Best Laptop For Music Production: An In-depth Buying Guide

Finding the best laptop for music production will get easier with this article, including reviews of top recommendations and an informative buying guide.

by itsaboutmusic | Updated: May 31, 2021

Finding the best laptop for music production is certainly different from doing so for programming or video editing. There are a few things that set this specialized version apart from the rest of the pack. You will need a computer powerful enough to run your professional software for a long time and light enough to carry between your working places.

That's why you have to strike a perfect balance between design, performance, and battery life, all within your desired budget. Feel confused about this task? Don't worry; this article will get you through it.

Best Laptops For Music Production

Given the huge array of laptops available on the market, it'd be better to break them down into different needs. It'll help us match our recommendation to your requirement most effectively.

Through the general survey, the minimum recommended laptop specs for music production are:

  • CPU: 2.2Ghz i7 quad-core processor ( 4 Core and 8 Thread).
  • RAM: 4GB minimum. You should consult if you can also upgrade to 8GB or more in the future so that your laptop can work smoothly.
  • 64-bit operating system.
  • Memory storage: 256GB of internal storage. I recommend you to use SSD because the read and write speed is superior to HDD will help your computer operate as fast as possible. In addition, using an SSD will be more durable than an HDD by avoiding damage due to movement or collision.
  • Screen size: You should not buy a laptop that is too big, because it will take up space and be difficult to set up and move. The appropriate screen size will fall into 15.6 inches.

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2020) - The Best Overall

2019 Apple MacBook Pro

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 9/10
  • Performance: 8/10
  • Battery Life: 9/10

This top-of-the-line laptop is simply the most powerful laptop Apple has ever made. And the great thing is that it also ticks all the boxes as one of the best laptops for music professionals.

Design

The screen of the MacBook Pro 2020 is what you typically can expect from Apple. In reality, this 16-inch screen feels significantly bigger than the 15.4-inch display of the old MacBook.

When sitting in front of it, you will have a lot of room to put many appliances side-by-side, such as one for your DAW (digital audio workstation) software and another window for a web browser or a Microsoft Word document.

Performance

With the larger heat sink and a logic board that has been optimized and rearranged for heat dispersal, the MacBook Pro 16-in 2020 is simply a beast in both tests and real-world applications.

Across benchmarking tests, it consistently beats the 15-inch version and other laptops, especially when it hits turbo speeds.

Battery Life

In addition to the screen, the battery also gets bigger, hitting the 100Wh limit that the FAA allows for flights. It's the primary reason you can get an epic battery life of nearly 11 hours with light activities like web surfing.

Problems With This Laptop

Like any other Apple product, the main downside of this amazing laptop is its hefty price tag. With only an audio jack and four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, the selection of ports is another thing musicians and music producers could benefit from a future improvement.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

Buy the MacBook Pro 16-inch 2020 if you want to enjoy all the improvements Apple has made in this pricey series.

It's harder to justify the purchase if, for example, you also require your laptop to carry out demanding graphic tasks alongside your music production. With only integrated graphics, the MacBook Pro isn't the perfect candidate for such work.

Dell XPS 13 - The Best Windows Laptop

Dell New XPS 13 9300 13.4-inch UHD InfinityEdge Touchscreen Laptop

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 8/10
  • Performance: 8/10
  • Battery Life: 8/10

macOS is indeed a great operating system with a huge ecosystem of well-made music production software. But some of us, for various reasons, may prefer a Windows machine instead. Often called the Windows alternative to MacBook Pro, the XPS from Dell is packed with almost everything to earn its runner-up spot.

Design

This high-quality laptop comes with a gorgeous screen and sleek design. At around 2.8 pounds and 0.58 inches at its thickest point, the XPS 13 won't take up much space in your backpack.

The anodized aluminum finish is the highlight of the winter white theme while running fingers across the stain-proof deck feels just right.

Performance

The configuration we recommend here is equipped with the 10th-generation Intel Core i7-1065G7 and 32GB of RAM (Random Access Memory). This process is more than capable of running most software a musician or music producer typically uses on a daily basis.

