If you’re looking for a budget laptop for DJing, then choosing between a Windows or a Mac becomes an important decision. In the past, DJing software such as Rekordbox worked better on Macs, but things have changed since then and most software works equally as well on Windows as it does on mac. However, since Apple devices tend to be more expensive and don’t provide the same value for money, we recommend going for a Windows machine.
If you are just starting out DJing then you will likely use an entry level program such as Virtual DJ or Serato Lite. These programs require very little power and any laptop with around 4 GB of RAM should do the job. However, if you’re working with more professional programs such as Engine DJ Pro or Traktor you might need something a bit more powerful. While we have successfully used these programs with 4 GB of RAM, going for 8 or 16 GB will provide you with the best experience.
Furthermore, if you also use a DAW like FL Studio then you will have to go for a minimum of 16 GB of RAM, not just to run all your programs smoothly, but to also make sure your device is future proof.
You should also look towards a somewhat modern CPU with at least 4 cores. It is always best to get a highest core count as most DAW use multiple cores simultaneously. It should be noted here that if you go for an Intel processor then they tend to have fewer cores, but with higher clock speeds, which means they handle simpler, yet demanding, tasks easily like running a DJ software. On the other hand, AMD CPUs tend to have a higher core count, but with a lower frequency. Therefore, the perform better in tasks requiring a lot of cores such as running a DAW.
In the past DJs would shy away AMD laptops, since they weren’t fully supported for the longest time by major DJ software such as Serato and Rekordbox. Luckily, this isn’t a problem anymore. Some of the older processors are still riddled with bugs, but as long as you get a modern Ryzen CPU, it won’t have any issues and will run just as stable as an Intel laptop.
As for storage, we would recommend getting 500 GB just to get started. Although, we recommend going 1 TB or more if you plan on storing a lot of raw files locally. If you need more space in the future, you could expand your internal storage, buy an external storage device or even purchase cloud storage.
You should also look for a laptop than has an SSD since those are a lot faster and play a huge role in the overall performance. Luckily, all modern laptops, even the most affordable options come with SSDs, but sometimes you’ll find cheaper versions with more space with HDDs. If you’re on a super tight budget, you may go for a laptop with a smaller SSD to store all your important programs that you use on a daily basis, and then a larger mechanical hard drive to store your other files.
Best Laptops for DJing on a Budget Reviews
Lenovo ThinkPad E15
The ThinkPad series is known for its excellent features and reliability. The E15, is a midrange offering, which provides great features for the price. The Gen 3 model comes with an AMD Ryzen 7 5700u which is an 8 core 16 threads processor with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.3 GHz. When running benchmarks, we surprisingly found it to be 2 percent slower than the 4th Gen Ryzen on its predecessor, but still about 3 percent faster than the Intel counterpart. It should be noted that in real world usage we found no noticeable difference in the performance of either of these variants.
In true business laptop fashion, the ThinkPad was very silent. We could barely hear the fans during our testing. They only turned on when the CPU was under high load. However, when the fans went off the chassis got hot enough for the computer to cause some discomfort if it were in your lap. However, the internal temperatures were still maintained well enough, and we didn’t really encounter a lot of thermal throttling, so performance wise it wasn’t bad at all.
The ThinkPad comes with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB SSD. The high RAM capacity helps the ThinkPad perform well in memory intensive tasks such as running multiple plugins. Moreover, the RAM is also user upgradeable, so if you ever want to then that is an option. However, 512 GB of storage is enough to get you started with DJing, but if you’re going to work in a more professional setting where you might have to produce your own music, we recommend getting an external storage device or even cloud storage.
Displays on the E15 series have always been sharp and produce great colours, and the same is true for the 15.6″ Full HD 1080p IPS panel on the Gen 3 model. It’s even brighter than its predecessor at 300 nits compared to 250. While it struggled in well-lit environments, we noticed a significant improvement in outdoor visibility, especially because of the anti-glare coating.
Just like its predecessor, the ThinkPad E15 Gen 3 offers the exact same excellent port selection as its predecessor. You get 1 USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, 1 USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1 USB-A 2.0, 1 HDMI 1.4, 1 RJ45 Ethernet port and a headphone jack. The only thing missing was the support for Thunderbolt, which is only included in Intel-based laptops so it’s excusable. The inclusion of both a USB-C and USB-A port means you will be able to connect all kinds of audio interface and controller.
