Calling all musical artists! If you plan on creating the sickest beats imaginable, you’re going to need a solid laptop to get the job done. A high-quality processor is absolutely vital for smooth performance, and a decent amount of RAM will allow you to juggle multiple elements simultaneously. Portability is a huge factor too, especially if you fancy yourself a wandering minstrel (aka a wedding DJ or some such). Battery life is also important for those times where you’re unable to get to an outlet and charge up. If you’re not sure about which laptop to pick, don’t worry. We did the heavy lifting for you. Here at PCWorld, we rounded up the best picks for music production.
If you’re looking for even more options, check out our best laptops roundup, where you will find an even bigger selection of models at a range of prices and for a variety of needs!
Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED – Best overall
Beautiful 4K OLED display
Long battery life
Useful DialPad tool
Design lacks flair
If you’re looking for a good all-arounder, the Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED is a good bet, as it ticks a lot of boxes. For one, the 4K OLED display is superb. Not only does it produce crisp images, but it’s also a good option for those who suffer from eye strain and tension headaches. If you spend endless hours looking at a screen as you edit and mix tracks, you might as well invest in one with a crystal-clear picture. The VivoBook also packs a serious punch when it comes to processing power.
The Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU is plenty fast enough for basic music production needs and everyday use. This laptop is also packing 32GB of memory and a whopping 1TB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage. That’s plenty for firing up multiple applications and storing audio files. There are a couple drawbacks you should be aware of: The webcam isn’t great (not surprising) and the fingerprint reader can have a mind of its own. Overall, however, the VivoBook Pro is a fantastic machine that any musician or DJ would love.
Read our full
Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED review
Acer Swift 3 SF316-51 – Best budget option
Solid chassis and build quality
Large, attractive 16-inch 1080p screen
Enjoyable keyboard and touchpad
USB-C with charging and DisplayPort
Webcam, microphone, and speakers don’t impress
Intel processor falls behind AMD alternatives
Disappointing battery life
Lots of bloatware
If you’re working with a limited budget, the Acer Swift 3 is a great option. It has an Intel Core i7-11370H with four cores, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. That’s a good amount of power and space for most music production tasks. The build quality is solid, the keyboard is comfortable to use, and the display delivers “rich, lifelike color.” The one knock we have against this machine is the battery life. Unfortunately, the laptop died after about five hours. That’s the type of result we’d expect from a gaming laptop, which drains easily due to the power-sucking components. That said, if you don’t mind sticking close to an outlet, than this a good budget buy for most musicians.
Read our full
Acer Swift 3 SF316-51 review
Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 – Best battery life
Large, high-contrast OLED screen
Fantastic battery life
Top-notch 12th-gen Core performance
Webcam doesn’t quite deliver as expected
Fingerprint reader needed re-authentication
Tons of additional apps
If you’re an on-the-go musician, the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 offers incredible battery life as well as a versatile 2-in-1 design. When we put this laptop through our battery rundown test, it lasted a total of 14 hours. That’s pretty rad, right? In addition to the awesome battery life, you’re also getting a high-contrast 15.6-inch OLED screen and zippy performance thanks to its 12th-gen Intel Core i7-1260P processor. The model we reviewed came equipped with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. That’s plenty sufficient for running multiple applications and working with uncompressed audio files. Although we weren’t super impressed with the keyboard or webcam, we feel the pros far outweigh the cons, especially where performance and battery life are concerned.
Read our full
Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 review
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 (2022) – Best 2-in-1 design
Sturdy and sleek all-metal chassis
Long battery life
Impressive audio output
16:9 screen feels cramped
Included stylus is too skinny
Limited ports all on left side
$1,230 (entry level) | $1,449 (as reviewed)
If you prefer the portability and versatility of a convertible laptop, you may want to pick up the Lenovo Yoga 9i 14. You can prop it up like a painter’s easel or swing the screen around and use the laptop like a tablet. It features 16GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage, and strong battery life. You can also expect reliable performance thanks to the 12th-gen Intel Core i7 processor. It has four performance cores and eight efficiency cores. The more cores, the better, especially if you’re working with multi-track songs.
The 74 watt-hour battery is also surprisingly large for such a slim machine. It lasted 12 hours during our battery rundown benchmark, which is more than a full work day. The speakers are surprisingly punchy, too. This is important if you’re editing a song and aren’t able to plug into external speakers. While this convertible laptop has a lot to offer, we had a few nitpicks with it.
