Best Laptops for GIS

Sometimes we ask a lot of our laptops, and this is certainly true when we use them for geographic intelligence systems software like the ever popular ArcGIS 10 and ArcGIS Pro.    

And to be fair they do handle a heck of a lot of geographical data, and with so much data about patterns and super accurate multiple location maps you’re going to need a really good laptop to use it all on.

We’ve looked into exactly what laptop specs you need to be able to run this software, so we can show you which laptops we think are the best ones for the job. 

Our reviews on these will follow shortly, and after that we’ve got a buying guide for you which spells out the exact software requirements, and also answers some of your most frequently asked questions.

And just to ensure that we’re really doing right by you, we’re going to base our product selection, not on the software’s minimum requirements, but rather based on the recommended requirements.

In a hurry?
This is our Winner!

Best Laptops for GIS - Reviews

Gaming laptops like this beauty from Acer make for a great choice of laptop for using GIS software. This is because they offer great processing power, great screen resolution, and of course a better graphics card.

So, let’s get to the specifics.

You have the option of 2 different CPUs, and both of which come into the category of recommended rather than minimum specs. The smallest of the two is the 9th Generation Intel Core i5, which has a processing speed of up to 4.1 GHz.

It has a very large solid state storage capacity, coming in at 256 GB, which matches the recommended specs for ArcGIS. (There’s more on this in our buying guide.)

There’s also 8 GB RAM, so you can run multiple apps at the same time with ease. And the integrated gaming graphics card offers 4GB of graphics RAM, which several times more than not only the minimum requirements, but also the recommended specs for ArcGIS.

The screen is nice, wide 15.6 inches (can you imagine a gamer using anything less), and the full high definition screen resolution comes in at 1920 x 1080, which is up there with the best and again exceeds the minimum requirements.

We like the backlit keyboard too - really snazzy.

The battery can last up to about 8 hours on a full charge, which is pretty good if you ask us.

It has the Windows operating system installed (not in S mode) which is what you need to run most GIS software.

The laptop’s webcam and microphones also make it great for video conferencing too.

There’s also a HDMI port, so you can hook it up to a larger screen for better viewing of all your geographical maps and images.

Pros

  • Uses the latest technology
  • Decent size screen
  • HDMI port if you wanted to view on a larger screen
  • Exceeds all of the minimum requirements for ArcGIS

Cons

  • Gaming laptops tend to cost more than their counterparts due to the newer top of the range technology included.
  • There aren’t too many customer reviews on this laptop just yet as it only became available at the end of April 2020.

Gaming laptops such as this little beauty from Asus make for a great choice of laptop for using GIS software. This is because they tend to offer great processing power, great screen resolution, and of course a better graphics card.

This laptop is available in 3 styles, which refer to the CPU, SSD drives and graphics cards. In terms of the CPU you can get either the Ryzen 5 or the Ryzen 7. Each of them is a quad core processor, and has speeds exceeding what’s required for ArcGIS.

With regards to the SSD storage, all options go beyond the minimum requirements for ArcGIS, and meet or exceed the recommended specs, starting at 256 GB and going all the way to 512 GB.

And in respect of the graphics card RAM you can either go for the GTX 1650 which offers 4 GB, or the RTX 2060 which offers 8 GB. Either way, you’ll have more than enough graphics card RAM to run your ArcGIS software.

In terms of the laptop’s own RAM, there’s a plentiful 16 GB, so you don’t have to worry about whether you can run several programs at the same time.

The screen is a nice 15.6 inches wide, and the screen resolution is really good too, coming in at 1920 x 1080 pixels.

It runs the Windows operating system which is perfect for GIS.

We love it’s backlit keyboard (we’re suckers for that).

It’s had some good customer feedback too. For example on the Amazon page you can see that after over 1000 customer ratings, the average Amazon customer rating comes in at an impressive 4 and a half stars out of 5.

Pros

  • Has had great customer feedback
  • Decent screen size for your geographical maps and images
  • Exceeds the ArcGIS minimum requirements and some of the recommended specs

Cons

  • Gaming laptops tend to cost more than their counterparts due to the newer top of the range technology included.

This laptop from ASUS has everything you need to run GIS software.

