At HotRate, we’ve written a lot of guides for computers tailored to specific audiences, but the necessary specs for a music producer are a truly unique beast. Finding the best model is such a tricky endeavor that we thought it justified to putting together a guide. But fortunately, there’s a decent amount of variance in terms of budgeting, with options ranging from quick and dirty starter laptops for scrappy upstarts to full on multimedia powerhouses for producers who do it all.
Below, you’ll find a guide to 10 of the contender for the best laptop for music production on the market in 2020. But you’ll also find a full breakdown of what you should be looking for and how you can better translate your needs into the language of specs.
10 Best Laptops for Music Production
1. Apple MacBook Pro
Macs were once revered as the go to computer for practically every digital creative field on the market, and while Windows PCs have caught up the MacBook Pro continues to be sitting in the office of every other music producer. That’s not a fluke. MacBook Pros still make some of the best laptops for music production. The specs are a big part of that: a beefy Core i7 along with a respectable NVIDIA GT 750M filling in for graphics.
And while it’s no doubt that Macs are expensive, the fact that this model of Pro comes available in refurbished models makes the cut a lot less deep. It’s worth it, especially when you consider the presence of a half gig solid state drive and 16 GB of RAM. This is an exceptionally well rounded laptop that can ably run not just your DAW but also photo editing software.
2. ASUS ROG Zephyrus S Ultra Slim Laptop
There’s a lot to like about the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S. Notable is the magnesium alloy body that’s lightweight but also capable of withstanding just about anything. This is a slim and tight laptop that’s one of the best for travel. It’s also a gaming PC through and through, but producers will greatly benefit from the meaningful i7 Core and the generous 16 GB of RAM. And while the hyper fast refresh rate won’t benefit you much when working on music, it can be useful if you ever find yourself needing to do some video production.
It’s a rig that can run through some power, but it fortunately has a rather sophisticated cooling system in place that makes use of both 12 volt fans and anti-dust tunnels. And the inclusion of four zones of customizable RGB lighting zones is a cool if not necessary inclusion as well.
3. Lenovo Ideapad 15.6″ HD High Performance Laptop
If you’re in search of a laptop that’s a little easier on your wallet, the Ideapad is a stalwart choice. It comes with a 15 inch display that makes it easier to see the big picture you’re working on, and the quad core AMD processor will be suitable for most music production purposes. The one terabyte HDD, meanwhile, is heftier than any affordable SSD. The inclusion of three separate USB ports is a generous choice on Lenovo’s part.
This platinum gray laptop runs in Windows 10, and it includes a decent 8GB of RAM to complement the respectable processing potential of the AMD CPU. And if you like to do things old school, there’s even a tray loading DVD and CD drive, a rarity as practically everything begins turning digital. With the latest Wi-Fi technology, this laptop can reach connection speeds three times that of many other models.
4. Razer Blade Stealth 13 Ultrabook Laptop
If you’re in search of a laptop that’s a little easier on your wallet, the Ideapad is a stalwart choice. It comes with a 15 inch display that makes it easier to see the big picture you’re working on, and the quad core AMD processor will be suitable for most music production purposes. The one terabyte hard drive, meanwhile, is heftier than any affordable SSD. The inclusion of three separate USB ports is a generous choice on Lenovo’s part.
This platinum gray laptop runs in Windows 10, and it includes a decent 8GB of RAM to complement the adequate processing of the AMD CPU. And if you like to do things old school, there’s even a tray loading DVD and CD drive, a rarity as practically everything begins turning digital. With the latest Wi-Fi technology, this laptop can reach connection speeds three times that of many other models.
5. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
The Microsoft Surface Pro is easily one of the coolest laptops to come out in the past few years. It really nails the convertible format, producing an incredibly stylish design that can be manipulated in a wide number of different ways. But there’s enough power under the hood to make this a useful option for editing music as well. The i5 processor isn’t the best in the business, but it will be more than suitable for a significant portion of producers.
The battery life is also an upside. You can get more than half a day out of this while running video and a full day with less exhaustive work loads, which should be enough for all but the most diligent professionals. But what will probably make or break this laptop with you is how much you’ll find yourself using the slick and responsive touchscreen.
6. HP Pavilion 15.6 HD 2020
The specs on this HP Pavilion are nearly identical to the Lenovo Ideapad, and the pricing here is comparable as well. But what do they do different? Not a lot. Both make use of similar designs, run on Windows 10, and include a robust number of different ports as well as compatibility with the latest version of Wi-Fi.
