Best Laptop for Ableton Live [2022 Reviewed]

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ThumbnailLaptops for Ableton LiveProRec ScorePrice
Lenovo ThinkPad E15Lenovo ThinkPad E15
8.8
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Apple MacBook Air M1Apple MacBook Air M1
8.1
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Dell Inspiron 15 3000Dell Inspiron 15 3000
7.8
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Introduction

When choosing a laptop for Ableton Live, you want to go for a machine that is capable of handling multitrack recordings and playback. Having a powerful and modern CPU, with at least 4 or 6 cores, will ensure that your Ableton Live experience remains free from any stutters or crashes.

Getting something with a decent amount of RAM will let you run multiple tracks and third-party plugins at the same time. From experience, we can tell you that 8 to 12 GB of RAM is good enough to get the job done if you are just starting out. However, 16 GB or more is ideal if you have a heavier workload and want to future proof your machine for the foreseeable future.

If you are recording instruments or vocals through a mic, then you must factor in the loudness of your laptop fan. You’ll hear the fan go off when your machine heats up because the processor is being pushed to its limit. That’s why having a powerful CPU, along with a cooling pad will help maintain the temperatures and stop your fan from going full throttle. You could also look towards freezing and flattening tracks if nothing else works.

Having more storage will ensure that you can store your programs, plugins and raw audio files. We would recommend somewhere between 512 GB or 1 TB, the more the merrier! You may also opt for an external storage device or even cloud storage. An SSD is also a good idea since it helps speed things up and saves you time when importing or downloading large audio files.

We also recommend finding a laptop that can connect to your audio interface. Most audio interfaces have either a USB-A/USB-C or a Thunderbolt connection. You want to make sure that your laptop has the corresponding ports so that you don’t run into any computability issues. If you aren’t planning on using an audio interface, then you need to look for a laptop with a good sound card with onboard memory and offers a large buffer.

Minimum System Requirements for Ableton Live

Ableton Live 11
Windowsmac OS
Windows 10 (Build 1909 and later), Windows 11macOS High Sierra 10.13 to Monterey 12
Intel® Core™ i5 processor or an AMD multi-core processorIntel® Core™ i5 processor, Apple silicon
8 GB RAM8 GB RAM
1366×768 display resolution1280×800 display resolution
ASIO compatible audio hardware for Link support (also recommended for optimal audio performance)Core Audio compliant audio interface recommended
Ableton Live 10
Windowsmac OS
Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10macOS El Capitan 10.11.6 to Monterey 12 (as of 10.1.42)
64-bit Intel® (Intel® Core™ i5 processor or faster recommended) or AMD multi-core processor.Intel® Core™2 Duo processor. Intel® Core™ i5 processor or faster recommended, Apple Silicon using Rosetta (as of 10.1.35)
4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)
1366×768 display resolution1280×800 display resolution
ASIO compatible audio hardware for Link support (also recommended for optimal audio performance)Core Audio compliant audio interface recommended

Source: Minimum System Requirements Official Ableton Live Page

Best Laptop for Ableton Live Reviews

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

Apple MacBook Air M1
8.1/10ProRec Score
8.1Average Score
ProRec Score – Apple MacBook Air M1
Price to Performance
8.5
Processor
10
RAM
7
Storage
7
Connectivity
8
Additional Features
8

Apple’s MacBooks have always been a top choice for music producers. The MacBook Air comes with an M1 chip which has an 8 core CPU, a 7 core GPU and a 16 core neural engine. It is a major upgrade over the 8th Generation i5 found on the previous model. When running benchmarks, we found the M1 to be 35 percent faster in single core tasks and 70 percent faster in multicore tasks than its predecessor due to the 4 extra CPU cores. The M1 even manages to compete well with more premium laptops, since it has the same chip found in the more expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro. 