And it’s proved to be pretty popular with customers. On the Amazon page for example after over 500 individual customer ratings, the average Amazon customer rating comes in at a really good 4 and a half stars out of 5.

You can either get it a 10th generation Intel i3 CPU, or with an 8th generation Intel i3 CPU. Either way the processing power comes under the recommended specs rather than the minimum specs, so you’re in safe hands there.

And similarly, the RAM also falls under the recommended rather than the minimum specs, coming in at 8GB, to allow you to run several programs at a time.

It also comes with a graphics card RAM of 8 GB, which again is surplus to what you actually need.

It offers 128 GB of solid state drive storage, which is just what you need for all the data you’ll need to save. This meets the minimum requirements for ArcGIS, and it is possible to upgrade this to meet the recommended specs.

With regards to the screen, it comes in at 15.6 inches, which is a standard size, but better yet it has a great screen resolution. It’s full high definition, and comes in at 1920 x 1080, which can show more crisp images than the software is actually built for.

We also like that it has a fingerprint sensor and a backlit keyboard. (You may not need it, but it’s really cool.)

It comes complete with one year free ASUS Accidental Damage Protection

Our one niggle with it though is that it has Windows 10 in S mode.

Pros

  • Meets the ArcGIS minimum requirements for SSD storage, and you can get it upgraded
  • Meets the ArcGIS recommended specs for CPU, RAM, Graphics RAM, and screen resolution
  • Comes with one year free Accidental Damage Protection

Cons

  • It features Windows 10, which is a good thing, but it’s in S mode which means it only runs apps acquired from the Microsoft Store. But the good news is that you can switch it out of S mode if you want to, and at no charge.

This is a great laptop from Acer, and popular too.

After about 2000 individual customer ratings, the average Amazon customer rating comes in at an impressive 4 and a half stars out of 5.

It’s a powerful little machine rocking a very high processor speed. And on the Amazon page you can select which CPU you want in it, starting with an Intel i3, which is above the minimum requirements for ArcGIS, and falls into the recommended specs.

It has that all important SSD drive that we talk about in our buying guide, to store all your geographical data. Again you can choose HDD/SSD set up and the options start with the GIS SSD minimum of 128GB, and can go up to 4 times that.

The RAM falls into the recommended ArcGIS specs, coming in at 8GB, ready to tackle having several apps running at the same time.

You can also choose whether to get it with just the integrated graphics card, or with a dedicated graphics card. Our recommendation would be to go with the dedicated graphics card, as it holds 2 GB of RAM, which is actually double the recommended graphics memory.

It features a Windows operating system, which is just perfect for running all your GIS software from.

As for the screen, it’s an average sort of size, coming in at 15.6 inches, but it offers full high definition, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 which is up there with the best.

We also like that it features a HDMI port, so you can hook up your stunning geographical images to a larger screen such as a smart TV.

It also has an impressive 9.5 hours of battery life on a full charge, so you can use your GIS software even when on your commute.

Pros

  • Popular with customers
  • Great all round laptop
  • HDMI port
  • Meets not only the minimum specs for ArcGIS, but also the recommended specs

Cons

  • The laptop’s fan is quite loud if you get the one with the i5 CPU
  • Customers have found that Acer’s customer service isn’t the best

This laptop from HP may be on the small side, but it has everything you need to run your GIS software.

It’s CPU features 2 cores and runs at 2.3 GHz  which is slightly above the minimum requirements for ArcGIS, so you’ll have all the processing power you need.

It’s available in different levels of RAM and solid state drive storage.  But unfortunately as the levels go up, so does the price.  However even at the lowest option, you’ll have just enough SSD storage to run your GIS and above minimum RAM.  Our suggestion is to go for the best specs you can afford.

It comes with an integrated yet top of the range graphics card which has a surplus of graphics RAM.

It comes with Windows 10 in S mode preinstalled, so when you’re ready to install your GIS software, you’ll have to switch it out of S mode.  There’s only a few steps involved and it’s pretty straightforward.  The instructions are right on the Amazon page.

The screen is a little small, measuring just 14 inches, but the screen offers 1366 x 768 high definition resolution, which again is above the minimum requirements.

