How to Choose the Best Laptop for Music Production That Works for You
Last Updated: July 26, 2017
In today’s music industry, a great laptop is indispensable to making music. Musicians in all genres, from folk to rap, search every year for the best laptop for music production.
There are so many different laptops on the market that it can be difficult to figure out which one is best for this specific purpose. In this review, we’ll go over the main things to look for when choosing a laptop for music production, including processing power, operating system, screen size and much more.
At a Glance: Our Top 5 Music Recording Laptop Picks
Advantages of a Laptop for Making Music
There are a few reasons that laptops are ideal for music production.
Firstly, they are much easier to transport from place to place than a traditional desktop computer. You can take a laptop on tour, to a hotel room or to a colleague’s studio without sacrificing usability or leaving anything important behind.
Secondly, laptops are often at the cutting edge of computer and music technology. They feature fast hard drives and great graphics, and the storage and memory is easily upgradable to allow for the fastest performance possible.
Importantly, laptops are also one of the most affordable ways to break into music production. They can complete a variety of necessary tasks, so you don’t have to buy several different pieces of expensive equipment to get the right sound. A laptop allows you to produce, record, edit, arrange and engineer tracks all on one machine.
Lastly, laptops are versatile. You can use them for much more than just music production, and if you decide that you need a slightly different approach, you can simply download the right app or change the configuration of your laptop to meet your needs. Thus, they’re an efficient way to get the most value out of one device.
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How to Use a Laptop for Music Production
There are several ways in which a laptop can aid you in making music, including:
- Recording audio: You can plug a mic or instrument directly into a laptop, allowing you to record vocal or instrumental tracks onto your computer. It’s even possible to produce music solely using an external MIDI keyboard plugged into a laptop.
- Sample libraries: Laptops also give you access to thousands of virtual sample libraries, which is great for hip-hop, electronic and other genres that frequently use samples.
- Editing and arranging: Many people also use their laptops to edit and arrange tracks, whether they’ve recorded audio themselves or are using samples.
- Production software: Programs like Logic Pro X and Ableton essentially turn your laptop into a full production studio.
- Live sets: Some musicians take their laptop with them to live shows or DJ sets.
- Portable music studio: With a laptop, you can record and engineer music practically anywhere you go. It’s especially convenient as a portable back-up option.
How to Choose the Best Laptop for Music Production
Choosing the right laptop for your needs can be confusing and overwhelming. Here’s a brief guide to the most important factors to keep in mind when you’re choosing which laptop to buy, from hardware to size to battery life.
Mac vs. Windows
People tend to have strong preferences when it comes to these two major competitors. The truth is that there are pros and cons to both Mac and Windows computers, and either one can have powerful music production capabilities.
If you already have a preference, we recommend sticking with what works for you. This is especially true if you already have a laptop that you currently use for music production, because transferring all those files to a different operating system can be tricky and cumbersome.
If you’re starting fresh and trying to decide between these two machines for music production, here’s a general rule of thumb. If you’re not that familiar with technology and want an extremely user-friendly, foolproof laptop, then go with a Mac. If you’re computer-savvy and want a laptop with a lot of possibilities for upgrading and customization, then choose a Windows computer.
Mac laptops are much higher in price, but last a long time with minimal upkeep. They are consistently among the best-rated laptops for music production.
Windows computers can be just as stable and powerful as Macs, but they require some more savviness from the user. However, they’re usually a fraction of the price that a Mac would cost.
Processing Power (CPU)
After you choose your brand, the CPU is the second-most important factor to consider because it’s one of the few things that you can’t upgrade or alter afterward. Most high-quality modern laptops have enough processing power to handle music production, but some have better processors than others.
You may or may not need a stronger-than-usual processor. Depending on your workload, you may end up running a lot of apps at the same time and using various plug-ins for sound.
In that case, you need a CPU that can handle multi-tasking while still working at high speeds. An i5 or higher is recommended.
The number of units, or cores, within the processor is also important — a “dual-core” CPU has two cores while a “quad-core” has four cores total.
How much RAM?
RAM stands for “random-access memory,” which is a type of computer data storage that allows your computer to work quickly and efficiently on whatever task you need to complete. While each laptop has a certain amount of built-in RAM, you can also pay to upgrade to a higher amount later on.
For music production purposes, look for a laptop that has at least 8GB of RAM. More is better, although if you won’t be using a lot of samples or sound plug-ins then you can get away with less. Those who will mainly be recording music will be fine with 4GB.
