There are many things to consider when looking for the best laptop for music production. You want something lightweight, powerful, and has enough battery life to keep you going for more than a few hours. When producing, you’ll likely have many different programs or tabs running simultaneously.
For the most part, 16GB of RAM has become standard. For audio processing, having a high CPU is crucial. Without it, loading files can be an arduous process, and having to wait around every time you want to load up a plugin can stifle your creative flow.
While many people might recommend going with a desktop if you want the best functionality, many modern producers can’t substitute the flexibility of a laptop. You’ll probably end up choosing between a Mac or a Windows laptop. While either work, it truly comes down to the recording software (DAW) that you use. For example, Logic is only available on Apple products. I’m a major fan of Apple computers, though I have worked on plenty of PCs as well.
Both systems can be robust, though it depends on what kind of specs you buy them with, whether or not you’re able to upgrade them later down the line, and what your production goals are. Without further ado, let’s hop in and explore the ten best laptops for music production on the market today.
What To Look For When Searching For A Music Production Laptop
In general, there are four significant factors that you need to consider when looking for a music production laptop:
- Processing Speed
- Drive Space
- Monitor Specs
RAM (Random Access Memory) is necessary for working with sessions with many tracks, lots of plugins, or a fair amount of audio. Without it, your DAW won’t run very smoothly. When it comes to music production, I recommend having 16GB of RAM at least. Yes, if you’re just getting started, 8GB might be enough. However, as you progress, the limitations of 8GB will become noticeable.
Next to RAM, the CPU is one of the most important things to consider when looking for a music production laptop, as you need ample CPU to run most of the top DAWs
. When looking for CPU-efficient laptops, the more processing cores a computer has, the better. You also want to try and find laptops that have clocking speeds greater than 2.0GHz.
Before I dive into how much drive space you should have, I recommend finding a laptop that uses an SSD rather than an HDD. HDDs can work when you’re starting, though, once again, the limitations become noticeable as you progress. HDDs are much slower since they have tons of moving parts. DAWs and plugins will load much faster on an SSD, and your workflow will feel more responsive. I recommend going with at least 512GB of internal storage. To supplement your storage, you can add an external drive as well.
While those who prioritize portability might be okay with a small monitor size, the endless need to scroll and minimize plugins to see what you’re doing can be a major time-waster. Having a bit of extra real estate can help you see more clearly when you’re working. You might also want to consider the resolution of your monitor as well. Can it handle graphics-heavy plugins? Does it provide you with a crisp, clean interface that inspires you?
Alternative Things To Consider
What DAW are you using? Is it compatible with Mac and Windows or one operating system exclusively? Some DAWs have cleaner layouts, which are easier to operate on smaller screens, while some require more real estate. You should also note that there are DAWs out there (looking at you, Pro Tools) that require more memory or CPU while using plugins.
Do you work in a large, pro-level studio or a bedroom? You might consider getting a larger laptop if you have the room. Of course, if you plan on taking your laptop on the go, you might consider making portability a priority.
Do you have CPU-heavy plugins or VSTs that you need to use? There is a major difference between recording a few audio tracks at home
and scoring a film with the latest orchestral VSTs. If you work with plugins that require tons of computing power, you will need a more powerful computer. You might also consider how you mix or what you’re looking to do in the future with your music. You don’t want to feel limited while you grow as a music producer.
If you’re looking to get a new Apple MacBook Pro, you can choose between the 13” model and the 16” model. The 13” model is perfect for those who need additional portability. However, the screen space can be pretty limiting and difficult for some to work comfortably.
Get yourself a MacBook Pro with a 2.6GHz 6-core, Intel i7 processor, 64GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive or more, and you’ll be good to go for many years. In my humble opinion, the MacBook Pro is one of the best and most stable laptops for music production today.
While you could go further than a 512GB solid-state drive, I would recommend purchasing an external drive and saving some money unless you truly need internal storage for whatever reason.
If you end up doing video work alongside your music production, you’ll be happy to know that this laptop comes with a Radeon Pro 5300M and 4GB video RAM.