Of course the plus side to it having a slightly smaller screen and keyboard is that it’s more lightweight and portable.

We like that it also features a HDMI port, so you can hook the laptop to a projector screen, which is great for studying all those geographical images.

The battery life is really good too, coming in at 10 hours on a full charge.

Pros

  • lightweight and portable
  • HDMI port
  • Meets and sometimes exceeds the minimum requirements for
  • GIS software

Cons

  • The screen is only 14 inches wide
  • Not a full sized keyboard, number keys are only across the top
  • You will have to switch it out of S-mode to get apps that aren’t in Microsoft Store

Best Laptops for GIS - Buyers Guide

ArcGIS 10 and ArcGIS Pro are by far the most commonly used software programs for GIS, so we have drawn up our buying guide around these two specific apps.

Generally speaking they are very demanding apps, and you will find that laptops that can run this software will also be able to run other GIS software such as QGIS, MAPublisher, Maptitude, and MapInfo Professional.

You may also be pleased to hear that if a laptop can handle GIS software, you can bet it can do many other things besides, such as video conferencing.

The requirements for ArcGIS 10 and ArcGIS Pro are more or less identical, so we’ve covered them together.

Here’s a quick rundown of the minimum requirements and recommended specs:

Categories

Minimum Requirements

Recommended Specs

CPU Speed

2.2 GHz

4 cores or higher 

Processor

Intel Pentium 4 Intel Core Duo, or Xeon Processors

i3, i5, or higher

Storage Space

128GB SSD

256GB SSD + HDD

Memory/RAM

2GB

8GB or higher

Display

24-bit color depth

Anything higher

Screen Resolution

1024×768

Higher at normal size

Graphics Memory

256 MB RAM

1 GB RAM

We concede it can be hard to find a laptop that meets all of the recommended specs, especially if you’re on a budget, but you at least have to find a laptop that will meet the minimum requirements.  So we cannot stress enough how important it is that you check the specs of the laptop before you buy.

So now let’s look into things in more detail.

Operating Systems

It’s worth noting at this point (sooner rather than later) that ArcGIS 10 and ArcGIS Pro, can only be run from a Windows operating system, and are not designed to work on Apple’s Mac devices or operating systems.

There is a loophole to use this GIS software on a Mac, but to be honest we advise against it, if you want things to run as smoothly as possible.  Yes, Macs are generally more powerful laptops than many alternatives out there, but in our view smooth running trumps power.

And in case it doesn’t go without saying, the more common GIS software won’t run on Google’s Chromebooks.

CPU

Most of the best selling laptops on the market today will meet the minimum criteria for CPU speed, since 2.2 GHz has now more or less become standard.  But with the CPU being the “brain” of the computer, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get a faster processor, especially if you may upgrade your GIS software in the years to come. 

And the greater the number of cores in the processor, the more efficiently it will run.

Storage Space

Geographical data, as you know, is detailed and nuanced data, and as such your laptop needs excellent storage capacity to carry it off.

You may have noticed from the above table that your laptop also needs SSD memory.  SSD stands for solid state drive, which is a new take on the hard disk drive, which is now considered clunky, slower and less reliable.  

You can still have a laptop with a hard drive, so long as you have an SSD drive in place as well.

RAM

The RAM of a computer determines just how much it can do in any one moment, so as you can imagine RAM is important for running GIS software and all the data it’s handling and analyzing.

Graphics Card

Whilst many laptops come with a decent integrated memory card, sometimes software requires an additional graphics card, or GPU.  GIS software will need a graphics card with at least 256 MB RAM.

Screen Size

In terms of screen size, we think the bigger the screen the better, so you can see all the detailed geographical images in your GIS software.  However, the bigger the screen size, the heavier the laptop will be.  So you will have to weigh up the two aspects against each other. 

In our view laptops generally aren’t too heavy to carry around, but that decision is down to you.  Screen size does not come into the minimum requirements or recommended specs.

Screen Resolution

When it comes to screen resolution on the other hand that’s another matter.  The higher the screen resolution, the greater the pixel density, and in turn, the crisper the images you see.  Which is a huge plus when it comes to viewing mapping data and your various geographical images in the GIS software.

Last update on 2020-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *