It’s not that easy to find the best ultrabooks for music production. With a number of brands and models to choose from, choosing the right one would likely take some time.
For a non-techie person, finding the appropriate unit could be confusing.
How do I know that the specifications are enough? Which one is the most user-friendly? How can I make the most of my budget? These are just some of the questions you may face during the process.
When it comes to producing quality music, gone are the days when musicians would have to utilize bulky analog devices.
In this modern age, one powerful laptop in a recording studio could be enough to create stunning music that may end up being played on the radio.
In this article, I took care of most of the guesswork for you, particularly in finding the best ultrabooks for music production that uses the Windows operating system.
I recommend here five of what I think are the best music production notebook that would suit your specific requirements.
Don’t have the time to read the whole article? “Here is our Quick Recommendation”
The Top 5 Best Ultrabooks for Music Production Comparison Table
What Does It Mean to Get the Best Ultrabooks for Music Production?
As a music producer, it is easy to think that you want the best laptop to get your work done. Of course, who does not want that?
But the challenge here is sorting through all the tons of technical specifications from different models before arriving at a decision.
If you are a beginner, then we will try to simplify things for you.
First, you have to know the minimum requirements a laptop should have for quality music production. For music production, you would need a computer with at least the following provisions:
- It should be able to run multiple music programs and applications without hanging.
- A music application or program should only take a few seconds to load.
- It should have the capacity to run even the most demanding music recording program.
- It should have no or minimum software compatibility problems.
- There should be no irritating clacks or clicks while recording. Latency and distortions must be absent or be kept as low as possible.
- It should have sufficient hard drive space to store all music files, project files, sample songs, and other software necessary for creating music.
- It should also have a high capacity to play music videos without compromising sound quality.
Most of these items will be discussed in detail later. But for now, these are all the things you need to remember.
Another critical factor to consider is the price of the laptop. The quality of your computer would surely depend on how much you are willing to spend. If you want to get the best, then you also have to prepare a sufficient budget.
You could definitely settle for an inexpensive unit with the minimum specifications.
However, remember also to lower your expectations when you decide to go this route.
If you are new to music recording, then investing in minimum gear would be adequate and a wiser bet. Keep in mind that you could always upgrade your equipment as you learn more and grow more in the business.
How to Choose the Best Music Production Notebook
There are several things to consider when buying the best music production notebook. The main things are the following:
- The laptop’s operating system (OS)
- The primary digital audio workstation (DAW) software you are going to use
- The processing speed or power of the laptop’s processor
- The computer’s RAM (random-access memory)
Of course, you also have to take into account the size of the hard drive and battery life. But those things could easily be upgraded as compared to the ones mentioned above.
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Meanwhile, let’s dive deeper into these four things.
1. Operating System For The Best Ultrabooks for Music Production
Windows and macOS are the two most common operating systems used in modern desktop and ultrabooks computers. Windows remain as the top operating system with the macOS a far second. Other operating systems such as Linux and Chrome OS occupy a small percentage of the market share worldwide.
Both Windows and macOS have their own pros and cons. It would all depend on your expected output, budget, target audience, DAW, and your own inclinations.
This article will focus more on the Windows operating system, and what are the best music production notebook to use it with when it comes to music production.
Windows-based Ultrabooks are generally more affordable, more versatile, and easier to upgrade.
These are perhaps the best advantages you can get from this type of OS. However, they are less user-friendly and could sometimes become virus-prone, although there are ways to alleviate those setbacks.
2. Digital Audio Workstation For The Best Music Production Notebook
DAW is an application software that allows you to record, mix, and edit sounds and music files to produce a single rendered down the audio file. It is different from an ordinary audio editor in the sense that it has a multi-track recording capability aside from its editing functions.
DAWs are a demanding type of software.
This means that you have to choose a laptop that would be able to handle your preferred DAW. Windows-based computers are also excellent in this regard, although macOS laptops are often already optimized for the most demanding DAWs.
In simple terms, a processor is the brain of your computer. Naturally, it follows that the more powerful your laptop’s processor is, the more capable it is to handle the most challenging work.
