Let’s get you producing and mixing your greatest tracks with the best laptops for music production on the market right now.
Quick answer: The top laptops to choose from for this year are the Lenovo ThinkPad P52 for PC users, while Apple users continue to enjoy the MacBook Pro 15. But if you’re looking for something that’s more affordable with great value for money, take a look at the ASUS ROG GL703GM-DS74.
What has changed from the previous year? MacBook Pros will perhaps continue to dominate the field for music production laptops. And the Lenovo ThinkPad P52 replaces the Dell XPS 15 as the battle for best Windows audio production laptop, albeit with a caveat (read in the review below). If you’re on a budget, the Acer Aspire E15 is literally one of the only best choices out there for the low price, whereas the ASUS ROG GL703GM-DS74 strikes a happy middle point without any complaints.
If you’re new to buying laptops for music production, take a look at the buying guide and FAQ sections which should help to clarify some things for you on both how we came to these choices, and what you need to be looking for if you’re looking at a different make and model.
Let’s take a closer look 🙂
Table of contents
- Best Laptops – At a Glance
- Best Laptops – Product Overview
- Buying Guide
- Final Thoughts
Find other studio gear here:
Best Music Production Laptop 2019 – At A Glance
Best Laptops for Music Production Laptop - Product Overview
Here are the descriptions and our take on each of these laptops, with some opinions as to why they would be good for you. If you need more help making a decision, jump to the buyer's guide below, which goes into the details on how we chose these laptops, and how you can choose the one from this list best suited for you.
(Looking for a desktop computer instead? Go here).
1 - Apple MacBook Pro 15
- Powerful CPU
- Massive SSD with plenty of RAM
- Light and slim design
- Convenient Touchbar
- Expensive for some
As you may know, Mac computers are the universal standard for multi-media and music production. So it’s fairly universally exclaimed that the MacBook Pro 15" is one of the best laptop for music production. Of course, it can be debatable as to whether or not this is true ("best laptop") but naturally, this would have to be in the list. If you’re in the market for a music making machine, one of your first considerations should be a MacBook, otherwise, it’s just a matter of if you prefer Windows PCs for one reason or another (jump to the buyer’s guide).
As you can imagine, the 15” MacBook Pro is not shy on specs. Even though it shares the same name and type of processor with most of the other laptops in this post, its CPU, the Intel Core i7 Six-core, is 2.6 GHz fast, with the ability to be boosted, making it one of the faster models here. And it is powering a 512 GB solid state drive, with 16 GB of RAM memory. Instantaneous loads are no problem. When you purchase the laptop (2018 model) you will get the MacOS X Sierra. Like all other MacBooks, you will get four super-fast Thunderbolt 3 ports. Unlike many of the other laptops on this list, however, this MacBook has decided to go rogue and stripped all the USBs off. That means you’ll need to buy an adapter to plug in your MIDI controllers and external displays into the Thunderbolt port. That would be the only complaint, really, about the MacBook. But more and more devices, like these recommended audio interfaces, are coming out with Thunderbolt connectors for the new MacBooks.
Besides its super slim and light design (and professional profile), this MacBook also sports some good features that you'll find useful. The new Touch Bar at the top replaces the typical function keys which, to be honest, I always thought were out of date. Good move, Apple. Instead, you get something that is far more intuitive and versatile. The Touch Bar changes automatically based on what you’re doing, and only shows you the relevant tools needed. And with Touch ID, you can easily log into your Mac and even make secure purchases online with one touch. The display is not a touchscreen, but you get a super bright and colorful display. The Retina display has a super fine resolution, which will be useful if you have plugins that scale in GUI. The battery is also pretty good, lasting up to 10 hours of editing and music production.
What others are saying
Users of the MacBook Pro 15 are especially thrilled about being able to utilize the full power of the six-core 8th generation Intel processors. The DDR4 memory and SSD drives provide even more speed benefits, making this one of the fastest MacBooks available. Other users appreciate having so much power available in a compact laptop. The screen also wins points for clarity and vividness, which makes the long hours spent staring at DAW projects seem tolerable, if not almost enjoyable.
Some users did complain about the finicky behavior of the touch bar, which has a tendency to open up applications randomly.
You can’t argue with the Mac. The 15 inch MacBook Pro is one of the best laptops out there for producing music, because it is super powerful, beautiful, and efficient. It’s also the industry standard, and certainly future proof for some time to come.
2 - Lenovo ThinkPad P52
- Impressive power and performance
- Long battery life
- Comes with 512GB SSD as standard
- Quite expensive (but worth it if you need this much power on-the-go)
- BIOS support for Thunderbolt is faulty in early versions.
The Lenovo ThinkPad P52 for music production is the latest in the ThinkPad line of mobile workstations. At first glance, it seems little more than a rebadging of the company’s P51, with a revised keyboard, relocated ports, and a few other cosmetic modifications.
Upon closer inspection however, it becomes apparent that the P52 upholds the ThinkPad tradition admirably, with a screaming fast processor, a good amount of RAM, and a decently-sized SSD hard drive. Designed for processor-intensive graphics editing and rendering tasks, it has more than enough power to handle large DAW projects, even with a good number of soft synths, effects, and audio tracks.
The P52 does have a number of cosmetic changes over the P51. As mentioned, the keyboard is slightly different, some ports have been added and some switched around, and the docking port has been nixed.
But what's more important are the changes under the hood. The P52 now comes with a six-core Xeon 2176M, with an option to go for a Core i7-8750H or Core i7-8850H. Although higher end CPUs such as the Xeon 2186M and the i9 aren't supported, the available options give you more than enough power to handle the most demanding music applications.
Out of the box, the P52 comes with 16GB DDR4 of RAM. With four memory slots available, you could have a maximum of 64GB of ECC memory. When the 32GB non-ECC memory modules become available, you could have a whopping 128GB of memory onboard.
