How do you decide what’s the best laptop for music production and recording? Which components to focus on, and what brands are the best? We answer all those questions in this article, and review 7 of the best laptops for music production.
If you don’t have time to read through the entire thing, our top pick is the Razer Blade 15. It combines portability with performance in a slim chassis made out of CNC aluminum, and has an excellent display + trackpad.
Here is our list of the 7 best laptops for music production & recording:
If you’re a frequent visitor of this website and have read our gaming laptop reviews, you’re probably familiar with the Razer Blade.
It is Razer’s unique take on the gaming laptop that is probably responsible for the trend towards thin and light gaming machines that is all but commonplace today. Except, Razer was doing it way before anyone else.
It has the form factor and build quality of a MacBook, with an excellent trackpad and display to boot, combined with the processing power of a gaming laptop.
The chassis is full CNC aluminum, carved from one single block of metal. It feels rigid yet light, and there is enough muscle under the hood to power through whatever you throw at it.
The Blade 15 is equipped with a Core i7-10750H hexacore processor and NVIDIA RTX 2060 graphics. It also has a 512GB SSD, a 144Hz display, and 16GB of memory. If you want to connect an external display or storage device, you get a super fast Thunderbolt 3 port as well.
Normally, something this small wouldn’t be recommended for music production since a lot of older plugins and more obscure software packages won’t take very well to such a tiny screen.
Not only will you spend a ton of time scrolling through the timeline, but some buttons might outright disappear on screens 13 inches and smaller.
Nevertheless, the Envy is a very well built and extremely capable machine despite its petite form factor.
It has an amazing display; every single detail looks razor-sharp thanks to the combination of 4k resolution and a tiny 13” screen.
The Intel Core i7-1065G7 is a 4 core, 8-thread powerhouse of a mobile CPU and can handle any DAW out there.
There aren’t too many ports on this machine, but it does have the basics with a Type A and a Type C port.
You can always use USB hubs for expanding your storage and I/O options. The laptop comes with a 512GB SSD which should have enough capacity to handle a few samples and plugins, but we highly recommend you purchase a 2TB external drive or upgrade the internal storage with a 2.5” SSD of your own.
Compared to the HP Envy, this is a more complete (and costlier) package. It has a standard 15.6” display, which offers a good balance of portability and productivity.
You can also edit photos and videos on this laptop since it has a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 dedicated graphics card (4G GDDR5 VRAM).
The highlight of this laptop is its ScreenPad 2.0 intelligent trackpad which also doubles as a secondary display. The ScreenPad 2.0 is an intuitive 5.65” display built into the trackpad which can house applications alongside your main desktop in the primary screen, or carry shortcut buttons and hotkeys for software.
It can also function as a touch numpad, and you can switch between various modes of operation for this second screen on the fly. If used properly, it enhances productivity significantly and can boost your music production workflow.
The main display itself is absolutely stunning with its 4k resolution, excellent viewing angles, superb contrast, and 92% screen to body ratio.
You also get all the processing power you need for music production with a 10th gen Ice Lake Core i7 processor that’s paired with 16GB of DDR4 RAM.
A laptop designed with content creators in mind, the MSI P65 Creator packs incredible processing power into a relatively portable package.
It doesn’t win any awards in terms of looks, but as far as functionality is concerned? It doesn’t get much better than this.
The laptop packs a Core i7-9750H high performance mobile processor with 6 cores and 12 threads.
It even has a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 dedicated graphics processor with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM for work in 3D rendering and photo editing.
You can easily game on this machine, it has no trouble running the latest AAA titles at 1080p 60fps ultra settings. But what about music production? After all, that’s what you’re getting it for, right?
We are happy to report that the P65 Creator is one of the fastest music production laptops out there, thanks to its incredible processor and a massive 32GB of RAM.
Everything loads lag-free and with extreme smoothness, thanks to the 1TB solid state drive. This is a laptop that can do it all- 3D models, rendering, music production, photo and video editing, gaming, etc.
This is another one of those “Advertised as a gaming machine, but extremely capable of everything else” sort of laptop. The Predator Helios 300 rocks a 6-core Intel 10th generation Comet Lake Core i7 processor in tandem with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 2060 graphics chip.
That alone makes it better than 80 percent of the laptops at this price point (from a pure performance perspective).
The cherry on top is the 300Hz display which has excellent colors for a TN panel and extremely low input latency, making it a good display for both gaming and music production.
You get zero lag with all major DAWs such as Ableton Live, Cubase, FL Studio, Reaper, etc., irrespective of sample number and type or plugins.
The Helios 300 has plenty of RAM and a 512GB SSD. You can easily upgrade to 32GB of RAM and a larger SSD since both memory and storage are user upgradable.
The RGB keyboard is great to work with in low light conditions, and the overall build quality is solid.
Alienware laptops are pretty popular, even among the non-gamer populace. They feature outlandish styling, innovative design solutions, powerful hardware, and gigantic price tags.