You want your computer to have the most powerful processor you can afford. Pick the most number of cores possible, as additional cores help to mix down audio tracks faster. If possible, choose a quad-core over a dual-core processor as the former is more powerful than the latter.
You can read an in-depth discussion about the processors below.
RAM, or sometimes called the “Memory,” is a hardware part of the laptop that stores data before processing. Unlike the hard drive, it only saves the data temporarily. RAM is essential for faster loading of applications and programs in a computer. Operating systems also use RAM when running.
For music production, at least 8GB of RAM is needed to run a DAW efficiently. However, if you run multiple plugins and work with many audio files at the same time, you would need more.
A laptop with a quad-core processor and 16GB of RAM should be more than sufficient for a lot of DAWs. Moreover, check if the laptop you are going to purchase has additional RAM slots for future upgrades.
More details about RAM will be talked about later.back to menu ↑
What Is the Difference Between Windows and macOS Laptops?
The most significant difference between Windows OS and macOS is that the latter can only be run on Apple computers or Macs. On the other hand, Windows is compatible with any brand of laptop, including Apple.
Windows OS and macOS are still the top two operating systems used today. Conventionally, professional music producers use macOS while home studios utilize Windows. These days, a combination of both is becoming the trend for both professional and personal use.
Another difference between the two is the price. Windows OS are generally less expensive than macOS. This is because Apple makes use of higher quality components to preserve its brand reputation. Windows is more generic in the sense that any computer can use it.
When it comes to software compatibility, Windows also has the upper hand. Since around 90 percent of the market share belongs to Windows, more variety of software are made for it.
The downside is because of Windows’ immense popularity, more viruses and malware are also created by hackers to target it. Mac users are only a little less than ten percent of the market share, and so cybercriminals do not want to waste their time on it.
Another disadvantage of Windows is that it is somehow less user-friendly than macOS. But not to the point that you would have a hard time figuring it out. The design is just more cluttered than that of the Mac, and it would take some time for a user to get accustomed to it.
Also, Macs already come with software and applications that are optimized to be used in that particular Apple computer. Windows use a lot of third-party applications that somehow creates disorder in the settings, although they are highly customizable because of it.
Since most users grew up using Windows, it is undoubtedly more familiar despite being less user-friendly. A lot of people have a difficult time transitioning to another operating system, which explains why Windows still dominate the market today.
Knowing these fundamental differences would give you an idea regarding the advantages and disadvantages of using the best music production notebook.
If the budget is not in question, then a high-end MacBook Pro should be your option. However, if you are tight on cash, then a beefed up Windows laptop would be more than enough. An already loaded Windows unit has around the same price as that of an entry-level MacBook Pro.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Macs are generally more reliable and durable. Still, there are Windows laptops that could rival some of the best Macs, and some of them are going to be reviewed later.
The most important thing, though, is to figure out which DAW software you are most comfortable with. Make sure that your DAW is compatible with Windows if it is the operating system you want to stick with.
I am stressing this point because lots of buyers commonly purchase the best music production notebook only to use a Logic Pro X, which is Apple exclusive, as their DAW. You should not make this basic mistake if you want to save money.back to menu ↑
What to Look for in the Best Ultrabook for Music Production
This section of the article provides more details about some of the things already mentioned but focuses more on utilizing the Windows OS.
When looking for the best music production notebook, there are three things you need to examine:
- The laptop’s processor (CPU)
- The laptop’s hard drive
- The laptop’s RAM
All three are hardware and, as much as possible, you should get a unit that includes the best of what the market has to offer.
1. Processor (CPU)
As mentioned above, this is the brain of your computer. This is the number one thing to consider when purchasing the best music production notebook.
The CPU gets the instructions from the software (e.g., DAW) of the computer and then proceeds to implement it appropriately as outputs.
Similar to a human brain, if your processor is slow, then all processes, such as mixing and rendering, also become slow. This is not good as music production tends to use your CPU’s processing power significantly.