But just because it’s similar doesn’t mean it’s still good. The specs here are more than enough for light and mid-level production needs, and you really are getting a lot of bang for your buck. If you’re seeking out something affordable, it will provide you with a pleasant amount of power. Between the Ideapad and this, the biggest distinction is style and the preference for how each keyboard and trackpad feels under your fingers.
7. Acer Predator Helios 300
Gaming rigs are one of the best choices for music producers, and if you want one that’s a bit less expensive than the Razer Blade Stealth we talked about above, you need to check out the Predator Helios 300. It’s got pretty powerful specs in terms of processing power and rocks a pretty cool design to boot. The SSD is pretty hefty in its own right, but there’s also space to upgrade it if you find yourself needing more.
If there’s one drawback to the Razer Blade Stealth, it’s the relatively poor battery life, but this is still a solid choice and quite possibly the best if you generally find yourself topping up your power supply every few hours or so. The 16GB DDR4 RAM provides ample juice to help out your processor, but it can be upgraded as well.
8. Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series
Need something even more affordable? The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 can be picked up for less than $700, and it offers the tailored specs of a gaming rig that’s very well suited to a producer’s demands. That just means taking a hit on some of the specs you’ve seen on our other listed gaming rigs. Most notably, it means trading in an i7 for an i5 and opting for a traditional HDD instead of a solid state drive.
But what you get here is still very solid. The internet speeds are blindingly fast, and the keyboard is backlit for when working at night or in a dark studio. The 15.6 inch display is a nice addition that gives you a lot more room to play around with.
9. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
Gaming laptops are a sensible choice of investment for producers, but they typically sport flamboyant and ostentatious designs. If you want something that looks a little more professional while still offering some truly meaningful specs, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is a powerful model built with serious professionals in mind. This is a two in one touch screen laptop with a backlit keyboard and a surface that offers a great responsiveness to finger presses and stylus strokes.
And with the $1000 price tag, it’s exciting to see what this laptop packs in. The screen itself can deliver a Full High Definition resolution. Then there’s the presence of a latest gen Intel Core processor and a high-quality solid state drive. If you want a convertible, only the Microsoft Surface Pro really comes close to comparison.
10. Huawei MateBook X Pro Signature Edition
The Huawei Matebook X Pro is a laptop that doesn’t mess around. It’s thin as a razor and as light as that would suggest, and its CPU and RAM can hold their own against just about any other model in this price range. The screen itself supports 3K video and offers touchscreen support. It comes protected by durable Corning Gorilla Glass, so you don’t have to worry about marring that beautiful face.
And despite the sizeable energy tucked away into this slender laptop, it can last you more than an entire workday. Huawei promises that the Matebook can average of 15 hours on a full battery charge. You can skip seamlessly from your DAW to any number of other different interfaces without lag or stuttering.
Laptop For Music Production Buyer’s Guide
If it seems like our best laptops to produce music review list resembles what you might expect from the best gaming or video laptop, there’s a good reason for that. Most producers have to wear many hats. You could be editing photos, mixing music, and working on video all in one day. For that reason, we opted for fairly beefy specs a lot on this list, and we spread out those specs across a number of key areas. We’ll break down the reasoning for that below (in rough terms of most to least important) and also touch on some of the questions we hear most from our readers.
The central processor is the brain of your computer, so of course it makes sense that a CPU should be the top priority for a music production laptop. Image, music, and video editing software all have a tendency to hog resources, so we recommend at least an Intel Core i5. Intel has long been the leader in terms of processors, and that gaps only widened with the release of the eight generation Intel Core. It was a huge jump in performance. If you want the best processing power without going overboard, your best option will be the eighth generation Intel Core i7.
And while we highly recommend Intel, it’s not the only game in town. If you’re looking at a more budget priced model, AMD might be the better choice. While Intel outstrips the competition on high end processors, and AMD CPU tends to offer you a far better value on entry and mid-level CPUs.
If you’ve played in multiple operating systems, you understand how each one can feel different. Windows, Mac, and Windows all have a different tactile feeling when operating with them, and while that’s personal preference, it should have some impact on your decision. Don’t be too worried about moving to a new operating system, but also don’t underestimate the value of something comfortable. While Macs were once the largely undisputed best choice for music production, some of the best laptops for music production are now PCs, and they can run either Windows or Linux.