Some unique features of the ThinkPad include a best-in-class keyboard with a full-sized number pad, the Kensington lock and the inclusion of both a fingerprint scanner and Windows Hello facial recognition.
Unfortunately, the keyboard does not have backlighting, which is disappointing considering a lot of other budget ThinkPad models have included it in the past. We found the speaker quality was subpar, as they didn’t get loud enough and sounded a bit blown out, but that’s also excusable for the price.
The E15 is on the larger side at 14.37 x 9.45 x 0.74 inches and weighing 3.75 pounds. That being said, we found it fairly easy to carry in a backpack, so it was fairly portable. Although, the plastic outer body did give the ThinkPad a bit of a cheap feeling which was a problem with its predecessor as well.
In our testing, the E15 Gen 3 offers about 8 to 9 hours of battery life which is about the same as its predecessor. We easily managed to get a full day’s worth of usage with this laptop, and never had to charge it before the day ended.
ThinkPad E15 Benefits
Excellent performance for the price with the 8 core Ryzen 7 5700u, which performs better than CPUs on much more premium laptops.
The ThinkPad is very silent as we barely ever heard the fan turn on and when it did, it was fairly quiet.
The ThinkPad includes both a USB-A and USB-C port to connect all kinds of audio interface and controllers.
ThinkPad E15 Drawbacks
The display on the ThinkPad isn’t that bright which means it struggles in well-lit environments.
There is no support for Thunderbolt, which means the included USB-C port has slower transfer speeds.
The plastic build quality on the ThinkPad is a bit cheap feeling.
The Asus VivoBook comes with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 which is a 4 core 8 thread processor with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.2 GHz. It performs about 15 percent better than the 10th generation i5 on its predecessor, which is a big upgrade. It even manages to compare well to the Ryzen 7 5700u, as it outperforms it in single core performance by about 12 percent but falls short in multicore performance by about 29 percent due to the 4 fewer cores.
The VivoBook was noticeably slower than the ThinkPad when running high end DJ software, but it still managed to perform pretty well, especially considering the budget constraints.
In our testing, the VivoBook remained fairly quiet under low loads, but when it came to high workloads such as benchmarks or rendering multitrack audio, the fans were loud when spinning at full throttle. You could switch the performance profile to whisper in the MyAsus software, but then you will leave a lot of performance on the table. Luckily, Asus managed to maintain the temperatures really well, as we did not notice any kind of thermal throttling on any of the performance modes, although the external casing did get a bit toasty.
The Asus Vivobook comes with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage, which is the exact same setup as the ThinkPad. We appreciate Asus for including a high quality and capacity RAM kit even on their budget offering, which helps it feel much snappier. Just like the ThinkPad, we advise you to get an external storage device to store all your plugins and RAW files.
The display was one part of the laptop where Asus cut the most corners. It is a 14-inch Full HD LED panel. While it was fairly sharp, it had average viewing angles which meant that tilting the display too far would wash out the colors which weren’t that great to begin with. The display was also fairly dull, which meant using it outdoors or in well-lit environments was a bit difficult. This problem also existed with its predecessor. That being said, considering all the other excellent features and performance offered; we can excuse the VivoBook for having a subpar panel.
You get a decent port selection with USB-C 3.2 Gen 1, 2 USB-A 2.1, 1 USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1 HDMI, 1 3.5 mm headphone jack and a micro-SD card slot. The USB-C port didn’t support Thunderbolt, and unlike the one of the ThinkPad, it couldn’t be used for charging or connecting an external display either. The only other port we found missing was an Ethernet port, which is usually common in this type of laptop. We had also had this issue on the previous VivoBook model.
Despite the low-price tag, Asus didn’t miss out on some essential features such as the inclusion of both a fingerprint scanner and facial unlock, a backlit keyboard and a pretty decent webcam. Although it should be noted that the keyboard did feel a bit mushy and there was considerable deck flex, but that is very common for a laptop of this price point.
Something we noticed, was that the internet speeds were a bit slow during our testing. When we did further research, we found out that the VivoBook only supports WiFi 5. So, if you have a WiFi 6 router be aware that the laptop might not be able to take full advantage of that.