A CPU has limitations based on its design and specifications. As much as possible, buy the most powerful processor that you can afford to avoid having production issues in the long run.
You can measure a processor’s strength by its frequency and the number of cores it has. Frequency is rated in Gigahertz (GHz), and the higher the rating, the stronger the processor is. A rating of 2.5 GHz should be the minimum required, and 4.8 GHz is the highest to date.
Meanwhile, the more cores a processor has, the more efficient it is. I have mentioned before to pick one that has a quad-core. A dual-core processor is the least you can have for effective music production.
Recommendation: At a minimum, pick a laptop with a processor that is dual-core with a frequency of 2.5 GHz. Remember, the higher the ratings, the better.
2. Hard Drive
Music production involves different kinds of software, applications, audio and sample files, and a lot more. Enough storage space is essential and so look for the largest hard drive size available.
You need a minimum of 500GB hard drive space. But the ideal should be 1TB. A 1TB hard drive should last a long time before you run out of space.
There are two types of hard drives to choose from. The first one is the Hard Disk Drive or HDD. This is the regular, non-volatile hard drive that stores data. It means that the data you save in it remains even when the power is off.
The other one is the Solid State Drive or SSD. Its function is basically the same as that of an HDD, but the data are stored on interconnected flash memory chips instead of a magnetic metal platter. Thus, they are smaller and more expensive than HDDs.
SSDs are also faster than HDDs, but the latter comes with larger capacities. If not for the price and size factors, SSDs would have always been the first choice.
The kind of a hard drive does not matter much as long as you have enough space. Remember that you can easily and cheaply add storage anytime you want by buying another one.
As discussed above, the RAM is your laptop’s temporary data storage. This is different from a hard drive because its contents disappear when the computer’s power is off. However, RAM is important because this “memory” determines the speed of your computer while you are using it.
An adequate RAM could run multiple programs and applications all at once without freezing. Also as aforementioned, you should have at least 8GB of RAM for music production. Again, the higher, the better.
Aside from these three, the other things you should look for are the following:
- A good trackpad that can be used for long hours of work. This is if you don’t want to use a mouse all the time.
- A suitable display adapter if in case you want to plug the computer into a different monitor screen.
- A high-performance graphics card. This is useful when playing video games or watching HD movies.
The 5 Best Ultrabooks for Music Production in 2018
Now you know what to look for when choosing the best music production notebook. With those things in mind, here are five Windows OS laptops that I recommend:
Apple MacBook Pro (Best Music Production Notebook)
This laptop has always been a popular option for music production. Its reliability and stability make it stand out from the rest. The model reviewed here is the Apple MacBook Pro MPTT2LL/A with an Intel Core i7 processor, a 512GB solid-state flash memory, and a 16GB RAM.
The laptop comes with a macOS, but you can also install a Windows OS by using the Boot Camp Assistant. Boot Camp is a multi-boot software integrated into the macOS to help install Windows OS in an Intel-based Mac laptop. As long as your Mac computer uses an Intel processor, then the Boot Camp is good to go.
As you might already expect, the MacBook Pro leads its competitors when it comes to displaying resolution. Its Retina technology changed the way people see a laptop’s display screen and continue to do so up to this day.
Although music production is more of an audio thing, using one with great visuals does enhance user experience. This is especially useful when you have to be in front of your computer daily.
The MacBook Pro’s touchpad is considered as the best in the market right now. I really appreciate this feature because it makes me feel more comfortable when working long hours. The surface area is large and incredibly responsive, which helps a lot when I’m already exhausted.
One of the best features of the MacBook Pro is its touch bar that spreads throughout the top of the keyboard. It takes the place of regular function keys, which can help you access quick functions in particular applications.
Completely customizable, the touch bar helps me increase my productivity by letting me set them according to my preference. With this feature, the laptop is able to keep up with how fast I work.
However, the best music production notebook does come with some disadvantages. The most evident is its lack of ports, which is essential when editing and mixing audio files. As a quick fix, you could use a dongle to connect other devices.