The P52 also comes with a 512GB SSD hard drive which gives you a good amount of space to install your apps and to load them up quickly. You will probably want to add a bigger secondary hard drive for the recorded audio and project files you will inevitably amass, as well as your sample libraries. In any case, having 512GB of SSD storage right out of the box is definitely a good thing.
The other features that make the P52 suitable for graphics-intensive tasks might be overkill for audio recording and music production. Nevertheless, the fact that the P52 can handle the demands of graphics editing and rendering means that there is more than enough power on tap for music production.
What others are saying
The ThinkPad P52 is a popular choice among users that are music producers, with all the power and smooth performance it has. Although most dedicated music producers rarely make full use of the graphics-focused features, film scorers and multimedia producers definitely appreciate the P52’s graphics capabilities. One user on Reddit offered a review of his opinions on the machine, which he got for music production among other tasks.
Many users have noted consistently fast performance with a variety of applications. Even when multitasking, the P52 chugs along without a hitch, enhancing efficiency and speeding up workflow in the studio.
Like all high-powered machines, the P52 does have a tendency to run hot. In some cases, the cooling system doesn't start up quickly enough to cool down the CPU when processor-intensive tasks are initiated. After the fans kick in however, temperatures usually go down to more acceptable levels.
That said, there is one caveat to this laptop. As a model still relatively new to the market, some users have noticed that the machine is rendered unusable if they activate the "BIOS support for Thunderbolt" or "Thunderbolt BIOS Assist" option. This unfortunate, with all the Thunderbolt interfaces released lately, so if you're getting this laptop because of the power, it's advised to disregard that setting until Lenovo smoothes out the issue with the release of a UEFI update.
The Lenovo ThinkPad P52 is an unbridled powerhouse that is capable of impressive speed and performance. Strictly speaking, it is a bit overpowered if you work exclusively with audio and midi. Furthermore, you do have to pay a premium for this kind of performance. Nevertheless, if you crave power and performance, planning on doing some graphic work as well, then this is the laptop for you.
3 - ASUS ROG GL703GM-DS74
- Impressive power due to the 8th generation Intel Core i7-8750H processor
- 256GB SSD and 1TB FireCuda Hybrid Drive combo
- Five USB 3.0 Ports
- Relatively short battery life
- Fans can get loud
The ASUS ROG GL703GM-DS74 for music production is actually a gaming laptop that offers enough features and functionality to make it appeal to music producers as well. Even if you’ve never even launched the games that come with your OS before, there are many good reasons why you should consider adding this to your studio arsenal. In fact, its powerful performance may even make it worthy of serving as the command center of your production rig. Read the rest of this review to find out why the ROG GL703GM-DS74 gets our nod as the best value laptop for music production on the Windows platform.
Today’s breed of video games demands a lot in terms of computer resources. The ROG GL703GM-DS74 is more than capable of handling these demands, so you can bet that it has more than enough power to handle music applications.
This power is provided primarily by the 8th generation Intel Core i7-8750H processor. A six-core, 12-thread monster capable of processing speeds of up to 3.9GHz, it is supposedly 23% faster than previous generation quad-core processors.
In real-world terms, this means that you can load up bigger projects than you’ve ever managed before. A faster processor translates into more efficient handling of the newest and most-advanced soft synths, more effects on your mixes, and generally faster and smoother performance when producing or mixing.
The ROG GL703GM-DS74 comes with 16GB of DDR4 RAM right out of the box, with the option to have a maximum of 32GB. A 256GB SSD is included, along with a 1TB FireCuda Hybrid Drive. This is supposedly five times faster than standard HDD. Taken together, the two hard drives enable fast OS and apps loading, with abundant storage space for your needs.
As with all gaming laptops, many of the features of the GL703GM-DS74 are intended to enhance graphics performance. Although these features aren't absolutely essential for most music production work, a well-spec’d graphics system does make displays clearer and nicer to look at. And if you score films or games, you will definitely appreciate the ROG’s GTX graphics and high refresh rate.
What others are saying
User reviews seem to be unanimous in their praise of the ROG GL703GM-DS74’s power and capabilities. Able to handle even the heaviest, most processor-intensive tasks without a hitch, it multitasks like a champ, and is generally fast, stable, and reliable.
Heating is always an issue with high-performance laptops, but users have found that the ROG offers an elegant and highly effective solution. Two anti-dust tunnels provide exit points for dust and debris, slowing down grime buildup in the fan mechanism. Users especially appreciate having two fans that have better airflow than standard laptop fans, although these can get quite loud in operation.
Other user complaints about the ROG have to do with the bloatware and the comparatively short battery life. In general however, most users seem satisfied with the ROG GL703GM-DS74.
The ASUS ROG GL703GM-DS74 is a solidly-built and decently-spec’d laptop that could very well find a place in your home studio. It is perhaps better suited to studio use than live or field applications, due to the somewhat short battery life. Nevertheless, you do get a whole lot of laptop for the money, and you could easily rely on it for the majority of your music production tasks.
4 - Acer Aspire E 15
- Very affordable price
- Latest Intel-core technology (gen 8)
- 15 Hour battery life (claimed)
- SSD storage
- No Thunderbolt ports
The Acer Aspire E 15 for music production is one of the best cheap laptops out there, and there are not that many options out there. It’s also the only laptop on this list with its own DVD RW drive (double layer). Despite its price the Aspire really does “aspire” to be a great budget laptop for home studio owners and music producers who’re unable to cash out over a grand for a good laptop. And this is a good laptop. Acer has been steadily dominating the PC market lately, making computers and laptops that are giving the previous budget warriors, like Compaq (remember them?), a run for their money. Personally I’ve never used an Acer, but have seen it around the block in beatmakerdom. Plus, it's currently one of the most popular laptops sold on Amazon,
Specwise, the Aspire is not too shabby. It has one of those essential specs that we have come to rely upon nowadays in the music production business: a solid state drive. Of course, it is not a large drive, just 258 GB, meaning that sooner or later you will need to expand your storage with an external hard drive. Until then, try to keep your sample library down to a minimum, and trash any project files you know are just... well, trash. There is decent memory size on this machine as well, with 8 GB working in tandem with a 258 GB SSD drive, startups and loading up of files shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The processor is the latest Intel Core i5 dual-core CPU that can turbo boost up to 3.4 GHz. But there's the option to get the i5 quad core if you want to spend 200 dollars more. It has, as mentioned, a dual layer DVD burner, plus 4 USB ports, one of which is the high speed type-C USB 3.1 port. Unfortunately, no thunderbolt.
