HP TECH TAKES
Exploring today's technology for tomorrow's possibilities
Best HP Computers for Animation
October 7, 2018
The world of animation touches on many facets of all our lives through visual art, films and TV shows, and highly complex 3D design. Some tasks are simpler than others, but most animators and students depend on a heavier load of software and tech to render their work with clarity and precision.
As a result, buying a new computer for your work or studies can be daunting. You’ll often need something built to handle very specialized software. Between the prospect of overspending on features you don’t need and the risk of getting a device that can’t keep up, there’s a lot to consider before you commit to buying a computer.
In this article, we’ll cover the important factors that can impact your decision in addition to the variety of HP laptops and desktop PCs ideally suited to the unique needs of computer-based animators, designers, and students.
What makes a PC suitable for different design or creative tasks?
Different users will need to weigh some of these factors in their own way depending on the nature of your work, budget, and lifestyle. In fact, even how you’ve designed your workspace may come into play when choosing the best computer for animation and graphic design.
It’s also important to ask more general questions about your preferences, including whether you need a PC that can support mixed reality or if you need a more portable device.
Beyond that, visually heavy and complicated tasks typically rely on a good balance between a small variety of technical specs. Your experience will primarily be based on processor and hard-drive speed, graphics card and display quality, and RAM.
Processor options and speed
A 2 GHz processor is a good starting point, but the more speed you have, the more seamless your experience will be. If your routine involves less complex work that doesn’t lean too heavily on your PC’s processor or graphics card, you can get by with a more moderately priced model and the right software. For the most demanding tasks, you’ll want a computer with the latest generation processor.
Storage and hard-drive speed
Detailed graphics and renderings can take up a lot of space, so it’s important to know how your computer stores and accesses files. With traditional HDD storage, you have to be conscious of capacity and speed. By comparison, a computer with the latest SSD (solid-state drive) storage will transfer data much more quickly.
The HP Z Turbo Drive system built into the HP Z workstation line works in conjunction with these systems to improve responsiveness and file-handling. It was made specifically with animators and designers in mind, so it’s another strong characteristic to target.
Does it have enough RAM?
The minimum standard for RAM with most PCs is 8GB, but more complex tasks will demand more than that. To make sure you can properly run your software, consider models or configurations with at least 16GB of memory - if not more.
Can the graphics card keep up?
If you're concerned about visual clarity and precision, you’ll definitely want to compare models based on their graphics card. A large number of HP computers run with Intel® graphics cards, but there are plenty of options with more powerful AMD® and NVIDIA® alternatives.
Display size and resolution
For your own comfort when working with different software, pay attention to display size. More importantly, you’ll want to start with a minimum resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
To make sure you can see everything you need with more detailed projects, prioritize a display that offers high resolution - the higher the better when it comes to clarity. The new standard for ultrawide HD displays is 3840 x 2160, a resolution typically marketed to animators and designers.
Depending on your style of work, you’ll want a PC that has the right ports and connection options for your routine.
First, make sure your computer can support your preferred display. And if you choose a laptop, check that it has the connection options you’ll need. Peripherals like external storage and extra displays all have requirements that you should keep in mind while shopping.
Battery life for class or work on-the-go
It may be a less important need if you frequently work or study near an outlet, but design and animation software take a heavy toll on battery life. While laptop batteries continue to improve, they’re still at the center of whether or not a computer is truly portable.
Fortunately, HP’s laptop lines are well-powered for rigorous schedules, and many models average between a typical workday and close to a full 24 hours. Despite that, you’ll still want to check the specs and compare before making a purchase.
Affordability and strong specs with HP ENVY laptops
For home laptops, HP ENVY has options that are powerful and affordable with the potential to customize them into serious long-term options.
If you want a competitively priced laptop with a generous touch display and starting hardware, the HP ENVY 17t Laptop may be right for you. It starts with an 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce® MX150, with the addition of 16GB worth of Intel Optane™ Memory to guarantee high responsiveness.
If you prefer a convertible device, the HP ENVY x2 2-in-1 laptop is a more flexible alternative that allows for switching from laptop to tablet mode. It also has a battery life of up to 22 hours, making it one of HP’s most portable options for animators.
Upgrade with the HP Spectre x360 laptop
HP Spectre laptops are the next step up. This is a premium line with great hardware options, and the HP Spectre x360 convertible laptop is a standout laptop for animation or design.
This device is available in two size configurations - a 13.3-inch and a 15.6-inch model - and both share many features including battery life longer than the typical workday and a high-security fingerprint reader.
They’re designed for editing in 4K and include powerful Intel UHD Graphics, the latest quad-core processors, and solid-state drives. The HP Spectre x360 is also light. The 15.6-inch model weighs less than 5 lbs and the 13.3-inch less than 3 lbs.
Professional-grade HP ZBook and HP Z workstations
For the most complex and demanding design tasks, HP® also offers a full range of PCs built in collaboration with industry professionals to deliver the best possible performance.