Battery Life

So could this powerful machine, with such a high-end CPU, last for a long time, you may ask? Here is an area where this Dell laptop makes a good case for itself.

The XPS 13 can last for a respectable amount of 6 hours with intensive tasks, while under light loads, it can provide users with almost 10 hours of battery life.

Problems With This Laptop

You will hear the same story that has been told with the MacBook Pros. The XPS is the flagship lineup intended for professionals with deep pockets. And even with that steep price tag, they are still marred by some minor flaws.

The array of ports in the XPS isn't impressive, with only a headphone jack and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Admittedly, it is more than a lot of laptops out there. But for a top-of-the-line product, it's reasonable to expect more than that.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

It's an easy recommendation if you intend to stick with Windows, and money is no object. However, just like the MacBook Pro, the XPS 13 isn't a practical choice if your music production workflow depends on such top specifications. The extra money could be invested in more useful things.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 (2020) - Best Small-Screen MacBook

2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 9/10
  • Performance: 8/10
  • Battery Life: 9/10

The MacBook Pro 16-inch is an amazing machine, but not everyone could benefit much from a larger screen like that.

The newest 13-inch model is the obvious alternative to that screen size. It's lighter, more portable, and cheaper while retaining most of the things that have made a name for this laptop series.

Design

Like the chassis design, nothing major has been adjusted to the Retina display for a while, including the one in this MacBook Pro 13-inch. But it also means there are no surprising flaws.

The 13.3-inch panel houses a very high resolution. The text is sharp, the colors are brilliantly vibrant, and if you turn on the True Tone feature, the machine will optimize the white balance towards the ambient light surrounding it.

Performance

In addition to the regular Core i5 and Core i7 from Intel, you can opt for the brand-new M1 processor.

Even with demanding tasks, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch doesn't miss a beat. Once apps are open, they run smoothly, and switching between them is almost instantaneous.

Battery Life

Apple made a huge claim with the MacBook Pro 13-inch M1, promising the “longest battery life” in any Mac machine. And like most of Apple’s other claims, it's fairly on the mark. The machine can last to a whopping duration of 13 hours while playing 1080p videos, 5 hours more than other Intel versions.

Problems With This Laptop

This 13-inch M1 machine inherits familiar flaws from other MacBook Pros. It has the same average 720p webcam, the same unuseful Touch Bar, and the same limited port array, all with a higher price tag than other 13-inch laptops on the market.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

You want to keep in mind that the MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 is a middle-of-the-road option. It's lighter than other MacBook Pros but heavier than the MacBook Air. You will get a typical Apple design, but there are better choices if you are on a budget or need a graphical powerhouse.

Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020) - The Most Lightweight MacBook

2020 Apple MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 9/10
  • Performance: 7/10
  • Battery Life: 7/10

If you love the experience of using your DAW software on macOS while preferring the lightest and thinnest laptop, have a look at the MacBook Air M1. You will love everything about this ultrabook: Apple hardware and software, all in a super-compact form.

Design

The MacBook Air M1 2020 is still an impressively light and thin laptop, measuring just 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches.

It might not be as thin as other ultra-light options, such as the Acer Swift 7 and LG Gram, but the MacBook Air makes up for this with the premium brushed aluminum finish. There are three colors for you to choose from, including Silver, Gold, and Space Gray.

Performance

Equipped with the Apple-made M1 processor, the performance of this MacBook Air is phenomenal.

No ordinary applications, such as web browsers, mail clients, and video players, can cause any hiccups to it, even if you run all of them simultaneously.

The extra SSD options are nice to have. You can have more space to save your working files without the need for additional storage.

Battery Life

The MacBook Air M1 2020 managed about 8 hours of playing 1080p video at the end of our tests. Even though this fell short of Apple's claim of 11 hours of battery life, it's still quite impressive for an ultraportable computer.

