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 to 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.
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?
Best Laptops For GIS And ArcGIS
In a hurry? below is a short table of our top picks
Our Top Pick
|Razer Blade 15||8/10|
High Performance Laptop
|Dell Inspiron 15 5593||7/10|
Best Budget Laptop
Lenovo Thinkpad E590
Maximize flexibility with the business-ready ThinkPad E590 laptop, while maintaining the highest performance. The critical efficiency and reliability of ThinkPad combine with a wide range of security capabilities, elegant interface, and streamlined networking to give the company what it needs to move forward.
The ThinkPad E590 has an Intel Core i5-8265U processor offering ample power in a small box and features up to 3.9 GHz burst speeds.
The ThinkPad E590 laptop is the best choice for professionals who take technology seriously, thanks to its sleek style, smart metal construction, and high performance. This SMB device is equipped with powerful Intel CPUs, dual storage drive options, and AMD discrete graphics.
- CPU performance is great
- Comfortable keyboard with clicky feedback
- Minimalistic design
- Anti-glare protection on display
- Display brightness is quite low
- Battery life could be better
Acer Predator Helios 300
Ready for combat or excited for a contest, the Helios 300 drops everything you need into the game. The laptop is packed with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics, the newest 9th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, and the 4th Gen AeroBlade 3D Fan Technology. You can say goodbye to blurry and say hello to simple, crisp, high-octane gaming with the 144Hz IPS Panel and 3ms Overdrive reaction time. A 512GB of capacity for serious gaming is on the lower end but the SSD is very good.
The Helios 300 has you covered, no matter what innovative tools you use to communicate. Aim for more with a wide range of ports like HDMI 2.0, USB Type-C, USB 3.1, and Mini Display Port that supports up to 240Hz refresh rate and NVIDIA G-SYNC. PredatorSense is the perfect platform to monitor and optimize the gaming experience from a single location.
- Impressive performance
- Full HD display with 144Hz refresh rate
- Waves MAXXAudio offers superior sound quality
- Stylish backlit keyboard
- Battery life could be better
- No optical drive built-in
Ok, gamers this one is for you. 8GB dual-channel memory is perfect for your lag-free gaming on story mode or even during online multiplayer. Furthermore, as we said earlier lookout 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 you’re 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.
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 Inspiron 15 5593
Working with soil and wetland mapping or whatever reason you have a use for ArcGIS, getting a cool laptop with at least 8 GB RAM is your best bet. Dell Inspiron 15 gets you exactly that alongside a 4 core CPU with hyper-threading ability.
Its 10th Generation Intel Core i5-1035G1 stays ahead of many versions of Intel Core i7 as of now. So, if speed is what you’re looking for in a laptop on a budget, this one will not disappoint you. However, the fact that it misses out on an NVIDIA GeForce driver can be a downside to your gaming experience.
Intel UHD Graphics is not half bad for that matter especially when your main concentration is navigating the ArcGIS. Moving on to the battery, Dell Inspiron 15 loses a star from us due to its mediocre battery performance. Not to mention, a fast-charging option is not available on this model; meaning the battery will not jump up to 80 percent in an hour and it can significantly bring down your multitasking experience.
Looking on the bright side of this budget-friendly laptop, you have a big 15.6 inch Full HD screen with a rocking resolution of 1900×1080. Its LED-Backlit display is easy on the eyes for hours-long use. The keyboard is not the best but comfortable nonetheless.
The backlit keys help you continue work in low lights which is indeed a plus point. Last but not the least, its 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD) lets you store quite a lot of data without affecting the laptop’s speed and booting time. Although an SS Drive is not necessary for getting your basic GIS work done, it is certainly a plus point when you move to more advanced tasks.
ASUS Zenbook 13 UX333FA
If thick bezels and heavy feel of a laptop is not your thing and you prefer, what they say, the finer things in life, then ASUS Zenbook 13 is an appealing choice. As an engineer, a GIS student, or an academic, it is well known to you that analyzing spatial location and working with data on ArcGIS pose every risk of clogging an average laptop. But this laptop will surpass your expectations and deliver a solid performance that goes hand in hand with your workload.
To begin with, ASUS Zenbook 13 has a brilliant SSD that complements its 16GB RAM pretty well. With an enormous 512GB PCle SSD, Zenbook 13 can bite off more than it can chew and still get away with it! Moreover, you know it will be incredibly fast to fetch data from files, run apps, and manage lag-free multitasking with an 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor.
Your only complaint might be with its tiny 13.3″ screen. But sooner or later, you are bound to fall in love with Zenbook 13 because of its nearly bezel-less Full HD WideView display!
NVIDIA GeForce MX250 is missing in this model and instead, ASUS incorporated the more average Intel UHD Graphics; cutting corners to keep it below a thousand bucks- understandable. However, Intel UHD graphics might not be the ideal GPU you would prefer in a gaming laptop, your tasks concerning GIS should be able to run smoothly.
An interesting feature of Zenbook 13 is its NumberPad addition. Tapping the touchpad once will show a numeric keypad in its place for fast data entry. Zenbook 13’s ErgoLift design which enables the keyboard to tilt to a comfortable position has been a selling point for users with massive writing tasks worldwide.
