Best laptops for audio production
Audio production using programs like Ableton Live and FL Studio can be a heavy task for computers. If you do light audio production with only a few tracks any modern laptop would probably do. However, for heavier audio production with many tracks you will need a more powerful computer. Here are some important things to look for in an audio production laptop (if you are more interested in specific laptop suggestions you can jump right to the recommendations further down this page).
The processor (or CPU) is the most important component for audio production. Since you can’t really upgrade the processor on laptops, you need to get a laptop with a sufficiently fast CPU. Applications like FL Studio have a good support for multi core CPUs. However, some operations are single threaded, so you need a CPU that has both a good single thread and multi-thread performance. In practice, you could look at quad core CPUs and choose the one with the fastest single thread performance. The newer 8th gen U series CPUs, for example the i7-8550U, are quad core CPUs. They would be decent options. However, for the very best performance, make sure you get a laptop CPU that ends in HQ, like the i7-7700HQ. They are normally the best choice for music production in laptops.
The graphics card (or GPU) is rarely used for music production other than rendering the user interface. Because of that, integrated graphics should generally be more than enough. However, laptops with powerful quad core CPUs tend to come with fairly good dedicated GPUs as well. This does not hurt (especially if you plan on doing some gaming as well), but there is no need to spend extra on a really powerful GPU (e.g. a GTX 1070) for music production.
While memory (or RAM) doesn't really improve speed, it is important to get sufficient RAM for music production. If you don’t have enough RAM, they system will start swapping to disk, which will make the computer very slow. However, once you have sufficient RAM, adding more will not really speed up the laptop. It makes sense to get at least 8 GB of RAM for audio production. 16 GB would be even better, especially if you use lots of samples and orchestral simulators.
When it comes to storage there are two factors to consider: speed and capacity. Most laptops either come with a hard drive (HDD) or a solid state drive (SSD). SSDs are faster than HDDs, so they are generally preferred in laptops. They are also quieter than HDDs, which is an important aspect for music production. However, SSDs also tend to be smaller than HDDs, so you have to get a drive with sufficent capacity for your files. How much you need depends on your projects. Generally, you will probably need at least 256 GB.
There are two main types of SSDs: NVMe and SATA. NVMe SSDs are faster in benchmarks, but for most applications the difference is not that significant in practice. It is more important to ensure that you do have an SSD (because they are much faster than HDDs) than the type of SSD you get.
Audio production is often not that disk intensive (it is more about CPU), so you can probably use an HDD if you want to get more storage at a lower price. Also, it is often possible to upgrade laptops with an SSD later on if you prefer that. However, if you rely on streaming samples it could make sense to get an SSD right away for a better performance. Also, higher end laptops tend to come with SSDs pre-configured, which certainly does not hurt.
Laptops usually either have a TN or an IPS display. Generally, IPS screens have a higher color accuracy and wider viewing angles. While this is not essential for music production, it still makes sense to get a good screen, especially if you use the laptop for hours in a row.
Laptop recommendations for audio production
1. Budget laptop for audio production
The Acer Aspire E 15 is our favorite budget laptop for audio production. It comes with an 8th gen quad core CPU and 8 GB of RAM, which is quite good at this price point (you can upgrade it to 16 GB later on if required). It also has an IPS screen for wider viewing angles and better colors. The base configuration is 256 GB SSD, which should provide more than sufficient speed for audio production. You can add an HDD later on if you need more storage. This laptop also has a good cooling system and a long battery life.
2. High performance laptop for audio production
The Eluktronics N850HJ Pro-X is our top pick if you want a high performance audio production laptop at a reasonable price. It comes with the latest generation i7-7700HQ CPU, which is possibly the best CPU you can get at this price point. The 16 GB of RAM should be more than enough for larger projects. It also has a 256 GB NVMe SSD that should provide excellent speed for streaming samples and heavy audio production operations. Finally, this laptop also has a good build quality, a great IPS screen and a good cooling system.
3. High performance and very portable laptop for audio production with a great battery life
If you travel with the laptop on a daily basis you may want something more portable than the Eluktronics above. In that case the Gigabyte Aero 14 would be a great option. It has the same CPU and RAM, so audio production performance should be about the same. However, it is significantly more portable with a 14" screen and only 4 lbs. It also has a huge 94 Wh battery for "Full-Day Productivity" (seems you get around 8 hours of battery life in practice).
4. High performance for audio production with a 4k screen
The XPS 15 has the same CPU as the Eluktronics and the Aero 14 above. However, it comes with a true 4k screen, which is one one of the best screens you can find in laptops today. This laptop also has a very good build quality (aluminum case) and a good battery life.
5. High performance MacBook for audio production
If you prefer a MacBook, the Apple MacBook Pro with a quad core i7 CPU also has a good performance for music production. It has a "Retina" 2880 x 1800, which is a good display with a high color accuracy. This MacBook is very durable and it has a long battery life.
6. Extreme performance laptop for audio production
If you want the very best audio production performance in a laptop, you may want to look at the PROSTAR Clevo P750TM1-G. It has a desktop grade i7-8700K six-core CPU, which is almost twice as fast as typical high performance laptop CPUs for multi-threaded workloads. It also comes with 64 GB RAM, which is probably overkill for most audio production applications, but could be useful in some extreme scenarios. It has a 1 TB NVMe SSD for speed and a 1 TB HDD for additional storage. This is basically a powerful desktop in a laptop format.