Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (2024)

By Simon Arblaster

Contributions from

Andy Jones, Chris Corfield, Matt McCracken

last updated

Our experts have rounded up and tested the finest options from Apple, Acer, Dell and more to help you make music whenever and wherever you like

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (1)

Jump To:

  • Our top picks
  • 1. Best overall
  • 2. Best budget
  • 3. Best Windows
  • 4. Best all-rounder
  • 5. Best portable
  • 6. Best 2-in-1
  • 7. Best Mac alternative
  • 8. Best slimline
  • 9. Best for gamers
  • FAQs
  • How we test

Laptops are fast becoming the go-to for the modern music producer. The ability to take them with you and mix on the go, as well as being part of mobile recording sessions makes them a much more flexible option. You can rock up to the studio, plug your machine into the existing setup, and have all your project files and plugins ready to rock, making the best laptops for music production a must-have for any producer or engineer.

There's a definite skew towards Apple machines when it comes to music production, and you'll often find iMacs or Mac Minis as part of permanent recording setups. This means buying a MacBook can help you more easily integrate with real-world studios if collaboration is high on your agenda. If you're going the Apple route, then it doesn't get much better than the MacBook Pro M3 16", which is an absolute powerhouse for music production.

That said, there are plenty of powerful Windows laptops available nowadays that are more than a match for the once-dominant Mac. They're typically cheaper as well, which means if you tend to work solo, or budget is a consideration, offerings from Asus, Samsung, and Dell will still do an excellent job on your latest production. Our top pick for a Windows machine is the Dell XPS 17, which has a stunning screen and superb performance.

At the bottom of this article, we've got an FAQs section that will answer any more questions you have, whether that's which processor to go for with your MacBook, or an attempt at answering the age-old Mac vs Windows debate.

Looking for a laptop bargain? Explore hand-picked savings on gear we rate and stay updated with this year's best Prime Day music deals.

Our top picks

Best overall

1. Apple MacBook Pro M3 16"

There is no doubting Apple's creative genius in music production, and this is the mobile machine on which to enjoy it to its fullest. The 16" MacBook Pro boasts the best battery life here, and is a Mac that will last years before you think you need an upgrade - not common in Apple circles.

Read more below

Best budget

2. Apple MacBook Air M2

Apple's latest Pros and Airs all feature the latest M3 chips, with only this model retaining the M2. But that doesn't mean it is found lacking in the music production department. At just 1.24kg and just 11.3mm deep, the Air M2 is still a beautiful and compact MacBook choice, and the cheapest portable way to get into Mac music making.

Read more below

Best Windows

3. Dell XPS 17 (9730)

The Dell XPS line has built up a strong reputation thanks to its sleek design, gorgeous screens, and powerful spec. They are billed as the ideal laptops for on-the-go creatives who don’t fancy signing up to the Apple walled garden, and the closest Windows alternative to an Apple MacBook Pro.

Read more below

All-rounder

4. Apple MacBook Pro M3 14"

Making use of the newest M3 chips, the 14” MacBook Pro model has enough in the way of processing power and cutting-edge performance to suit even the most demanding of creative professionals, making it the best all-rounder laptop for music production right now.

Read more below

Best portable

5. Apple MacBook Air M3

The Air M3 is available in two sizes: 13-inch and 15-inch. We much prefer the larger screen size for music making. We carried out several benchmark tests between the Air M2 and this all new M3, and found that in Ableton Live we got a 25% uplift in performance for the M3, rising to 30% in Logic.

Read more below

Best 2-in-1

6. Microsoft Surface Pro 9

For Windows fans, their range of crossover tablet-slash laptops is a powerful option when considering your next music production laptop. The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is an absolute beast of a machine, perfect for intensive music projects.

Read more below

Best Mac-alike

7. Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro


The Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro gets you a similar look and feel to an Apple MacBook but within the Windows world. Performance wise, it sits around or just above the same benchmarks as the MacBook Air 13" M2.

Read more below

Best slimline

8. Acer Swift X14

With the Swift X14, Acer has squeezed both a powerful CPU and GPU into a slim Ultrabook form and topped it off with a gorgeous OLED screen. And while it's not quite up there with a MacBook Pro 14" it is among the best Ultrabooks you can get.

Read more below

Best gaming

9. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

With the Razer Blade 15 Studio, however, we have a monstrously powerful laptop with its origins in the gaming world, but with its sights very much set on creative pursuits. It's more than powerful enough to handle CPU-intensive tasks with multiple plugins, and we absolutely love the clarity of the screen.

