Choosing the best laptop for music production is no easy task. But it’s critical to ensure your laptop is powerful, portable & durable to efficiently run Digital Audio Workstation (DAWs) and handle multiple tracks with minimal pos and clicks.
Summary: For studio recording, audio-processing & mixing tasks, I recommend either Apple 15 inch MacBook Pro as the best laptop for music production.
The two models of music have quality-build, great specs, and are budget-friendly. Let’s dive right in!!
Reviews: Top 7 Best Laptop for Music Production 2020
1. MacBook Pro Retina Mid-2015 – My Top Pick
This MacBook Pro is also the best laptop for music production in addition to being the Top Mac. For music production, ignore MacBook Pro (13″ Retina, Touch Bar). I do home-recording demos running 31-40 tracks and 2-5 Plugins, & 6-8 VST Instruments. This quad-core i7 MacBook Pro stopped my track freezing and its 16GB RAM easily runs huge sample Instruments. It works with most DAWs, MIDI controllers, & audio interfaces.
Here are its qualifying features: It has Core-Audio support, quiet keyboard (forget the noisy butterfly keys – in the newer models), has pre-installed audio packages (like Garageband DAW and Logic Pro X), HDMI, FaceTime HD camera, and full-sized USB Ports (USB 2.0 & USB 3.0). Installing the Logic DAW can enhance the music production.
For extra memory bandwidth, the MacBook Pro comes with a 128 MB (Crystalwell) installed DRAM for your CPU. Its graphics processor (Intel Iris Pro 5200) will share memory (1 GB) with your system to allow proper operation of its graphics. It has enough power to proved the resources to handle the symphonic synth or sample plugins – particularly when creating huge symphony-epic soundtracks.
Side Note: Factmag notes that faster MacBook Pro 2018 (processor and SSD – read & write) won’t considerably enhance your music production (despite having better specs than MacBook Pro 2015). It has overheating issues – since everyone is demanding more processing power and a very thin laptop. It has fewer USB ports – thus you’ll want a dongle or USB-C hubs. MagSafe is gone – take care on stage.
Verdict: MacBook Pro Retina 2015 satisfies most of the music production needs – becoming the best laptops for recording music and video editing laptops. It’ll handle multiple tracks, store your enormous (high-quality) tracks, and lost tracks faster to your DAW.
2. Dell XPS 15 – Runner’s Up
As a windows kind of music producer, you’ love the Dell XPS 15! It merges an SSD drive and the powerful quad-core i7 processor (Intel) for fast production. As the best windows laptop for music production, it has InfinityEdge technology, it’s durable & light (for on-the-go music making).
Compared to Apple laptops, this Dell’s XPS 15 (among the thinnest 15 inch PC) will give you comparable performance in the studio but at a lower budget.
I love it for its top performance and style while running the DAWs for music production with lovely ease. To handle multiple tasks and tracks, it has a 16GB RAM and an 8th Generation processor (Intel Core i7), which will easily run the XFer’s Serum.
With Dell XPS 15’s touchscreen, you can make fast adjustments on tracks or quickly shift between music timelines – while still adding tracks to the production workflow. I loved its Ultra HD InfinityEdge display that is bright and has thin bezels for a lighter view.
On the connection arena, Dell XPS 15 has Type-C port (Thunderbolt USB), USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI. Therefore, it’ll be easy to connect to your different music peripherals and audio gear. Also, the Nvidia graphics card (GTX 1050 Ti) will ease your gaming experience.
Verdict: Dell XPS 15’s large RAM (32 GB) and a high-speed processor (quad-core Intel Core i7) will ensure that your DAW software and music production environment runs seamlessly devoid of delays or lags. In addition to the 15-inch display, the laptop weighs about 3.9 pounds and for durability, it comes with a carbon fiber chassis.
3. Acer Aspire E 15, 15.6″ – Budget-friendly Option
Aspire E 15 is great for mixing, recording, and making music if you require budget laptops with modern hardware, larger battery, and a dual-layer DVD burner. Interestingly, Acer has less OS failures or as blue screens issues.
Aspire E 15 has a mechanical hard-drive (1TB), 16GB RAM, and Core i3 – 8130U CPU. The laptop has the 2GB VRAM in its powerful graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce MX150), USB 3.1 ports, and USB 3.0 (2 in number) for fast high-speed connection through your peripherals. Aspire E 15’s UHD Graphics 620 and Intel Turbo 2.0 Boost will allow you to easily process quality graphics and streaming tasks respectively.
It has True-Harmony audio, which provides the music producer with superior quality sound. Also, for your on-the-go production, the laptop’s battery will provide about 15 hours of battery power.
4. Razer Blade Stealth 13.3″ QHD+ Touchscreen
With its thin form factor (and ultraportable too), this Razor Blade Stealth is budget-friendly and powerful for music production and DJing. It comes with 500GB SSD, 16GB RAM and reaches 3.5 GHz speed on its Intel i7 processors. With PCIe drives, this laptop runs on Windows 10, which will also be great for image editing software like Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
Interestingly, with the Razer Chroma technology, you can readily customize the lighting of the touch screen (despite being a high resolution). Luckily, the laptop is lightweight as it’s below 3 pounds, which is great for on-the-go/traveling music recording or mixing. Its capacitive touchscreen allows gestures and is multi-touch.
