So you want to get serious about music production or podcasting? You’ll need a good computer that can handle everything you throw at it.
There is a good chance you’ll have lots of programs and tabs open at the same time and you will need the ability to add at least 1 extra screen (many people use 2 or 3). These usage requirements use a lot of RAM and graphic power, respectively. A fast CPU will allow you to get your mixes into a single file much quicker, among many other benefits.
We’re just going to focus on the best laptops music production. There are many more options for desktop and all-in-one computers that work well for music and podcast recording, but the flexibility and portability of a laptop makes it a must-have.
The other big thing to consider is Apple vs Windows (Mac vs PC). This choice usually comes down to what software you are going to use and what you are used to using. Personally, I’m an Apple fan, but I started with Windows – and I use both of them daily. The Mac operating system is usually more stable, which can be critical when recording, although there are tons of big name producers who swear by both systems.
If you want to use Logic Pro, it’s made by Apple and only works their computers. If you want to use GarageBand (a great choice for podcast production), it’s included free with Apple computers. Avid Pro Tools is another very popular industry leading software that works on both systems.
Many of these popular tools have minimum requirements and recommended requirements. Performance will be much better if you get a laptop with at least the recommended requirements so I’m just going to recommend music production laptops that meet or exceed the recommended specs.
You usually will have a much longer lifespan if you get a computer toward the higher end of the spec list because it won’t be outdated as quickly, which means over time it will actually cost you less. Just something to consider.
Let’s start my favorite laptop from Apple:
Apple Macbook Pro
There’s a 13″ and a 15″ model (well, 13.3″ and 15.4″ to be exact). If you’re working on a plane a lot the 13-inch option is perfect, but that’s not most people. I would recommend getting the latest 15″ Macbook Pro with Touchbar.
With 16GB of RAM, a 2.6GHz quad-core Intel i7 processor and a 256GB (or 512GB) solid state hard drive you’ll be set for years. As of mid-2017, this is the best MacBook Pro for music production. I would stick with the 256GB SSD and expand with an external hard drive later as needed unless you know you’ll need the extra space.
It comes with 4 USB-C ports so you will need to get adapters or a dock. USB Type-C is a different port from traditional USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports.
Stay away from regular Macbooks (the non “Pro” models). They basically use a similar processor to a phone, meaning they’re designed for battery life over speed.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Microsoft has come a long way their Surface Pro line. They offer a few great configurations that would work well for music production. I recommend the Surface Pro 4 with an Intel i7, 16GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. If you want to stay under $1,000, the Intel Core i5 with 8GB RAM is an excellent lower-budget option. It comes with a MicroSD slot too.
The screen size on these is 12.3″ which can a little small, but most people get an external monitor or 2 anyway. Just know that these don’t come with a keyboard – and you’ll likely need to get the Microsoft Surface Dock to give you more ports.
‘ROG’ stands for Republic of Gamers and is the gaming line of products from Asus. This means these computers are great for nearly any performance intensive task.
Into gaming? Check out the best gaming microphones.
Both of these laptops come with a ton of ports so you won’t need to spend extra on accessories just to plug your mixers or USB microphones into them. They both also come with a combo 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD so you get the benefit of a really fast solid state drive combined with the capacity of a traditional spinning hard drive.
I’m recommending the 15″ models as that gives you a nice balance of screen real estate and portability for a laptop.
Asus ROG Strix GL553VE
I know this is a “gaming” laptop, but that just means it’s fast and will work great. The Asus ROG Strix GL553VE is the perfect laptop for your music recording and mixing needs. It comes with a NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti graphics card, Intel i7 and 16GB RAM.
Comes with 1x USB 2.0 Port, 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x USB-C port.
Asus ROG Strix GL502VS-DB71
The ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS-DB71 is similar to above but uses an upgraded NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics card. Many software programs make use of the graphic card, which frees up the CPU to do its thing. Also, when you start plugging in 2 or 3 external monitors, you’ll definitely need the extra GPU power.
This version also includes improved cooling, which can keep your computer quieter. This is great as you don’t want to be picking up fan noise when recording.
Comes with 3x USB 3.0 ports and 1x USB Type-C port.
PCAudioLabs specializes in computer equipment for audio production. Their ROK BOX MC Mobile Series line of pro audio laptops lets you custom build a laptop that will fit your needs and budget.
There are many great choices for music production laptops. I would suggest getting the best computer you can for your budget, but try to stay away from “cheap” options – and definitely avoid Chromebooks. You will just run into limitations and issues that take the fun out of your hobby or profession!
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if I’m missing anything.