Problems With This Laptop

To have this ultra-thin design, you will have to accept the trade-off between it and performance.

While the MacBook Air M1 2020 is in no way a slow or sluggish computer, it may get warm fast under heavy load. The fans may start to kick in in this situation, leading to thermal throttling and reduced performance.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

Get this recommendation if you want the lightest and most affordable MacBook available. But don't expect it to become a powerful machine for all kinds of heavy workloads.

If your music production software and other applications require a top processor, you may want to hold up your credit card and look elsewhere.

Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition - The Best High-end Creative Workstation

Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition Laptop 2020

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 7/10
  • Performance: 9/10
  • Battery Life: 7/10

If you're a gamer, you might already be familiar with this brand. With the Blade 15 Studio Edition, Razer has proved that it can't just squeeze the most powerful components into a portable machine for gaming but also for creative needs.

Design

The gorgeous screen is a component where Razer flexes its muscles. It's not only 4K, itself already impressive, but also an OLED panel. This dream combination gives top-notch color accuracy and image quality out of the box, putting it neck and neck alongside the MacBook's Retina display.

Performance

The Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is loaded with powerful specifications.

With 32GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super, and an 8-core Intel Core i7 CPU, it'll be hard to find an application from your music production toolbox to make the machine struggle. Everything you throw at it, it will handle with ease.

Battery Life

It'd be a shame if such a powerful machine could only last a few hours - a common issue with high-end laptops.

In reality, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition can deliver 7 hours of continuous FullHD video playback. It's not the best record on the market, but this battery life isn't disappointing either, given its raw performance.

Problems With This Laptop

This machine may get slightly hot under intensive workloads. The chassis can go beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit if you run heavy programs for a long time, which may not be comfortable for many users.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

Only consider this laptop when you need its first-class processing speed. The glorious 4K OLED screen is also a rare offer on the market that may make you splurge on the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition.

But on other occasions, it's hard to justify the price tag of this creative powerhouse. The high-end hardware may exceed the needs of a typical music producer, who can settle with a cheaper purchase.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 - Best 3:2 Screen

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 15” Touch-Screen – AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 8/10
  • Performance:7 /10
  • Battery Life: 8/10

Surface Laptop might be the first foray of Microsoft into the laptop business. But models in this lineup, including the new Surface Laptop 4, represent some of the best offers you can find for every need, including music production.

Design

In addition to the fact that you will get the hardware from the marker of Windows itself, the 3:2 screen is one of the things that set these laptops apart.

People who have given this aspect ratio a shot will understand what we mean. In contrast to traditional 16:9 or 16:10 displays, a 3:2 screen gives users more vertical screen real estate to work with. Less zooming and less scrolling are needed when you need to see the contents in your applications.

Performance

Performance-wise, the Surface Laptop 4 might not be comparable to first-rate options like the XPS or MacBook Pro, but it's already a huge step-up from older models. The machine can run most music applications just fine, and the best part is it doesn't get as hot as powerful laptops like the Razer Blade 15.

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, the Surface Laptop 4 knocks it out of the park. You will have issues getting this machine through a typical full day of music production. For comparison, it can give you more than 9 hours of video playback - an impressive result for a 15-inch laptop.

Problems With This Laptop

Now, for the main drawbacks. The Surface Laptop 4's selection of ports feels uninspiring. With only a headphone jack and two USB ports, you may have to rely on dongles for your work.

The keyboard is another weak point of the Surface Laptop 4 as it can't rebound as quickly as other machines like the Dell XPS.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

The Surface Laptop 4 won't be for everyone. If you don't plan to do heavy workloads in addition to your music production, this laptop is an excellent choice. The 3:2 screen will come in handy for many applications with more vertical space.

However, Microsoft still has plenty of room for improvement if it wants to target the highest-end market segment, where more powerful options are available.