Perhaps the biggest selling feature of this laptop is that it has its own DVD drive for reading and writing. That means you not only save money on a machine for music making, you also save money on having to buy an external DVD drive. Two birds; one stone. Of course, you will need to get an external drive for storage expansion, but you would need that anyway. The manufacturer boasts that you will get up to 15 hours of battery life, which is good. Despite the reduced price, there is still a nice large 15.6” display for easy arrangement. Design wise, it is beautiful laptop for the price, in my opinion, with a clean and smooth look without any unnecessary frills.
What others are saying
The Acer Aspire E 15 seems to impress users with its reliable and efficient performance, especially considering its price. One particular user found that it provided him with features that he couldn’t get in any laptop at a similar price. From the backlit keyboard to the 1080p display, the incredible 12-hour battery life to the flawless performance, this laptop suited that particular user in every way.
The E 15 also proved to be quite capable of handling multiple apps at the same time. Some users did find it a bit too heavy for their liking. Others found the laptop generally quiet, except when used for more processor-intensive tasks.
This is a good laptop. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, and want to get something to make music now, and worry about expanding on the storage later, this your option. It’s still powerful, and you can do many advanced things with this without much complaint from the machine. Definitely recommended if you’re on the budget.
5 - Razer Blade 15
- Powerful specs
- Durable construction
- Thin and compact design
- Large 15.6” display
- Prone to heat buildup
- Not as portable as other laptops
If your need for power coincides with your portability demands, the Razer Blade 15 for music production might be the ideal laptop for you. The manufacturer claims that it is “one of the smallest 15.6” gaming laptops” around, and it certainly boasts of impressive power in a very portable and handy design. Even if you don't have a need for the gaming specific features, the Razer Blade 15 has the goods to make it a serious studio and live workhorse.
Six cores of i7 processing power give you enough grunt to handle even the largest projects with ease. Pile on a slew of softsynths that would make most CPUs fall to their knees, and the Razer Blade 15 just keeps on going without a hitch.
It is a well-known fact that music production apps are some of the most resource-intensive around. Today's breed of fully-featured DAWs and virtual instruments demand a lot from computer hardware, and few consumer laptops are able to measure up.
The Razer Blade 15 definitely measures up, and probably provides more power than is required for most music production and recording tasks. With its six-core i7-8750H processor, you could easily load up several mega softsynths, slather the biggest mixes with effects, and stream several tracks of audio, all without pushing your CPU meter into the red.
16 MB of memory is included as standard, and you can choose between 256 GB and 512 GB of SSD storage. The Razer Blade 15 supports drives of up to 1 TB. It would probably be best to spring for the extra storage space, as you will likely fill up the 512 GB fairly quickly with your various projects, sound libraries, and audio files.
The 15.6” HD edge-to-edge display strikes a good balance between portability and screen real estate. Although it does detract a bit from the portability of the unit, having such a large screen enables you to carry out most tasks without having to hook up an external monitor.
Despite its larger display, the Razer Blade 15 is fairly easy to lug around. The thin body and compact design makes for a surprisingly lightweight machine. The aluminum body is also quite durable, making this a laptop that could easily handle the rigors of the road.
What others are saying
The Razer Blade 15 seems to attract users that want a high-powered machine without the gimmicky design and features of a dedicated gaming laptop (Alienware, anyone?). For users that value performance over superfluous features, the Razer Blade 15 is the obvious choice.
Users especially seem to appreciate the system’s speed and responsiveness, even with processor-intensive tasks. One user even reported being able to handle multiple applications without a hiccup, so it could theoretically handle the processor demands of a typical DAW quite easily.
Like all high-powered laptops, the Razer Blade 15 does have a tendency to run hot. A few users have recommended using it with a laptop cooling solution, and to keep tabs on the temperature.
The Razer Blade 15 is a pretty pricy laptop that nevertheless delivers outstanding performance. For the price, you get a solidly reliable machine that can handle most any music production task you throw at it. The build quality is also exceptional, and you could reasonably expect this to stand up to external conditions that would make most other laptops buckle.
6 - Apple MacBook Pro 13
- Powerful CPU
- More compact design
- Large SSD storage and sufficient RAM
- Convenient Touchbar
- i5 quad-core processor may not be sufficient for heavy duty projects
If you want a Macbook that’s a little more compact, and also cheaper, then take a look at this MacBook Pro 13" for music production. You’ll get the same industry standard performance, albeit with a smaller screen and memory. But both should be sufficient for recording albums, and doing live performances, making this perhaps a better choice, in my opinion, than the 15-inch model when you want to either work on beats on the go, do field recordings, and perform using Live, Bitwig, or a DJ software. Yes, this MacBook was designed for speed and portability, so keep that in mind when looking for your next laptop.
The 13” MacBook Pro is, like its bigger brother, not shy on specs. But it does differ from it in a few important ways to make mention of. The processor is a dual-core Intel Core i5, instead of the often more recommended (and sometimes coveted) i7 quad core processors that you will find on this list. Is this sufficient? From my experience, it still is. Not a lot of lag is expected, and by the way, there is a solid state drive (512 GB) plus 8 GB of RAM which will still do a good job of quickly loading up all your DAW plugins and libraries without much hiccup in performance. Like all the Macs, there will be a bunch of Thunderbolt 3 ports (four in total) for you to plug all your controllers and audio interfaces into. It doesn’t come with either DVD/CD drives or USB drives, so you will need to purchase those externally (it’s a trend that’s happening). When you purchase the newest model (2018) you will get loaded onto the computer MacOS’s High Sierra operating system.
