The best laptops for music production

Man producing music at home with his laptop

The first commercially available portable computer, the Osborne 1, hit the market in 1981. This pioneering invention weighed a whopping 24 pounds, sported a tiny 5-inch screen, and cost over $5,200 adjusted for inflation. Even though you’d now consider the Osborne 1 to be an overpriced hunk of junk, taking your computer on the go was a groundbreaking concept at the time.

Today, powerful laptop computers and music production software software make producing music accessible to anyone. Music producers can compose, record, edit, and publish tracks from anywhere in the world, eliminating the need to book an expensive recording studio. Modern laptops are especially a game changer for musicians on tour, as they can continue working on new songs while they’re on the road.

Below we break down five important considerations for shopping for a music production laptop. If you’d rather just get straight to our picks, here they are.

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The 5 best laptops for music production

When looking for the best laptops for music production, we aimed for a mix of options that cover the needs of all types of music makers. Whether you have a low or high budget, or need an entry-level or professional machine, the list below should have at least one laptop for you.

1. Apple MacBook Pro

Price: From $1,299

Apple’s flagship laptop for media professionals comes with a hefty price tag, but it's powerful, reliable, fast, and worth every penny. Their new 5th Generation MacBook addressed several criticisms of the previous generation by giving the laptop a higher base memory, eliminating the Touch Bar, and restoring MagSafe charging and HDMI ports. It's our top pick for the best music production laptop thanks to its powerful Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max processor, up to 64GB RAM, up to 8TB of storage, 17-21 hours of battery life, a gorgeous liquid retina XDR display, and three Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports. Plus, if Logic Pro is your DAW software of choice, the software is only available on the Mac operating system.

The cheapest version is the 13-inch model, but working with DAW software on such a small screen size may leave you squinting at your monitor and wishing you’d sprung for the 14- or 16-inch.

2. Dell XPS 15

Price: From $1,449

If you’re not in the market for a Mac, the Dell XPS 15 is a strong pick for on-the-go music production in terms of performance and value. Dell even lets you customize your XPS 15 laptop to your specific requirements. For your processor, you could choose 12-core Intel Core i5 on the low end, or you could splurge for a higher-end 14-core Intel Core i9. You can also select up to 64GB RAM, up to 2TB of SSD storage space, and either a non-touch or touch screen display.

On the downside, the Dell XPS 15’s battery life, with a maximum capacity of approximately 10 hours, pales in comparison to the MacBook Pro . If you choose a lower-end processor, you might also find its noisy fan frequently kicks in to prevent overheating.

3. Apple MacBook Air

Price: From $999

Professional music producers should likely stick to Apple’s superior MacBook Pro line. But the latest MacBook Air with the impressive 8 core M1 processor is more than sufficient for music makers who don’t require top-of-the-line performance. It's the slimmest MacBook Air yet at 0.63 inches think, meaning it’s ideal if you’re constantly on the go. Apple also improved the Air’s battery life from its previous incarnation, boosting its capacity from 12 hours all the way up to 18 hours.

Unlike previous models, the newest MacBook Air is designed without an internal fan, which is great for eliminating excess noise but could sacrifice performance. If you don’t mind the smaller screen and the fact that it only has two ports (both Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports), the MacBook Air is one of the best second-tier music production laptops you can buy.

4. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Price: From $800

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is a great laptop for music producers who like the Windows operating system and want more bang for their buck. While the Surface Laptop 4 comes in a smaller and cheaper 13.5-inch model, the 15-inch model will give you more computing power and a beautiful PixelSense display that’s conducive to audio editing. It features either an AMD Ryzen 7 or Intel Quad Core i7 processor, up to 32GB of memory, and up to 17.5 hours of battery life.

The Surface Laptop 4’s biggest flaw is that it has just two ports — one USB-C port and one USB-A port. That means many users will need to carry around a USB adapter, but that’s probably a fine trade-off for those who value the thin and sleek design. The Surface Laptop 4 is comparable in price and performance to Apple’s MacBook Air — so if you’re on the fence between the two, go with whichever operating system floats your boat.

5. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

Price: From $3,000

If price isn’t an issue and your number one laptop priority is power, look no further than the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition. This expensive top-tier gaming laptop boasts an exceptional Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 graphics card, which isn’t necessary for music production, but is an added bonus if you also use your laptop for video editing or gaming. The Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition also has a stunning 15.6-inch 4K OLED Touch display and all the ports you could ask for: three USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, an HDMI output, and an SD Card Reader. The inside of the machine packs a major punch as well, with an 8-core Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive.

Besides being by far the priciest laptop on this list, the one major downside of the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is that you won’t get more than six or seven hours of battery life on one charge. While it’s likely excessive for those who focus only on music production, this powerhouse laptop fits the bill for anyone with both audio and video production needs.

5 things to consider before buying your laptop

If you’re a songwriter primarily recording music in your home studio, your needs will differ quite a bit from a DJ who travels constantly with their laptop and uses it to play live gigs. So in addition to the following considerations, when you’re shopping for a music production laptop, remember to take your specific situation into account.

  1. RAM. RAM, or random-access memory, is your computer’s short-term memory capacity. To run most music production software efficiently you’ll want at least 8gb of RAM, but 16gb of RAM will give you the optimal performance. On the bright side, if you purchase a laptop and realize you’d benefit from a memory boost, it’s relatively easy to upgrade your RAM later.
  2. Processor. Also called a CPU, the processor is the brain of your computer. If you’re mixing lots of tracks using DAW (digital audio workstation) software, you’re going to want a high-performing processor. For serious music production, look for a quad-core processor or higher (hecta-core, octo-core, etc.). It’s difficult to upgrade your processor after the fact, so when in doubt, go for the most powerful option within your budget.
  3. Hard drive space. Raw audio files tend to take up a ton of storage space on your computer’s hard drive. To avoid getting into a situation where you have to delete files to make room for new tracks, try to get at least 1TB of SSD storage space. SSD stands for “solid-state drive” and will read/write much faster than a traditional HDD (hard disk drive).
  4. USB ports. When producing music, your laptop most likely isn’t your sole piece of equipment — you’ll need external components like an audio interface, microphone, and MIDI keyboard controller. This means you want to look for laptops with several USB ports so you can plug those components in. You can always buy inexpensive USB port adapters though, so don’t sweat it too much if your ideal laptop is low on ports.
  5. Battery Life. If you expect to work outdoors, while traveling, or anywhere without a power outlet, look for laptop models with a higher battery capacity. There’s nothing worse than seeing the dreaded red “low battery” icon pop up in the middle of a productive work session.

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