The Asus VivoBook is about the same size as other 14-inch laptops in this price range coming in at 12.81 x 8.50 x 0.78 inches and weighing 3.42 pounds. It is a bit smaller than the ThinkPad and is just as easy to carry in a backpack.
The battery life of the VivoBook is a bit underwhelming at about 6 hours of screen on time. We almost always had to plug it in before the day ended and we would recommend always having a power outlet close by if you’re going to use this laptop for an extent period of time. This was actually a bit of a downgrade compared to its predecessor which we found to last around 7 to 8 hours on a single charge.
Asus VivoBook Benefits
Excellent performance for the price, which rivals that of much more expensive laptops.
You get both a USB-C and USB-A ports which can be used to connect any kind of audio interface and controller.
The VivoBook doesn’t skip out on any essential features such as a finger print scanner or backlit keyboard.
Asus VivoBook Drawbacks
The fans are very loud, although they do manage to keep the temperatures at an acceptable level.
The screen is subpar, which makes it difficult to use even indoors.
The battery life is slightly below average, offering only 6 hours of screen on time which means we have to often plugin the laptops before the day even ended.
The HP 14 laptop is another great budget option for those looking for a laptop for DJing. It also comes with an AMD processor in the form of the Ryzen 5 5500U. It’s a 6 core 12 thread processor with a maximum frequency of 4.0 GHz. It is a big upgrade over the Ryzen 5 3500U on its predecessor as it provides close to a 30 percent performance boost.
In our testing, it managed to outperform the i5 on the ASUS in multicore performance, but when came to single core performance, the i5 managed to pull ahead by a respectable 20 percent. For a software like Virtual DJ which favors single core performance, the i5 managed to pull ahead. But when working with DAWs like Fl Studio, the Ryzen managed to perform considerably better.
We noticed the HP to hit its maximum frequency of 4.0 GHz for a few minutes then lower it performance in order to maintain temperatures. This meant that there was no overheating, and even the fans were fairly quiet but at the cost of performance. You can adjust the settings to make sure that the HP maintains a much higher frequency, but then you would risk thermally throttling the CPU.
The HP 14 comes with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256 GB of M.2 SSD. Despite the low price, we were pleased to see that HP included a high-quality RAM and storage kit. However, the low capacity of both these components was really limiting. 8 GB might be enough for some basic DJing and even running a DAW, but it will be very difficult to use for professional use. Not to mention, that your laptop won’t be as future proof. 256 GB of SSD is barely enough to get started. If you go with this machine, we would highly recommend getting an external storage device or even cloud storage to store all your plugins, instruments and RAW files.
You get a surprisingly good 14-inch 1080p display. We did notice that it was a bit dim and the factory settings had not been calibrated properly which make the display feel darker than it actually was. Luckily, tweaking these settings provided a much better viewing experience. It was even somewhat useable in outdoor environments, although not directly under sunlight. Overall, we were very pleased with the quality of the display.
The port selection on the HP 14 is decent with 1 SuperSpeed USB Type-C, 2 SuperSpeed USB Type-A, 1 HDMI 1.4b, 1 AC charging port, 1 headphone jack and an SD card reader. It is about what you would expect from a laptop in this price range. With the inclusion of both a USB-C and USB-A port, you are able to use any kind of controller or audio interface you want without worrying about compatibility.
The HP 14 does have some basic features such as support for WiFi 6, something missing on its predecessor, and a pretty decent webcam. However, to keep the price down HP and provides great performance, the HP did not include a lot of the more useful features such as a backlit keyboard or a finger print scanner and facial unlock. Having to manually enter our password felt like a major downgrade, especially after coming from the ThinkPad and VivoBook, both of which included a fingerprint scanner.
The HP 14 laptop has a similar body type as many of the other budget HP laptops, including its predecessor, that you might have previously seen. Its dimension are 12.76 x 8.86 x 0.71 inches and it weighs about 3.24 pounds, which makes it perfect for carrying around. Although, it should be noted that the HP was made of a cheap feeling plastic, but that was acceptable considering the low price point.
