If you’re a music producer on the go, a laptop is the perfect tool to take your studio with you wherever you roam. In this guide, we’ll explore the top laptops for music production. Whether you prefer MacOS or Windows, and no matter your budget, you’ll find the creative tools you need to make your next killer mixtape or album.
MacOS vs. Windows
For many years, Apple has been the go-to choice for professional creatives, including musicians and music producers. Apple’s first-party creative applications, such as Logic Pro X and GarageBand, have played a significant role in democratizing music-making.
Logic Pro X is a top-tier Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that costs a flat fee of $200. With regular updates and no need for an external interface, it’s the preferred choice for many music producers. Additionally, all the major DAWs support MacOS, so whether you use Pro Tools or Ableton Live, you’ll find compatibility. Moreover, Apple’s reputation in this field means that certain audio interfaces, like the Apogee Duet 2, are exclusively designed for Apple devices.
However, don’t let the appeal of a MacBook on-stage distract you. Remember, this computer will also serve as your everyday device for work and other tasks. If using MacOS for your daily computing needs doesn’t sit well with you, fear not. There are plenty of Windows 10 options to consider.
Our advice? If you’re in the market for a music production laptop, take a close look at Apple’s current MacBook lineup (and consider your budget). Then, explore the available Windows 10 alternatives.
Our Pick: MacBook Pro (15-inch with Touch Bar)
Let’s start by getting two laptops off the table: the MacBook Air and the 12-inch MacBook. While the latter might work for dipping your toe into music production, serious music producers need more power to handle multiple tracks and plugins. Therefore, focus on the specifics of the MacBook Pro models.
We understand that the 15-inch MacBook Pro released in late 2016 is pricey at $2,400. However, it truly is the best laptop for music production. When you’re running a session with numerous tracks and active plugins, you’ll want maximum processing power and RAM. The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a convenient 512GB SSD memory. Rest assured, this powerhouse won’t freeze up in the middle of an epic guitar solo.
Best Windows 10 Option: Surface Book 2
The Surface Book 2 may not grant you access to Logic Pro X, but it excels in almost every other music production scenario. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch models feature the new 8th-gen. quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. These specifications provide the performance you need to handle large-scale audio recording sessions. We recommend the 13-inch model, starting at a more affordable $1,500.
Like the MacBook Pro, the Surface Book 2 is portable, and its available ports (2 USB-A, 1 USB-C, and an SD card slot) are compatible with most audio interfaces. While the 2-in-1 aspect may not enhance your music production experience, the detachable screen can be a handy addition for leisure activities when you’re not using Pro Tools.
Best Budget Laptop for Music Production: MacBook Pro 13 or Asus Zenbook UX330UA
When assembling your mobile music workstation, you’ll likely have other expenses besides the laptop itself. However, we recommend not compromising on essentials such as a dual-core processor and at least 8GB of RAM.
If you prefer MacOS, consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar), starting at $1,300. This model strikes a fantastic balance between power, affordability, design, and portability. You won’t miss the Touch Bar; in fact, you’ll appreciate having easier access to physical volume keys and the Esc key.
On the Windows side, we recommend the Asus Zenbook UX330UA. Although it may not look or feel as premium as other laptops, its value for money is unparalleled. The 2017 version boasts an 8th-gen Intel i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, the same specifications found in the pricier 13-inch MacBook Pro. While it may not match the raw power of the Surface Book 2 or MacBook Pro 15-inch, it’s an excellent choice for those on a tighter budget.
Best Laptop for Live Performance: Surface Pro
When performing live, DJs and synth players often rely on analog stations for the tactile feel of controlling an instrument. However, touchscreens are becoming an increasingly viable option for recreating that experience more effectively than a trackpad and keyboard. In this context, the Surface Pro shines as the most versatile computer to have on stage with you.
For running tracks out of Ableton Live or MainStage, we recommend opting for the Core i5 model (starting at $1,000 without the Surface Pen). While you won’t have access to Apple-specific hardware or software, the Surface Pro’s leaned-back kickstand makes it a fantastic tool for live performances. Although it may not be ideal for the studio, it’s an excellent companion for playing tracks on stage.
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