When it comes to recording and mixing your own music, technology is your best ally. There are now countless resources, apps, tools, and platforms that enable independent musicians to record their own music at home in a professional manner, without having to waste money to rent a professional recording studio.
If you’re a musician who’s always on the go and need a reliable, portable, but also professional and capable laptop to record and mix your music and videos, you luckily have numerous options to choose from nowadays.
But having too many options isn’t always a good thing, as the myriad of powerful laptops available on the market can become overwhelming. So, how do you choose? We’ll help you narrow it down by recommending the 10 best laptops for music production currently available. These laptops are all great options for independent musicians looking to mix and produce their own music, so you’ll surely find something that fits your needs on this list.
How do I choose the best laptop for music production?
When choosing a laptop for your music production needs, there are several key factors to consider before making a decision. First, you need to consider where you’ll be working on your laptop most of the time: at home, on the train, in a coworking office, on a plane, and so on. If you’re constantly on the move then you will need something portable, but also fast, reliable, and with best-in-class battery life.
Next, you’ll want to look at laptops with a powerful processor that’s capable of handling the intense, resource-consuming tasks related to music production - think Intel Core i7 or i9, and preferably 16GB of RAM or more. If you’re looking to use your laptop for music production, but also video editing and uploading, then your processor and memory capabilities are even more important factors to consider.
Resource-intensive music production or video editing software can also quickly drain your battery, so it’s best to look at laptops with great battery life and invest in an external battery, as well, if you’re on the go a lot. At the same time, music editing software can put a thermal strain on a laptop, causing it to overheat, and this can cause damage to the hardware in time. Look for a laptop with an efficient cooling system and quality thermal management to make sure that it can handle the intense tasks related to music production.
The power under the hood is not, however, the only critical factor when it comes to choosing a laptop for music production. The visual experience is also important, especially if you’re also working on music videos or using your laptop to create social media content to share with your fans and followers. You’ll want a laptop with a high-resolution display and accurate color reproduction - for instance, Apple laptops with a Retina display provide a higher-quality visual experience than those without it. Make sure you also know what you need in terms of connectivity; if you want to connect external monitors or audio equipment, you need to make sure that the laptop you pick has the right ports, and that it has enough of them.
Is Windows or Mac better for music production?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to picking a laptop for music production. Ultimately, your choice will depend on your specific needs and technical requirements, and last but not least, your budget. Apple laptops are on the pricey side, but on the upside, they are built to last and they can handle intense, resource-consuming tasks if you go for a higher-end model. Macs are also known for their stability and reliability, and if you already own Apple devices like an iMac, iPad, or iPhone, connectivity between devices will be seamless.
However, if you’re more familiar with Windows and have other devices running the same operating system, then it might be easier to navigate and use a laptop running Windows instead of Mac. Another important thing to note is that Windows provides broader compatibility with different music production software, plugins, apps, and settings are a lot more customizable. Last but not least, while all Apple laptops are on the pricey end of the spectrum, you’ll be able to find a wider range of hardware options at different price points with Windows.
The 10 best music production laptops on the market right now
Now that we’ve taken a quick look at the main factors to consider when deciding what laptop to get for music production, it’s time to now take a look at some of the best options on the market right now.
1. Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023)
The M2 Apple MacBook Pro launched in 2023 is hands down the best laptop for music production you can buy at the moment, if you have the budget for it. Even the base model is quite pricey, but at the same time, this laptop will handle any heavy duty music production or video editing task you throw at it with ease. It packs a lot of power in its M2 Pro chip, has 32GB of RAM, 2TB SSD storage, and a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display. Last but not least, it’s super portable, lightweight, and easy to carry around with you on a commute, a plane ride, or wherever you are. The main downside is the steep price, so if you’re looking for something a bit more budget-friendly, then you might consider other options with similar hardware capabilities.
2. Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
If you’re an avid Apple fan or already own a bunch of Apple devices and appreciate the seamless connectivity, then the Apple MacBook Air from 2022 is another solid option for music production. This laptop offers amazing value for money for music producers, and it’s significantly cheaper than the MacBook Pro 14, but still packs a lot of the same features. It’s even thinner and lighter than the Pro model, has excellent battery life, and features a similar powerful M2 chip. It can definitely run the same heavy duty music production tasks as the Pro model, and it can do it all in silence, due to the fact that it’s a fanless laptop. The downside is that it doesn’t feature a lot of connectivity ports, so you might need to invest in a USB or USB-C hub to connect all your external devices. The base model also has lower storage capabilities than the Pro, with just 1TB SSD, but the good news is that it’s expandable.