HP Spectre x360 - Best 2-in-1 Laptop

HP Spectre x360 GEM Cut 13.3 FHD Touch Laptop

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 9/10
  • Performance: 8/10
  • Battery Life: 8/10

The Spectre x360 brings a brilliant improvement to an already amazing lineup from HP. It'll be hard to turn your back on this laptop if you want a great high-end convertible machine for your producing work.

Design

The HP Spectre x360 is a premium 2-in-1 laptop with one of the best looks this industry has to offer.

The brushed-metal chassis is available in many color schemes, but they all have a special 360-degree hinge that allows users to flip the screen back entirely. In this tablet mode, the Spectre x360 still feels reliable and solid.

Performance

All variants of this HP laptop feature a processor from Intel's 10th-generation Core i7 series.

It's more than enough for day-to-day use and can help you with your DAW programs as well. It can comfortably beat other premium 2-in-1 laptops like Asus ZenBook Flip S and Lenovo Yoga 9i in most benchmarking tests.

Battery Life

Before the battery dies, the HP Spectre x360 could give you almost 11.5 hours of video playback. It is an incredible capability for a high-performance laptop and a huge leap over its predecessor.

Problems With This Laptop

At the end of the day, the HP Spectre x360 still has an integrated graphics card, meaning it will fall short of your expectations if you put it under intensive graphical tasks. In a silent room, the fan noise is also clearly audible.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

The HP Spectre x360 is a great purchase if you want a stylish, 2-in-1 laptop that can make it through the day with ease. A combination of a regular laptop and tablet, however, might make more sense if you can't live with its major drawbacks: the bulky design, the hefty price tag, and the loud fan.

Dell Inspiron 15 5502 - Best Mid-range 15-inch Laptop

Dell Inspiron 15 5502, 15.6 inch FHD Thin & Light Laptop

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 8/10
  • Performance: 7/10
  • Battery Life: 6/10

Just because you have a limited budget doesn't mean you should settle with something mediocre. Dell Inspiron 15 5502 is a prime example of the fact that you don't need to splash out money on a high-end laptop for music production.

Design

For a mid-range 15-inch laptop, the Inspiron 15 5502 gives a strong impression with its build quality. The screen and its hinge feel solid, and the chassis makes us confident that it can protect inside components, even though not every surface is draped over with metal.

Performance

While the Inspiron 15 5502 comes with only 8GB of RAM, an integrated graphics card, and a Core i5 processor, it can power every day-to-day application just fine.

Only with more demanding tasks, you will see the difference in the processing speed of this Dell laptop and other high-end machines. But all of this is predictable given its reasonable price tag.

Problems With This Laptop

The display of this laptop has poor accuracy and a cool color temperature. It's fine for web browsing and watching movies, but not enough for serious work. The battery life of the Inspiron 15 5502 also clearly falls behind the competition with only 5 hours of video playback.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

Only get this laptop if you're aware of and able to stomach all its major flaws. The build quality and processing power aren’t bad for a mid-range laptop, but it remains mediocre.

The battery life isn't ideal if you have to constantly use your machine without access to a power outlet, while the display isn't good for beyond casual use as well.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 - Best Laptop With Pen

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – 12.3 Touch-Screen

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 9/10
  • Performance: 6/10
  • Battery Life: 6/10

The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 doesn't only provide the portability of a 2-in-1 laptop, but creative professionals like music producers may also expand their working capabilities with the included pen.

Design

After many generations of alterations and tweaks, the few last iterations of the Surface Pro series retain most of their design elements. And it's mostly a good thing.

The magnesium alloy of the Surface Pro 7 feels sturdy and reliable, even when you have detached the keyboard. The Surface Pen doesn't come with the default configuration, but it will help you jot down some quick thoughts or draw your sketches with the touch display.

This experience is in its own class, giving the convenience comparable to tablets like iPad or Galaxy Tab.

Performance

With 8GB of RAA and an Intel Core i5 processor, the Surface Pro 7 should handle all your daily programs without breaking a sweat. As a music production laptop, it's certainly not on par with high-end options. But this CPU could let your music production tasks run smoothly in an acceptable way.

