The first thing you need to understand about GIS software is that its value lies around the use of maps and creating various graphic displays of geographic information. Designed to store, manage and display data in a way that is useful for you as a user, GIS software enables the user to produce maps based on different characteristics, for example cities, countryside features or roads.
It is this capability which makes GIS software so valuable to users, particularly those keen on understand the geographical elements that make up a particular area. ArcGIS is one such software system, which is becoming increasingly popular with those looking to create maps and share location-based insights.
Whether or not GIS software is user friendly is of course dependent on experience, but will also rely heavily on the right tools – and that is where this blog comes in. As we enter 2020 and the popularity of ArcGIS continues to grow, this post seeks to explore the requirements of using ArcGIS, in an attempt to identify the best devices on which to use the software, and answer the question – how much do you really need to spend on your laptop?
The Best Laptops for GIS
Lenovo Yoga 730
You may well be familiar with the Geographic Information System (GIS) concept, or are none the wiser; however, either way you most certainly will need a high performance laptop to run this system effectively.
The laptop you choose will be need to be well equipped and ready for GIS as well as being compatible with further GIS apps and software. Shopping for a GIS efficient laptop can be a minefield, although read on for some assistance in this area.
We have put together the ‘need to knows’ in this field for each recommended laptop, rather than overwhelm you with technical jargon.
Acer Aspire E 15
Ok, gamers this one is for you. 8GB duel channel memory is perfect for your lag free gaming on story mode or even during online multiplayer. Furthermore, as we said earlier look out for laptops that support GIS applications, well this one does with its 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U processor for effortless and smooth multitasking, loading, and streaming.
With all the USB and HDMI ports you need this bad boy also has the latest 802.11ac wireless technology that transports you into the 21st century with very fast WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. With all the connectivity options and ports you will ever need you then need a machine that can store your goods, well the E 15 has a huge 1TB storage capacity.
This laptop is ready for you with full HD 15.6” screen making it the perfect ally for intense gaming and multitasking, you can even game for longer with its unique long-lasting battery, powerful graphics card and RAM.
However, be aware if your taking this laptop on the move with you then the screen doesn’t produce sufficient brightness to continue effective usage outdoors. Furthermore, after every 30 seconds of idle status or inactivity the screen will flick off, this will get on your nerves when personally multitasking.
MSI GL62M 7REX-1896US
Ok, this is called a gaming laptop because it does what it says on the tin, intense gaming. With the 7th Gen Intel Core 7700HQ delivering smooth performance in GIS applications this laptop will give you a full HD gaming experience.
This machine boasts ‘cooler boost’ technology that holds 7 heat pipes which dramatically helps to reduce system heat, enhancing your experience for longer. You can also benefit from a lag-free gaming encounter due to the impressive 8GB DRAM. You will be able to continue gaming into the dark hours as the backlit keyboard technology ensures continual usage of the laptop in low light.
A further advantage is the display quality with anti-glare display providing an effortless and bright view even outdoors. Furthermore, the MSI GL62M has a high quality sound experience due to four built-in speakers taking your computer games to a new in-depth level.
However, as a consumer please be aware that the battery life is just not on point, there is no fingerprint scanner and no optical drive. Although if you’re near a charger and don’t require your fingerprints to access your laptop then you can carry on gaming baby!
Dell G5587-7866BLK-PUS G5 15 5587
The Dell G5 15 5587 deliver hard hitting sound quality due to Waves MaxxAudio Pro and Stereo speakers, this is a great touch for the keen gamer. Its 8th Gen Intel i7 processor is enough for intense GIS apps and multitasking, together with an impressive 1TB HDD for a wide range of storage and bulked data.
This machine also has connectivity ports for days, with a USB 3.1 SuperSpeed, MicroMedia Card, Noble Lock Security Slot, Ethernet RJ45, and Thunderbolt 3. The wireless 802.11a technology offers speedier WiFi connectivity when you are at home or out and about. This is matched with a powerful processor and realistic sound even in an outdoor environment.
Although, before you part with your hard earned cash just note that this machine does not have an optical drive, Lockport or fingerprint scanner. Also, if you or your technologically advanced children are expecting to operate a touchscreen, then don’t hold your breath, it doesn’t have one!
Dell i5577-5335BLK-PUS Inspiron
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card delivers a super-fast and smooth gaming experience, underpinned by a 7th Gen Intel Core i5-7300HQ that forces home a silky smooth and power-efficient machine.