Read more below

Best overall

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (11)

1. Apple MacBook Pro M3 16"

The ultimate laptop for music production also has the ultimate price

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3 Pro or Max

Graphics: Apple M3 Pro or Max

RAM: 18GB - 128GB

Screen: 16.2" Liquid Retina XDR (3456x2234)

Storage: 512GB - 8TB

Ports: 3x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x HDMI, 1x SDXC card slot, 1x headphones

Battery: Up to 22 hours

Reasons to buy

+

The most powerful Mac laptop

+

Lovely big screen

+

A long-term MacBook choice

Reasons to avoid

-

Overkill for some

-

Gets super expensive, super quick

At a glance

Buy if you want the best of the best and money is no object: Max out one of these beasts and you'll certainly pay for it, but you'll also have the most capable, future-proofed machine on the planet.
Avoid if you want something more down to earth: There are much cheaper and still very capable Apple (and non-Apple) laptops out there.

If you really want to know what the best laptop is for music making in the world right now, you can probably guess it's packed with power, has the Apple logo emblazoned on the top, and costs the earth. We'll not get into the Mac v PC battle for laptop music production supremacy here - there are plenty that will argue both sides of the coin for you, and we have more in our buying advice at the end of this guide - but there is no doubting Apple's creative genius in music production. And this is the mobile machine on which to enjoy it to its fullest.

Design: The look and feel of the MacBook Pro M3 is simply sumptuous. Everything is put together beautifully, and many will be glad to see the lack of the dreaded Touch Bar. The aluminum unibody gives it a real feel of durability, and the slick looks are second to none.

There are plenty of ports available for connecting your audio interface and any other peripherals you have thanks to three Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, with a dedicated HDMI if you need to hook up to a larger screen, and an SDXC card slot should you need some additional storage.

Features: Both 16" Pro models offer a great music production experience with their large 16.2" displays - the biggest screens bar just one model in this round-up - but, really, you are looking at a big price difference, compared to other Macs here. The screen is fantastic though, and if you're working exclusively on the laptop screen then that extra real estate will come in handy on projects with lots of plugins.

Performance: The fully Maxed-out MacBook Pro, in this case with the all-new M3 Max processor, is probably - okay certainly - too much for many music tasks. We've rarely pushed our 24GB RAM Air, yet the Max brute starts at 48GB RAM! Similarly, you shouldn't really pay the extortionate extra cash for an 8TB storage option when a decent separate fast hard drive will bolster the 1TB base model for much less outlay.

You can get a cheaper 16" MacBook Pro option with the M3 Pro processor, which with a (approx) 20% price drop over the full-fat M3 Max is also a more sensible offering.

Battery life: Still, the 16" MacBook Pro boasts the best battery life here, with up to 22 hours. This stat is likely just for browsing, so for actual music-making tasks we imagine this number will be a little less than that. Reports suggest that you can still get a good 15-17 hours out of it even when doing more intensive tasks, which is pretty phenomenal performance all things considered.

To conclude, this is a Mac that will last years before you think you need an upgrade - not common in Apple circles - so if anyone is wondering what to buy us for Christmas, we could easily fill that 8TB and 128GB of RAM if you pushed us… So, go on then.

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeUp to 22 hours★★★★★
PerformanceMore than enough power★★★★★
DisplayBig and clear★★★★★
ConnectivityA nice range of ports★★★★☆

Best budget

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (12)

2. Apple MacBook Air M2

Still a great MacBook contender for music production

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2

Graphics: Apple M2

RAM: 8GB - 24GB

Screen: 13.6” Liquid Retina (2560 x1664)

Storage: 256GB - 2TB SSD

Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x headphone

Battery life: Up to 18 hours

Reasons to buy

+

Light and thin Apple laptop

+

Silent and powerful

+

Lovely screen and speakers

Reasons to avoid

-

The new Air M3 will give you more power for not much more cost

At a glance

Buy if you don't need the very latest tech: It's slim, lightweight with great battery life, while the M2 chip should serve you through many happy years of music-making.
Avoid if you have a bit more to spend: Upgrading to the M3 model isn't as expensive as you might think, so you could gain a little more performance with some extra spend.

Apple's latest MacBook Pros and Airs all feature the company's latest M3 chips, with only this model retaining the M2. But that doesn't mean it is found lacking in the music production department.

Design: At just 1.24kg and just 11.3mm deep, the Air M2 is still a fabulously portable option, and its lack of a fan gives it an advantage in the noise stakes when it comes to music making as well.As with all Apple devices everything feels super slick, quite literally too, the MacBook Air is a slippery thing so be careful taking it out of your bag.

Features: You're not likely to use them for mixing, but the speaker sound is very good with Spatial Audio support and definitely a good option for checking your mix as part of your regular tests. The screen isn't the biggest here so you may find things getting a little cluttered, but it really is beautiful, offering a nice crisp display that's perfect for deep diving on waveforms.