Using my Ableton Live, I easily did Real-time audio processing from multiple digital audio streaming. Razer Blade working on windows OS will be a great option for making music and DJing (with Traktor or Serato). Its touchpad has multi-finger functionality but comes with a plastic shallow click feel. Further, the Dolby Digital speakers (stereo) will send the sound up.
For your studio work, the Razor Blade Stealth comes with an HDMI 2.0 out Port, USB-C Ports (1), and USB 3.0 Ports (3). Thus it’s possible to readily connect your music making accessories and gear. Its backlit keyboard has greatly spaced keys (and with the awesome color theme – the green-on-black).
5. Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7567 – 15.6″
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (with a fast-response screen) comes along as this great gaming machine but it’s also amazing for music production. It has an 8 GB RAM, Nvidia 1050 Ti GPU and Core i5-8250U processor (8th gen), which will give a budding music producer the required power.
How to choose the best laptop for music production?
Your Budget: Most quality recording laptops (forget pre-made rigs for a minute), will cost a few hundred dollars to over $2000. The laptop prices nearly equal those of gaming laptops. But, be cautious about the so-called budget-friendly laptops (minimum specs) as they’ll give poor quality videos, and may limit upgrades or slow down plugins.
Computer Specifications: You’ll need a computer with top-performing hardware & software to handle your chosen DAW like Logic Pro X. Get a proper Operating System (maybe Mac OS & Windows) to run the computer – software and hardware.
Digital Audio Workstation needs – I’ve defined the minimum laptops specs to run (i) Ableton Live 9: Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.7, 4GB RAM, 3GB HDD, multi-core processor, many USB ports. (ii) Pro Tools 12: Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.7, 16GB RAM, 15GB HDD, Core i5 or related AMD processor, 2 USB ports/ FireWire.
RAM (Random Access Memory) – Computer’s primary memory device/ working memory that stores operations data. If your production only utilizes software synthesizers, loops, or drum samples you’ll presumably need around 8GB RAM (for software synths & DAW). But, getting 16GB-32GB allows more headroom and leaves free slots (for desktop) to future proof.
Processor/ microprocessor/ Central Processing Unit is analogous to the human brain. Processor (choose core i7/ Core i9) receives input (e.g. mouse click) & sends proper output. I prefer Intel processors. Reason? – with AMD processor, you may experience some compatibility problems with media controllers. Also, Thunderbolt is ONLY available for Intel processors.
Data Storage (hard disk drive – HDD/ SSD): The non-volatile storage made up of magnetic spinning disks that need to have a fast rotation (5400 RPM is too slow – thus get at least 7200 RPM or an SSD) – to read multiple tracks simultaneously from your DAW. Notably, 500GB should be your bare minimum of the hard drive to store more virtual instruments or tracks. The HDD data is retained even when the computer is turned off. SSD – conserves laptop battery.
What features should the best laptop for music production have?
Choose an operating system to run your DAW software. For example, Logic DAW is MacOS exclusive. Check the type of ports and the noise level of fans. Get an SSD storage, fast processor (Core i5 CPU – 2.2 GHz dual-core) and large RAM (minimum 8GB). This can manage multiple tracks, virtual instruments, & mixing plugins with lower latency and limited clicks from CPU overloads.
Can you produce music on a laptop? Definitely Yes! Some producers claim that a good desktop computer has better performance, but this will only work for the static studio. But, for most of us who require portability in music production, a laptop (with great hardware specs), plus a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), is pretty much all you require.
For heavy use in music production through FL Studio laptops, I advise getting the best laptops for music production with minimum 4 GB RAM, MacOS 10.11/ Windows 7, Direct-Sound drivers in your Soundcard, SSE2 backed CPU, Pentium 4 (Intel 2GHZ ) processor. Hence, I advise either the Apple MacBook Pro or ASUS VivoBook Pro 17.
Minimum RAM size to produce good music
For producers who use just the drum samples & loops, and software synthesizers, it’s not a must to have large RAM capacity. However, an 8GB RAM would be minimum size I advocate for your music production work. But, you can take a laptop with 32GB RAM if you’ll be using many sample instruments from complex plugins and libraries.
Can you use gaming PCs for music production?
Clearly, most gaming PCs (with enhanced graphics) are powerful enough to handle your music production tasks. But, for making music particularly with the demanding DAWs and multiple music tracks, you’ll need a laptop with a powerful processor. Hence, for music production, you’d need to choose a superior processor & CPU over optimized graphics specs and GPU respectively.
Which Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for your studio?
As we’d outlined above, a digital audio workstation will allow you to play, record, mixing, and produce your music tracks. However, this must be your first consideration when checking if you’ll use a Mac or PC.
PC vs Mac – Which is better for music production?
Well, your laptop (to run the DAW, and multiple VST plugins or VSTi) will need to have both of a PC and a Mac. But, consider the DAW software you’ll be running as some are unique to either Windows or MacOS. For example, GarageBand and Logic will only work with Mac. However, note that other DAWs such as Reaper and Cubase will run on both PC and Mac.