Depending on your current setup, you may need to purchase a dock or a few external adapters, as the laptop only comes with 4 USB-C ports. USB-C is different from USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, meaning you’ll need to have adapters ready to hook up interfaces or MIDI equipment.
I would also recommend staying away from the regular, non-Pro MacBook models, even though the prices can be more enticing.
2. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Microsoft has evolved quite a bit over the past decade, especially since the company released the Surface Pro line. There are plenty of high-quality configurations you can utilize for music production. If you choose to go with the Microsoft Surface Pro 6, I highly recommend going with the Intel i7 Surface Pro and getting at least 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive. A lower-budget option for those who don’t want to spend any more than $1,000 is the Intel Core i5, which has 8GB of RAM. This particular model also comes with a MicroSD slot. At just 12.3”, the size of the screen can be a bit small for some users. However, if you’re planning on working with external monitors for the most part, then you might be alright. I should also note that the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 does not come with a keyboard, meaning you will have to get one. You may also have to purchase the Microsoft Surface Dock if you need more ports.
Gaming laptops are built to handle heavy use. While the Razer Blade might be best known for its role in the gaming community, it is more than well-equipped to handle the needs of music producers. The 15” Razer Blade is an excellent option for just about any music producer who wants something other than an Apple laptop. The 15” Razer Blade is a 6-Core, Intel i7-8750H model with NVIDIA RTX 2060, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive. While the Razer Blade also comes in a 13” configuration and a 17” desktop model, the 15” model is the most updated as of today. While there are many things to say about the Razer Blade, you honestly can’t go without mentioning the build quality. Many people compare the Razer Blade to Apple computers due to its sleek design. You won’t find a ton of unnecessary software installed on the Razer Blade when you first purchase it either, meaning it comes optimized for performance and speed.
The Dell XPS 15 is a laptop that often makes top laptop lists, and for a good reason. Even with the fact that it is the thinnest 15” laptop on the market today, the performance matches some of the top choices on this list. The Dell XPS 9570, which is the company’s latest version, utilizes the brand new Coffee Lake processor. Pair that with the gorgeous 4K touchscreen, which utilizes impact-resistant Gorilla Glass, and you have a computer that is not only incredibly sleek but also insanely durable. There are plenty of models to choose from, which can make it quite overwhelming to find the right one for your needs. However, if I had to pick one, I’d go with the 8th-gen Intel i7-8750H, which comes with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive. As a bonus, you get the NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti graphics card, which provides the ability to do video work. The possibilities with the Dell XPS 15 are nearly endless. Plus, you get an SD card reader and 2 USB 3.0 ports, meaning you won’t need to spend a ton of money on potentially costly adapters and docks.
If the XPS15 is a bit too large for your needs or just outside your budget, you might consider going with the smaller yet equally powerful 13” model. The Dell XPS 13 makes use of an 8th-gen i7 8550U processor, as well as several notable improvements over the past few years. The Dell XPS 9370 is a solid choice, as it comes with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, a 4K touchscreen, a fingerprint reader, and so much more. Plus, you get three USB-C ports. Compared to the other laptops on this list, you don’t get as powerful of a graphics card. However, when it comes to portability, you can’t get much better than this. If you’re someone who wants to add a bit of flair to your laptop, you may even consider going with the Alpine White or Rose Gold color options.
The ROG is ASUS ROG stands for ‘Republic of Gamers’. While this laptop might be a laptop made for gamers, we see it as a laptop that can handle just about any performance-intensive task that you throw at it. The first thing you’ll notice when you take a look at the ASUS ROG is the port count. With tons of ports, you won’t need to purchase any external docks or adapters, meaning you can plug your audio interfaces
or USB microphones directly into your laptop.
The 15” model is a wonderful choice for music producers, as it provides a mix of portability and screen space. Of course, if you’re serious about getting the most real estate from your screen, then I recommend going with the 17”.
One of the newest models on the market today is the ASUS ROG Strix Scar II GL504GW-DS74. This high-performance laptop can handle all of your recording and production needs without fail.