Another drawback is it is not that easy to upgrade. Macs are not as versatile as their Windows counterparts when it comes to enhancements. However, because of its performance, it has been rare that a user would want to upgrade a Mac.
Moreover, Apple-branded computers are more expensive than others. A base model often has the same price as that of a fully beefed up model from other brands. Yet, it is still a quality investment.
If you are looking for cheaper alternatives, then you could buy older models on sale. Although, some of the specs mentioned above may not be that high.
- Processor: Intel Core i7 quad-core
- Frequency: 2.9 GHz, up to 3.9 GHz with Turbo Boost
- Hard drive: 512GB SSD storage
- RAM: 16GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3
- Screen: 15-inch IPS Retina Display, 2880 x 1800 resolution
- Dimensions: 14.7 x 10.5 x 2.2 inches
- Graphics: Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory
- No. of USB ports: 2
- Screen size: 15 inches
- Weight: 6.4 pounds
- Battery Life: 10 hours max.
- Already “good-to-go” upon unboxing.
- Consistent quality and performance.
- High-quality display resolution.
- Fewer software issues as compared to other brands.
- Excellent touchpad.
- The presence of a touch bar.
- Long battery life.
- Smaller hard drive capacity as compared to some.
- Insufficient ports.
- Not that upgradable.
Microsoft Surface Pro
The model here on review is the Microsoft Surface Pro under Microsoft’s Surface Pro series. It has an Intel Core i7 processor with a 256GB solid-state hard drive and an 8GB RAM.
Perhaps the best feature this product has is its portability. The Surface Pro 2017 is so light and easy to carry, yet it still packs a punch when it comes to producing quality music. If you are someone who likes to travel but still wants ready access to a DAW, then this could be the best ultrabooks for music production for you.
Like all the other models in the series, the Surface Pro 2017 is a 2-in-1 detachable hybrid computer. It means that aside from being a laptop, you can also convert it into a tablet.
While it is smaller than some of its competitors, for me, the Surface Pro 2017 is just the perfect size to be handy and functional at least for my purposes. It is so practical that I could bring and use it anywhere as compared to the other laptops I have owned in the past.
The only downside to the 2-in-1 design is that it is somehow awkward to put on the lap because of the stand. Working on a table would be much more comfortable when in laptop mode.
Surface Pro prices are affordable as compared to other laptops, which makes it easier to get the mid-tier and high-tier models. Hard drive storage could easily be upgraded up to 1TB of space, although the model in this review only comes with 256GB of SSD storage.
The same is true with the 8GB RAM as you could also upgrade to 16GB without much trouble.
The connection ports are somehow limited as it only has a single USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort, and an SD card reader. If you are going to use it in a studio with MIDI devices, then you may have to get a USB hub as well.
Its battery life is impressive as compared to its predecessors; I could use it for a whole working day without having to charge it.
The Surface Pen is another interesting feature. If you are someone who likes to sketch a lot, then this is a much welcome face of this laptop. Aside from sketching and drawing, you could also use the pen for jotting down notes during meetings.
The latest pen has been upgraded to have 4,096 levels of pressure and tilt support. Its inking latency has also been reduced to 21 milliseconds, which is one of the fastest right now. However, unlike in previous models, the pen is no longer included in the box and sold separately.
- Processor: Intel Core i7 dual-core
- Frequency: 2.5 GHz up to 4.0 GHz
- Hard drive: 256GB SSD storage
- RAM: 8GB
- Screen: 2736 x 1824 resolution
- Dimensions: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches
- Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
- No. of USB 3.0 ports: 1
- Screen size: 12.3 inches
- Weight: 1.73 pounds
- Battery Life: Around 13.5 hours of continuous video playback.
- Full laptop performance in a light and thin casing.
- Extremely versatile and portable having a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet design.
- Easily upgradable.
- Option to acquire a Surface Pen.
- Excellent battery life.
- Hard to use when placed on the lap during laptop mode.
- Surface Pen is sold separately, unlike in previous models.
- Insufficient ports.
Dell XPS 15
The Dell XPS 15 has been available in the market for quite some time. It is perhaps one of the most powerful laptops you can get when it comes to music production.
