The world of music production has been dominated by the MacBook since its inception, for obvious reasons, of course! With that said, the present scenario showcases a different statistic where some key players in the Windows OS domain have begun emerging.
So, how do you choose the best laptops for music production? First, let’s understand how to select a good laptop for your music production projects.
Guidelines for Choosing the Best Laptop for Music Production
Selecting the best laptop for music production can be a challenge. You need to focus on the features – or their combination – that serves your needs.
What kind of projects are you planning to execute on your laptop? Your approach, too, might vary from the next musician. The traditional way is to record tracks using music instruments and then mix them on a computer or laptop for music production.
In the case of newer forms of music, like EDM, most of the sounds can be produced from scratch on the laptop itself. You need MIDI keyboards to play the tracks and a sequencer to program them.
Your choice of laptop should depend on the following:
1. Types of your music production projects
2. Your studio/working location
3. Budget for your laptop
4. Amount and type of storage you need
Don’t forget that while the strength of some of the best laptops is their battery life, others may be more focused on the performance. So, at the time of choosing laptops for music production, consider the following:
a) Screen Size
How is the size of the screen important in music production? A larger screen on your laptop for music production will mean more space to make nuanced modifications in your project.
This is particularly important for complex projects. So, a large screen will give you more visual space and even allow you to handle more tracks easily.
On a small or regular sized screen, you can handle 6-10 music tracks. But, what if you need to manage 30 of them together? In that case, you’ll need to consider a laptop with more screen space.
A laptop with a screen size of up to 13 inches will fit into your backpack easily. For basic operations like recording or mixing, a small screen is fine.
A laptop with a large display of 17-18 inches is perfect for music producers working with several dozens of tracks. A laptop between 14 inches and 16 inches is portable, with an excellent visual workspace.
Consider how often you will need to travel with your device. If you want to use your laptop for live recordings or performances, you need a small device.
Smaller laptops are easy to carry around and take less space, no matter where you put them. They will fit into any backpack and shouldn’t be too heavy, either.
c) Battery Life
Another feature to consider while investing in a laptop for music is its battery life. If your work demands that you stay in the studio or club for a long time, you can plug into the power source at any time.
However, if you’re always on the move, you need a laptop that doesn’t conk off easily. It needs to last for hours, even without a power outlet nearby.
d) Mac or Windows?
Fast, reliable, and tried and tested, Mac OS has ruled the music production industry for a long time. However, is it your only option?
There are many Windows laptops for music production which are more affordable and still dependable. Besides your budget, your choice for a laptop depends on the software you want to work with.
For most professionals, Mac is the preferred laptop for music production. Depending on your workflow, you’ll need to be flexible enough if you’re planning to work with pro studios or hire editors or recordists that might be on the Mac ecosystem.
Note that your laptop goes through some heavy stress each time you produce music on it. So, music production demands a laptop with a powerful CPU.
It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to upgrade the processor of your laptop later. So, the best thing to do is to invest in an efficient and reliable CPU from the get-go.
If your audio production projects are complex and long, then a powerful CPU is extremely important. From mixing multiple tracks to implementing sound effects – a powerful processor is a must.
To pick the best processor within your budget, check out its number of cores, which are responsible for processing data independently. For music production, a quad-core processor will suffice.
Also check the clock speed of the processor, which is another yardstick for measuring its power. Usually, the CPU of smaller laptops is considered to be less powerful.
The best music production laptops usually come with Intel Core i7 or above. Such laptops make multitasking super smooth.
If you want your music production process to run without any lag, then you’ll need an adequate amount of RAM. Random Access Memory, or RAM, offers temporary storage for data and programs when your device is running.
The best laptops for music production should have 8 GB or more in RAM. If you work with multiple tracks, effects, virtual applications, etc., you might need a laptop that can be upgraded to 16 GB RAM or more.
When you work with music, you need a lot of storage space. Audio samples, sound effects, final tracks – they can be hugely space-consuming.
So, a music producer needs to keep about 1 TB of storage space handy. Thankfully, you can pick between HDD or SSD. Remember that the SSD is much faster and costlier than the HDD.