If you prefer a portable option, you’ll want to check out some options from the HP ZBook mobile workstation series, but there are also plenty of HP Z tower PCs for more stationary work situations.
ZBook laptop workstations
HP’s ZBook laptops emphasize performance and portability with a range of standard configurations right up to the widescreen HP ZBook 17-inch workstation laptop, which boasts a six-core processor and powerful NVIDIA graphics card options.
If you like a flexible platform for your work, the HP ZBook x2 detachable laptop is a popular detachable model with a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and premium touch screen and stylus. In addition to being compact, it’s designed to adapt with you so you can use it whichever way feels most comfortable at the time.
The HP ZBook x2 is loaded with a multicore processor, performance thermal regulation, and a bevy of connection options including two Thunderbolt™ 3 ports. You can even shop from a variety of pre-designed configurations, each tailored to particular industries and professions.
If you prefer a convertible, there’s the HP ZBook Studio x360 laptop to consider. It’s one of the most powerful convertible PCs available and has the same adaptable usability features of the HP Spectre x360 laptop. The HP ZBook Studio mobile workstation also features heavy-duty hardware so that it can support the most complex design and animation projects.
There may be more affordable models available, but these laptops are designed for professionals working in animation and digital arts. If you’re studying to work in this field, the HP ZBook Studio family is a strong choice and among the best computers for animation students.
HP Z tower variants
Do you prefer a traditional desktop computer? If so, you’ll have even more options to consider, such as the surprisingly compact HP Z2 Mini desktop workstation. With their design-oriented desktops, HP® made sure there is space available to customize and expand them over time.
The HP Z2 Mini and the HP Z2 tower workstation are the most affordable options, with both offering a high potential capacity of up to 32GB of RAM for the HP Z2 Mini, and 64GB for the full-size HP Z2.
For more upgrade and processor options, just check out the HP Z4 and Z6 tower workstation variants.
For the absolute maximum capacity and expandability, the HP Z8 tower workstation is the top-of-the-line option with support for as many as 56 processor cores and as much as 3TB of RAM.
It’s designed to be the perfect foundation for the most complex animation and design, so you can even max out the HP Z8 with three NVIDIA Quadro P6000 graphics cards and 40TB of storage.
Products designed for mixed reality and VR, in particular, have been well represented among HP®’s recent offerings.
There are numerous PCs that can support the technology and peripherals, but there’s also a system made specifically for VR: the HP Z VR G1 backpack workstation. With a powerful NVIDIA Quadro P5200 graphics card and Intel Core i7 vPro™ processor, it has everything you need for a variety of technical applications.
Whether you’re interested in collaboration, creating new interactive environments for design or training, or something in between, there’s an HP Z for you.
If you know you’re interested in this series but aren’t sure which configuration is right for you, check out the full family of HP desktop workstations and HP ZBook laptops.
The immersive HP ENVY 34 Curved AiO desktop
If you don’t need quite as much hardware potential as the HP Z8 tower workstation, the HP ENVY 34-inch curved all-in-one desktop provides a streamlined format with an immersive 34-inch curved display.
Its unique visual presentation is no doubt a central selling point, but HP® backed up the display with a variety of AMD and NVIDIA graphics card options, up to 16GB of DDR4 memory, and solid-state drive options.
Is a curved display better than using a dual display setup?
Your own comfort determines the answer to that question. If you prefer the compartmentalized view and separation that comes from a dual display, then you should go with your preference.
However, an ultrawide curved display has the benefit of providing a single uninterrupted view with better peripheral coverage. Whether that’s enough to justify the change is your call. If you’re seriously in doubt, familiarize yourself with the tech in person before committing.
Are there other variants?
If you prefer a different style of curved all-in-one workstation from HP®, you have other options. Either the HP EliteOne 1000 G1 AiO desktop or HP EliteOne 1000 G2 34-inch curved AiO desktop are strong choices that are similarly priced and configured for immersion with animation and creative tasks.
You also have options if you decide to hold off on a new PC but are still curious to explore curved display technology.
The HP Z38c 37.5-inch curved monitor is a great stand alone candidate that provides an additional 3.5 inches of screen space compared to the AiO workstation display. It also has a native resolution of 3840 x 1600 and a 60 Hz refresh speed. Plus, you can adjust the swivel range and display tilt to find the most comfortable combination.
HP’s Sprout Pro G2 with dynamic capture capabilities
The new HP Sprout all-in-one desktop is designed as a powerful 2D and 3D capture workstation, with a design that favors a variety of creative tasks, though it can be used for many purposes.
With built-in high-resolution cameras and a touch mat, it’s easy to set up for work or to help enable students. The focus on capture and rendering means the HP Sprout is also uniquely poised to support 3D printing.
It may be designed around a more specialist system, but the HP Sprout still depends on strong technical specifications to keep up with complex tasks.
For example, the HP Sprout Pro G2 immersive desktop has a four-core 7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, integrated Intel HD Graphics 630, a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M graphics card, 16GB of memory, and 512GB of SSD storage.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.