I have reviewed here one of the latest in the XPS 15 series. It comes with an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor with a 1TB solid state hard drive and a 32GB RAM.
For me, the best ultrabooks for music production’s aesthetics is one of the most impressive I’ve seen, and the build looks quite durable and robust compared to the other models. Its slim design reminds me of some Mac models and allows better comfort when used for long hours.
When it comes to performance, the Dell XPS 15 is one of the most reliable and would not be left behind by its competitors.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card makes it a powerhouse, which makes it one of the best gaming laptops right now. This is useful since the requirements of the best ultrabooks for music production and gaming laptops are similar.
Its price is more on the expensive side because of the quality build and the premium components used in manufacturing it. However, the cost is still worthwhile considering its construction, power, and functionality compared to other brands of the same specifications.
The hard drive capacity also impresses, with its base model available with already a 532GB of SSD space. Processor and RAM are both easily upgradable with the entry model carrying a dual-core i3 Intel Core and 8GB RAM. For music production, though, I would advise you to get something with at least an i5 processor.
Battery life is longer than average as it could last for as long as 8 hours of continuous use. That is even with the 4K Ultra HD InfinityEdge touch display.
As a drawback, the touchpad, keyboard, and screen are not the fanciest compared to the other models these days, but they get the job done and does look great.
The unit also has no USB Type-A ports, which would require you to buy a dongle to connect to a lot of common accessories and devices. It has two USB Type-C ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a microSD card slot, though.
Another criticism would be its poorly placed webcam. Because of the screen’s thin bezel, the only place you can put the webcam is under the screen itself, which may become awkward for some as it looks upward to their nostrils.
Overall, the Dell XPS 15 would be a wise buy as its performance and durability make it the best music production notebook for long-term use.
- Processor: Intel Core i7 quad-core
- Frequency: 3.8 GHz
- Hard drive: 1TB SSD storage
- RAM: 32GB
- Screen: 3840 x 2160 resolution
- Dimensions: 21 x 12 x 2 inches
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
- No. of USB Type-A ports: 0
- No. of USB Type-C ports: 2
- Screen size: 15.6 inches
- Weight: 6 pounds
- Battery Life: Around 7 to 8 hours of continuous video playback.
- Reliable and consistent performance.
- Quality build and use of premium components.
- Excellent hard drive capacity.
- Exceptional display and topnotch graphics card.
- Above average battery life for its functionality.
- Somewhat pricey for beginners.
- Poor webcam placement.
- No USB Type-A ports.
Lenovo Yoga Book
The Lenovo Yoga Book is the second 2-in-1 hybrid laptop/tablet featured in this review. It comes with a Window OS and Android version. The model discussed here is the Windows version, ZA150000US, with an Intel Atom quad-core processor, a 64GB flash storage, and a 4GB RAM.
Being a 2-in-1, the most obvious feature of this product is its lightness and extreme portability. It is lighter and smaller than the Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 and is actually more of a tablet than a laptop.
It has a digital backlit keyboard that may take some time to get used to. But instead of taking up only half of the screen like in smartphones and other tablets, the keyboard is in a separate part of the device that is as large as the screen itself.
However, without the texture of a real keyboard, you should not expect to produce the same number of words per minute when typing. Frequently, you may end up accidentally pressing the letter or number next to what you really want to press. But the Windows OS’ auto-correct feature helps a lot in fixing this issue.
The unit also comes with a Real Pen stylus and a magnetic notepad that allows you to take down notes as if you are using real pen and paper. The scribbling could be digitized afterward for future access and editing.
The pen and notepad have been a pleasure to use on the Create Pad, which replaces the Halo keyboard upon activation.
The surface where the digital keyboard was becomes a blank plane where you can draw or write whatever you want. It only has 2,048 levels of sensitivity, though, half of what the Surface Pro 2017 has.
With all its advantages in portability, there are also disadvantages that you might expect from something so small.