A good idea is to pick a laptop for music production with 128-256 SSD, supported by 1 TB of internal hard drive. This will boost the speed of the programs and give you all the speed in the world, while still giving you ample storage space.
You can also choose an external hard drive. This way, you can get a sleeker laptop and also access your audio production files from any other device easily.
For any music producer, the headphone and the mics are extremely important, and so are the external HDD, instruments, etc. Interfacing your laptop with external devices can be done through the ports.
Do you use your laptop to produce music from scratch? Then you probably need to connect it with MIDI pads, DJ controller, and much more!
Though a standard laptop has two USB ports, you’ll need more on a laptop for music production. Otherwise, you will have to carry one extra device, i.e., a USB hub which can augment the lack of USB ports.
Best Laptops for Music Production 2020
Now that you know how to select your laptop for music production, let’s take a look at the best laptops of the year.
The MacBook Pro with a 16-inch screen hit the market in 2019 and has emerged as one of the best laptops for music production.
The MacBook Pro can cater to the high-end needs of pro music producers, video editors, and coders. It also has one of the best on board microphones of any laptop, should you need a backup audio recording source. The speakers on the MacBook Pro 16 inch are incredible as well, should you need to quickly listen to audio if you don’t have your headphones readily available.
You can get a processor of up to Intel Core i9 (octa-core). Its RAM is extendable up to 64 GB, and it’s storage, up to 8 TB. The resolution is 3072 x 1920, which is one of the highest resolutions you can get in any laptop.
On the storage front, the MacBook Pro offers an SSD storage of 512 GB. In the advanced model, this goes up to 1 TB.
With the 16 inch refresh of the MacBook Pro, Apple has also addressed one of the biggest issues with the previous 15 inch MacBook Pro; the keyboard. The all-new 16-inch version has a revised butterfly-switch keyboard that is reliable and a joy to use.
• Large display for improved productivity
• Great microphones and speakers as a backup solution
• Outstanding battery life
• The most powerful MacBook out of Apple’s lineup
• No slot for SD cards or full-size USB port
• Heavier than previous-gen MacBook Pro
In the past, we would have not recommended the MacBook Air for music production, as it has an extremely outdated processor, not to mention a terrible screen.
However, the latest 2020 refresh of the MacBook Air has turned out to be a huge upgrade that addresses all these issues, making it a fantastic choice for a cheaper alternative to the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
With the new edition of the MacBook Air, it’s internal components are now brought back up to speed by modern standards, offering a quad core processor as an option for the first time. While you only get a dual-core in the base version, we think the upgrade to the quad-core is well worth the price.
Elsewhere, you still get the incredible build quality that MacBooks are known for, and you even get a redesigned speaker and microphone setup that is nearly as good as the 16-inch MacBook Pro. You also get a brand new Retina display, this time with high resolution and vivid colors that makes everything look crystal clear.
If you prefer to work with the Mac OS ecosystem and can’t quite afford the 16 inch MacBook Pro, the all new MacBook Air is a great alternative that won’t break the bank.
• Huge upgrades over its predecessor
• Vibrant and detailed display
• Best value for money out of Apple laptops
• Base version only comes with dual-core
• Limited storage capacity
The Dell XPS 15 is one of the best laptops for music production with the latest i9 processor and 16 GB RAM. Needless to say, it can run your projects flawlessly, whether you’re a pro or an amateur.
The Samsung OLED panel of Dell XPS 15 offers superior quality 4k display on this laptop. One major upgrade is the addition of the GTX 1650 mobile GPU by Nvidia, which makes rendering elements on the 4K screen a lot smoother.
It comes with three ports, along with separate HDMI, audio jack, and an SD card slot to help connect necessary instruments. It has a backlit keyboard with a fingerprint reader, which is pretty neat.
The body of Dell XPS 15 is made with carbon fiber and aluminum and has a sturdy build. It weighs 4.4 lbs, making the device fairly easy to carry.
The battery life of the device lasts for about 8 hours. Without any doubt, this beast is one of the best Windows laptops for music production.