Like it’s big brother, it is slim and elegant in design. It’s lighter than the 15” model, naturally, because it is smaller, making it very useful for carrying around with you. The backlit keyboard will make hitting those shortcut keys a cinch when you’re working in a dark studio. It also comes with the Touch Bar and Touch ID features, which are both very useful, in my opinion. The Touch Bar is used to replace the common function keys at the top of the keyboard. Instead you get touch controls that change as you use the laptop, based on what you’re doing. It’s also customizable. Also, the Touch ID gives you the ability to log in to your notebook without having to remember long passwords, even allowing you to securely login to your online sites whenever you need to buy something. Like the bigger brother, the 13” will give you 10 hours of continuous use editing and recording music. Only downside is that the otherwise beautiful retina display is not touchscreen.
What others are saying
The MacBook Pro 13 generally appeals to users that want the performance benefits and features of a MacBook Pro without the weight and size. For many users, the MacBook Pro 13 offers an excellent compromise, giving them power and portability in a reliable package. Apart from the build quality, users also appreciate the unique features of the laptop. The Touch Bar is especially popular among users, due to its ability to tailor its behavior to whatever app is being used.
Some users did report shorter battery life as compared to other MacBooks. The Touch Bar also took some getting used to for some users.
If you want a portable industry standard, with lots of space and power, get this. This would be especially good for students, beatmakers, and singer-songwriters who’re looking for something that they can carry around with them a lot. Otherwise, if you work in music, and know you need to do a lot of traveling, and want a travel solution, this is a very good option for you (the other would be the Air).
7 - Microsoft Surface Pro 6
- Impressive power and performance
- Nice display
- Long battery life
- Can be used as a laptop or as a tablet
- Few connectivity options
- Not really suited for serious music production
The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 for music production isn't quite like most of the other laptops in this roundup. Equal parts laptop and tablet, it seems more like a portable and convenient device for casual users than a serious studio machine. Nevertheless, there is a good deal of power available underneath its sporty exterior, and you might find its dual nature ideally suited to your own needs. And with a battery that can go for hours without clamoring to be plugged in, this could be a handy solution for mobile music production duties.
An astonishing amount of power separates the Surface Pro 6 from other combo laptops and tablets, many of which are better suited for coffee shop browsing than serious audio work. You can choose from an i5 or i7 8th Generation Intel Core processor, giving you a choice between bang-for-the-buck and awesome power.
Weighing in at less than two pounds, the Surface Pro 6 definitely won't be the heaviest piece of equipment in your mobile rig. It is amazingly slim and light, although it feels pretty durable all the same. More importantly, the battery can be used for 13.5 hours straight, even while playing back standard definition video. Even considering the higher power demands of music applications, this is a reassuring figure for those that like composing music or recording on the go.
Most music producers and recording engineers will likely use the Surface Pro in “Laptop” mode, which utilizes the built-in kickstand to position the screen at a familiar angle.
But you could just as easily use the “Tablet” mode for mixing, editing synth parameters, and general file management duties. In this mode, the Surface Pro functions much like any regular tablet. You could also position it to “Studio” mode, which is better suited for use with the option Studio Pen.
Speaking of add-ons, you could also spring for the Surface Arc mouse, which is arguably easier to use than the trackpad. There is also a Surface Dial add-on that is mainly intended for 3D rendering and graphics work, but could also be handy for zooming and panning across wide screen areas.
What other are saying
Somewhat surprisingly, a number of users seem impressed with the power and performance of the Surface Pro 6. We say “surprisingly”, because combo laptop/tablets aren't generally known for their screaming performance. Nevertheless, the Surface Pro’s power has managed to make a favorable impression with many users, especially considering the long battery life.
One thing that lets the Surface Pro 6 down is the absence of more modern connectivity options. The only ports onboard are a USB A 3.0 port, a surface connect port, a mini-display port, and a headphone jack, none of which exactly scream “pro audio”. For serious music producers, the absence of a future-proof USB C Thunderbolt 3 port is a disappointing omission.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 offers a decent power and performance, with the ability to morph into a tablet being an added bonus. Despite its potential usefulness as a musical sketchpad however, it simply doesn't have enough features to make it an essential part of your music production rig.
8 - Lenovo Yoga 720
- Thunderbolt ports
- Backlit keyboard useful for dark studios
- Lots of storage and RAM
- Reasonable price from a solid brand
- Fan kind of loud
- Some models are known to have defective display
Lenovo makes some of the best and most reliable Windows laptops on the market. Even though we’ve used Macs, Lenovo laptops tend to be the personal preference, and been never been a disappoint. One of their best models is the Yoga series, with the Lenovo Yoga 720 15 for music production being the choice if you’re looking for a media savvy machine. Lenovo calls it the “world’s first convertible laptop,” which when combining the Lenovo Active Pen with its super flexible hinges (hence, “Yoga”) you can see that they were targeting the visual media creator market out there. But for the purpose of music production, the laptop more than exceeds all the base requirements you need for a music production laptop. Let’s take a closer look…
When it comes to specs, the Yoga 720 15 is pretty good. This particular music production laptop has a 512 GB solid state hard drive paired with 16 GB RAM memory. You can expect instantaneous loading of all your plugins, software, and samples without any problem. Because of the size, you wouldn’t be worrying about space for some time to come. The machine is powered by an i7 Intel Core process, with four cores running at a baseline speed of 2.8 GHz. That is very sufficient. And you get Windows 10 Home edition, which is also sufficient for making music and mixing. Overall, a very good laptop that can handle any sound designing project you can throw at it. Plus, it comes with that all important Thunderbolt connector for massive transfer speeds, a super high speed USB-C 3.1 port, and 2 high speed USB 3.0 ports for all your devices.