Other Factors to Consider
- Battery life: A long battery life gives you a more versatile workspace. You can take your laptop anywhere and use it as a portable music studio without worrying about outlets or cord lengths. However, if you plan to keep your laptop in one studio, you may be able to cut costs by buying a computer with a shorter battery life and keeping it plugged in.
- Storage space: Keep in mind that you can always purchase extra storage space if your laptop doesn’t come with enough. You’ll likely need plenty of space to store audio files, especially if you use samples.
- Type of hard drive: There are two kinds: SSD and HHD. SSDs are newer and faster, so they’re most often recommended for power-intensive tasks like music production. However, they offer less space per dollar than a HDD. If you need a lot of storage space, you’ll pay much more for a large SSD than for a large HDD.
- Ports/connectivity: You need to be able to plug in any audio gear that you plan on using. A high-quality laptop for music production should have at least one USB 3 port, though more is better. It’s ideal to be able to plug directly into your device, but you can work around this by using a USB hub.
- Screen size: Music production apps can take up quite a lot of screen space, so a screen size of 15 to 17 inches is preferable. However, if you’ll be using your laptop simply to play tracks or record music, a smaller screen will work just fine.
- Keyboard: One of the advantages of using a laptop is that you can take it anywhere and work anytime. Working in a dimly lit studio or other space is difficult without a backlit keyboard.
Our Top 5 Best Laptops for Music Production
1. Apple MacBook Pro 15" Laptop
- 16GB of RAM
- 512GB of SSD storage
- i7 Quad-Core CPU
- Backlit Keyboard
- High Price
The 15” MacBook Pro from Apple has been a consistently popular tool for musicians since the initial version was released in 2006, and it continues to be a reliable machine. It’s powerful, easy to use, and compatible with almost every device and program that you’ll need.
This laptop is both fast and high-performing, with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. SSDs are faster and more efficient than their counterparts, HDDs. The MacBook Pro also features a 2.8GHz quad-core i7 processor.
With a 15” display, there’s plenty of room for you to multitask using different production apps, yet it’s still small enough to carry around easily. It’s impressively lightweight for such a powerful computer.
The main downside to the MacBook Pro is the price. It’s one of the most expensive laptops for music production. However, the high price tag comes with long-term stability and reliability — you likely won’t have to worry about viruses or other common laptop issues with a MacBook Pro.
Additionally, this laptop features just three Thunderbolt 3 ports. You may have to use an adapter for certain types of cords.
According to reviews, this laptop is comfortable to use in all respects, including the keyboard, trackpad and screen. It’s fast, and the battery life is around 8 hours depending on the intensity of your tasks. Users don’t love that it requires a USB adapter, but otherwise, this laptop is a hit with users.
We recommend this laptop for musicians of all experience levels, from beginners to professionals.
2. Asus ROG Strix GL553VD Laptop
- 16GB of RAM, upgradeable to 32GB
- i7 CPU
- Backlit Keyboard with Multicolor Lights
- Matte Screen to Prevent Glare
- Plenty of Ports
- Bulky and Heavy
- Weak Battery Life
For those who are looking for a versatile, affordable yet high-quality laptop, the 15.6” ROG Strix GL553VD is a great choice. It’s designed for gamers, who have similar needs to music producers in that they need plenty of storage and quick processors.
The ROG Strix comes with Windows 10. It features 16GB of RAM along with a 2.8GHz i7 processor, so it allows you to easily complete production and editing tasks without any lag time. You can even upgrade the RAM to 32GB for more intensive music production.
This laptop has a generous amount of memory and uses both an SSD and an HDD for storage. Though HDDs are usually slower, they’re also more affordable. The main software uses the 512GB SSD to run, so it’s still quite fast while cutting costs.
One bonus of this laptop is that it has a CD drive, something many modern laptops no longer include. This is helpful for those who still have music stored on discs that they’d like to use for current tracks.
On the other hand, this computer is not as easily portable as some other laptops. It’s not particularly lightweight, and it has a bit of a bulky feel. The battery life also isn’t very long, with a maximum of just 5 hours.
Users love that it offers such advanced technology at such a reasonable price, even though the battery life is not ideal. This computer is ideal for home studio use for music producers on a budget, from beginner to intermediate level.