Performance: In terms of power, it's not as quick as some of the beefier MacBook Pro models, but it's no slowcoach either. The M2 chip does astoundingly well with most major music tasks. The only thing we found out of reach was doing orchestral scores with loads of VST instruments, for regular music-making though, you'll find plenty of power here.

Battery life: The battery life of the Air is good, quoted at 18 hours, and more than a match for most Windows laptops. As always, actual usage will differ and will likely be less than the quoted number. Our MacBook Air M2 delivered exceptional battery life, lasting a good 6 hours with plenty to spare despite spending a full day mixing and recording.

The Air M2 is still a beautiful and compact MacBook choice, and the cheapest portable way to get into Mac music-making. It still packs a punch for most music tasks, but you might consider the Air M3 if you have the extra cash for a 20-25% uplift in power.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air M2 review

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeUp to 17 hours★★★★★
PerformancePlenty for music making★★★★★
DisplayNot the biggest, but very clear★★★★☆
ConnectivityYou'll need a hub★★★☆☆

Best Windows laptop

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (13)

3. Dell XPS 17 (9730)

Elegant and powerful PC laptop with a super large screen for music production

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-13700H to i9-13900H

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 to RTX 4080

RAM: 16GB - 64GB

Screen: 17" FHD+ (1920x1200) to 17" UHD+ (3840x2400)

Storage: 512GB - 8TB

Ports: 4x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x SD card slot, 1x headphones

Battery life: Up to 14 hours

Reasons to buy

+

Fantastic performance

+

Lovely design

+

Huge, vibrant display

Reasons to avoid

-

Others have better battery life

-

Not that portable

At a glance

Buy if you want a high-performance Windows machine with a large screen: We've long been fans of Dell laptops for music production and this one delivers fantastic specs and plenty of screen real estate.
Avoid if you want a more compact laptop: Combine the large screen and the relatively bulky chassis and it quickly becomes less appealing as an on-the-go laptop.

Despite their popularity, not everyone wants to use Mac OS to make music. Thankfully, there are plenty of great options for Windows users, and top of the pops for us is the Dell XPS 17, largely thanks to that huge screen.

Design: Otherwise the XPS 17 (and we looked at the mid range 9730 model, too) is a fantastic laptop. It has an elegant design and enough power to make you consider using it over any desktop machine.

As with many PC laptops, you can greatly configure the specs, but as you can see from the wide price range, this quickly adds up and you can easily find yourself paying around $4,000/£3,500 for those tempting extras.

Features: Sometimes you can feel restricted using a laptop screen for music production, and that's when you need to call in a machine like the Dell XPS 17. With a huge 17" screen in all configurations, it is easily the biggest laptop here, although that obviously makes it one of the least portable.

Whichever option you choose, you get a gorgeous screen, especially with the UHD+ upgrade, and while we have found 13" laptops restrictive for music making, you won't find yourself lacking space on any of the 17" configurations.

Performance: The Dell XPS 17 has some serious power. For music, gaming, and even a bit of work if you must, this laptop is a match for it all. Bulky compared to some, yes, but you might just not worry about the extra weight when you are immersed in that lovely screen.

With plenty of real estate for plugins and instruments and a powerful Intel processor, it's more than capable of being a solid workhorse for making music. We'd advise going for the 32GB model if you have the budget, as that should cover you for even the most expansive music-making projects.

Battery life: Despite the estimated 14-hour battery life, that huge display takes some serious power, especially at full brightness. Actual results for us ended up hitting around the 8-hour mark, which is significantly less than some of the others on offer here. It's not bad by any means, but if you frequently find yourself working unplugged, definitely something to consider.

Windows isn't the dirty word it used to be when it comes to music-making, so don't feel bad if you'd rather stick with what you know. The Dell XPS 17 is more than capable of competing with Apple machines in terms of power, and Windows is very much a good choice for music-making of all kinds.

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeActual use around 8 hours★★★☆☆
PerformanceA super powerful laptop★★★★★
DisplayBright, clear, and gorgeous★★★★★
ConnectivityPlenty of connectivity★★★★★

Best all-rounder

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (14)

4. Apple M3 MacBook Pro 14"

Good all-round laptop with a model for every task

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3 to M3 MAX

Graphics: Apple M3 to M3 MAX

RAM: 8GB - 128GB

Screen: 14.2" Liquid Retina XDR (3024x1964)

Storage: 512GB - 8TB

Ports: 3x Thunderbolt 4, 1x HDMI, 1x SDXC card slot

Battery: Up to 17 hours

Reasons to buy

+

A good range of models and prices

+

Serious power if you need it


Reasons to avoid

-

Base model is beaten by the Air M3

-

Smallest MacBook Pro screen

At a glance

Buy if you want a fantastic Apple laptop that's (a little) more budget-friendly: Apple gear still costs, but even the basic spec M3 MacBook Pro will give you plenty of music-making grunt.
Avoid if you want a lighter laptop: The M3 MacBook Air matches the Pro in performance, but is much lighter and slimmer.

