Powerhouses for producers: the best laptops for music production in … – BBC Science Focus Magazine

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Discover the most powerful laptops on the market to enhance your music production experience.
Music production is a demanding process that might prove too strenuous for some laptops. You need a speedy, multicore CPU that can handle real-time processing for loading audio plugins. And don't skimp on the RAM, as you'll want a laptop with loads of memory to handle those beefy DAWs, plugins, and audio processing.
A large SSD storage is also useful if you're not planning on lugging around an external hard drive (although we always recommend backing up your work) because audio files aren't small, and you'll need somewhere to store audio, sample libraries, and plugin resource files.
In general, more power often comes with a hefty price tag, but we've scoured the web to find you the best options for all budgets. Whether you're a novice music producer just starting out, or a seasoned expert looking to upgrade your set-up, our top picks have got you covered. Keep reading and get ready to unleash your musical magic!
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If you're on a bit of a budget, the price tags attached to some of the more expensive models out there might make you break a sweat. We're kicking off our list with a great option from Acer that combines affordability and power. With the 12th generation Intel Core i7-1255UL processor, the Acer Aspire 5 has a total of 10 processing cores and a max turbo frequency of 4.70 GHz – which means it's quick. Most office laptops are fitted with i5 or even i3 processors, reducing the amount of cores and therefore the amount of power to process audio with.
With 512GB of SSD storage, there's a good amount of room to store your files, and the 15.6 inch high definition screen offers a large space to view your work. Plus, it's touchscreen! Which is a great addition for all the tactile learners out there.
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If your main priority is portability and you're a die-hard Apple fan but you're not interested in forking out for the very latest models, this might be the laptop for you. The 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1 weighs in at just 1.29kg, making it Apple's thinnest, lightest laptop, and is outfitted with the Apple M1 chip, which offers 8 cores for fast processing. Now, it's not as fast as the latest apple chips, M2 Pro and M2 Max, which offer 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 16GB of fast unified memory, but the M1 is still a firm contender in the processing game.
Featuring a 13.3-inch screen, it strikes the perfect balance between screen real estate and portability. You can easily slip it into a rucksack for producing on the go. Now, do keep in mind that with its 256GB SSD storage, you might find yourself in need of an external hard drive. But if you're diligent about uploading your work regularly, you just might get by without one.
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It's time to pull out the big guns. The latest Apple MacBook Pro is an absolute beast of a machine, unparalleled in the industry. With the latest M2 Pro chip, this laptop offers 12-core CPU processing and a whopping 19-core integrated GPU. Expect crystal clear visuals, lightning fast response, and ground-breaking performance. With 1TB of SSD you can't really go wrong, and there's plenty of fancy features such as Touch ID, 1080P HD camera, and a six speaker sound system.
There's also (uncharacteristically of Apple) a whole bunch of ports to play with: an SDXC card reader, a HDMI output, 3.5mm headphone jack, and of course, the 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports and quick-release MagSafe 3 port. This is a laptop for music production that can elevate your creative experience to the next level. Essentially, if you're trying to do away with any technical obstacle that might interrupt your creative flow, this laptop is the answer.
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Another option for those watching their wallets, the Dell XPS 13 is a solid choice, delivering a good balance of processing power and affordability, all packed into a lightweight and portable package. Dell has a strong reputation for producing quality tech, and the XPS 13 is no exception.
Sporting the 12th generation Intel Core i5-1230U processor with 10 processing cores and a max turbo frequency of 4.40GHz, this laptop offers impressive speed. While the 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD may leave you wanting more storage, it's worth noting that this laptop weighs a mere 1.17kg, making it a reasonable trade-off.
Looking for more laptops? Check out our ultimate guide to the best laptops in 2023.