• Fabulous 4K screen
• Powerful Intel Core i9 processor
• Plenty of connectivity options
• 4K screen is pricey
• Average battery life
Alienware laptops have been known in the past as thick and bulky gaming laptops, but the latest generation of the M15 has made great strides in reducing its footprint while maintaining its performance.
The 16 GB RAM and Intel Core i7 processor in the M15 allow for easy multitasking, making it one of the best laptops to produce music in terms of performance
Another excellent feature of this device is that it has ample ports. This makes it easy to interface the laptop with devices that you’ll need to produce music.
Compared to any other gaming laptop, the battery life of this device is surprisingly long. You can expect it to last for more than 6 hours, which is truly impressive!
• Much lighter than older Alienware laptops
• Top tier performance
• Decent battery life
• In-built speaker not up to the competition
• Powerful internals might result in heat build-up over time
The Razer Blade is one of the slimmest laptops you can get that has powerful hardware, making it the perfect choice for those that need performance on the go.
Specs wise, the Razer Blade doesn’t disappoint. It comes with a 6-core Intel i7, along with an RTX 2060 graphics card, which allows you to utilize Nvidia’s latest RTX Voice feature where you can utilize the graphics card to remove background noise.
At just 0.78″ thin, along with its aluminium unibody construction, the Razer Blade is one of the best looking laptops in the market, next to the Macbook Pro. This means that aesthetics are important, like when you are performing in a club, the Razer Blade will look the part.
In addition, it has an excellent battery life, at least in comparison with other gaming laptops. So, if you’re planning to work on-the-go, this device is the answer to your prayers.
The Razer Blade’s matte display minimizes glare and makes long hours of work (or play) seem smooth. It also comes with a 144hz refresh rate for the display, making navigation buttery smooth.
• Excellent performance
• Minimal and elegant looks
• Incredibly thin
• Thin profile might result in heating issues over time
On the surface, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 isn’t strictly a laptop, as it has a detachable keyboard and a relatively small screen.
However, the screen is actually one of the highest resolutions in its class, despite being only 12 inches in size. Moreover, the build quality is also top tier, and the detachable keyboard makes this by far the most portable option in this list. These qualities are complemented by the latest Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7, 8/16 GB RAM.
A device to suit your everyday needs, this laptop has an improved battery life, too, lasting for up to 9 hours. So, you won’t have to worry if there are no power outlets nearby.
The mini DisplayPort is not very useful, as most displays are either HDMI or full-size DisplayPort. However, you can say that the Surface Pro is one of the best options for a portable audio production setup.
• Small size makes it very portable
• Fantastic screen and performance in a small package
• Small screen size
• Requires accessories to connect peripherals
The Asus ROG Strix Scar III is an extremely powerful laptop that will have all the performance you’ll ever need for music production.
Originally built for gaming, the internal components of the ROG Strix Scar III can also be utilized for music production. With an Intel i7, 16GB of RAM, 1 TB of storage, and Gigabit connectivity, the Scar III ticks all the boxes in regards to performance.
The RTX 2070 in the Scar III is one of the most powerful graphics cards in this list, and if your workflow uses a DAW that can take advantage of it, you will be freeing up the CPU for other tasks, resulting in silky smooth performance during heavy loads.
The latest generation of the Scar III also features improved cooling, which means you will be able to work for extended periods of time without the laptop overheating.
Overall, the Scar III is by far the most competent laptop in this list, but comes in at an above-average price point for its specs.
• Powerful hardware
• Great build quality
• Not too thick or heavy considering the performance
• Average screen
Ask Grammy-winning music producer Oak Felder, and he will vouch that a studio is not needed for making great music, whether you’re a pro or an amateur music producer.
With one of these laptops for music production, you can make magic from anywhere. So, pick a laptop that best suits your needs, and get started!
Jeremy has been running several online businesses behind his laptop for the past 5 years and he has worked as a freelance web developer previously. A trained marketer by profession, he also has Ruby on Rails and web development knowledge. His forte lies in eCommerce, SEO and content marketing. He’s been featured on Vice, Thrive Global, YFS Magazine, Forbes and several other publications. He prefers to connect with people on LinkedIn.