We've included the 16" MacBook Pro as our pick for the most powerful performance laptop in this guide as it is truly the best mobile computer for music production, with the bigger screen size and power you might want (but not necessarily need). But the 14" MacBook Pro represents the cheaper way of getting that mobile power with a few caveats.

Design: As with all Apple machines the design is absolutely world class. The smaller size makes it nice and portable, although it's still fairly chunky compared to the super slim MacBook Air. It feels ultra rugged too thanks to that aluminium construction.

Features: At the lowest end of the range you can get a 14" MacBook Pro for well under $/£2,000 with a standard M3 processor, but our tests have shown that the M3 Air has just as much power and a bigger screen - hence it also having a high position in this guide. So really, if the smaller 14" screen is something you are after, you might want to take advantage of the faster M3 Pro or Max processors in this machine, but either way, you'll quickly add to the asking price.

However, if you dig deep into the MacBook Pro 14" range - and there is a spec for everyone (and we could have filled this guide with various configurations) - you should be able to find a model that balances both price and power.

Performance: The M3 chips offer some of the best performance you'll find anywhere for a music production laptop. It's got bags of power to run VSTs and plugins, and with the higher RAM options available you'll be future-proofing yourself for many years to come.

It's effortlessly smooth even on the biggest project files and everything loads super quickly thanks to the SSD. Of course, as is usually the case with a Mac you might want to turn off automatic updates, as recent iOS changes have led to users not being able to use certain plugins.

Battery life: The latest MacBook Pros offer some of the best battery life we've seen in recent times. Offerings up to 17 hours on the specs list, we found that as usual, you get less under actual use, but it still delivered a very impressive performance, plenty to get a nice mix without having to plug in.

The 14" MacBook Pro is a fantastic machine - or indeed many good machines - but you will have to work out which one you need with some care. There's a machine for everyone here, but you might have to do some digging (and maths) to find it.

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeExcellent real world performance★★★★★
PerformancePlenty of power for music making★★★★★
DisplayScreen is great, although not the biggest★★★★☆
ConnectivityPlenty of connectivity★★★★★

Best portable laptop

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (15)

5. Apple MacBook Air M3 15"

A surprising leap in power over the Air M2 for music production

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3

Graphics: Apple M3

RAM: 8GB - 24GB

Screen: 13.6" Liquid Retina (2560x1664) to 15.3" Liquid Retina (2880x1864)

Storage: 256GB - 2TB

Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x headphones

Battery life: Up to 18 hours

Reasons to buy

+

Light, thin, quiet and powerful

+

More power over the M2 than expected

+

15" M3's screen is a real bonus

Reasons to avoid

-

M2 will do for many tasks

-

Still expensive over many PCs

At a glance

Buy if you mostly make music on the go: The Air is lightweight, comes as a 13" screen variant and has plenty of power under the hood for most tasks.
Avoid if you're on a budget: The M3 Air is still expensive. Instead, we'd recommend the M2 Air which still offers stellar performance for much less outlay.

Apple has now updated all of its laptops to the latest M3 range of chips. Only the Air is also still available with the older M2 processor if you're looking for something a little cheaper.

Design: The ultra-sleek design of the MacBook Air M3 is perfect for those who need a laptop capable of traveling around with them. It's ultra-lightweight, slim enough to fit into a backpack with plenty of room to spare, and it's available in four different colours too.

Features: The Air M3 on test here is available in two sizes: 13-inch (actually 13.6-inch) and 15-inch (15.3-inch). We much prefer the larger screen size for music making and have found 13" laptops restrictive in the past.With only two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, you'll definitely need a USB hub for the majority of music-making tasks.

Performance: We carried out several benchmark tests between the Air M2 and this all-new M3, and found that in Ableton Live we got a 25% uplift in performance for the M3, rising to 30% in Logic, more than even Apple claims! Our sister site TechRadar even suggests that the Air M3's multicore stats are right up there with the entry-level M3 MacBook Pro.

To our mind, the M3 Air is a better buy than that base-model MacBook Pro as it boasts a bigger screen and equal power, but costs less. We also discovered in our tests that the bigger 15" model has a significantly better sound from its own speakers over the 13" Air.

Battery life: As with all the recent MacBook M3s, we've found the battery life to be simply superb. Even under heavy load, it lasts for hours, enabling you to perfect your mix without having to plug into an outlet.