Right of the bat, the MacBook Air is quiet! That’s because Apple didn’t build any cooling fans in this machine. For any other laptop, even the older MacBook Air, this would be a death sentence. It would completely throttle the performance. Fortunately, Apple optimized the M1 to be energy efficient, thus it remains cool throughout. We ran Ableton Live on the MacBook with some third-party plugins such as Reason and Arcade and didn’t encounter any stutters or crashes. The device did not overheat at all, despite the lack of a cooling mechanism.

We were surprised how good the 13.3-inch Retina display was. It is very color accurate, covering the P3 color gamut and produced very pleasing images. We even used the MacBook under direct sunlight and didn’t have any trouble viewing the display, thanks to the 500 nits of peak brightness. Having a display this good on an affordable Apple laptop is a nice touch, usually macs end up costing a lot more.

The MacBook Air comes with 256 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM. While 8 GB isn’t a lot of RAM, Apple optimizes the memory usage well enough that there aren’t any noticeable performance issues. However, 256 GB of SSD storage isn’t a lot. This is a common theme with Apple machines, they do not provide a lot of storage, and if they do then you have to pay a lot more for a powerful machine which is sometimes a bit too much! With the current hard drive, you will be able to store all your programs and plugins, but for multiple raw audio files, you will need to get external storage device. You could also opt for iCloud and always have access to your audio files.

We believe the lack of port selection on the MacBook Air is something that needs to be addressed. You only get two USB-C Thunderbolt ports. After connecting an external SSD and monitor, we didn’t have any ports remaining for an audio interface. We had to hook up a USB-C dock, not just to have more USB-C ports, but also to check how well the MacBook works with a USB-A audio interface.

The MacBook Air also has good stock speakers, however when we unplugged the monitors and were using the speakers for an extended period of time, there was some noticeable popping, upon research we found this to be a common issue that may occur with some devices, the solution to this is to contact Applecare and have them diagnose your machine. A bummer, but the good thing is that Apple will help resolve your issue, and if they are unable to find a good solution then they will service/replace parts for you.

Compared to the previous model, Apple has switched from Butterfly style keys to Scissor switches. The butterfly switches that were found in the Air’s predecessor were prone to failure and universally disliked. Luckily, the new scissor switches are a major improvement as they are reliable and we found them very comfortable to type on. The only thing lacking was that the webcam was very grainy during video calls, even when compared to older MacBook models.

We were impressed with how thin Apple managed to make the MacBook without throttling the performance. It comes in at 11.97 x 0.63 x 8.36 inches and it only weighs 2.8 pounds. We would often forget that we had a laptop in our backpack when carrying the Air.

What was even more surprising is the fact that Apple managed to optimize the M1 so well, that you get excellent battery life. Apple claims the MacBook Air will last about 18 hours and during our testing we found it to have a screen on time of 15 hours. We only had to charge it once every two days, even when using Ableton. The one complaint we had was the charging speeds were low when compared to other laptops at the same price point.

MacBook Air Benefits

The M1 on the MacBook offers excellent CPU performance that rivals much more expensive laptops.

The MacBook Air doesn’t have any fans so it practically makes zero noise.

You get an excellent color accurate display that’s even useable under harsh sunlight.

The battery life is also very impressive as it easily lasts for over a day without needing to charge.

MacBook Air Drawbacks

You only get a 256 GB SSD which will run out very quickly if you store a lot of RAW audio files.

It only has 2 USB-C ports which can cause problems when connecting multiple accessories like an audio interface.

May get pops/crackles from stock speakers, but Apple care will help resolve the issue. Also if you’re using studio monitors then this doesn’t matter at all.

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

Lenovo ThinkPad E15
8.8/10ProRec Score
8.8Average Score
ProRec Score – Lenovo ThinkPad E15
Price to Performance
8.5
Processor
8
RAM
9
Storage
8.5
Connectivity
10
Additional Features
9

ThinkPads are praised by all users for their excellent features and reliability. The Lenovo ThinkPad E15 comes with an Intel 11th Gen Core i7-1165G7 which is a 4 core and 8 Threads processor with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.7 GHz and 12 MB cache. It’s about 20 to 30 percent faster than the i7-1065G7 found in its predecessor. The i7 is about 20 percent slower than the MacBook’s M1, due to having 4 fewer cores. We noticed how the i7 sometimes struggled to render tracks which was not an issue at all with the MacBook Air.