3. Dell XPS 17 (2021)
If portability is not your top priority, you’re not in the Apple ecosystem, and you’re looking for a big, high-quality display for your music production needs, then the Dell XPS 17 is your best choice. It’s surprisingly lightweight given its larger form factor, and it packs an Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM, so all your music production and video editing needs will be covered. It’s an expensive option, but probably the best alternative to Apple on the market at the moment. The great thing about it is that you can customize the hardware according to your specific needs and your budget, and pick the right processor, memory, graphics, and operating system for your music production needs.
4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga
A hybrid between a laptop and a tablet, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga is another option worth considering in your search for a great laptop for music production. It provides various connectivity options, having both USB-C and USB-A ports, as well as an HDMI port. The touchscreen display is great to use while you’re traveling, and the Windows operating system runs smoothly and without lag, even while running intensive music mixing tasks. If you want even more power and performance, you can upgrade the hardware to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, but this will cost you extra, and the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga is quite pricey, even at the base model. But if budget is not a concern and you want a versatile, lightweight, and fast option with a Windows operating system, this is an option worth taking into account.
5. Dell XPS 13 OLED (2021)
We’ve already covered the powerful Dell XPS 17, which is our top pick for a non-Apple laptop for music producers, but the smaller XPS 13 is just as good. If you don’t want a big laptop or the biggest screen possible for intense video editing, then the XPS 13 with a sharp OLED display is the next best choice. It boasts a sleek design, an Intel Core i5-1230U processor, and an InfinityEdge Anti-Glare display, which is great to use when you’re outside or traveling. This laptop is powerful and fast enough to handle all of your music mixing, editing, and producing tasks without even skipping a beat or overheating. Battery life is up to par, so you won’t have to worry about draining it too soon, and you can customize the hardware options depending on your needs. All in all, the Dell XPS laptops are almost as fast and powerful as gaming laptops, so if budget is not a factor and you want best-in-class performance (that’s also not made by Apple), this line is a no-brainer.
6. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022)
A smaller version of the current MacBook Pro 14-inch, Apple’s Macbook Pro 13-inch is just as powerful, featuring the awesome M2 chip. If portability and ease of use are priorities for you, then you’ll get the most bang for your buck with this lightweight MacBook. It boasts incredible battery life, so you can carry it with you wherever you’re going without fear of it dying in the middle of a processing task, and you can easily edit videos or large files, too. It has an 8-core CPU, 8GB to 24GB of RAM, 256GB to 2TB of SSD storage, and a 13.3-inch, 2560x1600 display with P3 and True Tone Technology. It doesn’t boast the Retina display that the MacBook Pro does, but with the smaller screen, you won’t really notice a big difference, and you also get more battery life in return.
7. Apple MacBook Air M1
If you’re looking to get an Apple laptop but don’t have the budget for one of the more recent M2 launches, then you might want to check out the MacBook Air M1 from 2021, which is still one of the best options for music producers on the market today. In the past, if you wanted a powerful laptop that could handle all your resource-intensive music production tasks, you wouldn’t even look at a MacBook Air - Pro would be the only option for such a task. However, nowadays Apple’s MacBook Air line provides incredible stability and performance, and these lightweight, thin laptops can handle any heavy duty task you might throw their way. With a slim form factor, great battery life, and a powerful M1 chip, the MacBook Air is a sure bet, especially if you travel a lot or are always on the go. Sure, the new M2 Air offers even more speed, but the price tag is also considerably higher, so for many buyers, it won’t be worth the upgrade.