The battery life on this machine is also pretty good, you get up to 8 hours of battery use… no word on whether or not it is “continuous use” or intermittent use, but either way, it sufficient if you’re looking for a music production laptop that you primarily want to use at home, but can handle the road when you need it to. Another important specification is the fingerprint reader, which is a very good option for keeping your files secure. The screen is 15.6 inches big and is touchscreen. It works in tandem with the special stylus (sold separately), but you can just use your finger. Speaking of the screen, it has a 360 degree flip-and-fold design, which we're sure you could find useful in some way. Any downsides? It doesn’t have its own DVD/CD tray… but so do most options these days. So there isn’t really any downside to this unit, from what we can find.
What others are saying
Lenovo’s Yoga 720 manages to score points with most users with its combination of power, durability, and good looks. Appearance admittedly counts for little in a music production context, but the screen makes even the drabbest DAWs look pretty impressive. Users also like having an SSD as standard, although their capacity leaves a little to be desired. Nevertheless, having such a fast, efficient, and quiet hard drive is a boon for recording and mixing, and many simply found ways to deal with the lower capacity.
The fan is quite a bit more problematic. Some users report it running loudly for long periods, making the Yoga 720 less suitable for serious recording.
This is a good laptop. It is good for making music, recording music, editing music, and sound designing. It has a beautiful look to it that’s professional and sleek. It has a lot of great reviews on Amazon from reasonable buyers. You most likely cannot go wrong with the Lenovo Yoga 720 15. So it the recommendation as one of the best music production laptops out there. Check it out!
9 - Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen)
- Good power-to-performance ratio
- Plenty of connectivity options
- Long battery life
- May be a underpowered for more intensive tasks
- Lid has some flex to it
- Comes with a lot of unnecessary bloatware
Now on its 6th generation, Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon for music production continues to impress users with its winning combination of power and features. Part of the company’s celebrated Ultrabook line, this model is thin, lightweight, and as durable as they come.
All these attributes and more are due to the carbon-fiber reinforced chassis, which has been rigorously tested for strength and durability under the most extreme environments. The X1 Carbon also has a decently spec’d processor that strikes a good balance between power and affordability.
Other features include a fast SSD drive, long battery life, and a 14” IPS display, all of which make it a worthy option for music producers and recording engineers on the move.
The Thinkpad X1 Carbon is powered by an Intel Core i5-8350U Quad-core processor that is capable of up to 3.60GHz performance. Although it isn't quite as powerful as other laptops currently available, the i5-equipped X1 Carbon offers sufficient power for an array of music editing and production work while still remaining affordable enough for beginner producers.
Out of the box, the X1 Carbon comes with 8GB RAM, which is enough for all but the biggest sample libraries. You might notice some stuttering and lagging when playing back multi-gigabyte sample sets, but if your needs are fairly modest, 8GB should tide you over until you are able to add more RAM.
The 256GB SSD is fast and efficient, and again should be enough to get you started right out of the gate. In any case, you should probably upgrade to a bigger hard drive when funds permit.
The 14" FHD IPS display is definitely one of the unit’s redeeming features. An anti-glare display, it provides sharp and clear images whether you are working in a dimly-lit studio or outdoors. The Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics system is more than enough for most audio applications, most of which aren't graphics-intensive anyway.
Other features may not be essential for the average recording maven, but they nevertheless enhance the usability of the X1 Carbon. More important are the connectivity options, which the Carbon definitely has a lot of. Two USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports are built-in, along with two USB 3 ports, and a 4-in-1 MicroSD card reader. These give you a good range of options for connecting audio interfaces and storage devices.
What others are saying
Despite its somewhat underpowered i5 processor, the X1 Carbon seems to have garnered a few fans. Its price-to-performance ratio is one of its most-praised attributes, and most users found it sufficient for a number of applications.
Users also praised the nice-feeling keyboard and the responsive touchpad. Along with the light weight and the slim design, these qualities made the X1 Carbon better suited for mobile use than many other higher spec’d laptops.
Perhaps the most welcome feature of the X1 Carbon for beginner users is the good selection of ports available. More and more manufacturers are shifting over to Thunderbolt connections for their audio interfaces, so the inclusion of USB-C/Thunderbolt ports offer a degree of future-proof reassurance.
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon isn't going to win any awards for power and performance, but it is a pretty decent laptop for the price. If this is all you could afford right now, you could still reasonably expect to get some quality work done despite its more modest features.
10 - HP Spectre x360
- Latest i7 processor (8th gen)
- Touchscreen technology may be useful
- Large SSD and Memory
- Comes with Thunderbolt
- Screen appears dim outdoors
- Runs hot
The HP Spectre x360 for music production is a beautiful powerful laptop with touchscreen display. It has everything that you need and more to produce music on your laptop, and has some very useful specs that you might find interesting, including a banging built in stereo system that beats the other laptops on this list. For the price, this laptop is very good bargain, and because it’s HP you know it’s from a reputable computer manufacturer. This is a mid to upper mid budget laptop, putting it right the upper middle of a powerful music production workhorse that you can take around. It also has a higher than average rating on Amazon, which is very good for a laptop, considering that this includes even the most unreasonable customer review. So let’s look a little deeply into this laptop, and see why you should be getting it…
As far as specification goes, the HP Spectre x360 is similar to the Lenovo Yoga. It falls in the same category of a convertible laptop, meaning you can convert it into a tablet whenever you want. But the most important specs is the power first, then storage, then connections, as we’ve said. The storage is sufficient. With 512 GB you are not going to run out of room for a little while. And it is a solid state drive, which when coupled with the 16 GB of RAM memory, you will be able to load up your files and DAW and other plugin software with ease. The connections are also sufficient; you will get the Thunderbolt 3 port to plug in your external hard drives for massive high speed data transfers. Very good if you plan on hosting your libraries externally. In addition, there are 2 other USB ports to use, both of them type-C 3.1, high speed ports.