Backed up by the power of an 8GB DDR4 RAM which can even be expanded up to 32GB, either option reassures you with lag-free gaming, loading and streaming. You will get a battery life of 7 hours which gives ample time to start multitasking effortlessly and chipping into the massive 256GB Solid State storage drive.
The Dell Inspiron i5577 is a bit pricey and a little bit of a chunky monkey weighing in at 5.66 lbs. which needs to be consider if commuting or travelling often. You also don’t get a fingerprint scanner for added security and the lack of USB ports can disappoint.
But, overall for the extra money you do get the latest processor for multitasking and intense gaming, a good amount of RAM and quality graphics card as well as full HD Anti-glare display with Stereo speakers that packs a punch!
GIS System Requirements
Starting with the basics, first we need to identify the processor requirements needed to run ArcGIS effectively. The processor within a laptop is used to generate pulses which synchronize the devices various operations. In essence, it determines performance, and the software required by ArcGIS specifies the need for a processor with speeds of 3GHz or more.
The CPU core is the processing unit which performs actions, meaning a CPU with multiple cores can work on various calculations much faster than a single-core CPU. While generally this is seen as a good thing, some systems and software’s are not compatible with multi-core processors, so this is always worth checking. For ArcGIS, the recommendation is a quad-core processor with hyperthreading support.
When searching for your ideal device, many affordable laptops will offer and enable both of these requirements.
We probably all have experience of the frustration faced when your device doesn’t have enough memory. Whether it’s a TV recording box that can’t store any more episodes, or a phone which won’t allow you to take any more photos, device memory is a constant pitfall that affects not only usability but also performance. And ArcGIS is no different.
In order to run ArcGIS software properly, the minimum requirement is 4GB of memory (RAM), while 8GB is recommended for a high performance.
When selecting your device and memory storage, it is worth noting that the computer memory (RAM) works as a temporary store for your current projects, and so for those who like to multitask and keep multiple things open at once, 8GB is the safer solution to keep all your work safe.
ArcGIS is a visual software that relies on a 3D picture and high-res imagery. As such, graphics are an important part of your consideration when selecting a laptop device, particularly as the graphics chip which determines graphic memory comes embedded into each device and so cannot be upgraded in the future.
ArcGIS indicates a minimum of 256MB graphics memory, while ArcGIS Pro needs at least 4GB of dedicated graphics memory in order to handle the 3D rendering and visuals.
If you plan on using ArcGIS regularly, investing in a dedicated graphics card will reduced the stress on your processor and increase the usability of your device, allowing the device to work to an optimum performance.
If you’re looking to use the ArcGIS desktop version, your laptop needs to have a minimum of 4GB storage capacity. ArcGIS Pro requires a much larger 32GB.
While the original version of ArcGIS doesn’t need a great deal of storage, investing in a laptop that includes SSD is a good way to ensure you are prepared for storing more data in the future, as the SSD basically acts as a storage drive that is faster, more reliable and more efficient that traditional HDD (Hard Drive) technology.
Do I need an SSD (Solid State Drive) for a GIS laptop?
In short, no, although most affordable laptops come equipped with SSD storage built in to the device. Having SSD capability means that you can store more data safely, without affecting the booting time and processing time of your laptop. SSD is also more durable, consumes less energy and is generally more reliable than HDD (Hard Drives).
How much resolution do I need for ArcGIS?
If you’re heavily invested in using ArcGIS and other GIS mapping technology, you will know that the visual strength of the images produced is paramount to the effectiveness of the programme. As you layer different maps on top of each other and create different projects, visual accuracy plays an important role, and so laptop resolution is one of the more important decisions.
The official requirements state you need at least 1280 x 800 pixels of resolution, though an easier way to determine this is simply to ensure you choose a laptop with full HD resolution – as a minimum! The better resolution you can invest in, the better your experience will be; and this relies heavily on your budget. While the affordable laptops will likely all offer the minimum recommended by ArcGIS, those with higher resolutions will cost you a little more.
In conclusion, the laptop market is saturated with devices which will provide a great experience with ArcGIS, and many of them are entirely affordable for most budgets. There are inevitably those with a higher price tag which will provide a more premium user experience in some respects, but generally the software can be used effectively on most devices that meet the minimum requirements.