You’ll find an NVIDIA 2070 graphic card within the laptop, which will be useful for various software programs and DAW functionality. The cool thing about having a strong graphics card is that it frees up the CPU to deal with different tasks. Plus, if you hook up multiple external monitors, having a bit of added GPU power can be helpful.
If you’re looking for a powerful and versatile 2-in-1 laptop, then the HP Spectre X360 might be your best choice. The 15” model comes with an 8th generation Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, and a Radeon RX Vega graphics card. The neat thing about this laptop is that it utilizes a 4K touchscreen that users can bend or fold backward. Essentially, the laptop becomes a tablet in a matter of seconds. At just under 4.5lbs, it is the perfect laptop for portability, though regular tablet users might find it a bit heavy. We love the fact that HP decided to add a USB-A port and two USB-C ports, as it adds to the versatility of this laptop. You’ll also find an HDMI port and an SD card port, meaning you won’t need to mess around with a bunch of dongles or external connectors to hook up all of your equipment. Those looking for slightly more portability might go with the brand new 4K 13” model, which only comes in at around 2.8lbs. The 13” model skimps out on a few of the specs, using the older UHD 620 graphics card and getting rid of the HDMI port. However, you can always use an adapter to make up for the loss.
Another excellent option for a music producer looking for a 2-in-1-style laptop is the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro. The latest update is the 15” Notebook 9 Pro, which has Kaby Lake processors and many top-notch specs considering the price. Those familiar with the long line of Samsung phones will notice a lot of design similarities, including the overall curvature. The S-Pen comes with the Notebook Pro, which has 4,000 pressure levels and a small slot to store it away when it’s not in use. There are a few similarities that you’ll notice between the Samsung Notebook Pro and the HD Spectre, including the fact that they both have USB 3.0, USB-C, HDMI ports, and SD card readers. I recommend going with the 15” model, as the 13” model only has 8GB of RAM and the 15” model has 16GB. Plus, the graphics card on the 15” model is a much stronger AMD Radeon 450 compared to the 13” model, which uses an Intel HD Graphic 620. If you’re a serious music producer, having added power in your graphics card can work wonders.
Though the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 was made initially as a gaming laptop, its high-spec processing capabilities make it an ideal laptop for running processor-intensive programs. This laptop comes with a whopping terabyte of storage and delivers an insane amount of speed, considering the fact that it is not a solid-state drive. Pair that with the quad-core Intel i7 processor, and you have a laptop that can take you wherever your imagination leads you. The Lenovo IdeaPad also comes with 8GB of RAM, though it is straightforward to upgrade, which you should consider if you’re making music professionally. Compared to some of the Lenovo IdeaPad’s competitors, it is certainly not the most compact. However, if you require durability while you’re on the go, it’s a wonderful choice.
10. Alienware AW15R3-7001SLV-PUS
Trying to find high-spec laptops for music production always seemingly leads people back to the gaming community. With insane processor speeds, using gaming computers for music production simply makes sense. Though this particular laptop emphasizes immersive gaming with its top-notch graphics card, it also uses a wildly responsive quad-core Intel i7 processor for performance-intensive capabilities. Whether you’re running multiple programs simultaneously or exporting large sessions, this is one of the best music production laptops around. Managing a VST-heavy session is a breeze with the Alienware AW15R3-7001SLV-PUS. The battery life is incredible and provides users with up to 11 hours of use between charges. As for RAM, you get 16GB, perfect for most users. You also get a single terabyte of storage, though beware that it is not a single-state drive. However, you can always find a cheap external drive if you need a bit of additional speed.
As you can see, there are plenty of great laptops for music production. Of course, there are plenty of things you have to keep in mind when buying, especially if you are like most people and don’t have an unlimited budget. If I could give you one word of advice, it would be to stay away from cheap, budget options, such as MacBook Air models or Chromebooks. These types of laptops are for writing essays and browsing the Internet. For serious hobbyists and professionals, the limitations can be agitating. Best of luck to you and your journey as a music producer, and I hope you found this list helpful for narrowing down your options.