Noticeably, the Yoga Book lacks the power you need for music production as it only has the weaker Intel Atom processor. Although it is quad-core, the frequency could only go up to 2.4 GHz, while also having limited RAM and hard drive space.
The display is also not as stunning as compared to the best ultrabooks for music production in this article. But it should be enough if you want a unit that you can literally bring anywhere and have access to your DAW.
As expected, the price is cheaper than the rest of the best ultrabooks for music production in this review because the product is evidently underpowered. However, it could be a great buy as a backup computer for music production.
- Processor: Intel Atom quad-core
- Frequency: 1.44 GHz up to 2.4 GHz with Turbo Boost
- Hard drive: 64GB SSD storage
- RAM: 4GB
- Screen: 1920 x 1200 resolution
- Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.7 x 0.4 inches
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400
- No. of USB 2.0 ports: 1
- Screen size: 10.1 inches
- Weight: 1.52 pounds
- Battery Life: Up to 13 hours max.
- Extreme portability.
- High-performance and a decent display for a laptop of its size and power.
- The presence of a Real Pen and Create Pad.
- Great battery life.
- Badly lacking in speed and power.
- Too weak to become the primary computer for music production.
- Outdated USB port.
Razer Blade Stealth 13.3
Razer is known for producing the best gaming laptops, and the Razer Blade Stealth 13.3 is one of its best one to date. Because of its notable processing power, it could also be a fitting choice for music production.
The model on review here is the newest in the Razer Blade series. It has a 13.3-inch display screen, an i7 quad-core processor, a 512GB flash storage, and a 16GB RAM.
Although the processor’s frequency is not that high as compared to the other high-end brands, its 8th generation quad-core i7 processor is powerful enough to handle even the most demanding DAWs.
The Razer Blade’s aluminum build looks smooth and solid. Still, it is lighter than the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15, which makes it a handier option. Its 512GB SSD storage could be upgraded to 1TB, but it would cost more than just purchasing a separate external hard drive.
One of its best features is perhaps the high-resolution touchscreen, which is great for operating audio plugins and software even without a mouse.
There are adequate ports available, including two USB 3.0 ports, two USB Type-C ports, and one HDMI 2.0. This is useful for hooking it up with other devices while recording or editing.
Meanwhile, one of its cons is its modest battery life. Although almost the same as that of the Dell XPS 15, it does not provide the same speed and power.
Another drawback of the Razer Blade Stealth 13.3 is its price, which is deemed quite steep for what it offers as a whole. There are indeed cheaper alternatives with the same specs if you are on a tight budget. Also, upgrades could be limited because you have to pay a premium should you want one.
However, if you are a gamer and you are also into music production, then this could be the best ultrabooks for music production for you.
- Processor: Intel Core i7 quad-core
- Frequency: 1.8 GHz
- Hard drive: 512GB SSD storage
- RAM: 16GB
- Screen: 3200 x 1800 resolution
- Dimensions: 12.7 x 8.1 x 0.5 inches
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU
- No. of USB ports: 4
- Screen size: 13.3 inches
- Weight: 2.98 pounds
- Battery Life: Up to 8 hours max.
- Excellent build quality and reliable performance.
- Ample USB connections, especially the USB Type-C.
- Slimmer and lighter in weight than some of its competitors.
- 8th generation processor.
- High-resolution touchscreen.
- Battery life is not that great.
- Upgrades could be costly.
All the laptops mentioned in this review are indeed suitable to be used for music production. They are all considered the best in their class. The quality and power of the five laptops are unquestionable. But if you have to choose between them, then you need to consider three things: performance, portability, and price.
Putting all these factors in place and comparing all the five laptops reviewed above from each other, we recommend the Dell XPS 15 as the best one for producing high-quality music.
The Dell XPS 15 strikes the right balance between performance, portability, and price. Not only that, but its sleek and durable design would make it even more cost-effective in the long run.
These are five of the best ultrabook for music production available in the market right now. Upon reading this article, we hope that you would have a clearer idea of what laptops suit your specific requirements.
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- 5 Of The Best Ultrabooks for Music Production - A Producer's Guide (2018)
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