

      • Slim, Light, ultraportable and solid
      • QHD screen for films etc.
      • Capable of HDMi out (with or without adaptor) for using larger monitor
      • Capable of really casual Solidworks modelling; for example if I wanted to draw up a new something or other for me to build at home, refresh my product design portfolio (assemblies up to 40 parts max.) or just mess around with surfacing techniques for fun etc.

      Bonus Requirements:

      • 2in1/flip around screen for tablet mode for sketching, reading in bed, that sort of thing


      I'm looking at

      • Dell XPS 13, i7, 16Gb RAM, Intel HD Graphics 620, 256 SSD (Averages arounf £1500)
      • 2in1 version of the above - £300 more expensive so might not be an option (Averages arounf £1700)
      • Windows Surface Book, similar spec much more expensive so i5, 8Gb, 512 SSD (Averages around £1500)
      • Lenovo Yoga 910, i7, 16Gb RAM, Intel HD Graphics 620, 256 SSD (Averages around £1450)


      I love the design of the Dell although haven't had a chance to use a 2in1 demo model

      Love the design of the Surface book and it has the detachable tablet + comes with the pen which is a bonus

      Like the idea of the Yoga but haven't seen one in the flesh yet.


      While I'm trying to figure out if I really need touch or not, it'd be good to know if people here have had any experiences with these running Solidworks.  As mentioned it will be very light work and all files will be saved in cloud storage rather than on the HD.  It'll be a portable family machine for home that I would like to be able to model on if I felt like it.



        • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
          Timothy Taby

          They would all run Solidworks to some extent, but you would still be better off with one of the workstation type of laptop due to the video card.  The Dell precision 3520 has a Quadro M620 and should be priced around the same as the XPS 13 you have listed above.

            • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
              Oli Sparrow


              To be honest I could stretch to a 5520 here for the slightly higher spec (and I didn't see that this had the same cool design of the XPS) if it was the right choice for future proofing, but am I then changing tactics to get a much better Solidworks machine, and leaving behind some of the nicer features of the family laptop (touchscreen, lower weight etc..)

              The extra ports and power are quite attractive on the Precision workstations.  Will SW run OK on i5 and 8Gb?  I assume the addition of dedicated graphics would mean RealView, better stability?  I'd only ever do 1-2 hours a week at most on SW so maybe this isn't so important?

            • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
              S. Casale

              What is casual solidworks use?

              • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                Ken Maren

                Yoga P40? 


                ThinkPad P40 Yoga | Multi-Mode Mobile Workstation | Lenovo US


                You get the flip to tablet style with a certified SolidWorks graphics card. 

                • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                  Newell Voss

                  A number of our senior design staff had the option to transition to surface books for a trial run earlier this year. There have been a few minor issues while running SW but nothing major and so far the majority of the group approves of its use. Although I can't comment on how much of the touch screen was actually used during routine CAD work. The surface book was also a hot topic for discussion at SW world as more companies are demanding high end specs compiled with 2-in-1 technology. Also my girlfriend who has been a lifetime apple product user just recently made the switch based on my suggestion (mac pro, ipad, iphone - surface book & GS8) and has been in love ever since. Not saying that qualifies any CAD work but she uses it for basic video production, image editing, etc. and enjoys the user experience.

                  If this is a personal device, then I would recommend the surface book.

                  • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                    Michael Lord



                    If you are looking at 2-1 you should consider the HP Spectre x360 it is the latest released compared to the Dell XPS/ Yogo

                    I been using one for a few months now.  Beta testing etc.

                    SOLIDWORKS on a HP Spectre x360 #SOLIDWORKS | Michael Lord

                      • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                        Oli Sparrow

                        Hi Michael,


                        That's an excellent little entry; it should help a lot of people!


                        I hadn't considered even looking at HP because like you say there, they haven't really been top of any lists in the past.  The Spectre however seems to be very good value for what you get, especially as the stylus is included.  Any thoughts on accuracy or delay of the pen input?  Think I'll go and have a play later on.


                        Also, freehand sketching in SW 2018!?  That's awesome news.



                          • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                            Michael Lord


                            I haven't used with a stylus (not included when I purchased)  The HP Pen doesn't work with it but I understand the HP Stylus does.

                            It works well with little or no delay for medium size model using your finger.   There is some lag with Large Assembles due to limited RAM.  As I said if I had an option I would have gone with 16GB not 8!

