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You don’t need the fastest system on the market, but laptops suited for music production do have some minimum specification requirements. But what are the best laptops for music production?
Your laptop will be at the very heart of your digital music production setup. Using a USB connection, you’ll connect your MIDI controller in order to play your notes in real-time or even perform live. In addition, if you’re looking to record audio then you’ll want a microphone and an audio interface too! These are just a few reasons why you’ll want a good laptop for making music.
A laptop music production setup is the most common setup among music producers. And it makes total sense too! After all, you aren’t restricted to using your computer in your home – you can take it anywhere! And depending on what external gear you use, you can take your whole studio with you on the go. But exactly what laptop for music production?
In this article, we’re giving you a list of laptops for music production and recording. We’ve put this list together based on a few things including processing capabilities, size and transportability, in addition to overall speed.
But what makes a laptop good for music production? After all, music production entails a number of things – many of them rely heavily on processing power. Recording sounds and designing new ones, editing arrangements, inserting however many necessary plugins, mixing, and mastering your music are all much easier when your computer has enough processing power that it can distribute.
Well, an Intel i5 or equivalent multi-core processor is the minimum processor size most or all DAWs require. And when it comes to RAM (Random Access Memory), at least 8GB is the minimum to undertake any music production task competently – but 16GB is a far more desirable amount for smoother processing.
Depending on how much you’ll be travelling, you’ll want to pay close attention to battery life. Between 4 to 8 hours should see you through on an average day, of course. Finally, you’ll want plenty of storage. We recommend looking for an SSD hard drive with at least 500GB capacity rather than an HDD. SSDs are digital and have faster read/write times than HDDs!
1. 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch – £1769
The MacBook Pro 14-inch is the best laptop for music production today.
With a choice of an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is a true music production workhorse. It can handle the most demanding processing tasks and projects – even projects featuring countless tracks. As a result, this particular laptop is the go-to choice for music producers everywhere.
In fact, Apple technology is far more desirable to many music producers than Windows due to the “clunkiness” of Windows systems. However, that doesn’t mean Windows systems are a write off by any means.
Apple has reinvented its MacBook Pro product range with the M1 chip. You may have noticed that the chip has been all the rage since its release in November 2020. In short, the M1 chip is replacing the Intel processors that Apple has been using in their MacBooks since 2006. Additionally, the M1 chip actually contributes to longer battery life – giving you up to 20 hours of power!
However, MacBooks are not user-serviceable – meaning you can’t upgrade any components inside. Therefore, we recommend going big at purchase – even if you have to save up for it. At least 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage will give you plenty of processing and storage.
2. 2020 Dell XPS 13 – £1479
For fans of Windows computers, the Dell XPS 13 is the next option on our list of best laptops for music production. With a choice between an i5 or i7 processor, the XPS 13 has a 13.3-inch display and a choice between 8 GB or 16GB of RAM too.
Furthermore, you can choose your desired SSD space between 256GB and 2TB, in addition to either a full HD 1,920 x 1,080 or 4K 3,2840 x 2,160 display. It’s well suited for live performance on top of music production, so it is sure to meet all of your needs. Its lightweight design includes a 10th generation intel processor and customisation options too!
In summary, the Dell XPS 13 is a fantastic alternative to the MacBook Pro. It routinely ranks among the best laptops on the market, and an average battery life of 5 hours and 35 minutes should see you through your travels.
3. 2021 Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 – £1099
The Surface Laptop 4 is an under-appreciated hero. To illustrate, it’s AMD Ryzen 5 4680U processor is the equivalent of an Intel i7 chip. Also, you can upgrade its 8GB RAM to 32GB and have up to 1TB of storage too.
It’s said that the Surface Laptop 4 is the best laptop that Microsoft has made yet. Its premium design and 13.5” 2256 x 1504 PixelSense Touch Display allows for easy navigation and a comfortable user experience. Additionally, you don’t need to worry about battery life – which stands at 19 hours – thanks in part to its long-lasting keyboard. You can use it on your travels with no battery life worries.
Any DAW and plugins are going to be right at home with Windows 11 too. In spite of all of these positives, one negative is the lack of USB ports. An easy remedy here is to invest in a powered USB bank so you can still connect all of your gear. However, this does mean that it may not be possible to bring all of your gear with you on the go.
4. MacBook Pro 16-inch – £2425
The performance of the MacBook Pro 16-inch is only bested by the MacBook Pro 14-inch. However, you can rest assured that your music production and live performance needs will be met once more with an Apple M1 Pro or Max chip inside the 16-inch. All in all, the specs between the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are essentially the same.
However, we have listed it below the 14-inch due to its larger size. Though performance isn’t compromised, a 16-inch laptop is harder to carry around compared to a 14-inch. And with a larger size comes a larger price tag too. There is also a price increase as well, and that’s why we rank the 14-inch higher.
Like the 14-inch MacBook Pro, you’ll get a laptop with stunning performance and will handle your music production beautifully. The larger 16-inch screen also presents a bigger display, of course, making it a more comfortable option if you’re working on a big project.
5. 2021 Dell XPS 17 – £2099
Finally, we have the Dell XPS 17. A true beast of a Windows Computer.
An 11th Generation Intel Core i9 processor, up to 64GB of RAM, and a whopping 17.0″ full HD display present a laptop that can compete with the most powerful Apple MacBook Pro. However, a shortage of USB ports calls for an investment in a powered USB hub.
In spite of its larger size, the Dell XPS 17 is still very thin and lightweight, so you can carry it around and still benefit from the larger display. Like the Dell XPS 13, any DAWs and plugins will run smoothly.
And, like the MacBook Pro 16-inch, there is a larger price tag with the larger size.