Apple has been producing some of the greatest computers for music creation for many years. The Apple MacBook Pro is synonymous with the craft of music-making because it is the only portable platform for Logic Pro X. Those of us who use a PC, on the other hand, have generally been bound to the desktop format, but this has changed dramatically in recent years. Dell, Microsoft, Samsung, MSI, Asus, Lenovo, and other major tech companies are all vying to give Apple a run for its money, and some of them have legitimate music-making clout as well. All of this is excellent for the customer because it provides us with true options when it comes to music production.
There are several aspects that are consistent regardless of which platform you use. When it comes to selecting the ideal laptop for your home studio, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the machine’s power and RAM specifications. While most DAWs demand a multi-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and a few gigabytes of storage, this is insufficient for real-world applications. Purchasing a music laptop based on minimum suggested’ specifications is a recipe for future angst and the necessity for an early upgrade. Instead, you’ll need a laptop with the processing speed to handle the latest software and rising file sizes, as well as enough battery life to handle whatever you might require in the future.
Weight – and portability – are likely to be important considerations for any DJs or traveling musicians reading this book. Some of the most powerful, high-spec laptops are also quite heavy, and your shoulders will rapidly tire of lugging those behemoths around.
So, the best laptop for music creation should be powerful and lightweight, with a sufficient battery capacity for when you’re not near a power outlet. Continue reading for our suggestions.
If you’re looking for the best laptop for music production, your shortlist likely leads you down one of two paths: Mac or PC. We’re not here to debate the virtues of either, but simply put, you’re a Mac person or you’re not. If you are, your options are really simple: do you want to go large or small?
When it comes to Apple, the MacBook Pro comes in a variety of configurations. With our crystal ball in hand, we’d bet on the new Apple M1 MacBook Pro line as the winner. However, this is not the case, at least not yet. The question is whether you’re willing to wait for all of the major software companies to completely optimize their programs for the new range, or if you require something more immediate. If you can wait for these companies to catch up, we’re convinced that everything will operate smoothly on the M1 MacBooks, and if the specifications are any indication (including the upcoming supercharged 14″ and 16″ models with the M1 Pro or Max chip), the wait will be worthwhile.
If you want something a little lighter, the MacBook Air now includes the M1 chip, giving it a genuinely capable proposition as a music-producing laptop for the majority of users.
If, on the other hand, you aren’t especially attached to the Apple brand, you have a lot more options. The latest Dell XPS 13 provides a lot of bang for your buck in terms of productivity. We’d also recommend checking into gaming laptops. Don’t be fooled by their visual aesthetics — gamers require a lot of power and highly fast CPUs, which is great news for you. For our money, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is the way to go. It’s tremendously strong, looks fantastic, and would be a worthy studio powerhouse in a variety of creative endeavors.
What is the greatest laptop for music production?
Choosing a laptop that can handle CPU-intensive audio production tasks can be difficult. Some choices place a strong emphasis on battery life. Others are concerned with performance and prefer higher-grade processors (CPUs) to ensure that processes execute smoothly. When we consider disparities in screen sizes, aesthetics, and a variety of other factors, it’s easy to understand how it’s difficult to justify purchasing one model over another.
Above all else, you’re searching for two items on the spec sheet: the CPU and the available RAM. The real job is done by the CPU. So every time you load a new MIDI instrument, put data into the piano roll, or bounce down audio to new tracks, you’re asking the CPU to interpret it into sound.
Adding more effects or instrument plugins strains the CPU. The CPU gets taxed when you export final versions of your tunes. You get the idea. Because the CPU is your closest buddy when it comes to processing, it pays to prioritize a strong model over most other characteristics.
What is the greatest CPU for music production?
A faster processor (or CPU) essentially means two things: your computer can handle more jobs, and it can ‘process’ those activities faster. You may notice only minor differences; for example, an audio file may render one minute faster when utilizing the faster of two processors, but this clearly adds up with time.
There are two key companies in the CPU market. Intel is the market leader, with a sizable market share. Intel’s processors vary from i3 (the least powerful) to i9. The i5 and i7 variations, on the other hand, are most popular in mid-to-upper-tier laptops, and within that sphere, you have varied speed ratings, measured in gigahertz, as well as the option to turbo-boost when putting the machine under extreme stress. AMD, which makes Ryzen processors, is another name to keep an eye out for. These have a similar name as Intel generations, thus R3, R5, and so on, and are popular among gamers.
Where things may alter in the future years is Apple’s transition to its own in-house silicon CPU, known as the M1. The changes that are coming, and the accompanying increase in power and performance, have been well-documented, but the major benefits for artists and producers are likely to be a little farther down the road.