Combine the performance with the quiet Air operation, the sleek design, and the larger screen, and we think the 15-inch Air M3 is currently one of the best laptops for mobile music production.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air M3 review

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifePerforms brilliantly★★★★★
PerformanceSuper smooth with plugins★★★★★
DisplayBeautiful screen, with plenty of space★★★★☆
ConnectivityOnly two Thunderbolt ports★★★☆☆

Best 2-in-1 laptop

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (16)

6. Microsoft Surface Pro 9

A seriously powerful laptop slash tablet for music production

Specifications

CPU: 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1255U

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics

RAM: 16GB

Screen: 13”

Storage: 256GB

Ports: 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4

Battery life: Up to 15.5 hours

Reasons to buy

+

Incredibly powerful

+

Gorgeous screen

+

Doubles as a tablet

+

Great touchpad feel

Reasons to avoid

-

Weird weight distribution

-

USB-C only

At a glance

Buy if you prefer a touch screen: This one also doubles as a tablet, so if you want a device that can also serve as your entertainment and work machine, this is definitely one to look at.
Avoid if you don't need a touchscreen: Why pay for something you don't need or want?

For Windows fans, their range of crossover tablet-slash laptops is a left-field, but potentially powerful option when considering your next music production laptop.

Design: The screen is stunning thanks to its 120Hz refresh rate, meaning that everything looks incredibly detailed and runs smoothly. It's got ten-point multi-touch capability too, offering some neat features for producers that allow you to quickly make adjustments without having to reach for the mouse. The ability to split it quickly and turn it into a tablet is a great feature in general, whether you're using it for music production or not.

Features: The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is an absolute beast of a machine, coming with a 12th-gen i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD drive, making it more than a match for vast music projects on the go or in the studio.

Performance: In our tests it performed admirably with a huge ProTools project, running well over 200+ tracks at an ASIO buffer size of 64 before we began to notice any pops and clicks. Compatibility is excellent as well, as at the time of writing there are no known issues with plugins and Windows 11, unlike a certain popular OS.

Battery life: In our tests, we found the battery life did pretty well, but was nowhere near the stated 15.5 hours when mixing a track. As usual, these figures are probably just for browsing so it's not much of a surprise to find it not lasting as long. It definitely held its own, but wasn't as long-lasting as some of the MacBooks on offer here.

If you're not willing to go the MacBook route, and you want something ultra-versatile then the Surface Pro 9 is a great option. The ability to split it and use it as a tablet might be a tick in the box for any producer moonlighting in live sound too.

Read the full Microsoft Surface Pro 9 review

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeVery usable battery life★★★★☆
PerformanceAwesome performance when mixing★★★★★
DisplayBeautiful screen, with touch functionality★★★★☆
ConnectivityJust two USB-C ports★★★☆☆

Best MacBook alternative

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (17)

7. Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro


A great buy if you want a MacBook alternative and the Windows ecosystem

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core Ultra 5 or 7

Graphics: Intel Arc Graphics

RAM: 16GB - 32GB

Screen: 14” or 16" Touch AMOLED (2880×1800)

Storage: 256GB - 1TB

Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB 3.2, 1x HDMI, 1x Micro SD

Battery life: Up to 21 hours

Reasons to buy

+

Excellent build

+

Amazing screen

+

Fabulous battery life



Reasons to avoid

-

Fairly derivative design

-

Speakers are not great

At a glance

Buy if you like MacBooks but prefer Windows: This is an ideal choice if you want the familiar MacBook aesthetic but prefer working in Windows.
Avoid if you want the real deal: Why buy something that looks like a Mac when you could just get a Mac? If you have the cash, we say go for it.

The Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro gets you a similar look and feel to an Apple MacBook but within the Windows world. If you can't see yourself working in MacOS, then this is the laptop you should try.

Design: It's a pretty derivative design which is obvious from just a glance at the Galaxy Book4. It's not quite as slick as an Apple machine but it's certainly not bad looking either, and the overall feel of it is nice and robust.

Features: The Galaxy Book4 Pro is available in both 14" and 16" models and its OLED screen is a huge highlight with a lovely image quality and 120Hz refresh. It also scores over Apple machines with touch input.There's a nice amount of connectivity, although there are others with more slots for MIDI Controllers and your audio interface.

Performance: Performance-wise, it sits around or just above the same benchmarks as the MacBook Air 13" M2. However, compared to the Apple machines its speakers do disappoint - not that we'd recommend using any laptop speakers for detailed mixing - but for general music listening, they aren't the greatest.

Battery life: We got around ten hours of battery life out of the Samsung which is decent, certainly plenty enough to get a mix sorted if you know your stuff. Of course, if you're doing lighter duties or just browsing, you'll probably get a lot more out of it.

Overall this is one of the best MacBook alternatives out there, and a great laptop for music production in its own right.