                            I don't use it all that much in full Tablet mode but I really like using touch in combination as a laptop. 

                            In SOLIDWORKS it is nice to zoom and rotate using your finger


                            Can't say much here on freehand sketch in SW 2018.  But it does work using just your finger.  It is interesting but I'm not too sure how practical it really is!



                          • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                            Todd Blacksher

                            Not sure how I missed that great post Michael - I had not even looked at the Spectre, but I'm going to do some more investigating tonight when I get home - Thanks!


                              • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                                Michael Lord


                                I tossed up between the Spectre and the Dell XPS.  I don't think there is too much difference between them. 

                                The Spectre was the latest release and the reviews all had it rated just that little bit better.

                                It's has only been a few months but so far it has been faultless! 

                                I don't use it all that much in full Tablet mode but I really like using touch in combination as a laptop. 

                                In SOLIDWORKS it is nice to zoom and rotate using your finger


                                Thanks for the kind word on the post


                            • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                              Oli Sparrow


                              So in case anyone is following this thread my latest developments are:

                              • Still love the MS Surface Book.  It seems very robust and the method by which they have achieved the 2 in 1 functionality is by far the most comfortable and effective.  The detachable tablet is very comfortable and feels like a real standalone rather than a tablet with a bit of hinge dangling off the side.  However, to get a spec close to Solidworks viable, and with the pen for a bit sketch work I'd be looking at over £2000 (about $2600 ish)


                              • I've ruled out Lenovo yoga 910 as absolutely nowhere stocks it as a demo model.  I would have liked to consider this but I can't justify over £1500 just to trial something that isn't top of any lists.


                              • The HP Spectre x360 looks like an absolute winner, with all the features I was looking for, pen included in price etc. and I'd be willing to pay up to the highest spec level (Around £1800) as it seems pretty future proof.  I'm having the same problem though in that no one stocks any model of the spectre.  Having played with some  2in1s/convertibles in store yesterday I've now felt how uncomfortable it is to have the keyboard on the back of tablet mode (something that Microsoft's system has overcome).  I thought it wouldn't really bother me but it really, really does.  So if this is an issue for any 2in1s, is it really worth considering when I could get a higher powered traditional laptop for less money?  I like to think I'd do a bit of sketching on it but I have an iPad and stylus, and an older Wacom intuos 4, neither of which I use anywhere near as much as pen and paper.


                              • The Dell XPS 13's biggest complaint in reviews is that it doesn't have infra-red cameras for 'Windows Hello'.  I really don't care; perfectly happy to type in a password for now.  The design is super slim sturdy and light, and I fall in love with it a little more every time I go and look.  The higher spec model (around £1600) that I'd go for has a QHD touch screen, and where I didn't previously understand why a touchscreen laptop made any sense, having played with one at length yesterday the sense appeared.  I found myself instinctively scrolling and tapping large browser buttons on screen rather than the trackpad without even realising I was doing it.  All the trackpads now have gesture control, which is great with windows but the touchscreen adds an extra dimension.


                              So, as crazy as it sounds (maybe?) I'm considering buying both the HP and the Dell, immediately testing their ergonomics and Solidworks capability, and the returning the lower performer for a full refund.  My local store has no problem with this.

                              I really want the HP to be a different class of 2in1 in person compared with those I've already seen, but I'm worried that poor ergonomics in tablet mode might put me off.  The dedicated graphics (although low end, and only in the 15" model) might be its saviour for CAD however.  I'd go for the Dell in a flash but just don't want to rule out tablet mode without trying it.  The XPS 2in1 is too expensive for what it is so I'm not looking at it.


                              If anyone's interested I'll upload some side by sides of the two if I decide to buy both to test.

                              • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                                Oli Sparrow

                                Hey all,


                                Just wanted to update in case it helped anyone make the decision

                                The HP Spectre x360 13" (Core i7, 8GB RAM 512 SSD)  won the battle at £1200.


                                The most important thing I did to decide was really think about how I wanted to use the machine.


                                4K or not 4K?

                                Speaking to the experts I realised that this sort of pixel density on a 13" is just overkill for a non-graphic designer/photographer.  I wouldn't notice the difference but would notice the additional £2-300.


                                CAD or no CAD?

                                This is going to be my primary home PC and I realised that as much as I love Solidworks, I really don't want to come home and extend the 8 hours I'd already racked up throughout my working day.  This lifestyle-type decision made it very easy to look at lower spec models and save around £600 on what I was originally looking at.  As Michael Lord has so helpfully outlined, the Spectre does run SW albeit not like a quad core workstation, so I'm sure I'll install it at some point in the future.  If CAD is the primary remit of the machine, get a Quad-core workstation; we all know that.