8. Samsung Galaxy Book Pro
A flagship launch from Samsung, the Galaxy Book Pro is a great option if you’re looking for a worthy alternative to an Apple MacBook Pro. It boasts 16GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor, and a great quality screen. Battery life is quite impressive, as is the performance, which is what you want as a musician who records and produces their own music. Another big plus for the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro is that it features various ports, including two USB-C ports, an USB-A port, an HDMI port, and an audio jack, so you can connect monitors, audio equipment, headphones, and whatever else you’d like, without having to purchase a separate dock. Connectivity with other Android devices is seamless, so if you already own an Android or Samsung phone, you’ll find it easy to share data and files. It’s still on the pricey end of the spectrum, but you have some options when it comes to customizing your purchase by opting for a smaller memory or a different processor.
9. Microsoft Surface Pro 9
Another powerful option for music production software is the Microsoft Surface Pro 9. It carries a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB or RAM, and a fast 256GB SSD drive, so you can rest assured that it can handle all of your intensive music production and mixing tasks. It works very well with ProTools and other music production software, and Windows 11 runs smoothly and without fault. If you’re traveling, the Surface Pro 9 becomes even better, because it works as both a powerful laptop and a tablet in one. The screen, albeit smaller than some of the others on this list, looks amazing, and has 10-point multi-touch capability for convenient, on-the-go use. One downside is that it only boasts USB-C ports, so you have to make sure your external devices and accessories are compatible, or buy a separate dock to connect everything.
10. Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 UX582L
If you love high-tech gadgets, then you might enjoy this Asus ZenBook Pro laptop with a dual screen. It’s a high-end laptop boasting an Intel Core i7 or i9 processor, depending on your option, and features a second touchscreen right above your keyboard. If you’re traveling a lot and are doing a lot of audio mixing or video editing, then you might find this second screen incredibly useful, and as an added bonus, both screens boast crisp OLED displays. However, you should also consider that an extra screen also means more battery drain, so if you’re not close to a power outlet or have an external battery on hand, you might run into trouble. Another downside is that the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 is quite pricey compared to other laptops in this category, so you’ll have to carefully consider your budget and weigh all your options.
Frequently asked questions
How much RAM do you need for music production?
The recommended amount of RAM for music production varies depending on project complexity and software used, but as a general guideline, 8GB is sufficient for basic tasks, while 16GB or more is advisable for demanding work with multiple tracks, virtual instruments, and effects processing. Resource-intensive software and sample libraries benefit from more RAM, ensuring smoother performance and improved workflow efficiency. Checking specific software requirements and considering future needs helps determine the appropriate RAM for a music production setup.
Is RAM or CPU more important for music production?
Both RAM and CPU are crucial components for music production, but if we were to prioritize one over the other, the CPU holds slightly more significance. The CPU's processing power determines how efficiently your music production software can handle tasks like real-time audio processing, effects, and virtual instrument rendering. A powerful CPU with multiple cores and high clock speeds ensures smooth playback and responsiveness during complex projects. While sufficient RAM is necessary to handle project size and load samples into memory, a powerful CPU is essential for handling the real-time processing demands of music production software. Therefore, prioritizing a strong CPU is generally more important for optimal music production performance.
SSD vs. HDD, which is better?
In most cases, an SSD (Solid State Drive) is considered better than an HDD (Hard Disk Drive) for various reasons. SSDs offer faster read and write speeds, resulting in quicker boot times, software loading, and file transfers, which is beneficial for music production tasks that involve working with large audio files and sample libraries. SSDs are also more durable, energy-efficient, and produce less noise compared to HDDs, which have mechanical moving parts. While SSDs tend to be more expensive per storage capacity than HDDs, their overall performance benefits make them the preferred choice for faster and more efficient music production workflows.
Do music producers use Mac or PC?
Music producers use both Mac and PC platforms for their work. The choice between Mac and PC often depends on personal preference, budget, and specific software or hardware requirements. Macs are well-regarded for their stability, reliability, and seamless integration with audio software and hardware, making them popular among many music producers. On the other hand, PCs offer a wider range of hardware options and price points, as well as broader compatibility with music production software and plugins. Ultimately, the decision between Mac and PC for music production comes down to individual needs and preferences.
Want to know more about what equipment to use for music production and how to make the best of it?
Join Xposure Music and gain access to some of the best music industry professionals in the U.S. Top experts from Sony, Columbia, Def Jam, or Universal have already joined our platform, and they’re ready to give invaluable, on-point feedback on your work, which can help you land that dream record deal or publishing deal you’ve been working towards. Sign up now and reap the rewards.