Last Updated on March 3, 2021 by IDS Team
If you’re here then you are looking for music production laptops, either to replace your old one or to get into music making in 2021. Back in the day the music was composed, created, and produced in specialised music studios full of heavy analog equipment. Now you can take the studio with you to the beach, the mountains and even to a family dinner.
Nowadays, we are not so limited and we can do a great job on our laptops. There are several digital audio workstations available that can help with music production on your laptop or desktop pc.
However, not all laptops have what it takes for a serious music production. Buying a proper laptop for this purpose can be a bit difficult because all of the choices you have today. The laptop required for this kind of job must meet some requirements, as we will elaborate.
Editor’s note: This list of BEST laptops for music production is constantly updated to reflect the actual market, so make sure you bookmark this article for future reference.
Music production laptop specifications
The most important factors for every laptop for music production are the CPU power as well as the amount of RAM that you have at your disposal. The, it is followed by type and speed of storage but since today everything is running on SSD technology, we will not get into this discussion and consider all laptop storage technology equal.
Then, the third thing you want would be very good battery life if you are on the road or on planes a lot.
The i7 processor seems to be the industry standard CPU, though the exact model varies as do the overclocking possibilities. For portability you can get on very well with an i5, only it will not hold that many channels (still sufficient for regular use). AMD has developed a very good processor lineup named Ryzen which on desktop outperform Intel’s products by a long shot, and they are now getting into the laptop market as well. Thus, we have included a Ryzen powered laptop on our list.
For now we do not recommend the new M1 Apple laptops for music production, it is still early technology that will most likely be improved vastly in the next years.
If you want a good explanation on Apple M1 chips, here is a nice video. We are not saying that the technology is not good, we are just advising you to wait and get a later generation that will have less issues and more stability and performance. Also, a good note to add is that the compatibility right now is better than expected, as the below video shows, it’s just that you should not rush and buy the first generation of new tech products as a general rule, but wait a bit and get a more mature iteration. If you do, however, make sure you check each plugin that you use for compatibility with the M1. Also, be prepared for some update problems in the future as it is common for first generations to have issues down the line due to faulty software updates.
Last but not least, good speakers are always nice to have for emergency situations, as well as a nice sounding headphone output.
Don’t forget about the software that will run on your music production laptop, so make sure you check out our list of BEST VST Synths.
To make your life easier, we surveyed our team and community to come up with the very best laptop for music production in 2021. For a summarized table, check the one below.
Also, please note that while this music production laptop comparison is of course accurate for 2021, we have kept products from 2019 and 2020 because their price has decreased a lot and the performance is still top notch for current music production needs.
Note: if you are on a mobile device, scroll left and right in the table to see all the entries, and up and down in the cells to see all the content.
|Apple Macbook Pro 16″
||8-Core Intel Core i9 Processor||32 GB|
|ASUS ZenBook Pro UX534FTC
||Intel Core i7-10510U||16 GB|
|HP Envy X360 2 in 1
||AMD Ryzen 7 4700U||16 GB|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop||Intel Core i5-1035G7||8 GB|
|ASUS ROG GU502GW-AH76
||Intel Core i7-9750H||16 GB|
|Apple Macbook Pro 15″
||4-Core Intel Core i7 Processor||16GB|
|Dell XPS 13 7390
||Intel Core i7-10710u||16GB|
As you can see, we have a very neat selection and have defined not one but three winners, based on each user. It would be unwise to recommend a 2500+ USD laptop to a student, so we have split the price-sensible offering into a Value winner (bang per buck) and a Budget one (best cheapest one). The all-rounder cannot be something other than a Macbook, and while it saddens us to see the Windows offering a bit lagging behind, things have gotten better in recent years and we can fully recommend a Windows machine is the price is a deciding factor.
A very important note here: we recommend Apple laptops not because of the hardware, because it is on par with Windows devices, but because of the drivers.
Apple audio software drivers (CoreAudio) are still the best ones for Audio Production. The latency, broad compatibility and ease of use (basically plug and play) cannot be equaled by what can be done with the Windows operating system.