3. HP 15-ay018nr 15.6" Laptop
- Affordable Price
- i7 Processor
- 8GB of RAM that's Upgradeable
- Good Resolution
- Only 1 USB 3 Port
- Average Battery Life
The HP 15 is one of the best laptops for those who are on a budget, yet want to make high-quality music. It has impressive features at an affordable price. Amateurs or hobbyists may prefer this lower-priced laptop.
This 15.6” laptop comes with Windows 10. It has an i7 dual-core processor and 8GB of RAM, along with a 256GB SSD hard drive. This is enough to be able to use all the necessary music production software, though not quite enough for professional production tasks.
Those who prefer more storage can upgrade the hard drive or use an external hard drive.
The HP 15 has a high-quality screen and a DVD drive. At under 5 pounds, it’s slightly on the heavier side for a laptop, but can still easily be transported wherever necessary. The battery life is around 6 hours.
On the other hand, this computer has only one USB 3 port, which is not the most convenient for musicians who may need to plug in multiple pieces of equipment at the same time.
User reviews note that it’s a great value for the money. It’s able to handle multiple programs without slowing down, and it runs quietly. It doesn’t have a backlit keyboard, however, and the speakers aren’t the best.
As one of the lowest-priced laptops for music production, the HP 15 is great for beginners.
4. Acer Aspire VX 15 Laptop
- 16GB of RAM
- Plenty of Ports
- Backlit Keyboard
- Separate Kit Needed to Add Hard Drive to it
- Can't Upgrade to More RAM
- Weak Battery Life
This Acer laptop is a great mid-range PC for music production. It’s not nearly as expensive as some other highly-rated models, but because it’s easily upgradable, it can easily meet either amateur or professional production needs.
The Aspire VX 15 comes with 16GB RAM and an i5 processor. With a screen size of 15.6”, it’s large enough that you’ll be able to use multiple apps without a crowded screen.
The laptop comes with 265GB of hard drive storage on an SSD. Though it’s not a particularly high amount, SSDs are inherently faster.
Some people may need much more storage than this, in which case you can upgrade to greater storage capacity or buy an external drive. However, you can’t upgrade the RAM on this laptop.
This model has four USB ports, so connectivity isn’t a problem. However, it has only 6 hours or less of battery life, which isn’t very much if you plan to carry your laptop around a lot.
According to users, this unit works well in all the most important respects: it runs quietly and quickly, and it doesn’t run into any heating problems. The cons are mostly physical, in that the trackpad isn’t the highest-quality and the screen is easily smudged. However, it feels solid and durable.
Due to the reasonable price and smaller amount of SSD storage, we recommend this laptop for beginning musicians.
5. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW–US71 15.6” Laptop
- 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 Processor
- 16GB of RAM
- 512GB SSD Hard Drive
- Great Resolution
- Backlit Keyboard
- Not Easily Customizable
- Screen is Glossy
The ASUS ZenBook Pro is able to easily handle all of the necessary apps for music production. It’s fast, lightweight and spacious.
This laptop comes with an i7 processor along with 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. The SSD allows the laptop to run quickly, and the storage is more than enough for most music production needs. The screen on this computer is 15.6”, which is a great medium size.
The ZenBook Pro would work well either for those who want a portable music studio or those who want a laptop to keep at home. It has plenty of ports and is lightweight enough that it’s not too cumbersome to carry around. The battery can reach up to 8 hours of use, and it has three USB 3 ports.
One unique feature is that this laptop comes with a touchscreen, so you can use your finger to navigate the screen without touching the keys or trackpad. The screen itself isn’t matte, which could pose a problem for those who like to use their laptop outdoors and need a screen that won’t reflect light.
Users love the sleek look of this machine, along with its reliability and fast processors. The main negative aspect that reviewers point out is the glossy screen.
This laptop is not anywhere near as expensive as an Apple laptop, but it’s not among the cheapest on this list either. That makes it a good mid-range option for those who want to upgrade to a faster machine without breaking the bank.
Choosing the best laptop for music production isn’t easy. There are a lot of high-quality options on the market, but not all of them are ideal in terms of price or value.
It’s important to look for a laptop with enough memory (RAM) and storage (SSD or HHD) to serve your needs. In addition, you need a laptop with great processing power, good battery life and plenty of ports.
These 5 top-rated picks are all good choices, but the Apple MacBook Pro is undoubtedly the best value. It's reliable, easily portable, fast and powerful. With a USB adapter in hand, there's nothing you can't do with a MacBook Pro, and it'll last you for years to come.