The screen is a beautiful 15.6” display with 4K resolution, and touchscreen. This, of course, is very useful for adjusting objects and levels in your DAW by finger, and not by mouse or trackpad. The keyboard itself is backlit, which is good. Perhaps one of the selling points of this particular laptop in this price-range and category, is the Band & Olufsen stereo speakers. This laptop has one of the best speaker systems you can get, which should be useful for playing music on your laptop when you’re not around your studio monitors, or headphones. Perhaps the only potential downside to this laptop is the fairly limited battery life. Even though the manufacturer states there is battery life of 12 hours, a few users have noted that it is good, but not great.
What others are saying
The Spectre x360 seems to attract a wide variety of users, which is a testament to its power and versatility. Music producers that routinely work with video especially appreciate the graphics capabilities, which elevate the Spectre x360 beyond the level of the typical music studio workhorse. The keyboard has been praised by quite a few users, some of who have compared it favorably to Dell XPS keyboards. User opinions seem to be divided with regard to the touchpad however, with some finding it excessively wide.
Many users have reported a tendency for the Spectre x360 to get hot. For many, this was a frequent issue that necessitated the purchase of a laptop cooler.
The Spectre x360 is another great recommend. The buying points would be the touchscreen display, and the banging speak system that it comes with. Besides that, I’m certain that this laptop won’t be a disappointment when it comes to producing music in your home studio, or anywhere else you could take it. Check it out!
BONUS: Acer Predator Triton
If you’re looking for another ultimate laptop, take a look at this Acer Predator Triton 700 for music production. This laptop is kind of a beast. Built for gaming, it has a large solid state drive storage, a powerful processor, and the largest RAM on this list that you can find on a non-custom laptop. And it all comes housed in a super slim device that you can take around with you. And if you happen to be a gamer as well as music producer, then this would be the best laptop for you on this list. Let’s take a look inside…
The specs are very good. The storage is a nice standard 512 GB solid state drive that is split into two 256 GB drives. It is paired by massive amounts of memory, we’re talking 32 GB of RAM, which should be more than what you’d need for producing music. And powering it is the super powerful 7th generation Intel Core i7 processor, with four cores that can be overclocked if you need it to be. The result is a laptop that is entirely future proof against whatever software plugins you want to run for some time to come. And because it is a gaming laptop, it has a dedicated internal heating system. Music production can certainly run up the heat of your machine, this we are familiar with, you can keep your cool knowing that there are two Aeroblade 3D fans built inside designed to provide maximum airflow around the internals of the chassis, with 5 heat pipes to distribute and rid the Triton of any excess heat buildup. It also comes with the sufficient connections that you’d need, a Thunderbolt port, and high speed USB-C and 3.0 ports for all your connections.
Because it is a gaming laptop, you can expect the screen, as well as the graphics, to be very good. Not a touchscreen, though, so if you were hoping for that, sorry. Otherwise the screen is tough, made out of gorilla glass, so you won’t be worried about any unwanted accidents doing any damage to the display. The display, by the way, is a nice 15.6 inches big. There is only one serious downside to this machine, and that would be that the battery life is quite poor. With only 2 to 3 hours of battery use, you can’t really expect this to be a truly portable music production laptop. You’d need to always be within access of an outlet. That means that, in choosing this laptop, you’re planning on using it mostly as your studio workstation, one which you can plug out and carry with you. And as far as that is concerned, it is good, because there is no compromise in performance either way.
This is a good laptop. It is super powerful, and you can make and mixes anything with it in confidence. No worries over whether there will be glitches in your workflow. Just mind the battery, and you’ll be fine. Check it out!
Music Production Laptop Buying Guide
Whether you're simply interested in making beats, recording your guitar, keys or vocals, mixing music, or scoring for films or games, a laptop as a music machine will be your essential music making tool. But choosing among the plethora of brands, styles, makes and models swarming the market, can, admittedly, be daunting.
Hence, in this guide we've broken down the principles of choosing a good music production laptop to its bare bone essentials, and determined what laptops are on the market now that you can buy that fit that criteria.
How to Choose the Best Laptops for Music Production
Mac or PC
When it comes to the computer world, there are two types of people... well, actually three types of people. Are you a Mac or PC person, or are you a Linux person?
However, this post is not going to cover Linux users (I once used Linux myself, Ubuntu, to be specific, and found it a highly capable platform for music making and production). However, if you do want to purchase a PC, you can easily load Linux onto your system.
Getting back to our topic...
Are you a Mac or a PC person?
How do you determine that?
Forget, for a second, which is really the best to use. Our experience is that this is mostly subjective.
A Mac is good for you if you fit at least two of these criteria:
- You're already familiar with its interface
- You want to increase the chances of being employable in the music industry as a studio engineer or producer
- Want to use Logic Pro X
- Have the budget for it
If the above choices don't apply to you, then your choice should be a PC.
That's about it. It sounds over-simplistic, but that's all there is to it.
There isn't any "better" or "worse". It's mostly aesthetics at this point, and brand commitment, because a lot of producers and musicians are using the Windows platform to make music. Mac is still very much the industry standard because it's built a reputation as a stable and reliable machine for creative and media professionals. But Windows can be just as stable and good. Some people have spent their entire professional lives within the walled garden of the MacIntosh computer framework. Their dedication to the brand is based on familiarity.
- If you are familiar with PCs, get a PC.
- If you're familiar with Macs, and it's within your budget to purchase one, get a Mac.
- If you're a Mac user and want to adopt PC for some reason, such as to use a PC only DAW like Cakewalk SONAR, get a PC.
- If you're a PC person and want to switch to a Mac, because you want to use Logic Pro X or Pro Tools, because Logic Pro X is an Apple product made for Apple, and Pro Tools was originally made for Apple, then get a Mac.