How much RAM does your music production laptop require?
As previously stated, you can disregard the minimum specs’ published on the websites of the major DAWs when it comes to RAM. Anyone who attempts to perform a multitrack Ableton Live session on a laptop with 4GB of RAM is more courageous (or patient) than we are. This is due to RAM serving as your machine’s short-term memory. A bigger quantity of RAM means your audio playing is buttery smooth and glitch-free with audio apps, especially those containing a lot of recorded audio, because the computer doesn’t have to ‘get’ the audio from the hard drive each time it wants to play.
If you’re wanting to buy now with the future few years in mind, 8GB of DDR4 memory is the absolute minimum you should be looking for. Ideally, you’d like 16GB because it can handle considerably larger setups, but this increased resource comes at a cost.
It’s also worth checking to see if the laptop you select can be updated with additional RAM in the future. Due to their sealed chassis, Apple laptop fans will not have this luxury, but laptop PC users may.
How much space do I require?
Storage memory comes in second place. A solid-state drive is recommended for audio applications, particularly those utilizing sample libraries where audio is streamed from disk (SSD). Although they are slightly more expensive than their hard disk drive (HDD) equivalent, the benefit of these drives is faster data transfer, which means files load faster. However, for music production purposes, the additional cost is completely justified.
However, it is not uncommon to see a combination used – an HDD for file storage, images, and movies, and an SSD for jobs that require more quick answers. The alternative is to use external hard drives; SSDs, especially those that use USB-C technology, are more than capable of the transfer speeds required for music production.
How do we choose the finest music production laptops?
Clearly, there is a lot to consider while selecting the finest laptop for music production. It’s easy to see why a superb all-around laptop might command a premium price, however, like with anything from the greatest samplers and studio monitors to home studio mixers, you get what you pay for, so it’s always better to get the best you can afford rather than scrimping and subsequently regretting your choice (often quicker than you thought). In this case, our price comparison program will come in handy. To save you time searching around, our price widgets will display the greatest bargains available right now next to each product listing in this guide.
This article does not go into detail on numerous legacy ins and outs, such as the number of USB sockets, or lack thereof, on your audio interface, and so on. With so many dongle and docking alternatives available, this should not be a deciding factor in your purchase decision. In this guide, we’re going to discuss raw musical power. Can your portable setup, for example, handle massive multitrack sessions with a slew of plugins and MIDI instruments?
Top 10 Best Laptops for Beat Making in the US
1. Dell XPS 13 OLED
Another year, another addition to Dell’s imposing XPS lineup. The Dell XPS line has earned a solid reputation as the ideal laptop for on-the-go creatives who don’t want to sign up to the Apple walled garden, and the closest Windows alternative to an Apple MacBook Pro, thanks to its sleek design, stunning screens, and powerful hardware.
The XPS line is identical to the MBP in terms of aesthetic, quality, and performance, but it runs Windows. Other than looking at high-spec elite gaming laptops, you won’t find a much better bundle for the money right now.
The 2022 model includes an improved 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, as well as a 4K OLED screen. This may not be the most exciting headline feature for a music maker, but if the laptop is to be used for other purposes, such as watching movies or simply staring at in awe, the Dell XPS 2022 OLED may be the ideal choice.
There’s a beefier 15″ model higher up the line, but for the majority of folks, the Dell XPS 13 (2020) is a really attractive bundle.
CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB – 32GB
Screen: 13.3” FHD (1920×1200) or OLED (3456×2160)
Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
- Elegant, mature design
- Quite incredible screen
- Still pricey –
- more ports would be appreciated
2. Apple MacBook Pro M1 13”
Apple could never be accused of downplaying the significance of its new products and technology, but even the most cynical onlookers would have to admit that switching from Intel CPUs to its own ARM-powered semiconductor chips is a huge deal.
The statement, made in June as part of Apple’s WWDC webcast, was made on the idea that the company will be able to make Macs with better performance while using less power. The first wave of silicon Macs has arrived, including new models of the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and – the laptop we’re looking at today – the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
On the surface, none of these computers appear to be any different from their Intel-powered predecessors; in fact, it would be difficult to tell them apart. Inside, though, things are different, since each Mac now includes Apple’s revolutionary M1 system on a chip (SoC).
We won’t delve into too many technical specifics here, but this practically implies that the CPU, GPU, security, I/O, and memory are all housed on a single chip.