HP advertises that you get about 9 hours and 45 minutes of battery life. However, in our testing we found it to last closer to 7 hours. This means that you will often have to plug your laptop in before the day ends, if you are not conservative with your usage. However, when running the laptop at about half its brightness level and by limiting the maximum performance, we managed to get through an entire day without needing to charge.
HP 14 Benefits
Excellent performance for the price with the Ryzen 5 5500U which holds up well even when compared to more expensive laptops such as the ASUS VivoBook.
HP used an excellent quality DDR4 RAM kit and M.2 SSD which made the laptop feel a bit snappier.
The display is surprisingly good for the price, providing decent colours and even acceptable outdoor visibility given that you adjust the factory settings.
You get both a USB-C and USB-A port which means that you will be able to connect all kinds of controllers and audio interface and still have ports leftover for other accessories.
HP 14 Drawbacks
The cooling on the HP wasn’t great as you would often have to choose between having the laptop run hot, but with better performance or slow, but with better cooling.
The HP 14 laptop lacked many basic features such as a finger print scanner or backlit keyboard.
According to our scoring model, you can see the greatest variance in the Price to Performance and Additional features categories. The ThinkPad, being the most expensive option, scores an 8, while the HP scores a perfect score of 10. This is because ThinkPads generally don’t provide the best performance for the price as they offer plenty of premium and unique features. This is best seen in the Additional Features categories, where the ThinkPad has the highest score of 8 and the HP, which is more focused on providing the best performance for the price, scores a 6.
The ThinkPad remains stable in every category as it never scores below an 8. It performs especially well in Processor, RAM and Connectivity categories as it is the most powerful laptop on the list with the most amount of RAM. Not to mention, it also supports USB-C charging which is something not that common in this price range. Being a budget option, it also can’t provide a ton of storage otherwise it will drive up the price, although we would have still liked to see Lenovo increase the base storage to 1 TB as that can be really helpful. While the ThinkPad scores the highest Additional Features, it is an entry level machine, it does not include a ton of premium features like a premium build quality, but for the price you are getting a lot of laptop.
The Asus VivoBook is also a very good alternative to the ThinkPad with an average score variance of 0.3 points only. It manages to provide similar performance at a much lower price point, helping it score a 9 in Price to Performance. It even has the same amount of RAM and storage which makes it a really good option. If you’re looking for a machine that provides you excellent value then the Asus VivoBook won’t dissappoint.
According to both our scoring model and testing, the Lenovo ThinkPad E15 is the best laptop for DJing on a budget at it has the higher average score of 8.5. It is the most expensive laptop on the list, but if you can manage to get your hands on it then you will not regret. It provides the best performance out of the three laptops as well as some excellent features like USB-C charging and one of the best battery lives. ThinkPads are known for their excellent user experience and the fact that you can get that on their budget offering just goes to show how why this laptop is so great. You will definitely not regret going for this option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Windows or macOS better for DJing on a budget?
When it comes to your DJing experience, both these operating systems will be identical in terms of performance. However, Windows laptops are preferred when you’re on a budget since they provide the most performance for the price, so your laptop will be able to handle all different kinds of workload. If you go for a mac, the same configuration on a laptop is going to cost quite a bit more. Other than that both are equally as good. macs do have some native support for software and such, so that’s a minor added benefit. Most modern equipment comes with really good drivers these days, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
What is the most important aspect for a DJing laptop on a budget?
The most important aspect for a DJing laptop on a budget has to be the RAM/Processor combo, which is what really dictates performance, followed by storage. While most DJing software aren’t very demanding, it’s still important that you have a powerful laptop that can handle heavier workloads such as multiple plugins running at the same time. It’s always good to have a powerful machine. As your production skills evolve, you’re going to need that!
Will my laptop come with any DJ software already installed?
Laptops do not come with much software preinstalled. DJ software will have to be purchased or downloaded and then installed. It’s not something that comes with a stock computer. It’s a fairly simple process, and there are many videos up on YouTube if you need a step by step guide on how to get your stuff going.
Will a budget laptop need an upgrade in the near future?
If your budget laptop has a somewhat powerful and modern 4 core processor with at least 16 GB of RAM, then you will likely not require an upgrade any time soon. But all of this really depends on your usage and what programs you want to run at the same time. This is really an open ended question without a static answer. For the most part, you’ll be fine choosing the laptops we have reviewed in this article.