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeGood battery life★★★★☆
PerformanceComparable to an M2 Air★★★★☆
DisplayVery usable screen★★★★☆
ConnectivityNice choice of connectivity★★★★☆

Best slimline laptop

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (18)

8. Acer Swift X14

A powerful mobile option in a slim package

Specifications

CPU: i5-13500H to i7-13700H

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 to RTX 4050

RAM: 16GB - 32GB

Screen: 14.5″ 2.8K OLED (2880 x 1800)

Storage: 512GB - 1TB

Reasons to buy

+

Great performance

+

Slim Ultrabook form

+

Lovely OLED screen

Reasons to avoid

-

Battery life isn't great

-

Trackpad can be tricky

At a glance

Buy if you want a laptop with a lush screen: The OLED screen nestled in this slim ultrabook is beautiful - ideal for those long, eye-straining Ableton sessions.
Avoid if you want more battery life: You'll only get around 8 hours before you're reaching for the power supply, so not such a mobile-friendly machine.

While it's not quite up there with a MacBook Pro 14" the Acer Swift X14 is among the best Ultrabooks you can get.

Design: With the Swift X14, Acer has squeezed both a powerful CPU and GPU into a slim Ultrabook form and topped it off with a gorgeous OLED screen. It's nice and portable too, making it a great option for mixing while traveling. It's nice an sturdy with minimal flexing in the laptop as a whole, which means it'll put up with being chucked into a backpack and used on the go.,

Features: The OLED screen is the real star of the show, looking absolutely stunning. Great if you want a machine that's good for watching films too. It's got plenty of connectivity as well, especially versus something like the MacBook Air. This means you won't likely have to use a USB hub, which is one less thing to carry when you're on the go.

Performance: There's plenty of power on offer here for multi-tasking, making it well suited to music production tasks. It doesn't perform as well in benchmark tests as some of the others on this list, but it's certainly a capable bit of kit. Performance wise there’s little the Acer Swift X14 can’t do - it's a small machine that will handle many music tasks.

Battery life: It's not the cheapest machine and the battery life of around eight hours when running at full power is nothing to write home about. That OLED screen definitely comes at a cost here. It's not the worst out there, but there are others on this list that perform much better.

The Acer Swift X14 is not a cheap machine but that price does make sense if you factor in the power and screen, and we think it is one of the best compact choices for music out there.

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeDecent, but not the best★★★☆☆
PerformanceVery usable performance★★★★☆
DisplayBeautiful screen★★★★★
ConnectivityExcellent selection of ports★★★★★

Best for gamers

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (19)

9. Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

Gaming specialists branch out into creative

Specifications

CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core i7

Graphics: Up to GeForce RTX 4070

RAM: 32GB to 64GB

Screen: 15.6” OLED 4K Touch

Storage: 1TB SSD

Ports: 1x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, 3x USB-A 3.1, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x mini DisplayPort, 1x headphones

Reasons to buy

+

Enormously powerful

+

Apple-tier design flourishes

+

Great for gaming

Reasons to avoid

-

Overkill for many

-

Incredibly pricey

At a glance

Buy if you want power: Gaming laptops need to be supremely powerful, which is what makes this one such a great option for monster music projects.
Avoid if you're a casual music-maker: All that power could be unnecessary for the majority of hobbyists, and it comes at a huge cost too.

Think of a gaming laptop, and you probably imagine garish colours, RGB lights all over the shop, and enough power under the hood to light up a continent. With the Razer Blade 15 Studio, however, we have a monstrously powerful laptop with its origins in the gaming world, but with its sights very much set on creative pursuits.

Design: There are some nice visual touches, from the customisable RGB backlighting on the keys, but it's really not one of those brightly colored gaming beasts that demands attention, at least on the surface. It looks professional, so you won't feel out of place when you rock up to the studio with it. It's nice and slim too, perfect for traveling with.

Features: With bags of processing power and huge 32GB to 64GB RAM capacity, you certainly aren't going to be lacking when it comes to multi-tasking loads of plugins in a large project file. The spec sheet is impressive, and it also comes with a very powerful GeForce RTX GPU, so if you're a gamer or video editor this laptop will make you very happy indeed.

Performance: Gaming laptops are often powerful enough for music creation as they require beefy CPUs and plenty of RAM to perform. We found the Razer Blade to be more than powerful enough to handle CPU-intensive tasks with multiple plugins, and we absolutely love the clarity of the OLED screen.

Battery life: This is a powerful laptop and if you're gaming with it, don't expect to get much battery life out of it. We got around 5-6 hours with music-making tasks, which isn't particularly impressive on the face of it, but certainly enough to perfect a mix in a pinch.

This is a very powerful, and incredibly expensive laptop, so it's really only suited to those musicians that absolutely need to play CyberPunk 2077 alongside their regular music-making duties.