We spent an extra long time on this because it's a topic that often comes up. Many of us have been there there.
Now that we've covered that, we come to the topic of the form factor choice in buying a computer for music production. Particularly, a laptop computer.
Why choose a laptop?
Even if you are, or plan on being, a producer with a home recording studio running a dedicated music production desktop, a laptop is still going to be an essential tool for you.
A laptop, to a music producer or a musician, is his portable studio. You can record, mix, and compose anywhere. You can go to remote locations, capture recordings, ideas, and use it as your DJ laptop for events. If you're always on the move, you're not tied down to one location by a desktop computer.
Music Production Laptop Requirements
Here are are the main criteria you should look out for when choosing the best laptop for music production.
- Storage capacity
- Memory size
- Processing power
- Future proof
- OS version
- DVD RW drive
Now let's go over what are the criteria needed to fulfill each requirement.
Music Production Laptop Criteria
It is our opinion that you have a hard drive of at least 256 GB. 500 GB is suitable, and 1 TB is ideal. But realistically, shoot for 512 GB SSD (Solid State Drive). An SSD is has advantages in music production for more than one reason. Since SSDs are essentially flash memory, you won't have a lot of waiting time when loading up your sample libraries and pro audio plugins (a process that can take even minutes on typical hard drives). But also importantly, if you plan on using your laptop in live production, the bass vibration would prove disadvantageous to the mechanism of your hard drive.
The reason why we insist on a large hard drive is that, in the realm of recording audio or using samples in your productions and compositions, file sizes can become an issue. We'd rather not limit you on this. This is one area where it is good to start bigger than smaller.
However, if you do go with a smaller hard drive, it may be because you want an ultra portable laptop, with a powerful processor, that you can take around with you, and hook it up at home to your external storage when necessary. I've included these options for you in the overview.
This allows data to be stored and accessed quickly. If you're in a creative flow, you don't want to hear a lot of pops and glitches in your music. A decent amount of RAM will help you with that.
Our suggestion is 8 GB. 6 GB is OK. A lot of sources say 4 GB is recommended, but in our opinion and experience, that is base level and really unacceptable.
Processors are what allows your computer to handle multiple tasks at the same time. If you're doing simple home recording, a typical low price laptop should be able to handle that. But if you're recording several tracks for a basic mix, while having a few plug-ins running, you'll need a slightly more powerful processor.
Our suggestion for processors is the Intel i5 or i7 quad-core series. AMD A10 quad-cores are also sufficient.
Try to stay away from dual core processors. In music production, your laptop will need to be handling multiple tasks at once, often times each task is demanding in and of themselves. Eg., a mixing plugin is compressing your drums buss while your drums VST plugin is triggering samples stored on your drive. Both these tasks are demanding in and of themselves, so getting as many cores as possible is the ideal solution.
The recommendation here it to get 2 or more USB ports, an HDMI port, and a Thunderbolt port. Audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, control surfaces, and external HDs all use USBs and Thunderbolt ports, so the more you have the better.
Note: Thunderbolt is making the USB ports on laptops more and more obsolete. This is especially so where it comes to music production laptops. So getting a laptop that has Thunderbolt connectivity, and an audio interface that can support it, should be your priority.
Another port for hooking up a second monitor is a good option. For instance, you may need to score for a video game, a film/YouTube video, or a TV ad. Having an extra monitor allows you to see the video while tracking your music. These are either your VGA or HDMI ports.
This is related mostly to RAM and processor types. It's the reason why we recommend 8 GB RAM and a more powerful processor. Softwares are always advancing and becoming better, you want to make sure that your laptop will be able to handle newer version of OSs, DAWs, drivers, plugins, etc., as the time comes.
But another thing that will make your laptop "future proof" is the ever important Thunderbolt connection. More and more music production gear and coming with the super high speed connectors built in. It is becoming a standard now (kind of like FireWire was the standard not too long ago). So getting a laptop with Thunderbolt ports is definitely important.
You want one of the latest versions of the OS available, at the very least, the option to upgrade. Softwares for music making are updating to match the specifications of OSes in later to newest versions, this offers an overall better experience if you're not on an outdated machine.
DVD RW drive
Having a DVD/CD RW drive built into a laptop is becoming more and more antiquated these days. And there is good reason for that. Laptops with their own optical drives are not as good as dedicated optical drives. They can be prone to more errors and skips. But if it is important to you to have a laptop with its own optical drive, then that is something to keep in mind.
Budget and Cost
This is naturally one of your biggest considerations. You do not need to spend a ton of money on a laptop if you are planning on being a producer. It is quite possible to buy a laptop on the lower end of the 500-1000 dollar range and use it to produce excellent music, DJ, or record.
However, some readers will find that a higher budget laptop is preferable. And, it is, if you can afford it. But your plan is to find out how much you can budget for a laptop, considering the fact that you need a digital audio workstation, an audio interface, studio headphones, and a microphone as your bare essentials (read more on what home studio gear to get here).
How to setup laptop for music production?
Here are some general tips to take when setting up your laptop for music production.
- Turn off automatic updates: As you can image, an automatic update going on while you’re in the middle of a recording session can tremendously affect the quality of your work. Since updates take up precious CPU resources. But more importantly, drivers and important background processes relevant to running your DAW and might be interrupted. It’s best to have manual control of the updates yourself.
- Turn off Bluetooth and internet: Wireless connections like Bluetooth and internet can impede the performance of your system. Many sources say it’s a good idea to turn this off. I say use your discretion. In my case, it never did much in getting in the way. But if you feel it is an issue, turn them off while you’re working on your music.
- Turn off all system sound: This should probably be the first item on the list. Naturally, system sounds can interfere with your music. Better have them off.
- Don’t allow your main storage drive to go to sleep: If left inactive, your storage drive (HDD) can go to sleep. This is naturally to save power. But in doing so you lose valuable resources during long recording sessions.