                                I want to learn more VB and automation, and teach myself more Sketchup as we work with lots of architects etc. so I'm sure the Spectre will handle this just fine.


                                Everything else is arbitrary.  It's a very capable, thin light and beautifully crafted convertible that comes bundles with an active stylus (happy so far) and a USB-C to A adapter, which I'm sure I'll find useful.  Michael's post above is a good enough run down of benchmarks and specs so I won't go into that.


                                I felt very put off by the gold/copper detailing when I started this search, with Dell's carbon fibre and Apple's aluminium making it difficult to consider slightly more out-there CMF options, but this thing is stunning!  It's hard portray just how thin the Spectre is and so the gold/copper is little more than a pinstripe, and really unique.  I'd added a few photos in case you're interested.







                                  • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                                    Stephen Copeland


                                    Any chance you can install SOLIDWORKS. I would be interested in the results. I'm not overally bothered about the real view side of things but I am bothered about the potential usability of SW on this machine.

                                    Both the 13 XPS and the spectre were my favourite choices. I have a dell M6800 at home and it works fine. I just need something for small parts and revision of the program.



                                      • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                                        Oli Sparrow

                                        Hi Stephen,

                                        Yes I'll try and do it this week if I can.  I'm also interested just to see how it runs.  Like you say the cosmetic performance isn't at all important relative to it's ability to create 3D data and I'm pretty confident it'll be suitable.



                                          • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                                            Stephen Copeland

                                            If you can that would be great. Interested to see what the heat is like during a render.  Look forward to the results

                                              • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                                                Oli Sparrow

                                                Hi Stephen,


                                                No Realview available, due to the integrated graphics I assume.  Downloaded and installed incredibly quickly and opens up in about 8 seconds.


                                                Solid, sheet metal, weldment and surfaces all run very smooth with very little, if any fan noise or excess heat.  Rebuild times are marginally slower than I'm used to but still more than acceptable.


                                                Opened up a relatively large assembly (around 112 mated parts) and it coped just fine.  Ran a basic PV render and for the most part ran unexpectedly fast with minimal heat generated.  Tried same again at 4x resolution and with some point lights and glossy materials added and as expected it started blowing furiously with a lot of heat building up near the speaker grille.  Still it coped relatively well and the heat wasn't worryingly high.


                                                The touch capability was fun to mess around with and I tried a bit of modelling in tablet mode with the stylus.  Connecting a bluetooth keyboard made for an interesting workflow, however no match for a mouse and keyboard.


                                                Although only a very small test (and no benchmarking run; see Michael Lord's blog post above) I'm very confident that the Spectre is capable for low end part and assembly creation/editing, if it's just an hour here and there or working on the move.  Can't vouch for extended use.



                                                Core i7, 8GB RAM 512 SSD


                                                Didn't explore:




                                                Any SW Premium content

                                                  • Re: Laptop/Ultrabook for casual SW use (Dell/Windows/Lenovo)
                                                    Stephen Copeland


                                                    Many thanks for going through that, appreciate your time.

                                                    The processor speed seems to help.

                                                    When you opened the mated parts model i think i was expecting those results. Seemed like my old mac book pro in dual boot it got very very hot around the back end, but obviously as the casing is metal it will be adding to the heat sink properties,so i guess the designers allowed for this. Its very disconcerting when the heat is on though. Then again as we said if it was for just small parts and small time its not going to be a problem.

                                                    It was good to see the results on the weldments, as i could use these a fair bit. I wast too bothered about the real view when i was on the move.

                                                    I didn't think the touch screen would work too much. Like you said keyboard and mouse will be hard to move away from.

                                                    Michael Lords blog was very helpful.

                                                    I think your comments on the spectre about usability were spot on and i think it would be fine, like you say, for small part builds.

                                                    The portability was the real thing for me. Taking the M6800 on the move is like going to the gym, but it is a great machine even to change parts when its necessary.

                                                    I just feel I'm cheating my SOLIDWORKS program by not allowing it to work at its full potential :-(

                                                    Another option to to with would be the zbook by HP the G4 with the xeon processor. The weight would be still less than the M6800 and the size is smaller. No way like the spectre but then its in a different league.


                                                    Many thanks for your help.