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Ratings scorecard
TestResultsScore
Battery lifeAmongst the shortest here★★★☆☆
PerformanceIncredibly powerful★★★★★
DisplayVery usable screen★★★★☆
ConnectivityGreat variety of ports★★★★★

FAQs

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (20)

How to choose the best laptop for music production

Choosing a laptop capable of running CPU-intensive audio production work can be tricky. Some options focus heavily on battery life. Others major on performance, and favour higher-grade processors (CPUs) to ensure operations run snappily. Add into that differences in screen sizes, aesthetics, and any number of other variables and we can easily see how it’s hard to justify buying one model over another.

There are certain characteristics you’ll look for in a laptop, regardless of whether it’s for producing music or editing video. Namely, you are looking for that sweet spot of power, performance, and price. We all wish that the last part wasn’t a factor, but it is. Not to worry though, as there are supremely capable laptops coming in at some very sensible prices right now. So what are the specifics that make a great production laptop?

Ultimately, when we say performance, in this context we mean how fast the laptop can process things, and how quickly it can access, write, and modify stored data. If you’re a sample-based producer and have gigabytes of stored loops and one-shots, then you will want to focus on a machine that offers super-snappy access to your stored media. And, while they come in a little bit more expensive than traditional hard disc drives (HDD), the only real option nowadays is a laptop that comes with a solid-state drive (SSD). Solid-state means there are no moving parts - so nothing to go wrong or fail - but with rapid data transfer speeds so you’re not waiting on that pesky progress bar.

Which CPU is best for music production – Intel, AMD or Apple?

Essentially, a faster processor (or CPU) means two things: your computer can handle more tasks being thrown at it, and it can 'process' those things a lot quicker. You may see only small differences; perhaps an audio file will render one minute quicker using the faster of two processors, but over time this clearly adds up.

In the CPU world, there are two major players. Intel is the big name, with a huge share of the market. Intel’s range goes from i3 - the least powerful - all the way up to i9. Most common in mid-to-upper tier laptops, however, are the i5 and i7 variants, and within that sphere you have different speed ratings, measured in gigahertz, as well as the option to turbo-boost when you’re placing the computer under major stress.

With newer machines, you might find the 'i' has been dropped so the range is referred to as Core 3/5/7/9.

The other name to look out for is AMD, which produces the Ryzen processors. These follow a similar nomenclature to the Intel versions, so R3, R5, R9 and so on, and are popular among the gaming crowd.

Apple has a great heritage in producing machines designed for creative pursuits, and just as the rest catch up with them, it flips the script again. You may have seen newer Apple machines with their 'M'-range chips inside them. These essentially combine many of the laptop's internal components onto a single chip, resulting in incredible power and overall system efficiency. Apple’s newest machines feature the M2, M2 Pro, M2 Max, M2 Ultra, M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max chips. We go into more detail on M2 vs M3 Macs in this article.

The good news is that these gains absolutely benefit producers, offering best-in-class performance and processing grunt, while also delivering longer battery life and other optimisations. Put simply, Logic Pro X users on an M3-based machine are at the head of the DAW pack right now. The bad news, however, is that many third-party software brands haven’t yet made the switch required to make the most of it. More are catching on, with big names like Ableton and Akai offering full native support.

The best advice we can give is to do your research - all of the major developers are aware of the new chips, and are likely working on native support, so it depends on your current setup and desire to rock the boat. If you can, and don’t anticipate major problems, then we’d absolutely advise looking at these new breeds of MacBook.

What do I need to know about Apple's new processors?

Until late 2020 Apple computers used Intel processors - the same type that you'll find in most PCs. Since then the company has been introducing its M range of chips, so far the M1 and M2 ranges and the latest M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max (currently available in the latest MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros). These combine both CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphical processing unit) on one chip, with each indicated by a number of cores - and the more of these, the better in terms of power.

The base M2 processor has eight or 10 cores each and is found in the Air and Mac Mini with faster M2 processors in the Mac Studio and Mac Pro. The Mac Studio has either an M2 Max (12-core CPU, 30-core GPU) or a maximum M2 Ultra chip that goes up to 24-core CPU and 76-core GPU. The Mac Pro, meanwhile, also has a maximum M2 Ultra chip (up to 24-core CPU and 76-core GPU).

The M3 processor ups the number of cores to a maximum of 16 CPU and 40 GPU and variations of the M3 are found in the iMac, Air, and 14" and 16" MacBook Pros. The variations are the standard M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max.

If all of this talk of M-range processors is baffling, just take away one fact from it. In our tests, the M range outperformed the original Intel Mac processors by at least three to one, so whichever M chip you choose, expect a big power boost over your old Intel Mac.