The ThinkPad E15 managed to remain fairly quiet even under high load. We only heard the fans kick in a handful of times, and when they did, they weren’t really distracting. This was something the E15’s predecessor struggled with, but Lenovo has managed to get a grip on the issue with the newer release. The ThinkPad did get a bit warm after prolonged usage, but it wasn’t enough to cause any thermal throttling, nor was the exterior casing hot enough for the machine to be uncomfortable to the touch.

You get plenty of RAM and storage options to choose from. We tested the 16 GB of DDR4 RAM and 512 GB storage variant. The RAM was more than enough to run all our plugins and tracks without any issues. Having 512GB of storage is decent, you won’t really have any issues storing your files. However, over time you will need some sort of external storage, that’s probably even true if you have 1 TB. Really depends on how many projects you work on and want to keep in an archive.

With the ThinkPad E15, you get a 15.6″ Full HD 1920×1080 IPS Anti-glare display. It is very pleasing to look at, with great colors and sharpness, although it isn’t very color accurate. When we took the laptop outdoors, we found it to be good enough for basic usage due to the anti-glare coating. We even tried using it under sunlight, but at that point, we struggled to see much on the screen because of only 250 nits of brightness.

The front of the laptop is exactly the same as its predecessor, including the large bezels. Lenovo hasn’t changed the design of their ThinkPad since 2016 which makes this laptop look outdated especially when compared to the MacBook. That is more of a preference thing though. In terms of usage this is a pretty good machine, and if you are going to use it at home, not much on the go then there’s no point in what it looks like, again just a matter of preference and something you may take into consideration if you are one to care more for aesthetic.

Lenovo has always offered great port selection with their ThinkPad series. The E15 has 1 Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, 1 USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 USB 2.0, 1 HDMI 1.4b, 1 RJ-45 Ethernet and 1 headphone jack. You will be able to connect most audio interfaces through the included USB-A or USB-C ports, along with any other peripherals.

At face value, the E15 and its predecessor both have the same port selection. However, a major advantage with the newer model is the inclusion of a Thunderbolt 4 port over regular USB-C 3.2, which results in faster upload and download speeds. We noticed a large difference when transferring files from an external SSD using Thunderbolt 4. This is also a good for modern audio interfaces which feature thunderbolt ports.

Some other noteworthy features of the ThinkPad include a webcam with a privacy slide, an amazing backlit keyboard and access to both a fingerprint scanner and Windows Hello facial recognition. The keyboard on the ThinkPad is especially good. We found it very comfortable to type on, even during long sessions. The keys were tactile and the travel distance was perfect which made this our favorite laptop keyboard of all time.

The ThinkPad E15 is on the larger side, especially when compared to the MacBook. Its dimensions are 14.48 x 9.64 x 0.74 inches and it weighs 4.3 pounds. We didn’t have a problem carrying it in a backpack for short periods of time, but it is something to take note of. The upside of this is that the ThinkPad is built like a tank. It is very durable and it even survived our accidental drop test. Not to mention the spill resistance keyboard which will protect your laptop in case any liquid falls on it.

With the ThinkPad, you get a 45 Whr battery, which is on the smaller side for a laptop of this size. In our testing, we found it to last for close to 8 hours which is pretty good for a low-capacity battery. It will easily last you the entire day, although nothing more than that. Although, we were disappointed that Lenovo downgraded their battery from their previous model which used to last for closer to 10 hours.

Lenovo ThinkPad E15 Benefits

The Lenovo managed to stay cool and avoid thermal throttling, while also not producing a lot of fan noise.

