2017 "Budget" CAD / Dev Laptop comparison

A recent post by a member of the Tormach Operators group on Facebook asked for help in locating a laptop that could run Fusion 360, in the $500-$1,000 USD price range.  I had just helped a friend spec out a similar laptop to run landscaping/hardscaping 3D planning software, so of course I volunteered the recommendation I had just compiled for him.

The laptop that I suggested to my friend and fellow Tormach owners is the HP Pavilion 15.6-Inch Touchscreen laptop.  This $829.00 machine has an Intel Quad Core i7-7500U processor running at 2.7Ghz (Correction – I originally posted this box was a QUAD core, but in fact it’s not – it’s a DUAL Core i7, which means two cores as opposed to the four cores on the Dell!), 16GB DDR4 RAM (can be upgraded to 32), dedicated 4GB DDR3 NVIDIA GeForce 940MX video, and comes with a 1TB 5400 PRM SATA hard drive.  In addition, it has a built in Multi-Format digital card reader and a DVD Burner. It also has 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connections, a 10/100 wired LAN network connection, (2) USB 3.0 and (1) USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI out.

Another user in the group posted a Dell Inspiron 15.6-Inch Inspiron i5 model for $739.99. Since RAM and Storage are upgradeable, but processors in laptops are typically not, I suggested we look at the i7 version of this laptop. That $799.99 machine has very(or not as the case may be) similar specs to the HP mentioned above – an Intel Quad Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Processor, 8GB DDR RAM (can be upgraded to 16GB for an additional $53 ($852.99 total)) dedicated 4GB GDDR5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M video, and comes with a 1TB + 8GB S SD Hybrid storage drive. It also has 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 wireless connections, a 10/100/1GB wired LAN network connection, (1) USB 3.0 Powershare port and (2) USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI out.

While both the HP and Dell models can be fitted with 4K screens on these models, the price tag quickly gets out of the price range requested, so we’ll focus on a heads up comparison of these two FHD equipped models.

Here’s how the two shake out side by side:

Dell Inspiron i7559

HP Pavilion 15t

Price as compared below



Processor Intel® Core™ i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz
(6M Cache, up to 3.50 GHz)
Intel® Core™ i7-7500U 2.7GHz
(4M Cache, up to 3.50 GHz )

Video NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5 NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 940MX
Touchscreen No Yes
Resolution 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare LED-Backlit Display 15.6″ diagonal HD 1366 x 768 SVA WLED-backlit touchscreen display
Wireless 802.11 AC and Bluetooth 4.2 802.11 AC and Bluetooth 4.0
LAN 10/100/1GB Ethernet 10/100 Ethernet
USB (3) USB 3.0 ports – one of which is Powershare enabled (2) USB 3.0 ports and (1) USB 2.0 port
Optical Drive Not included SuperMulti DVD burner
Storage Single 2.5” Internal SATA Drive 2280 M.2 SSD Slot AND 2.5” Internal SATA Drive

These two are neck and neck in my opinion.  I was leaning towards the HP at first, but with the higher resolution and faster GPU on the Dell, those are definitely plusses in it’s CAD/Developer real estate column. The slightly faster CPU and extra storage options on the HP still sit in the back of my head though – the ability to put in a super fast M2 as the boot drive and then either a second SSD or a 7200 RPM 2.5” SATA drive are definitely a feather in the HP’s hat.

Update – so you can see lots of strike-through above – I somehow looked at the specs on the HP processor wrong and ended up thinking it was a QUAD core processor, not the Ultrabook Dual Core version.  Also, two specification pages I looked at on Dell’s site didn’t mention the M2 on this machine, so in summary, it’s a double whammy against the HP.  Add in the higher screen resolution and I’d definitely get *either* Dell over this HP machine at this point.

In the end, I suggested that between these two, it really comes down to whether you have a brand preference (or hatred) towards Dell or HP, and whether you want more storage down the road, or more pixels.  I’d probably pick the Dell if I had to buy one of these two, but given that I would want the 4K UHD screen, I’m not sure which one I would pick.  I *do* have to make that decision at some point in the near future (3-6 months) as my Macbook Air is woefully underpowered for running Fusion 360, and I’ll need a portable machine when I can’t use the desktop box I just updated in fall of 2016 (link here to that build shortly!).