How much RAM does your music making laptop need?

With RAM, as we mentioned, you can ignore the 'minimum specs' listed on the websites of the major DAWs. Anybody who tries to run a multitrack Ableton Live session on a laptop with 4GB of RAM is braver (or more patient) than we are.

That’s because RAM is effectively the short-term memory of your machine. With audio applications, particularly those involving lots of recorded audio, a higher amount of RAM means your audio playback is buttery smooth and glitch-free because the computer isn't having to 'grab' the audio from the hard drive each time it wants to play.

If you're buying now, with the next few years of use in mind, we'd suggest 8GB of DDR4 memory is the absolute minimum you should be looking for. Ideally, you'd want 16GB, as this will handle much larger arrangements, although there is a cost to this extra resource.

It's also worth investigating whether the laptop you choose can be upgraded with extra RAM in the future. Apple laptop fans won't have this luxury, due to their sealed chassis, but laptop PC users might.

How much storage do I need?

Storage memory comes a close second. For audio applications, particularly those involving sample libraries where audio is streamed from disk, you'll want to use a solid-state drive (SSD). The benefit of these drives is the rapid data transfer, meaning files load quicker, although they are slightly more expensive than their hard disk drive (HDD) equivalent. For music production applications, however, the extra expense is totally justified.

It's not uncommon however to see a combination employed – an HDD for storage of files, photos, and videos, and an SSD for tasks where more instantaneous responses are required. The alternative involves using external hard drives; SSDs, particularly those that take advantage of USB-C technology, are more than capable of the types of transfer speeds required for music production.

Is Mac OS better than windows?

So, we reckon this debate will rage for eternity, with many evangelising the Windows infrastructure, while others remain eternally devoted to Apple. There will always be two camps, but in truth either will serve you well for music making these days.

That said, if money is no object then we would recommend exploring the Apple route - it's no coincidence that four of the top five music production laptops in this guide bear the Apple logo. They just work for music - with killer hardware and audio optimised spec - and as the M-series chips continue to evolve and developers invest in making their software and plugins cooperate, making music on Apple machines will remain firmly ahead of the game.

Of course, not every producer has the budget for Apple and there are so many great Windows alternatives in this guide that will do a similar job for much less, with the added bonus of being able to upgrade hardware like RAM to keep up with the game - a feature that's distinctly lacking on Apple machines.

How we test

Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (21)

So, clearly there is a lot to think about when choosing the best laptop for music production.

It's easy to see why a good all-round laptop can fetch a premium price tag, but, as with anything from the best samplers and studio monitors to home studio mixers, you get what you pay for, so it's always wise to get the best you can afford, rather than skimping and regretting your purchase later (often quicker than you thought). Our price comparison software will come in handy here. Next to each product entry on this guide our price widgets will display the best deals online right now to save you shopping around.

In this guide we don’t focus on various legacy ins and outs, such as the number of USB sockets, or lack of, for your audio interface, and so on. With so many dongle and docking options available, this shouldn’t be a deciding factor in your purchasing journey. In this guide we're talking sheer horsepower for music-making. For example, can your portable rig cope with large multitrack sessions, running handfuls of plugins and MIDI instruments?

When testing a laptop for music production, we take into account a variety of design aspects, features and power. On a basic level, a music production laptop must be portable and powerful. For the latter consideration, that's why we often include those gaming laptop PCs as they are designed to deliver clout.

Obviously a lightweight design is great, but we also need connections - Thunderbolt, USB-C or even A for older interfaces. Really the more the better, although most Apple laptops now only feature a couple of Thunderbolt 3 ports which you can just about get away with for music.

In terms of power, it is often difficult to compare processors just on their specs as they can work very differently in a real world music production environment. With that in mind, where possible we compare and contrast by using standard DAW projects from the likes of www.logicprohelp.com and www.music-prod.com. Here you simply run the project and add audio tracks until your machine falls over. You then get an idea of the power of a particular processor in a real production scenario.

Finally we'll also look at screen and speaker performances. Certainly Apple excels at these with recent speaker designs that can be (just) used for mixing plus vibrant screens that help you see everything your DAW has to offer.

Read more about how we test music making gear and services at MusicRadar.

MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.

  • Our pick of the best Macs for music production
  • Best mouse for music production: mice, trackpads and trackballs
  • Check out our guide to the best budget PCs for music production
  • Our pick of the best PCs for music production
  • Best DJ laptops: PC and Mac options for the booth and beyond
  • Organise your recording space with the best studio desks

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Best laptop for music production 2024: portable computers for musicians, producers and DJs (22)

Simon Arblaster

Video Producer & Reviews Editor

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.

With contributions from

  • Andy Jones
  • Chris Corfield
  • Matt McCrackenJunior Deals Writer

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