Best Laptops for Music Production


Music recording with Macbook laptop on work desk

Music recording with Macbook laptop on work desk

Your computer is one of the most important pieces of hardware you’ll need if you want to get into music production. Desktop computers are great investments for your home recording studio, but laptops provide more portability if you ever need to hit the road while working on a project or if you constantly perform live.

It goes without saying that if you’re going to get a laptop, you’ll need to go all out and get a reliable one that comes with all the necessary specs that meet your workflow requirements. After all, its quality will affect your performance and efficiency as a music producer.

To help all you budding music producers or sound engineers with your buying decisions, we’ve compiled a list of the best laptops for music production—read on to see which ones made the cut.

8 Best Laptops for Music Production

Apple Macbook Pro 15.4” (Mid 2015)

When it comes to music production, Macbooks have been known to dominate the market—and this laptop is no exception. From memory to storage, the Macbook Pro 15 provides everything you need to produce music. It’s virtually a plug-and-play laptop that works with almost any audio interface, MIDI controller, and digital audio workstation (DAW). And speaking of DAW, it already has the beginner-friendly Garageband preinstalled to help you get started on producing music or podcasts right away.

This most basic version already comes with a 2.2GHz quad core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 256GB storage, which is good enough for most music production applications. If you have the money to upgrade, you can go with models that have a faster processor (either the 2.5GHz or 2.8GHz) or bigger storage space (512GB or 1TB). Of course, if you want the biggest and fastest, you can get the Macbook Pro 15 () with the 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 and 1TB SSD storage.

You can of course opt for the more recent models like the MacBook Pro 15.4” with Touch Bar () that came out in late 2016, which has roughly the same specs. However, it may not be the most convenient choice due to the fact that it has fewer ports—and when working with music production equipment, you’re definitely going to need a few of those.

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Apple Macbook Pro 13” with Touch Bar (2017)

As we’ve already established, Macbooks are widely considered to be standard laptops for music production. This Macbook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar is somewhat more expensive, mainly because of the added touch bar feature. However, if your top requirements for a laptop are portability and convenience, this may be a better option than the first MacBook we mentioned.

Music producers who are constantly on the go will usually need something a bit lighter (not everyone needs 15 inches of screen) and thinner, and this model is less than 1 centimeter thick and weighs just a little over three pounds—1.5 pounds lighter than its 15-inch, touch bar-less counterpart. It has a dual-core Intel Core i7 3.5GHz processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD, which should give you more than enough space and just the right processing power for producing and storing music.

This Macbook Pro also comes with Garageband, so you’re also killing two birds with one stone. If your budget is a bit more flexible, you can get the Macbook Pro 13” with Touch Bar () to enjoy 1TB storage capacity for all your music.

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Dell Alienware 15 R3

Laptops from Dell’s Alienware series are designed for hardcore gaming, but for music production, its specs list definitely fits the bill. The Alienware 15 R3 in particular offers 16GB of RAM (with a maximum capacity of up to 32GB) and at least 1TB HDD of storage, giving you more than enough extra space for your sample libraries and tracks. As a Dell laptop, it also features a superior cooling system to greatly reduce the operating temperature when using intense applications.

Moreover, the Alienware 15 provides all the ports you need for connecting your external hardware. You can also choose to go with the Dell Alienware 15 with 1.5TB () to enjoy a slightly faster processing speed of 2.9GHz and additional 512GB SSD storage.

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Lenovo Ideapad Y700 17.3”

The Lenovo Ideapad Y700 is much more affordably priced, but it doesn’t fall short in terms functionality and performance. It’s equipped with a pretty decent 8GB RAM for standard music production and a large 1TB HDD storage that can accommodate your heavier samples and tracks.

If you’re looking for a laptop with a bigger display (compared to the 15-inch model), the Lenovo Ideapad Y700 has a 17-inch full HD screen for better viewing. Despite being less than $1000, this budget-friendly laptop definitely delivers optimal performance for your basic music production needs.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Touchscreen computers are becoming a popular option for on-the-go music production. The Surface Pro is possibly the best, most versatile laptop-tablet hybrid that you can use on stage, as its 12.3-inch PixelTouch display provides more dynamic use of the computer, compared to a laptop with a trackpad and keyboard.

