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Recording music used to mean paying thousands of dollars or more to go to a professional recording studio. Now, if you’ve got a computer, all you need is a few other pieces of hardware, and you’ve got a studio of your own. If you’re creating electronic music, you may need even less hardware.
Of course, not all computers are created equal. You can record music on almost any computer, but you’ll be able to do more with something more powerful. Picking the right laptop will make getting your ideas from your head to listeners much easier.
Here are the best laptops for music production suitable for all budgets.
Best Overall MacBook:
MacBook Pro 15-inch
Walk into a pro studio, and you’ve got a very good chance of seeing a Mac, though it will likely be an iMac or Mac Pro. Windows computers are gaining popularity in the sector, but you’ll still see Macs quite often. There are only two options for MacBooks, with the MacBook Pro being the more powerful of the two.
The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers not just a larger screen than the 13-inch model, but more powerful hardware, too. You get a choice of an Intel i7 or i9 CPU, and the base model offers 16GB of RAM. Ideally, you’ll want to go for 512GB of storage rather than the 256GB in the base model. Fortunately, the 2019 edition has an updated keyboard that Apple says doesn’t have the reliability issues that plagued the last few years’ models.
Best Budget MacBook:
The MacBook Air wasn’t updated for many years, but also received a refresh in 2019. The new MacBook Air is not as powerful as the MacBook Pro, but if you don’t require those high-end specs, the Air will suit you well. We recommend opting for the version with 16GB of RAM, but if you want to bring the cost down further, you could probably get away with selecting the 8GB editing instead.
Similarly, you’ll be working with large audio files, so the more storage, the better. However, if you want to keep costs down, select the 256GB internal SSD, and purchase an external drive to go alongside it. The 2019 MacBook Air comes with Apple’s Retina display, although you are still limited to the relatively small 13-inch screen.
Most Adaptable Windows Laptop:
Microsoft Surface Book 2
Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 is the perfect choice if you want a laptop that can run Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software without a hitch. The hardware also makes it perfect to use as a composition tool, too. Touchscreen support is hit and miss depending on the software you’re using.
However, it’s getting better, with tools for electronic musicians evolving quickly. The Surface Book 2 is no slouch in the hardware department, though. The laptop ships with a quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. You also get up to 17 hours of battery life. This makes it the ideal laptop for recording in a remote location and you don’t have easy access to power.
Best 2-in-1 Laptop:
HP Spectre x360
The HP Spectre x360 is a great 2-in-1 alternative to the Surface Book 2. Where Microsoft’s offering can detatch from the keyword to enter tablet mode, the Spectre x360 rotates on its hinges to create the same effect.
You get a six-core Intel i7 CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and a 512 NVMe SSD. The 15.4-inch display is 4K, meaning things will remain super sharp when you zoom in to edit audio in your DAW software. Editing software-based instruments with the Spectre x360’s touchscreen also makes the experience more immersive.
Best Budget 2-in-1 Laptop:
Lenovo Yoga 730
If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 but don’t want to spend too much, the Lenovo Yoga 730 might be right for you. These laptops are very configurable, so you should be able to find something that fits your budget. Still, the more RAM and storage space you can manage, the better off you’ll be.
If you want to keep the price low, select the Core i5 model, which is still powerful enough for most music production needs. You also get 12GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.You can also increase storage space by adding an external drive, too. So long as you aren’t using too many plugins or track freezing, then you’ll get by just fine.
Best Mobile Workstation:
HP ZBook Studio
Many of us would rather have the power of a desktop computer, but the portability afforded by laptops is hard to resist. They don’t offer the same hardware upgradability, but a mobile workstation-class laptop can offer the best of both worlds. The only downside is that many of these aren’t as sleek or slim as other laptops.
One of the best mobile workstations for music production is the HP ZBook Studio. This laptops comes equipped with a 2.8GHz Intel Xeon CPU, unlike the other laptops on this list which usually have a Core i7 or similar. This model also has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Plus, there’s an Nvidia Quadra M1000M graphics card, which you’ll find in many pro multimedia rigs.
Best Budget Mobile Workstation:
Lenovo ThinkPad P52s
Mobile workstations aren’t generally cheap, so even a budget device is going to cost you a good chunk of change. That said, the Lenovo ThinkPad P52s offers plenty of power for the price. The base configuration uses a quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, packs 16GB of RAM, and has a 512GB SSD.
On the downside, the 15.6-inch display is only 1920×1080, which feels a little dated compared to the high-resolution displays you’ll find on some similar laptops. Despite these slight shortcomings, the Lenovo ThinkPad P52s is easily the best budget mobile workstation for music production.
Best 17-inch Laptop:
LG Gram 17-inch
Whether you’re mixing a large number of tracks or editing audio across various tracks, you generally need all the screen you can get. Most laptops you’ll find these days are either 13-inch or 15-inch models. However, you might find that’s just not enough for you, which is where the LG Gram 17-inch comes in.
While it does clock in at more than a gram, despite the large screen, the LG Gram is thin, light, and easily portable. The laptop has a 2560 x 1600 resolution as well. This model uses an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 and has 16GB of RAM and a 512 SSD. Though, for more money, you can get a model with a 1TB SSD.
Best Budget 17-inch Laptop:
ASUS VivoBook Pro 17
If you’re willing to sacrifice some power for a large screen, the ASUS VivoBook Pro 17 might be right up your alley. Though not quite as sleek as the LG Gram, this model is still fairly sleek, plus it offers an 85 percent screen-to-body ratio, meaning it’s almost bezel-less too.
They’ve got to lower the price somehow, which means you only get an Intel Core i5 CPU. Similarly, you’re limited to 8GB of RAM. The hard drive have very little SSD storage space, at just 128GB. This would typically be a deal-breaker, but ASUS also included a 1TB HDD inside for additional space to store your audio files.
The Best Laptop for Music Production
If you’ve already got DAW software you like, you’ll want to pick your computer based on what you have. Logic will only run on a Mac, for example. Windows gives you more options, but most of the most popular DAWs also run on Mac.
If you need software, you’ll want to make sure to pick something that works well with your laptop. It’ll need to work on your operating system, but you also want to meet the system requirements. If you need help choosing software, we’ve got a roundup of the best music production software.