Another advantage, minor but existing, is the native MIDI support of MacOS, which is much more simpler to manage, filter out and route than using 3rd party software on Windows (very poor native MIDI).
If you also want to record vocals, we have an interesting articles on microphone arms – tested and reviewed.
Best Overall Music Production Laptop: Apple Macbook Pro 16″ review
|Apple MacBook Pro 16″ 2019|
Price Range: 2000-3000 USD
Processor Core Count: 8 Core Processor
RAM: 32 GB
Storage Size: 1TB
Connectivity: Very Bad
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This one was very simple, everybody everwhere would agree that in 2021 you are still better of with an Apple Device. This particular Macbook Pro is, above all, future proof. You will be covered for at least 5 years with this device, and if you take care of your laptop, you will be celebrating 2030 with it for sure. 32 GB of RAM is very useful if you are doing orchestral music or working with a lot of sample-based instruments and material. The 8 core processor is quite uncommon in a laptop, but it will guarantee the lowest latency even when working with 192 kHz sample rates that truly capture your outboard gear and hardware synthesizers.
The processor is top notch with a whopping set of 8 cores. You can take this baby out and record a full orchestral performance of more than 100 different instruments all at once, it will take them. If you want to use it for electronic music, it will handle all VST Synths with ease, no matter how many voices of polyphony use want to use. Some synths allow up to 128 voices, and the results are VERY interesting, if your processor allows it of course. You insist to work with VST processing set to High Quality or Oversampling? No problemo, go ahead, this laptop can simply do everything and all at once.
The build quality is truly unique. There is no other product that looks and feels so good, while on the other hand can take a beating on tour and still look and work great. No wonder all travelling musicians and DJs travel with a MacBook Pro. I’ve never ever seen one with a broken hinge, with cracks in the case (which is smooth aluminium) or manifesting discolouration due to the sun like the plastic devices do.
The screen is the best in its class, not only due to the very high resolution but also due to it’s natural color reproduction. Yes it creates a lot of glare and is prone to fingerprints, indeed all MacBooks are like this, but this is only because there is a layer of very resistant glass on top, and resistant glass always does that.
Oh.. Apple, the company we love to hate. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, stability is preferred instead of innovation. Yes, connectivity is (at first glance) rather limited. But we still buy it because it is by far the best operating system, which has excellent drivers and compatibility for your gear. You buy a MacBook Pro if you need very low audio latency, excellent MIDI and Audio Routing, better than average battery life and stellar build quality.
This Apple device has two native Thunderbolt 3, and we recommend you use them both, one for your native Thunderbolt 3 sound card (or other sound card with an adapter) and one for a Thunderbolt 3 Dongle.
For connectivity we recommend this Thunderbolt dongle, so you can have a single connection from gear to laptop, including power:
Never connect your sound card to the music production laptop via Dongle because it will impact your latency no matter what specs your laptop are. Always go for a direct connection.
Best Value Music Production Laptop: ASUS ZenBook Pro UX534FTC review
|ASUS ZenBook Pro UX534FTC 2019|
Price Range: 1500-2000 USD
Processor Core Count: 4 Core Processor
RAM: 16 GB
Storage Size: 1TB
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ASUS is a well-known company and when you are looking into their laptop you simply have to have high expectation. Needless to say, this particular model effortlessly meets those high expectations.
We want to point out now that Value does not mean the cheapest, which this laptop is not. Value means how much laptop and how many features you get for the money invested.
ZenBook is probably the ultimate solution for those of you who are looking for an excellent and highly portable laptop for music production as well as DJing. This ASUS ZenBook comes with a very nice 4K display and the CPU is a quad-core i7-10510U.
When it comes to RAM, you have 16 GB of RAM at your disposal. This laptop also features an SSD and all of these components make it an ideal machine for music production.
The secondary display is just astonishing and can be very well used for music production as well as DJing and live performances.
The laptop has a powerful GTX 1050 graphics card that is able to run some of the latest popular video games, making it ideal for gaming as well.
ASUS laptops are known for their build quality and reliability, and this model is no exception.
As you know, one of the most important factors you need to take into consideration when purchasing a music production laptop is that it doesn’t freeze or crash while you work.
