Best laptop for music production 2021: the ultimate workstations for musicians


Included in this guide:

MacBook Pro 14 against a white background

MacBook

Pro 14-inch (2021)

Dell XPS 13 (2020) against a white background

Dell

XPS 13 (2020)

Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition against a white background

Razer

Blade 15 Studio Edition

Surface Laptop 4 against a white background

Surface

Laptop 4

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) against a white background

MacBook

Air (M1, 2020)

A Microsoft Surface Pro 8 against a white background

Microsoft

Surface Pro 8

Dell XPS 15 (2019) against a white background

Dell

XPS 15 (2019)

An Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 laptop against a pure white background

Asus

ZenBook Pro Duo 15 UX582L

a DJ using his DJ controller and performing a live show

No matter if you’re in the studio, playing live, or taking the show on the road, the best laptop for music production has the power to keep up with all your audio-related needs.

You have to look for specific things when shopping for a notebook geared towards music production. And, these are often a bit different than what other creatives look for in a machine. Even the won’t do if they don’t offer the form factor or specs that you require.

Of course, you need one equipped with one of the for speedy performance, as well as plenty of RAM to handle all your plugins and audio tracks in your sound engineering app, whether you use ProTools, Logic, or something else. And, those projects will get pretty big from all those audio files you’ll be adding so having enough storage is a must.

While there are plenty of portables out there that will do the job, it can be hard separating them from the ones that just aren’t right. Thankfully, we’re here to help. We’ve tested and reviewed a lot of laptops and we’ve found the most ideal laptop for music production for every budget, need and form factor.

Our Top Picks for Best Laptop for Music Production 2021

Our picks for the best laptop for music production 2021

Mightily impressive

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

It’s no surprise that the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is the top choice for music production, seeing as it’s also king of and lists. This M1 Pro- or M1 Max-powered laptop takes the MacBook Pro to the ultimate level, and it absolutely impresses with breathtaking power, an equally breathtaking battery life, and an XDR display with 1600 nits of peak brightness and a wide color gamut. The SD card slot, an HDMI port, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports (all of which can stay available thanks to MagSafe charging being back) are just nice little extras.

2. Dell XPS 13 (2020)

Still one of the best laptops of all time

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Dell XPS 13 (2020) has been a regular in our best laptops list for years, and it also earns a well-deserved spot in our best laptops for DJs list. It keeps everything we’ve come to love from Dell’s flagship 13-incher, from the gorgeous and light design, to the powerful modern components that power it. However, it now rocks 10th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and a bezel-less ‘Infinity Edge’ display, which means the Dell XPS 13 (2020) is a brilliant performer, while remaining thin and light. There’s a wide range of customization options as well.

3. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

A seriously powerful pro laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

If you think Razer laptops are only for gaming, then the new Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is here to prove you wrong. Razer takes its ever popular Razer Blade 15, fits it with even more impressive specs and turns it into one of the best mobile creative workstations has to offer. This powerhouse has been crafted for creative professionals and content creators, and is therefore ideal for musicians as well. You’ll be spending a lot of money to take this laptop home. But, make no mistake, it will be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make. That is, if you can afford it.

Ultimate Surface laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Both its 13-inch and 15-inch models rock powerful internals for music production, which means that the Surface Laptop 4 will see you through all your music-making needs. It even comes with a gorgeous 2496 x 1664 touch display so your eyes are just as entertained as your ears. It’s battery life is decent too, enough to see you through a whole work day. It could use a few more ports, but that’s what a hub is for. Whether you’re producing someone’s music or making your own, this one’s one of the best.

5. MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Apple’s thinnest and lightest just got better

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The M1 silicon chip has been a real game-changer, and so has the first laptop to receive it. The company’s thinnest and lightest is more powerful than ever before, putting it on the list of the most exciting Apple laptops of recent years. Thanks to its excellent performance and brilliant battery life – without raising the price to keep it (fairly) affordable still – the Macbook Air (M1 2020) is an excellent prospect for music producers. This MacBook is no longer just for casual users anymore.

6. Microsoft Surface Pro 8

The Surface Pro finally gives the iPad Pro some competition

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The newest iteration of the award-winning Microsoft Surface Pro line is a major improvement over the previous Surface Pro 7, which was still one of the best laptops for music production for those who wanted a more versatile iPad-style experience on a Windows device. 