Not to mention, this is a laptop that you do not have to treat like a baby. Its military-grade durability will withstand rough use for long periods. With a battery that is designed to last all day, Zenbook 13 is one of the coolest laptops, no two ways about it!
Razer Blade 15
With a 10th Generation 6 core Intel i7-10750H processor and an achievable 5.0GHz speed made possible by Turbo boosting, Razer Blade 15 comes off as a good gaming laptop. The reason why gaming laptops are preferable is that navigating ArcGIS for an advanced geographic project is no joke. You need not only a powerful processor but also sufficient RAM for smooth multitasking.
This laptop caters to the needs of a passionate gamer as well as a GIS specialist. Equipped with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, a top-class GPU, Razer Blade 15 pushes the boundaries of what the best laptop for GIS should be. Moreover, combining Wi-Fi 6 and Gigabit Ethernet, Razer Blade 15 is a laptop that ensures quality connectivity at all costs. But the best part of this one hell of a laptop is yet to be revealed!
If you were barking up the wrong tree for a laptop that comes with ports of all sorts including Thunderbolt 3, your search has ended and you are in good hands now. Razor Blade 15 has Thunderbolt 3 which means that you can send and receive files twice as fast as its predecessor USB 3.1. Connecting speedy drives & other peripherals including 4K and 5K displays is made possible.
All GIS operations can benefit from lightning-fast data transfer between devices at an excellent 40Gbps speed from a Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Razer Blade 15’s 0.78″ thin Aluminum Unibody complements its 15.6″ Full HD thin-bezel screen well. Upgrading is a breeze but the noisy fan and underwhelming heat control might be the rain on your parade.
The laptop runs hot when you use it for hours and the battery does not last more than 6 hours when you simply browse the internet. But the 144Hz FHD display and Thunderbolt 3 addition to this super-fast device truly cut the deal. What could have been better is if Razer swapped its 16GB RAM with 32GB RAM. The 512GB SSD is decent unless you have a great load of files to store. But the good news is you can upgrade both the hard drive and the SSD of Razer Blade 15 easily!
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
What do you get when you combine comfort with usability? The answer is Samsung Notebook 9 Pro and here’s why. For starters, it lets you enjoy broad connectivity with 1 USB C port, 2 USB 3.0, 1 microSD Card Reader, 1 HDMI & 1 mic/headphone combo jack. Although a Thunderbolt 3 port is absent, you will not miss out on 4K content viewing if it comes up in your GIS missions.
On top of that, Notebook 9 pro has a way better webcam alongside an integrated digital microphone. Its built-in High Definition 720p webcam will not let you down in frequent video-conferencing with your fellow GIS students, mentors, or co-workers. What else we like about Notebook 9 pro is its immersive 15″ FHD Touchscreen and the built-in stylus called the “S Pen” for a trailblazing ArcGIS experience.
Making corrections and modifications or simply organizing substantial GIS data is now made easier by the S Pen. The fact that Notebook 9 Pro has strong hinges that allow good foldability without being a convertible laptop like ASUS Zenbook Flip S or a more budget-friendly HP Spectre x360 is alright when you reflect on its remarkable features.
Any GIS specialist will instantly adore its top-notch specs considering the ease it will bring to their Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) or geographic surveying.
The powerful processor is no other than Intel Core i7-8550U with a 1.80GHz speed which you can drive up to 4GHz with 8MB Smart Cache, thanks to its Turbo Boost feature!
The graphics side remains satisfactory with an Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 card. A dedicated 2GB AMD Radeon 540 Graphics does a decent job to provide quality gaming performance. However, substituting it with NVIDIA GeForce MX150 would have done this otherwise awesome laptop justice. Anyway, it’s exemplary dedicated GPU takes the load off the HDD and keeps the laptop lag-free.
Weighing 4.11lbs, Notebook 9 Pro sure is not the lightest laptop out there but neither is it the heaviest.
LG Gram 17Z90N
Crazy visuals, super long battery, extensive connectivity, and spacious drives- it is time we talk about the 2020 edition of the mind-blowing LG Gram! To begin with, it has a 10th Generation Intel core i7-1065G7 processor with Iris Plus will be more than enough to carry out your GIS projects.
This version of the processor does incredibly well in producing 4K contents, editing high-resolution photos and videos as well as heavy gaming sessions with your buds! Furthermore, LG Gram incorporates Thunderbolt 3 in this model so that you can enjoy complete versatility in a single port- speedy data transfer, displaying 5K videos while charging simultaneously.
This laptop falls on the slim & light side of its kind; with a weight less than 3lbs.; LG Gram is the one you can carry to your GIS project sites from home. LG Gram added the fingerprint unlocking feature which enables you to log in or awaken the laptop readily from sleep-mode. The keyboard is top-notch, comfortable, and is easily visible in low light conditions.
If you have a deadline coming up in a day and still have the big part of your GIS work unfinished, this laptop will help you pull it off wherever you are. Its remarkable battery will support up to 17 hours of work. The 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD (2 x 512GB) takes the load off the hard drive and grants you more space to save important GIS files. 16GB DDR4 RAM is average for its other groundbreaking specs.
Finishing it off with a cool feature, LG Gram sports a monumental 17″ thin-bezel IPS LCD screen with a striking 2560×1600 resolution.
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 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 reduce the stress on your processor and increase the usability of your device, allowing the device to work to 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 than 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 into 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.