Well, with the ZenBook’s CPU power and RAM, you have more than enough for any production task.
In order to make this machine crash, you would need to load 40+ effects and VSTS into one single project. This is an absurd amount of VSTS and effects and no one does that.
Best Budget Music Production Laptop: HP Envy X360 2 in 1 review
Being on a strict budget in 2021 seems like fun. It is totally not like it was back in the day when you had to sacrifice everything but the bare minimum. Right now, technology has gone so far that even the entry level offering is compelling in some way. Here is the winner, 2021’s best budget music production laptop:
|HP Envy X360 2in1|
Price Range: 500-1000 USD
Processor Core Count: 8 Core Processor
RAM: 16 GB
Storage Size: 512GB
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To be honest, recommending a convertible laptop in 2021 seems right. Not to mention that the processor is not Intel, but AMD.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, AMD have come a very very long way and have eaten quite a big share of Intel’s market share. This is only because their new processor line, Ryzen, now reaching it’s fourth iteration, works very well.
We can clearly say that for muticore tasks (all current DAW versions have adequate multicore support) AMD is at least on par with Intel.
What is very very good about AMD is the price point, because as you can see, only the top choice of this article (a laptop that is 3x more expensive that this HP) has an eight core processor. Sure, the single-core performance is not the same, but for regular 12-15 track projects you are better of with a cheap cpu that has as many cores as possible. We can say for sure is that you don’t necessarily need an Intel CPU for your machine to be one of the best music production laptops.
The 2-in-1 aspect is by no means a gimmick. Modern musicians love to work on the road, in the train or airplane so having a very comfortable and, should we say inspiring mobile setup can be important.
This laptop has a touch screen which, being released in 2020, is of course multi touch. Multi touch is a very important thing, because with a mouse you will never be able to control more than one parameter/knob. But now with multitouch, you can actually use both hands to control two parameters. So don’t consider yourself poor, consider yourself lucky!
Best “Portable” Music production laptop: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 review
Sure, all laptops are portable. But some laptops are more portable than others. Microsoft have had a good run with their Surface devices. As portability dictates, this machine is one of the best music production laptops. Surface devices are premium devices. Unfortunately you have to sacrifice connectivity and raw processing power to get portable but still, if this is your thing, we have a recommendation for you.
|Microsoft Surface Laptop 3|
Price Range: 500-1000 USD
Processor Core Count: 4 Core Processor
RAM: 8 GB
Storage Size: 128GB
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We cannot hide this from you, you are sacrificing performance. You are sacrificing storage space. You are sacrificing battery life. But you get a very thin and light laptop that you don’t really feel in your bag or luggage. If you are using it mostly to store hardware presets (thinking of digital front of house mixers) or to use digital interfaces to hardware (DANTE/MADI soundcards with 96 channels) then you really don’t need the performance. If you mostly record on the road or if you just want a portable studio and are ready to take the hit, go for this music production laptop.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is indeed pretty, sure, it looks a lot like the MacBook. The build quality is very good.
The downsides, and there are many, yes, are in performance. The processor is still four core so good, but lower in performance compared to the i7s. Ram is somewhat limited to 8GB, so you will not be able to do everything you want with samples on this machine. But the worst limitation, in our oppinion, is the connectivity and the storage. At 128GB, you will have less than 100GB realistically for all your files.
Unortunately, there is a no SD card slot so you have to rely on an external SSD drive for your studio media, sample library and such.
We recommend this external SSD. Don’t go for an old-school mechanical hard drive because it is much slower than the USB port and will bottleneck your setup.
ASUS ROG GU502GW-AH76 Music Production Laptop Review
The ASUS ROG (Republic Of Gamers) product line is simply amazing and this particular model is one of our all-time favorite laptops. It blows away all of our expectations when it comes to performance, build quality and design. The design is out of this world and it’s probably one of the most well made laptops currently on the market.
If we have to put our finger on one thing we like the most it would be the amazing desktop-like configuration. Of course this is expected because ROG stands for Republic of Gamers, and gamers demand performance. The laptop features an overclocked Intel i7-9750H CPU, RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics card, 512GB SSD, and an amazing 17” screen.