The all-touch capability enables you to access your apps during live sets quickly and easily, making it a great alternative to analog DJ stations. One more thing we love about the Surface Pro 4 is that its bright and sharp display is great for low light situations, such as clubs and enclosed concert spaces. It also has an impressive battery life (it can last up to 9 hours while watching videos) despite its thin and lightweight body.

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Apple Macbook Air 13.3” (2017)

The 2017 13.3-inch Macbook Air is ideal for music producers who want a reliable computer but prefer an even thinner and lighter device to work with. Fortunately, the lack of bulk means the Air comes at a slightly lower price than the Pro.

It’s the perfect mix of sophistication, performance, and portability. It has the latest dual-core i5 processor with Turbo Boost of up to 2.9GHz, as well as 8GB RAM, which are just enough for you to start making tunes. Surprisingly, it also includes enough ports for at least your audio interface, MIDI controller, and monitor—a definite plus for those who are worried about the Mac not having enough ports.

If you have a bit more cash to spare, you can get the same Macbook Air 13.3” () model with the more powerful 2.2GHz i7 Dual-Core processor.

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Microsoft Surface Book 2 13.5”

The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is perfect for big, high-resource recording productions. Its powerful quad-core Intel Core i7 processor has a maximum turbo boost of 4.2GHz and 16GB memory enable music producers to run intensive audio recording operations smoothly.

Its SD card slot and three USB ports are perfectly compatible with most audio interfaces, plus it has a detachable touchscreen monitor that can provide convenience for audio recording applications and other activities that don’t require the use of the bulky keyboard bottom.

Should you need the extra space for all your tracks, you can upgrade to the Microsoft Surface Book 2 15” ($3,195) with 1TB storage.

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5 Important Laptop Specs for Music Production

There’s no point in spending money on the most expensive laptops if they don’t even have the specifications and features you need to be able to efficiently use them for your desired applications. Computer specifications may seem confusing, especially if you’ve never purchased a laptop for intensive applications, but you’ll only really have to check the following:

Processor

The computer’s processor is one of the most important specs to consider for any user who needs a workhorse that can run smoothly and fast even while using several heavy applications at once. When choosing a laptop for music production, check the number of cores its processor has. Four cores are pretty standard with laptops, but if you want something lighter and more compact, you may have to settle for a dual-core processor.

Another thing to consider is clock speed. For music production, it’s best to go with something within the 2.4 to 4.2GHz range. Again, you may have to go a little slower than that if you want a light and portable machine.

RAM

Nobody wants to deal with slow and glitchy programs—it can disrupt your workflow and may even affect the quality of your final product. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, make sure to get a laptop that has enough Random-Access Memory or RAM. Music production requires at least 8GB of RAM to enable you to work smoothly without any issues, but 16GB would be ideal.

Storage Capacity

Working with audio files will require you to have a lot of storage space. Before purchasing your laptop, decide whether you want one that has plenty of built-in storage space, or if you want to simply use an external hard drive to store all your files.

If you do want to store most of your files on the laptop itself, go for at least 1TB of storage.

You may also want to consider SSD vs. HDD when it comes to your laptop’s built-in storage. SSD reads and writes data much faster, but it’s definitely more expensive (per GB) than HDD. You can also go with a combination of both, similar to the storage setup on the Dell Alienware 15 R3.

Ports

Music production involves the use of several equipment, including microphones, instruments, control surfaces, audio interfaces, and more. With that in mind, one of the most important things to consider is whether a laptop has enough ports to create a seamless and efficient music production setup.

Of course, you can always purchase a USB hub—if you have one, the number of ports on your laptop may not matter as much. However, if you require a more portable setup, keep in mind that this is another added item to your gear list.

Screen Size

Finally, consider the screen size of the laptop you want to get. If you’re monitoring more than 10 tracks, then you’re obviously going to want a bigger screen. This specification is mostly a matter of preference or convenience, as anyone can easily work with whatever screen size they feel comfortable with.

Keep in mind that the more complex your productions are, the better, faster, and bigger these specifications have to be. There are many choices out there that may not have been mentioned here, but hopefully our list can help narrow down your choices.