The best laptop for music production is going to have all the tools you need and the power to run them whether you’re in the studio, on the road, or playing live in a venue.
You’ll need specific hardware to get the most out of your investment however, and your specific musical needs can mean you need to look for some rather different things when buying a new laptop. The best specs in the best laptops aren’t going to mean much if they aren’t the right specs or form factor for your need.
Apart from the best processors, which is going to be universally useful, system memory for managing all your audio tracks in professional sound engineering apps like ProTools and Adobe Audition is also essential, as is storage capacity if you’re on the go since raw audio files can be massive and you’ll be working with several of them at a time most likely.
You have plenty of options out there, though. This can make the process a bit more frustrating while shopping, but rest assured, we’ve looked through all the available options to find the best laptop for music production for every need, budget, and form factor preference to keep the music going as long as it needs to.
Our Top Picks for Best Laptop for Music Production 2021
Our picks for the best laptop for music production 2021
While we’re sad that the 15-inch MacBook Pro is no more, we’ve welcomed the MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) with open arms. As thin, light and sleek as ever, you wouldn’t think this was a 16-inch behemoth. Yet, you’re getting that extra real estate on that stunning display, as well as the latest and greatest components behind it. This is, without a doubt, the best laptop for DJs, as well as content creators, designers and other creative professionals. With amazing (and loud) speakers and a much, much better keyboard to boot, music production has never been this good.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
The Dell XPS 13 (2020) has been a regular in our best laptops list for years, and it also earns a well-deserved spot in our best laptops for DJs list. It keeps everything we’ve come to love from Dell’s flagship 13-incher, from the gorgeous and light design, to the powerful modern components that power it. However, it now rocks 10th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and a bezel-less ‘Infinity Edge’ display, which means the Dell XPS 13 (2020) is a brilliant performer, while remaining thin and light. There’s a wide range of customization options as well.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
If you think Razer laptops are only for gaming, then the new Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is here to prove you wrong. Razer takes its ever popular Razer Blade 15, fits it with even more impressive specs and turns it into one of the best mobile creative workstations has to offer. This powerhouse has been crafted for creative professionals and content creators, and is therefore ideal for musicians as well. You’ll be spending a lot of money to take this laptop home. But, make no mistake, it will be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make. That is, if you can afford it.
Read the full review: Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition
With the third version of the Surface Laptop 3, Microsoft has made its best laptop yet. While it’s not a huge leap over its predecessor, the Surface Laptop 3 does improve on almost every aspect. Best of all, with the 15-inch version you now get a choice of either Intel or AMD hardware. These are some of the most desirable laptops in the world that don’t have a logo of an apple on them, with a new aluminum body that gives it a premium feel, while protecting it from knocks and drops when you’re on the road.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Apple’s thinnest and lightest MacBook came back in 2020 with a vengeance. Not only did it fix a lot of the complaints with its predecessors – namely, that problematic keyboard is now gone, replaced by a drastically improved keyboard. But it also came with new and more powerful internal components, even more storage space options, and a lower price of entry – making it ideal for musicians and DJs who are only starting out. There are a couple of things we’d do better, like the muted screen and the average battery life, but this model of the MacBook Air is better than anything we’ve seen from the line to date.
Read the full review: MacBook Air (2020)
The newest iteration of the award-winning Microsoft Surface Pro line is a major improvement over the previous Surface Pro 7, which was still one of the best laptops for music production for those who wanted a more versatile iPad-style experience on a Windows device.
The Surface Pro 8 is even better in this regard, with a faster Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, better battery life thanks to Intel Evo certification, and upgraded RAM options to help keep your music production on track as your compositions get longer and more complex.
There is no more USB-A support though, so if you have any peripherals like Mics that use a USB-A, then you might have to get an adapter if you go with the Surface Pro 8.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 8
The Dell XPS line just keeps getting better every year, and 2019’s 15-inch model is no exception. The webcam, which is smaller than ever, is back in its rightful place, and that optional 4K touch display is as stunning as ever. Better yet, this boasts the more powerful 9th-generation processors as well as up to 64GB of memory, which makes it ideal for handling those demanding DAW applications. And with up to 2TB of storage, you’ll have enough space to store your music files in. Unfortunately, those speakers are bottom-facing, but you’re better off using your audiophile headphones or speakers anyway.
Whether you’re recording, editing, or mixing a new track, the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 UX582L is about as functional a creative workstation as you’re going to find anywhere, thanks to its dual-OLED touchscreen displays that let you keep your tools handy while freeing up your workspace to keep you focused on the task at hand.
While it doesn’t have the latest 11th-gen Intel Core processors, the Core i7 and Core i9 are plenty powerful for nearly any task you want to throw at it, whether that’s mixing live audio or recording a new session in a studio.
The battery life on this one isn’t the best by any means, so make sure you have access to a power outlet while you’re working on the go, or you might find the music stopping rather abruptly when you least expect it.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 (UX582L)
How to find the best laptop for music production
What does a music production laptop need?
There is definitely a difference between what a music production laptop needs and what specs will make the most difference in your music production.
Obviously, a graphics card is not that high up on the list, but you’re going to want the best processor you can get, specifically one with great single core performance. This tends to be the latest Intel Core processors, so the latest Core i7 and Core i9 processors will serve you well.
You’re also going to be loading up some heavy duty software and working with some rather large raw audio files, so RAM is going to be very important. The more the better, but anything less than 8GB simply won’t work at all and really the minimum you should aim for is 16GB RAM.
Storage will also come in handy, but if you need to save on cost, go for more RAM than more storage. You can always use an external SSD if you need to, but there’s no such thing as external working RAM.
Which laptop is best for music making?
The best laptop for music production is going to depend on what part of the process you specifically need to use it for. If you’re looking for something from initial audio recording to final mixing and publishing, than something like the MacBook Pro 16-inch is going to get you there.
But if you’re looking for some portable options for on the road recording and some light editing, the latest Dell XPS laptops will work nicely and thanks to excellent battery life can last long enough to get through a good sized recording session.
How we test the laptops in this guide
There are two primary target audiences for the best RTX 3070 laptops: gamers and creatives, and we take two similar approaches to testing them out for their respective audiences.
For the core internal hardware, we run standard tests that stress the CPU and GPU with any hardware controls set to balanced for a consistent baseline across the various laptop manufacturers, including GeekBench 5, CineBench, PCMark 10, 3DMark, and Blender.
We also measure the frame rate of some PC gaming benchmarks, like Total War: Three Kingdoms and Metro: Exodus, to see how well the CPU and GPU work together to quickly render complex 3D scenes, which is just as important for a creative workstation as it is for gaming.
For gaming laptops specifically, we also spend a lot of time gaming on them (strictly for work purposes, we swear), and getting a feel for the actual experience a potential buyer can expect from the laptop. In the case of the best Nvidia laptops, this also means testing game performance with and without Nvidia DLSS enabled.
For creative workstations, there are several other benchmarking tools that we use, including encoding a 4K video in Handbrake and applying different filters and effects in different Adobe apps like Photoshop and After Effects to simulate its intended real-world use.
We also measure a laptop’s battery life, since laptops are meant to be mobile devices to some degree, and if a laptop’s battery dies out after three or four hours away from an outlet, that’s an important thing to know, especially when even laptops running powerful hardware like a discrete Nvidia GPU are able to get seven or eight hours of battery life nowadays.
Finally, we compare all this with a laptop’s MSRP and judge whether the price matches its performance. There are some very powerful laptops out there with great performance, but if they cost twice what their only slightly less powerful competitor does, then we make sure to let you know that.