It’s 2020 — you don’t need an entire studio filled wall to wall with electronics to get a killer piece of music mixed and mastered. Don’t get us wrong, those are definitely still cool; but today you don’t even need a full desktop computer for your music production. Now computers are powerful enough to pack almost everything you’ll need into one small package.
We’ll help you think through what you need in your personal little music machine and help you find the best laptop for music production.
What to Consider in a Laptop for Music Producing
- Memory (RAM)
- Storage (solid-state drive)
All of these elements combine to create a powerful machine, whether you put that power towards music production, gaming, or sheer computational ability.
- Storage is important to keep all your various files and programs on hand, and a solid-state drive (versus a hard drive) is lighter, faster, and uses your battery more efficiently.
- RAM lets you quickly switch between windows and processes, and a powerful processor ensures everything is running at its best. Both are important.
- For instance, if you exceed your available RAM, your digital audio workstation might lag, or your computer may struggle to open folders and load a file. But if you have enough RAM (more than 8GB usually works) with an old, slow processor, everything will be bottlenecked by its reduced capability. For the most part, you should do well with Intel i7 or i5 cores, current-generation, or one behind (we are currently on 10th generation).
- The battery is probably the least important aspect to consider for most producers: it seems likely that you’ll be able to keep the laptop plugged in or readily find a nearby outlet. But if you’re going to DJ or want to actively carry around your set-up, make sure you choose a machine that balances its high performance with good battery life.
This comes down to preference and your usage. The best laptop for DJing or building a portable workstation may be the lightest one, even if you need to accommodate a larger screen. If you plan to keep the laptop in your studio space and hook it up to a display, a small screen or heavier body wouldn’t be much of a problem.
Keep in mind that high-performance laptops don’t come cheap! You’ll want to have a healthy budget — in this category, $1000 is considered the cheap end, and that’s excluding the cost of other gear and software.
- For a slight bargain, the best laptop for music production in 2019 will still hold up in 2020. As long as you’re getting more than 8GB of memory and full storage space, a slightly older processor should be OK.
- As we said, one generation behind is the sweet spot. But you could even buy refurbished and still find adequate performance as far back as Intel’s 7th generation.
You don’t necessarily need the best laptop for recording music if you have high-quality external gear. The best podcast equipment lets you basically plug and play. No computer audio will sound as good as the best monitor speakers.
Wondering what are the best speakers for music production? It’s great to start with lower-end options and work your way up! Check out this list of some of the best cheap studio monitors.
So, see if your laptop of choice has all the ports you’ll need to plug in your interfaces and other equipment. If it doesn’t measure up, but you love the machine, otherwise, look into the necessary adapters and splitters before purchasing.
Finally — of course — don’t buy the world’s absolute best PC for music production if your preferred software only runs on Apple! And make sure to check your program’s recommended specifications. Try to buy more power than you need rather than less.
Good Laptops for Music Production
Without further ado, here is a sampling of the best laptops on the market that can handle audio mixing, from music production to DJing to podcasting. You might get away with a little less power for the latter two applications, but still need the right ports, battery life, and the perfect size.
Starting from $2,399 for 16” and $1,299 for 13”
- Often considered the best computer for artists, musicians, and other creatives, this staple is basically a must on the Apple ecosystem.
- It’s available in a full 16 inches and a much more portable 13-inch variant (with a nicely reduced price tag, in comparison).
- Incredible amounts of memory and storage come standard.
- In a pinch, an upgraded MacBook Air could work for DJs and podcasters, while providing maximum portability.
Starting from $1,599 for 13.5” and $2,299 for 15”
- Due to sheer versatility, the Microsoft Surface Book is powerful for visual artists and makes one of the best laptops for podcasting and music mixing. You’ll be able to whip this out, set up your equipment, and get to work with this little powerhouse.
- Available in 13.5 inches or 15 inches, this touchscreen laptop with a detachable keyboard should get great battery life, but as with anything, your mileage may vary. Give it a try.
- There’s also solid-state drive storage, up to 1 or 2 TB, and up to 32GB of memory.
Starting from $999 for 13.5” and $1,399 for 15”
- The more standard version of the Microsoft Surface. It is still touchscreen and pen-enabled, but the keyboard is fully attached — for people who don’t care for converting.
- Available in 13.5- and 15-inch, with solid-state drive storage up to 1TB, and 8GB or 16GB of memory.
- Bear in mind, the 15-inch versions use AMD Ryzen processors over Intel, with integrated Radeon graphics.
$999 starting with 13 inches up to $1,399 starting for 17 inches
- You can pick this up at 13, 15, or even 17 inches. There’s also a 2-in-1 convertible touchscreen version. Touchscreen is available without convertibility as well.
- It’s considered one of the best ultralight, high-performance laptops on the market, with plenty of model options.
- When you buy through Dell, you can add customized upgrades to memory and storage. So, go ahead and choose a model based on the underlying processor, not the other specs. You can adjust them before placing the order.
Starting $1,599 for the Blade 15 and $1,499 for the Blade Stealth 13
- The Razer Blade 15 is the world’s smallest gaming laptop at 15 inches, so they say — it is more than up to the task of music production.
- The base model starts with some impressive specs, but if you upgrade the graphics card, you’ll get improved processor performance, up to 1TB storage, and the option for touchscreen.
- For comparable power in a smaller, lighter package, try the Razer Blade Stealth. At 13 inches, it has an impressively useful 16GB of memory standard.
- The max specs are lesser overall than the Blade, but the best Stealth tops out at $1,999, which might as well be a bargain on this list.
- Another gaming laptop, the Strix is a solid deal for a larger laptop. It’s only available at 15.6 inches or the larger at 17 inches.
- If you pay up for a Scar III variant, the price jumps immensely, but you’re rewarded with great specifications and no haggling. 16GB of memory, 1TB of storage, and an upgraded processor and graphics.
- You don’t have to customize up to get the best laptop possible — everything available on the machine is included. Just add to your cart.
Swift 5 starting $779, Swift 7 starting $1,599
- There are quite a few Acer Swift lines, so you’ll want to go with a Swift 5 or Swift 7, which are higher end.
- While the Swift 7 is almost as expensive as everything else here, the Swift 5 is decidedly our budget option, pricing at around $1000 and less.
- The Swift 5 is available in 15.6-inch and 14-inch models and features a touchscreen and solid-state drive. Most models have 8GB of memory, but 16GB is available, too!
With the right laptop and a little portable gear, the best computer for recording music can simply be the computer you have with you. Gone are the days when you need to rent out studio space just for access to mixing and production equipment. Now, you can carry it all around in your bag.
Whether you’re making a podcast, a new track, or DJing a set, these powerful little laptops will help make your life easier at home and on the go.