The bigger consideration is going to be what DAW you want to use. The simple fact is, being able to work with a program you’re comfortable in and understand thoroughly is going to impact your performance nearly as much as your laptop’s power. Find a DAW you like working with, or at least spend a few days testing out the options on a competing operating system, before you make a decision about the best laptop for you.
Size and Dimensions
Production is about more than just sitting in the office, and that’s why the best laptops for music production have to be portable. The slimmer the laptop, the better, but making space for a larger screen is never a bad idea, especially given the overly complex interfaces of so much DAW software. You should also be taking weight into consideration. Light gear allows music producers to more easily make music wherever they are.
The RAM on your laptop serves the purpose of storing pertinent information so it can be more readily accessed by your computer. It doesn’t have as major a role in the speed of your computer as the CPU, but it certainly helps. Most decent entry level laptops for music production offer 8GB of RAM, but many allow you to upgrade to a significantly larger scale.
We mentioned above that having a laptop that can take a kick is a distinct advantage, and that applies to the hard drive as well. Traditional HDD drives are very prone to damage from blunt force, but an SSD runs nearly silent and can take some serious damage without losing your data or even skipping a beat. We recommend SSDs for that reason, but if you’re on a tighter budget, it might be worth springing for an HDD. They’re significantly cheaper, although they have a tendency to run slower.
How much memory you need is really going to depend on how much you do, but working with videos and music files has a tendency to eat up a hard drive. A 256GB SSD is a good place to start, but half a gig might be a necessity. Take account of how much space you’re using on your current rig and use that to measure how much space you conceivably need. As with RAM, some of the best laptops offer the ability to swap out your drive for a higher capacity one, and it usually takes little effort to accomplish it.
The best battery life is important for the same reason you should be looking for something compact and lightweight. It lets you work while you’re out and about, Of course, how much you need a long battery life is going to come down to how much trouble you have finding a wall outlet, but we genuinely suggest prioritizing the raw internal specs first. A music production laptop with a full battery isn’t worth much if it isn’t powerful enough to do what you need from it.
Music producers spend a significant part of their workday staring at a display, so it makes sense that it should look good. How big a display you need and how crisp a resolution you need will be a personal decision, and one predicated on how much video production you find yourself doing. But also consider looking at models that offer blue light filters and other measures designed to reduce eye strain.
If you’re a music producer, you’re probably going to be hooking your laptop up to a ton of different devices. But it’s more important to have a lot of ports than to have the specific ports that match to your devices. While it may be a bit of a hassle, practically any cable you’ll find on the market today has a connector to any type of port. This is a problem you can get around, but you do need to make sure that yo have enough ports to get the job done.
Is a good graphics card generally a good thing to have? Sure. But you probably don’t need the best GPU on the market. If you’re trying to balance specs, the GPU should probably be your last priority. That said, it’s not like there are a lot of systems with an entry level graphics card and otherwise best performance specs across the board. And if you find yourself doing video editing regularly, a graphics card might be a sensible thing to keep in mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Best Computers for Music Production?
The best computers for music production are, generally, the best computers all around. A strong processor, halfway decent RAM, and a good battery life – along with a portable and sturdy frame – are the starting necessities. A good display with a meaningful screen size is also good. If you’re looking for the best laptop for music production, almost all of the internal specs are important.
Are Gaming Laptops Good for Music Production?
Gaming laptops are phenomenal for music production. While the focus on graphics in gaming may make it seem like having the best GPU is the key to a good laptop for gaming, the processing power is actually the most important component. That makes a gaming laptop highly compatible with music production, because image, music, and video editing software can really hog a laptop.
Is 8GB of RAM enough for Music Production?
8GB of RAM is what we’d generally consider the sweet spot for a starting or mid-level laptop for music production. It’s going to be good enough for most producers, but you may want to make the upgrade to 16GB of RAM or higher as you get more serious (or start to see noticeable slowdown while in the studio).
Are Razer Laptops Good For Music Production?
Razer’s focus is on producing gaming laptops, and they’re exceptional at it. Razer designs and manufactures some of the best gaming laptops on the market, and the same things that make a gaming laptop great also make for a great laptop for music production. A Razer laptop is a phenomenal choice for music production.
The top performing models for music production don’t come cheap, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it. But just because it looks good doesn’t mean it’s the best laptop for you. But whatever your budget price point is, at least one of the models on our list should meet your needs.