You get excellent port selection with both a Thunderbolt 4 USB-C and a USB-A port to connect any kind of audio interface.

The ThinkPad has one of the most comfortable keyboards we have used on a laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad E15 Drawbacks

It has a very rugged exterior, but the tradeoff is that you get an outdated design which is similar to ThinkPads from 2016.

The E15 had a mediocre battery life when compared to its predecessor, although it will still last you through the entire day.

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

Dell Inspiron 15 3000
7.8/10ProRec Score
7.8Average Score
ProRec Score – Dell Inspiron 15 3000
Price to Performance
10
Processor
7
RAM
8
Storage
7
Connectivity
8
Additional Features
7

The Dell Inspiron 3000 comes with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 which is a 4 core and 6 thread CPU with a maximum clock speed of 4.2 Ghz and an 8 MB cache. It is a major upgrade over the Core i5-1035G1 found on its predecessor, providing about 20 to 25 percent better performance. According to the benchmarks we ran, it’s about 3 percent slower than the i7 found on the ThinkPad, but we didn’t notice any major differences when using either of these laptops with Ableton Live.

Right away, we noticed the fan on the Inspiron was quite noisy compared to the other two machines when under high load. While it did manage to maintain acceptable temperatures, with very little thermal throttling, the noise was very loud, especially when using the laptop in a live recording studio.

You get 12 GB of DDR4 RAM and 256 GB of SSD. While the 12 GB of RAM is enough for basic audio production on Ableton, as soon as we added a few third-party plugins and multiple tracks, the machine slowed down quite a bit. However, if we resorted to freezing tracks, then the Inspiron performed on par with the Lenovo even though it costs much less. Having only 256 GB of storage means you won’t be able to store a lot of audio files. Luckily, both the storage and RAM are user upgradeable if you face any kind of issues. You could also go for an external drive or cloud storage.

Another area where the Inspirion 3000 is better than its predecessor is the display quality. You get a 15.6-inch Full HD 1920×1080 IPS display. Compared to the previous 720p display, this is a major upgrade. Not only is it sharp, but it also has much better colors and excellent viewing angles, something we can’t say about the previous model. What Dell has not managed to improve is the outdoor visibility. We could not use either of the machines even in a somewhat well-lit environment.

The port selection on this machine is great, as you get a Digital Media Reader, a headphone jack, 3-in-1 SD media card reader, 2 USB 3.2 Type A, 1 USB 3.2 Type C, 1 USB 2.0 and 1 HDMI port. The only thing we found missing was that the USB-C port didn’t support Thunderbolt, but when it comes to connecting accessories, you won’t have any problems.

Some noteworthy features of the Dell include a pretty good quality webcam and a decent full-sized keyboard with a number pad. Something to note is that the Dell comes with Windows 10 with S mode enabled which prevents you from downloading applications from third party sources such as Ableton. Luckily, you can easily disable S mode from the settings. All our testing with the Inspiron were done with S mode disabled.

The Inspiron 3000 is fairly portable, coming in at 0.68 x 14.11 x 9.27 inches and weighing 3.82 pounds. It has the exact same dimensions as its predecessor and we even found it to be very similar to ThinkPad when it comes to portability.

The battery life was something we were disappointed with. In our tests, the Dell only lasted about 4 hours, which means that you will definitely have to plug it in before the day ends.

Dell Inspiron 3000 Benefits

Provides amazing performance for the price, which even rivals laptops that cost close to twice the price.

You get a great display for the price, which is a major improvement over its predecessor.

Dell Inspiron 3000 Drawbacks

It makes a lot of noise when under load which can be distracting when live recording using Ableton Live.

It only has 256 GB of SSD storage which can run out very quickly if you have a lot of RAW audio files.

Battery life isn’t up to the mark and it doesn’t last the entire day.