The MacBook Pro has an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU, with the base model delivering 8GB RAM (up to 16GB) and a 256GB SSD (512GB, 1TB, and 2TB options are also available). It’s important to remember that the M1 Macs aren’t upgradeable, so consider your RAM and storage needs carefully before investing.
The M1 13-inch MacBook Pro features a brilliant 13.3-inch Retina display with a native resolution of 2560 x 1600 and compatibility with Apple’s True Tone technology. It has the Touch Bar, Touch ID, Apple’s Magic Keyboard (with an Escape key), a Force Touch trackpad, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera that is slightly underwhelming. There are some decent-sounding stereo speakers, as well as a three-mic array and a 3.5mm headphone port.
Two ThunderBolt/USB 4 ports are available for further connectivity. There is a 4-port 13-inch MacBook Pro available, however, it still uses an Intel processor rather than an M1. This will, no doubt, alter in the future. The M1 13-inch MacBook Pro, like all new Macs, comes with Big Sur, Apple’s latest operating system.
- CPU: Apple M1
- Graphics: Apple M1
- RAM: 8-16GB
- Screen: 13.3” Retina display (2560 x 1600p)
- Storage: 256GB – 2TB
- Incredible performance
- Astounding battery life
- Aging design
- Still only two Thunderbolt 3 ports
3. Apple MacBook Air M1
The M1 MacBook Air, which was released in November 2020, was part of the first wave of new Macs that saw Apple shift away from Intel processors and toward its own semiconductor chips. This package also included a 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro and an M1 Mac mini.
The M1 chip was recently used in the latest generation of iMacs and the iPad Pro, marking the first time Apple has employed a ‘Mac’ CPU in one of its mobile devices. And, just in time for the new MacBook Pros, there are speedier M1 Pro and M1 Max processors on the way.
The M1 MacBook Air is Apple’s most affordable notebook, with pricing starting at $999/£999. This includes an 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine, as well as 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Because neither the memory nor the SSD can be expanded later, you must carefully consider your needs before purchasing.
The type we’re looking at here is the more expensive M1 MacBook Air, which features an 8-core CPU, an 8-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine. There is 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, both of which can be upgraded to 16GB and 2TB, respectively.
Whichever model you choose, you’ll receive a 13.3-inch Retina Display, Touch ID, and a battery life of up to 18 hours. There is no Touch Bar, as there is on the MacBook Pro.
Connectivity is limited to two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports (one of which is used for the power adaptor when it’s needed) and a 3.5mm headphones output. Stereo speakers and a three-mic array handle the built-in audio, and there’s a 720p front-facing FaceTime HD camera for video conversations.
Finally, Apple’s newest Backlit Magic Keyboard and a Force Touch trackpad are included.
It used to be that if you were a serious music producer, anything less than an Apple MacBook Pro wouldn’t cut it for the processing and RAM heavy chores demanded by audio production. However, with the new M1 chip inside the 2022 Apple MacBook Air, it can be largely put to rest, at least for the vast majority of homemakers. Add to that the natural virtues of the Air – thin form factor, weighs the same as a crisp packet – and you’ve got a fairly formidable production machine, especially if your workflow requires movement.
If we were to be fussy, we’d say it’s a little disappointed that there hasn’t been a design revolution — it looks much the same as the Air series has always looked – and a few more USB ports are always welcome, but choosing Apple’s less expensive model no longer implies foregoing production performance in the way it previously did.
- CPU: Apple M1
- Graphics: Apple M1
- RAM: 8GB – 16GB
- Screen: 13.3” Retina (2560×1600)
- Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
- Lightweight laptops may be less expensive than Pro models.
- A bezel only a mother could love
4. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition
When you think of a gaming laptop, you probably envision flashy colors, RGB lights all over the place, and enough power beneath the hood to light up an entire continent. The Razor Blade 15 Studio, on the other hand, is a monstrously powerful laptop with gaming beginnings but a strong focus on creative endeavors. There are some pleasant visual details, such as the adjustable RGB backlighting on the keys, but this is a powerful, polished studio beast that demands attention.
The Razor Blade 15 Studio Edition (2020) is Razer’s latest mobile workstation for creative workers. Razer is best renowned for its cutting-edge gaming computers. The new Razor Blade 15 Studio Edition has a gorgeous aluminum design, proving once again that the company knows what it’s doing when it comes to making attractive and desirable products, as well as one of the best screens you can get on a laptop and some of the most powerful mobile technology, you’ll find inside one.
This includes a new 10th generation 8-core Intel Core i7 10875H processor and the incredibly powerful Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 graphics card, which, when combined with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD), makes this one of the most powerful laptops on the market today, aimed squarely at creative professionals who do a lot of intense rendering and editing.