The display’s 16:9 aspect ratio may be a problem, as it makes for a squashed-looking picture. It’s not a deal breaker, but we tend to prefer taller displays. The trackpad is also smaller than we like, which takes time getting used to. The port selection is a bit limited as well. That said, if you don’t mind those small factors, then the Yoga 9i is a fabulous machine worth considering.
Read our full
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 (2022) review
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) – Most portable
Powerful CPU and GPU performance in a very compact design
If you’re looking for a laptop that’s both portable and powerful, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 will surely fit the bill. It weighs a little over three pounds, which puts it in the ultraportable category. The AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS processor delivers zippy exceptional. Plus, you’re getting 32GB of DDR5 RAM and 1TB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage. That’s an epic combination for heavy-duty music production sessions. The keyboard is less-than-stellar, though. It feels a bit soft and the backlighting is nothing to write home about. That said, if you’re in the market for a lightweight laptop that delivers reliable performance, you really can’t go wrong with the Zephyrus G14.
Read our full
ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) review
How we tested
The PCWorld team puts each and every Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them.
PCMark 10: PCMark 10 is how we determine how well the laptop handles lighter tasks like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on. This is how we simulate everyday use.
HandBrake: HandBrake is more intensive than PCMark 10. It measures how long a laptop’s CPU takes to encode a beefy 30GB file. Think of it as a CPU stress test.
Cinebench: Cinebench is a brief stress test of the CPU cores. It does this by rendering a 2D scene over a short period of time. This test shows us how the CPU splits a workload.
3DMark: 3DMark checks if 3D performance remains consistent over time by running graphic-intensive clips. These benchmarks are especially important when it comes to testing gaming laptops.
Video rundown test: To gauge battery life, we loop a 4K video using Windows 10’s Movies & TV app until the laptop dies. If you travel a bunch, you’ll want a battery that can last longer than a full work day.
Laptops for music production FAQ
When it comes to laptops for music production, there are a couple of things to consider. A good processor is absolutely necessary, especially if you do a lot of creating and editing music. For memory and storage, you’ll need a fair amount, as musical artists tend to work with multiple programs and massive files. You’ll also need to take battery life and portability into consideration, as wedding DJs tend to jump from venue to venue. Read on to learn more.
How much processing power will I need?
Whether you’re recording multiple tracks or editing songs, you’re going to need a fast processor to keep things running smooth. That’s why we recommend springing for an Intel Core i5 or i7 with six to eight cores. A processor with multiple cores will help better divide the workload. For AMD options, go for a Ryzen 5 or 7. If you need additional power, a Ryzen 9 will do you just fine.
What about memory and storage?
Music production software usually eats up a lot of power, so you’re going to need at least 16GB of RAM. As for storage, it really depends on the size of your project. For more basic needs, 512GB of SSD storage is suitable. If you’re dealing with uncompressed audio tracks, go for a 1TB SSD, as those files can take up a ton of space.
Do I really need a high-end GPU?
You don’t really need a powerful graphics card for music production. A laptop with integrated graphics is more than sufficient. A machine with discrete graphics is more appropriate for gamers or graphic designers.
Does port selection matter?
You’re going to need a wide selection of ports to plug into various amps, microphones, and so on. Variety is key here. You’ll want to look for a laptop that has USB 3.2 Type-C, USB Type-A, Ethernet, and HDMI.
Is portability important?
If you’re a wedding DJ, you’re probably going to need a laptop that’s light enough to take with you. You’ll want a laptop that weighs three pounds or less. The only drawback is that a slimmer laptop means less room for bigger and more powerful components.
How powerful should my speakers be?
Most if not all of the laptops on this roundup produce crisp sound. However, to really hear those mid tones, we’d recommend plugging into external speakers, as laptops aren’t designed to have powerful speakers. (See our roundup of the best budget computer speakers if you want to save some money here.) If you’re unable to plug into external speakers, the laptops with upward-facing speakers tend to be more punchy.
How long should the battery last?
A laptop that lasts anywhere from 10 to 12 hours on a single charge is a good baseline, especially if you’re traveling and there’s no outlet in sight. That’s more than a full work day.
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