- Don’t allow your screen to go to sleep: This is actually optional. If you do a lot of long recording sessions away from your laptop, you will need your screen always on.
- Schedule your updates for efficiency: pick ideal times for backups to happen, perhaps during hours you know you’re not going to produce any music.
How to optimize your laptop for music production?
Luckily for Mac users, there is very little to be done in the way of computer optimization. However, see this post on how to optimize you Windows computer for music production.
How to upgrade laptop for music production?
Here are some good suggestions on how to upgrade your laptop:
- Update your drivers. Makes sure all your drivers are up to date and functioning properly. Drivers are those mysterious bits of software that allow your computer to communicate with the hardware components it comes with. This is primarily important on Windows. Especially, take a look at the display drivers and USB/Thunderbolt drivers to make sure they are running well.
- Switch your laptop’s Hard Drive Disk to Solid State Drive. Solid state drives don’t have any load time, compared to disks, as they have no mechanical parts. This will speed up your laptop if you’re suffering from slow load times. It also prevents the mechanism of your laptop’s hard drive from being damaged from heavy bass vibrations when you’re doing live performances.
- Install additional RAM. This gives your laptop more ability to store temporary files for quick access and faster loads.
- Install a 64-bit OS and software. Since you have more RAM and storage, you can upgrade to 64-bit. This has become the standard now, as 64-bit software can handle more RAM and is generally faster and more efficient than 32-bit software.
- If your laptop allows it, get a faster CPU. This is the engine, the heart, of your laptop’s entire operation. Getting a new, faster CPU will certainly help make things move more smoothly.
How much RAM do you need to produce music?
The short answer to this question is “How much can you afford?” Experienced music producers will always tell you to get as much RAM as you can afford. Most decent sample libraries these days come with gigabyte upon gigabyte of data, and you will want the ability to load as much of it into memory as possible.
Many software synths and samplers do offer “stream from disk” options, which may offset some of the disadvantages of insufficient memory. But there is a tradeoff to this workaround, and you may experience lags, dropouts, stuttering, and other anomalies as a result.
Having at least 8GB of RAM is highly recommended. You will likely want to bump that up to 16GB, especially if you work with large orchestral libraries and the like.
In any case, you should definitely look into aftermarket memory options. In some cases, this could be a more cost-effective option than having your base unit fitted with additional memory upon purchase.
How to connect studio monitors to laptop?
To connect studio monitors to a laptop, you need an audio interface. This will connect to your laptop via USB or Thunderbolt, providing high-resolution audio and an output designed for studio monitors.
How to set up home recording studio with laptop?
It is possible to setup a home studio with a laptop. All you need is an audio interface, a microphone (with option pop filter and reflection filter) a pair of headphones and/or studio monitors, and some soft acoustic foam, starting with bass traps.
How to record vocals on your laptop?
Similar to how to connect studio monitors to a laptop, you will need a vocal mic and an audio interface. Alternatively, you can use a USB mic to capture vocals directly to your computer without using an interface.
Is a gaming laptop good for music production?
Gaming laptops often have specs that meet and even surpass that of the basic laptop for music production. So a gaming laptop is certainly good for producing music on.
Is a laptop or desktop better for music production?
Technically, a desktop is better for music production because you can get higher specs for the price, and the components are normally easier to upgrade in the future.
Read this guide for music production desktops.
However, many people are turning to laptops because you can still get professional studio results (many top modern hits are produced, even mixed and mastered, on laptops). Laptops offer also the benefit of portability that desktops don’t have. So it is up to you to decide which is better for you.
Can you make music on any laptop?
Again, there is a short answer to this question and a long one. Computer technology has advanced to such a degree that most consumer laptops are quite capable of performing most any task…even processor-intensive music production and recording. So yes, you could theoretically make music on any laptop.
That being said, a machine with a fast and modern processor, plenty of RAM, and a couple of fast hard drives will give you better performance than an off-the-shelf model you could pick up at Best Buy. With a decently spec’d machine, you will be able to load up more synths, load up bigger sample libraries, pile on more effects, and so on.
In general, a powerful machine will enhance your efficiency and make recording and music production more rewarding. You may have to pay more at the outset, but the speed and performance benefits will ultimately make it worth the cost.
What kind of laptop is best for music production?
The main types of laptops are: Netbooks, Everyday Laptops, Desktop Replacement, Business laptops, and Entertainment laptops.
All things being equal, the best laptops for music production are desktop replacements. These normally have screens between 15 in to 17 inches, with powerful components.
After that, entertainment laptops offer a great storage capacity to hold all your media and audio files, and business laptops will have powerful processors to manage all the apps and office suites they were designed to run, which, consequently is of benefit to the music producer’s software.
Everyday Laptops are generally great budget alternatives that don’t have any special specs. Netbooks are generally not the best options, since they will lack in virtually all the necessary specs needed to produce music satisfactorily.
This guide will be updated regularly to ensure that whatever decision you make will be the correct one.
Hopefully, by utilizing the information and products on this post, you would've found the best music machine for your music production and home studio. Following the criteria listed near the beginning of this post, you should be able to guide your way to acquiring your perfect music machine. Any of the items listed on this list will be a suitable choice, handpicked to follow the same criteria we use when choosing a laptop.
If you have any difficulties, questions, or comments, please feel free to leave a comment.
Otherwise, share this post with your friends or with someone you think will find this information valuable.
How we came to these results
Writing this guide was the result of many hours and over a week of researching online what are really the best music production laptops out there. Our source was mainly the laptops available on Amazon, personal experiences, as well as feedback from readers on this site. The products were compiled of the best rated and most popular laptops, and used some personal experience where applicable. We also read through a compilation of user reviews, product reviews, and organized and categorized the best laptops for music production based on their price point to specifications ratio. The result is a list of awesome laptops for music production, across the budget, for advanced users to beginners.