Verdict

laptops for ableton comparison scoring model

Based on our scoring model, you can see the highest variance lies in the Processor and Connectivity categories. The MacBook Air’s M1 chip provides performance unlike any other in its price range, which earns the MacBook a perfect score in performance. While the i5 on the Dell and i7 on the ThinkPad are good performers for Ableton Live, they fall a bit short compared to the M1. The ThinkPads are one of the few machines in the market that manage to provide both a Thunderbolt and USB-A port for connecting audio interfaces, making them both very versatile offerings.

The ThinkPad E15 has the highest average score of 8.8 and none of its individual category scores fall below 8. It scores especially well in the Connectivity, RAM and Additional features categories. ThinkPads offer excellent features such as a rugged body design and topnotch keyboards. We found the ThinkPad to be the most enjoyable to use in our testing as well. The only place it falls a bit short in is the Processor category and that too only when comparing it to the M1. The i7 performs well compared to the i5 on the Dell and even CPUs on other Windows laptops, but it couldn’t compete well with the M1, that’s one area where the macs excel! However, windows machines are a lot more versatile, and you do get more for your money since they are considerably cheaper when you look at the total features for the price.

Even though the MacBook Air has a lower average score, we would like to point out that it also a great option, especially if you are already used to the mac OS. It performs really well in the Processor category and even has a decent score in the Price to Performance category, which is something most MacBooks struggle with. What caused the MacBook to have a 0.7 point variance when compared to the ThinkPad was a lower score in the RAM and Storage categories. 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage isn’t ideal, especially for Ableton Live users.

All in all, out of all three machines, the Lenovo ThinkPad E15 comes out on the top as the best laptop for Ableton Live. Having an excellent build quality and great features with good performance makes the ThinkPad a good option for all kind of users. Furthermore, it has a USB-C, USB-A and a Thunderbolt port with a large amount of expandable storage and RAM, making it great option for Ableton users. Not to mention, it doesn’t have any major flaws either. You will be not disappointed with your decision if you go for the ThinkPad E15, we highly recommend the E15!

Frequently Answered Questions

Why are the Minimum System Requirements for Ableton Live in some aspects lower compared to the Laptops you have suggested?

The system requirements for Ableton Live are just the bare minimum specifications. You will notice that all the laptops we recommended are more powerful. That’s because if you plan on doing anything other than the basics, then having a bit extra performance will be necessary. Whether you are using multiple third-party plugins or using multitrack recording and playback, having the additional performance buffer will ensure you don’t run into any problems. Not to mention, it will future proof your laptop for the upcoming versions of Ableton Pro.

How do I decide if I should get a mac or Windows laptop for Ableton Live?

Both Mac and Windows work equally well with Ableton Live. Many people who are using the software in a live session prefer to use a Mac because they generally have a better built-in sound card and also tend to crash less. However, if you are already accustomed to Windows, then you don’t have to switch. Also if you are working with studio monitors then the soundcard on the mac is useless at that point. It’s really a matter of preference, go with what you are most comfortable with.

Does my laptop come with Ableton Live Installed?

Ableton Live is a third-party software, which isn’t installed on either Windows or Mac laptops. You can learn how to install Ableton using the following link: https://help.ableton.com/hc/en-us/articles/209773565-Installing-Live

Will I be able to run future versions of Ableton Live on my laptop?

All the laptops we recommended are powerful enough to run Ableton for the foreseeable future. We always recommend purchasing the most powerful laptop in your budget so that you don’t run into any problems with future versions of Ableton Live. Any piece of hardware will become obsolete over time, which is why it is best to invest in something modern upfront so that it lasts you while.

Other than Ableton Live, will my laptop also be compatible with my other Audio gear?

Your audio interface will connect to your laptop via either the USB-A or a USB-C/Thunderbolt ports. As long as your laptop has the corresponding port, it will be compatible. Otherwise, you can always use a dongle to expand the port selection. The rest of your audio gear such a microphone or mixer can connect to your audio interface. If you have trouble with any of your audio gear, make sure to install the appropriate drivers and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on installation.