Problems With This Laptop

The Surface Pro 7 might be a nice-looking laptop, but this design has become a bit dated after Microsoft keeps using it for several generations.

The battery life and performance of this laptop also become underwhelming if you want to run intensive programs. It lasts shorter than the Pro 6, with only 8 hours of casual web surfing.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

The Surface Pro 7 is a niche in the market with its optional pen and 2-in-1 design. But if this is something you can live without - for example, if you can get an iPad and an Apple Pencil for similar capabilities, there are more practical purchases for your money.

Acer Swift 3 - Best Budget Ultrabook

Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop

Editor’s Rating

  • Design: 6/10
  • Performance: 6/10
  • Battery Life: 5/10

While the Inspiron 15 5502 is the best 15-inch and above laptop you can get with a small budget, the Swift 3 from Acer is worth a close look as a 14-inch slim ultrabook.

Design

It's easy to see where Acer gets inspiration from for the Swift 3's design. The thin aluminum chassis feels familiar to anyone who is a fan of the MacBook Air. At only 2.7 pounds and measuring at 12.6x8.5x0.6 inches, the Swift 3 is an ultra-portable machine that doesn't give a flimsy feel at all.

Performance

For a computer with only 8GB of RAM, the Acer Swift 3 handles everything well, even with gaming and content creation such as music production. Loading programs and running some light rendering is pretty smooth without any hiccups.

Battery Life

The battery life of the Swift 3 is remarkable for a budget laptop. It can play 1080p videos for 7 hours, comparable to some other more expensive models. It doesn't get hot easily either, and the fans are relatively quiet even when the machine is under heavy loads.

Problems With This Laptop

As you can predict, this budget option isn't going to be the machine that could help you with extremely demanding software.

The display is only a 1080p one, and it's not bright enough to be looked at comfortably outdoors. Future Swift laptops could also benefit from an improvement in the speakers, which currently sound pretty flat in the Swift 3.

Advice From Experts And Other Users

Despite all of its flaws, the Acer Swift 3 is still a decent investment for those looking for an inexpensive laptop for music production. To its credit, Acer has tried its best to mimic the ultra-thin design of Apple's MacBook Air.

Regardless, don't purchase it if a good display or powerful process is your deal-breaker.

How To Find The Best Laptop For Music Production

When it comes to music production, there are a few things to which you should pay careful attention.

Operation System: macOS or Windows?

macOS in MacBooks is a reliable and fast operating system, which has gone through heavy optimizations by Apple for its own computers. These computers are also a safer choice for professionals as most music studios use a Mac computer.

Windows, however, is never a bad choice. A laptop with the operating system from Microsoft is cheaper to get with a wider range of options.

Processor

As the processor is a component that is impossible to make an upgrade later, you should get it right in the first place.

The laptop specs for music production come down to your workloads and the programs you use. Music production software is usually more demanding than your web browser or office suite, and this is the reason you want to opt for the most powerful processor within your price range.

Aim for at least an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, the heart of most high-end laptops. But other options like AMD's Ryzen 4000 and 5000 or Apple's M1 are all worth considering. Other components like Solid State Drive should also enter the equation.

Battery Life

Battery life is already important for any use with a laptop, but it is crucial if you plan to do a lot of mobile recording.

It depends on your personal preference, especially the trade-off between battery life and mobility. But the best laptops for music professionals should deliver at least 6 hours of battery life.

Design

Opt for a portable laptop, such as the MacBook Air and similar options if you need to use it for recording music or live performance. Carrying an ultrabook is much easier for your shoulder and takes up less space when you get around.

Conclusion

Each model above has its specific place on the laptop market. But if you put money aside for a moment and only think about the most important factors, the best laptop for music production is the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch.

This computer is the option that many professionals with a deep pocket have been waiting for. It offers the best of almost every aspect of a working laptop: a brilliant display, decent audio quality, powerful processor, and impressive battery life, all of which are packed in a solid, sturdy aluminum chassis.

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