If you have the money, we highly recommend you give the m15 a try. It is a very well-built machine with some really extreme hardware at its heart.
The m15 in this configuration comes with a Core i7-10750H and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. This is already more than enough for running any DAW software out there with any plugins you want.
To top things off, there is a RTX 2070 Super graphics chip which comes in handy if you’re into heavy-duty video editing, 3d rendering, gaming, etc.
The chassis is made from a magnesium-aluminum alloy and there is plenty of copper heat pipes around the CPU + GPU to keep both chips cool as a cucumber under regular loads.
The display packs a 300Hz 3ms FHD panel with decent colors (not good enough for enthusiast-level video or photo editing).
The AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS processor with 8 cores and 16 threads is one of the fastest CPUs ever put inside a laptop. In fact, it beats the Intel Core i9-9980HK in both multi and single-threaded workloads.
Despite being a 35W to 45W TDP chip, the 4900HS represents incredible performance at a really attractive price point.
It has been paired with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 2060 graphics processor in this ROG Laptop, which makes this machine a superb all-rounder. It can produce music, render videos, edit photos, play games, and even works as a content consumption platform with its excellent 14” FHD display.
The highlight of this laptop is of course its AMD R9 4900HS processor, but we shouldn’t neglect the 3200MHz high speed DDR4 memory. Most laptops make do with 2400MHz or 2666MHz memory, even the high-end gaming models.
But faster RAM does make a difference, especially in productivity workloads like music and video production. It also has a PCIE 3.0x 4 1TB SSD, and uses Gelid GC Extreme on both the CPU and GPU.
Deciding on the core components (CPU, RAM, and Storage)
The most important factor while choosing a laptop for music production is processor speed and core count.
Both are equally important, but core count does matter more if your processor can maintain an average clock speed of 3GHz or more. Most DAW software packages and plugins are designed to split the workload between multiple cores, and you should have at least 4 cores with SMT/ hyperthreading.
Next comes the RAM, and this is going to be a tough one.
While the minimum requirements section in the documentation of popular DAW software states they can run with just 4GB of RAM, in practice you need at least 8 gigs for a smooth experience with other tasks running in the background.
And we recommend 16GB for a good lag-free experience with more advanced software packages and plugins.
As for storage, some form of SSD is a must.
Hard drives are just too slow and not recommended unless you only use them for sample storage and as file vaults. A good 2.5” SATA SSD or M.2 PCIe SSD can be had for quite cheap these days, and many laptops will give you the option to upgrade from the default storage configuration without voiding warranty.
Is a dedicated graphics card necessary?
Not really, music production is one of those areas where a DGPU doesn’t do much for you as DAW software isn’t designed to take advantage of hardware acceleration offered by a dedicated graphics card.
So unless you’re also looking to game or edit videos/ photos on your music production machine, you don’t NEED a dedicated GPU.
But it’s always nice to have a dedicated GPU for the occasional video edit or gaming session.
Even an entry level dedicated graphics processor is far better than the iGPUs in Intel’s latest laptop chips, or AMD Vega built-in graphics for that matter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do I need a MacBook?
A. All the popular DAW software are available on both Mac and Windows. Unless you want to use Logic Pro, that is a Mac exclusive. In the end it comes down to what software you feel comfortable with, and whether you’re invested into the Apple ecosystem already with devices such as an iPhone or iPad.
Q. Can I go the used route?
A. Cheapness and performance don’t go hand in hand. When a laptop has the same specifications despite costing more, it probably has a better cooling system and a larger battery. Performance is determined by more than just the CPU and GPU. Two laptops can have the same processor, but one may be kneecapped by a sub par cooling system/ tiny battery. Sometimes a laptop will cost more for the same specs, but you get better quality components. Like better keyboards, trackpads, Wi-Fi cards, etc.
This also doesn’t mean you always get the most expensive option; they aren’t guaranteed to have better quality components. But the general rule is that if something costs more, it probably has better components. This is especially true within laptops of the same brand (but differing in model number).
The laptops on this list were chosen on the basis of two things- performance, and build quality.
For performance, we took into account the 3 most important things in a music production laptop- processor, RAM, and storage.
For build quality, we considered aspects like display type and materials used to make the chassis, keyboard feel, trackpad precision, etc.
And in conclusion, the Razer Blade 15 is the best laptop for music production.
It has the whole package- a fast processor, fast RAM, good SSD storage, and an excellent display. Combine all that with a CNC aluminum chassis and a trackpad that rivals MacBooks, and you get one of the most well-designed thin laptops of 2020.
Even though it is engineered for performance and “gaming”, the Blade 15 is a multipurpose tool that functions exceptionally well for music production. If you want a 4k display on a budget, get the HP Envy 13 laptop.
If you want pure performance irrespective of price, get the Alienware m15.
If you want the best value for money, get the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14, since it has what most consider the best laptop processor on the market right now- AMD’s Ryzen 9 4900HS.