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Marketed as a gaming laptop, the Razer Blade 14 is another powerful machine that would be ideal for music production. Rather than using an Intel or Apple chip, Razer offer their own brand of CPU outfitting. Reviews suggest the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor is comparable in performance to the Intel Core i9-11980HK, as it has 8 processing cores and a max turbo boost of 4.6GHz.
With 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD, it's packed with memory, meaning you won't have to worry about running out of space or power any time soon. It's also fairly lightweight and portable for such a powerful machine, and offers a wide array of connectivity with two UBC-C ports, two USB-A ports, and a HDMI port.
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The Dell XPS 15 ranges in price according to your selected outfitting preferences. You can choose from a 13th generation Intel Core i7-13700H or i9-13900H processor, depending on whether you need an extra boost of speed. The i9 processor, which has only four successors, was released in early 2023 and features 14 cores and a max turbo frequency of 5.4 GHz. The i7 is fairly similar, also with 14 cores, but with a reduced turbo frequency of 5.0GHz.
Choose between four different graphics cards; 16GB, 32BG or 64GB of RAM; and 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, or a whopping 4TB of SSD storage – by far the largest memory capacity in our list. Opt for the 1920 x 1200 pixel non-touch screen or the 3456 x 2160 pixel touch screen, and decide whether to add the Intel vPro Platform system management software, which allows employees or IT administrators to configure changes to applications on your system remotely.
This is a truly customisable laptop with the potentiality to become an all-powerful machine (if you've got the budget for it). Even at the lower end of the spectrum, it's fast, powerful, and has a ton of memory, and definitely earns a top contender spot on our list.
If you're more into coding than music production, check out our top pick of the best laptops for coding.
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The ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED is a powerful machine that comes with the added advantage of dual monitors. Its standout feature is the 4K OLED HDR NanoEdge display, offering top-notch image quality. With its cinema-grade 100% DCI-P3 color reproduction, it is an ideal choice for professionals engaged in video editing, music production, gaming, and immersive streaming experiences.
The extra screen give you more space to view plug-in windows and mixing desks, as well as providing the option to open multiple apps at once. Additionally, the ScreenPad Pro serves as a versatile drawing pad, perfect for note-taking, sketching ideas, or precise graphical editing when used with a stylus.
In terms of connectivity, the ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED offers a comprehensive set of ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, a USB 3.2 Gen 2, DC-in, HDMI 2.1, and an audio jack. Notably, it surpasses the MacBook Air with its hands-free login feature, allowing users to unlock the device with face recognition. Furthermore, the Dolby Atmos 4-mic array stereo sound enhances the audio experience.
Overall, the ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED impresses with its powerful performance and versatile features. Its dual monitors, combined with the exceptional display quality and intuitive control options, make it a compelling choice for professionals seeking seamless productivity and creative flexibility.
Read our full review of the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED.
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Presenting the MSI Katana, a gaming laptop designed to deliver speed and performance. Powered by an 11th generation Intel i7 processor boasting 8 cores and a max turbo frequency of 4.60GHz, this laptop ensures snappy reaction times and ample power, supported by its 16GB of RAM.
With 512GB of storage, the MSI Katana provides ample space to store your gaming library. While weighing 2.1kg, it offers a reasonable balance between portability and power, making it a viable option for gamers on the move. Considering its impressive specifications and competitive pricing, the MSI Katana is certainly a worthy contender to consider for your gaming needs.
The right laptop can turn music producing from a time consuming chore ruined by whirring fans and loading symbols, to the immersive and exhilarating experience of unleashing your creative potential. No one wants to be interrupted by failing technology when they're in the middle of creating, so consider upgrading your set-up with one of the fantastic machines in our list. Happy producing!
If you're looking for more ways to enhance your music producing experience, why not check out the best headphones for music producers?
Maddi writes for a range of special interest brands under Our Media, with a particular emphasis on Your Home Style. Her keen eye for art and interior design, combined with her enthusiasm for exploring the natural world on foot or by bike, enables her to cover all bases when finding the best deals online.
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