So it should come as no surprise that the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (2020) is not only one of the most powerful laptops available but also one of the most costly, with a price tag of $4,299.99 / £4,199.99 (about AU$6,000).
Most people will be unable to afford it, but the degree of polish and performance offered here is unequaled. The screen deserves special mention: it’s a 4K touchscreen OLED that supports 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut and is bright and colorful, creating true colors.
To justify the price, you’re getting the kind of power you’d expect from a desktop PC, but in a thin and light laptop form factor – and battery life isn’t too awful either, making the Studio Edition (2020) pretty well unbeatable as a mobile workstation.
As a result, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (2020) isn’t for everyone. But if you have the money and want a powerful mobile workstation that can handle demanding graphical activities, you won’t find a better laptop in 2020 – and it should be a good investment.
- CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core i7
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
- RAM: 32GB
- Screen: 15.6” OLED 4K Touch
- Storage: 1TB SSD
- Enormously powerful
- Apple-tier design flourishes
- Overkill for many
5. Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch
While the 13″ Apple MacBook Pro is perfect for traveling musicians or producers who need to travel between studios, the newer Apple MacBook Pro 16″ delivers the best performance. The 16″ version, which can be customized to a variety of features, is the genuine flagship of Apple’s portable lineup.
It goes without saying that all of this performance will cost you a few dollars – and then some – but in exchange, you’ll receive one of the best-equipped creative powerhouses available. With lightning-fast CPUs, RAM that can be expanded to 64GB, and up to 8TB of inbuilt solid-state storage, this could be the only laptop you ever need.
While the screen is an inch larger than the previous model, Apple has lowered the border around it, so the new MacBook is only a few millimeters larger, as well as marginally thicker and heavier.
The increased thickness is due, in part, to the redesigned keyboard, which replaces the previous generation’s unpopular ‘Butterfly Switch’ type. The keyboard here employs Scissor Switches, which are identical to those found on the iMac keyboard. The microphone and speakers have also been upgraded.
The battery here has been upgraded to a 100-watt-hour unit, which is the maximum allowed on flights by the FFA. When compared to prior versions and competitors, the battery life is remarkable, allowing you to get a lot of work done while on the go.
This is the first MacBook Pro that can be configured with 64GB of RAM and 8TB of SSD hard disk space. Both are extremely appealing to musicians, as you could theoretically store and operate large orchestral instruments on the supercomputer itself.
First and foremost, the screen looks fantastic – working in your DAW, you’ll notice the extra space – and the new keyboard is more comfortable to use and should be more reliable in the long run. Many prior model users (including FM’s own art editor) experienced issues with the keyboard not holding up to regular shortcut use – a crucial aspect for DAW users.
The speakers are the loudest we’ve heard on a laptop of this size, with superb stereo imaging for a laptop. While you won’t be able to use these for mixing or production, they are a pleasant addition.
Similarly, while it will never replace your high-end valve mic, the built-in mic offers an astonishingly flat response and a low noise floor. We experimented with sampling a few found noises, finger clicks, and claps, and it performed quite well. It could record podcasts and simple voiceovers in a quiet room.
There are a few exceptions for music. As with the previous model, you’re limited to four Thunderbolt ports and must rely on adapters and hubs to use your USB MIDI instruments. This MacBook also features the same T2 Security Chip as the previous one, which has produced compatibility issues with USB 2.0 audio adapters.
Finally, it runs macOS 10.15 Catalina, which is still incompatible with various plugins and DAWs. Ultimately, these are things that both users and the business will have to adapt to, but it’s worth recognizing them for the time being.
- CPU: 6-core Intel Core i7 – 8-core Intel i9
- Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro
- RAM: 16GB – 64GB
- Screen: 16” Retina display with True Tone (3072 x 1920)
- Storage: 512GB SSD – 8TB SSD
- The pinnacle of Apple’s laptop range
- All the power you’ll likely need
- Premium pricing
6. Asus Rog Strix Scar III Laptop
There are some strong studio rivals at the highest end of the gaming PC spectrum – not a terrible place to explore when pure power is necessary. The Asus Rog Strix Scar exemplifies this; with an Intel i7 processor and a base spec of 16 GB of RAM, you can be confident that this machine can handle any audio production work you throw at it.
Hudson Mohawke, a Scottish electronic producer, is a fan, and with good cause. Once you look beyond the garish color scheme and ‘edgy’ gamer branding, you’ll find an extremely competent, lightweight computer that can compete with many typical desktop configurations.