When it comes to battery life, the ASUS ROG GU502GW-AH76 is an under performer, lasting only 6 hours, according to the manufacturer. I guess there is no such thing as a free lunch in the world of laptop music production and at this price and with these specs, you can hardly expect the battery to last 10+ hours
As you can see, this is one of the best music production laptops and it can mirror a performance of the high-end desktop gaming computers. You could argue that the Intel i7-9750H CPU is a bit of overkill for music production, but is there really such a thing as too much CPU? You will never get any CPU spikes, crashes, or lags while working on your music production tasks, that we can guarantee.
Yes, this laptop is labeled as a gaming laptop, but it can handle any music production task you throw at it. This machine is made to do anything from 4k gaming to graphic design and intense music production. If your budget is high enough, you will absolutely love this laptop.
To put things in perspective, the company behind FL studio states that any machine that scores above 9000 in the cpubenchmark.net is a strong machine. Well, this laptop scores 11774. With this configuration, you can be sure that it will run smoothly and quietly. It’s made for serious gaming so the music production is nothing for this beast. You can push it to the limit and it will never struggle.
This flawless performance is attributed to its powerful CPU and the 16 GB of RAM and the 512 GB SSD are there just to seal the deal and make this machine one of the fastest and smoothest laptops on the market.
Apple 15” MacBook Pro Music Production Laptop Review
This is one of the older Apple Macbook offerings, older than our all-round winner (the 16″ MacBook Pro). Still this one packs a punch, with an 2.9GHz quad-core Intel i7, that can be turbo-boosted up to 3.9GHz. This is more than enough CPU power for almost any music production task.
When it comes to RAM, you can freely say that 16 GB of 2133 MHz RAM is quite enough. With this amount of RAM at your disposal, you will have almost zero crashes even if you use a lot of effects and VSTS.
To be completely honest, Apple products are usually more expensive than its Windows-counterparts and this particular laptop is not an exception. With that being said, we simply must admit that the MacBooks are made to be perfect.
It features a 512 GB Solid State Drive that enables the smoothest and most reliable working experience when you work in your DAW. Almost every producer can tell you the same story about one time he produced an awesome track and he didn’t save it and then his DAW crashed unexpectedly. Well, it’s a slim chance that this will ever happen with a MacBook Pro.
The SSD instead of a normal hard drive was most definitely a good decision. The Solid State Drives are the fastest units you can find today and are way faster than a normal hard drive. The high-quality SSD in this laptop means it boots way faster than other laptops.This also means that your laptop will run much smoother and if you store your VSTS and samples on your SSD, they will load very fast, which is very helpful for music production.
The graphics card in this machine is the Radeon HD 560, which means that this laptop can also be used for some serious gaming or graphics editing. And with its nice 15 inch retina display, you can enjoy a high-end viewing experience and you can fit a few DAWs on your display at the same time.
Overall, this MacBook pro is one of the best music production laptops with a sleek design and it’s the perfect solution for music producers who work with Mac compatible software.
Dell XPS 13 7390 Music Production Laptop Review
Finally, we arrive at the Dell XPS 13.
Priced at arround 100$, this can be an entry level laptop. When it comes to performance, it ranks among the very best laptops for music production. It comes with an Intel i7-10710u which can be clocked to 4. 6 GHz which gets an 9980 score from cpubenchmarks. One of the main highlights of the XPS 13 is its battery life. According to pcmag, it can last almost 12 hours, taking the number 1 spot for batteries in this list.
When it comes to graphics, this model uses Intel UHD Graphics with Shared Graphics memory. It delivers fairly good graphics though some other models in this list will perform better in this department.
All in all, this laptop presents a great price/quality ratio. It’s one of the cheapest in the list and has the best battery and a great core processor.
The models we described above are the absolutely the best music production laptops for music production you can find. All of these offer a great power and reliability and are capable to handle any music production project.
Which one will you choose depends solely on your personal preferences as well as your budget. It mostly comes to what you actually want, because at the end of the day there is really no all-rounder laptop for both performance and portability, not to mention price.