The Surface Pro 8 is even better in this regard, with a faster Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, better battery life thanks to Intel Evo certification, and upgraded RAM options to help keep your music production on track as your compositions get longer and more complex.

There is no more USB-A support though, so if you have any peripherals like Mics that use a USB-A, then you might have to get an adapter if you go with the Surface Pro 8.

7. Dell XPS 15 (2019)

World’s smallest 15-inch laptop

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

The Dell XPS line just keeps getting better every year, and 2019’s 15-inch model is no exception. The webcam, which is smaller than ever, is back in its rightful place, and that optional 4K touch display is as stunning as ever. Better yet, this boasts the more powerful 9th-generation processors as well as up to 64GB of memory, which makes it ideal for handling those demanding DAW applications. And with up to 2TB of storage, you’ll have enough space to store your music files in. Unfortunately, those speakers are bottom-facing, but you’re better off using your audiophile headphones or speakers anyway.

8. Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 UX582L

A dual-screen laptop for all your mixing needs

Specifications

Reasons to buy

Reasons to avoid

Whether you’re recording, editing, or mixing a new track, the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 UX582L is about as functional a creative workstation as you’re going to find anywhere, thanks to its dual-OLED touchscreen displays that let you keep your tools handy while freeing up your workspace to keep you focused on the task at hand.

While it doesn’t have the latest 11th-gen Intel Core processors, the Core i7 and Core i9 are plenty powerful for nearly any task you want to throw at it, whether that’s mixing live audio or recording a new session in a studio.

The battery life on this one isn’t the best by any means, so make sure you have access to a power outlet while you’re working on the go, or you might find the music stopping rather abruptly when you least expect it.

How to find the best laptop for music production

What does a music production laptop need?

There is definitely a difference between what a music production laptop needs and what specs will make the most difference in your music production.

Obviously, a graphics card is not that high up on the list, but you’re going to want the best processor you can get, specifically one with great single core performance. This tends to be the latest Intel Core processors, so the latest Core i7 and Core i9 processors will serve you well.

You’re also going to be loading up some heavy duty software and working with some rather large raw audio files, so RAM is going to be very important. The more the better, but anything less than 8GB simply won’t work at all and really the minimum you should aim for is 16GB RAM.

Storage will also come in handy, but if you need to save on cost, go for more RAM than more storage. You can always use an external SSD if you need to, but there’s no such thing as external working RAM.

Which laptop is best for music making?

The best laptop for music production is going to depend on what part of the process you specifically need to use it for. If you’re looking for something from initial audio recording to final mixing and publishing, than something like the MacBook Pro 16-inch is going to get you there.

But if you’re looking for some portable options for on the road recording and some light editing, the latest Dell XPS laptops will work nicely and thanks to excellent battery life can last long enough to get through a good sized recording session.

How we test the laptops in this guide

There are two primary target audiences for the best RTX 3070 laptops: gamers and creatives, and we take two similar approaches to testing them out for their respective audiences.

For the core internal hardware, we run standard tests that stress the CPU and GPU with any hardware controls set to balanced for a consistent baseline across the various laptop manufacturers, including GeekBench 5, CineBench, PCMark 10, 3DMark, and Blender.

We also measure the frame rate of some PC gaming benchmarks, like Total War: Three Kingdoms and Metro: Exodus, to see how well the CPU and GPU work together to quickly render complex 3D scenes, which is just as important for a creative workstation as it is for gaming.

For gaming laptops specifically, we also spend a lot of time gaming on them (strictly for work purposes, we swear), and getting a feel for the actual experience a potential buyer can expect from the laptop. In the case of the best Nvidia laptops, this also means testing game performance with and without Nvidia DLSS enabled.

For creative workstations, there are several other benchmarking tools that we use, including encoding a 4K video in Handbrake and applying different filters and effects in different Adobe apps like Photoshop and After Effects to simulate its intended real-world use.

We also measure a laptop’s battery life, since laptops are meant to be mobile devices to some degree, and if a laptop’s battery dies out after three or four hours away from an outlet, that’s an important thing to know, especially when even laptops running powerful hardware like a discrete Nvidia GPU are able to get seven or eight hours of battery life nowadays.

Finally, we compare all this with a laptop’s MSRP and judge whether the price matches its performance. There are some very powerful laptops out there with great performance, but if they cost twice what their only slightly less powerful competitor does, then we make sure to let you know that.

Today’s Best Laptop For Music Production Deals