- CPU: Intel i7
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB
- RAM: 16 GB (base)
- Screen: 15.6” Full HD
- Storage: 1TB SSD
- Monstrous performance
- Upgrade potential
- Cool under pressure
7. Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
Microsoft’s second try at a pure laptop device is an absolute winner in our opinion, and while it isn’t a massive revamp of the first Surface Laptop, it offers improvements in all the areas we were hoping for, including upgraded technology that brings significant performance increases.
This is a laptop that finally achieves what Microsoft hoped to achieve with the original: a pure, powerful Windows 10 laptop experience. If you’re not convinced by the Surface Book 2’s 2-in-1 functionality but appreciate Microsoft’s premium build quality and design, the Surface Notebook 2 is the laptop for you. A worthy addition to our list of the best laptops for music production.
- CPU: Intel Core i5-i7
- Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
- RAM: 8GB – 16GB
- Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD
- Competitive power level
- Lovely new black color scheme
- No Thunderbolt 3 option
- Too few ports for its size
8. MSI GF63 Laptop
MSI is a well-known brand in gaming PCs, so it stands to reason that their flagship mid-range model has some decent internals. Because of its tiny form factor and cooling features, the MSI GF63 is the ideal balance of performance and aesthetics and would make an excellent laptop for anyone utilizing their laptop for live performance or as a portable studio.
It has a 2.4 GHz i5 processor, which is powerful enough to do most jobs. However, we appreciated the possibility of upgrading; it comes with 8GB of DDR4 RAM installed, but with room for up to 64GB, so the potential for future-proofing your setup is evident. As the size of your live concerts or studio sessions expands, so will your laptop.
- CPU: 9th Generation Intel i5
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4 GB
- RAM: 8 GB (max 64 GB)
- Screen: 15.6” Full HD display/120 Hz
- Storage: 256 GB SSD
- Performance in the right areas
- Upgradable RAM slots
- Battery life could be better
9. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
When Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro series as a response to Apple’s supremacy, the stakes were high. With Apple’s stranglehold on creative pros, the Surface Pro had a lot to live up to. And, with the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, it’s getting closer to closing the gap.
A razor-thin two-in-one may never be the production powerhouse that a dedicated PC or Mac is, but as a gadget designed for portability, it’s near perfect.
The primary stumbling point will be the price; a fully loaded version with an Intel i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM would cost well over $2,000. However, as a premium device capable of handling music as well as everything else life may throw at you, it’s a terrific choice. A full day of battery life is also not to be overlooked.
- CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7
- Graphics: Intel Iris Plus
- RAM: 4 GB – 16 GB
- Screen: 12.3” Full HD
- Storage: 128 GB – 1 TB SSD
- Aesthetically breathtaking
- Touch versions of desktop apps
- Not a lot of spec for the money
10. Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370 Laptop
- CPU: Intel Core i7-855OU
- Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
- RAM: 16GB
- Screen: 13.3-inch full HD touchscreen
- Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
- Super thin and light
- Powerful core components
- Not the cheapest convertible
- Fingerprint magnet
11. Acer Swift 3 (Bonus)
While you may have thought that the phrase “cheap Ultrabook” was an oxymoron until now, Acer has turned this common assumption on its head with the Swift 3. That’s because the business has taken the Acer Swift 7’s all-aluminum chassis and placed some more cheap components inside for everyone to enjoy.
It doesn’t run macOS, but the Acer Swift 3 outperforms the venerable MacBook Air in almost every other way, including an almost unbeatable price. Of course, in order to outperform the competition, Acer had to cut a few corners in order to keep the price so low.
So, while you can’t expect an Ultra HD display or high-quality onboard audio, the performance benchmarks alone give the Surface Laptop a run for its money.
- CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i3 – i7
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
- RAM: 4GB – 8GB DDR4
- Screen: 14-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) ComfyView IPS
- Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
- Powerful for the price
- Stellar battery life
- Boring looks
- Down-firing speakers
Finally, the most vital tool for composing music is your imagination. When you want to express your music digitally, you’ll need a laptop that can help you channel what’s in your thoughts. Being a Mac or Windows user is usually a matter of personal preference and powerful brand loyalty that is often developed over a lifetime, and both operating systems are supported by laptops with fast processors, lots of RAM, plenty of storage, and batteries that can perform well for the long, rabbit hole hours that producers of all levels tend to fall into when creating songs. And if you’re going on the road with your show, you’ll need a tough machine with reliable protection accessories. The best laptops for music production are prepared to accompany you on your audio trip.